Past Events Archive

Winter Talks 2018-19

Reports by Mary Taylor

Annual General Meeting followed by a talk and short performance on the lute, theorbo and Baroque guitar

Dawn Johnson
Monday 29 April

Dawn Johnson, a professional musician, gave demonstrated each of her three stringed instruments from the time of Shakespeare and talked about how they were used and played.   She produced a couple of sweet sounding and very pleasant melodies from each of the very early boat shaped lute, the Baroque guitar and  large theorbo, which had fourteen strings.

Following a delightful musical interlude, the winter programme concluded with a Jacobs Join supper.

Underground Monitoring Stations during the Cold War

David Shaw
Monday 25 March

David gave a short history of the Observer Corps which was founded in 1915. The centrepiece of their badge is ‘Fiery Fred’, the figure of a man lighting a warning beacon used to alert the population of an invasion in Elizabethan times. In the First World War, Observers gave warnings of Zeppelins and enemy aircraft. By the Second World War there were 30,000 Observers, and it was one of these who tracked the flight of Rudolph Hess and arrested him when his plane crashed.

In 1947 the Observers went underground, with 1,570 Monitoring Stations being constructed, the Bentham one was on the side of the Clapham road about a mile from the town; reports from this had to be sent to Preston. These stations were vital in the Cold War to plot the location of the potential atom bomb and whether it exploded in the air or on the ground. David, who trained Observers in the Carlisle area in the 1980s, showed a depiction of the bunker. One of the men had to climb the ladder, change the charts on the monitor and be down again in under a minute. If a bomb had dropped, the chart would show its location, height and intensity, this information was sent to headquarters where the evacuation of the population to a safe area would be arranged. In the event of war the survival of the underground Observers would be a week to ten days.

The Observer Corps was stood down in 1991, but members still keep in touch. David said it is like a big family where they all look after each other; they march past the cenotaph and hold reunions.

Much of the equipment was on display, including a woman’s uniform compete with well polished Fiery Fred buttons.

The bunker at York is open to the public and one at Dundee is being restored.

map.gfClick to enlarge

YouTube links

Join the Royal Observer Corps 1977
The Hole in the Ground (1962) – UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation
Sound An Alarm (1971) – United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organization
Forewarned is Forearmed part 1
Forewarned is Forearmed Part 2

Recent Discoveries at Vindolanda

Marta Alberti
Monday 25 February

Marta has worked on archaeological excavations at this site for the last five years along with two other professional archaeologists. Vindolanda is a Roman Fort south of Hadrian’s Wall and north of Barden Mill, and was occupied from 85 AD to 409 AD. It was built next to a cross country road, the Stanegate Road, before the building of Hadrian’s Wall, and used as a base for the building of the wall, which took six seasons to complete. She showed illustrations of a series of forts built on the same site, and the adjoining village. The later stone forts have had to be excavated first to reach the first wooden structure.
Marta told of a period in the early third century when the Emperor Severus led campaigns against the native people. From this time unique finds have been unearthed, the barracks of the troops are blocks of ten round houses in rows of fives; an intact wooden water pipe, and 421 shoes with fifty percent of them belonging to women and children, some for indoor use with thin soles for protection from the hot floors due to under floor heating.
Immediately before this period the Speaker showed excavations of a cavalry barracks and power flush latrines.
Finds also included leather boxing gloves, a child’s wooden sword, actual swords, metal horse ‘brasses’, an eel catching basket, and a diploma for a soldier completing 25 years service.
Lives of inhabitants can be followed by reading the many tablets/letters written in ink on thin pieces of bark, about the size of a postcard, some to officials, other residents, or to relatives in their home country.
Marta concluded by saying that it is wonderful to dig in these trenches, some five to seven meters down and often filled with water, she said that her and her colleagues rely on volunteers and would find it difficult to carry on without them.

Trans-Pennine and Irish Sea contacts in the Viking Age

Dr Fiona Edmonds
Monday, 26 November

Dr Edmonds said that before the Viking era, was often called a ‘golden age’ when this part of the country from coast to coast and from Edinburgh south to a line from the Humber to the Mersey, (Mersey means boundary) was all part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. This was a peaceful time when Monasteries owned some of the land and transactions were done in cattle.
In 793 the Vikings mounted a major attack on Lindisfarne, and the battle of Whalley took place in 798. By 807 they had taken over York and made it their headquarters, trading across country with Dublin, their stronghold in the west. The speaker showed depictions of warships in the harbours of both settlements, and photographs of the Hoards, including the Cuerdale Hoard and the Silverdale Hoard, of cut up silver items lost by the Viking armies.
She spoke of a Viking burial near Garstang and of place names, including Ireby meaning the dwelling of the Irish. The main trade route across the country was via the Aire and Ribble, with a northern route over Cam fell, the route of the Roman Road.
Eric Blood axe, the last King of York was defeated on Stainmore in 954, and finally England became one Kingdom under King Athelstan, the Grandson of King Alfred.
The speaker answered many questions.

Traditional Buildings in the Yorkshire Dales

Jim Brightman
Monday, 29 October

Jim from Solstice Heritage has worked with the Yorkshire Dales National Park on a survey of Field Barns, mostly in Swaledale, and the Western Dales around Sedbergh and Dent.
He showed slides of the field system in Swaledale with a barn to every field, and in the Western Dales with a barn to three fields; describing the farming system – the field, a meadow in which the barn stood, provided hay which was stored in the barn and fed to cattle which lived there in winter, in spring the cattle were taken to higher pasture, their manure was spread on the meadow to grow the grass for the hay.
Jim said that barns built in stone probably replaced earlier wooden structures, showing a cruck beam which had been reused for a cross beam. Stone barns date from the late 17th century to the 19th century; the earlier buildings had no big barn doors as the hay was forked in through a forking hole, the manure forked out through a muck hole and with a door for the cattle and farmer to pass through.
A Field Barn sometimes called an Out barn or Cow’us/Cowuss (Cow house) is no longer used for cattle and hay and some have been converted to houses.
Between 1998 and 2004 the National Park gave grants to renovate the barns, but with no grants now farmers find it difficult to preserve these redundant buildings, some have made large doors into the barn so that modern machinery can be stored inside. Jim showed a slide of a Barn Pod built inside the barn.
He concluded by saying that very few barns are listed and although they are in a conservation area many will be lost and their stone reused in other buildings.

Bowbearers of Bowland

Robert Parker
Monday, 24 September

Chairman Mike Winstanley welcomed members, and guest speaker  from Browsholme Hall, to the first meeting of the season, held in Bentham Methodist Church on

Robert, who is the official Bowbearer appointed by the Lord of Bowland, spoke about the Bowbearers of Bowland. Now a ceremonial office, the first recorded Bowbearer was Utrecht de Bolton in 1157 when his duties were to police the deer park and punish poachers.

There are three possible sources of the name Bowland, pronounced, and sometimes spelt Bolland, a bow in the river, the Bowbearer, or land of cattle from bu, an old name for a cow.

Edmund de Alkincotes was the first Parker, appointed by John of Gaunt in the fourteenth century. Robert, a direct descendant spoke about the family, showing slides of their portraits.

He showed a map of Bowland, with Browsholme in the south and Bentham in the north. At one time the family owned a huge estate, much of it gained by advantages marriages, including Ingleton Hall acquired in 1754 when Edward Parker married Catherine Bouch. The Parkers owned land in Bentham and Ingleton at one time, shown on the maps below (click to enlarge).

Much of the estate was lost by Thomas Lister Parker, a bachelor, who had Ingleton Hall demolished, but the entrance gateway can still be seen at Browsholme Hall. He became bankrupt and sold the estate to his cousin.

The Parker family protected their beautiful Tudor Home from damage in the Civil War by gaining letters of protection from both sides

Colonel Parker, another bachelor left the estate to Robert, his first cousin once removed, in the nineteen seventies and the family still live in the whole of this historic home.

Mike thanked Robert, who answered many questions and the evening concluded with tea and biscuits.

Summer Outing 2018

Saturday 15 September

A visit to Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford

Report by Mary Taylor, Photos by Sue Bourne

Situated next to the bridge over Pendle Water, the centre is at Park Hill, an historic farm house. Historians who travelled early had the treat of watching a demonstration by the Lancashire Clog Dancers, as they ate their lunch in the Garden Tea Room.

The Bannister Family who came to this country following the Norman Conquest settled at Park Hill in the 1400s; on display were inventories from Wills, the family tree and a photograph of Sir Roger Bannister with Prince Charles.

During the tour an interactive computer showed how the house grew over the years from the original timber framed building. Parts of the earlier constructions had been uncovered to show the changes. There was also an authentic room containing models in Stuart dress, furniture, utensils, a salt box and herb cupboard. Some watched the story of the Pendle Witches film.

The walled garden with beds surrounded by box hedges had been restored to the 18th century design, and contains plants common in that period. Nearby is a splendid 15th century Cruck Frame Barn, rescued from near Towneley Hall in Burnley in the 1980s and reconstructed at the Centre, near the bluebell wood walk.

Members watched another performance by the Lancashire Clog Dancers as they drank their afternoon coffee; they then explored the Barn, Garden and Potting Shed and reluctantly left at 5pm as the Centre closed.

Winter Talks 2017-18   Reports by Mary Taylor

30 April  AGM

Followed by Jean Argles on her wartime experiences

Mike was re elected Chairman, Edward Huddleston Vice-chair, John Wilson Secretary and Melinda Elder Treasurer. Jenny Charnley was elected Membership Secretary as Jenny Fisher stepped down from the position. Sara Mason stepped down from the committee; all other members were re elected David Alder, Michael Bourne, Susan Bourne, Jenny Fisher and Margaret Owen.
Jean Argles from Wray spoke about her service in Special Forces during the war. She joined up in late 1943 when she was 18 and signed the Official Secrets Act; twenty years later she discovered her elder sister’s role in the WRENS as she too had signed the Official Secrets Act.
Jean was surprised when during her interview she was asked if she liked doing crosswords, she did, and this stood her in good stead in her code and cipher work as one letter could make all the difference in a coded message. After military training she and several other young women sailed in convoy to Alexandria and on to Cairo. There they received coded messages from operatives in Albania and the Greek Islands which they sent on the Baker Street in London. The only risk in Cairo was King Farouk, if he entered a night club where the women were they had to escape through the kitchen to retain their honour.
Jean was then stationed in Italy. Concentrating on messages, which could mean life or death to our agents or troops, for a 12 hour shift was hard work but during days off she could explore the countryside. The danger and sadness of the war was brought home when she discovered that the cargo on a lorry heading south were corpses.
On display were Jean’s war medals and booklets about this all female regiment founded in 1907.
The evening and the Society’s winter programme concluded with a Jacobs Join supper.

26 March  Anna Watson

Prosecuting sin and scandal

Anna gave an illustrated lecture on Ecclesiastical Court Cause Papers in the Archdeaconry of Richmond in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, entitled ‘Prosecuting sin and scandal’. These Church Courts travelled on circuit and met at Richmond, Kendal and Lancaster, at a time when the population in isolated communities were in awe and fear of the church. The documents are useful for local and family history, for example one of the witnesses said that he was ploughing at Robert Hall, a farm near Bentham, when the event in question occurred in January of that year. These Courts were different from the Civil Court, as they dealt with moral issues, disputes and deformation of character. One of these occurred in Ulverston Market in 1730 when one man called another a Rogue, the document contained all the names including the stall holders who were witnesses. Women who were caught in immoral circumstances had to do penance by standing at the front of the Church, dressed in a sheet, and confess their misdemeanour in front of the congregation; the vicar of Over Wyresdale was cited by his Church Wardens for having too few people to witness one woman’s penance. Anna showed a map of the local area showing the residences of witnesses to the Will of Thomas Prockter of Wennington, these included Richard Iveson, Thomas Lupton and Thomas Baines.
There was no jury, and the cases could drag on for months or even years, the case cost money, and could result in a fine, but the main punishment, excommunication only lasted for six months.

The chairman thanked Anna, who answered several questions.

26 February  Ian Hodgkinson

Ague – a History of Malaria in the North West

Ian, an entomologist, called his illustrated lecture Ague – a History of Malaria in the North West; he has studied his subject using the internet archive, and his book is being used by the government.
He showed the life cycle of the mosquito, saying that there are six different types in this country which breed mainly in marshy areas. The disease was common until the mid 19th century when land draining and a change in farming practices deprived the mosquito of their habitat. Roads were built on higher ground to avoid the insects. Malaria has many local names, the most common is ague. Ian showed several advertisements for remedies for ague, including written charms, spiders, an ague bracelet, herbal cures and holy water from the well at Humphrey Head; he also told of evidence of deaths attributed to ague. Ian displayed a new map which he had drawn up to indicate the location of the disease; it had been all over the country, even in the north of Scotland, with many in Cumbria.
Malaria is still a disease in this county, there is no vaccine but the effective cure is quinine and iron. It is thought that present the programme of constructing wetland habitat and marshes could provide a breeding ground for the mosquitoes.
The chairman thanked the speaker who answered many questions.

28 January  Andrew White

Lancaster’s First Railway

Andrew gave an entertaining talk on Lancaster’s First Railway. This, the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway, was only in existence for about 10 years from 1840 to 1849, but for six years was the most northerly railhead in England. To prevent Lancaster being bypassed by the railways push north to Scotland, a line was proposed in 1832 but the proposal was only taken seriously some years later. Land had to be bought and money assured before work was allowed to begin by Act of Parliament in 1836. The route of 21 miles was straightforward with no hills and few waterways to cross. Work had to be done by hand, much of it with shovel and barrow to dig out cuttings and construct embankments. Both English and Irish workers were employed, but fights broke out, usually instigated by the English as the Irish were paid less than them and they worried about being undercut and losing their employment. Elite workers, masons and bricklayers constructed bridges. Most of the line is still in use today. Part of the original Penny Street Station at Lancaster has been incorporated into the Nurses Home at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
In the beginning it was thought the railway would only be used for goods but people wanted to travel by rail. Preston to Lancaster was so inefficient it took two hours, poorer passengers had to stand all the way in small four wheeled carriages with their hats tied on to stop them blowing away. The engine driver and fireman sometimes had no sense of urgency and at minor stations were even reported as going into the fields to pick mushrooms or to the local pub for a drink leaving the passengers waiting on the train. Fares were undercut by the canal company which could transport passengers in the same time and in comfort.
Five trains a day ran on the line but no one knew where they were at any one time; signalling was done by a man with a red or green flag. An accident happened in 1848 at Bay Horse Station when an express, carrying nine Preston butchers on their way to a cattle fair at Hornby, crashed into the back of a stationary train. The butchers were unhurt but one woman died. The Lancaster and Carlisle company took over the line the following year
The chairman thanked the speaker who answered several questions.

27 November   Dave Joy

Liverpool Cowkeepers from the Yorkshire Dales- A Family History

Dave gave a delightful, illustrated talk about his family who were Cow Keepers in Liverpool for a hundred years. The family farmed Rams Close, near Hebden, Yorkshire; part of the farm is now under Grimwith Reservoir. The Joys, like many other farmers took advantage of the new railways to transport their cows to expanding cities, to provide milk there. They bought an end terrace house in Liverpool; the front room was the shop, the back room the dairy, and in the yard behind was a shed to house six cows, with a walled midden in the corner of the yard. The family lived upstairs and got up at five a.m. for the first milking, to start the first milk round at seven a.m. Everything had to be cleaned and sterilised ready for the next milking at two p.m. Cows were regularly exchanged for ones on the farm, all travelling by train. The family moved to larger premises where they milked twenty cows; they took a pride in keeping immaculate their inner city farm, and although they had to have a licence they welcomed all who wanted to look round. In 1955 the family sold the cows; milk prices being undercut by big dairies, which sent their milk in by train, but the Joys kept their milk round until 1960. Dave remembered an idyllic childhood at the Wellington Dairy, Garston on the southern side of Liverpool, where he helped to harvest hay from the cemetery and rented fields. He also helped on the milk float pulled by Rupert the horse. Dave concluded by saying that the last Cow keeper to leave Liverpool was Joe Capstick in 1975.

30 October   Jenni Hye

Singing the News; Ballads in Tudor England

Mike Winstanley welcomed guest speaker Jenni Hyde, associate Vice President of the Historical Association at Lancaster University.

Jenni gave an illustrated lecture on Singing the News; Ballads of Tudor England, the social media of the sixteenth century. She said that with no freedom of speech at that time, messages, which could only be understood by some, were hidden in the Ballads. Then there were no newspapers and very few people who could read, so the Balladeers and minstrels sang the news at local gatherings and in the big houses using many tunes, the most popular being Well a Day. The speaker showed slides of Ballads printed in Tudor times using the newly invented printing press and sang a gruesome Ballad about Sir Thomas Plant being hanged on a tree, and succeeded in getting the audience to sing a verse of a ballad to show how an easy tune was easy to remember and make an impact.’

Mike thanked Jenni who answered several questions.

25 September   Anne Wilson

Bentham in 1938

Mike Winstanley, Chairman of the Ewecross Historical Society, welcomed members and guest speaker Anne Wilson to the first meeting of the winter programme.

Anne said she was inspired to research her illustrated lecture ‘Bentham in 1938’ on seeing a photograph of an overturned delivery van. From the number plate she discovered it to be from Fosters shop, on the site of the present Co-op. Fosters had three vans delivering goods as far away as Caton and Hellifield.  In 1938 almost anything could be bought in Bentham, although there were more buses and trains than today.

2c Businesses in Bentham 1930

The population of 2,500, compared with about 3,000 today, worked mostly in and around the town. Almost half the women were unpaid domestic with most of the other women earning a living in the mills.4a CHART Women - occupation

Fewer men than women worked in the mills with the main employment for men being on one of the 95 farms.

4b CHART Men -employment

Horses carried out farm work and provided transport as there were very few cars, although there were two garages as well as two blacksmiths. The June Fair was still used for hiring workers but was not as busy as in former years.

Police kept order, the police station having two cells, five postmen delivered mail on foot and by bicycle, and the telephone exchange was manned 24 hours a day.1c TABLE Bentham Phone number

The forthcoming war had little effect on Bentham with its numerous activities, including sports clubs, shows, outings, the Women’s Institute, armature dramatics and even a cinema; as well as the churches and pubs.

Anne had even researched the weather, saying that 1938 was much like this year with a hot dry spring and wet summer.

Summer Outings 2017   Reports by Mary Taylor

Tuesday 5 September: A visit to Saltairesaltaire01

18 members of the Ewecross Historical Society travelled to Saltaire by train. Entry into the enormous Salts Mill is free; most of the party had lunch in the café, went to the David Hockney exhibition and looked round the retail sites there before meeting the guide, Maria, at the church at 3pm.

Maria was a character in character, dressed as a Victorian working class woman; she gave members cards portraying real people and their addresses, taken from the 1861 and 1871 censuses. Maria gave an interesting slant to Sir Titus Salt, the famous philanthropist. Born in 1803 he had attended grammar school, and worked with his father, who owned textile mills in Bradford, taking over the business in 1833. Conditions at that time were very bad with pollution and disease, life expectancy being only 20 years. According to Maria the workers revolted and formed a union, so Titus bought land in Shipley and built his modern mill, completed in 1853, and built the model village, now a World Heritage Site.

The mill produced worsted cloth from wool, and Titus worked out a way of spinning free alpaca wool from Peru brought to Liverpool as packing on ships. Queen Victoria wore clothes made from this; she and many famous people visited Saltaire. Everything was recycled, including food for pig swill, lanolin from the wool for soap and urine for tanning leather.

The guide led the party round the streets, named after Titus’ eleven children and various relatives and friends, stopping at the addresses on the cards given out earlier. There were shops on street corners, but no public houses, and no police, as the hierarchy of workers watched the lower ones; there are even watch towers. Underground tunnels link the workplace to the canteen, so workers had no excuse for being late back to work.

Sir Titus died in 1876 and is buried in the mausoleum in the magnificent church. The family sold out in 1892, but the mill continued in production until 1985.

Photos by Susan Bourne.  Click on any image to enlarge.

29 June: A visit to Clapham

Members of the Ewecross Historical Society travelled to Clapham, where Ken Pearce took us on an engaging and informative evening tour of the village to illustrate the influence of the Farrer family on its development.

Ken showed some of the changes that the family had made to the village; the road had been moved from next to the river where the children’s playground is now, a high banking had been made to hide the Hall and a tunnel made for the road. He spoke of the family crest the Flying Horse Shoe which perpetuates the legend that the Farrer ancestors were farriers for William the Conqueror and were so skilful that the horses appeared to fly. More up to date, about 500 years ago the family lived near Hebden Bridge with members of the family moving to this are in the eighteenth century. Oliver Farrer, who became rich in London through his own hard work, died in 1808 leaving Ingleborough Estate to his nephews. They, lawyers in London bought even more land and employed an agent to look after the estate, which at its height covered 35,000 acres with shooting rights on a further 15,000 acres. Reginald Farrer was a well known plant collector bringing specimens from all over the world; the footpath to Ingleborough Cave has recently been named the Reginald Farrer nature trail. The late and much respected Dr John Farrer returned from his home in Australia to take on the estate in 1952 working tirelessly on improvements until his death on New Years Day 2014, the moment when Clapham Church clock stopped.

 24 April   David Alder

500 Years of the Royal Mail 1516 to 2016

David Alder,  who is Post Master at Bentham Post Office, gave a comprehensive account drawing on his lifetime interest in the history of communication.

King Henry V111 ruled his realm by receiving news and sending orders to all parts of England in letters carried by messengers on horseback; this extended to his courtiers and ministers until 1635 when the public began to use the service. By the next century stage coaches carrying mail sped along the new turnpike roads, changing horses at staging posts along the way, hence the name the post service. The coming of the railways speeded the service with letters being sorted on board the night train; road transport took over in 1970. Mail was sent overseas by packet boats, then steam ships and air mail.

David told of the introduction of the penny post in 1840 when the sender paid the postage, before that the recipient paid an extortionate price to receive a letter. He also spoke of the telephone system and showed slides of magnificent main post offices, the one in Kendal being still in use. He concluded by speculating on the future of communications.

 27 March   David Johnson

Droving: Whys and Wherefores of Long Distance Trade

Dr Johnson began his illustrated lecture on Droving: Whys and Wherefores of Long Distance Trade, by saying that Droving, the driving of animals to market, is still carried on today in many parts of the world. There is archaeological evidence of the practice in the Iron Age, and documentary evidence in this country from 1186. Using maps the speaker showed the routes taken by the animals, usually cattle and sometimes sheep which were walked along these routes, not always roads, the animals spread out over a wide area, eating as they travelled, herded by drovers.

In the west hundreds of cattle called Galloways from Ireland and Scotland were herded along the Galloway Gate, gate meaning road, and through Carlisle to continue south along three routes. The one nearest to Bentham was past Brough, to Garsdale Head, round Great Knoutberry Hill, past Gearstones, a Droving Inn and down Chapel le Dale to Ingleton. Other routes came through Kirkby Lonsdale. Craven was a prime area for fattening cattle with 5000 head of cattle at one time in fields at Malham.

Dr Johnson spoke of the many droving families including the Birtwhistles; and of trysts and fairs along the way where cattle were bought and sold.

When drovers became redundant in the nineteenth century, mainly because animals could be transported quickly by rail, some emigrated to America to become cowboys.

 27 February    Sandy Grant 

Anglo-Scottish Warfare:

Robert Bruce and the Scottish Raids on Northern England 1314-28

Sandy, a Scottish Historian, began by showing how the Royal Families of Scotland and England both vied to extend their kingdoms, both by marriage or conflict. David 1 of Scotland expanded into Ireland and Wales as well as most of Northern England, but when his direct line died out Edward 1 of England took advantage, conquering much of Scotland and installing a puppet King, John Balliol. The Scots revolted led first by William Wallace and then by Robert Bruce, resulting in the English being finally defeated at the battle of Bannock Burn in 1314.

By studying original records Sandy has discovered that dates of Scottish Raids in this area incorrect. He showed the routes of the raids; they always attacked Richmond, first in 1314 and 1315. The worst raid in this area took place in 1318; the first attack was on Skipton, then one group went the southern route to Preston before turning north for Lancaster; the others rode along the route of the A65 causing havoc up to Kirkby Lonsdale when they turned north. In 1319 raids are recorded in Stainforth, Horton, Ingleton, Twisleton, Burton in Lonsdale and Bentham. In 1322 they raided Lancaster taking their army across the sands.

The Scottish army travelled fast on horseback, only staying in one place a day or two, burning dwellings, killing animals and destroying crops. Parish Valuation was reduced my more than half by this devastation and was exempt from tax for several years.

30 January    Chris Workman 

 Hatmakers in the Lune Valley: A Forgotten Trade

Chris gave a comprehensive account of Hatmakers in the Lune Valley: A Forgotten Trade, illustrated with scenes from the past and slides of present day buildings once used for Hat Making. Many families involved in the business were Quakers, and she spoke of these extended families, showing several family trees.

Knowledge of felt hat making was brought to this country by the Huguenots from France, using beaver fur, but by the time the craft reached the Lune Valley, beaver fur was scarce and expensive so a mixture of rabbit fur and sheep wool was used. This sort of hat succeeded the knitted cap, and was made in this area from the late seventeenth century to the mid nineteenth century when felt hats became machine made and silk hats became popular.

The speaker outlined the stages of making felt hats; the fur and wool were left overnight in a solution of mercuric nitrate, this was called carroting as the product turned orange. The next stage was bowing to enable the fibres to mat together into what was called a pad. The pad was then taken to the planking or felting shop where it was worked with a rolling pin on one of six wooden boards surrounding a boiler, called a kettle filled with a mixture of water and sulphuric acid, kept hot by a fire underneath. The felt was then shaped into a hat on a mould before being finished and dyed. The mercury gave off a poisonous vapour which affected the workmen, hence the saying “Mad as a Hatter”.

Using maps Chris showed the many locations of hatters, some were scattered in isolated farms, used to supplement the farmers’ income; as well as in Lancaster, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale and Wray, with two being situated in Bentham. Some of the hats were exported, including to the West Indies for use on the plantations. Some hatters in Wray made hat bases for the London firm of Christies until the 1820s.

Summer (!) Outing to Ingleton Coalfield, August 2012
Photo by Edward Huddleston


Summer Outing to Appleby, June 2010

Summer Outing to Sawley & Whalley Abbeys, June 2009
Photos by Richard Wilson & Mike Winstanley

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Summer Outing to Shap Abbey and Burnbanks, May 2009
Photos by Sara Mason & Mike Winstanley

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Annual Dinner 2009 in the Old School, Tatham Fells

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