Leyland Historical Society

On Wednesday 14th June a group of fourteen members took the early train to Manchester to view the sights. We were accompanied by Ken Thompson from Toronto as this was part of his round England tour. As we left Manchester Piccadilly we descended the ramp to Ducie Street noticing all the new shops and hotel to the right which replaced all the old well established shops including the Ian Allan bookshop, a great loss to the city.

How the wall became known as the ‘Jewry Wall’ is uncertain. Its name might derive from the 24 ‘Jurats’ or medieval borough councilors who held meetings in the churchyard. In 1722 the antiquarian William Stukeley called it ‘The Jury Wall’ on his map of the town. At this time the wall was commonly known as the Temple of Janus. Janus was the Roman god of gateways: as the wall resembled a gateway, it was thought to be the west gate of the town and was sometimes referred to as ‘the Janua of the old City’. 

The modern spelling was in use in the early 19th century, but there is no known link to a Jewish quarter. The remains of the Roman baths were discovered by chance in 1936 when a factory was demolished to build a new swimming baths. Pioneering archaeologist Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon (1906–78) excavated the current site between 1936 and 1939.

 The wall towering over 30 feet high is one of the highest Roman remains in England, the baths buildings layout being seen from the uncovered stone work and ducts in the nearby ground between the wall and the museum. Here our guides left us as we boarded the coach to home.

After lunch we split into two groups to discover the Roman and Mediaeval History of Leicester with the assistance of the Leicester Civic Society. Both groups after a tour of the Guild Hall reaching the Jewry Wall Roman Museum.  

For our first talk of 2017 on the Second Monday in January (9th) we were again entertained by Chris Wild who discussed the latest work of the Oxford Archeology North team in the recent redevelopment in Stockport. With the use of all the latest technology at the site, the archeologists were able to excavate the dwellings which were there prior to the site near to the River Mersey being used for industrial purposes. Of particular interest was the geo positioning equipment which enabled the use of a drone to match the previous maps thereby making easy recording of the site.

For the February meeting Sid Calderbank brought together a group of musicians and singers to perform "An Evening with Edwin Waugh". They had performed the event the previous weekend at Rochdale Town Hall with full orchestra, choir and guest vocalists. Our performance was a slightly smaller group of musicians, choir and guest vocalists who told Edwin Waugh’s story. He was born on 29th January 1817 and the show celebrated the 200th anniversary of his birth made up of Edwin's songs, poems and stories.

Andrew Gill returned in March with "Optical Entertainments before the Movies”.  Since the earliest times, artists, showmen and scientists have tried to capture real life (movement and perspective) through art and mechanical devices. The Victorians used the new science of optics to create perspective machines, persistence-of-vision devices, panoramic scenes, three-dimensional imagery and moving pictures in large scale theatrical extravaganzas and children’s toys.

Andrew has collected optical antiques for forty years and presented authentic Victorian ‘magic lantern’ slide shows, on a professional basis, for the last twenty. The talk included dioramas; panoramas; zoetropes; stereoscopes; magic lanterns; phantasmagoria shows and much more that led to the invention of cinema and the plethora of visual entertainments that we enjoy today. After the talk there was a ‘hands-on’ demonstration of some of the devices.

In November we had a special event as one of our members who attended our meetings since the age of nine and has now achieved his doctorate in history came back to his roots to talk about Leyland in the Tudor and Stuart’s era.  Dr. James Mawdesley's talk entitled " From Reformation to Civil War: Leyland 1530 - 1660" covered the period in great detail but was able to relate the big events of state to the local situation.

For her presentation in December, in a show entitled "Margaret Paston, A medieval life", Lizzie Jones dramatized the letters of the Paston family.  The Paston Letters tell the remarkable story of one medieval family, giving a unique insight into their domestic life and relationships against the background of turbulent times, the Wars of the Roses.  

As the first detailed record of private family correspondence to survive in Britain, these letters offer a personal perspective on local as well as national history.  The Paston Letters were written between 1422 and 1509. Margaret Paston was responsible for 104 items of correspondence, and was therefore the most prolific writer in the family. Through her we leant a great deal about medieval Norwich, and the chaotic impact of the Wars of the Roses. 

Peter then after showing a few examples left it up to the members to look around Leyland and Farington then let him know of any buildings or structures that they think should be listed.

IF YOU CAN THINK OF ANY PLEASE EMAIL PETER ON peter@leylandhistoricalsociety.co.uk

For those who don’t know Chris a short resume,  C. P. Lee is a Manchester institution and the world’s leading expert on Manchester’s famed film history – the 1950s Mancunian Film Company – as well as on the comic Frank Randle (catchphrase: “Bah, I’ve supped some ale tonight”). He also knows more than anyone on the planet about Manchester music arcana.

He was a member of the legendary 1970s act Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias. Now he has just retired from being a lecturer in cultural studies at Salford University and can often be found appearing at Manchester venues, loquaciously rendering a public speech or introducing a night of Mancunian movie madness. He has spoken to the Historical Society on numerous occasions about Manchester films, Manchester music, the history of comedy and Frank Randle of course.

 On this occasion Chris took the members on an alternative walk around the Northern Quarter as it is now known. Past the sites of the old markets including the Fish Market which still retains its façade. The group passed the Co Operative headquarters as we walked past Victoria Station with Chris pointing out buildings of interest not forgetting the station tiled map.


We started our 49th Season in September with the story of how our late member Peter Barrow researched the many listed buildings and other structures in the Leyland and South Ribble area. Concentrating on the campaigning part of Peter's remit, we looked at various buildings of Leyland which Peter attempted to save in particular the old library which was saved by Peter's quick thinking in getting the building listed by English Heritage.

We then looked at all the buildings and their plans in some detail, his children who were present were surprised to learn all that their father worked on at their home.

This year’s Mikron Theatre production in October told the story of the Canary Girls. Sisters Rose and Lizzie work as maids, a world of deference, bed-making and poor pay. When war breaks, adventure-seeking Rose becomes a shell worker, persuading her procedure loving sister Lizzie, to follow her to a world offering more money, exciting work and union activity. It seems like a new start.

But as the sisters discover the dangers of shell work, they realise their dreams are pulling in opposite directions. As old and new worlds collide on the factory floor, each sister must ultimately decide, which takes more courage – following your dreams, or giving them up for the ones you love? Funny, heartfelt and tender. Mikron presents a tale of two sisters well and truly at war.

As usual the acting of the four cast members was superb with James coming in for special mention as he again donned wig and dress to make the formidable lady of the big house truly believable.

For the meeting on 3rd April we were entertained by Alison Whitham who talked about the history of one of our closest stately homes, Cuerden Hall and the families that lived there. One of the families was the Townley Parkers who had connections to many other landed gentry in the surrounding countryside.

On 1st May, there was the 12th Annual Historical Society Trip to Leicester to see Richard III. Less than two years have passed since Leicester City Council purchased an old school building with the aim of creating a centre that would tell the story of the remarkable search for –and at that point unconfirmed discovery of – King Richard lll. The former school – a stunning Victorian Gothic revival building built partly on the site of the former Grey Friars Church and in the heart of Leicester’s Old Town – had stood empty since 2008 when its last occupants, Leicester Grammar School, moved out.

The importance of its position – overlooking the possible gravesite of the long-lost Last Plantagenet King of England – was immediately obvious, and Leicester City Council bought the freehold for the building for in November 2012. Major renovations have now completely transformed the 150-year-old building into the home of a state-of-the art visitor centre, whilst retaining the character and features of the former school. Using great storytelling, beautiful design and 21st century technology, the centre tells the fascinating and moving story of the king’s life and death, and reveals one of the greatest archaeological detective stories ever told.

The final meeting of the season on Monday 5th June featured Lynsey Barrow talking about “The story of the R O F Chorley”, the huge bomb and armament factory built in the late 1930s on the edge of Leyland in readiness for the Second World War. With its building between 1936 and 1939, the vast concrete machine which supplied the concrete required and the railway lines that covered the site, it was indeed a mammoth undertaking to be completed within those three years.

The following Saturday, 6th May, saw eight of the members boarding the train to Stockport for the Lancashire Local History Federation “At Home” Day. As our Society are hosting the 2018 event we thought it would be good to attend.

 The speakers in the morning included a general talk on Stockport given by Mrs. Enid Price, the chairman of the Stockport Historical Society. This was followed by Dr. Peter Wadsworth talk on Strawberry Studios which was established in 1968 by the founders of 10cc. Here they produced all their hits of the 1970’s, the studio, as one of the first well equipped studios outside London would go on to provide facilities for Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, St Winifred’s School Choir, Neil Sedaka, The Stone Roses and Paul McCartney to name just a few.

As is customary on my visits to that part of Manchester, the group assembled in front of 111 Piccadilly as I asked them where the nearest canal was. The answer of course is to point down as the Rochdale here goes under Piccadilly and the office block emerging into daylight as boats rise into lock 84 on the north side of Dale Street Bridge. This was all explained as we then turned into Dale Street, over the canal and headed past the canal basin entrance and the Canal Office up to Newton Street.

Here was our first stop of the day at the Manchester Police Museum, usually only open on Tuesday but as we were a group they opened specially for us. So after an introduction we were shown the uniforms, equipment and vehicles from the whole history of the Manchester police from when they were still within the Lancashire force until their current standing as Greater Manchester Police. The group then left the museum and out through the station yard into the separate Heaton Street Police Station with its still in situ Charge Room and Cells, a relic from the Gene Hunt days and much earlier.        

From my knowledge when I visited the special Strawberry Studios exhibition at the Stockport Museum later I was dismayed to discover they had omitted that most famous of groups, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranois from the list. This is especially relevant as we all know our friend Dr. CP Lee was one of their lead singers but was also Dr. Peter Wadsworth’s tutor at the University of Salford.  

 Following a final talk from Norman Redhead on the Archeology of Stockport which included a mention of the site covered by Chris in our January lecture, the LLHF had a short Annual General Meeting which then led into a buffet lunch. After lunch those present were left to their own devices so after viewing the combined Art Gallery and War Memorial where the event was being held (one of the few indoor war memorials – I believe) we headed for the Stockport Museum which told the story of the town and the special Strawberry Studios exhibition. Others headed for the Hat Museum, Stockport being the home of a large hat industry at one time, Mad as A Hatter they say (it’s a mercury thing).  

Lynsey then went on to discuss the working practices though not in detail as some will be still covered by the Official Secrets Act that the employees all signed. The facility was considered to be a small self-contained town with doctors, hospital, fire services, military police, canteens, their own newspaper etc. Each section of the manufacturing areas being responsible for their own type of explosive and being situated in their own bomb blast proof building. The works had a strong social element as many marriages came out of the social events at the factory.

 For the second half of the meeting Peter Houghton told the members that South Ribble planning department had approached the Society to look at “Local Listing” properties or structures in Leyland and Farington that are valued locally. This will be in addition to the 54 Grade II listed buildings already covered by English Heritage. So to give the members some ideas, Peter went through the 54 buildings and structures already covered. These will shortly feature as a new set of pages on this website.

The group then reentered the main building and went upstairs to the recreation of the Denton Court Room which had been removed when the Denton building was demolished and rebuilt in Manchester. So after a little case we adjourned to the Police Shop before being released back into Newton Street without charge. After a lunch break around Stevenson Square, we all headed up Oldham Street to meet CP Lee outside the Castle public house.

We then glimpsed a view inside Chethams School as we headed towards the Cathedral and the Shambles with a view of the underground roads and shops then still are in the basements below the current road level. Pointing out Lincoln’s statue and his thanks for Manchester supporting the southern blockade during the American Civil War, we eventually came to the Free Trade Hall, where history was made for Chris.

A building that was named and financed after a concept which developed after the Peterloo Massacre which took place after a few yards away. In more recent times, it was the venue for a very famous Bob Dylan concert (which CP has written a book about – “Like the Night”) and another famous concert by the Sex Pistols (which is mentioned in CP’s book on Manchester music – “Shake Rattle & Rain”, his own group’s history being covered in a book called “When We Were Thin” – plug over). We had travelled from the early site of the original Manchester village to the world famous Manchester Town Hall.

Following our tour around the Richard III Centre, we headed for the Cathedral which the Normans had constructed as the original St Martin’s church, around 900 years ago.  It was rebuilt and enlarged between the 13th and 15th centuries and became the ‘Civic Church’, with strong links with the merchants and guilds (with the Guildhall being located nearby). Just over 100 years ago the Victorian Architect, Raphael Brandon, magnificently restored and, in places, rebuilt the church, including the addition of a 220ft spire.  When the Diocese of Leicester was re-established in 1927, the church was hallowed as Leicester Cathedral where Richard III can now be found. 

Two thousand years ago, Leicester was an important settlement for the Corieltavi, a native British tribe who occupied the area known today as the East Midlands. Following the Roman conquest of AD 43 the town was called Ratae Corieltavorum. It became a thriving centre for the next 400 years.

A grid of streets was laid out for the Roman town. In the 2nd century the town’s public buildings included the forum (the administrative centre or market), basilica, market hall, and public baths, which were completed by about AD 160. Medieval builders demolished the rest of the baths in order to reuse the stone, leaving only one fragment, the Jewry Wall, upstanding. The wall had by that time become the west wall of the church of St Nicholas, built during the Anglo-Saxon period.