Monday, 27 June 2016

Talk to Derbyshire Principles Chapter No. 8509 at Derby Masonic Hall at Littleover

It was a pleasure to give a talk followed by a book signing to the Derbyshire Principles Chapter No. 8509 at Derby Masonic Hall at Littleover, the subject being the early origins of the Royal Arch. It was a great evening, being St. John's Day, and the Hall itself is filled with Masonic treasures, having a museum with some historical Masonic items on display. The following day I stopped off in nearby Burton-on-Trent to find out more about the mysterious Burton Club, which meets at the Abbey in the town centre.

The spectacular layout of the Chapter Room

A late eighteenth century Masonic chair




The Abbey building in Burton-on-Trent, location of the Burton Club










Sunday, 26 June 2016

Symbolism around Gateacre in Liverpool

The beautiful nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture of Liverpool is enriched in symbolism, much of which refers to its maritime heritage, some, like the ornate symbolism presented on Martin's Bank reveal a mixture of the trade and banking that once dominated the economy of Liverpool. The elegance of the Royal Liver Building is also a fine architectural example of how the culture of Liverpool itself was blended with the economic might of its insurance industry to portray unique symbolism. On the outskirts of Liverpool this symbolism can also be seen, such as in the old village-like suburb of Gateacre situated in the south of the city. It was here in the later nineteenth century that Sir Andrew Barclay Walker, a Brewer and founder of the Walker Art Gallery, constructed Mock-Tudor houses, a pub and a village green, helping to create a vision of an English past that can still be found today. One particular hidden gem in Gateacre is the Unitarian Chapel, built in 1700, which had a number of important Unitarian families who worshipped there including the Gaskell and Tate families.

Gateacre is associated with this Mock-Tudor style of building, the style of which harkens back to the Victorian ideal of the old English village.

The hexagonal memorial, paid for by the people of Gateacre, is full of symbolism, decorated with sea creatures, serpents and a Liver Bird. Built in 1883, it once housed a drinking fountain.

According to the Gateacre History Society, this beautiful building was once a bank and was designed by Walter Aubrey Thomas who went on to design the Royal Liver Building. The panels seem to depict quaint classical scenes.

The Unitarian Chapel, built in 1700. Like most of the buildings in Gateacre, local sand stone was used, the same sand stone that was later used to build the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool.
The chapel has many significant burials, this is a tomb of the Gaskell family, a large and influential Unitarian family that can be found throughout the north-west of England during the nineteenth century. The novelist Elizabeth Gaskell was a member of this extended family.

The keystone in the arched entrance to the chapel, with the date stone revealing the year 1700 above.


Inside the chapel, showing the gallery and windows.


All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison

© Dr David Harrison 2016



Saturday, 18 June 2016

Branwell Brontë: Freemason and poet

Branwell Brontë was the lesser known brother of the Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne. His sisters were more successful, Emily writing the classic Gothic novel Wuthering Heights and Charlotte writing Jane Eyre. Branwell was born in West Yorkshire in 1817, moving to Haworth in 1820 where his father Patrick became curate of St Michaels and All Angels' Church. Branwell was educated by his father at home, and became a writer of poetry and an erstwhile portrait painter, drifting in-between jobs and finally succumbing to drug and alcohol addiction. In Haworth today, stories abound of Branwell walking to the chemist to get his laudanum, then walking over to the Black Bull pub opposite to sit in his chair, take his fix and drift into a drug-induced dream to escape his ever enveloping depression.

Branwell did however become a Freemason, joining the Haworth based lodge 'The Three Graces' No. 408 in 1836, and seemed to settle into the lodge fairly well, becoming secretary in 1837, an office that would certainly allow him to utilise his writing skills. He last attended the lodge in 1842, and finally died in 1848 of what was most likely to be tuberculosis, aggravated by his addictions to alcohol, opium and laudanum. Bramwell had a short and troubled life, but his legacy is his poetry, his portraits and his Freemasonry, which seemed to have given him some purpose for a short period.


The Black Bull pub in Haworth, much frequented by Branwell.

The Chemist in Haworth, just opposite the Black Bull, frequented by Branwell for his laudanum.

Branwell's chair in the Black Bull.

The Parsonage in Haworth where the Brontës lived.

Brontë Memorial in St Michael and All Angel's Church, Haworth.

A Memorial indicating the location of the Brontë family vault.


Masonic Hall in Haworth, dating to 1907.




All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison

© Dr David Harrison 2016


Monday, 13 June 2016

Masonic Mysteries in Cliviger, Lancashire

In Cliviger in Lancashire, a stones throw away from the Yorkshire border, is the Ram Inn, a seventeenth century building that gained its current name sometime between 1851 and 1869. Its sign shows a ram - nothing strange about that, but at the top of the sign is displayed a number of Masonic symbols, including the beehive, the sun and the moon, the chequered floor of the lodge room, the two pillars and the arch, and the remnants of the All-Seeing eye at the very top. The same sign is shown in a photograph of the Inn dating from 1899, and it was a popular stopping off place along the old road that goes into Yorkshire through Todmorden and into Halifax. So, did a lodge meet there in the later part of the nineteenth century? Or was the sign itself painted by a Masonic artist who thought he would throw a collection of symbols at the top of it for decoration? I have been researching all week to see if a local lodge met there during the late 1800s, but have had no success so far, though there was Masonic activity in the area as there is a Masonic gravestone in the churchyard opposite. The church is dedicated to St. John the Divine, a saint also referred to as St John the Evangelist, a saint whose feast day on the 27th of December is celebrated by Freemasons. The present church dates from between 1788 - 1794. It remains a mystery so any assistance would be a help on this...

The date stone of the Ram Inn.

The Masonic gravestone of David Herring who died in 1828

     The late eighteenth century church dedicated to St John the Divine, situated opposite the Ram Inn.

The Masonic window in the church of St. John the Divine.


The Freemasons Arms situated in Todmorden just down the road from Cliviger over the Yorkshire border.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison
© Dr David Harrison 2016

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Symbolism and History of Underbank, Calder Valley: Once the Industrial powerbase of Christopher Rawdon

The area of Charlestown in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, was once an industrial heartland, filled with mills and dye works, all catering for the wool trade in the eighteenth century. The area is still littered with the derelict remains of these mills, now overgrown with foliage as nature reclaims the industrial landscape. The family of Christopher Rawdon - a nineteenth century philanthropist who is the subject of my next book - once owned much of the valley around Underbank Hall, and a walk along the wonderfully named Jumble Hole Clough reveals an array of derelict mill, lost graveyards and workers cottages.

The strange script above the walled-up doorway of Higher Underbank House. One theory is that it read 'John Horsfall' - the man who once owned the building. Parts of the building may date to the seventeenth century.

Underbank Hall, built by Christopher 'Kit' Rawdon in 1788. His son James Rawdon lived there until 1824 before moving to Liverpool. The Rawdon family finally sold the Hall in 1855. The Hall is a fine example of late eighteenth century West Yorkshire architecture. There is an inscription on the stairway showing the date 1788 and the initials C S R - standing for Christopher Sophia Rawdon - Sophia being Christopher's wife.
At the side of Underbank Hall you can walk up the valley side along Jumble Hole Road. A pathway then can be found that runs along the valley side, and a lost grave yard can be found which once belonged to Mount Olivet Chapel, which has been long demolished. As mill workers moved to the valley bottom, a new chapel was built there and the congregation moved with it. The above photo reveals a date stone in the wall of the grave yard showing the year 1846. The chapel of Mount Olivet was however opened in 1842. According to a list of minutes on the Charlestown History website, an inscribed stone for the chapel was erected on that date, and is a reminder of the chapel.

The lost graveyard of Mount Olivet, situated off the wonderfully named Jumble Hole Road. There are some interesting gravestones that relate to Underbank.


The 'Temple' on Underbank Avenue.


The remains of mill workings off Jumble Hole Road.


The remains of a mill off Jumble Hole Road. There were many mills and workers dwellings on the valley side, the mills taking advantage of the fast running streams that still run down the valley side.


Higher Underbank House, which is situated along the upper valley side on the pathway. This is a short walk past the graveyard of Mount Olivet. This is the building that has the strange inscription above the blocked up doorway (seen above), the building perhaps dating to the seventeenth century. The cobbled pathway winds around the building as you traverse the valley side, and it certainly has a feel of days gone by as you pass the out buildings and ancient water trough.

The cobbled pathway climbing up to the valley side. You pass a few isolated cottages as you walk up the valley, giving you a sense of the history of the area. It is now part of the Pennine Way.

A few from the upper valley. Stoodley Pike can be seen in the distance, the hill dominated by its monument completed after the Crimean War in 1856. It replaced an earlier monument that was completed after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.




Pendle - a photo that mysteriously wouldn't disappear from this post - but isn't too far away from Charlestown, situated just over the Lancashire border.