An attic tour and a bit of bell ringing

Following on from my look round Hall ‘i th’ Wood back in May I found out that special tours of the normally out-of-bounds attic were being held on Saturday as part of the Heritage Open Days over the weekend, and as the attic was significant in part of Samuel Crompton’s life it was something I was interested in checking out, so on a very rainy day I arrived at the Hall in plenty of time for the first tour at 12.15pm. The tour guide was a friendly and very knowledgeable young lady called Sophia and starting off in the Great Hall she took the small group through all the rooms on the way up to the attic, pointing out and talking about various items of interest on the way, but though I really wanted to photograph several things which I missed on my previous visit I found it quite difficult as there was often someone else in my way.
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The Great Hall – the small 17th century cabinet on the right contained several small drawers and was used to lock away very expensive spices to stop the servants from stealing them
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The Bromiley family, residents of the Hall from the 1820’s
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A 17th century weather house – operated by cow gut which was sensitive to moisture in the atmosphere and would tighten up when it was damp, making the little man pop out
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An ornate travelling trunk, used on long journeys by coach and horses
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In the Leverhulme Room – the flamingo was one of a pair living on the lake at Lord Leverhulme’s Rivington house
I must admit to being surprised when we got to the attic – I was expecting to see just one space but it was so extensive that there was a rabbit warren of several rooms, though it wasn’t possible to walk in all of them as the floors had been excavated and were very fragile. The one where Samuel Crompton hid his dismantled Spinning Mule had a walkway down the centre though, and ducking under a very low beam it was possible to walk to the far end to see the space where the Mule had been hidden, then back in the main upstairs part of the building we went through the three rooms where Crompton and his family had lived before gradually making our way back downstairs.
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Up in the attic – the black-and-white wall was once an outside wall, the roof is part of an extension
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A very odd doorway in an outside attic wall – and looking from the outside there’s no sign that there was ever a doorway there
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The walkway to where Crompton hid the Spinning Mule during the spinners and weavers riots
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The underfloor compartment where the Mule was hidden
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Wall diagram showing how the Spinning Mule worked
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Crompton’s original violin and bow
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Staircase down to the Norris Dining Room
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Bird cage suspended from the dining room ceiling – this would contain more than one tiny little songbird
The tour took just over an hour and ended where it began, back in the Great Hall, and though I would have loved to go round the place again at my own leisure to photograph the things I’d missed I wanted to get to the next place I was visiting in plenty of time for the last tour of the day, as numbers were limited to a maximum of twenty people and I didn’t want to miss out. So it was off into town to the Parish Church for a tour of the bell tower and a chance to try a bit of bell ringing.
As I very rarely go to the part of town where the Parish Church is situated I’d never been in there before and I have to say I was quite impressed. It was built between 1867 and 1871 in the Gothic Revival style and at 156ft long and 67ft wide with an interior height of 82ft it was a big place. There were many stained glass windows and a great view down the central nave to the High Altar, and the Chancel ceiling was ornately beautiful. With so many things to see and photograph I needed to spend a serious amount of time in there but I didn’t want to miss the start of the tour so I didn’t stray too far from the meeting point.
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The Lady Chapel – simple in contrast to the main church
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Looking down the central nave
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The ornate Chancel ceiling
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Looking back to the West Window – the group of people were hand bell ringers
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The font, a replica of an ancient Normandy font, erected in 1938
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The organ and case, built in 1882 reusing some of the pipes from the original 1795 organ, then rebuilt and restored in 2008
When everyone was assembled for the tour we set off up the bell tower and I have to say that the climb isn’t for the faint hearted. At 180ft high the tower is the highest church tower in the historic county of Lancashire and the roof is accessed by 190 steps of a steep and narrow spiral stone staircase. The first 54 steps up to the ringing room were relatively easy and once there we were given a short talk on the number of bells and their history then we were treated to a demonstration of change ringing by the bell ringers.
After that we were given the opportunity to have a go ourselves, and though most people didn’t bother I wasn’t missing out on the chance. Having been shown how to hold the rope and being guided by the leader I rang a single bell several times, and was told afterwards that I have good hand/eye co-ordination and rhythm – maybe that could become a new hobby! From the ringing room we went up another fifty or so steps to a walkway above the bells where we could see one working, then after telling us to cover our ears if we didn’t like loud noises the lady leading the tour shouted down to another bell ringer who pulled the rope – and she wasn’t wrong, this thing was seriously loud!
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The notice at the bottom of the tower
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In the ringing room
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Looking down on some of the bells
From there we climbed the rest of the steps up to the roof, and the higher we got the steeper and narrower the steps became – even for someone reasonably fit it was quite an effort and I was glad when I finally emerged into the fresh air. Fortunately the rain of earlier on had stopped and even with the cloudy grey sky the views all round the town were good. It was interesting trying to locate and recognise various buildings and I got several good shots, including one of the place where I work in the evenings – it was so close that with the wind behind me I could have jumped off the tower and landed in the works car park.
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Overlooking Churchgate and Deansgate with the town hall and clock on the left – the turquoise striped building is a multi-storey car park
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Smithills moors in the distance on the left, the curved red brick building on the left is part of the Holiday Inn
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In the foreground – dual carriageway (A666) to M61/M60
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In the distance – fields near Affetside village. The tiny orange patch centre left is a Warburtons wagon outside Michael’s works
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Bottom right – the main road heading towards Bury
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Looking south east
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Looking south – the A666 dual carriageway. The square grey building in the left foreground is a Travelodge
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My evening workplace – the three blue buildings and the small red brick building on the right plus the two immediately behind it. The Bolton to Blackburn railway line runs diagonally in front of it
When everyone had done enough photo taking it was time to make our way back down the tower, not an easy task given how narrow the steps were, however I negotiated all 190 of them without mishap and made it safely to the bottom, then after thanking the lady who had been our guide I made my way back to the van as I still had some shopping to do. All in all the two very different tours had made a very interesting afternoon, and even though the church tower climb wasn’t easy it’s definitely one I’ll do again next year if the opportunity arises and the weather is better.
Once again I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday walk where she continues the castle theme with a visit to Alnwick castle, where even in the rain the gardens still look beautiful and the walk ends with a delicious-looking cream scone with strawberries – time now to make a coffee and have a good read.

17 thoughts on “An attic tour and a bit of bell ringing

  1. Becky will love this! The Heritage Open Days are a great idea, aren’t they, and it’s good that they’re getting a bit more publicity. I was at Brancepath Castle yesterday afternoon and was absolutely amazed by the tour. Photos were restricted as it’s a private residence, so you’re lucky you had the freedom. I always quite fancied being a bell-ringer, and I liked looking down on your workplace. 🙂 🙂 Many thanks!

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    1. I always think there’s nothing worse than going somewhere really interesting and finding that you can’t take photos – understandable maybe if it’s a private residence but if it’s not and they just want to sell you their own photos it’s a bit annoying 😦

      There were several local places open over the weekend but many of the tours coincided and I couldn’t go on them all so I stuck to those two – maybe next time I’ll do a couple of different ones 🙂

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      1. This place is a bit of a special case as you’ll see when I eventually write about it Eunice, so I didn’t mind too much. The events continue till next weekend so I’ll see what we can fit in 😃

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  2. The attic tour looks so interesting, you’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to have a peek into Samuel Crompton’s life. The weather house is fascinating, I remember my aunt having something similar but more of a novelty which I loved as a child, not sure it worked with cow gut though. I’ll look up about the spinners and weavers riots as I know nothing of those.
    Lovely photos of the church and it’s stained glass windows. Your climb was rewarded with those fantastic views. It sounds like you’d be a natural bell-ringer, something to think about 🙂

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    1. The spinners’ and weavers’ riots happened not long after Samuel Crompton built his Mule as it was seen as a threat to the Blackburn workers’ livelihood although Crompton only ever intended it to be used by home workers.

      The church is lovely and deserves a lot more time to look round – I fancy the idea of bell ringing but not sure if I really want to devote the time to learn. Practise/learning sessions are on Friday evenings for two hours and I’m not sure I’d want to do that every Friday when I’ve just spent three hours at work 😦

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  3. Just reading about the the walk down the tower, I’m rating it a 3 Gulps and Sweaty Palms on my scale of scary places to maneuver whether by car or feet. I’d go up there if I had the chance. I’d also ring the bell. Bong, bong, bong!

    The inventor of the weather house certainly thought out of the box to use cow gut. I’m also amazed with the spinning mule. A break through on one hand, but sad for all the hand spinners and weavers.

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    1. Climbing the church tower was hard work but the views were rewarding once I got up there – a shame it was such a dull day though. The church itself is lovely and really deserves another visit. The Spinning Mule may have possibly put some people out of work but it really revolutionised the northern spinning and weaving trade so it can’t have been all bad.

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    1. It was a shame ours were only on the one weekend as I would have loved to go to a couple more places but just didn’t have the time. I hope you enjoy yours if you go to any 🙂

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  4. The church is lovely Jayne and the ceiling is beautiful – it certainly warrants another visit when I have more time, although checking the website it doesn’t seem to be open other than on certain special days. The tower climb was good, albeit quite strenuous, and the bell ringing was very interesting – I never knew there was as much to it as there actually is.

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  5. The whole house tour was really interesting, not just the attic. I’d been to Hall i’ th’ Wood back in May, just wandering round on my own taking photos for this blog, but it made a big difference last Saturday to be taken round by a very knowledgeable guide as there were so many things there with very interesting stories attached to them, the weather house being one of them.

    The Hall is open on two days each week but only the normal rooms – the attic tour was just a one-off as part of the Heritage Open Day. I’d already researched the history of the Hall and Samuel Crompton so it was interesting to see where he’d hidden his invention under the attic floor. I agree there should be more of this type of thing, there are several really old building around here which probably have really interesting attics 🙂

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