Many members and a few visitors came to the March meeting to hear about Catching Tales, Fishing Stories from Morecambe Bay presented by Michelle Cooper of Morecambe Bay Partnership. She played extracts of sound recordings that have been gathered over the past 4 years. On the day of the talk she had delivered the master discs containing the memories of about 60 people who have contributed about 150 to 200 hours of conversation to Lancashire Archives, Preston and another set will be deposited with Cumbria Archives, Barrow for long term preservation. Interviews have been conducted with fishing families around the Bay and in particular from Flookburgh, Morecambe and Sunderland Point. Under the headings of Across the Generations, Fishing Methods, Rivalry, Dangers, Wildlife and Nicknames we heard how skills were passed from generation to generation; using horses and how their replacement by tractors changed fishing; how to catch and sort shrimps; making nets; competitiveness and friendship between the fishermen; elephants bathing off Blackpool; and a record of some of the nicknames given to the fishermen. One lady also recounted her experiences of fishing. We were given an insight into a magical world.
Richard Sanderson gave a talk to a packed Cartmel village hall on the history and future of Backbarrow Ironworks. Richard talked about the long history of iron production in the area, using bloomeries. He then explained the important history of Backbarrow ironworks, described by Historic England as “…the best illustration nationally of iron-smelting technology development from the early 18thto the 20thcentury.” John Wilkinson’s father, Isaac, moved to Backbarrow in the 1720s and pioneered new metallurgical processes and John will have learned from him.
At most, 18 people worked there and the last blast was in 1964. The metal was taken away for scrap and the trustees are now attempting to preserve and conserve the site for the future. Richard illustrated his talk with photographs of the site when it was in use and the remnants that are spread around the site.
The trustees are working with many bodies, including Historic England, and would like further support from industries and local history societies. They would like to hear from anyone who has memories of the ironworks and hope to provide conducted tours of the site in the near future.
Louise Martin, the Cultural Heritage Officer for the Headlands to Headspace initiative within the Morecambe Bay Partnership, was our September speaker. Louise presented examples of the recent archeological work; Barrow’s Military History on Walney Island, Gleaston Castle, three sites on Birkrigg Common, Hampsfell Hospice and Kirkland Tower, two sites at Jenny Barrows Point, and Warton Craggs on the south shore of the Bay. For each site available documentary evidence had been brought together and detailed recording carried out using ground survey, aerial photography using drones and geophysical surveys. One use of the data was to create dramatic 3D images. An archeological dig had been carried out at Jenny Brown’’s point. Conservation assessments were carried out and necessary restoration work identified. The projects were often carried out in partnership with Universities and all involved volunteers. Training was a key element in all the projects. The report for all the projects would be available on line.
The Walney sites included pillboxes, searchlight emplacements and gun battery foundations. At Gleaston Castle the surveys had shown an earlier tower near the thirteenth century manorial buildings, and the location of enclosing walls. The Birkrigg work had involved three sites on the Common. A major task had involved bracken removal both to reveal and protect the stone circles protect: 40 ton bags of bracken were removed in 2015. At Appleby Slack a small living enclosure and a larger stock enclosure had been identified. Documentary evidence and old photographs had been brought together for Hampsfell Hospice and Kirkhead Tower and condition assessments carried out. The chimney at Jenny Brown’s Point was shown to be associated with a calcining furnace linked to possible copper mining. A large embankment running 2km into the Bay was the remnants of a failed land restoration scheme. LIDAR had been used at Warton Craggs to clearly show the three series of remparts whish are masked by trees. They are probably hill top enclosures rather than a hill fort.
Kevin Grice gave an entertaining and informative talk on a relatively hidden aspect of our local history. It seems that the Dad’s army of WW2 was not the first time that Volunteer Forces had been used in military history.
A number of events in the mid nineteenth century including the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the limited effectiveness of the Crimean War, and an assassination attempt on the life of Napoleon the Third in 1858 which involved a grenade made in Birmingham all raised fears of a possible French invasion in 1859. Thus RVC’s ( Rifle Volunteer Corps) were formed all over the country with Lancashire over the Sands and Kendal being no exceptions.
He talked principally about the rifle ranges which were created to fulfil the 24 days a year target practice the RVC’s enlisters were required to carry out. Needless to say these sites were of necessity in relatively isolated areas and amongst those he discussed in detail was the site at Silver How, above Grasmere. Others noted were on Torver Common another at Helsfell, Kendal and one even in Cartmel at Holker Bank in what is today part of the Cistercian Way.
Simon Williams, chairman of the Mourholme local history society which covers the Carnforth, Arnside and Silverdale area gave a lively and interesting talk in April 2017 about two boating disasters in Morecambe Bay. The first known as the Kent’s bank tragedy of 1850 involved the North family and their guests from Know Hill Lodge, Lineth ( the name was changed to Silverdale in 1930) The family and boatmen set off for lunch in Kent’s Bank Hotel in a Lancashire Nobby but the young men and boatsmen delayed their return by visiting the bar. Tragedy struck whilst they were rowing back and a verdict of accidental death was reported.
The other accident happened in 1894 and involved members of the Riley family,mill workers from Queen St. Burnley, during their September Wakes week holiday to Morecambe : its details survive due to the daughter Fanny’s diary. A thirty three foot Lancashire Nobby called the Matchless overloaded with 34 day trippers ,was being sailed single handed by Samuel Houghton from Morecambe to Kent’s Bank via Jenny Brown Point. The boat was caught broadside by a gust of wind at Jenny Brown Point and it sank in seconds. Very few of them could swim and their clogs hindered them despite help from a nearby boat. Fanny Riley 9 and her brother Ben 7 and an engaged couple were amongst the 9 survivors. The King’s Arms in Morecambe acted as both a mortuary and the location where the inquest was held. Identification of the bodies was left to the landladies in Morecambe. Despite being overloaded, the authorities accepted no responsibility for the inadequate licensing regulations.
Members of the Society time-travelled back to the Victorian era at the June 2018 lecture through a selection of photographs taken by John Garnett of Windermere (Photographer, Post Master, Printer, Bookseller and Chemist) at the end of the 19th Century. Ian explained the different type of glass negatives (full plate, half plate and stereoscopic pair) and that if properly stored the images are permanent. The photographs required an exposure time of 10 to 20 seconds or the images would be blurred, but most of the photographs were extremely clear even when he zoomed in to show particular features. The photographs shown included the shore at Grange-over-Sands (after the railway but before the promenade was built ie c1868); Holker Hall (before the 1871 fire which destroyed the West Wing); High Fold Farm at Troutbeck (showing Peggy Longmire on her 100th birthday in 1864); Bowness (both before and after the promenade was built); and Windermere Station (c 1900 featuring horse-drawn coaches built in Windermere). Ian displayed a wealth of knowledge of local history which enabled him to date the photographs very accurately.
Ian Gee, a Director and Trustee of the Lakes Flying Company, gave an absorbing and fascinating Talk to a large audience about “Aviation on Windermere 1909-1919”, describing how Edward Wakefield pioneered flight from water on Windermere.
Wakefield built hangars at Bowness and used boat engineers from Barrow to adapt an Avro plane as a seaplane. Despite widespread ridicule “Waterbird” made the first successful flight from water 25th November 1911 from the Lake. The pilot sat at the front with the engine and propellers at the rear. The float was stepped, (a crucial adaptation) and the outriggers made from bamboo.
Wakefield recognised early on the military advantages of seaplanes for scouting purposes as land- based aircraft at the time did not have the range to reach enemy lines. During World War I Windermere was an important centre for training Naval Pilots and the first seaplanes were used 25th December 1914 against Zeppelin bases in Germany.
A replica of the “Waterbird” is currently being built and approaching “air worthiness”.