Past Events

Winter Talks 2017-18   Reports by Mary Taylor

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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