Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Jan 2011 Feb 2011 Mar 2011 Apr 2011 May 2011 Jun 2011
Jul 2011 Aug 2011 Sep 2011 Oct 2011 Nov 2011 Dec 2011
Jun 2011

Tue 14 Jun 2011
The Lancashire Cotton Famine by
Sid Calderbank

Sid is a writer, speaker and singer in Lancashire dialect and came to tell us the story of the cotton famine on Lancashire cotton workers.

He started by saying the earliest recorded commercial cargo of cotton came from Barbados and was landed at Lancaster in 1701. At that time cotton manufacture was a cottage industry but over the next 50 years a series of technological innovations and improvements led to an increase in cotton production. Later in the 18th century Liverpool surpassed Lancaster as a port and the tonnage rapidly increased.

The first cotton mill was built on New Hall Lane, Preston in 1770. People began pouring into the towns across Lancashire from rural areas to work in these mills. Sid’s first song, ‘Handloom v Powerloom’, described the choice people had to make, whether to continue working for themselves or go to work in the factory.

Sid Calderbank

By 1860 though there were 2,000 mills in Lancashire that employed 500,000 people and accounted for over 50% of England’s exports helping to make cotton workers the highest paid industrial workers.

However, it was on 14 April 1861 that the first shots were fired in the American Civil War, which lasted 4 years and cost 800,000 lives.

Cotton production ceased in the southern states, which caused supplies to dry up in Lancashire and threaten cotton workers’ livelihoods. Savings were used up then clothes were pawned and food used up, which caused harsh conditions. Sid read from a passage by contemporary Rochdale author, Edwin Waugh, ‘Among the Cotton Operatives’, that described the workers’ plight and their reliance on parochial relief. A sad song, ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen’, followed this.

Extracts were read from a diary kept by a Richard Ryley, a cotton worker and fiddle player from Barnoldswick that detailed his busking on foot around West Yorkshire.

By November 1862 the number of out of work cotton workers reached 250,000 and was a wretched situation for the workers. Liverpool, though, did very well as tobacco and sugar was unaffected and the little cotton that got through fetched 3 to 4 times its pre war price. The ship owners profited from breaking the Union blockade of the Southern ports. A Liverpool ship, the ‘Alabama’, was fitted out with guns for such a job and Sid sang a rousing sea shanty named after it.

At home John Whittaker as ‘A Lancashire Lad’, wrote to The Times in April 1862 and Sid read out the moving letter. It caused enough of a reaction for him to write again 3 days later. This led to The Times running an editorial on the cotton workers’ wretched conditions.

An 1862 newspaper illustration showing people waiting in line for food and coal tickets at a district Provident Society office

A poem, ‘Smokeless Chimney’s, was Sid’s next piece. It was written by, ‘Lancashire Lass’, who resided at Quernmore Hall, and was sold for 1 shilling a copy to raise money for the workers. It raised £160, which equated to 3,200 copies sold.

Funds were then set up to raise money for the workers, which included one set up by the Lord Mayor of London – the Mansion Fund set up for the Lancashire & Cheshire Operatives – to raise funds totalling £528,000 across Britain and the empire.

Lord Derby helped raise £130,000 in one night at a function for wealthy families. There many more acts of charity by mill owners across Lancashire to ensure their workers were provided for through the war years.

Sid finished off the night with the conclusion of the sea shanty, ‘Alabama’. The blockade-runner met its demise off Cherbourg at the hands of the Union ship the Kearsage. Cotton workers supported this action for though they were suffering they knew why the war was being fought and did not support intervention on the South’s side.


Edwin Waugh (1817 - 1890)
The Rochdale Poet and Author

Sid concluded a different but no less entertaining and informative evening with the apt saying, ‘England’s bread was hung by Lancashire’s thread’.

Peter Robinson

Fri  17 June 2011
Clayton Reservoir - trying to save its heritage.

The quest to save the old Clayton Reservoir from demolition continues. Rosemary had found an article in the Preston Guardian, 4 Aug 1883 (click here for a full transcript) about the ceremony to lay the Pumping Station foundation stone. It refers to a silver trowel being used and presented to Henry Dobson the Chairman of the Leyland Local Board. Rosemary set off to try and find it. Checking local collections and museums revealed nothing.

Clayton Res. interior

the silver trowel in it's case

But by a fluke chance of one in a million she’d mentioned it to David Hunt of Leyland museum and someone mentioned to him she had a trowel relating to the reservoir. It seemed too good to be true so I went to see the lady and it was true. The newspaper article reads “Just previous to the ceremony, Mr Wrennalt presented Mr Dobson with a beautiful silver trowel on behalf of himself and the contractors.”


the full set of trowel, case and mallet used to lay the foundation stone 128 years ago


Sun  12 June 2011
Park Road Methodist Church, Chorley - the final service.

Park Road Methodist Church held its final service on Sunday 12 June 2011 at 10:30am. The present Church was built in 1978 to replace the original stone built Church of 1842. The date stone that is built in to the current building at ground level was originally part of the 1842 building high up on the front façade.
After 169 years the congregation has reduced to an unsustainable level and those remaining will join the Trinity Congregation on Gillibrand Walks. Almost 200 people attended the final service. Afterwards there was a light lunch at Park Road before some of the congregation set off to walk in the rain to the new venue at Trinity Church. Some stops were made to say prayers, the first stop being at the Park Gates.


Park Road Methodist Church, Chorley

1842 date stone from the original church

The original Church which was replaced in 1978

Herbert Thomas Parke of Withnell Fold
was an early benefactor.
He funded the extensive re-construction in 1915

the original key used by Herbert Parke to open the newly refurbished Church in 1915

the final congregation this morning

Rev'd Andrew Mashiter

wide view of the Church interior after the congregation had left

Sat  11 June 2011
Continuing search for the Roman Road at Coppull Moor Lane.

John Harrison and his son David, who works for Archaeological Services WYAS, continued the Society's search for the Roman Road. This time we used the latest equipment to do the surveying. The object of today’s exercise was to do a geophys survey of the field where it is suspected the Wigan to Walton-le-Dale Roman Road crosses. The first job was for David to use the Trimble GPS to set out an accurate grid of poles, tapes and string lines. Then David did a magnetometer scan which was then plotted. The Resistance survey was much more difficult because of the large number of samples to be taken. Bill Aldridge of Wigan Archaeological Society helped out with local knowledge and also setting out the grids with John and sorting the masses of tapes and measuring lines.


the field to be investigated

a local landowner showed us this interesting carved stone which they say was found nearby

another interesting feature is this stone column
bearing an upside down Ordnance Survey bench mark.

David sets out the grid using the super accurate Trimble GPS

the first job was to do a Magnetometer survey
the two types of plot from the magnetometer survey were inconclusive. The dark diagonal line is an old boundary that was known about from an 1848 map.

The next job was to collect the data for Resistance survey. Here Bill is keeping the cable clear while David operates the probes.

After many hours of collecting resistance data the results are plotted on the laptop.
Again, the results are inconclusive but will need further processing back in the office.