Radcliffe Tower and Close Park

My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and features a look round Radcliffe Tower and Close Park at Radcliffe, a town just over six miles from home. Being a frequent visitor to the large camping store in Radcliffe I’ve been to the town many times over the years but I didn’t know anything about Radcliffe Tower until just three days ago when I was reading through someone else’s blog. It seemed that the tower and park are in an area of the town which I’ve only ever passed through a couple of times on my way to somewhere else, which was probably why I didn’t know about it, so as there was plenty of sunshine and blue sky on Saturday afternoon I decided to take the dogs and check things out.
A 20-minute drive took me to the car park at the entrance to Close Park, and though I was itching to look round the park straight away I decided to find the tower first. Just off the main road and adjacent to the car park was Church Green, a three-sided cobbled lane with three modern terraced houses on one side, a small public garden in the middle and St. Mary’s church at the bottom end. Built in the 14th century with the tower being added in the 15th century the church is Grade l listed, with the churchyard containing the war graves of six soldiers from WW1 and three from WW2. Unfortunately the central garden and the front of the church itself were very much in the shade but I got a couple of photos then moved on to find the tower.
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The Parish Church of St. Mary
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A path from the car park took me over a wide water-filled channel – originally a closed-off part of the nearby River Irwell – and past the back of the church to another path behind the far side of the graveyard ; the ruined tower and its surrounding land were completely enclosed by a high galvanised steel perimeter fence but at least there was a gate which allowed access during daylight hours.
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The back of the church seen through the trees
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Radcliffe Tower west wall and original entrance
Built as a typical fortified pele tower the earliest record of it dates back to 1358 ; it would have been three stories high with storage on the ground floor and living accommodation above. In 1403 the tower’s owner, James de Radcliffe, was given permission by King Henry IV to fortify his house and a new Great Hall was built to adjoin the tower, forming Radcliffe Manor, with the original ground floor storage area being converted into a kitchen with a fireplace on each of three walls. In 1517 the Manor passed to a distant branch of the Radcliffe family and in 1561 it was sold to the Assheton family who lived near Rochdale. They leased the hall and its land to tenant farmers, with subsequent members of the family continuing to do the same until 1765 when it was sold to the Earl of Wilton from Heaton Hall near Prestwich, though he continued to let it out to tenants.
By the early 1800s much of the Manor’s former grandeur had gone, with residents living only in the small west wing. The Great Hall was converted into a barn and the tower itself was used as a farm building, with the huge ground floor fireplaces in the south and east walls being knocked through to give access for farm carts and/or animals. By 1840 the Great Hall and the west wing were in such a state of disrepair that they were demolished and some of the stone from their foundations was used to build cottages nearby. The tower itself was spared and continued to be used as a farm building, with a new farmhouse being built to the north of where the Great Hall had been standing.
In 1925 the tower was scheduled as a monument and though it stayed in the ownership of the Wilton family until the 1950s the land round it wasn’t protected and in the 1940s gravel quarrying began to the south of the tower. By the 1960s the nearby farmhouse and cottages had been demolished, then starting in the 1970s the quarry was turned into a landfill site with large trucks rumbling right past the tower which, protected only by a fence round it, was in a very delapidated state by then. The future of the tower began to change in 1988 though when Bury Council took over ownership and conservation and stabilisation took place, which included blocking up two windows and the original fireplace arches. The scheduling of the monument was extended to include the land where the Great Hall had stood and by 2007 the landfill site had gone, with Bury Council acquiring the rest of the land surrounding the tower.
Starting in 2012 a series of archaeological investigations took place on the tower and Great Hall site and also on the site of the later farm and cottages which had been built nearby – finds from the Great Hall site included 15th century Cistercian drinking pots and storage jars and also showed that the floor would have been made from glazed tiles. Today the Medieval fabric of the tower has been professionally conserved and restored and the area round it has been landscaped, with a ‘pathway’ next to the tower marking out the footprint of the original Great Hall.
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The north wall with a fireplace arch still visible
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A window in the east wall
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The south wall with another fireplace arch
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West wall window showing the underside of a spiral stone staircase
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West wall showing the diagonal roof line where the Great Hall was joined to the tower
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Part of the footprint of the Great Hall marked out by a continuous pathway on the ground
At various points around the grounds covered information boards told the history of the tower site and once I’d read and photographed them all I made my way through the gate and back along the path to the park.  Close Park was originally the grounds to Close House, the home of the Bealey family who established a nearby bleaching business in the 18th century ; in 1925 the family presented the house to what was then Radcliffe Urban District Council for use as a Child Welfare Centre, with the grounds being converted into a public park for the town’s inhabitants. The house was also used as a clinic, a museum and an ambulance centre before being demolished in 1969, and the nearby bleachworks was finally demolished in the 1980s when a modern housing estate was built on the site. Current facilities and attractions at the park include 7 football pitches, 3 tennis courts, a bowling green, outdoor gym, children’s playground, a sensory garden and various sculptures which are part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail.
Starting from the car park the first thing I saw was a huge stainless steel dinosaur, one of three sculptures created by artist Mark Jalland in consultation with children from local primary schools. From there I followed the path down to the sensory garden and what I first thought was a water feature was actually a stainless steel and copper sculpture based on a cup cake, although after seeing it on an internet picture it seemed to have lost its chocolate topping. The third sculpture, not far from the bowling green, was a cheetah wearing trainers – presumably meant to signify running fast but strangely the trainers were only on diagonal feet. Who knows what goes on in the minds of these artists?!
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‘James and his ball of fire’ inspired by papercraft models and inflatable animals
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‘Chococupcakeboy’ based on a chocolate cup cake
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‘Tara in her trainers’
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Having found the three sculptures I wandered at random round the rest of the park ; the playing fields stretched for quite a distance but there didn’t seem to be much in that direction so I stuck to the main body of the park, and with the sunlight really showing off the autumn colours of the trees I got several lovely shots before ending my wander back at the car park.
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Downloading my photos onto the pc later on it struck me what a brilliant resource the internet is, even though it’s something that most of us now take for granted. I’d only found out about Radcliffe Tower and Close Park through reading a blog which I’d found from a link on another blog I’d discovered while doing a general search for something else – if it hadn’t been for that I could have lived the rest of my life in total ignorance of the place but now I know about the park I’ll certainly pay another visit in the not-too-distant future.

Inside Turton Tower

After visiting the gardens of Turton Tower while on a dog walk back in March, but being unable to go into the building itself, I decided last Saturday to take a couple of hours out and explore the place properly. Unfortunately the blue sky and sunshine of the morning had disappeared by the time I set out just after lunch but once I’d parked up I still took a walk through the grounds before going to look round inside. I must have looked rather suspicious while taking photos outside the main gates as one of the volunteer gardeners came to see what I was doing but she seemed quite happy when she saw my camera and even told me that the gates, with their ironwork decorations and coats of arms, had recently been repainted by another of the volunteers.
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The castellated railway bridge commissioned by James Kay in 1847
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The second footbridge, now overgrown and with no access across
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The summer house
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The main gates, not in use
The oldest part of the building is the tower itself, built in the early 15th century, but entrance to the house is now actually round the side, and once I’d paid the £6 fee I was given a picture guide to the different rooms then I was free to wander at will. In the first room, which was actually the original entrance hall, one of the volunteer guides gave me a lot of information about the place, information which even my previous research hadn’t told me. She was a very interesting lady to talk to and I could have stayed chatting for hours but I had a house to explore.
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The original entrance door
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This side of the table had no carved decoration
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The unicorn tapestry
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The right hand wall of this room was part of a cruck-frame extension which wasn’t connected to the main building. The whole lot was eventually joined together by the roof but a narrow gap still exists between the two separate walls.
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The very top floor of the original tower is known as the Chetham Room and was converted in the 19th century by the Kay family into a bedroom and billiard room. These are long gone, with the space becoming one big room with the walls stripped back so the original stone architecture can be seen. On a half-landing just outside this room is the top of the original stone spiral staircase which would, at one time, have run down the outside of the tower – this was restored by the Kay family and can be seen through a clear panel set into the floor, but because of the reflection from a light above, my attempt to photograph it wasn’t very successful.
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The Chetham Room
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A collection of horse brasses at the top of the stairs
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Looking down the stairwell
With the last photo taken inside I went out for a brief wander round the gardens. The afternoon had turned out to be very dull and it looked like it might rain so it wasn’t long before I was back in the van and on my way towards home. I realise this post is very photo-heavy but Turton Tower is a fascinating place with a lot of history and so much to take photos of, in fact I could easily have taken many more than I actually did and I’ve had to be ruthless in deciding which to include and which to leave out.
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A brief history of the place can be found here in my post from March, and a much more detailed account with some interesting reading can be found on this blog written by A & R Bowden. It was a shame that the weather turned out to be so grey after the sunshine of earlier but at least that gives me an excuse to visit Turton Tower another time in the not-too-distant future when hopefully there’ll be plenty of blue sky.

 

An autumn walk in Central Park

And no, I don’t mean the one in New York!
Last week I was on a 3-day pet sitting stint looking after a dog in Farnworth, an area south of the town. Many years ago Farnworth was a small town in its own right, with its own town centre, railway station, town hall and library, but over the years it has gradually become swallowed up in the ever-increasing urban sprawl and is now just another area of Bolton, although it still has its town centre and railway station. The dog I was looking after lives just around the corner from Farnworth’s Central Park so there was no problem finding somewhere to walk her, and as it’s a park I wouldn’t normally have a reason to go to I decided to take the camera with me last Thursday morning.
Back in 1860 Thomas Barnes, a local MP, announced his intention to provide a portion of his large estate as a park for the people of Farnworth, in memory of his father and to mark his son’s coming of age. He appointed a landscape gardener from Birkenhead, William Henderson, to design and lay out the grounds but Henderson didn’t complete his engagement and another gardener, Robert Galloway, was appointed to finish the park. In 1864 the Local Board, which had been established the previous year, agreed to oversee the care of the park and Galloway was appointed as Park Superintendent; the park was officially opened on October 12th that year by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer William E Gladstone who became Prime Minister for the first time four years later.
In 1888 the Local Board purchased various cottages and land bordering the park and in 1895 the Barnes Memorial was erected – the cottages were eventually demolished and in 1907 the area was incorporated into the park itself. A Cenotaph was erected in 1924 and after WW2 a Garden of Remembrance was created. In more modern times, when Farnworth eventually lost its identity as a town in its own right, the park came into the ownership of Bolton Council and has stayed as a public place to be enjoyed by all.
My walk on Thursday morning started at 9.30am from one of the two entrances down a narrow side street on the south side of the park, and that’s where I saw the first local sign of frost, in a dip in the ground which was still in shade. From there I followed the path diagonally west to the Barnes Memorial at the head of the main path – unfortunately I could only get a shot of one side of it as the sun was in the wrong direction for the other sides but there’s a quotation from Thomas Barnes which reads “In commemoration of my son’s coming of age and in memory of his grandfather I present and dedicate this park to the people of Farnworth for their benefit for ever” and another side reads “Opened by The Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone M.P. Oct. 12th 1864”. From the memorial I wandered down the path, through the trees and down to the main park entrance on the east side before taking the dog back home. With no-one around other than another couple of dog walkers the place was really peaceful and it was hard to believe that it’s actually surrounded by three busy main roads.
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The Barnes memorial
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That afternoon I had to take the dog for another walk and as the day was still glorious and very warm for the time of year I decided to revisit the park to take some more photos. Starting from the same entrance I took a slightly different route to earlier and ended up near the bowling green where there was a corner with some lovely trees, then from there I wandered back towards the main entrance at the other end of the park and finished my walk near the Garden of Remembrance before taking the dog round the corner and back home.
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The same view as the morning shot but without all the shadows
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The Garden of Remembrance
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The Cenotaph
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It had been a perfect day and a perfect location to get some autumn photos and after the walk that morning I just had to return later on to get some more shots. A bit of colour in the flower beds near the Cenotaph would have been the icing on the cake but now I know what a nice place the park is I can always return in spring or summer next year when hopefully the beds will be blooming.
**Due to a very busy time in her life my blogging friend Jo isn’t currently hosting any Monday Walks so I have nothing to link to, but as I have a few walks in hand, and will no doubt have some more to come, I’ve decided to continue the Monday theme on my own when I can, with last Monday’s blog post counting as the first walk  – I hope you all enjoy reading about the places where I’ve walked.
***Edited to say that Jo has now included a link to this post in her latest (as of mid November) blog page which is more of a ‘Monday catch-up’ rather than a walk, but as always she’s included some great photos so I’m adding a link back to her page here.

How hard can it be….

To get a meal at a pub/restaurant on a Sunday?
Last weekend Michael and I went out for tea as we often do on Sundays – I picked him up from work just after 5pm and we went to a pub/restaurant and carvery twenty minutes drive from home, a place we’d never been to before but which was recommended by someone who works where I clean in the evenings. When we got there we found that the large car park was very full and I remarked to Michael that it seemed to be a very popular place – and we found out exactly how  popular it was when we got in there. The place was absolutely heaving and we were told it would be a 45 minute wait for a table – we were okay with that, we could sit and have a drink while we were waiting but as we went to the bar we realised that there was nowhere to  sit once we’d got one. Every single table was set or reserved for dining and those who were just drinking were all standing – and the queue for the carvery was so long it would probably have taken another 45 minutes to get our meals once we’d got a table, so we decided to give up and go somewhere else.
One place we’d been to several times was a twenty minute drive back in the vague direction of home so as it had been a while since our last visit we decided to go there – and I should have known something was wrong when we got there and found only four cars in the car park. The place was very quiet although there were some people dining, so we found a table (we had lots to choose from) and decided what we would have – a mixed grill for Michael and for me, something I wouldn’t normally eat, an all-day breakfast. So Michael went to order but was back a minute later to say that the guy behind the bar had told him the grill had been turned off so we needed to choose an alternative – okay, we could live with that (just) so Michael opted for the half roast chicken, I decided on the fish, chips and mushy peas, and Michael went back to order. Ten minutes later, while we were sitting having our drinks, the guy from behind the bar came and told us that the kitchen was now closed for a major clean and we couldn’t have a cooked meal at all but they may  be able to do us some sandwiches so would we like to look at the menu? At which point I told him not to insult my intelligence as we’d already looked at the menu (twice!) so as we couldn’t have what we’d ordered we were leaving – and even then it took another ten minutes to sort out a refund for the meals we couldn’t have.
By that time I was so hungry I could have eaten the hind legs off a donkey so I suggested going to the one place where we could be sure of getting a good meal – our regular haunt, the Black Dog at Belmont – but as we were on the way there we passed a place Michael had been to in previous times so we ended up there instead. We had no trouble getting a table or ordering the meals we’d chosen, and the service was excellent, but in comparison to the Black Dog the portion sizes were smaller and the prices were much dearer – it was good but no better than the Black Dog, and at nearly £40 for two main meals and two drinks I don’t think we’ll be going there again.
The one place we definitely won’t  be going to again – at least not for a long long time – is the one where we couldn’t get a meal at all. Discussing the situation later we both said that just after 6pm on a Sunday was a strange time to close the kitchen for a major clean so I wondered if maybe they were getting ready for a hygiene inspection. It used to be a really good place to eat – dog friendly too – and was well known locally for its excellent fish-and-chip meals, but the online reviews over the last few months aren’t good. Many of them say the food is awful and the place in general is dirty and falling apart – it seems that it changed hands about twelve months ago and the new owners (some pub chain I’ve never heard of) don’t seem to be investing in the place or their staff – a shame really as it was a nice place once. So with not being able to sit down anywhere at the first place and not getting a meal at the second, followed by a more expensive meal at the third, I’d be quite happy to stick to the Black Dog every time from now on.

A local walk in the autumn sunshine

In the calm before Storm Callum hit the UK Wednesday October 10th locally was exceptionally warm and sunny with a cloudless blue sky so I took advantage of it at lunch time and took the dogs out for a good walk. Back in late June, while on a walk close to Firwood Fold, I’d discovered a huge area of open land which I hadn’t known was there although I didn’t explore much of it at the time, but now with the glorious weather and the trees changing into their autumn colours I decided it was time for a revisit.
Firwood Fold itself was very much the same as the last time I was there so I didn’t bother taking any photos until I got to the hidden lake round the back. With the blue sky and the colour of the trees reflected in the water it looked lovely and it was well worth taking a few shots as I walked round it.
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Crossing the bridge over the nearby Bradshaw Brook took me onto the end of the open land I’d discovered back in June and once I’d gone up the first short slope it levelled out for quite a distance. On my right were several tree lines with the land going steeply uphill between some of them, and as I walked along I got the same impression as I had back in June, that this place looked more like a golf course than ordinary open land, but although some of the grass was well mown there were no greens, holes, flags or markers and certainly no golfers. I did notice that near the bottom of one of the hills a corner had been marked off into a couple of football pitches, which I thought was rather odd as the land is a bit out of the way, but other than that there were no signs anywhere to say what the place actually was. It was a very pleasant place though, and although most of the trees were still green there was enough autumn colour in the others to give me some good photos.
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As I walked along I felt something tickling the back of my hand and when I looked I found it was a ladybird – it flew away before I could snatch a photo of it, which would have been rather difficult anyway, but when I looked up again I saw there were several flying around just at that spot. After I’d spent an hour wandering up and down various hills and through different tree lines I made my way back across Bradshaw Brook then took the path through the woods to the fishing lakes. Somehow the lakes didn’t look quite as attractive as they had back in June but I did manage to get one decent general photo, and the swan family I’d seen back then came gliding up to see what I was doing. Although the young ones had lost their baby fluff they still had their grey colouring but they had definitely grown in the last three-and-a-half months.
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Those were my last photos of the day – the weather was still extremely warm for the time of year and the three of us had had a good walk so it was time to head back home for a much needed cold drink. It was only later on, while doing a bit of research, I found out that the open land I’d walked round had indeed been a golf course, one which had closed down in 2014. Planning applications to build houses on part of it have previously been turned down but permission has recently been given for a very small development where the clubhouse and car park used to be, near to other residential properties, with the rest of the land remaining as green belt. I don’t know who actually owns the land but it would be nice to think that it could possibly be designated as a country park as it really is lovely, and a great place to walk Sophie and Poppie without going too far from home.

Smithills Hall – some local history and a few memories

Surrounded by 120 acres of gardens and open land with a steep wooded valley and small lake to the north, Smithills Hall is a Grade l listed manor house situated on the lower slopes of the West Pennine Moors and three miles north west of Bolton town centre. One of the oldest manor houses in north west England, the first written records began when William Radcliffe obtained the manor from the Hulton family in 1335. On William’s death in 1369 the hall passed to his son Sir Ralph Radcliffe who was an MP and High Sheriff of Lancashire, with the Radcliffes living there until 1485. When the male line failed the hall passed to the Bartons, a family of wealthy sheep farmers, and in 1520 the private chapel was rebuilt by Andrew Barton, with successive generations of the Barton family living at the manor for nearly 200 years.
In 1554 George Marsh, a Protestant preacher from another area of the town, was accused of heresy and questioned at Smithills Hall by Justice Robert Barton, and it’s said that after questioning he stamped his foot so hard to reaffirm his Protestant faith that his footprint was left in the stone floor outside the withdrawing room. He was then sent to Chester where he was tried and found guilty, finally being executed on April 24th 1555 – and the ‘footprint’, which is now protected by a reinforced glass panel, is said to bleed every year on the anniversary of his death.
In 1659 Smithills Hall and estate passed by marriage to the Belasyse family but as they owned several other properties around England they didn’t really need to keep the hall so it entered a period of neglect. In 1722 the Byrom family of Manchester bought the manor and kept it until 1801 when it was sold to the Ainsworths, a family of successful Bolton bleachers, and under three generations of that family the hall was extensively rebuilt and modernised. In 1870 Richard Henry Ainsworth, Colonel Ainsworth’s great nephew, inherited the hall and in 1875 he employed the prominent Victorian architect George Devey to design the most significant improvements to the building.
Changes in the British economy after WW1 increased the upkeep costs and reduced the amount of income the Ainsworth family could raise from the Smithills estate, with the financial burden of maintaining a large house and grounds finally becoming too great, so in 1938 the hall was sold to Bolton Corporation for over £70,000. The Victorian parts of the hall became a council residential home and many years of conservation work on the older parts allowed it to open as a museum in 1963. The residential home closed in the early 1990s but that part of the hall was used as a day centre before closing for good several years later, with the museum eventually being extended into some of the rooms.
The west wing is the most recent part of the building to be renovated and restored to its former Victorian glory and the entrance hall is now a reception area and small shop, with a bright modern exhibition room leading off it. Also on the ground floor is Poppins Tea Room, a Mary Poppins-themed Edwardian tea room with a menu which includes Mr Banks’s Afternoon Tea, Bert’s Cream Tea and a selection of sandwiches, light lunches and desserts. The hall is also licensed for civil weddings and these can be held in the Medieval Great Hall, the Tudor Withdrawing Room or the newly refurbished Devey Room.
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The Medieval Great Hall
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The Withdrawing Room
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These Heraldic Panels were originally commissioned in 1843 as decoration for the withdrawing room and to honour the families that lived at Smithills Hall – they were professionally restored to their former magnificent glory in 2006 and to keep them in good condition visitors are requested not to touch them.
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The Bower room
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The Solar room
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The carved oak tester bed
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From old to ultra-modern – the bright new exhibition rooms
The grammar school I went to back in the late 1960s was just down the road from Smithills Hall, in fact the school playing fields were, and still are, adjacent to the Hall’s lower gardens. Every three months we would have assembly services in the chapel and each year just before Christmas the school choir, of which I was a member, would go up to the Hall and sing carols to the residents of the retirement home part. I remember doing art and history projects there too, and one particular art project in my final year was conducted by a young modern teacher with some quite wacky ideas.
Using the green of the Smithills Hall lawns as a contrasting colour we all had to put on full length ‘costumes’, half of us in black and the other half in white,  which were basically cotton bags which covered us from head to foot, including our arms, and which just had small holes for our eyes. We then had to stand in small groups at strategic points and move, either individually or as a group, in whichever direction she told us while she filmed us – the black and white costumes were supposed to correspond with the black and white of the building but I never did understand the point of it all. Imagine trying to walk somewhere while encased head to foot in a cloth bag and only able to see through a couple of small holes – a lot of falling over and bumping into each other occurred but it was all good fun and at least it got us out of doing a proper lesson.
I remember one rather amusing incident regarding Smithills Hall which occurred when I was 14. Tim, a family friend who was an old army buddy of my dad’s, had come up from Worcester to stay with us for a while and as he liked historical buildings I took him to Smithills Hall one day. As we walked round we heard what we thought was the sound of a radio coming from the vicinity of the chapel but when we got there we discovered that it was the vicar vacuuming the carpet in the central aisle and singing away as he worked! Of course we apologised for disturbing him but he said he didn’t mind and he left us to wander round. That incident was mentioned a few times in conversation over the following years – sadly Tim passed away in 2006 but I’ve never forgotten the day we caught the vicar singing as he vacuumed the chapel carpet.
My visit to Smithills Hall earlier this year – my first for many years –  was actually part of a dog walk I did in glorious weather during the second bank holiday back in May, but as dogs aren’t allowed in the building I had to leave Sophie and Poppie just outside the entrance, meaning that my visit was very much a whistle-stop tour, but I still managed to get a fair amount of photos. The place is definitely worth a revisit but next time I’ll go without the dogs so I can spend much more time in there.

Half Light – a film synopsis and review

Released in 2006 Half Light is a mystery/horror/supernatural/thriller starring Demi Moore who plays Rachel Carlson, a highly successful American author living in a canalside home in London with her 5-year old son Thomas and her second husband Brian. Brian is a book editor who unfortunately hasn’t been able to get any of his own works published so Rachel’s continued success and the money which comes with it niggles him greatly, especially when he gets yet another rejection letter from a publisher. Rachel is working on her latest novel and has a deadline to keep so as she is too busy to play with Thomas he goes to play outside by himself but accidentally falls into the canal and drowns, with his death badly affecting Rachel’s marriage and her ability to finish the novel.
Eight months later Rachel still blames herself for her child’s death, and still being unable to finish writing the book she is also just one signature away from being officially divorced from Brian. Her best friend Sharon, who is a writer for a British tabloid newspaper, suggests that she move to somewhere where she can get some emotional peace and arranges for her to rent a remote cottage on the Scottish coast. However, not long after going to live there Rachel starts to see the ghost of her dead son and the village psychic informs her that his spirit is trying to tell her something, although the other locals warn Rachel not to believe anything the psychic says as she is just a troubled woman.
Rachel then meets Angus, a handsome young lighthouse keeper who lives on an island across the bay and to whom she tells her troubles. Their friendship soon turns to romance and when one of the local women invites Rachel to a birthday party at the pub by the beach she asks Angus to go with her. He promises that he’ll meet her there at 2 o’clock but when it gets well past that time and he hasn’t turned up she goes into the pub to look for him, asking the locals if anyone has seen him. It’s then she learns that seven years previously Angus murdered his wife and her lover in the lighthouse then committed suicide by jumping from the top of it onto the rocks below.
None of the locals believe her when she says that she has been spending time with Angus on the island and they insist that he is dead and buried, which is later confirmed when she goes to the local church and finds the graves of both Angus and his wife. The locals also tell her that as the lighthouse is fully automated no-one has lived on the island since the tragedy. So who is the Angus she has seen on the island? Fearing that she may be going insane Rachel tries to learn more about the double murder and Angus’s suicide but the locals don’t want to talk about it and her efforts are scuppered when she finds that any news articles about the tragedy have gone missing from the local library archives.
In a panic Rachel then phones her friend Sharon who flies up to Scotland to be with her and calm her down, but Rachel is even more spooked when she goes to the island and sees her friend killed by Angus in the lighthouse – when she takes one of the local men back there with her to show him the body she finds that it’s disappeared and there’s no sign of anything untoward ever having happened or that the lighthouse is inhabited. It eventually comes to light to the viewer that Rachel’s soon-to-be-ex husband and Sharon have been having an affair and they have paid a young man, Patrick, to pose as Angus in order to cause an already emotionally disturbed Rachel to act crazy enough in public so that when they make her murder look like suicide no-one will suspect foul play.
Convinced that her dead son is trying to warn her that her life is in danger Rachel decides to head back to London but before she can leave the cottage she is drugged by Brian and taken by him and Sharon across to the island where her legs are bound by padlocked chains. Having partially regained consciousness she realises that everything that has happened has been a set-up and her husband and friend are in it together, but before she can do anything she is pushed off the boat into the sea. Just on the point of drowning the key to the padlock suddenly falls into the water and she catches it, then managing to free herself from the chains she makes her way to the lighthouse in an effort to seek some revenge on her husband and friend.
After a brief fight in the kitchen Sharon hits her head and is killed, then Patrick, by now possessed with the spirit of Angus, kills Brian, with both deaths being almost exact copies of the way Angus’s wife and lover died seven years previously. Rachel, by now terrified of Patrick and in fear for her life, runs up the stairs to the lighthouse balcony where he catches up with her, but in reality he means her no harm. In a brief tender moment he gives her back an oyster shell which, in a romantic pact between them, they had previously buried together on the beach, then he jumps to his death from the lighthouse onto the rocks below just as Angus had done.
With three people dead and no reason to stay on in Scotland Rachel finally leaves the village, with the locals promising that no-one will ever go to the lighthouse again and the cottage she rented will be kept empty so that Angus’s spirit can finally rest, and after a few final wise words from the psychic she returns to her home in London having decided that she will celebrate her child’s life rather than mourn his death.
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This isn’t the type of film I would normally watch or enjoy but much of it was filmed on Anglesey, in locations which I went to myself only a couple of weeks ago while on holiday, so I got the dvd just to see how those places looked in the film. Porth Dinllaen on the mainland was renamed Ingonish Cove and the Ty Coch Inn, used in several scenes, was renamed the An Taigh Ruadh Inn in Gaelic, though both names mean Red House. The cottage used as Rachel’s temporary Scottish home is actually in North Cornwall and can, in reality, be rented out – it’s rumoured that the actress Kate Winslet once stayed there.
The Anglesey locations were instantly recognisable to me and because of that I found it hard to believe that the film was set in Scotland, although anyone not being familiar with the locations wouldn’t know any different. There were also two glaring differences, again noticeable to me with being familiar with the locations – much of the action features Llanddwyn Island and the larger of its two lighthouses but the lighthouse in the film bears no resemblance to the actual one on the island. Although the base of the real lighthouse did play a part in the film the rest of the building was a computer generated image superimposed on shots of the real lighthouse and headland. Also in the film there’s a wooden jetty next to the sea wall near the lighthouse but in reality there is no jetty there at all, it was built specially for the film.
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Porth Dinllaen became Ingonish Cove
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Llanbadrig church is where Angus’s grave was situated
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Llanddwyn Island lighthouse, Angus’s home
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In the film a jetty runs alongside this sea wall
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Malltraeth beach, to the north of Llanddwyn Island, also features in some scenes
There was one thing at the beginning of the film though which I personally found a little odd. Rachel was using a portable typewriter to write her manuscript when I would have expected that in her London home in this technological age she would have had a computer and a printer, but the typewriter did become significant in one of the later cottage scenes. I also found the scene where she managed to free herself after being chained and pushed into the sea completely implausible and unbelievable, but then this is a film which seems to stretch the realms of impossibility.
Minor criticisms aside, the film actually turned out to be not as scary and horrific as I expected, it was more of a murder mystery/thriller with a supernatural twist, with several happenings based around the ghost of Rachel’s son, and at one point I really thought that it was the villagers who were playing tricks on her for some reason.  Although I’d only started watching it just for the location scenery I found myself getting more immersed in the actual plot, which I found to be similar in many ways to the 1973 Donald Sutherland/Julie Christie film Don’t Look Now which was based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. Even though Half Light isn’t really my type of film I must admit I did quite enjoy it, and I wouldn’t be averse to watching it again sometime in the future.