During my two-week ‘stay-cation’ last month I had a day out which, for once, didn’t include Poppie. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have left her behind but I was going to somewhere I couldn’t take her (that’s for a future post) however as soon as I got home, and with the sun getting low in the sky, I took her for a walk on Smithills moor to hopefully catch one or two sunset shots.
It was a very clear early evening and once I’d parked at the side of the lane near the Trespass Stone I took a shot of the view over to Manchester before setting off up the path heading towards the lower slopes of Winter Hill; not wanting to go too far my destination was Dean Mills reservoir, less than a 15-minute walk from where I’d left the van.
It seemed to take ages for the sun to go down and I couldn’t walk all the way round the reservoir while I was waiting; in spite of the previous warmth of the day it was quite chilly up on that exposed part of the moor so I continually walked backwards and forwards along the eastern end, glad I was up there on my own as anyone else would probably have thought I’d lost the plot. Eventually though conditions were just right and while the sunset itself wasn’t as stunningly beautiful as some I’ve seen, with the tall Winter Hill mast and its smaller neighbours in the background it was good enough to give me several half-decent shots.
Not wanting to run out of daylight before I got back to the van I set off as soon as the sun had completely disappeared. I needn’t have worried though, as I got towards the end of the path near the Trespass Stone there was still a reasonable amount of light left.
Back at home I made a brew and downloaded the days photos to the pc. It had seemed strange not having Poppie with me on my day out but hopefully I made up for it by taking her for a walk on Smithills Moor, and I got some sunset shots as well so I think we were both happy that night.
My Monday walk this week was done in mid September and just four days after my canal walk from Garstang. My original plan was to walk from Moons Bridge Marina to Blackleach Marina just a couple of miles away in the Preston direction, however things didn’t quite work out like that. Moons Bridge Marina is situated off a narrow country lane with very few places to park safely and from where I left the van I had to walk up and over the bridge then down to the towpath on the far side – and that’s where, for once, my normally excellent sense of direction and the in-built satnav in my brain deserted me.
Moons Bridge Marina was developed from a canal-side farmer’s field over twenty years ago and has been owned and run by the same family ever since. After taking a few photos round the marina itself I headed along the lane and over the bridge to the canal towpath but that’s where I went wrong – instead of going ‘sort of’ southwest I went under the bridge and ‘sort of’ northeast and I only realised I’d gone wrong when I kept seeing the Bowland fells in the distance ahead of me. There was no point turning back and starting again though, and I knew where I would eventually get to anyway, so I decided to carry on.
One thing which did surprise me as I walked along were the large stretches of surface weed on the water, something which I’ve only ever associated with ponds and other still waters; even when a boat travelled through it the weed would only momentarily disperse before covering the surface again. Another thing I noticed was the amount of pylons and power lines crossing the countryside; I know these things are essential in rural areas but I’ve never seen as many as that on any of my other walks.
Although the sun kept disappearing behind a bank of white clouds it was still very warm and the light tracksuit top I was wearing was eventually taken off and tied round my waist. Being a weekday I had the canal to myself and I didn’t see anyone until I got to White Horse Bridge where I encountered a group of students and their teacher; they seemed to be doing some sort of field studies so I assumed they were probably from the agricultural college a couple of miles away. They were quite spread out across the narrow path so to give them chance to move on I went up onto the bridge to take a couple of shots looking over the canal and the surrounding countryside.
From White Horse Bridge it was only just over a mile to Guy’s Thatched Hamlet; I was making that my turn around point and it wasn’t long before I started to see signs of civilisation and boats moored alongside the towpath. Going up onto the road passing Guy’s I took a couple of shots from the bridge before having a wander round the hamlet itself. When I was there in late May the whole placed had been closed and it had seemed strange with no-one around – now it was partially open and several people were enjoying drinks at outside tables but it still felt weird.
While I’d been wandering round Guy’s the clouds had gradually been clearing away so the walk back to Moons Bridge was much sunnier and I was able to retake some of the shots I got earlier on. As I got near to the marina I realised something – throughout the whole of the walk I hadn’t heard any birdsong. Even though trees had lined the canal path in several places there hadn’t been a tweet or a chirp anywhere which I thought was very strange. Back at the marina I took my final two shots from the bridge and the lane then made my way back to the van to head for home.
Although the walk had started out as a mistake and had covered more than twice the distance originally planned it had nevertheless been very enjoyable, and as I’d always planned to do that section of the canal at some point anyway, probably next year, it meant I could now tick it off my list a bit sooner than I intended.
The life of Southport pier began in 1859 when the Southport Pier Company was formed with a capital of £12,000 in March, with construction work starting in August that year. Designed by James Brunlee, a Scottish civil engineer, the pier took a year to complete with the final cost being in the region of £8,700, the equivalent of just over a million pounds at today’s prices. The pier’s primary purpose was to be a promenade rather than a sole place for ships to dock; it was considered to be the country’s first iron-constructed pleasure pier, the second longest after Southend pier and was opened with fireworks and a grand procession on August 2nd 1860.
During the pier’s first few years waiting rooms for boat passengers were added and by 1865 a cable-operated tramway had been installed. In 1868 the pier was extended from its original 3,600ft length to 4,380ft and was used by various steam packet ships with services operating to resorts including Fleetwood and Llandudno. Visitors to the pier originally had to pay a toll of 6d (2.5p) priced deliberately high so only the most affluent people could go there, but with an increase of working class visitors during the 1870s the toll was reduced to 2d.
In September 1897 a fire destroyed the pier’s original pavilion; its replacement was opened in January 1902 and with the inclusion of an auditorium it was considered to be grander than the original. In 1905 the tramway was electrified and from 1906 the new pavilion was leased to a variety of entertainers including Charlie Chaplin and comedian/singer/music hall performer George Robey, then following WW1 it was renamed The Casino with its main attraction being dancing.
By the early 1920s silting up of the water channel towards the landward end of the pier led to extensive land reclamation but this made it difficult for steamer ships to dock so the service ended completely in 1929, then in 1933 a large fire in July that year destroyed the pier head. The cost to put right the damage was estimated to be £6,000 – almost £433,000 today – which was unaffordable to the Southport Pier Company so in 1936 the pier was sold to Southport Corporation for almost £35,000, or nearly £2.5 million today, and during repairs the tramway rolling stock was rebuilt.
During WW2 the pier was closed to the public while it housed and operated the searchlights used to detect enemy aircraft en route to Liverpool docks and it didn’t reopen until 1950. By then the tram line had been moved from its central position to the side of the pier and the track gauge had been changed, with new diesel trains known as ‘Silver Belle’ running from 1954, then in 1959 another significant fire destroyed 5,000 sq ft of decking, reducing the pier’s length to the now present day 3,633 ft.
In 1973 the ‘Silver Belle’ trains were replaced with ‘English Rose’ trains and in 1974 the newly formed Sefton Council acquired ownership of the pier but in spite of being in a state of deterioration it was designated as a Grade ll listed structure in August 1975. Deterioration continued through the years with a storm in 1989 causing extensive damage; due to the rising cost of repairs and maintenance, and in spite of its listed status, Sefton Council sought to demolish the pier in December 1990 but the proposal was defeated by a single vote.
After operating at a loss for several years and with unaffordable upkeep costs, a charitable trust was formed in 1993 to maintain the pier’s operation but in 1997 a structural survey confirmed its poor condition and recommended its closure. After receiving a grant of £1.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund restoration work started in 2000 and was completed in 2002 with the pier reopening to the public in May that year. The modern pavilion structure at the pier head was designed by Liverpool architects Shed KM and houses a cafe with airport-style floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the beach and a ‘penny arcade’ with a collection of vintage amusement machines using pre-decimal old pennies which can be bought on site at £1 for ten.
The 2000/2002 pier restoration also provided a new 3ft 6ins narrow gauge tram track running along the centre of the widened deck and in August 2005 a new twin-section battery powered articulated tram started operating, running a half-hourly service from each end of the pier every day except Christmas Day. In July 2013, following the discovery of cracks in the supporting columns, the tram service was suspended, then due to rising maintenance costs and council cost-cutting measures it stopped running entirely in June 2015; it was replaced by an extension of the pre-existing land train which runs to this day.
On my visit to Southport last month I’d noticed a couple of what seemed to be sports-themed sculptures on top of tall poles near the pier. The person featured on one of them seemed to have half a leg missing – was this deliberate or had the leg somehow been damaged and removed for repair? There was nothing anywhere to explain the significance of either of the statues but some later internet research provided some very interesting information.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Pier Diving was a seasonal phenomenon which kept the crowds entertained in several seaside resorts around the country and a popular attraction at Southport for many years from 1903 was a succession of divers who would dive into the sea several times daily from the roof of the tea house at the end of the pier. Although some of these men did have true academic qualifications many of those who didn’t would still take the title of ‘Professor’ and the two most associated with Southport were Professor Gadsby and Professor Powsey.
Professor Frank Gadsby, the one-legged diver, was born in Nottingham in 1882 and after dislocating his hip as a very young child had to have his leg amputated. An early photo shows that the full leg had been removed so I can only assume that whoever did the sculpture wasn’t working from a photo, or it was purposely made to be more aesthetically pleasing. Frank learned to swim at the age of 12 and in spite of only having one leg he enjoyed success in many swimming championships, then after a succession of different careers he became a travelling showman, performing dare-devil high dives at many seaside resorts during the summer seasons. His acts included diving 100ft from a special mast into the sea or a water tank, he was often to be seen diving from Southport pier and he would always perform his final dive wrapped in a burning sack. He died at the age of 76 in 1958.
Professor Albert Edward Powsey was born in Sheerness in 1866 and at the age of 14 he was awarded the Humane Society Medal for rescuing a local woman from the sea. After working in a grocer’s shop then as an apprentice steam pipe fitter and works foreman he spent ten years as a swimming instructor at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, where he devised his high diving act which he eventually took to the pier at Herne Bay in Kent. From Herne Bay he moved on to Brighton pier and then Clacton before starting an 18-year run at Southport pier where he evolved and perfected his ‘dive of flames’ and his ‘terrific bicycle dive’ from a specially constructed platform which was the inspiration for the sculpture.
From the pier Professor Powsey went to the old fairground (now Pleasureland) and started his greatest act of diving – plunging from an 80ft tower into a tank containing just 4ft of water. His only break from the fairground before his retirement was when he was booked to perform six dives, at £50 per dive, in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall. To make the dive from the required height would have meant removing part of the roof so the local corporation vetoed the act; Professor Powsey sued the corporation and following a long legal wrangle he was awarded £150 damages. At the age of 75 he made his last dive at a Southport gala for the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Charity funds then spent his retirement living locally before passing away in a Liverpool hospital in 1956 at the age of 89.
When I took a ride on the pier land train just a month ago I didn’t realise then that I would end up researching the history of the pier itself and its divers but although quite time consuming it’s proved to be a very interesting exercise – and as the saying goes, you learn something every day.
Back in mid September an unforseen and sudden change in circumstances meant that Michael’s planned five days over in Ireland didn’t happen so he swapped three of his days off work for days another time and on one of his two remaining days we went to Southport. Now to be honest I’ve been there so many times over the last few years that I felt there was nothing different for me to see or photograph but I wanted Michael to have a nice day out to make up for not going to Ireland and Southport was his choice so off we went.
Parking by the Marine Lake we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up again at 4pm, and I headed into town to find the Go Outdoors store – I wanted to look for some blue plates and bowls for when I next go camping but the Blackburn and Preston stores didn’t have any, neither could I get them from their online store so I thought I’d try the Southport one. On my way to the town centre I passed The Bold Hotel, originally built by Thomas Mawdsley in 1832 but now a Grade ll luxury boutique place; I remember Michael staying there on a particular occasion several years ago and though I wouldn’t normally photograph the front of a hotel it was the strange looking horse above the main door which attracted me.
When I finally found the Go Outdoors store it came up trumps and I got just what I wanted, four plates and four bowls in blue for just £1 each; of course having a large carrier bag with its contents in one hand and holding Poppie’s lead in the other hand meant it was impossible to use the camera for any further photos so I took my purchases back to the van then set out again.
At the beginning of the pier I decided to do something I’ve thought about for ages, walk right to the far end of it, however I changed my mind on the spur of the moment and did something else I’ve never ever done – I got a return ticket to ride along on the land train just for the experience. There was nothing much at the end of the pier when I got there, just a pavilion with a cafe, an amusement arcade with vintage machines and a modern sculpture supposed to represent the movement of wind and water, but at least I could say I’d been there.
Dotted at various points near the pier were several modern sculptures on tall steel poles and walking through the main promenade gardens I came to something I’ve never really noticed before, a drinking fountain surrounded by attractive iron railings. About 1 metre square and standing 3 metres high it was a gift from one John Fernley in 1861 for the use of Southport’s lifeboat crew and fishermen and was sculpted from sandstone, with polished pink granite, coloured mosaic and a white marble bowl.
Farther along the promenade and across the road I found something that’s very hard to miss – on a gable end wall was a huge mural of the iconic 3-times Grand National winner Red Rum in training on Southport beach. Commissioned as part of Sefton’s Borough of Culture celebrations for 2020 it was painted by Liverpool-based street artist Paul Curtis in March this year, and covering an area of more than 270 square metres it took over a week to complete.
Heading through King’s Gardens towards Marine Lake I came to a flower bed built up on a corner. It looked rather unkempt but the flowers were quite pretty so were worth one or two snaps. At the far end of the lake was the start (or end depending on direction of travel) of the Lakeside Miniature Railway although being mid week it wasn’t running, and just a few yards away was a carousel with its brightly coloured horses and designs providing several photo opportunities.
Southport Miniature Railway was built in 1911 and operated by Dr. Ladmore, a local dentist; it opened on May 11th that year with the first steam train, King George V, running at 3pm. After being taken over by Mr Griffith Vaughn Llewellyn it was renamed Llewellyn’s Miniature Railway, then in 1945 it was sold to Harry Barlow who owned a local engineering company famous for building miniature locomotives. It was renamed Lakeside Miniature Railway and the first petrol driven trains started running that year.
In 1968 the railway was sold on again to John Spencer, a stallholder at the nearby Pleasureland fairgound, and he did much to improve it and tidy it up. In 2001 the line was sold yet again to Don Clark and Graham Leeming then in 2016 it was purchased by Norman Wallis, current owner of Pleasureland. The railway is one of the earliest of its type still running on its original route and is said to be the oldest continuously running 15-inch gauge railway in the world.
From the carousel I made my way along the seaward side of the lake to the wide bridge across the centre. It was getting on for 4pm and I just had time to take a handful of photos as I crossed the bridge then it was time to meet up with Michael at our prearranged spot near the beginning of the pier.
Not far from the pier was the Waterfront pub/restaurant, we had been in there a couple of times before and we knew the food was pretty good, plus dogs were allowed in the bar area, so that was our choice for a meal before setting off for home. Michael had made a couple of purchases of his own while in the town centre so with my own success in getting the plates and bowls I wanted plus the photos I took we agreed that it had been a good day out for both of us.
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Although this blog is only four years old I’ve actually been blogging for almost eleven years. I discovered a talent for writing when I was at school, photography had been a hobby since the age of ten and a love of camping started in 1997 with my very first weekend on Anglesey, so after becoming a solo camper in 2009 I started my first blog as a way of combining all three interests. Initially it was more of a reminder to myself of places I’d been to but if I picked up a few readers along the way then that was a bonus.
When I started this blog in October four years ago it was mainly as a hobby, something to keep myself occupied during the late autumn and winter months when I wasn’t camping, but I’ve found that in the last couple of years it’s turned into almost a full-time job. Right from the start I’ve often randomly featured places, usually fairly local, which I’ve been to while walking the dogs but joining in occasionally with Jo’s Monday Walk has encouraged me to explore places further afield and to always post my walks on Mondays, with probably more general posts on Fridays.
Many of the places I write about have a fair bit of history attached to them, history which could mean the difference between writing an interesting post and writing a mediocre one, so I can often spend hours, days even, researching the details and editing the photos for whatever I happen to be writing about at the time – and as soon as I publish one post I make a start on the draft for the next one. So if anyone ever asks me if I watched (insert whatever programme comes to mind) on tv recently the answer will most likely be ‘no’ – I rarely watch tv as I’m too busy here on my pc.
Not long ago I had a 2-week holiday from work although I didn’t actually go away anywhere. Camping was out of the question and a trip to Ireland would have produced more problems than it was worth so I stayed at home, and being blessed with good weather for most of the two weeks I was able to get out and about with the camera to places which will eventually feature on here. In fact I was so busy exploring during those two weeks that I went back to work for a rest!
Of course, there’s something about this blog which shouldn’t be ignored and that’s my lovely blog readers. It’s nice to know that there are at least some people reading my scribblings, and if it wasn’t for my readers there may not be a blog anyway, so thank you everyone for following me over the last four years – here’s to the next four, and hopefully beyond.
Situated at West Beach and across the coast road from Lytham Green Lowther Gardens is the oldest park in Lytham St. Annes. Covering an area of almost 14 acres the gardens were provided by Squire John Talbot Clifton in honour of his wife Eleanor Cecily of the Lowther family in Cumbria, and also in memory of her father who died in 1868. Laid out on what was previously poor grazing land known as Hungry Moor the gardens were designed under the supervision of a Mr Tomlinson, who worked on the nearby Clifton estate, and were opened to the public on August 27th 1872.
In 1905 the gardens were given to the local council by Clifton’s son with the bowling greens being laid out the same year, and though several changes have been made throughout the years since then most of the original design and layout is still in place today. The first Lowther Pavilion was built in 1922, tennis courts were added in 1929, an aviary was constructed in 1934 and in 1936 a new main entrance and a car park were added. In 1981 the original Lowther Pavilion was replaced with the current pavilion, which is the borough’s only theatre, and in 1999 a long herbaceous border was planted to replace the rose bed near the pitch and putt area. Current features also include a crazy golf course, children’s play area and a cafe serving hot meals, light refreshments and soft drinks.
I’ve been past Lowther Gardens many times over the years on my visits to Lytham St. Annes and though I’ve often promised myself that I would stop off there and have a look round I never have – that was until three weeks ago when I was able to tie in a visit there with my quest to photograph the old boats and tractors featured in my Monday walk last week. Lowther Gardens was the nearest place to where I wanted to be so I parked there and spent quite some time wandering round before going across the road to the promenade.
Close to the main entrance was the Lowther Pavilion where I had to get my car park ticket from but it’s not a particularly attractive building so I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. A path round the side of the pavilion took me through a wooded area where I came across what was once a bandstand in a clearing, then farther on I emerged behind one of the bowling greens.
Crossing the grass to the main path I came to a rather unkempt flower bed featuring an old bike with a basket on the front and the natural ‘sculpture’ of a man sitting reading. This was ‘Between The Tides’, the recreation of a (much tidier) display celebrating the tradition of shrimp fishing on the Ribble estuary and which won Silver Gilt in the Flower Bed category at Tatton Park Flower Show in 2014. At the time Russell Wignall was the only full time ‘shrimper’ in Lytham and he can still be seen most days with his bike at Church Scar where he keeps his boat Grace, and which, coincidentally, is where I later photographed the old tractors.
A short distance up the path and across the grass to the left was the long and wide herbaceous border with its gently curving edges rather than straight lines. Just like the Between The Tides flower bed it was rather unkempt but it was full of bright and attractive flowers with the Cobble Clock in the centre. Designed by Maggy Howarth of Cobblestone Designs, who also created the Paradise Garden mosaic in Lytham town centre, the clock was unveiled in 2005 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lowther Gardens’ status as a public park, though unfortunately it currently has no hands.
Backing the border was a long box hedge with its neatly trimmed wavy lines giving shelter to the flowers and behind the hedge I came to the rose garden, a large expanse of lawn with an elevated seating area at the far side and individual circular beds each with a different colour of rose.
Back on the main path and in the centre of the gardens was the large Victorian lily pond with its life size bronze statue, not in the centre but towards one edge. Unveiled in November 2003 ‘Shrimper’ by sculptor Colin Spofforth was commissioned as part of a heritage lottery project for Lowther Gardens, with the history of shrimping in the area having been meticulously researched to ensure that the sculpture’s clothing and accessories stayed true to an 1880’s shrimper from the area. Swimming lazily in the pond were several large fish but the water was a bit too cloudy to get any clear shots of them.
From the lily pond I headed back out of the gardens and across the road onto the green; before I went in search of the old boats and tractors there was something else I wanted to look for which I’d also seen on someone else’s blog.
Back in the early 20th century there was a prosperous fishing industry in the Ribble estuary but as the river gradually became more polluted several outbreaks of food poisoning were linked to the consumption of shellfish so to combat this three mussel cleansing tanks were constructed by Lancashire County Council and opened in 1935, operating for just over twenty years before being closed in 1957.
A restaurant was built on the site of the western tank, with the building later being used as a nightclub then as a roller skating venue but by the mid 1990s it had become derelict and vandalised so was demolished and the area paved over. The old central tank became occupied by the Ribble Cruising Club and the eastern tank by the RNLI Lytham lifeboat and its crew, then in 2017 Lytham St. Annes Civic Society sponsored the refurbishment of the paved area to retain the views and celebrate the heritage of the site.
With the tide having now retreated I took the opportunity to walk right down to the end of the long lifeboat jetty; it was quite a distance across the sand and thick mud and looking back to the promenade it was easy to see why the lifeboat is launched using a tractor and trailer.
With a final long distance shot of Lytham windmill and the old lifeboat station in the distance I headed back along the jetty to the promenade – it was time to go in search of the old boats and tractors back along the beach somewhere.
Back in the 19th century two local brothers, Nathaniel and Thomas Greenhalgh who had made a large fortune in the cotton spinning industry, were determined that some of their wealth should go towards improving the spiritual and moral welfare of the people living and working in the industrial sprawl on the outskirts of Bolton. Being fervent members of the evangelical wing of the Church of England they decided to build a school and a church on land they owned off the main road running north from the town centre, and though Nathaniel died in 1877 at the age of 60 Thomas decided to proceed with the scheme in his memory and work started on the school that same year.
In 1878 the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster were appointed to design the church, with Thomas Greenhalgh’s remit being that the building should be without interior obstructions so that everyone could see and hear the sermon, and there should be no uncomfortable draughts for people to catch colds. Work on the Gothic Revival-style church started that same year though it was entirely without ceremony as Greenhalgh didn’t want the pomp of laying an official foundation stone; the contractors were Cordingley & Stopford of Manchester and the total cost of the build was £20,000, the equivalent of almost £2.4 million at today’s prices. The new church was consecrated by Bishop Fraser of Manchester on June 30th 1881 and the first vicar was the Reverend William Popplewell.
Built of locally made red brick with Longridge stone being used for the external dressings and Stourton stone inside, the church has a north porch and a west door, a small octagonal turret on the north side and a west tower 26ft square. The roofs were covered in Westmorland slate and at one time the tower had a weather vane bearing the date 1881 but unfortunately this was blown off during a storm in 1952 and was never replaced.
Thomas Greenhalgh’s remit that the church interior should be without obstructions produced a large nave 52ft wide and 86ft long with just one central aisle, and a chancel measuring 40ft x 25ft. The high vaulted roof and the panelling of the nave walls were made of pitch pine, as were the original pews which could seat 800 people. The pulpit, lectern, reading desk, choir stalls, altar and communion rails were all designed by Paley and Austin and made of oak.
The church was originally lit by twelve gas pendants then in 1929 electric lighting was introduced, with electric blowers being added to the organ at the same time. The organ itself was built by Abbott of Leeds in 1880 from a specification prepared by S W Pilling of Bolton, with extensive overhauls being carried out in 1959 and again in the 1970s by Peter Wood of Huddersfield. The case, again designed by Paley and Austin, was made of Danzig oak.
The chancel floor is made up of white marble with inlays of Dent black marble, which isn’t true marble but a black crinoidal limestone found in certain areas of Dentdale and quarried during the late 18th century. With its amazing quantity of embedded fossil remains it became known as Dent Marble and was, at one time, very much sought after.
The reredos was designed by John Roddis of Birmingham, sculpted from Mansfield stone and made up of a series of panels containing the Apostles’ Creed, the Decalogue and the Lord’s Prayer, while the large font near the west door was also designed by John Roddis and sculpted from Mansfield stone. In later years an oak font cover was added which was paid for by public subscription in 1930 and dedicated to William Popplewell, the church’s first vicar. The inscription on the plaque reads “To the glory of God and in loving memory of the Rev’d William Popplewell, first vicar of this parish 1879 – 1923”
The eastern windows of the chancel were all made by Clayton & Bell of London and date from the building of the church. Clayton & Bell was one of the most prolific and proficient English stained glass workshops during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, well known for their use of exceptionally bright primary colours. The company was founded in 1855 and continued until 1993 with their windows being found throughout the UK and in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The windows in All Souls were given in memory of Nathaniel Greenhalgh and show scenes from the New Testament including several from The Acts of the Apostles, all with the relevant quotation below them.
Fast forward through the years and what had once been a large congregation gradually dwindled over time and by the time the church celebrated its centenary in 1981 it was becoming obvious that the building had major problems. From the 1940s there had been several outbreaks of dry rot and in later years vandalism was rife – in 1970 the stained glass windows in the tower were removed after being badly damaged. They had been made by Shrigley and Hunt and had depicted the six days of the Creation but they were replaced with plain glass containing a cross in the upper part of the central light.
In 1986 it was stated that over 80% of the area’s population were of Asian origin with most being Muslims and with the small congregation unable to meet the parish’s financial commitments closure of the church was inevitable; the last service was held there on December 28th that same year. To avoid All Souls suffering the same fate as its sister church, which had been in another area of the town and was demolished in 1975, in June 1987 the church was vested in the Redundant Churches Fund, now known as the Churches Conservation Trust. Since then the Trust has undertaken several major repairs to the fabric of the building including eradicating the dry rot and pointing the brickwork.
In 2007 a local resident, Inayat Omarji, who had lived in the area all his life, recognised the church’s potential to be a community, events and business centre and after gathering support and financial backing for its regeneration a rescue plan was developed in partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust. Renovation and restoration work began in September 2013 and was completed in November 2014, with the doors finally reopening to the public on December 6th that year.
Because the inside of the church had been originally designed without pillars or aisles it was very adaptable to its new purpose as an events and community space. The philosophy of the restoration was to preserve the original beauty of the church while incorporating the very best of contemporary design and the interior now features two connected 3-storey ‘pods’ which are independent of the main building and touch neither the sides nor the roof of it. The newly designed interior provides an events space in the main body of the church for heritage and community activity, a ground floor coffee shop, a history wall, office space and five meeting rooms, while the chancel and all its original features remain intact. The building is still consecrated as a church and weddings can still be held there with the permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In spite of All Souls being only a mile from home I’d never actually been in there, either in the past or in more recent years, however I visited a couple of weeks ago on one of the Heritage Open Days – and I have to say that what you see on the inside is definitely not what you would expect to see from the outside.
After spending some time wandering round taking photos and reading various bits of information on the history wall I sat down to listen to a very interesting talk on the history of the church given by Suzanne, one of the community workers, then I had the opportunity to climb the tower steps up onto the roof, stopping a couple of times on the way up to look down into the main body of the church.
The tower is 117ft high with a narrow spiral stone staircase of 180 steps and a ring of eight bells cast in 1880 by J Taylor & Co. of Loughborough. The tenor bell alone weighs over 23cwt (1160kg) with the whole ring of eight weighing a total of 90cwt (4570kg). Going up the staircase was certainly a test of heart and lung capacity, though with no handrail or rope to hold onto coming back down was more a test of nerve and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
The strenuous climb up the tower steps was certainly worth it as I was rewarded with 360 degree views and I could see for miles in all directions; the weather was glorious and I got several good shots looking over the immediate area and beyond, with the high-rises of Manchester city centre on the horizon.
Back at ground level I had another wander round to catch up on anything I’d previously missed – and I still didn’t manage to see or read everything – then it was time to go as it was almost closing time. I’d been there for over two hours and it was certainly time well spent – I’d learnt something of the history of All Souls and it had been interesting to see the modern ‘building within a building’. The church is open every weekday so who knows, I may very well be tempted to pop in sometime when I’m passing to sample their coffee and cake.
One day back in March I went to explore a creek on the southern outskirts of Lytham, and though it looked quite an attractive place it was also a very muddy place as it was low tide at the time. Promising myself I would go back one day when it was high tide the opportunity came towards the end of August and I was also able to tie in my visit to the creek with a later walk along part of Lytham beach.
Leaving the van in the quiet lane at the side of the minor creek where I saw the welly boot stuck in the grass back in March I walked along the top of the bank to the main road then along to the creek with all the boats. Negotiating rather a tricky stile the first thing I came to was some sort of pumping station with the water in the creek bubbling like a boiling kettle, but just as I found a good spot to take a photo the bubbling stopped and everything became calm.
The creek itself, at high tide, looked much more attractive than it was in March though I couldn’t go as far along as I did back then. The raised bank sloped down at the far end to a large area of flat grassland split by a minor creek, and though everywhere had been bone dry on my previous visit the grass was now very boggy under the surface. And how do I know that? – because my feet sank into it and I got my trainers covered in black mud!
As I’d been walking along I’d noticed several tortoiseshell butterflies flitting about, in fact there weren’t just several there were lots of them and some of them did actually stay still long enough for me to get a few shots of them.
Using the longer grass to wipe the worst of the mud off my trainers I went back along the top of the bank and made my way back to the van for the next part of my day. Driving along the seafront I came to Lowther Gardens which was the nearest place to where I wanted to be so I left the van there and later walked a short distance along the road, crossing over to a short slipway onto the beach. Through reading someone else’s blog I’d recently found out about a short stretch of the beach where I could find some old boats and even older tractors and on such a lovely sunny day they were a photo opportunity not to be missed.
Farther along the beach and close to the low water line was the Celestial Dawn, a 41ft ketch which ran aground in August 2019. Two sailors, along with some equipment and personal items, were rescued by the Lytham inshore lifeboat but with a sixteen inch hole in its hull the Celestial Dawn has lain on the beach ever since, being enveloped by the tide twice a day so only the masts are visible.
Heading back to the tractors I came across an upturned dinghy buried in a water filled hole in the marshy grass; any deeper and it would have looked like a boat shaped coffin. Back at the slipway I took my last few shots of the boats and tractors, most of which were obviously past their best, then went back to collect the van from Lowther Gardens car park and head for home.
It had been a lovely day, the weather had been perfect, and it had been good to find the boats and tractors which I hadn’t previously known were there. There’s actually a third part to this particular day too but the photos I took really deserve a post of their own so I’ll save those for a Monday walk another time.