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History Group Report 2010

'Formby and Freshfield Through Time'.
Prichard's bookshop report that our new book 'Formby and Freshfield Through Time', largely based on the society's photo archive is selling well -- over 400 copies since early December when it was launched at the Formby Pool Centre.

Published by Cotswold based Amberley Publishing, this is one of a new series in which comparisons are drawn between old photographs of interesting local places and their present appearance. In our case all the old photos are from the society's archive, many originally taken by Muriel Sibley. The new ones specially taken for this work will now themselves become part on the visual record of how Formby and Freshfield are changing and developing.

This ongoing process often goes without notice so the contrast between old and new is sometimes quite stark and thought-provoking. All profits from the sale of this publication will come to the society.

New light on the ‘Devils Hole’!
Even some local people are not familiar with this striking geo-morphological feature of the Ravenmeols dunes, one of the countries largest dune ‘blowouts’ but until now the reason for its formation has been speculative. Featured at the beginning of a recent TV programme, Country Tracks, a previously unknown excplanation has emerged. Local resident Major Ellis Dean thinks that it may have been started as a result of enemy action during World War 2 during which years Altcar Training Camp was home to Western Command Small Arm School. In 1944, during his own army service he became acquainted with a former Warrant Officer Instructor from the school. He remembered an incident during his time at Altcar when he and several other members of staff inspected a massive crater that had resulted from a land-mine dropped by a German bomber during the previous nights. This was in May 1941, the time of the German ‘blitz’ on Merseyside. Adjacent to this site there was in fact a ‘Starfish’ decoy intended to attract enemy attention there instead of on the docks.

Certainly the effects of a landmine dropping on the dunes would have been significant and as this area is very exposed particularly to west and north-west winds it is conceivable that that incident may have resulted in the very large ‘blow-out’ we see today.

Future Programme.
There are still two meetings left in the current history group programs. On Thursday 11th March Dr. Jen Lewis is to speak about recent archaeological research at Lathom House, abandoned by the Earls of Derby, following the Civil War but where recent research has revealed hitherto more ancient occupation. On 8th April we have our annual Member’s Evening, when there are usually three contributions. This year Dr Phil Smith will give a short introductory account of his recent research on (until recently unrecognised) Black Poplar in Formby and Mrs H. Broadfoot will talk about her former old thatched farmhouse, ‘The Elms’ which stood in Brows Lane on the site now occupied by Pritchard’s Bookshop. Our summer programme is being prepared and may include a visit to the site of the former Formby Lighthouse on Altcar Rifle Range when we will have an opportunity to discuss the reasons for its construction there in the early 18th Century and search for any remaining foundations left after it was demolished during WW2