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History Group Report January 2016

The so-called ‘Formby Tapestry’;   Created by former member Lilian Rushton  was recently removed from Formby Library during their up-grading work but after this removal was questioned it is now to be returned and hung in the Meetings Room. In the meantime a PowerPoint  presentation based on the ‘Tapestry’ has been prepared  and might be useful for local Schools who are now being encouraged to give their pupils more information about local heritage than has formerly been the case. We recently received an invitation to talk to very young children at Freshfield Primary School and the Chairman took the opportunity to do this.

Recent contacts include an e-mail from John Formby, an Australian descendant of the Formby’s of Formby Hall who visited a year or two ago and says he has a book titled ‘The Formby’s of  Formby’,  printed in 1910 and says “unfortunately the book is not in a great condition due to its age….. The initials C.J. are at the end”. He asks whether we know of the book?.  This is clearly the book written by a relative of the Formby family, Catherine Jackson, a valuable copy of which we do in fact possess.

Also from Australia we have had recent contact from a descendant of the Mackerell family (who were well known as small farmers  here in the 19th Century), who is researching his family history and hopes to visit Formby this year.

 Future Meetings Programme.  History Group Meetings will continue to alternate with General Meetings and follow the sequence already established. Speakers and topics are currently being identified for the year commencing next September.

Ravenmeols Trails Official Opening – A full colour brochure has been prepared with professional  assistance and Information Panels design and contents are being finalised. Finance for a booklet to be written by ourselves has been allocated by Sefton Coast.  Although the research has already been completed, writing and editing this will take a little extra time.

Two local Cottages saved!  Having lost so many old vernacular cottages, some listed, in the last half century it is good to report the saving of two, 1 Southport Road, and 2 Timm’s Lane. Unfortunately the older part of 1 Southport Road was beyond saving but a very commendable effort has been made by its new owner with advice from English Heritage to preserve as much as possible. No 2 Timms Lane was also in a very poor condition but now saved and again being lived in.

FCS Archives, equipment and museum  items.  Now that I have a little more time the opportunity will be taken to improve the organisation and accessibility of our Local History archives and library. Storage however is still a considerable problem. Medlar Lodge remains over-full and much material is stored in Briardale and in Peter Lucas’s Garage. The situation will be helped by the transfer of the Ceramic Cottage collection to the Atkinson, following  previous discussion and endorsement at the next AGM. In addition we have surplus equipment including two overhead Projectors  as well as a late 19th C ‘Magic Lantern’ which perhaps we do not need to keep any longer? A detailed list of ‘Museum’ items some of which were formerly on display in the Society’s glass-cases in the Library is available. I suggest that these are also offered to the Atkinson.   

Future Plans, 2016 activities. Possible ‘Formby Milestones’ publication. It has been suggested that some of the articles on Local History written for the Newsletter in the first instance should be re-edited, re-printed and brought together as a single volume. Some of these articles have gone onto the website but are not easy to find. A Committee opinion on this would be appreciated.

Formby War Memorials. During the Centenary of the beginning of WW1 there is currently great national interest in the identification and preservation of Memorials erected to remember the men who gave their lives on behalf of their country. In conjunction with Formby Parish Council we are  ascertaining the state and history of our several Formby War Memorials. Apart from the ‘civic’ one standing in its dedicated Memorial Garden overlooking the junction of Chapel Lane and Three Tuns Lane, there are a number of others including of course the one in the grounds of Our Lady of Lourdes. A number of us are checking the history, continued existence and state of these. Surprisingly the main ‘civic’ memorial has never been ‘listed’ for protection. At one time in the 1960’s it was proposed to remove it to make space for a proposed Multi-story Carpark. This was resolutely and successfully opposed by the Society led by then member Lilian Rushton.  Trustees were appointed and its future maintenance arranged.  It is a pleasure now to follow in Miss Rushton’s lead. It is in fact in good condition but to help protect if fully we need to get it Registered as a Historic structure and I am working on this.

Britain’s First Lifeboat Station. There is almost nothing left of the remains of this historic station but an archaeological examination of the site is being organised.  We do know however that these remains are of the third structure on the site. The first (ca.1776) was a wooden  structure, described as “a shade”, the second and third were brick-built and stood on the still visible site. The earliest Station was described as a “boat-house and boat for saving lives “ as the expression ‘Lifeboat’ meaning a boat specifically designed for that purpose  was not invented until much later. Nevertheless it is now recognised by international experts that Formby did indeed “lead the way”, under the Liverpool Dock Committee and on land made available by Rev. Richard Formby.

Signal Station. Early photographs of the site and adjoining dunes show a small square brick building with a chimney on a dune (now gone) about 100 metres North of the Station. The purpose of this has long been obscure but it is now revealed* that this was the site of a Signal Station constructed during the Napoleanic War, in 1804, one of a line extending from Formby in the North round the mouth of the Mersey and Dee to Holyhead in the South. It remains marked on maps and Charts until at least the early 19thC but its purpose has only recently come to light* – another facility to aid the protection of the Port of Liverpool.

* Large, Frank, ‘Faster than the Wind - the Liverpool to Holyhead Telegraph’, avid  publications 1998.

R. A. Y. 30.1.16