For hundreds of years the Peace Egg or Pace Egg play was a common part of the Easter festivities in Lancashire with bands of disguised mummers going from house to house presenting their play.
Gradually what was once an adult tradition became one enacted by children often gaining more in donations than their parents could earn in the wool and cotton industries.
Below is an contemporary observation of one of these performances by the Lancashire dialect writer John Trafford Clegg (Th’ Owd Weighver)
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Rochdale Town Hall prior to the fire of 1883
Rochdale Town Hall, is a fine example of gothic revival architecture and home to some of the best modern stained glass in the world. The grandeur of this building was such that according to local legend, Hitler had plans to take the building stone by stone back to Germany if he won the war. This is also supposedly the reason why Rochdale, despite it’s industry, escaped pretty much unscathed during the German bombings.
A competition was held to produce a design for the building which was won by William Henry Crossland. Work started in 1866 on the site of an abandoned 17th Century mansion and was completed five years later at a cost of £160,000 (eight times the original budget, and a remarkable sum for a town the size of Rochdale.) the work was so costly that to this day some of the internal decoration remains unfinished.
But what visitors to the town may not know is that the building you see today is different from the original.
The original clock tower was 134 feet high and had a 106 foot wooden spire richly gilded and surmounted by figures of Saint George and the Dragon.
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On the morning of 15th November 1884, 68 year-old Emma Ann Whitehead Keyse was found dead at her home, “The Glen,” at Babbacombe Bay near Torquay by her servants who had been roused by the smell of smoke in the property.
According to the post mortem her skull was fractured in two places and her throat had been cut so severely that all the main arteries were severed and even the parietal bone was notched.
An attempt had also been made to burn the body and several rooms of the house. A strong odour of paraffin oil still evident on her clothes several hours later.
With no sign of forced entry into the house, John Lee, half-brother to the cook, Elizabeth Harris, and the only man known to be in the house at the time of the murder was soon arrested.
At his trial, the jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict.
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