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Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Apr 2009
 
 
Visit to Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.
Sat 25 Apr 2009

Shortly after 11am members of the Society met at the Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, Museum Street, Blackburn to meet Nick Harling the Keeper of Community & Social History. The main purpose of the visit was to have a private viewing of the Tockhoses hoard of 59 silver coins dating from the late 12th to early 13th century. They were found in 1973 by our own society member Stuart Whalley and his friend Richard Forkasiewicz. Before seeing the coins Nick gave us a very informative tour of some of the museumís exhibits, how it came about and some information of the museumís main benefactors.


'Laying of the foundation Stone of the Blackburn Cotton Exchange' by Vladimir Sherwood (1863)

The very first work acquired by the Museum was on June 9th 1875. The painting 'Laying of the foundation Stone of the Blackburn Cotton Exchange' by Vladimir Sherwood was purchased by the Committee for the sum of £17 9s 6d. It is a magnificent view of Blackburn in 1863 and Nick explained that many of the dignitaries in the painting have been identified.
The committee responsible for building the Museum include the great and the good of Blackburn; Alderman James Thompson, Thomas Lewis (father of TB Lewis, who gave the Lewis Textile Museum), Adam Dugdale; businessman, reformer and leader of the Conservative party, James Lund cotton manufacturer; Sir William Henry Hornby, MP and local councillor and Alderman Henry Livesey, engineer and industrialist. Their likenesses are captured for us to see on the carved stone panel outside the museum, paid for by their illustrious selves. The names Edward Hart and Thomas Boys Lewis in particular are recalled with particular gratitude. Their gifts to the people of Blackburn include a splendid collection of rare books and manuscripts, Japanese prints and the Lewis Textile Museum.


a detail from the painting


Nick Harling explains how the
Lewis Textile Museum came about.

With massive industrial expansion in the cotton industry in the 1800s there was also unrest as working conditions varied considerably. In 1826 local handloom weavers smashed new machinery in the mills to try and protect their livelihood. In the 1840s a radical group known as the Chartists demanded political reform to improve the working conditions. In 1842 strikes turned to revolt and a rowdy mob clashed with the army in Darwen Street. Soldiers fired into the crown and many were injured. The last major uprising was 1878 when a trade slump caused wages to be cut by 10%. A large mob attacked the Wilpshire home of Colonel R. Jackson, chairman of the Association of Cotton Manufacturers, burning it to the ground. The event was celebrated by various issues of pottery showing drawings of the destruction. However, within a month the unions accepted the wage cut and the strike was broken. The industry recovered and by 1905 Blackburn was the most productive weaving town in the world. The industry began to decline after WW1 as many cotton supplying countries did their own weaving with machinery partly supplied my Blackburn manufacturers.

Nick then brought out the two trays of silver pennies which was the main purpose of the visit.


one of the silver pennies


the Tockholes hoard
 


Some of the Lewis Textile museum exhibits

The Museum's magnificent main staircase.

One of the main benefactors of the museum was Thomas Boys Lewis. He was born at Billinge House, Blackburn, in 1869, being the youngest child of Thomas and Ann Lewis. Educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, he graduated first class in the Classical Tripos, entering the cotton trade in 1892 in association with his brother Henry. Before he finally retired into private life, he had guided the firm's destiny for 28 years.


Mill Hill and Darwen by Sir Charles Holmes

Canal Offices by Sir Charles Holmes

The preservation of Samlesbury Hall is another achievement due to his generosity and public spirit.
He called in an old school-fellow, Sir Charles Holmes, formerly Director of the National Gallery, to paint a series of ten oils and thirty-three water colours with which to decorate the walls at the Hall. They are mostly of industrial, canal and mill scenes around Blackburn. Some are on display in the Great Hall, Samlesbury Hall.

Ben Edwards - Vikings in North West England.
Tue 14 Apr 2009


Ben Edwards

Ben Edwards was welcomed back to Chorley to shed some light on the Dark Ages.

He quickly shattered the image of Vikings helmets adorned with wings and horns. Apparently, Wagner was responsible for this through his operas.

For many Vikings were fierce raiders, to others they were farmers and craftsmen.

Ben went on to say that through monastic records the first raid was at Lindisfarne in 793D. In the north west evidence of their existence has been found on the Cumbrian coast, lower reaches of the Lune and on the Wirral.

Further afield, evidence exits in Old Norse and Old Danish place names ranging from north and west Scotland, north west England, south west Wales and south east Ireland.

Where the Vikings actually lived though has been more difficult to establish. Due to the passage of time not a great deal of their everyday things has survived.

However, Viking artefacts that have survived are metal based such as swords, spears, ring headed pins and hooked tags.

Gods was not their forte although there are examples of this but silver was their favoured material.

Ben told of a broach, which included a pin 2 feet in length found near Penrith. This was the largest example of its kind found in Europe. To illustrate this Ben brought along with him a real size model. The original is in the British Museum.

Bensí wife, Margaret, gave a practical demonstration of how a penannular (broken ring) broach held clothing together in the absence of buttons.

A lively question and answer session brought an enlightening evening to a conclusion.

Peter Robinson.


Penannular brooch

At Wigan Archaeological Society Nigel Neil, an independent archaeologist, spoke about his long-running investigations at Whalley Abbey.
Wed 01 Apr 2009

Whalley Abbey was a Cistercian abbey in Whalley, Lancashire. After the dissolution of the monasteries the abbey was largely demolished and a country house was built on the site. In 1296 the Cistercian monks from Stanlow Abbey moved to Whalley. In 1306 there were legal disputes between Whalley and Sawley Abbeys and there was a plea to move to another site at Toxteth, but this was refused by the Pope. The foundations date from around the 7th century.


Nigel Neil


An early view of Whalley Abbey

In 1553 the abbey lands and the manor of Whalley were bought by John Braddyll of Brockhall and Richard Assheton of Lever near Bolton. The properties were divided and Assheton took the monastic site and buildings. The abbot's house and the infirmary buildings were demolished and a large house was built on the site. In the 17th century most of the remaining church and monastic buildings were pulled down. The house passed through a succession of owners and further alterations were made to the house in the 19th century.
In 1923 the house and grounds were bought by the Diocese of Manchester and in 1926 the diocese was divided and the property passed into the possession of the Diocese of Blackburn. The former private house, which is now a retreat and conference house, was reopened in September 2005 following refurbishment.