Thursday, 25 May 2017

Hidden History along Causeway Bridges Farm

Old pathways off the beaten track can reveal many hidden gems of interest. Here are a few photos of a hidden track-way at Causeway Bridges Farm in Burtonwood, Cheshire.

An old sandstone bridge arches over the Sankey Brook. The bridge has been repaired and modified, and seems to have been constructed specifically for Causeway Bridges Farm, possibly in the nineteenth century. There was a similar humped-back sandstone bridge going over the Sankey Brook near Winwick Quay, which was demolished in the early 1980s.

Once over the bridge, one is greeted by old rusting farm machinery lying by the edges of the field.

Farm workers 'shack'.

An old oak stands alone. The pathway from the farm leads into fields and eventually winds to where the Burtonwood Airbase once was.

All photos by Dr David Harrison
© Dr David Harrison 2017.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Old Moat House, Bold.

The Old Moat House in Gorsey Lane, Bold, just outside Burtonwood in Cheshire, is a nice example of a local moated house, the moat dating from the 13th century, the current house dating from the 18th century. It is similar to the other nearby moated house Bradley Hall, which is situated on the other side of Burtonwood village. Though not as grand as Bradley Hall as it is lacking the gateway and historical features, it is nonetheless still striking and is just as enigmatic. The moat is apparently fed by a natural spring on the western side and drains as a Mersey feeder to the east. The property has recently been up for sale.


Monday, 17 April 2017

The Lost Industrial and Social Demographic of Winwick Road, Warrington

Winwick Road in Warrington is much changed from how it used to be, with Victorian terrace houses demolished, the landmark pub the Horse and Jockey demolished in the late 1980s to make way for the new MacDonald's Drive-In, the Gas Social Club closed down and the changes in industry along the long road into Warrington from the north. Here are a few photos of how the road once looked, and some of the features that will most probably soon disappear.

Winwick Road is the central straight road on this map of north Warrington c.1955. The Horse and Jockey pub was situated on the corner of Folly Lane and opposite Jockey Street. The Gas Social was on the same side of the road just opposite Ireland Street. Most of the industry shown on the map is now gone.

The much missed and lamented Horse and Jockey pub. There appears to have been a pub named the Horse and Jockey in the 19th century.

Another photo from The Warrington Guardian of the pub just before demolition in the late 1980s

After a few pints in the Horse and Jockey, you could have a few late ones in the Warrington Gas Social a few minutes walk away on the same side of the road. Closed a few years ago, this now derelict social club is typical of the hundreds, if not thousands, that have closed across the country in the last few decades. These social clubs provided a local night-out, entertainment, sports activities and trips for the workmen and their families. The Gas Works still takes up much land on Winwick Road and was a big employer of local people. Most factories had a social club for the workmen, creating a bond and a sense of community.

The entrance to the now closed Warrington Gas Social on Winwick Road

Sign for the Electricity Department in the Gas Works wall on Winwick Road

An entrance for the Electricity Department - just round the corner from the sign

A roadway off Winwick Road that runs along the perimeter of the old Gas Works. During and after World War II, this area was the site of depots for the American Air Base.

And just further down from the Gas Works...a panoramic photo from the Evening Standard, 1967, showing the famous forklift truck producer Lancing Bagnall, bought out by Linde in 1989. The old Mobil Garage is now a Tesco Garage.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Winwick Quay; A Lost Industrial Hub on the Sankey Canal

Winwick Quay in the mid 1970s (Warrington Borough Council)

Of all the features that survive on the Sankey Canal, Winwick Quay is my personal favourite; it has a dry dock, the boat maintenance yard can still be seen and the old Ship Inn is still there, and though it is now a private cottage, it has a number of features inside from when it was an Inn. There are also a number of archaeological features revealing possible workshops that have been excavated over the years by members of the Sankey Canal Restoration Society. In its heyday, the area was a lively industrial centre, and is indeed located on a central position on the canal system, more or less midway from its terminus in St Helens and its final entrance into the River Mersey at Spike Island in Widnes. Winwick Quay was also the site of a train station from 1837 to 1840. The dry dock still has the small sluice gate at the back that was used to drain water into a stream after the gates were closed, allowing work to be carried out on the bottom of the boat. The dock could then be refilled from the canal after repairs were done. The long building in the maintenance yard bears the date 1841, and had a mechanism for lifting boats for repair work.

The same scene today
This hub of industrial activity on the canal had come to end by the early 1960s, and by the time that I first discovered Winwick Quay in the hot summer of 1976, the M6 motorway had been built and the canal edged itself into a culvert pipe that took the water under the motorway to the other side. I can remember the old wooden swing bridge and looking down into a canal that was already being used a rubbish dump. It wasn’t long after this that this section of the canal was infilled, and I’ve spoken to locals who remember all kinds of rubbish being dumped in it, from old fridges to bags of old telephones. Thankfully the dry dock was not filled in and can still be seen, and a small swing bridge was constructed between the entrance of the dry dock and the infilled canal, ready for a future time when the canal is to be excavated.

The cottage that once was the Ship Inn
This part of the canal could have a bright future; it could be dug out and used as an open air museum that could reveal the way people lived and worked on the first industrial canal in the early Victorian era. It has a great historical value to the area; the dry dock is unique and could still work, and the boat maintenance yard with accompanying buildings are privately owned but still very well preserved. The Winwick Quay site could not only provide an educational centrepiece to the first industrial canal, it could also give an exceptional historical insight into the Victorian era in Warrington.

The old fire place in the boat repair building

A close up of the boat repair building dated 1841

An aerial shot of Winwick Quay dated 1947 (photo from the disused stations website)

A dredger in the dry dock (Peter Norton Collection, SCARS website)


All other photographs by Dr David Harrison unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Warrington Academy

The Warrington Academy was an non-conformist Academy that opened in 1757 and attracted such ground-breaking tutors as scientist Joseph Priestley, botanist Johann Reinhold Forster and poet and critic John Aikin, the Academy creating an intellectual scene during the later eighteenth century in the Lancashire Market town. The first building to house the Academy can still be seen, though much altered, it was moved back from the road during the early 1980s then rebuilt altogether, becoming the Guardian offices.

Johann Reinhold Forster joined the Academy as a tutor in 1768, his eldest son Georg becoming a student there. He stayed in Warrington until 1770 when he left the Academy to reside in London, where he wrote A Catalogue of the Animals of North America. Forster, who had befriended Joseph Banks, the botanist who had accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage, was offered the position on Cook’s second voyage instead of fellow Academy tutor Joseph Priestley. It is thought that Priestley, who was a Dissenter, may have been rejected on his religious grounds as the Board was mainly made up of Anglican Clergy. Banks like Forster was also a Freemason and these two men of science may have known of each other’s membership. Johann was to be the ship’s Naturalist and his son Georg was to accompany him.

The voyage which was a resounding success, began on 1772 and returned to England in 1775, stopping at countries such as Easter Island, Tahiti, and the Tonga Islands. On his return, Forster became resentful towards the Admiralty, who had forbid him to write about the voyage, so he gave the task to his son, who published his findings in the book A Voyage Around the World.  The book became a best seller and sealed the reputations of both Johann and his son Georg. Despite the disagreements, Forster continuously wrote to Joseph Banks, who became President of the Royal Society in 1778, indicating that he had been mistreated, and had not been paid in full. Banks responded to the letters by supplying a loan to Forster, which was never repaid.

The second Academy building was located on what is now Academy Way, and it remained there until it closed in 1786. This second building is long gone, but we still have the original Georgian building to remind us of the importance that the Academy had on what has been referred to as the British Enlightenment. 


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Newton Hall

Painting of Newton Hall. Collection of David Harrison.
Newton Hall was situated in Newton-le-Willows, now in Merseyside, but before the county boundaries changed, it was in the county of Lancashire. The hall was demolished in 1964 and little evidence remains of it above ground. Here is a description with some quotations taken from the website, which gives an excellent narrative of various documents that mention the hall in detail.
The hall was said to have been originally built by Robert Banastre, this earlier medieval structure being described as having two wings and being surrounded by a moat. The later building (as pictured above) is considered to have occupied the same site, but a portion of this building stood against an outcrop of rock, which was elevated above the level of the house, and as at this point there could have been no moat. So, the newer structure may not have been built on the exact same ground as the old. The present structure, as indicated below, was constructed by Thomas Blackburn in 1634, and was indeed a fine example of a building from that period. The hall then become ruinous as the Blackburn family vacated the building, and it was eventually restored by Lord Newton. In what was the great hall there was said to be a fireplace with the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth carved in oak above. The remains of the gallery surrounding what was once the great hall were absorbed into rooms built in the upper part of the hall, and the old fireplace was completely rebuilt, the old bricks being replaced with stone. Thus the hall changed over time, and now, is sadly demolished.

"Before the Conquest Newton was the head of a hundred assessed at 5 hides. One of the hides, including Newton itself, was held in demesne by Edward the Confessor, as lord of the manor..... In 1346 .... Sir Robert de Langton held the plough-lands in Newton by the service of one knights fee, paying 10s. for ward of Lancaster Castle, and doing suit at the Wapentake Court at West Derby every three weeks. The manor of Newton with its members, Lowton, Kenyon Arbury, a moiety of Golburne, and the advowson of Wigan church, was so held ..... A grant of free warren was obtained by Robert Banastre in 1257 and licence to crenellate his mansion by Robert de Langton in 1341. Manorial rights are still claimed, but no court has been held for many years..... A resident family or families took the local name one of them in the time of Edward III was known as Richard the Receiver from the office he held under the lord of the fee. Another also had an official name - Serjeant; the family remained here down to the end of the 17thc.... The Blackburnes, afterwards of Orford and Hale acquired lands here in the latter part of the 16thc. Their house known more recently as Newton Hall, was built by Thos. Blackburne in 1634 ..... a small 'H' - shaped house standing N. and S. with hall between living rooms and kitchen ....."

Dr Kuerden, an antiquarian of 1695, wrote ‘…crossed the little stone bridge over Newton Brook, three miles from Warrington. On the left hand side close by a water mill appear the ruins of the site of the ancient barony of Newton, where formerly was the baron's castle.' (Quoted in Philpott), (Stephen Dowd 'The History of Newton Hall').

The north-west region has lost too many of its historic structures, halls such as Childwall Hall, Orford Hall, Hale Hall and Culcheth Hall have all disappeared. The loss of buildings like Newton Hall may yet inspire us to save the ones that still survive.

All photographs by Dr David Harrison.

© Dr David Harrison 2017.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Bradley Old Hall - a rare moated site

Bradley Old Hall is an excellent example of a late medieval moated site, situated near Burtonwood Village in Cheshire, not far from St. Helens and Warrington. The manor house, first built in the 15th century, then rebuilt in the late 1700s as a Georgian manor house, still retains a number of features from the original building such as the main door and the oak beams. The moat and the medieval gatehouse still survive and are in good condition.

Included in the house is the original Tudor style bed that Richard III supposedly slept in when he stayed at the Hall in 1482. There has also been many finds from the Civil War (Cromwell also supposedly stayed there) and there is an oak timber beam which is inscribed a Catholic script, as the Leigh family who lived there were said to be secret Catholics after the Reformation.

In the book A Burtonwood Story by J.P. Fogarty, published in 1986, Bradley Old Hall is mentioned extensively displaying a number of black and white photos. A mention of the Hall by Peter Leigh in 1465 is printed, in which it says the Hall had:

‘...three new chambers and a fair dining room, with a new kitchen, bakehouse and brewhouse, and also with a new tower built of stone with turrets and a fair gateway, and above it a stone bastille well defended, with a fair chapel…also one ancient chamber called the Knyghtes Chamber…surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge…’

The two coat of arms displayed at the top of the stairs on the first floor are of Standish of Standish and Leigh of Lyme- both taken from the original Hall, along with a number of oak doors and beams, such as the one in the front attic room which displays the legend:

‘Here Master doth and Mistress both accorde with godly mindes and zealous hartes to serve the livinge Lorde.  1597 Henry Wesle’

 This seems to suggest a continuation of the practise of Catholicism by the family.

The book by Fogarty also mentions that Peter Leigh supported the Duke of Gloucester (Richard III) with King Richard III granting Peter Leigh £10 per year for life in consideration for his loyal services. Fogarty mentions that the Duke of Gloucester was reputed to have stayed at the Hall in 1482 when the Duke was marching through Lancashire to repel the Scots. The Kings Bed – a late medieval oak bed - is still in the Hall, and the story of the Duke staying at the Hall seemed to have originated from Lady Leigh’s history of the Leigh family.

Other books which mention Bradley Old Hall include Warrington and the Mid-Mersey Valley by G.A. Carter, published in 1971, which also mentions Peter Leigh’s 1485 description, and the Leigh family connection to the nearby Winwick Church were a number of the family are buried. The Hall, according to Carter, was mentioned as ‘lying waste’ in 1666, which may be because of activity during the Civil War were there was nearby the battle of Winwick in 1648. There has been a canon ball and shot recovered from the moat which dates to the Civil War period, and there are local stories of secret tunnels from the Hall to the nearby Winwick Church and that Oliver Cromwell himself stayed at the Hall.

The Hall and the Leigh family are also mentioned in a much celebrated local history book published in 1947 called Warrington Ancient and Modern by Austin Crowe, who had been Mayor of Warrington from 1933-35. In the book, the Leigh family are portrayed as a leading family of the area during the medieval period, and describes The Leigh Manuscript of 1465 drawn up by Sir Peter Leigh which lists the agriculture, industry and life of Warrington of that time.

The Hall is still privately owned and can be seen from the many public pathways that run from the Sankey Canal towards Burtonwood.

All photographs by Dr David Harrison.

© Dr David Harrison 2017.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The 1st Viscount Leverhulme and the Rebuilding of Liverpool castle

The 1st Viscount Leverhulme had a vision to rebuild Liverpool's lost medieval castle, but he didn't rebuild it in the port, he instead chose Rivington Pike, on the eastern bank of Lower Rivington Reservoir. Liverpool castle was built in the fourteenth century, but was demolished in the early eighteenth century as the port was expanding. An industrialist, philanthropist, Freemason and founder of Lever Brothers and Port Sunlight, the 1st Viscount Leverhulme commissioned the construction of the new castle in 1912 but ceased in 1925 when he died. The castle is thus incomplete and as an extravagant folly, gives an insight into the romantic mind of Viscount Leverhulme. For more information on Port Sunlight click here for a previous blog post.

The rebuilt Liverpool castle with Rivington Pike in the background.

All Photographs Dr David Harrison
© Dr David Harrison 2017.