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History Group Report - AGM 2014

History Group report to AGM April 2014. By R. A. Yorke.

Festival of British Archaeology As a contribution to this an interesting visit to the remains of Ravenmeols Subterranean Cold-War Nuclear Monitoring Post, was organised by the Formby Civic Society, History Group on Sunday 28th July 2013. The very existence of a national network of nuclear monitoring posts created in the early 1960s was kept secret until after they were dismantled in 1991. Particularly as they were constructed mainly underground, covered by 3 feet of soil, (or in our case sand, they have never attracted much attention. Despite this few members of the public have been aware of their existence and purpose, and the voluntary contribution of many dedicated members of the Royal Observer Corps has remained largely unacknowledged. Lack of awareness has also resulted from the extremely exposed position of the Formby post situated south of Albert Road, and subsidence of the underlying dune which in fact caused it to be abandoned about 1967, when a new post was constructed at RAF Woodvale within the perimeter of the aerodrome, and which remained active until 1991. Enough remains to see exactly how it operated and to sense the dedication of the Royal Observer Corps members who manned it during that critical period several of whom joined us on the visit and who have provided valuable first-hand information on how the Observation Post actually worked. I was very grateful for the help of Jack Gore on that occasion.

A second ‘Formby Asparagus Feast was held on Friday evening 31st of May as a contribution to the  Formby Asparagus Festival held under the auspices of the National Trust, Formby. The event was held at the RAFA Club, Victoria Road Formby and with David Davis as master of ceremonies, was enjoyed by over 90 local people- This was the second such asparagus feast to be organized by the Society this time jointly with the National Trust and was much enjoyed by those who attended, after which the opinion was expressed that the venture should now become annual!

Re-indexing the Sibley originals’ kindly undertaken by Colin Cook has now been completed and their condition noted. Having inspected the collection Stephen Whittle, Atkinson Museum & Gallery Manager has now formally agreed, if we wish, to add them to the Atkinson collection as he recognizes they are a valuable regional archive. Sefton have a collection of 3,500 artworks from right across the borough but have relatively little material relating to Formby. They now have a climate controlled art store where the material could be kept and made accessible to visiting researchers. Works from the collection would be incorporated in their temporary exhibition programme and could

also feature in the new museum development opening in October 2014.

Local history archives. Now that we have finalised audit of the Sibley Collection and its index, we propose a review of the rest of the local history archive, much of which goes back to the earliest days of the Society. This is likely to be very time-consuming, particularly if we adhere to guidelines produced by The Community Archives and Heritage Group which supports and promotes community archives in the UK and Ireland and of which we have membership*. If anyone would like to assist with this please let us know. It will involve working a few hours on Friday afternoons. Work on this however depends on gaining working space following the proposed transfer of the

Sibley collection to the Atkinson Gallery!

History Group Programme. During the year History group meetings, held on alternating months between general meetings included My work as a Local History Detective’ by S. Halliwell, ‘Classical Liverpool - an Inside Story; Hugh Hollinghurst. Unfortunately because of bad weather Stuart Evans, was not able to reach us to give a talk on The Arts and Crafts movement; Liverpool and the North West' and this will be rearranged for a future date. Instead those members who turned joined in on an interesting and rewarding discussion regarding the activities and programme planned for the rest of the year. We also enjoyed a very interesting field visit led by archaeologist Ron Cowell to the recently discovered important Mesolithic site on Lunt Meadows close to the River Alt, where current excavations, have revealed the remains of a settlement,( which contrary to usual perceptions of the period) was used by a group of Mesolithic families (perhaps intermittently?) over 300 years.

Local Heritage Listing; English Heritage’s recently issued a Good Practice Guide for Local Heritage Listing’ which will enable us to raise our profile on ‘local listing’ to “playing an essential role in building and reinforcing a sense of local character and distinctiveness in the historic environment, which will be used to identify significant local heritage assets to support the development of Local Plans, strengthen the role of local heritage assets as a material consideration in the planning process”. A preliminary list of ‘Buildings and Structures of Historical Interest’ within Formby is being compiled. This is a start of an interesting project.

Proposed ‘Ravenmeols Heritage Trails website; an application for funding for this has now been approved. Noel Blundell and I have given a fair amount of thought to the possible use of newer techniques already being used successfully in other heritage areas. Finance for a new freestanding website, has been agreed from the Sefton Coast Partnership Community Fund. The new website will have a balanced content of information regarding access, landscape interest, history, wildlife, etc., (with images). It will also provide a series of Trail Guides which can be downloaded, when planning a visit, onto iphone, ipod or similar device, or simply printed out. I had the pleasure of leading a 3 mile Ravenmeols walk for the Sefton coast partnership last weekend.

Placing a Commemorative Plaque, on Freshfield House, 95 Freshfield Road, Formby , the former home of Thomas Fresh, Liverpool's first Inspector of Nuisances and close colleague of Dr Duncan, after whom, Freshfield Station and then the surrounding area was named, is now with the full and kind agreement of the owners and finance from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health,going ahead . Medical historian, Norman Parkinson who continued the research started by ourselves gave us a most interesting update in December 2012, subsequently published in the Journal of Medical Biography. This would be the first such plaque in Formby. Consideration is also being given to an application for listing of the property and has also been discussed with Daniel Byron.

Proposed World War I ‘Home Front project. Finally I am interested to read about this project in the current issue of Local History News and am suggesting a trawl through the Formby Times copies on microfilm at Crosby Library to see what was happening here at that time. If anyone would be interested in participating in this project please let me know.

Formby Prehistoric Footprints. The successful publication by the society of a new illustrated booklet on the Formby Prehistoric Footprints, the culmination of many years work by well-known Formby local resident and one-time teacher Gordon Roberts is probably the most important event undertaken by the society for some time, presenting a short and easily understood summary of the significance of these unique but transient archaeological findings. 500 booklets were delivered last night . We are arranging a launch at the end of the month and then this booklet will go on sale from local bookshops at the end of this month but in the meantime is to be made available to members of the society with the next newsletter.

Talks; finally I have given quite a lot of presentations on local history topics to local organisations during the last year and am in the last few days I have been approached by the head of St Jerome’s school Cathy Monaghan to meet up with her staff to discuss how to develop an interest in local history studies at the school. They seem to be particularly interested in Ravenmeols.