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  • Preston in 50 buildings by Keith Johnson

    A view from the top of Preston Bus Station looking towards Avenham. (Preston in 50 buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    In recent times, it has been announced that three of our historical buildings are about to be renovated and transformed. The former Park Hotel overlooking Miller Park, the old General Post Office building overlooking the Market Place and the old Corn Exchange on Lune Street are being primed for upgrades. It seems that buildings have a life of their own and those in Preston are no exception.

    Preston in 50 Buildings is relevant at a time when the buildings of Preston are currently in the public eye. The history of our buildings is an enthralling one and my book chronicles the events and the people who helped shape the city architecture of today.

    Preston became a city in 2002 over two hundred years after the first cotton mill had been erected in the town. What followed the first cotton mill was two centuries of development that left us with a University City.

    Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, toured the nation in the early 18th Century as a prelude to his three volume travel book, ‘Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-27)’ which provided a fascinating first-hand account of the state of the country. Regarding Preston he had this to say - 'Preston is a fine town, but not like Liverpool or Manchester. Here's no manufacture; the town is full of attorneys, proctors, and notaries. The people are gay here and though non the richer for it; it has by that obtained the name of Proud Preston'.

    The old and the new - the Guild Centre Tower. (Preston in 50 buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    He had been particularly impressed by Church Street – then called Churchgate and by Fishergate remarking – 'The great stretch is filled with great houses and is very broad. The house of the present Earl of Derby makes a noble appearance, and in general the houses are very well built. To this town the gentry resort in the winter from many miles around, and there are, during the season, assemblies and balls in the same manner as York.'

    Fine words indeed, but things would certainly change in the centuries ahead as the Preston of today was created. It involved great feats of civil engineering, far sighted architects and people intent on progress.

    The buildings of any town or city define the place more than anything else and Preston is no exception. The sky line is inevitably dominated by the tallest of structures and the main highways through Preston were shaped by the erection of the earliest dwellings and footpaths. It never is a blank canvas for the developer, but one where the existing landscape cannot be ignored.

    The choice of 50 existing buildings is no easy task for we all have those to which we attach fondness or favour. Those selected have been chosen for reasons of social, commercial, historical, political or civil importance, or simply because they are civil engineering feats to admire. Mention is also given in the book to numerous other buildings that in their own way are part of the rich tapestry woven into the soul of our city. 

     

    Stephenson Terrace, built from stone brought from Longridge. (Preston in 50 buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    They all, in their own way, reflect the drive and ambition of people to improve the environment of their day; for Preston folk to linger, dwell or work within. Hopefully, you will appreciate what was no mean achievement to create a city; although with hindsight it probably didn't turn out quite like the town the planners of old foresaw or dreamed about.

    Only a few factory chimneys from the industrial heydays now remain, but those that do hold a significant place in the history of the city. The great name of Horrockses has left a legacy from the time Sam Horrocks built his mansion at Lark Hill through to the construction of Centenary Mill on New Hall Lane, now converted into luxury apartments. The other great monument from the cotton trade, the Tulketh Spinning Mill, has also passed the test of time and still provides employment for many.

    There is the legacy left behind by the dockers of Preston an area now transformed and known as Riversway; and by the tram and omnibus pioneers of Preston Corporation and the fondly remembered Ribble Bus Co; not forgetting the railway pioneers with their bridges across the River Ribble or the later emerging Victorian railway station through which passenger and freight trains still pass each and every day.

    St Walburge's and its spire. (Preston in 50 buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Although the book is essentially about buildings it does afford the opportunity of walking in the footsteps of Preston folk down the generations, from noble men to common folk, and you will catch a glimpse of their lives on the streets of old as the place developed around them.

    Thankfully many of the homes of grandeur inhabited by genteel folk still remain to allow us to marvel at their architecture. Notable residents of our town past are mentioned, such as Edwin Henry Booth who once dwelt at Avenham Tower; Joseph Livesey whose residence was around the corner on Bank Parade where well cultivated gardens once flourished, and LEP newspaper pioneer George Toulmin who lived nearby on Ribblesdale Place. Down Stoneygate you can still visit the very place where Sir Richard Arkwright developed his revolutionary spinning frame, whilst Winckley Square owed its development to the ambition of William Cross and the Pedder families involvement with Ashton House eventually led to another pasture land becoming a public park.

    The idea of choosing 50 buildings in a town or city is quite thought provoking. Yes, there are many former buildings still recalled with fondness, but it is the great survivors, those of great longevity or local significance that take their place in chronological order within the pages of the book. It is apparent that great architects have been at work here, great planners and far-sighted pioneers have strived to build what in many cases are true monuments to their work.

    The Harris, a place of splendour viewed from the Market Square. (Preston in 50 buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    The architects of the 19th century, who inherited a landscape of factory chimneys and windmills, would no doubt look in awe upon the structures that have emerged since the middle of the 20th century. If only they were able to stand on the top floor of the Tithebarn Street bus station they would see not only the church towers and steeples built in their days, but towering skyscraper blocks of apartments, hotels and offices along with temples and domed mosques, a sign of today’s multi-cultural Preston.

    Preston in 50 Buildings explores the history of this rich and vibrant community through a selection of its greatest architectural treasures. From the Grade I - listed Harris Museum to the modern Guild Hall, this unique study celebrates the city’s architectural heritage in a new and accessible way.  The book takes you on a tour of the city’s historic buildings and modern architectural marvels and reveals a little about their construction and creation. The churches, theatres, public houses and cinemas of Preston’s industrial past are examined alongside the innovative buildings of a 21st century city.

     In the pages of the book you can visit some of the oldest, the quaintest, the tallest, the smallest, the busiest, the boldest and the brashest building in the city.  No point dwelling on the buildings that have been and gone, their useful purpose over, but much better we embrace those that remain from long ago, or have appeared on our streets in recent times.

    Keith Johnson's book Preston in 50 buildings is available for purchase now.

  • The Early Railways of Leeds by Anthony Dawson

    Scale drawing of Salamanca - note the wooden silencer atop the boiler and the feed-water tank at the front end. (The Early Railways of Leeds, Amberley Publishing)

    The City of Leeds (and surrounding area) has a long and fascinating railway history, including the first public railway (the Lake Lock Rail Road of 1796 near Wakefield) and perhaps the earliest Railway viaduct, built near Flockton in 1758. Indeed, Leeds was once home to the highest concentration of locomotive builders in England; famous names such as Kitson, Manning Wardle, Fowler, Hunslet, Robert Hudson, Hudswell Clarke all had their works here. It was also in Leeds that Lion – aka Titfield Thunderbolt – was built in 1838, in the ground floor of a converted mill in Hunslet by Todd, Kitson & Laird.

    Leeds has three internationally important claims on railway history, thanks to the pioneering Middleton Railway.

    It was here that in 1758 that Charles Brandling obtained the first Act of Parliament for a railway. Brandling, owner of the Middleton Estate and its collieries, ordered to secure various wayleaves and legal agreements for his embryonic Middleton Railway which was to carry his coals from his pits to staithes on the River Aire near Leeds Bridge. This was the result of ‘cut throat’ competition between the three major colliery owners in Leeds: Brandling (Middleton), William Fenton (Rothwell) and Joshua Wilkes (Beeston), with each trying to undercut the other as to the price of coal in Leeds. Brandling’s Act of 1758 stated he would supply coal at 4¾d per corf (a corf being an old measure of coal, approximately 210lbs) for a period of sixty years – the best his rival Fenton could do was 6d per corf for a period seventy years. Under his Act, Brandling was to supply no less than 22,500 tons of coal per year and the first waggon load of coals was brought down the Middleton Railway in September 1758; the local Press referring to the railway as being ‘of such general Utility … beneficial to every Individual within this Town.’

    Leeds Hunslet Lane in LMS days. (David Joy Collection, The Early Railways of Leeds, Amberley Publishing)

    But the story of the Middleton ‘firsts’ does not end there: in 1808 the Brandlings appointed John Blenkinsop as their manager at Middleton, and around 1810 he experimented with a low-pressure condensing single-cylinder steam locomotive but it was not a conspicuous success. In 1811, believing plain iron wheels on iron rails would not have sufficient adhesion for a locomotive to be able to move itself he took out a patent for a rack-and-pinion system of railway and in the following year introduced the world’s first commercially successful steam locomotive. These two engines had been built by Matthew Murray of the Round Foundry in Leeds and were named Prince Regent and Salamanca. The pair started work in June 1812, one of them hauling the first train load of coals from Middleton pits to Leeds in twenty-three minutes. Two more locomotives were built for the Middleton Railway, attracting international interests with visitors from France (Monsieur Andrieux), Prussia (Dr S. H. Spiker, Librarian to the King of Prussia), and even the future Tsar Nicholas I of Russia who travelled to Leeds to carry out an inspection. Blenkinsop’s engines – despite two of them blowing up – remained in use for nearly twenty years.

    No. 2593, a Midland Railway Class 2 4-4-0, prepares to depart Leeds Wellington, c. 1910. (The Early Railways of Leeds, Amberley Publishing)

    Not only was the Middleton the first railway to be built under an Act of Parliament and the first to commercially use steam traction, it was also the first standard-gauge railway to be preserved. The Middleton had been nationalised in 1947 as part of the National Coal Board, but despite it being the railway’s bicentenary year, the NCB announced it would be going over to road haulage in February 1958. Although the future seemed bleak for the little railway, a special train was organised in June, carrying 300 passengers on a bicentenary trip in cleaned up coal wagons. But, by August 1959 coal was leaving the Middleton pits by road, and by 1967 the coal traffic over the line had all but dried up. This is where the enterprising students of the Leeds University Union Railway Society became involved. Under the leadership of Dr Fred Youell, the society had the idea of acquiring a short stretch of railway line as a museum on which to display preserved artefacts, and the Middleton Railway was suggested – but the Leeds University Union had other ideas and did not approve of one of its societies running a railway. Thus in December 1959 the LUURS formed the Middleton Railway Preservation Society, and entered into negotiations for the use of the line. During Rag Week 1960 it operated its first train, comprising of a Swansea & Mumbles tramcar hauled by a Hunslet Diesel and driven by Dr Youell wearing Leeds Academic Regalia. During the week over 7,000 passengers were carried, and what had started as a [temporary] passenger service gave rise to another, even more radical idea: why not run a goods service? And so it was that a group of volunteer railwaymen commenced running a commercial goods train in September 1960, carrying scrap metal, thus becoming the first standard-gauge railway in the world to be preserved and run by volunteers.

    Although mainline steam in Leeds ended in 1968 – Leeds Central and Leeds Wellington stations had closed 1966-1967 – and the last steam locomotive for industry was turned out from Hunslet’s Jack Lane works in 1971 for export to Indonesia, steam still survives in Leeds where it began in 1812. For over fifty years the preserved Middleton Railway has carried happy passengers from its Moor Road terminus to Middleton Park and is home to a flourishing collection of locomotives which once bore ‘Leeds’ on their works plates.

    Anthony Dawson's new book The Early Railways of Leeds is avialable for purchase now.

  • Shropshire's Military Heritage by John Shipley

    Portrait of an officer of the 53rd Regiment of Foot. (Courtesy of Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Researching and writing “Shropshire's Military Heritage” has been a marvellous and enlightening experience; it is one heck of a subject. Soldiers from Shropshire have been involved in many historic events that have defined our nation. Particularly men from Shropshire's two main regular regiments of the British Army, the 53rd and the 85th Regiments of Foot. These guys fought alongside Sir Arthur Wellesley, better known later as the Duke of Wellington, one of Great Britain's greatest heroes. Through the perilous terrain of Portugal and Spain as the forces of that evil dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte were pushed from the Iberian Peninsula back to France where they came from, and in doing so, playing an integral part in his downfall.

    Although no Shropshire regiments fought at the famous Battle of Waterloo, the 53rd were subsequently assigned the task of guarding the fallen emperor during his exile on the Atlantic island of Saint Helena.

    Whilst the 53rd were babysitting Napoleon Bonaparte, the 85th were in America, part of the invasion force that sacked the USA's new capital, Washington, and burnt the half-completed White House.

    But of course, Shropshire's military history goes back much further in time than the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars. The history of the county is intrinsically linked with Britain's royalty connections, and of course Shropshire's strategic location on England's border with Wales has frequently resulted in conflict. Many historic Welsh leaders crossed the border to lay siege to Shropshire's numerous border castles. Men such as Prince Llewellyn, Prince Rhys, and probably the most famous of all Owain Glyn Dwr (Owain Glendower), to name just three.

    Regimental medal of merit awarded to Major Aeneas M'Intosh, 85th, for his gallantry at the Battle of Fuentes d'Onoro and the storming of Badajoz. (Courtesy of Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Not all conflicts were against the Welsh, Shropshire's rebellious Barons frequently took up arms against unjust and tyrannical kings, in bloody conflicts, such as those against King John, and the Harry Hotspur rebellion that led to the Battle of Shrewsbury on 21st July 1403.

    My search for knowledge inevitably took me to Shropshire's Regimental Museum in Shrewsbury Castle, where I was treated magnificently and allowed to take photographs of the exhibits. My sincere thanks go to Museum Curator Christine Bernáth and her team, their help was much appreciated.

    Shropshire is one of the UK's most beautiful counties with such diverse scenery, from its numerous ranges of high hills, none quite making the status of being classified a mountain, although some come mighty close, fertile valleys and of course Shropshire has its own Lake District around Ellesmere. Check out my next books for Amberley “50 Gems of Shropshire” publication scheduled for later in 2018, and “Secret Shropshire” which follows that.

    Replica unifrom of a soldier of the 53rd during the American Revolutionary War 1755-83. (Courtesy of Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Moving back to the subject of Shropshire's history and the county's royal connections, we have major historical events, such as the first English Parliament in which commoners were invited to participate, seen as the first steps to democracy. This was at Shrewsbury Abbey and Acton Burnell in 1283 (some claim it was 1285), when King Edward I gathered a parliament together; he needed money for his quest to subjugate the Welsh, and to impeach Prince Daffydd ap Gruffydd, the last independent ruler of Wales. The poor chap suffered the grisly fate of being hanged, drawn and quartered, the first person of noble birth to be executed in this manner. King Richard III also held a “Great Parliament” at Shrewsbury.

    Of course pretty much all of Shropshire's castles have connections to some significant historic event, and Ludlow Castle has seen it fair share. The castle came into the control of Yorkist Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, through marriage, before the commencement of the hostilities that later became known as the Wars of the Roses. He was the father of two kings: Edward IV and Richard III (remember the body in the Leicester car park). Edward IVs eldest son was born in Westminster, but his younger son, was born in Shrewsbury at the Dominican Friary, their names were: Edward, Prince of Wales (later and briefly King Edward V), and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, however history knows these two boys better as the Princes in the Tower. Young Edward was at Ludlow when news of his father's death set off the chain of events that saw his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, accept the throne. Richard III ruled for only two years until he was deposed by the Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, crowned King Henry VII following his victory at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

    Officer's shako plate, 53rd Regiment of Foot, 1844-45. (Courtesy of Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Ludlow was also where Henry VIIs eldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, held court as Lord of the Marches. He also resided in Bewdley at the royal manor of Tickenhill Palace. Prince Arthur Tudor (20 September 1486 - 2 April 1502), subsequently died at Ludlow Castle six months short of his sixteenth birthday. He and his new wife, Catherine of Aragon contracted what was described as “a malign vapour which proceeded from the air” - the sweating sickness, (possibly tuberculosis). Catherine recovered, but her teenage husband didn't. His heart is buried in a silver casket beneath the chancel of St. Laurence Church, Ludlow. The rest of him is buried in Worcester Cathedral. Arthur's tragic death raised King Henry's second son, Henry (later Henry VIII) as heir to the throne. For those of you who like a conspiracy theory there is one surrounding Prince Arthur's death, put forward by Paul Vaughan, as reported in November 2002 in the Worcester News.

    There are absolutely piles of questions with no answers, such as:

    Was Arthur a sickly youth? If he was, did his father King Henry VII, a man with pretty much no real claim to the English throne, favour Arthur's brother, the handsome, lusty, and long of limb brother Henry as his successor to better continue his extremely tenuous royal Tudor dynasty?

    Lock of Napoleon Bonaparte's hair. (Courtesy of Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Why was Arthur sent back in winter to cold Ludlow where sickness abounded with only one physician? (Wouldn't a royal prince have an entourage of doctors to attend him? And why not keep him in London where the best medical men were?).

    Was Arthur allowed to die, or, was he poisoned? And there's more: Why was his body kept at Ludlow for around three weeks after his death?

    Why didn't the king order his body to be conveyed to London for a state funeral, possibly in Westminster Abbey?

    Why bury Arthur in Worcester Cathedral, part of a remote monastery? Why didn't the king and queen attend their son's funeral? (Only the Earls of Shrewsbury, Kent, and Surrey, plus other lords attended).

    Why didn't Arthur lie in state, to attract pilgrims and therefore revenue to the Cathedral, as was the custom? His body appears to have been buried straight away upon arrival at Worcester Cathedral.

    Why is Arthur's Chantry not as grandly ornate as experts believe it should be, and why is his body not inside it? (His remains are believed to be buried in front of the High Altar).

    I love a good conspiracy, and this is a corker. Of course, it could be a load of something else!

     

    Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle. (Courtesy of Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Here are a couple of other interesting royal connections with Shropshire:

    Bessie Blount, or more correctly Elizabeth Blount, became famous as the mistress of King Henry VIII. Bessie as she was known during her lifetime was born at Kinlet, Shropshire, sometime between 1498, and 1502; her parents were Sir John Blount of Knightley and Kinlet, and Catherine, nee Pershall. Little has been previously recorded of Bessie’s early life, but we do know that she was blessed with a rare beauty, but sadly there is no known portrait of her in existence. The Blount’s manor at Kinlet was near young Prince Arthur, Prince of Wales's court at Tickenhill Manor, Bewdley.

    Bessie Blount travelled to court in spring 1512, becoming a maid-of-honour to King Henry VIIIs Queen, Catherine of Aragon. Bessie learned Latin and French, and played the virginal (a smaller keyboard instrument of the harpsichord family). She also excelled at dancing and singing. The teenage Bessie was described as an eloquent, graceful, blonde haired beauty, with a flawless complexion, and as an accomplished and most interesting person. A couple of years after arriving at court, Bessie caught Henry VIIIs famous roving eye, becoming his mistress around 1514/1515. Thought to be the first of Henry's mistresses, remaining so for around eight years unlike many of his other flings which usually did not last very long, although she was never afforded the title of Maitresse en Tire. Her union with Henry produced a son on the 15th June 1519, whom they named Henry Fitzroy (Henry, Fitz or son of the Roy or king, using the old Norman method of naming a son). He was the only illegitimate child acknowledged by Henry VIII as his own. Henry Fitzroy had the titles of Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and Earl of Nottingham conferred upon him. Unfortunately for Bessie, Henry moved on to the 'other Boleyn sister’, Mary Boleyn, and subsequently the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. In 1522, Bessie married Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron of Kyme.

    Floral war memorial, 1914-18, in the grounds of Shrewsbury castle. (Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Bessie’s husband Gilbert died in 1530, leaving her extremely well off, and although she was pursued by a number of suitors including Leonard Gray, she chose to marry Edward Clinton, 9th Baron Clinton. Bessie died on 1 January 1540.

    This next royal connection is rather more bizarre:

    Shropshire born, Anthony William Hall (1898–1947), made an audacious claim in 1931 in which he insisted that he was the direct descendant of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, through the royal male line, (although the birth of Hall's ancestor was prior to the marriage between Henry and Anne). This made him the direct descendant of the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII.

    Mr Hall, a police inspector in Shropshire, thus attempted to claim the throne of England. He set out details of his claim in an open letter to the then King, George V. William Hall also made many speeches to anyone who would listen, including one in Birmingham, in which he detailed his credentials and how he was the rightful King of England. This audacious man even challenged the King to a duel, with the loser to be beheaded. Hall was arrested numerous times for using "scandalous language," and was arraigned in court, fined and bound over to keep the peace. John Harrison's 1999 novel “Heir Unapparent” used the notion that Anthony Hall was a descendant of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn for its plot.

    KSLI memorial tableau, National Memorial Arboretum NMA, Alrewas, Staffordshire. (Courtesy of the NMA, Shropshire's Military Heritage, Amberley Publishing)

    Moving on in time, I'd like to mention Shropshire's role in “Operation Sea Lion”, Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany's code name for the planned invasion of Great Britain during the Second World War. In 1945 a soldier discovered a 446 page dossier for an invasion in 1940, scuppered of course by the RAF's victory in the Battle of Britain. Documents dated 1941 indicate Hitler's continued belief in the invasion of our Sceptred Isle. Hitler's headquarters were outlined for Apley Hall near Bridgnorth, and Ludlow was also mentioned, making these two Shropshire towns the centre of Nazi power in the UK. The dossier resurfaced in 2005 and was sold at auction.

    I'll end this blog as I began, with a note of what happened to Shropshire's two regular regiments. In 1881, the 53rd and the 85th Regiments of Foot amalgamated to form the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, the KSLI, whose soldiers, together with the Shropshire Yeomanry, served with great distinction through the two World Wars, and the Korean War, as well as in other international conflicts. The KSLI became the 3rd Battalion, the Light Infantry Regiment in 1968, and today as part of the Rifles, the KSLI continues to help keep us safe.

    John Shipley's new book Shropshire's Military Heritage is available for purchase now.

  • Warhorses of Germany by Paul Garson

    The Myth of the Mechanised Blitzkrieg

    Nap - A corporal, his rifle clutched against his shoulder and the mule’s reins held in his hand, sleeps sitting on his backpack on a muddy Russian road as his charges eye the cameraman. (Warhorses of Germany, Amberley Publishing)

    The love of the horse runs long and deep in the German culture having arisen from the concept of “blood and soil” percolating up through the rural farmlands of the country, its people traditionally sharing close company with their equine work companions that also served as routine transportation and leisure enjoyment as well as an implement of war as called upon by centuries of conflict within and without its borders.

    German military planners learned from their mistakes of the First World War, realizing that in part they did not have enough horses for the work needed. In preparation for the next conflict Germany began buying up large quantities of horses, in fact, many from Britain where its military planners saw no need for horses as they were certain the next battles would be fought exclusively by machine and thus the English military establishment totally scrapped its cavalry components. Between 1935 and 1940 Germany’s military horse resources swelled from 35,000 to 100,000, and that just the first of millions of hoof beats.

    The various regions of Germany also produced several types of large draft horses, for example, The Black Forest Horse (Schwarzwaelder Fuchs). While strong, durable, healthy, long-living and good natured, many such horses were taken from their farm work to the Front where they encountered conditions for which they were ill-prepared.

    Hooved vs. Tracked - Two cavalry mounts are dwarfed by the formidable Tiger tank. Contrary to the Third Reich’s own massive propaganda programs and decades of post-WWII movies that propagated the image of German fully motorized warfare, horses far outnumbered tanks and other mechanized weapons of the Third Reich. (Warhorses of Germany, Amberley Publishing)

     

    In reality the Wehrmacht was the least modernized of European armies with Third Reich propaganda creating a distorted image of the true state of affairs. 1930s Germany was not supported by a strong motor vehicle or even farm tractor infrastructure that could be militarized for war production, nor were its people “automobilized” to any great extent. By contrast, in 1935 America, there was one car per five people while in German the number was only one car per 89 people.

    The Wehrmacht attempted to augment its mechanization efforts during the war by utilizing Czech and French machines, but there was a language problem when dealing with manuals for the former and a lack of reliability with the latter, especially when facing the demands of the Eastern Front. Some 2,000 different kinds of vehicles eventually took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, the complexity and variation creating a maintenance nightmare. The logistics requirements projected the demand for an additional 2,700 trucks which could not be supplied, thus horses again making up for the shortage. For example, the 9,000 captured French horses proved more enduring than its vehicles. In the final analysis, only some 25% of the Germany army was mechanized while 75% was composed of marching infantry with 70% of all transport and supply including heavy artillery during the war was horse-drawn. Due to their size and the fact they were often tethered to heavy transport wagons and field artillery, horses were left to take the brunt of air attacks while their human counterparts sought cover. In addition the effects of bullet, bomb and fire, the rigors of traversing vast distances thereby suffering the results of climate, disease and food deprivation, those horses deemed no longer suitable for work, were either sold as food or slaughtered on the spot to feed starving troops.

    War on the Eastern Front -March 24, 1942 – Deutsche Illustrated – Berlin - 'Soon Winter in the East will also be Overcome!' reads the caption accompanying the image of Waffen-SS troops who are grinning for the camera despite being caught in the frozen grip of Russia’s lethal 'General Christmas', which is reality was not overcome but overwhelming. (Warhorses of Germany, Amberley Publishing)

    Preparing for war in 1939 the German military counted some 2,740,000 men in uniform, 183,000 motor vehicles, 94,000 motorcycles and 514,000 horses.

    Soldiers rode on horseback in cavalry units and also engaged horses as draft (draught) animals hauling light, medium and heavy wagons transporting ammunition, food supplies, mobile kitchens, medical units, fuel, and heavy artillery, even the horses’ own fodder.

    Horse-mounted troops served principal roles including frontline combat, reconnaissance and anti-partisan warfare as they were often able to traverse topography inaccessible to mechanized forces.

    The number of horses and mules used by the German military eventually amounted to 2,750,000. Of them, an estimated 750,000 died during the war. The number of Russian animals that perished is unknown but estimate as equally massive.

    Behind the Scenes

    Author Paul Garson, a Los Angeles based journalist for some 30 years writing about a variety of subjects, his articles often including his own photography, developed a focus on original Second World War original photos 15 years ago after chancing upon one image. It would lead to the viewing of over one million photos from a dozen countries eventually forming his personal collection of some 3,000 in addition to several hundred research books, documents, artifacts and other items from which to conduct his research. To date, five books relating to the subject have been published, several more in the works, all providing readers with a previous unseen vantage point of the war in Europe including the volume seen here.

    Says Garson, “For years I often spent 12-14 hours, seven days a week searching for the most compelling images, then hours more repairing via digital enhancement those decades old photos, some barely two inches square. Then hours more exploring the image itself as well as relating it to a specific date and location in order to place it within the historical context, all in order to cast some light onto those darkest of times. In this case, I was compelled to write, and show, the fate that befell the millions of horses that were leashed and lashed into the catastrophic war, one whose violence and cruelty spared no living thing …the goal perhaps to offer a visual warning that strips away the “glamour” that war films had often created and to show its true nature …and the pain suffered by non-human combatants who had no voice to share their suffering.”

    Paul Garson's new book Warhorses of Germany: The Myth of the Mechanised Blitzkrieg is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Preston by Keith Johnson

    Preston was a town with plenty of windmills. (Secret Preston, Amberley Publishing)

    Listen! Do you want to know a secret? Secret Preston gives you the opportunity to look into the past of Preston and reflect on events from generations ago besides those in the not too distant past. There is a history of Preston that is hidden from view, or simply not recognised today amidst the hurly burly of modern life.

    The book goes behind the façade of the familiar to explore what lies beneath the historic city we are familiar with. Scratching the surface and delving into the archives to reveal things we are unaware of, or that have simply been forgotten in the mist of time.

    The outfit of a brave doctor visiting the Plague victims. (Secret Preston, Amberley Publishing)

    In truth for almost 1,000 years Preston was simply a rural market town that developed around the church from where the original settlement grew. It would eventually become something of a significant crossroads with a handy river crossing.

    Preston suffered from famine, plague and warfare, yet grew into a large industrial town, noted for its cotton and engineering industries and with all the trials that created as folk flocked to the important county town.

    All these events helped to shape the Preston that grew into our city. Of course, much of the history of a city often lays beneath centuries of decay and development. Indeed, a dweller of the old town of Preston of centuries ago would simply be lost in our city streets these days.

    Traditions that remain often enthral us and these socially motivated events bound the generations together. What our ancestors taught us is often treasured. Pageantry, parade, custom, folk lore, festivals all leaving a legacy of what they achieved. It is never just about the bricks and mortar, but the buildings themselves help us to understand our ancestors’ hopes and ambitions.

    The chapters bring to life some of the characters of old who walked along these highways and byways before us, leaving behind a trail that fascinates us and helps us to understand what kind of life they enjoyed, or endured.

    Preston Cemetery, the last resting place of many local folk. (Secret Preston, Amberley Publishing)

    Like all cities it is one of changing faces and changing places – our Market Square is a prime example of that. Graveyards and bones, monks and monasteries, alleyways and tunnels, factories and workshops, plagues and poverty, pain and torment, disease and death, famine and feast all provide an insight into the past.

    Within the book there are chapters that remind us of a Market Place steeped in history; the punishments and pastimes of old; the visitations of the plague and the days of lepers; the quacks and their cures; the Grey Friars and the sisters of mercy; the grandest of buildings and structures; the springs and wells that quenched thirst; the days of war when secrecy was paramount and the place where Preston's treasures are stored.

    Likewise, a chance to discover what went before on the site where the present day industrial Red Scar estate now prospers, a chance to look back at the ghastly activity that took place on Gallows Hill where English Martyrs now stands, and to consider why the derelict Miley Tunnel that runs beneath our streets has such a mysterious reputation.

    Preston - the battle ground of 1715 as the rebels attempted to quell the King's forces. (Secret Preston, Amberley Publishing)

    Those Civil War days of the 17th century are also recalled. Days when Royalists and Parliamentarians fought on our streets with dire consequences for many. There is also a timely account of the days over 300 years ago, in 1715 and later, when the battles on Preston soil helped shape the Jacobite Rebellions and the fortunes of those involved. Yes, it is so true that Cavaliers and Roundheads fought here as did those involved in the Jacobite Rebellions. Centuries when conflict raged and cannon fire, bloodshed, barricades and rampaging armies all became part of the rich tapestry of Preston's history.

    Hopefully, like myself, you will delight in a tour of our streets and alleyways back in the nineteenth century town led by Richard Aughton, who recalled his formative years growing up in a place that was developing from pasture land. His anecdotes recalled the people, the places and the reality of his time. He lived amongst the people of Preston and he saw first-hand the endeavours of all, both wealthy and poverty stricken alike.

    Red Scar - the much-loved home of the Cross family for generations. (Secret Preston, Amberley Publishing)

    Curiosity led me to some of the discoveries and my admiration for the historians of old Preston did not waiver, for they left a paper trail that can be clearly followed to unlock secrets of the past. It is often only necessary to simply scratch the surface to uncover parts of our past history, although our treasured archaeologists have dug much deeper for the cause.

    Journey back with me into the secret past of Preston and loiter a while, and maybe marvel at those who lingered in olden days on the streets and fields of Preston past and their achievements. Their past shaped our future and this latest Amberley publication reveals all.

    The dictionary definition of secret includes the terms – concealed, unseen and mysterious – not deliberately, of course, but as a result of the passage of time – hopefully some of the dust of time is blown away in the pages of the publication.

    Keith Johnson's book Secret Preston is available for purchase now.

  • In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs by Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley

    Views of Rotherham - Clockwise from left to right: Clifton House, High Street, Clifton Park, Doncaster Gate; centre: the war memorial in Clifton Park. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Daniel Defoe writing about Rotherham in the 1720s rather dismissively wrote that there was ‘nothing of note except a fine stone bridge over the Don’. How wrong he was. Even then there was much to record in the town itself and in the surrounding settlements. In the intervening centuries it has only got more and more interesting.

    The Rotherham area has undergone profound change over the last century or so. There has been much demolition and re-building in the town centre. The town has grown outwards in all directions and the surrounding settlements, rural and industrial, have been transformed in many cases. Many working patterns and workplaces have disappeared, means of transport have changed out of all recognition and even how people used their leisure time in the early twentieth century shows some striking differences from today.

    Fortunately, in the latter years of the nineteenth century and during the first half of the twentieth century the town and its surrounding settlements were recorded on camera for posterity. This was done for a variety of reasons. Businesses wanted to record their activities, families wanted to record family events and the family photographic album came into existence. Local newspapers used photographs to record civic and other events taking place in their readership areas and of course, most importantly, the picture postcard came into existence.

    The picture postcard as we know it today came into existence in January 1902. From that date, what was to become until recent times, the standard-sized card – 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches - was allowed by the Post Office to have one side entirely devoted to an illustration in the form of a photograph, painting or engraving and the other side divided into two with room for a message on the left and the address on the right. With as many as five deliveries a day from Monday to Saturday and one on Sunday morning, postage costing only a halfpenny, cards posted locally were often being delivered on the same day as they were posted. Picture postcards became the standard way of communicating between places in the days before most people had a telephone. As a result photographic firms rushed to fill the booming market for postcards featuring photographs of local places and people. Everybody sent and received postcards. The Post Office dealt with 866 million postcards through the post in the year 1909 alone.

    Edwardian cyclists outside Wentworth Park. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The early postcards, studio photographs, other family photographs and the commercial photographs tell us so much about our local history. Looking into how the landscape, fashions and local industry changed to name but three obvious areas of interest. But there is so much more. No Street, group, event or subject was too small or obscure not to be recorded on camera. Just two contrasting examples illustrate the point.

    Going on local excursions received a big boost by the production of reasonably priced bicycles in the 1890s following the introduction of the safety cycle in the 1880s and the development of the air-filled tyre in 1888 by John Dunlop to replace the solid tyre. For the first time many ordinary people could get away from the towns and the mining and industrial settlements to the countryside. Cycling clubs grew up everywhere and cycling became a craze. Women for the first time could move from place to place for work and leisure. In 1896 the American writer Susan B. Anthony wrote that ‘the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world’. The photograph of cyclists reproduced here shows a local cycling club posing outside the gates to the park at Wentworth Woodhouse. Notice that all but one of the men and boys is wearing a tie. In Edwardian England you did not dress down to go out cycling, you dressed up!

    Christening of Viscount Milton, 1911. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    In complete contrast is a most fascinating group of postcards produced by E. L. Scrivens, the Doncaster-based photographer connected with the christening of Peter, Viscount Milton at Wentworth Woodhouse in 1911. The christening was more like a coronation than a christening. This was because the 7th Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam had four daughters and it was feared that the earldom would go to another branch of the family. The relative who would inherit if there was no son was an uncle who was 70 years old.

    The christening ceremony took place in the private chapel in the mansion at one o’clock on 12 February. The Rotherham Advertiser reported that the scarf presented to the Earl’s ancestor at the Battle of Hastings for his ‘valour and service’ would be wrapped around the baby Peter. 7,000 invitations were sent out to official guests and in addition it was reported that between 50,000 and 100,000 of the general public would also attend. One hundred men from London were sent to erect marquees for thousands of the official guests and 300 waiters came to Wentworth from London by special train. Local tenants, the employees of the hunts that the Earl hunted with, the parishioners of Wentworth and local miners all presented engraved bowls.

    In the afternoon and evening there was a full round of festivities including bands, roundabouts, daylight fireworks and the roasting of an ox to provide beef sandwiches for the public. The event ended with a magnificent fireworks display. It was reputed to be the biggest private firework display for five years. It included portraits of the Earl and Countess, Niagara Falls and a British battleship attacking and sinking the ‘dreadnought’ of a continental power.

    Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley's new book In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time by Steven Dickens

    Chorlton Hospital, Nell Lane, c.1900. (Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Writing Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time has made me recognise that my longest-standing memory of Chorlton relates to my time as a student nurse at Trafford General Hospital, in Davyhulme. During my time as a trainee, from 1989-93, what was Trafford School of Nursing became South-West Manchester College of Nursing. The idea behind this was to move away from the traditional focus of nursing towards a style of nurse training which was degree oriented and university based. Project 2000 (the title of our training structure) was an attempt at this, combining practical ward training and college-based academic study in separate units corresponding to medicine, surgery, psychiatry etc. By the late 1990s the training of nurses had moved on to be university-based, with Registered Nurses being awarded degrees by their respective universities.

    Mauldeth House, Mauldeth Road West and South West Manchester College of Nursing, 29 October 1993. (Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    However, during my time as a student nurse our headquarters for the South West Manchester College of Nursing was based at Mauldeth House, Mauldeth Road West, in Chorlton. As I stated in the book, my abiding memory of Mauldeth House was an interview I attended there in May 1989. This was actually for a place on the South Manchester School of Nursing course, based at Withington and Wythenshawe Hospitals. I was offered a place, but eventually accepted an offer from Trafford General Hospital, in Davyhulme, as it was much closer to home for me – I could walk there in five minutes! At the time of writing the book’s captions Mauldeth House had become just another office block, of no particular significance. However, since then, Carillion, its occupiers, have made national headlines for all the wrong reasons!

    I attended Mauldeth House a number of times. The frontage to the building has changed very little at ground level, and we were also familiar with The Southern Hotel public house, across the road from Mauldeth House. During my time as a student I had the opportunity to travel to Sweden, where we observed work in the General Hospital at Kristianstad, as well as experience the country first hand. De-briefing sessions at Mauldeth House always followed these visits. My very first full-time nursing post was also in Chorlton, at the then Alexandra Lodge Nursing Home (now Alexandra Lodge Care Centre), on Wilbraham Road, where I stayed for six months in the mid-1990s, before moving on to another position.

    Alexandra Lodge Care Centre, Wilbraham Road. (Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Although this blog has provided the opportunity to remember my days as a student nurse, Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time covers all the main districts of the village and shows how it has changed over the decades. It is now a cosmopolitan suburb of Manchester, popular with the young professional. There are landmarks, such as Southern Cemetery (where many of my ancestors/relatives lie), and the original village centre, based around Chorlton Green, as well as the lych-gate to the original St. Clement’s parish church. I have also tried to balance these inclusions against some more modern changes to Chorlton, with regard to education and transport, for example. I hope that the result will be an informative and pleasant read for the local historian and local resident alike!

    I would like to dedicate this blog to my Brother-in-Law, David Worsley (and family), former Chorlton residents.

    Steven Dickens' new book Chorlton-cum-Hardy Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Convicted: Landmark Cases in British Criminal History by Gary Powell

    Great Britain has one of the oldest judicial systems in the world. Our common law can be traced back to the Middle ages, the jury system as its cornerstone, with the basic tenet that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The law of course cannot stand still and has to move with the times to be fit for purpose in relation to Britain’s ever-changing social and economic traits, even to the point of questioning the effectiveness of the jury system in some cases. My latest book: Convicted: Landmark Cases in British Criminal History outlines 100 such cases that have strengthened this country’s reputation for fairness and justice. Each of these cases or methods of crime detection were presented to a court of law and tested as far as their legality and credibility and each has changed or affected the process of law enforcement in this country.

    Where’s the Body?

    The Cotswold village of Chipping Campden was the centre of one of Britain’s most extraordinary criminal cases, dubbed the ‘Campden Wonder’, which resulted in an historic ruling that would survive well into the twentieth century. On 16 August 1660 local businessman William Harrison left his home in Chipping Campden to collect some rent from neighbouring farms. When he failed to return home that night his son, also called William, and his manservant – John Perry – set out to find him. On the route they expected William to have taken they discovered some personal items and clothing belonging to the missing man, some were covered in blood. An investigation took place; John Perry initially blamed his mother and brother for the murder but eventually all three stood trial for the killing of Harrison even though Harrison’s body was never recovered. All three were found guilty and executed.

    A year after the executions the close-knit community were shocked to learn that the ‘victim’ of this horrendous crime – William Harrison – had returned to the village in full health with an incredible story. He informed the authorities that on the night in question he had been violently abducted by several men and taken to the Port of Deal where he was bundled onto a Turkish ship and later sold as a slave. Following the death of his elderly master he managed to escape and concealed himself on board a Portuguese ship and travelled to Dover. Following this incredible miscarriage of justice resulting in the execution of three innocent people British courts followed a principle of ‘no body, no charge of murder’. This principle was maintained well into the twentieth century when advances in forensic science in such cases as George Haigh – the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ proved beyond doubt that murder had taken place without the need for a body to be present.

    Made his Mark

    A feature on Albert and Alfred Stratton, the first murderers to be convicted on fingerprint evidence. (Illustrated Police News, 27 May 1905, Convicted, Amberley Publishing)

    The estimated odds of billions to one that two human beings shared the same fingerprint (including those of twins) became the basis of the most important discovery in the world of crime detection. Edward Henry a member of the Indian Civil Service and Inspector General of the Bengal Police devised a workable system for classifying fingerprints. Henry, who was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Crime at Scotland Yard in 1901, established the Fingerprint Bureau. Initially the primary function of the Bureau was to enable police to identify offenders with previous criminal convictions; but within a short period of time the science of fingerprint identification would evolve into an effective tool in crime detection.

    The first criminal conviction, using a fingerprint as prime evidence, was the case of habitual thief Harry Jackson in September 1902. Jackson was suspected of several burglaries in south London and eventually arrested by a sharp-eyed police constable called George Drewitt whilst attempting to break into the Perseverance Pub on Vassal Road in Brixton. One of the burglaries leading up to his arrest occurred at 156 Denmark Hill the home of the Tustin family; Jackson had gained entry through a ground floor window and stolen a number of ivory snooker balls but whilst doing so had left a fingerprint on a recently painted window sill. The fingerprint was examined by officers from the fingerprint bureau and positively matched to Jackson. When the case was tried at the Central Criminal Court Old Bailey Jackson pleaded not guilty. This was a make or break case for the forensic science of fingerprint examination as the whole case rested on one fingerprint which placed the defendant at the scene of the crime. The evidence was strongly tested by the court with officers from the fingerprint bureau giving expert testimonies. The judge and jury accepted the validity of the evidence and convicted Harry Jackson. Many commentators of the day still doubted the new crime-fighting revelation; one wrote to The Times commenting that ‘Scotland Yard, once known as the world’s finest police organisation, will be the laughing stock of Europe if it insists in trying to trace criminals by odd ridges on the skin’.

    Drunk in Charge

    The former Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, which witnessed the first recorded trail for the offence of drink-driving in 1897. (Author's collection, Convicted, Amberley Publishing)

    A licensed cab driver was observed, by local police officer PC Russell, driving his cab erratically along Bond Street in London at 12.45am on 11 September 1897. George Smith swerved from one side of the road to the other before running across the footway and crashing into No.165 breaking a water pipe and causing damage to the property’s front window. PC Russell approached Smith and realised that he had been drinking and escorted him to Vine Street police station in what is believed to be the first recorded case of drink-driving. Smith was examined by a local police surgeon who confirmed his drunkenness and that he should not have been in charge of his vehicle.

    Smith was charged and appeared in front of the magistrates at Marlborough Street police court later that same morning. When questioned by PC Russell in front of the bench he admitted that he had consumed several glasses of beer. The magistrate in sentencing Smith to a fine of twenty shillings advised the cabbie: ‘you motor-car drivers ought to be very careful, for if anything happens to you – well, the police have a very happy knack of stopping a runaway horse, but to stop a motor is a very different thing’.

     

    ‘999 Emergency’

    Burglar Thomas Duffy was the first to be apprehended and convicted through the new emergency hotline introduced in 1937. (Convicted, Amberley Publishing)

    An innovative emergency telephone system, where any member of the public could pick up a telephone and dial 999 free of charge, operated by the General Post Office was launched in London on 30 June 1937. The launch of the system was accompanied by a public education campaign in several newspapers including the London Evening News which advised its readers to:

    ‘Only dial 999 if the matter is urgent; if, for instance, the man in the flat next to yours is murdering his wife or you have seen a heavily masked cat burglar peering around the stack pipe of the local bank building… If the matter is less urgent, if you have merely lost little Towser or a lorry has come to rest in your front garden, just call up the local police.’

    The new 999 system quickly proved a success when just a week later the first arrest was made as a result of such an emergency call. During the early hours of 7 July 1937 architect John Stanley Beard of Hampstead in north London had been awoken by a noise outside his bedroom window. As he peered out he saw a would-be intruder, later identified as Thomas Duffy. Beard’s quick-thinking wife rang 999 and gave a description of the suspect and a direction in which he had decamped. Police acted quickly and arrested Duffy nearby; he was charged and convicted of attempted breaking and entering. Mr Beard was delighted with the result and commented after the event that: ‘…it struck me, as a householder and fairly large taxpayer that we are getting something for our money and I was very impressed by it.’

    During the first week of the 999 launch police received 1,336 calls -ninety-one were pranks. The service was launched in Glasgow the following year followed by several other major cities; but the rest of the country had to wait until 1976 for the system to become national when all telephone exchanges became automated. Today the 999 system (now incorporating all emergency services) receives in excess of thirty-million calls a year.

    Put Your Foot In It

    Plantar evidence (the anatomy relating to the sole of the foot) was first used in the English courts in 1956.

    Sydney Malkin was a 47-year-old chef who had a penchant for women’s underwear. In 1956 he broke into the Hastings flat of Mrs Edith Bowles and stole items of underwear and a silk slip. Mrs Bowles, whose flat was on an upper level, had left her underwear out to dry with the windows open. Mrs Bowles reported the crime to local police officer – PC Ernest Parker. Parker examined the point of entry and was astonished to discover a number of bare footprints – one on top of the television, one on a loudspeaker and finally one on the floor. The unusual modus operandi of stealing women’s underwear from high-rise flats matched Sydney Malkin. He was arrested and comparisons were examined between the footprints left at the crime scene and impressions taken of Malkin’s feet – they were identical. Fingerprint expert Detective Superintendent Holten from Scotland Yard presented his findings to the magistrates at Hastings. Malkin was convicted – the first case of its kind in England – and bound over to keep the peace for three years.

    Gary Powell's new book Convicted: Landmark Cases in British Criminal History is available for purchase now.

  • Preston in the 1960s by Keith Johnson

    The new C&A Modes store on Friargate. (Preston in the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

    Imagine a decade when tall towers and structures rose from the rubble of slum clearance with bulldozers, bricks and builders abounding, with one firm claiming to build a house in a day. A time when cobbled streets were making way for highways and a road was coming that would split Friargate in two.

    A period when churches and chapels of all denominations seemed to be enjoying a heyday with congregations full of enthusiastic worshippers. The Roman Catholics, the Church of England and the Methodists all going their separate ways, but being united in progress.

    School days also were changing. The old and decaying church schools were beginning to make way for the Secondary Modern and all the advances in reading, writing and arithmetic, plus the odd foreign language thrown in.

    Fishergate 1962. A buisy thoroughfare with cars and shoppers. (Preston in the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

     

    With employment levels high, working hours shorter and younger people with more of a disposable income, a leisure industry was beginning to thrive. The days when television sets had become the norm in most households, although generally they were only rented and the pictures were in black and white. The cinemas had started to feel a decline in audiences, although Preston still had a number of town centre auditoriums for the film fans. Bingo halls and betting shops were beginning to take their place amongst the leisure activities as gambling rules changed. These were also the days of teenage dreamers who wanted to look fashionable, record shops selling hit parade vinyl records, coffee bars, discotheques, youth clubs and those mods and rockers. And for the more mature there were still the dance halls for more of a strictly ballroom way of dancing and many still enjoyed a visit to the theatre.

    Rising from the site of 460 demolised houses off Moor-lane, Preston, is this skyscraper block-one of three 16-storey buildings, which together will provide homes for 435 families. (Preston in the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

     

    Public houses were as popular as ever, despite some of the older inns and many of those on terraced street corners being swept away in the name of progress. No longer were Ribbleton Lane, North Road and New Hall Lane roads of endless public houses.

    It was a decade that saw the world of high street shopping and commerce begin to change. Preston was no exception in that respect with proprietors of Friargate, Fishergate and Church Street all bowing to progress. The town's shops half day closing on a Thursday was under threat, although Sunday opening was still a generation away. Mums had proper shopping baskets not plastic carrier bags and in many a premises it was not self-service, with shopkeepers happy to weigh and measure your purchase be it butter, lard or treacle toffee. That was all about to change.

    Preston likes to do things politically correct and the 1960s were no exception. Excitement at the Preston ballot box drew national attention and leading politicians came canvassing for votes. The battle for the Preston North & Preston South constituencies were nail biting affairs. In some ways it was much simpler then with just the Tories or Labour to choose from, besides the odd Independent who threw their hat into the local election arena. It was a decade when the local political parties flexed their muscles and the politicians of Preston made crucial decisions that would shape the town for generations to come.

    The remains of the fire-favaged Gothis town hall were about to be demolised. (Preston in the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

    In the 1960s the people of Preston had a great passion for sport. Youngsters were brought up enjoying kicking a football or playing cricket or rounders on the cobbled streets or the parks. Swimming, tennis, basketball, rugby, golf, crown green bowling all flourished in days when many rode their bicycle to work for exercise. The passion for Preston North End was strong although it was a decade of more downs than ups, having started the period in the top flight of the Football League. Nonetheless, they had their moments of glory and throughout the decade the 'Last Football' Post kept you up to date with match reports on the action.

    A decade when the Preston Borough Police force would eventually hand over control to the Lancashire Constabulary. It meant a last goodbye for the Chief Constable of Preston. Sadly, there were those with murder in mind who shocked local folk with their criminal activity. The killing of a pub landlady, the slaughter of a pregnant wife and the hanging of two former Preston dairymen amongst the tragedies of the decade. Preston Prison was once more a useful institution after decades of decline and over 700 prisoners were kept within its walls.

    All the fun of the Whitsuntide Fair in the centre of Preston Market Square. (Preston in the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

    “Run and get the fire brigade” was all too often the cry and Preston Fire Brigade certainly went to blazes in the 1960s. They had begun the decade on Tithebarn Street, but that would change. Besides the numerous blazes on street corners on Bonfire Night there were many more challenging fires to dampen down. A ten pin bowling alley and a fashion store amongst them.

    A fondly remembered Easter was that of 1960 with hot cross buns, stations of the cross, rambles in the countryside, egg rolling on Avenham Park, football at Deepdale, greyhound racing, railway excursions and the inevitable traffic jams. On the Avenham and Miller Parks, it seemed that the national 'Keep Britain Tidy' campaign was paying dividends. The Parks Department staff commented that although up to 40,000 had been out egg rolling the litter was only half as much as previously.

    Throughout the decade Preston was still clinging to the old Whitsuntide traditions. The Market Square and Covered Market both hosting the annual fair with candyfloss, parched peas, coconut shies, stalls bedecked with toys, and swings and roundabouts aplenty. It seems that life was just like a merry-go-round with all the fun of the fair, and a chance to win a goldfish.

    Woolworths always attracted the Christmas shoppers. (Preston in the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

    As for winter a look back to 1963 is sure to leave you feeling the chill. Frozen pipes, icy roads and frost bitten fields. Christmas 1962 had arrived with freezing fog, a sprinkling of snow and temperatures below freezing in Preston. In the months ahead it was burst water mains, blizzards, frozen ponds and even a frozen Lancaster Canal.

    As the decade moved towards the close it seemed apt to pay a visit to Preston on moon landing day. The tradition Wakes Week fortnight had left the town deserted and it seemed as though everyone had gone to the moon. One Preston man was celebrating after his wager on man landing on the moon before the decade was out paying off. Back on planet Earth there had been a walkout by workers on Preston Dock, and Courtaulds had just ended an overtime ban. Yet industry was thriving with booming exports announced by the British Aircraft Corporation and at Leyland Motors things were going well with £1m worth of orders secured.

    In the years that followed, the decade was described as the Sensational, the Savage, the Swinging, the Saucy and even the Sexy Sixties, and it left the townsfolk with memories that would linger for a life time. On reflection the decade seems to have started with a grey/black/white appearance and ended in glorious technicolour much like our television sets. Certainly, the views had become more panoramic and the building boom that followed the post war baby boom meant the town of Preston was becoming a city in waiting.

    Keith Johnson's book Preston in the 1960s is available for purchase now.

  • William Speirs Bruce: Forgotten Polar Hero by Isobel P. Williams and John Dudeney

    William Speirs Bruce pictured in The Siege of the South Pole by Alston Rivers (1905). (William Speirs Bruce: Forgotten Polar Hero, Amberley Publishing)

    This biography published in March 2018, comes at an excellent time for a reappraisal of William Speirs Bruce’s life and contribution. The work covers his childhood, his early medical training, his decision to abandon medicine for the more precarious life of a naturalist, his training in this field and his struggles to get financial support in his chosen career. It deals with significant myths that have become associated with him.

    When Bruce finally achieved Scottish support for his expedition, The Scotia Expedition, he sailed from Scotland under the Scottish banner and with a Scottish crew. On this 1902 expedition to the Antarctic, he discovered new land bordering the Weddell Sea - which entirely altered our understanding of the geography of the area - and he made an unrivalled number of meteorological and oceanographic records. He built a meteorological station in the South Orkneys that is still operated today by Argentina

    He contributed significantly to knowledge about the Arctic Regions. He charted and explored many Arctic islands and was a pioneer in attempting to achieve a commercial mineral extraction business in Spitsbergen.

    A. Rankin, R. T. Omond and R. C. Mossman. Colleagues of Bruce at the Ben Nevis Observatory. (p. 40 of the Weathermen of Ben Nevis, Roy M. (2004), William Speirs Bruce: Forgotten Polar Hero, Amberley Publishing)

    His training in the natural sciences in Edinburgh taught him the value of scientific international cooperation and he was a leader in linking up with scientists in Europe and South America to make a model for international collaboration and advancement of knowledge.

    Some myths concerning Bruce persist. Neither he nor any members of the Scotia expedition were honoured by the award of the Polar Medal; this was in contrast to his fellow explorers Scott and Shackleton. Bruce believed, for the rest of his life, that this omission was due to the malign influence of Sir Clements Markham (the then President of the RGS). This is almost certainly not true. The Scotia expedition simply was not eligible for the award because the medal was reserved for expeditions that had Government sponsorship and financial support. Bruce’s expedition was entirely privately funded from Scottish sources.

    There is a persistent belief that he handed his observatory on Laurie Island to the Argentine, because the British Government refused to assist him.  This is a myth, his reasons for the handover were scientific, and he never approached the Government for funds for the observatory.

    A modern photograph of the South Georgia coast, the object of so much of Bruce's single-minded focus. (Courtesy of Liam Quinn under Creative Commons 2.0, William Speirs Bruce: Forgotten Polar Hero, Amberley Publishing)

    In handing the Laurie Island scientific station to Argentina in 1904, Bruce inadvertently made a very significant contribution to the vexed geopolitical issues which surrounded the Antarctic from the turn of the last century until the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1957. The handover marked the start of a major and persistent territorial dispute between Britain and Argentina, one that became coupled with continuing disagreements over sovereignty of the Falklands.

    Bruce always believed that Markham blighted his career more generally. In relation to funds, he always considered that the British Government favoured “English” enterprises and that his applications, coming from the North, put him at a disadvantage. In fact the problem seems to have been that he couldn’t rise above his narrow Scottish nationalism and take a more “British” view for his various projects. If he had been able to do this, it is likely that he would have gained more Government support.

    The map showing the original plan and route of the Scotia expedition in relation to other international plans (British and German). It would have involved two winters and a station at high Southern latitude (here shown rather fancifully at around 82 S). Bruce was forced to scale back through insufficient funds. (GDL, William Speirs Bruce: Forgotten Polar Hero, Amberley Publishing)

    As can be seen Bruce could be difficult; marital problems, financial problems and overwork contributed to this, but he may have had, in addition, an autistic tendency. This is suggested firstly by his friend Rudmose Brown’s comment that no man and certainly no woman ever got close to him - and further by his persistent difficulties in social communication, social interaction and social imagination. He had a highly focused range of interests, an obsessive focus on his work, a low tolerance for mistakes, excellent visual skills, and a dogged persistence in following a single project. He collected every scrap of communication, and even scraps of paper, obsessively. He was never a “clubbable” man. Importantly he had no personal connection with the London establishment, in contrast to Scott and Shackleton, who used their informal contacts into the corridors of power to great effect.

    But in spite of this tendency, or perhaps because of it, his contribution to science, particularly oceanography, was probably greater and more lasting than any of his contemporaries, and overall, his contribution to polar endeavours in the Heroic Era is certainly at least equal to the much better known names: Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen.

    It is time that this forgotten hero takes his place in the public mind alongside these men.

    Isobel Williams and John Dudeney's new book William Speirs Bruce: Forgotten Polar Hero is available for purchase now.

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