Recent Events

Winter Talks 2019-20

Reports by Mary Taylor & Mike Winstanley

Researching Rights of Way

Sue Arnott                                                                                Monday 24 February

Sue outlined her many years of work in this field and said that she now works for the Planning Inspectorate, running Public Inquiries into rights-of-way disputes, and deciding their outcomes; because of her Bentham residence, on Mewith Lane, she is excluded from inquiries relating to North Yorkshire.
She gave the definitions of the highway network, from footpaths to main roads, all of which since 1929 have been the maintenance responsibility of the County Council. Sue showed many interesting maps and documents which can be studied as evidence of the existence of a right of way, including: enclosure awards, mostly from the late 1700s to the late 1800s, when commons were “privatised” – converted into fields; turnpike records; tithe awards (the tithe paid for rights of way was less than for productive land); the Finance Act 1910; “handover” maps, showing paths that had been maintained at public expense in 1929, when responsibility passed from Rural District to County level; Ordnance Survey maps (though before the 1960s they did not distinguish between public and other paths); early commercial maps, such as Greenwood 1828 (noting that some landowners paid to have their private drives mapped); estate maps and village maps from the 19th century; and Quarter Sessions, recording disputes over rights of way. Locally, if the path had been used by local people for more than 20 years it became a right of way.
Sue said that taking into account all the maps and documents, there is never a clear cut answer and she comes to a decision based on the balance of probabilities.
To close her talk Sue said that there will be a major change in 2026, when all rights of way established before 1949 that have not been recorded on the Definitive Map will cease to exist, and there will no longer be the possibility of using historical evidence to claim “lost” rights of way. However, it will still be possible to add routes which have been used by the public ‘as of right’ for 20 years.


Recent finds relating to the Neolithic in the North West

Dr Gill Hey                                                                                Monday 27 January

Dr Hey, who is Chief Executive Officer of Archaeology in the North West, said that this is an exiting time in Archaeology, as she gave an account of the most recent finds relating to the Neolithic in the North West. Illustrated by maps and photographs of excavations, she said that the earlier Mesolithic hunter gatherers differed in DNA from these New Stone Age farmers, skeletons of some of these from caves around Settle are carbon dated to 3,700BC. Gill said that these people farmed mainly cattle and grew wheat, showing the excavated skeleton of a cow. Bread dated 3,900BC had been found at Barrow in Furness, as had flints and pottery found to have contained milk. Illustrating that these people traded throughout England and southern Scotland, Gill showed the location of polished stone axes from Langdale, and ones from Aran distributed in Ireland; established by using geochemical analysis. An abundance of flints had been found, many in an excavation west of Carlisle where some were used as barbs on the sides of fishing spears. She also showed aerial photographs of causewayed enclosures and stone circles, including some in Orkney and also Long Meg and her daughters near Penrith, saying that these were probably meeting places for festivals. Gill concluded by saying that recent work has cast light on a thriving North West in the Neolithic era, and there is still much more to find with excavations still going on.

Fishing Memories of Morecambe Bay

Michelle Cooper

Monday 25 November

Michelle, from the Morecambe Bay Partnership, gave an Oral History Presentation of Fishing Stories from Morecambe Bay, ‘Catching Tales’. She showed slides of fishermen in oil skins and sou’westers, Clydesdale horses pulling carts, fishing boats and nets drying on poles as she played some of the hundreds of hours from the archives. These included men racing with their horses and carts to the best fishing places for shrimp and cockles four hours after high tide. Shrimps were caught with a 14 foot wide trawl net pulled by the horse; they were boiled at sea in seawater or on land in fresh water, firstly with a coal fire, later using a gas cylinder. Riddles of different sizes were used to sort the shrimps, and women and girls then picked the shrimp from the shells. Tractors replaced horses in later years. One man barely escaped with his life near Ulverston when the tide came in; he lost his net and catch, his tractor and most of his clothes as he struggled ashore. Fishing boats differed from the north to the south of the bay; one of the women told of how she was never afraid at sea as she always knew where she was. None of the fisher people could swim. Her father knitted nets in the winter, and with occasional mending these lasted four or five years. With different seasons for fishing in the bay, some of the fisher people had other work; now there are only two full time commercial fishermen in the bay; there used to be around 30. There was some rivalry, but in general the fishermen were great comrades who would help each other. They had great respect for the sea and it was a wonderful world.

Transatlantic Trade – Heart and Soul of a City – Georgian Lancaster

Melinda Elder
Monday 28 October

Melinda, who has written a book on the subject, gave an illustrated talk covering the second half of the eighteenth century. Then there were several shipyards on the side of the river Lune, she showed slides of paintings of a ship being built on the shipyard south of the river, where Sainsbury’s now stands. Diagrams of the Trade Winds showed the routes across the Atlantic, mostly between Lancaster and the Slave Plantations in the West Indies or between the islands there, but also ships sailing  south to the West Coast of Africa to pick up new slaves for the Plantations.

Lancaster and Whitehaven were small in comparison to Liverpool, Bristol and London, but as a river port Lancaster’s smaller vessels were able to navigate rivers in Gambia, Guinea and mainly Sierra Leone to collect slaves from the Slave Factory.

Melinda gave cargo lists, including beads to Africa; sugar, cotton, wood and tobacco from the West Indies to Lancaster. The outward trade of goods made in and around the City included sailcloth made from flax imported from Russia, felt hats, candles and furniture made by Gillows.

Prominent people of that time included a ruthless operator called Miles Barber who developed the Slave Factory and went bankrupt several times. A more successful family were the Rawlinsons, whose descendants are the Fords who owned the Silk Mill at Low Bentham.

The City became prosperous and many fine buildings where constructed, including the
Museum, Customs House, the Canal Aqueduct and Skerton Bridge, but because of wars with France and America and the abolition of the Slave Trade this golden age came to an end.

Bull Farm, Burton in Lonsdale: a geographical and historical context

Peter Wynn
Monday 30 September

Peter lives at Bull Farm, and he began by showing an aerial view of the village and surrounding area, pointing out the drumlins, steep hill and terraces up from the river Greta, and saying that his house is built on a gravel and sand ridge left 21,000 years ago by a river under the ice, during the last ice age. Impressions of an ancient strip farming system could be made out, also medieval burgage plots of houses with a long narrow strip of land at the back. Bull Farm being one of these. Peter had researched the history of the property; a grade 2 listed building, dated 1669, It had 28 acres of land scattered around Burton. It was bought by the Redmayne Charity in 1712 and sold by them in 1955. For a period it also operated as the Black Bull Inn. In 1841 Henry Slinger was the publican and the Duckett family took over in 1862, the following year both the Kendal Mercury and the Lancaster Gazette reported theft of wood from the Black Bull Inn. It stopped being a pub about 1876; at one time the Sunday school was held in the barn, it was used as an auction house and Wesleyan chapel, it is even said that John Wesley preached there. Descendants of many of the tenants still live locally, and five of the Middleton family who lived there from 1957 to 2001 attended the meeting. Finally Peter showed the extensive renovations to bring the house into the 21st century, keeping many original features, and it still has a two acre burgage plot. Mike Winstanley thanked the speaker who answered several questions.

Summer Outings 2019

Reports by Mary Taylor

10th August

A Walk in High Bentham

John Wilson, Secretary of the Ewecross Historical Society, led the walk in High Bentham on a very wet Saturday afternoon. Twenty members met outside Bentham Hall where John began by saying that besides the usual explanation of the name Bentham, a homestead on bent, a kind of grass, Bentham could have been named after a person called Bent, and that Bentham is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Leaving the old Bentham Hall the party walked east up main street as John pointed out that the town had grown in a higgledy-piggeldy manner. There had been several farms including Bigber, which means the hill where barley is grown, and the Horse and Farrier had been a farm as well as pub. Although some of the present buildings date from the sixteen or seventeen hundreds John showed where older properties had been demolished to make way for newer ones, many of which had been built by Slingers. Next to the Police Yard had stood the Town House of the Baines family from Mewith Head Hall, which had been bought by the Longstaff Charity and let to the overseers for use as a poorhouse. Another charitable man, William Collingwood, founded Bentham Grammar School on School Hill. On reaching the Auction Mart they were met by Keith Hartley who told how, in 1903 William Mitchell, who owned the Royal Oak, teamed up with Richard Turner to create the Auction Mart. Keith gave members a copy of the history and of the building estimate from Slingers, which was £590 four shillings and sixpence.

Thanks were given to John and Keith.

Photos by Kevin Illingworth

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Notes from John Wilson

Almshouses: (see inscriptions on gable)
School: built 1736 on edge of Bentham Moor. Extended to west in 1830 and again in 1896 to south. Additional house on w. end demolished early C20 to widen Robin Lane.
‘Ex munificentia Gulielmi Collingwood Generosi Haec Schola fuit fundata et Amplissime Dotata’
Bentham Auction: Turner’s established 1803
Richard Turner’s / Royal Oak: façade is C19
Co-op: built 1882 by Richard Gorrill on site of thatched barn & old buildings including a joiner’s shop
Millers Court: built 1899 by Thomas Wilcock and adapted in 1988 by Bryan Dodgson. On site of house of Robert Overend (1719). There was a corn mill on the site.
Black Bull: originally extended from Duxbury’s shop, which shows the archstones of a former thoroughfare belonging to the BB
Kings Arms: named in George Fox’s Journal as the place he rested when handed over to Yorkshire bailiff by Lancaster jailers on route to Scarborough Castle in 1650.
TB 1676 (Thomas Baynes) found on chimney breast during reconstruction and reset high on wall in King Street. W WM 1741 (William and Margaret Wilson) over contemporary door in King Street. K 1897 (Christopher Knowles) on panel on Main Street. Kings Arms bought by John Thomas Rice, Quaker, of Grove Hill to convert it to a temperance hotel; then a grocer’s shop, HSBC Bank and estate agency.
A cross (market cross?) stood outside the door.
King Street: led to a smithy and warehouse
Armstrong’ shop: shows raised roofline of earlier building
Coach House: formerly Brown Cow. 1673 inscribed on a fireplace (now lost). A smithy was behind it
Fish and chip shop: 1664 WO (William Overend). Two trade tokens recorded of 1666 and 1668, one showing a shuttle, inscribed ‘Will. Overend, Bentham’ and ‘WDO’ William and Thomas Overend paid tax in 1672 on four hearths and two doors away paid on a further two hearths. In his will William left his dwelling house, lower shopp and his new shopp.
Has been a fried fish (and Chip) shop for over 100 years.
Stafford House: built in late C19 by Robert Jackson on site of barn and shippon owned by Guy family. Stafford House originally a grocery shop, then a drapery and millinery business.
Black Pig and former Post Office: built c 1890s on site of four old cottages by Henry Slinger as a house for himself and a house and shop for his daughter and son-in-law, R H Shuttleworth
Abbeyfield House: built by a master nail maker called Blackburn
Cottages on south side of street: lower and earlier buildings
Accountants: former Post Office and earlier an ironmongers in house built by John Hodgson in 1873 on site of a barn and shippon; a smithy was situated adjacent
Andrew’s to Café Culture: in 1713 Elizabeth Longstaffe left a bequest of 200 for the poor of Bentham. Before 1743 the trustees of the charity purchased Mr Baynes’ great house, a garden and two shops from Robert and Jayne Banes. It was rented by the overseers of the poor for 4 guineas annually.
1801: a larger building (the New Workhouse) was constructed on the garden
1842: the thatched roof was blown off the house, which was subsequently demolished
1843: Settle Union formed which made the workhouse redundant
Café Culture/ Vipond shoe shop building constructed, probably on site of Mr Baynes’ great house
1801 building used as a beerhouse, Knowles’ grocer’s shop, temperance hotel, Bentham Co-Operative Society, Girls’ elementary school, Quinlan’s rubber garment manufactory
1870: the property was conveyed for education and the upper storey converted in autumn 1875 into a girls’ and infants’ school, the lower part being a shop.
Beehive Bakery: built on site of yet another smithy in second quarter of C19. It became a draper’s and general shop and in late century a paint and plumbing business and in C20, a confectionary.
Bentham Club: built 1894 on site of three old houses, two of which stood back a few feet from the present line; the western one was on this line.
The Tweed: name of the stream, now underground? Only two houses were here before 1849. Six houses were built between 1850 – 60 by William Jackson. The warehouse at the end was built by John and Thomas Jackman soon afterwards. To the left of entrance was a well called ‘Tweed Trough’, haunted by the dobbie
Shops to east: built by Thomas Marshall in second half of C19 on site of a thatched farmhouse, barn and house of John Phillipson, watchmaker
Quaker Meeting House: built 1864, largely aided by John Thomas Rice, on site of a garden
Police Yard: House at west end was the police station with two cells, manned by a sergeant. It closed in 1940s. An earlier station was next to the workhouse. Older houses at east end once owned by John Hodgson, whose wife, Jane, inherited from her father John Parker of Usherwoods, Tatham
Goodenbergh Road: two cottages belonging to Richard Gorrill were demolished to make the entrance. He built the first four houses on the east side in 1890s. Six houses on east side built by Henry Slinger in 1900. The area was then developed as a mixed area of private and council housing, completed in 1984 with old persons’ bungalows on Grasmere Drive.
Spar Shop: on site of a barn and shippons replaced by a garage built around 1922 by Mr Hemmings and later owned by Fred Crossley
Lane to west of Spar Shop: Tennant Well Lane leading to Tennant Limepit Field (1840 tithe). Property to left / west of lane was occupied by (Henry?) Tennant, a hatter (of silk hats), succeeded by John Skirrow whose son, Robert, carried on the business.
Parkinson Farm: C17 house; home of Cumberland family in C18 and left in will of John Cumberland in late C18 to James Parkinson, gentleman of Lancaster. Reputedly the place where William Collingwood stayed when visiting Bentham.
Wesley Place: the site of the first Methodist Chapel built 1820 (stone now at Chapel on Station Road.) Earlier the Methodists met in a room at the Brown Cow.
Cottages along road to Bentham Hall: some of oldest remaining;
We 1666: William Edmondson; 1635 AMO: Matthew Overend (but heavily restored & A?);
Jubilee Buildings: 1897 built by Henry Slinger; plaque lists a number of countries within the British Empire; see: (click on terracotta) made by Stanley Brothers of Nuneaton.
Pinewood Villas: on site of Scotland Row / Bedlam, demolished 1913
Bigber / Town End: 1727 ML
Bentham Hall: SHA 1669 Stephen and Anne Husband, a Justice of the Peace under James II; conducted manor courts at Hornby Castle; paid on 6 hearths in 1672; probably Catholic but conformed as church papists.
Next to old house are two cottages probably built early C19 by Paul Pattinson on part of the site of Bentham Hall. Modern house built in 1908.

Ewecross LHS outside Parkinsons Farm, Main St, Bentham

Ewecross LHS outside Parkinsons Farm, Main St, Bentham

4th July

A visit to the Roman Fort at Vindolanda

Excited by the lecture given by Marta Alberti in February, about 40 members travelled by coach to Vindolanda, a Roman Fort near Hadrian’s Wall.

On arrival they were given a brief introduction to the site, which is the largest archaeological site in Europe, and is still called Vindolanda, as it was by the Romans. There is a series of nine forts on this site, all on top of each other, not all the same size or aligned on the same axis.

The party then separated to explore, have refreshments and inspect the wonderful museum, before meeting again at the current excavation site. Marta and the trust’s chief executive, Andrew Birley, gave details of this site as many volunteers worked behind them, filling barrows and sifting through the mud. They were working in a very deep ditch aligned approximately east/ west, and nearby a series of other ditches aligned north/south. Members were told of recent finds in these ditches, which will be filled in in September ready for next year’s dig in a different area.

On leaving Vindolanda the coach travelled north for about a mile for members to see some of Hadrian’s Wall before returning home.

Photos by Sue Bourne

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Tuesday evening, 7 May.

A visit to the Port of Lancaster at Glasson Dock

Helen Loxam, Chief Executive of Lancaster Port Commission, met the seventeen members and gave a brief history of the Dock with the aid of ancient charts and drawings, including a former dry dock. She then led the way to a landing area which is over the former dry dock and then to the side of the present dock, explaining the process of removing the silt. Helen explained that two bulldozers are used for clearing silt form the berths on the side of the river which are used by large ships. The dock gate is lowered to lie flat on the bottom of the dock to allow smaller vessels to enter. This was closed allowing the party to cross on the path at the top, giving everyone a close encounter with the silt. After inspecting the other berth on the river side, the party again braved the dock gate crossing to gather in the warm office, where Chairman Mike Winstanley thanked Helen for giving such an in-depth insight into the history, problems and life of a Working Port.

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