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History Group Report -  September 2014

1. Freshfield House;  blue plaque. With the understanding that the necessary finance for this will be provided by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, an order has now been placed for this plaque with a view to its being  placed on Freshfield House, at a date to be agreed with the owners sometime in October. Arrangements for the fixing ceremony need to be decided.

Information to go on the plaque will be:-

'Formby Civic Society' (top)

'Thomas Fresh (1803-1861)

founder of Freshfield and

Liverpool Public Health Pioneer,

lived here'  1853 - 1857,

'Chartered Institute of Environmental Health' (bottom).

2. Formby WW1 Home Front project. This was started on Friday 29th August in the Local History section of Crosby Library. The first meeting was to look at the new Microfilm Reader and learn how to use its digital copying and saving facility with the intention of working through weekly issues of the Formby Times from 1st August 1914 to the end of the war, recording relevant news items. We have booked  regular weekly sessions with the Library but if the time does not suit everyone other times can be booked to suite individual members of the group.

We have already rediscovered weekly lists of local volunteers published in the Formby times which formed  the basis of the Roll of Honour recently unveiled in the grounds of the Formby Pool. We have also digitally copied detailed weekly reports on significant events on the home front here in Formby. With the help of Tony Bonney we building up a very comprehensive and interesting picture of life here at the beginning of the conflict. Analysis of this will keep us occupied for some time but already we are getting a remarkably clear view of how the outbreak of war impacted on the civilian population here. Similar exercises are going on in other parts of the country and it will be interesting to compare results at some time.

We have acquired a copy of the recently produced DVD on ‘Life on the Home Front in NW England’ produced by NW Film Archive and this is available to borrow by members of this group. Please let me know if you would like to borrow it.

3. Dune Heath history guided visit. At the invitation of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust  on Sunday, September 9 we assisted with the 10th anniversary Open Day by leading a guided walk discussing the history of the Dune Heath area. Although the turnout was fairly small this was an enjoyable occasion particularly as the gorse and scrub -cleared area of the Heath now has an extensive area of Heather currently in flower. Lowland heathland is now of course a rare natural landscape but has now naturally returned to Woodvale simply due to the fact that this area has been completely sheltered from public intrusion since it was taken over by the RAF early in WW2. We were able to talk about its previous uses, first as rather poor farmland, subsequently an extensive golf links, requisitioned in wartime for the defence of north-west England, and now reverting to nature.

4. Formby Neighbourhood Plan. With regard to our built heritage, we have been invited by the Parish Council to take a lead on this as we have a strong background interest in its history and development, but as this is quite a large subject our suggestion is to concentrate on Green Lane conservation area, first; then 'The Village'; (Brows Lane , Chapel Lane and School Lane ) later. We could perhaps broaden the geographic scope later, using published guidelines including;- a. Understanding Place: historic area assessments: principles and practice; English Heritage, June 2012. b. Good Practice Guide for local heritage listing, English heritage, May, 2012.and c. The Oxford 'Character Assessment Toolkit', Oxford Preservation Trust and English Heritage, To help us with this, we have of course considerable historical data including maps, (going back to the Tithe Map 1845). Photographs from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day and of course the area is totally accessible. We will however need to carry out a fairly detailed study using the Oxford 'Toolkit' and although this will take some time to complete should be quite practicable.  We have already started some suggestions for a 'Local List'. With regard to Natural Heritage assets, whilst obviously interested in providing views, other nature conservation and wildlife organisations may be able to provide more authoritative input.

5. Possible R A F Woodvale Memorial.  It occurs to me that, it would not be inappropriate for there to be some sort of simple memorial to the twenty-two RAF personnel, stationed at Woodvale, who lost their lives with the RAF during WW2. Few of the present-day Formby population, most of whom will have moved to live here since WW2, have much idea of the role Woodvale played. The now established Dune Heath would perhaps be an appropriate place  (insofar as it is now open to the public), for a suitable simple Memorial.  Aldon Ferguson, the official historian of Woodvale, describes how these airmen lost their lives one way or another. Only 2 or 3 graves are to be found in Formby itself. The similar Burscough wartime aerodrome, no longer used, does however have a similar Memorial at its former main gate. Before taking it any further  we need to seek views of people like Aldon Ferguson and of course RAF Woodvale itself. If the idea has their support perhaps we could give it further consideration?

R.A.Y September 2014