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History Group Report December  2015


Ravenmeols Heritage Trails;

 In addition to a well-designed heritage trails leaflet, a Ravenmeols booklet is now being prepared. The result of several  years  work, the cost (£1500.00), will be paid for by Sefton Coastal Partnership with the same specification  as booklets on ‘Fort Crosby’ and ‘Formby Footprints’, (by Alison Burns);  A5, 36pp text + 4pp cover printed full colour throughout.


WW1 Project.

This remarkable project has been completed within 12 months by the unstinted time put in at Crosby Library mainly by John Phillips and Tony Pawson, and digital computer –filing of the findings by Tony Bonney. This was facilitated by the availability of the digital scanner in the local history section together with the access to the contemporary issues of The Formby Times, which (fortunately) worked at a much superior journalistic level at that time. Our first insight into the findings was at our last General Meeting when the chairman spoke on this subject. We have of course concentrated on the ‘Home Front’ rather than military action overseas  and it will be interesting to compare findings with similar projects conducted by other groups in other parts of the country.


Model Cottages collection.

As agreed at the last committee meeting we have provisionally agreed with the Atkinson Gallery for the transfer of this unique collection. In line however with previous policy in respect to the Sibley collection we will not take action on this until the decision has been confirmed by members at the next AGM.


Formby UDC History.

The proceedings of Formby Council were always well reported in the Formby Times, but particularly so in the early years, starting from the time when there was heated debate in Formby as to whether or not to become an Urban District. The Formby Times was in fact established specifically to assist the ‘Urbanite’ cause. This coverage facilitates our understanding of how Formby developed in the first half of the 20th century, the period of its most rapid growth. Following the World War I project, scanning  local news will enable us to retrieve information on the early days of Formby’s development. It so happens that our attention has been drawn to a key figure in Formby during the fight for Urban District Council status. A powerful newcomer, Mr Charles Stead, formerly Chairman of the famous Saltaire Mills, near Bradford, (now a world Heritage Site), had been involved in local government in Yorkshire and served on West Riding County Council as an alderman. After coming to Lancashire he was elected president of the (now defunct) Formby Ratepayers Association and took an active share in the move to make Formby an Urban District. At the time of his death he was president of the Formby Liberal Association. There was more or less a parish-based civil war between the ‘urbanites’ and the ‘non-urbanites’ at that time and it will be interesting to reinvestigate it’s history.


Duke Street library.

I recently noticed that since the Duke Street library closure for restructuring the so-called ‘Formby Tapestry’, created by former member of the art group Lillian Rushton, had disappeared. On making enquiries I discovered it had gone to Crosby Library, but on enquiring at Crosby, they had no idea that it was on loan from this society. They have now promised to return it and put it on display here once again. The same seems to have happened to the large reproduction of the ‘Hamilton Map’, formerly overlooking the issues desk, an early and unique mediaeval map of the West Lancs and Formby area, photographically copied from an original in the National Archives, and loaned to the library some years ago by ourselves. I am waiting to hear what has happened to this and whether they intend to return it.


Ravenmeols Water-mill.

Those familiar with historical records relating to the River Alt in the Middle- ages, will know there are references to a Watermill, on the Northern bank, (then in Ravenmeols), in the 13 - 14th centuries. This had a working relationship with the monastic Alt Grange on the opposite bank. I am currently doing some research on this location and believe it relates to the sandstone revetment recently rediscovered by Jen Lewis, formerly History Group secretary. If anyone is interested in helping investigate this, let me know.


FCS Notelets.

In the run-up to Christmas may I finish by mentioning that we still have a large stock of Sibley-illustrated ‘notelets’. As the financial subgroup seems to have run out of steam they are sitting in a cupboard. It would be good if we could now offer them to members at a reduced rate?


Formby War Memorials.

Bernard Prescott, Chairman of Formby Parish Council and I have been researching the history of Formby’s two main War Memorials with interesting results. In fact there are more than twenty War Memorials in and around Formby including two to local men killed in action in the Boer War. We have now been invited to join an interesting nation-wide project established by Civic Voice.

There was a proposal to move our main ‘civic’ memorial in 1975 when  Sefton MBC, together with developers Telegraph Properties and the Royal Liver Friendly Society intended to move it together with its memorial garden as part of a redevelopment scheme.  This was to include pedestrianisation and realignment of Three Tuns and Halsall Lanes. A two tier car park to accommodate 315 cars was also proposed.  Opposition to this was first voiced when the plans came up to the Sefton District Council planning department. Formby Civic Society founder member and talented local artist Lillian Rushton, then took up the battle with the proposed developers and Planning Committee and organised a 5000 signature petition calling for the site, (originally given by Mr Weld Blundell in 1922 specifically for the war memorial and garden), to be saved. The Council then complied with an order made by the Charity Commissioners preserving the status of the site “so that it can never be used for another purpose without consent of the commission”. After a two-year battle the site was recognised as a charitable trust. And thus the memorial and its garden were saved for posterity on its present prominent and suitable site


R.A.Y. November 2015