Leyland Historical Society
George Leslie Bolton - (1917-2006)
Fifth President of the Leyland Historical Society 1989-2006
In his time as a member, George filled a number of positions as a long serving committee member. He was made a life member in 1985 and became President in 1989, making him the longest serving incumbent in the office. George’s funeral at Blackburn was well-attended by friends and Society members, a number of whom spoke affectionately of him at the service and they have kindly agreed to allow the following paragraphs to be based on their remarks.
George Leslie Bolton, the youngest of three children, was born in Chorley. Educated at the town’s Grammar School, he began work in the laboratories of Leyland Motors Limited where, rising to senior management, he remained all his working life. He married fellow employee Marjorie Hunton in 1947 and the pair set up home in Yewlands Avenue before living for many years in Lancaster Lane. The devoted couple’s plans for retirement and travel sadly came to naught with Marjorie’s untimely death in 1978. George retired in 1981 and immersed himself in his many interests for the next quarter of a century.
George spent all his working life in the laboratory of Leyland Motors. This was initially located in the South Works just to the north of what is, today, King Street. During the war he moved to the Farington foundry and was actively involved in the metallurgical control of the electric arc steel furnaces which were used in the production of bomb and shell casings. He was at the plant during the bombing raid of 1940, and having only narrowly escaped with his life from the bomb blast was appalled when the plane came back to machine gun the survivors. In 1948 the laboratory relocated to new buildings in Farington as part of the post-war expansion of the company.
Trained as an industrial chemist and ably assisted by his wife, George played a key role in the development of the company’s Chemical laboratory into a state of the art facility. Although well-known as a historian George was also very much a man of the future. In 1964 he was the driving force behind the acquisition of an ultra-modern metals’ analyser which incorporated the latest computer technology. The work of the laboratory demanded high levels of precision and accuracy and George was the acknowledged master of the technical report. He was accordingly greatly respected throughout the automotive industry as the representative of British Leyland on various committees of the British Standards Institute and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. One of his main responsibilities in the 1970s was the development of lubricants for commercial vehicles. He worked closely with the major oil companies and in recognition of the esteem in which he was held he was the proud recipient of a sample of the first oil to come ashore from the North Sea.
George enjoyed wide-ranging interests: he was a very keen Amateur Radio enthusiast (his call sign G3UDZ was worked throughout the world) and he enjoyed motor-rallying, having joined the motoring fraternity as far back as the mid-1930s.
A Careful Gatherer and Lover of Antiquities
Though George Bolton’s love of local history was the chief beneficiary of his retirement years, his interest blossomed during the war years. This was the period when Reginald Sharpe-France established the Lancashire Records Office in Preston, and, significantly, the ffarington of Worden muniments was one of his first acquisitions. George – later, assisted by a full, if motley, complement of assistants – would spend his life in their analysis. During these years, George copied and studied the key elements which would eventually comprise the building blocks of research hereafter. His acquisition of a photographic copy of sections of Richard Jackson’s writings (alias Dr Kuerden 1623-1704?) was to be, perhaps, his major achievement. Like The Great Doctor, George carefully dug out his sources, set them in chronological order and wrote them up. About this time he became a member of the Preston Scientific Society (then closely involved with E. E. Pickering and the exploration of the Roman site at Walton) and the Preston Historical Society.
The founding of the Leyland Historical Society in 1968 gave George a much closer focus for his historical interests which became centred on Clayton and Leyland. The Society’s journal – The Lailand Chronicle – came into being in 1970.
From the first volume to the 2003-4 edition he contributed thirty-four articles, nine of which earned him the ‘Historian of the Year’ award for best entry; and, initially, with the late Peter Barrow: Vernacular Buildings, but then with William Waring: Everything Leyland; Elizabeth Shorrock: The Later ffaringtons of Worden; and others, he began to assemble the building blocks for a new History of Leyland (1990).
The building of the new Records Office on Bow Lane, Preston, and his later retirement had given the impetus for the most creative period of his research and writing. His contribution to our journal reached a peak during the period of his editorship (1982-87). He was succeeded in this onerous office by his friend Bill Waring and their combined tenure saw a real flowering of the society as the sort of hands-on cutting-edge research group that George had always envisaged. Members’ publications and history classes of all kinds abounded. In particular the series of day schools (organised by the University of Liverpool) at Worden in 1986 and 1987 — in which George and the rest of the ‘Gang of Four’ played a full part – gave the society a clear lead in the field of local research groups in the County.
Apart from his Lailand Chronicle articles, George Bolton wrote three books: The History of the Later Crooks of Crook Hall, Whittle-le-Woods; The History of Clayton-le-Woods, and A History of Charnock Hall, (in collaboration with William Waring). He also undertook extensive work on the history of the Worden Family of Massachusetts who went over to America at the time of the Pilgrim Fathers: Peter Worden had left Clayton-le-Woods c.1623 for the New World. George became a member of the Worden family Association of America, writing articles for their newsletter Wordens’ Past, and a book, Worden Origins. The Worden family group, led by Col W. Worden, visited Leyland in May 1994 in the company of Peter Worden of Blackburn and George, with much success.
Clearly these will not be the last words written on this most distinguished of gentlemen in this and other journals, but perhaps George’s fellow traveller, Richard Kuerden, found the phrase which best describes his life’s work. For, in George, Leyland never had a more:
‘”Knoweing and welle trusted Pilot” to navigate a course through its complicated and often seeminglt intractable history.’
William E Waring or Bill – An Appreciation (1928 - 2016)
Thomas Leslie Fowler (Les) - 1926 – 2008
To many Historical Society members, Les’s was the cheery face that welcomed them to meetings, always ready to help and make everyone feel at home including bringing cushions to make the hard Prospect House chairs more comfortable for members and visitors.
Les joined the Society after he retired in 1989, and for a while he just stayed in the background until in 1994 a shortage of committee members made Les take the plunge and volunteer. Here he was to stay and he enlisted his wife Mary onto the committee as the Editor of the Chronicle. Les helped with preparing for exhibitions, finding many more places to display our posters in Leyland (it could be down to Les’s efforts that you first heard of the society), and he was the person that the chairman could always count on to give the vote of thanks to our speakers, a thankless which Les took on with his usual smile followed by, ‘Go on then.’
In 1999 he became the Vice Chairman, and continued in this roll for the next six years, occasionally standing in for myself and helping, as ever. On the many rail trips, Mary and Les were the main stays, in fact, they even attended one I missed. The one trip I remember the most was the sunny trip on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Les’s homeland, Ince. As we walked around the Top Lock area at Kirkless Hall Inn, Les was able to take us back to his childhood with his memories of growing up in Ince.
Les attended St William School, Ince but due to ill health missed quite a bit of schooling; however, he made up for this by studying and listening to educational broadcasts on the BBC.
His first job was in a cotton mill but he eventually realised that this work did not agree with his chest and so started work at Leyland Motors in 1948 as a gear grinder, a skilled job.
As he had worked night shifts quite a lot, Les did not have much time for socializing during his working years but after taking early retirement in 1989 at the age of sixty three he became an active member of various local groups.
Besides the Historical Society, Les could be found at the Leyland Horticultural and Chrysanthemum Society where he had an interest in growing and propagating plants, many of which he gave away to various groups such as the scouts to help raise funds. At St Ambrose Church, Les was on various committees and was a banner man on walking days. Les could always be relied upon to paint boards to advertise Christmas fairs and other events.
In his spare time, he enjoyed making things with wood, bookshelves, coffee tables, a dolls house and lovely rocking horses for his children and these are now being handed down to his grandchildren.
After the Leyland Festival folded in 2000, Les was one of the first to volunteer help with promoting the Craft & Local Societies Fair, preparing display boards for the motorway exit, Bashalls, outside Kwik Save (one of his regular advertising sites – I think most of Leyland knew him) and at the Methodist Church itself. Even when he wasn’t well in 2008, I didn’t expect to see the boards being displayed but Les was never one to let you down and the Methodist Church board appeared as usual, he had managed to get someone to assist him, that was Les.
Les is sadly missed by us all, especially at the committee meetings which have felt somewhat subdued without his presence, and our sympathies go out to his wife Mary, their daughter and three sons and to their grandchildren.
To this day, the Historical Society board that is displayed in the Civic Centre foyer at every meeting was made by Les.
The George I Knew
When I joined the committee in 1992, George had already been President for a number of years and whilst he was not against any new ideas from johnny cum lately's like myself, he always like to have the last word, especially when it came to the Society's constitution which required amending when I made the Society a registered charity.
But he was always fair and even though we differed on the term history, George used to think things got boring after 1750 and the Industrial Revolution arrived, I always thought the contrary, that this was when history really started.
You got used to George's style and I always remember the last conversation I had with him on the corner of Turpin Green Lane and East Street as he was on his daily walk. After enquiring about his health, he replied that he was glad that the Historical Society was in good hands and he knew I would keep up the good work, I had been secretly pleasing him but he did not want me to take him for granted.
That was George
As you have probably read in the Society Affairs, Bill managed to get a good review at the Website Award ceremony without even knowing it, but as Father Jonathan also said in the funeral sermon, Bill was Leyland history. Many was the occasion when I was stuck on either a Leyland building or a Leyland family all I had to do was to ring Bill and he knew all the details without recourse to notes or books, it was all in his memory.
Though I had come across Bill before I joined the Society without really knowing him. For five years on a Thursday afternoon when my dad was in the hospital then nursing home, Bill and Jack Swift would visit him to give my mum a day off. So in 1990, I was requested by the Bank’s own newspaper to write further history’s of the local branches, I had started with Chorley and then researched Bamber Bridge. This time they wanted the history of Leyland branch.
I thought this should be easy I’ll contact the library. This I did and they put me onto Mrs Elizabeth Shorrock, who gave me Bill’s phone number and said he was the man to help. I duly made that first call of many and as usual as I would come to find out he could provide any information I required. When he realised I was George’s boy, “Get away” I believe was the comment, he suggested that I come to one of the Historical Society meetings which I did. Though his influence did not end there as after a few months in 1991, I asked why didn’t the society put on a display at the Leyland Festival in the Craft Tent, his response was why don’t you come to a committee meeting and explain your idea.
This I duly did and I’m still there. It was all Bill’s fault so now you know who to blame. The committee at the time was controlled by the chairman, Betty Chaloner in my first year, Alf Seguss in my second though they were both under the watchful eye of President George Bolton who had his constitution handy if there was ever a query. Bill just sat quietly in the corner answering any queries and requesting articles for the Chronicle as he had just taken over as Editor from George. Bill would go on to write over 46 articles for the Chronicle, a record which I don’t think will ever be broken.
From recently reading Peter Barrow’s notes, it would seem I had this committee all wrong as with Peter, George, Bill and Dr David Hunt were the shock troops of the Society, with a little bit of tresspass here, a bit of investigation in an old property there, they built up their knowledge of the many and various properties of Leyland.
This I discovered for myself when I suggested to Bill that all the information in the chronicles would make a good book about the buildings along the Festival Route. This I duly did Bill providing me with a full set of Chronicles which used to belong to Bert Morris. Of course there were gaps and some information was misleading but Bill helped me sort it all. I then told him that I was going to walk the Festival Route and take photographs for the book and the exhibition that was going to be in the Craft Tent to promote the book, he immediately volunteered to accompany me on the walk on an overcast day in late March 1994 as I remember. As we walked he made sure I pointed the camera in the right direction and filled in the missing information as we walked to the Park.
As we were walking around town, Bill was telling me the story of the Leyland & Farington Co Operative Society as we passed many of the former shops. This gave me an idea so with Bill working on the local angle and me contacting the Co Operative headquarters in Manchester, between us we produced the Co Op article.
For the second book, Through the Lanes, we covered the rest of Leyland in two walks which would feature in the Craft Tent over two years 1996 and 1997, we were learning to pace ourselves, this time I took the photographs then referred back to Bill at his home.
Though this lead to one of our wilder ideas, I can’t remember if it was Bill or mine, we thought it would be good to do the history of every building in a street. As the Society met in Sandy Lane at the time, it was thought that this should be fairly easy as the terraced houses would help. Little did we know that the terraces were built at different times to almost the same design. The highlight of this project was going with Bill to visit some of the houses, the one I remember most vividly was Townfield House, where Bill told the owners the history of their property as we were then invitied down into the cellar to look at the remains of the looms that Edmund Berry installed when he set up business in Leyland.
Following Bill and George’s book with Peter Barrows assistance on Charnock Old Hall, I thought that Bill and Elizabeth’s work on the architect David Grant which featured in one of the chronicles could be extended into a small book. This I sneakily did without telling either of them and presented them with a book wot they wrote. Bill was very pleasantly surprised.
In his later years Bill concentrated on his work on the War Memorials of Leyland, cross checking the civic one on Church Road with the ones both inside and outside the local churches. He then set out on the task of telling the story of each person on the list which he originally intended to published but which eventually ended up on the South Ribble website, though a link to it exists on the Society’s website home page.
With all my conversations both on the phone and in person with Bill, he was always the same way, always willing to assist, usually expecting you to know as much as him, but just ocassionally I would get the response “Well I Never” which meant I had told Bill something he didn’t know. That was a rare moment.
To end I will just repeat what my mum always said about Bill, “he’s a perfect gentleman” and I’m sure no one would argue with that.
THOSE COMMITTEE MEMBERS WE HAVE LOST.