Tag: horwich

Winter Hill – Life and Trade

Blog by David Holding, author of “Murder in the Heather” The Winter Hill Murder of 1838″.

Travelling up the Winter Hill road towards the TV station, you pass over a ‘cattle grid’ in the road. Then the road bends to the left, with a metal crash barrier on the right side of the road.

This is the area of Winter Hill known locally as “Hole Bottom”. From the early 19th century, this was the location of a thriving small working community.

Just below the barrier stood a Brick and Tile Works, surrounded by several coal pits. Further up the road and on the left side stood a row of terraced cottages known as “Five Houses”. One of these doubled as an Ale House.
The works, cottages, and coal-pits were all owned by a William Garbutt, who features prominently in my Winter Hill Murder book.

These cottages appear on old maps of the area up to 1894 when the first Survey maps were produced. This would suggest that by 1894 the cottages and tile works had been demolished.

An interesting article has come to light on searching the Bolton Chronicle dated 19th February, 1849. This carries the following advert:

“TO BE LET – an extensive and well-established Fire Brick and Tile Works situated at Five Houses on Horwich Moor, the present owner being desirous of retiring from the business. The works are complete with Steam Engine, Grinding and Crushing apparatus, stoves, dry-houses, ovens, moulds and every convenience for carry out the business. The clay and coal are of superior quality and are got on the premises. Any person taking the works can be accommodated with five or six acres of land, and a few cottages adjoining. For particulars, apply to Mr William Garbutt at the premises, or on Friday, at the King’s Arms and Four Horse Shoes, Bolton”.

What this information does show is that Winter Hill was a thriving centre of local industry for most of the 19th century, and part of the common ‘domestic system’ of industry of that period.

Regarding ‘Murder in the Heather’:

This book is a unique account of a brutal murder which occurred on the summit of Winter Hill in Lancashire in 1838. The account draws on both contemporary media reports and court transcripts, and examines the events leading up to the killing of a 21-year old packman. It details the proceedings of the trial of the only suspect in the case. The work concludes with a re-assessment of the case in the light of modern forensic investigation. The reader is invited to reach their own ‘verdict’ based on the evidence provided.

A search of the 1881 Census for the area reveals that two families were occupying the Five Houses at that time, in addition to Mr Garbutt. One family, the Thompsons, consisted of husband and wife, together with 6 children, aged from 19 to 6. The father and the two eldest sons were employed at the Tile Works, and described as Terra Cotta Workers. Another family, the Hampsons, also occupied the cottages, the father and son both employed at the works. It can only be assumed that a new tenant had taken possession of the Brick and Tile works possibly around 1850 and carried on the business until the early 1890s. After that time, it is likely that both the works and cottages were demolished.

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Review of ‘Moving Times’ by Phoenix Writers

‘Moving Times’ is a book put together to celebrate the decade-long existence of the Phoenix Writers group, from Horwich Lancashire, and the contributors should be highly proud of what they’ve achieved.  

The first thing you notice is that it is a very attractive book with a simple but well-designed and effective cover. This really does the contents justice, which is something not achieved by all small press and writing group books.

As a member of three/four writing groups, I really do identify with the sentiments expressed in the book’s foreword – ‘What moves you, gets you out of bed in the morning, drives you to action? For us on a Thursday, it’s Phoenix Writers. We meet as friends, share ideas and get support and inspiration’. Yes, that’s what a strong and healthy writing group does for the usually lone creative. Such a group provides a stable and caring home for people who, by the nature of their pastime, can feel rootless and isolated. Phoenix is clearly a great base for many thoughtful and interesting writers.

This book contains just over 100 pages of stories, poetry and thoughts, and style/content-wise, there really is something for everyone. When reading a book of this type, I always begin with the poetry.

Ann Lawson’s ‘Iambic Tetrameter Rules, Okay?’ is a clever and amusing poem about the frustrations of forcing your creativity into a restrictive art form, and am sure the sentiments expressed will resonate with most poets.  With a completely different feel, ‘S is for Sharing’ is a short and life-affirming verse by Tony Nolan about all the positives in the world. This joy in living can be in short supply at times, so it’s pleasant to read regular reminders. In a similar vein, Joy Pope’s poem titled ‘Horwich Times’ made me proud to have connections with the town, and even more keen to produce my own book about Horwich – ‘a town of bustling resilience’. Kathleen Proctor’s poem, ‘Alexander, My Grandson’ is the most beautiful recollection of love for a grandchild who is ‘snuggling, nuzzling’ and ‘Chubby, chunky, comfortable’. Jeanne Waddington’s poem ‘The Contrariness of Young Love’ is about insurmountable contrasts between a young couple. It’s a regular enough subject, but the style lends it originality – ‘She’s a summer’s evening, he’s a cloudy day.’

The stories are also lovely to read and insightful. Bernie Jordan’s story ‘Time Moves’ begins this collection with a vivid recollection of a moment in the life of a crane and a railway bridge at Lostock station. 

‘Turning Left,’ Janet Lewison’s unpretentiously written tale, immediately drew me in with its endearing dialogue about a woman who ends up in a hired home that comes with its own snazzy car. She is changing her life, and the Cobra she now drives provides its own form of liberation.

‘Newfoundland’ by Elaine Hamilton is a short but lovely tale of boats, and it really conjured up a misty and weird atmosphere.

‘Going to Waste’ (by Dotty Snelson) is one of the longer pieces in the book, about recycling, hoarding, skip-diving and the make-do-and-mend ideology of a man, Gordon, his wife Sheila, and their personal tragedy. I really enjoyed this touching story.  

Barbara Oldham’s story ‘Stolen Bikes’ was about that very subject – or was it? Reading it, you really get a feel for the woman behind this very witty monologue.

Terence Park’s story ‘Wild Mouse’ tells the story of Mags and Rebecca on a day out at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. They take in all the pleasures and try to defer their ride on the ‘Wild Mouse’. The characters leapt from the page, especially their dialogue.

‘What the Spider Said’ by Phil Chrimes is an insightful tale of a conversation between Boris, a spider, and Humphrey. Their conversation is simple and so endearing. Pam Hunter provides another spider-related piece of writing as she relates the tale of ‘Little Miss Muffet’ and gives the reader the story behind it. There’s a lot to learn from how fairy tales and nursery rhymes come about.

Alan Gibbs’ piece ‘It Started Well and Just Got Better’ is about a campervan trip to Mull to view white-tailed eagles. This gorgeous personal recollection was good to read and really encourages the reader to visit this area of the world.

Lastly. Margaret Halliday’s piece, ‘My Home is in India’ did bring a tear to my eye. Margaret passed away in March 2019, and also attending ‘Write You Are’ – another Horwich-based writing group of which I am a member. I knew Margaret’s writings well, and this appreciation of her life in India was Margaret to the core, and a lovely, though unintentional tribute to her.

Thanks, Phoenix, for this book. Greatly enjoyed!

‘Tales from the Plots’ (by David Jackson)

The book begins with the statement “These stories of allotment life draw on the author’s own experiences as an allotment gardener of over 30 years’ experience”. Immediately upon opening this volume I reckoned I was going to enjoy every word – and I was correct. The little book comprises of two stories, both about allotment life, work and politics. The illustrations in the book (by Rob Jackson) appear on most pages and their simplicity is most endearing.

David first writes of the Gates of Eden allotment and give us a cast list, each member having their own accompanying picture. Being a bit of a gardener myself – and having lived for a while on an agricultural commune, I was totally drawn in by the horticultural references included throughout the book. This form of knowledge is something that can’t be faked. Only someone who has grown their own food and experienced allotment life, could write so well about the horror of perennial weeds like horsetail, the need for compost bins, and the rebellious and (sometimes) grumpy characters. As is the case within many organisations, there are also the inevitable officious rule-enforcers.  It’s a great little story with an inspired and very unexpected ending (with accompanying drawing – brilliant!).
The second story, ‘A Life in the Year’ gives us a breakdown of the life of Sally, the allotment site secretary. Clearly pulling together many of his own experiences, David Jackson again indicates how much insider knowledge he has. There’s a believable mix of idealism, officiousness, rule-making, rule breaking, cash flow problems, fire, bees, a dumped car (mobile shed!), a scarecrow competition, and worries about potential housing developments on site land.
It is a brilliantly observed piece. Anyone with experience of committees or councils will recognise how well-observed it is. Determination, and conflicts between strong characters on the allotments, unexpected intruders, and vehicles on site erupt into the life of the growers. Inevitably, people get upset. Sally says ‘This isn’t what allotments are supposed to be about. They’re supposed to be about freedom… We’re not here to dictate to people”.
The drawings really bring David’s stories to life and add an air of subversion. This is a great little book and an easy, be-happy read. If you think you’d like it (and I think you would) then have a look at David’s blog at: http://www.emrystpress.blogspot.co.uk.

Kadenza Christmas Concert 2019 – review


Of course, I was expecting to enjoy the concert.
I was also expecting to recognise and perhaps hum along with some of the music performed.
But, having not seen Kadenza perform before, I wasn’t expecting everything that took place.
We arrived to a busy church already buzzing with chatter, and we quickly found our place in an increasingly busy hall. Amongst those attending alongside us were youngsters decked in Santa and elf costumes, which added very much to the jolly, pre-Christmas atmosphere.
Seats were pushed close together, and at only £3 a ticket with an enormous raffle in aid of Fortalice refuge, it was most gratifying to see almost every seat full, and even some attendees standing at the rear of the hall.
The Kadenza Women’s Choir entered the room tinsel-clad, glittering and festive – and received a hearty welcome. They began their set with a traditional Finlandish song about calling in the reindeer (with lovely strong rhythm and harmonies) and a couple of hours later ended the entire concert with an encore written by choir-leader Moira many years ago. This final song, ‘I’m a woman of a certain age’ made the crowd giggle with its punch line of ‘I’m gonna make trifle’.
Kadenza’s entire set was 16 songs long (including encore) and was split into two halves with a tea and mince pie interval. The entire concert was an extremely feel-good affair, with all the songs on the itinerary joyfully performed. Particular favourites of mine were ‘Carol of the Bells’ – a Czech piece possibly originally written as a rejoicing for the spring, and their vigorous and energetic version of ‘Gaude Te’ – all in Latin.  I have to also mention ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. This was always a family favourite (my mum adored it) but most versions I’ve heard are intensely rich and harmonic in their arrangement – almost orchestral. This particular arrangement was relatively stark, giving the carol the sound of cloistered nuns rather than the romantic and expressive folk-song feel I’ve more recently heard. I enjoyed it very much.
The audience were reminded on a few occasions to join in with the singing if they knew the songs. This would not have been too hard with some of the tunes. ‘Noel’ had only one word, I think, but other songs in the repertoire, like ‘Somewhere along the road’ were definitely more suited to the choir’s skilled voicecraft, and required much discipline and control to adequately showcase the subtle and effective volume changes and emphases.
One of the many elements of the concert that I had not been expecting was the 100% unaccompanied nature of the choir’s vocal artistry. I loved how rich the sounds were despite the fact that the only instruments were the human voice and a single melodica (as pitch-giver only). Impressively, even occasional chatting from the audience, and attempts to quieten children didn’t in any way mar the quality and volume of the singing.
Another surprise element (for me) was the holistic, socially conscious and inclusive aspect of the pieces performed. The second song, ‘Mary’s Child’ was about homelessness (‘born in a borrowed room’) and had a world music feel, while ‘This Great Sky’ celebrated our connection with the earth and everything in it. This song in particular offered the audience a powerful and coherent sound which was stronger than might be expected from only 30-35 singers.  We also were treated to ‘The Boar’s Head’ written in about 1571 (offered with apologies to vegetarians) and Jackson Brown’s ‘The Rebel Jesus’ which was written from the point of view of heathen and pagan.  Kadenza’s final song was even based on a Celtic blessing of ‘We Wish You Joy’.
So, all in all, from the tight harmonies and timings of ‘The Field Mouse Carol’ which led deftly through to the humour of their comic song about hiding from carol singers, the choir exhibited skill and humour – and radiated a huge amount of energy.  I will definitely attend a future Kadenza concert as their enthusiasm completely shines through their performance, and transfers itself to any and all receptive listeners. I hadn’t been feeling Christmassy till this concert, but it really did the trick. Glorious! 


Find out more on their website – http://kadenzachoir.co.uk/index.htm or the Facebook page ‘Kadenza’.

#carol #christmasconcert #church #horwich #kadenza #review