Category Archives: People

The Rainhill Trials

In 1824 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company was set up by merchants in the area in order to facilitate transport between the two major cities. The idea was heavily influenced by William James a land surveyor and property investor who had the vision of a national railway network after seeing the development of independent colliery lines and the advancement of locomotive technology.

Up until this point railways were generally run using a mixture of cables powered by stationary steam engines and horse haulage, occasionally using steam locomotives for short sections. George Stephenson, engineer for the project advocated using locomotives for the entire line to overcome the issue with cable haulage that one technical issue could paralise the entire system.

In 1829 as the construction of the line neared completion the directors of the company were still unsure how to power the railway, and so it was decided to hold a competition with a prize of £500, to find a locomotive that could prove the viability of the idea. Read more »

A Short History Of Tim Bobbin Lancashire Author, Poet & Artist

Tim Bobbin
Self Portrait

Self portrait of John Collier (Tim Bobbin)

As a Mancuniun, I came to Rochdale some thirty odd years ago, knowing nothing of  this northern textile town. Coming from the big city I inevitably felt I was  moving into the back of beyond, until my wife took me in charge and began my re-education.

 

She began by taking me to the parish churchyard to see the grave of Tim Bobbin’.

“Tim who?” I said.

“You’ll see!” said she, and we did.

 

As we stood there in the sunshine at the eastern end of the lovely grey church, beside the great slab of granite lying on top of poor Tim and his wife, I peered through the wrought iron railings protecting the grave from vandals to read the epitaph reputed to have been written by the incumbent just twenty minutes before his decease and decided that I had to find out more.

 

” Here lies John and with him Mary,

Cheek by jowl and never vary,

No wonder they so well agree,

John wants no punch, and Moll no tea.”

Read more »

The Eleanor Crosses

Eleanor Cross in Hardingstone
Charing Cross

Replica cross outside Charing Cross Station

When you see road signs telling you the distance to London the distance given is to a point at the South of Trafalgar Square where a statue to Charles I currently stands. A plaque on the floor tells you that this was the location of the original Charing Cross (a replica of which now stands outside Charing Cross Station.

 

To find out how the original hamlet of Charing came to get such a monument and the addition to it’s name, we have to go back to the end of the 13th Century.

Read more »

The Doctor and the Devil

The Devil on HorsebackLONGDENDALE has always been noted for the number of its inhabitants devoted to the study of magic arts. Once upon a time, or to give it in the words of an unpublished rhyme (which are quite as indefinite)—

“Long years ago, so runs the tale,
A doctor dwelt in Longdendale;”

and then the rhyme goes on to describe the hero of the legend—

“Well versed in mystic lore was he—
A conjuror of high degree;
He read the stars that deck the sky,
And told their rede of mystery.”

Coming down to ordinary prose, it will suffice to say that the doctor referred to was a most devoted student of magic, or, as he preferred to put it—“a keen searcher after knowledge”—a local Dr. Faustus in fact. Having tried every ordinary means of increasing his power over his fellow mortals, he finally decided to seek aid of the powers of darkness, and one day he entered into a compact with no less a personage than His Imperial Majesty, Satan, otherwise known as the Devil. The essentials of this agreement may thus be described.

Read more »

Remember, Remember.

Our historical customs, or customs which owe their origin to events in the history of our country, are not very numerous. Besides Royal Oak Day, which has already been described, we have the famous commemoration of the discovery of Gunpowder Plot on November 5th. This is a very popular festival, when bonfires are lighted everywhere, and “guys” — a perpetual memorial of the famous Guy Fawkes— are burnt with much accompaniment of squibs and crackers.

Probably few of those who take part in these functions recall to mind that November 5th was instituted by the House of Commons as “a holiday for ever in thankfulness to God for our deliverance and detestation of the Papists;” but this ignorance does not prevent them from keeping up the custom and enjoying the excitement of the bonfire and fireworks.

The usual rhyme which the youths repeat when they carry round the guy and collect fuel for their bonfires or largess for themselves is as follows: —

“Please to remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot;
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”

A common variation of the last two lines is —

“When the king and his train had nearly been slain,
Therefore it shall not be forgot”

The Berkshire boys used to add the words: —

“Our king’s a valiant soldier
With his blunderbuss on his shoulder;
Cocks his pistol, draws his rapier;
Pray give us something for his sake here.
A stick and a stake, for our good king’s sake. I
f you won’t give one, I’ll take two;
The better for me, the worse for you.

Chorus —
Holloa, boys, holloa, boys, make the bells ring;
Holloa, boys, holloa, boys, God save the Queen.”

“King” is evidently the correct rhyme for “ring” but on the accession of her Majesty Queen Victoria the correctness of the poetry was sacrificed to the appropriateness of the address to the reigning sovereign. Some of the rhymes tell us of the nefarious deeds of wicked Guy Fawkes, and the following, we believe, is still extant: —

“Guy Fawkes and his companions did contrive
To blow the House of Parliament up alive
With threescore barrels of powder down below,
To prove Old England’s wicked overthrow;
But by God’s mercy all of them got catched,
With their dark lantern and their lighted match.
Ladies and gentlemen sitting by the fire,
Please put hands in pockets and give us our desire;
While you can drink one glass, we can drink two,
The better for we, and none the worse for you.”
Riunour, rumour, pump a derry,
Prick his heart and burn his body.
And send his soul to Purgatory.”

From Beckley, Oxon, we have the following rhyme, which is still said by the youths when collecting wood for their fire: —

“Don’t you know ’tis the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder Plot? We’ve come to beg
A stick or a stake.
For King George’s sake.
If you don’t give us one.
We’ll take two;
Then ricket a racket,
Your door shall go.”

At Headington, in the same county, the boys sing the following verses: —

“Remember, remember,
The Fifth of November,
Bonfire night;
We want a faggot
To make it alight
Hatchets and duckets.
Beetles and wedges,
If you don’t give us some
We’ll pull your old hedges;
If you don’t give us one.
We’ll take two;
The better for us.
And the worse for you.”

A slight menace is very common in these Gunpowder Plot ditties. At several places at the present time it is customary to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with much elaborate ceremonial, torchlight processions, composed of people in very fancy dress costume. The display of fireworks in many towns is very grand and elaborate. At Hampstead very elaborate preparations are made; several bonfire clubs combine in making the display effective, and the procession is usually very picturesque and imposing. One car at the last celebration, representing the British Isles and the Colonies, with attendant beefeaters and pages, was sent by Sir Augustus Harris.

On the South Coast these observances are usual in several towns. At Rye the “Borough Bonfire Boys” organise a procession, light bonfires, and burn effigies. At Folkstone the procession consists of carts and waggons, gaily decorated, and containing tableaux vivants, contributed by the Friendly Society. The Ancient Order of Druids send a party representing the Ancient Britons. A blacksmith’s forge, a butcher’s car, fire brigades, and other shows, make up the procession, and torches and Chinese lanterns, and bands of music, add brightness to the festival. At Marylebone and Bermondsey the bonfire clubs are much in evidence. Political guys are not unknown, and at the last occasion the Sultan of Turkey thrashing a poor Armenian was one of the representations. In the old Middlesex suburban town of Enfield a huge fancy-dress procession is formed on the evening of Guy Fawkes Day; thousands of people throng the streets, and fires of all colours blaze along the line of route. Groups allegorical of local traditions associated with the old Enfield chase, Colonel Somerset’s stag-hounds, the Herts Yeomanry, fire brigades, and schools, form interesting features in the long procession. Money is collected for the Cottage Hospital, and a monster bonfire is lighted on the green and the traditional guy burned.

The almost universal observance of the day, and the similarity of the modes of commemorating the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, obviate the necessity of recording the manners and customs of the English people on this occasion.

Extract from Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time – P. H. Ditchfield, M.A., F.S.A. (1896)

 

Edward ‘Squire’ Higgins, Knutsford’s Gentleman Highwayman

Cann Office - Home of Higgins the HighwaymanWhen Edward Higgins arrived in Knutsford in 1756 he took possession of a large house known as the Cann Office. To the local populace he appeared to be a man of high standing. He took to renovating the house and stables and bringing several fine horses, taking on two local youths as apprentices to his groom.

Attending the local hunts, with his skill on horseback and affable manner he was soon welcomed by the local gentry as one of their own. His regular excursions outside the area were assumed to be the actions of a conscientious land owner collecting the rents which funded his extravagant lifestyle.

The following year he married Katherine Birtles, a spinster from a respectable local family and they became closely entwined within local society often dining at their neighbour’s houses and hosting lavish events themselves.

Read more »

Ragnar Lodbrog and Crake Castle.

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old NorseRagnarr Loðbrók, “Ragnar Hairy Breeches“) was a legendary Norse ruler and hero from the Viking Age described in Old Norse poetry and several sagas. In this tradition, Ragnar was the scourge of France and England and the father of many renowned sons, including Ivar the BonelessBjörn IronsideHalfdan RagnarssonSigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. While these supposed sons appear to be historical figures, it  is uncertain whether Ragnar himself existed. Many of the tales about him appear to originate with the deeds of several historical Viking heroes and rulers.

 

 

The Snake Pit

19th century artist’s impression of the execution of Ragnar Lodbrok

So far back as the days of the Saxon and the Dane, there stood, on the well-known prominent hill beyond Easingwold, the Castle of Crake — or Crec, as it was then called. Though situated in the Saxon kingdom of Deira, it belonged, at the time of our story, to Ella, King of Bernicia, the more northern division of Northumbria. It had previously been given to St. Cuthbert, the well-known northern saint, as a resting place on his long journey from Lindisfarne to the south; but Ella, who had little respect either for religion or for right, had seized upon it, and converted it into a fortress in his neighbour’s domains, and its underground dungeons into a prison for those whom he wished to hide from the world.

Read more »

Tim Bobbin’ Grave

Self Portrait

Self portrait of John Collier (Tim Bobbin)

I stoode beside Tim Bobbin’ grave
‘At looks o’er Ratchda’ teawn;
An’ th’ owd lad ‘woke within his yerth,
An’ sed, “Wheer arto’ beawn?”

“Awm gooin’ into th’ Packer-street,
As far as th’ Gowden Bell;
To taste o’ Daniel’s Kesmus ale.”
TIM.—”I cud like o saup mysel’.”

“An’ by this hont o’ my reet arm,
If fro’ that hole theaw’ll reawk,
Theaw’st have o saup o’th’ best breawn ale
‘At ever lips did seawk.”

The greawnd it sturr’d beneath my feet,
An’ then I yerd o groan;
He shook the dust fro’ off his skull,
An’ rowlt away the stone.

Read more »

Burns Night

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them.

In 2009, STV ran a television series and public vote on who was “The Greatest Scot”. On St Andrew’s Day, STV announced that Robert Burns had been voted the greatest Scot of all time, narrowly beating William Wallace.

On 25th January, to celebrate his birth Scots (and others) around the world celebrate his life and works with a Burns Supper.

The main dish is haggis, served with neeps (turnip or swede) and tatties (potatoes) and perhaps the odd shot of whisky.

The arrival of the dish is announced by one of Burns’ most famous poems.

Address to a Haggis Read more »

« Older Entries