Sixteen-year-old Grace Granville is in her last few months at boarding school in Brighton. For years she has dreamed of becoming a successful dress designer owning her own fashion house and most of her spare time is spent sketching ladies outfits but her father, wealthy and very strict Lord Granville, dismisses her ambitions as frivolous nonsense and wants to groom her to become a good wife to someone of his choosing.
In the last holiday before she leaves school she travels north to Lancashire with her room mate and best friend Katy to stay with Katy’s family, parents who are far more relaxed and friendly than her own parents. While there she and Katy meet up with two young men, Jack and Eddie, to go to a dance – Jack is Katy’s cousin and five years older but while Katy’s family are quite well-off and live in a big house with servants Jack and his father live in a small two-up, two-down terraced and work down a coal pit. Before long Grace and Jack are in love and want to be together but the only way Grace can stop her father marrying her off to someone else is for her to lie to her parents that she’s pregnant. This results in her father banishing her from home without a penny to her name, though she’s welcomed into Katy’s family and soon settles in there.
Eventually Grace and Jack marry, with the wedding paid for by her surrogate ‘parents’, and she settles into the hard life of a coal miner’s wife, living in a small newly-built terraced house near the coal pit and next door to Nancy and John who become good friends. A few years later Grace and Nancy become young widows when both Jack and John are killed in an accident at the pit ; Grace by then has three children, the youngest a baby only two weeks old, and with no income other than the pin money she earns by making dresses for various neighbours she swallows her pride and contacts her parents for help. That help comes at a great price though – they will give her enough money to buy a small shop and flat in London’s East End so she can start her own business but she has to agree to her son, 9-year old George, going to live with her parents so her father can groom him to one day take over the running of the family estate. She doesn’t want to give George up but with threats that the authorities will be called and her daughter and baby will be taken away if she doesn’t agree Grace has no choice – George goes to live with her parents and she and Nancy pack up and go to London to start up a small fashion business.
It doesn’t take long before Grace’s designs become recognised and eventually, with some financial input from a businesswoman who becomes a firm friend, Grace expands the business, gets a large store in Oxford Street, sets up a factory abroad and employs several more staff. There are two things missing from her life though – her younger sister Elizabeth, who she hasn’t seen since before she was made to leave home, and her son George, and though she writes to each of them regularly her letters are always returned unopened, sent back by her parents without her sister or son ever knowing she has tried to contact them. Eventually though, Elizabeth makes contact with Grace and though their first few meetings are strained things do start to get better and Elizabeth says that when she next visits she will bring George, who is by now almost 16 and growing into a fine young man.
At first George thinks like Elizabeth, that Grace abandoned him when he was younger, but after she gives him the bundle of returned letters that she has written to him over the years he realises that wasn’t true and he begins to thaw towards Grace, eventually learning to call her ‘mum’. Unfortunately Grace’s joy at getting her son back is marred by the death of her father and the mental instability of her mother who goes to live with a cousin in Somerset, but then she finds out that Elizabeth is getting married so happily starts designing a wedding dress for the big day. With a successful business, a new man in her life – a French fashion designer who originally came to work for her – and her family and friends around her Grace finally puts the past behind her and begins to look forward to the future.
Published in 2017 House of Grace covers the years 1950 to Christmas Eve 1969 and is the first book in what will be a family trilogy. A real ‘riches-to-rags-to-riches’ story it reminded me very much of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman OfSubstance, and anyone who enjoyed Mr Selfridge and House Of Eliott will probably enjoy reading this. Filled with 1950s/60s nostalgia the era is quite faithfully depicted, from the strict draconian rules of the wealthy upper classes to the poverty and hardship of the coal pit workers and their families. I found it hard though to imagine that even as late as the 1950s young girls were being forced into loveless arranged marriages just to satisfy the whims of their wealthy parents but maybe that’s what wealthy people did, especially if they themselves had been brought up that way.
This is a well researched piece of writing with very believable characters and scenarios which draw the reader into the story ; once I started reading I couldn’t put the book down and read the whole thing in one night, staying up till almost 4am to finish it. The sequel, The Coal Miner’s Son, is to be published in March 2020 and tells the story from the point of view of Grace’s son George ; I enjoyed House of Grace so much that I’m really looking forward to reading its follow-up.
**Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways and it’s through the internet and this blog that I came to be reading House of Grace. Not long ago I got an email notification to approve a comment on my October 2017 post about Bolton’s Palais dance hall ; that comment came in the form of a link to the blog of an American author in which a guest post has been written by the British author of House of Grace. It seems that as a child she spent several years living in Bolton and many of the places she knew back then, including the Palais and other places which are familiar to me, feature in her writing ; the story sounded interesting so I sent for the book from an ebay seller. Although listed as ‘pre-owned’ it’s actually brand new, and in another twist of fate it’s also been signed by the author – it really couldn’t get any better than that.
Can sometimes go more than a little bit wrong for me, resulting in much frustration and a wish that I’d never got out of bed, which is just what happened yesterday.
Following on from last week’s visit to Hornby Castle for the snowdrop weekend I wanted to go to Lytham Hall this weekend to see the snowdrops there ; weather-wise Saturday wasn’t good and several checks on various weather forecasts and live webcams showed me that yesterday wouldn’t be too clever either so I had a change of plan and decided to go somewhere where I would be indoors.
My intended destination involved getting the train to Manchester so after checking and double-checking various times on the internet I got the bus from home in time to get the 10.45am train. The electronic information board near the station’s ticket office told me that the train was on time, as did the board down on the platform, however there was no sign of the train after a few minutes so I assumed it was running late. I’d been there for quite a while when one of the station staff told me that there were no trains at all going to Manchester but there was a replacement bus service from outside the station. Needless to say I was more than a little annoyed at the previous lack of information ; nothing on the internet, nothing on the information boards at the station, no announcements – zilch, nada, nothing.
Back outside the station I found where the replacement bus would go from only to be told that it would be another ten minutes before it arrived ; adding that to the time it would take to get to where I was going I didn’t want to waste any more of the morning, so I just got the bus back home to work out another change of plan. Lytham Hall was still out of the question so to salvage something from the day I decided go shopping for some items of camping equipment which I still need to get.
My first port of call was the Winfields store at Haslingden ; I wanted a blue camping chair in the same style as my previous one which I got from there a couple of years ago, also a few smaller accessories. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the smaller things I wanted but I did get lucky with the chair – the only blue one of that style in the shop, it was the right price and I even managed to negotiate a small discount because the carry bag had a small tear in it. Well if you don’t ask you don’t get, do you? – and the tear can easily be repaired with some fabric glue and a bit of strong tape.
With the chair stashed away in the van I decided to go across to the store’s café for coffee and cake, however that part of the store, a homeware, gifts and clothing section in a separate building to the main store, was undergoing a refurbishment and the café had been moved to a much smaller area downstairs. It was full, and there was hardly any cake left ; I didn’t want a full meal as I would be going out for tea later on so I decided to drive on to my next stop, Go Outdoors at Blackburn – and that was when I remembered why any previous visits to Blackburn have always been undertaken by train.
Driving along the motorway to the northern outskirts of the town was no problem but getting into the correct lane on the ring road, then finding the road I wanted once I got into the town centre was a nightmare. I knew where I wanted to go, could even see part of the right road at one point, but with various side streets blocked off and the stupid one-way system taking me where I didn’t want to go it took me ages to get to Go Outdoors. Finally pulling up in the car park I was definitely ready for a drink and a snack so I went in search of something, finding a small cafe a distance along the main road. But it was just my luck that they were ready for closing and had very little left, certainly no cake, so I got a take-away coffee and a large sausage roll – big mistake. The coffee was strong and just about drinkable – well by my standards anyway – but the sausage roll was diabolical.
Although I prefer to eat sausage rolls cold (I find warm ones too greasy) this one wasn’t just cold it was positively chilled – the outside edges of the pastry were hard, the meat wasn’t exactly soft either and after a few bites I gave up. Pulling off the rest of the pastry I found the meat was covered in a white film, a sure sign that the thing had been frozen but hadn’t thawed out properly. Needless to say it was consigned to the nearest bin, and as I’m sitting here writing this I’m happy to report that it didn’t give me galloping gut-rot.
Go Outdoors, when I finally got in there, wasn’t exactly a roaring success either. As far as camping stuff goes they hadn’t a lot of anything, certainly none of the items I was looking for, so all I bought was a slab of Kendal Mint Cake which I only ever seem to be able to find at camping stores. In all fairness to the store though, it is still early in the year and they won’t be fully stocked with camping stuff yet so I can always go back in a few weeks.
It was still only mid afternoon when I got back home so I made a coffee and had some of my own cake as it would be quite a while before my evening meal out with Michael, then I went out to put a small pot of flowers on Sophie’s patch of garden. They are supposed to be planted in well-drained soil but the newly turned earth is like a big pudding with all the rain so until it dries out enough to rake it over I’ve just left the pot as it is but surrounded by bricks to keep it in place.
Overall my day hadn’t exactly been a good one but at least I’d got the camping chair I wanted so that’s one item to tick off my list – and the next time I go to Go Outdoors I’ll go direct from home, a straightforward drive right to the store without the need to go anywhere near Blackburn town centre!
I’ve been sitting here in front of the computer, staring at the screen for an hour, wondering what to write and how to write it. I’m not usually lost for words when it comes to writing a blog page but this time I am ; I actually started this post twice but deleted both versions after just a few sentences. Monday’s post about my afternoon out on Sunday was written on a relatively good day but at the moment I’m not having many ‘good days’ – my emotions after losing Sophie are still very raw.
It’s early days for me yet ; my work/home life goes on as normal and a lot of the time I feel okay, but then something will remind me that there’s a very special little dog missing from my family and I feel overwhelmed all over again. However I know from experience that this will eventually pass ; the pain will subside to a dull ache which will eventually disappear and the hole in my heart will heal in time, though the memories of sweet little Sophie will always be with me along with memories of other little four-paws I’ve loved and lost.
Anyway, I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone for commenting on the post I wrote about Sophie last Friday. I haven’t replied individually to any of the comments, mainly because my replies would all have been roughly the same, but that doesn’t mean the comments were ignored or weren’t appreciated. They were appreciated, very much so, and it’s been good to know that so many people understand the feelings of grief and loss which I’ve been going through – so thanks once again, it means a lot. And as they used to say at the BBC when a tv programme was momentarily interrupted – normal service will be resumed soon.
In light of my recent incredibly sad and heart breaking loss of Sophie I thought long and hard about doing this walk, especially as I’d originally intended taking Sophie with me, but there was nothing to be gained by staying at home and after several weekends of not being able to go anywhere I really needed a few hours out. My intended destination was Hornby Castle Gardens, only open on a few select weekends each year with the most recent being the snowdrop weekend. Sunday’s weather forecast for that area was for sunshine and even though it was cloudy and grey here at home I decided to take a chance and go.
As I got to the far side of the nearby moors I could see sunshine and blue sky ahead and by the time I was heading north up the M6 it had turned into a really lovely day. Living where I do, halfway up a hill on the north side of town, I don’t normally encounter any instances of flooding in bad weather so I was quite surprised at the sight which greeted me as I drove along the A683 towards the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Just before Claughton village the River Lune had overflowed and a huge area of flat grazing fields had disappeared underwater, though fortunately the natural slope of the land from the roadside had prevented the water from reaching the road itself or any roadside properties.
Set back off the road, and just out of reach of the flood water, was the old Lanefoot Crossing signal box in the garden of a nearby cottage. Once part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway line which operated between Lancaster and Wennington, then extended to Leeds, it was in use between 1849 and 1968, and in more recent years has been preserved and refurbished to be used as a summerhouse for the cottage.
There was no parking available in the grounds of Hornby Castle so I left the van in the village car park and walked along the road and over the bridge to the castle gardens entrance gates. The River Wenning, swollen from all the recent rain, was in full flow as it ran west to join the Lune, and on the east side of the bridge the water was a seething boiling mass as it came over the nearby weir – definitely not a place anyone would want to fall in.
Entrance to the castle grounds cost £5 with dogs free of charge and after being given a map, which I didn’t really need as I’ve been there before, though not at this time of year, I set off with Poppie to find some snowdrops. Now I don’t know if my expectations were too high or if maybe the recent bad weather was a factor, but far from seeing carpets of snowdrops as I thought I would all I found were small clumps dotted here and there among the trees, with several clumps together on the bank leading up to the castle lawns.
Part of the path along the riverside had been closed off as it was muddy and very slippery but I got round that by walking along the riverbank itself, and when I rejoined the path I came to the remains of a dead tree trunk. One side looked very much like the other so it was hard to tell which had been roots and which were branches but I liked the shape of it so it was worth a quick snap.
Just past the tree trunk the path wound steeply uphill and almost doubled back on itself, emerging at one corner of the castle lawn. At the far side steps led down a short steep bank to the main driveway and on the bank itself were a couple of clumps of pink flowers ; they looked a bit sorry for themselves but at least they provided a bit of colour.
Across the driveway a path and a succession of wide shallow steps went down through a wooded area to the walled garden ; at this time of year there wasn’t much colour about the place but I did see some more pink flowers, some daffodils, a few more isolated clumps of snowdrops and some lovely bright blue things which I don’t know the name of.
The walled garden was my last port of call, I’d been everywhere else and with so few snowdrops to see there was no point walking round again, so I made my way back to the van and with one last shot from the bridge I set off for home, arriving back at 4pm and still in sunshine. Although Hornby Castle’s website promises ‘hundreds of named varieties of snowdrops’ the ones I saw all looked the same to me, and compared to the carpets of flowers I saw at Lytham Hall lastyear the clumps of snowdrops dotted here and there were rather a disappointment.
This had been my first proper walk with Poppie on her own and it seemed so strange having just one little four-paws with me instead of two. Even though the snowdrops didn’t live up to my expectations I know that Sophie would have loved the walk so I’ve decided – when the time is right, and in her memory, there’ll be some snowdrops planted in her corner of my garden.
It’s with many tears and a heavy heart that I write this – my lovely sweet little Sophie passed away peacefully on Monday afternoon. She fought so bravely against the effects of the stroke she suffered five weeks ago and on Monday morning I really thought she had turned a corner but sadly I was wrong.
A check-up at the vet’s last Saturday showed that although her progress since the previous check-up two weeks before hadn’t been quite as good as he would have thought there was no real cause for concern and I didn’t need to take her back for another month, although he did increase the medication she was on. For a few days previously she’d had a very loose tooth so I’d been blending all her food to make it easier for her to eat, however the vet took the tooth out with no problem or pain and gave her a shot of antibiotic to counteract what seemed to be a very minor infection in the gum. The injection seemed to knock her out of sorts for the rest of the day but by that evening she had perked up and we went for our regular slow bedtime walk round the block.
On Sunday afternoon a respite from Storm Ciara gave us three hours of lovely blue sky and sunshine so we had a nice walk round the field at the end of the street – she loved to walk round there and listen to the birds in the trees. On Monday morning I really thought that getting rid of the loose tooth had given Sophie her appetite back as she demolished one bowl of food so fast that I gave her another and she ate most of that as well, so it really seemed like that was a good turning point in her recovery.
Since a few days after the stroke happened her bed has been at the side of mine to make it easier for me to care for her during the night and after our walk on Monday lunch time I settled her down in her bed while I lay on mine to watch a bit of daytime tv. It was later on, when I was ready for feeding her before going to work, that I got no response from her and realised that somehow, without me even knowing, she had drifted quietly away.
I can’t begin to describe how I’ve been feeling since that moment and the range of emotions I’m now going through. Sophie had improved in many ways since her stroke – she no longer walked round in circles, she could stand unaided and potter about round my bedroom, she walked perfectly straight when we went out and only last week she was picking twigs up off the ground like she used to do before she became ill – so I now feel like I’ve been hit by a train going at 100 miles an hour.
Sophie has been buried in the garden so she’ll be with me as long as I stay living here ; she’s gone close to Sugar as they were companions for over five years. I know I still have Poppie but right now everything feels so empty – her den in the living room where she would hide away from the noise of fireworks in November, the space at the side of my bed where she lay in her own bed, covered with a fleece blanket and with cushions to rest her head on. And the silence. For the last four weeks my bedroom tv has been on constantly 24/7 to provide some comforting background noise for Sophie while I was out at work – now there’s no need for it to be on and the silence is deafening.
At work I’m functioning on autopilot ; it helps having people around me but with Michael currently in Ireland until the 20th I’m here on my own once I get home. Caring for Sophie took up so much of my time that a lot of the housework was put on hold ; there’s so many things now that I could be doing but I don’t really feel like doing, and the things I have been doing no longer apply so I feel very much like I’m in limbo – and the slightest thing will have me in floods of tears.
As well as the space in my room Sophie has left a huge hole in my heart, a hole which will take a long while to heal – and it hurts to know that never again will I feel that gentle little paw on my leg and see that sweet little face looking up at me asking to come up on my lap for a cuddle. But the one thing which really hurts like hell is that even though I gave Sophie all the care and attention I possibly could I didn’t get the chance to hold her one last time and tell her how much I loved her.
Rest in peace Sophie, you were loved so very much – sleep tight and sweet dreams little one xx
My Monday walk this week is a relatively short one across the town centre from north to south, starting at the 1st Edition tattoo parlour just on the north edge of town. It’s round the corner from one of the places where I work so I pass it regularly ; the mural on the side wall has been done by a Hungarian-born Preston tattoo artist with over ten years experience working as a graphic designer, illustrator and street artist.
Down into the town centre itself now, and the Greyhound pub on Deansgate. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find out any history of the pub other than for some strange reason it’s referred to locally as the Kicking Donkey ; on its side wall is one of several murals done by an artist going by the name of Kaser.
A few minutes walk from the Greyhound and past the open market took me to the Griffin pub on Great Moor Street and a Kaser mural on the corner wall, though again I can find no history of the pub itself.
Another few minutes walk and I came to the Sweet Green Tavern on Crook Street, and more murals by Kaser. Yet again I’ve been unable to find out much history of the pub though the very friendly young lady behind the bar did tell me that the building used to be three separate premises. The window on the far left was once a doorway and that and the two windows on its right were the original pub which was just one room. The existing doorway and the two windows to its right belonged to a bakery and the other three windows were the doorway and windows of a house.
Stretching along the pub’s rear wall, and bordering the main road, is a large mural which pays tribute to the photos ofHumphrey Spender and theMass Observation of 1937/38. Seen close up it’s just a jumble of black and grey shapes but from across the road (or in my case the middle of the road!) it makes more sense.
On the end wall of the pub is another mural by Kaser, taken from a photo of the 1918 Crook Street train crash. On March 16th that year a coal train with an engine weighing 70 tons pulling wagons carrying over 400 tons of coal ran out of control going down the incline approaching Bolton Terminal Station. It was diverted into the Crook Street goods yard but ran through the yard, smashed through the buffers and the boundary wall, crossed the road diagonally and smashed into two small houses. The guard jumped from the brake van but the driver and fireman stayed on the footplate ; fortunately none of the men suffered more than minor injuries but eight people living in the houses were injured, though not seriously. In addition to the damage to the engine and the houses five coal wagons were completely wrecked and seven others were damaged.
Going through the pub and out into the outside smoking area I found a plethora of murals by Kaser. Unfortunately some of the canopy supports prevented me from getting completely uninterrupted photos of some of the murals but the shots I got were good enough. My favourite was the hummingbird on the end wall, and even though it was looking a bit worse for wear it was still quite pretty.
As far as I’m aware these murals are the only examples of street art in my town ; I can think of several places which could be brightened up with a mural or two so it’s a shame that most of these are hidden behind the outside wall of a pub’s beer garden. I’m glad I found out about them though, and at least I’ve added a few more photos to my street art collection.
My local postie has been busy this week delivering a parcel for me on each of four separate days. First came a new-to-me phone – nothing fancy, just a basic Nokia to replace the model I’ve had for a while which wouldn’t properly send replies to any texts I got – then three new mice to add to my collection.
The first mouse to arrive is an Aynsley one – ‘Mouse with hinge and screws’ – dated 1985, then came a Teviotdale ‘Bank vole and flowers’ signed by the artist and dated 1989, and finally an undated Sherratt & Simpson ‘Mouse with seeds’.
Most of my mice are grouped together according to make and type ; I’ll have to move a few around to accommodate these three so if you don’t hear from me for a while I’ll probably be playing a great game of ‘ Mouse Tetris’!
The industrial past of my home town, Bolton, lives on today in many ways, including the work and inventions of several famous locals who helped to forge and shape the industrial revolution. The Industrial Heritage Town Centre Walking Trail has 12 sites of interest including historic buildings and statues, and my Monday walk this week starts at the first one, the Town Hall in Victoria Square.
In the mid 19th century the town’s mayor at the time, J R Wolfenden, promoted the idea for a town hall and a competition for the design was held by Bolton Corporation. It was won by architect William Hill of Leeds in partnership with Bolton’s George Woodhouse and building began in 1866. A quarter-chiming clock by Potts of Leeds was installed in the baroque-style clock tower in 1871 and the completed Town Hall was opened by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1873. In later years the design was re-used by William Hill as the template to build Portsmouth’s Civic Town Hall in 1890, which is a near-identical twin, though it was renamed Portsmouth Guildhall in 1926 when the town was elevated to city status.
In the early 1930s the rear of the town hall was extended to the designs of local architects Bradshaw, Gass & Hope and which matched the original building, with a crescent of civic buildings providing office space built to the rear on a new street. Inside the town hall was the Albert Hall, a central hall used for concerts and official functions, which was surrounded on three sides by a wide corridor and an outer ring of offices. In 1978 local steeplejack Fred Dibnah made repairs to the clock tower and its 16 stone pillars and gilded the sphere at the top. On November 14th 1981 the Albert Hall was unfortunately gutted by a devastating fire but the rest of the building was saved, with the hall itself being rebuilt as two public halls, the new Albert Hall and the Festival Hall.
To the right of the town hall is the statue of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Benjamin Alfred Dobson. Although born on the Isle of Man he was a descendant of the founder of Bolton company Dobson & Barlow, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of textile machinery. He studied as a civil engineer and entered the family firm in 1871, eventually becoming Chairman ; he also wrote books about the spinning industry and held several engineering patents. As a Conservative MP Dobson represented North Ward for six years from 1874 and was a magistrate from 1880.
In March 1879 Dobson opened the lattice girder ‘Dobson Bridge’ in Queen’s Park and in June 1884 he opened the Chadwick Museum in the same park. In 1894 he became Mayor of Bolton, with his wife Coralie being the first Mayoress to wear the Mayoress’s Chain and Badge ; he was knighted in July 1897 and died in March 1898 while still in office. The statue of Dobson, modelled by Manchester sculptor John Cassidy, was purchased by public subscription and was unveiled in February 1900. In much later years his great grandson, Christopher Brian Spencer Dobson, who was a lawyer, politician, comedian and actor, co-wrote the screenplay for Nicholas Roeg’s 1973 film ”Don’t Look Now” (starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) under the name Chris Bryant.
About 50 yards away from the Dobson statue, in a huge reinforced glass case, is the Corliss Steam Engine built in Bolton by Hick Hargreaves & Co Ltd in 1886. The original Corliss steam engine was invented in 1849 in Rhode Island, America, by George Henry Corliss who managed to create an engine that was 30% more efficient than conventional ones. This was an important breakthrough as it meant that for the first time steam power became more economical than water power. This in turn meant that as factories no longer needed to use water to turn their wheels but could use a steam engine instead they could be built anywhere, not just next to a suitable river. The Corliss engine was ideal for textile mills as it had adjustable speed and power, which was useful when connected to machines for the spinning of delicate thread.
The Bolton engine was in use until 1969 in a silk spinning mill owned by Ford, Ayrton & Co in Bentham, North Yorkshire, and when it came to the end of its working life it was donated to the people of Bolton. Representing a typical steam engine which would have powered so many mills throughout the region, it was erected and placed in its huge glass case by Bolton Corporation when Oxford Street and Newport Street were pedestrianised in 1973. At one time the large wheel could be seen going round on Saturdays but it hasn’t turned for many years now.
The Bank of Bolton on Deansgate was a joint stock bank established in 1836 with a capital of £300,000. In 1896 it was acquired by Manchester & County Bank Ltd which eventually became part of the National Westminster Bank. The Coat of Arms still exists on the outside of the building and also in some of the interior stained glass, though of course for security reasons I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside.
Along Deansgate and past the junction with Bradshawgate is Churchgate and Booth’s Music Shop which occupies the site of Arkwright’s Barbers Shop established in the early 1760s. Born in Preston, Lancashire, in 1732 Richard Arkwright was apprenticed to a barber in nearby Kirkham and began his adult working life as a barber and wig maker, setting up his shop in Bolton’s Churchgate. It was here that he invented a waterproof dye for use on the fashionable periwigs of the time, the income from which later funded his prototype cotton machinery.
After the death of his first wife Arkwright became interested in the development of carding and spinning machinery to replace hand labour in the conversion of raw cotton to thread for weaving, and in 1768 he returned to Preston with John Kay, a clock maker, where they rented rooms in a house on Stoneygate, now called Arkwright House. There they worked on developing a spinning machine and in 1769 Arkwright patented the spinning frame which produced twisted threads using wooden and metal cylinders rather than human fingers. This machine, initially powered by horses, greatly reduced the cost of cotton-spinning and would lead to major changes in the textile industry. The original building where Arkwright had his barbers shop was demolished in the early 1920s, being replaced by the existing building, though there is a plaque commemorating him on the wall above the music shop windows.
At the far end of Churchgate is the large St. Peter’s Church, commonly known as Bolton Parish Church. The fourth church to be built on that site, it was designed by Lancaster architect E G Paley. Paid for by Peter Ormrod, a local cotton spinner of Halliwell Hall whose father founded the Bank of Bolton, it was built between 1867 and 1871 in the Gothic Revival style. Its tower, at 180ft high, is the tallest in the historic county of Lancashire and has spectacular 360-degree views across the area. The spacious and beautiful interior contains many items of interest including fine stained glass windows, carved woodwork, a museum corner and an organ with beautifully decorated case and pipes. Guided tours of the church can be pre-booked, and having been in there myself a couple of years ago it’s a church well worth seeing.
In the grounds of the Parish Church is Samuel Crompton’s tomb. Building on the work of James Hargreaves and Richard Arkwright Crompton invented the spinning mule, a machine which greatly revolutionised the cotton spinning industry. Unfortunately his invention was never patented, which allowed others to copy his idea, and in 1827 he died a poor man at his house in King Street in the town centre. It’s said that a large number of people attended his funeral, including some of Bolton’s factory owners ; his original gravestone was very simple but in 1861 the existing granite monument, paid for by the workers of Dobson & Barlow Ltd, was placed over the grave.
Not far from the Parish Church is Wood Street, a short cobbled street of Georgian terraced houses, most of which are now offices, and No. 16 is the birthplace of William Hesketh Lever, industrialist, politician, landowner and major Bolton benefactor. Lever started work at his father’s grocery business in Bolton but as a businessman he is noted for founding the soap and cleaning product firm, Lever Brothers with his younger brother James in 1885, and at Port Sunlight on the Wirral he built his works and a model village to house its employees. Lord Leverhulme was asked to become Mayor of Bolton in 1918 and for some time worked with town planners on a grand architectural revival for Bolton.
Along the road from Wood Street is Nelson Square and the Samuel Crompton statue. In honour of his contribution towards revolutionising the cotton spinning industry a statue paid for by public subscription was unveiled on 24th September 1862 and still stands proud today.
Heading back towards the town hall and on one corner of Victoria Square is No. 1 Newport Street, the Exchange Building. Built in 1826 by the Bolton Exchange Company it was originally a trading exchange inside which was a private reading room. This developed into a private library which later became Bolton’s first public library. Later still it became Bolton Council Reference Library and remained as such until 1938 when the library services were transferred to the new civic buildings behind the town hall. By 1956 the building was being used by the Inland Revenue Valuation Office, in the years since then it has been a building society and is now currently a Coral’s betting shop.
Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Central Library are all housed together at one end of the Civic Centre buildings designed by local architects Bradshaw, Gass & Hope in the 1930s. The museum collections include natural history, Egyptology, archaeology, art and local history, and one of Britain’s oldest public aquariums, opened in 1941, is housed in the basement.
In 2003, after consulting experts at the British Museum and Christies, Bolton Museum bought the small sculpture Armana Princess for £439,767 from a local man who claimed it was from his grandfather’s forgotten collection. The sculpture remained on display until 2006 when it was exposed as a fake ; after an investigation the forger was found to be the local man who, over a period of several years, had produced many forged works of art in his garden shed, including what was said to be an original Lowry painting – he was eventually sentenced to 4 years 8 months in prison. In recent years the museum received £3.8 million in grant funding to update and improve its collections and displays and after a refurbishment programme lasting almost two years it re-opened in September 2018, with the Armana Princess back on display in a special section for fakes and forgeries.
The museum and art gallery concluded my circular walking trail round the town centre but there was one more place on the list – Queen’s Park. Although not actually in the town centre one part of the park was right on the edge and was included in the trail because of its heritage connections. Originally opened in 1866 as Bolton Park it was renamed by the Town Council in 1897 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The park is the original site of the Chadwick Museum, which eventually became the Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, and it also has the Dobson Bridge, erected in 1878 to link the original park to a later extension and officially opened by B A Dobson who was Chairman of the Park Committee at the time.
Unfortunately when I did this walk two days ago the weather wasn’t exactly brilliant, it was so dull and grey that I’ve had to seriously enhance these photos to properly show some of the sites of interest, but hopefully I’ll have time to do the walk again on a much nicer day and I’ll be able to replace these shots with some better ones.