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History Group Report AGM -  May 2016


Ravenmeols Heritage Trails.

After much research we have now compiled a great deal of historical information, (some quite unexpected). This has now resulted in the delineation of two trails, but with some overlap as all have officially to start and finish at Lifeboat Road car park; although due to the open nature of the area, walkers may in practice join or leave the trails wherever they choose! There will be options to extend the walk into the Woodlands and onto the beach and also short cuts/escape routes for those wanting a shorter walk.

We have worked with Sefton Coast and Andrew Cothliff of ABC Design Co UK to produce a full coloured printed brochure, to be paid for by Sefton. There will also be two waymarked trails with four full-colour x A1 interpretation panels to include information on features of interest together with illustrations, at suitable locations and ‘waymarks.


The two main routes will be;-

Blue – ‘Lost Resort’ trail

Red – ‘Devils Hole’ trail

A full-colour double-sided A3 leaflet folded to A4 size copies (available at the AGM) will include;-

1. map of the site showing routes and locations of interest

2. information on features of interest

3. illustrations/photographs

4. information on length of route and other useful details

5. acknowledgements HLF and other logos.

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.

Recognition of the value of our local heritage is an important part of the new Formby Neighbourhood Plan and for the first time (I hope) it will include a new list of ‘structures of historic significance’ (other than buildings), drawn up by the Society.


WW1 Project.

We are very grateful to the tremendous amount of work put in on this project during the last year by Tony Pawson and John Phillips particularly. Their week by week summaries of news reports in the Formby Times have reached 1918.  This picks up the immediate response/effects post the war and may provide information for some useful closing comments for the written report/booklet from this project, which we must now start to prepare. It is interesting that one of the first peacetime activities to resume was hare-coursing!  The Guild of War Service requested that their work should continue, as "we dare not relax") and arrangements for reception of returning soldiers and sailors were speedily  made.

It had been complained however that “Formby took the signing of the Armistice without any celebration worthy of the occasion”.  There was not in fact a great deal of rejoicing in the district during the week, There was however later an enthusiastic meeting to discuss erection of a memorial to fallen Formby soldiers - suggestions included  a cottage hospital, and “a block of granite engraved  with names of the fallen”. Also a Playing Field. We know of course Formby did create a rather splendid Memorial standing in its own memorial garden, (despite 1970’s proposals to move it and build on its garden, - an attempt successfully opposed by one of our Founder Members, Lilian Rushton). Quite recently we have compiled a detailed account of the Memorial with a view (shared by the Parish Council) that it should be ‘listed’ in Formby’s Historic Environment Record.


Historical artefacts –The ‘Ceramic Cottages’ collection.

Peter Lucas who has kindly been looking after the bulk of our collection of ‘historical artefacts’, for many years, has now expressed a wish to be relieved of this responsibility. One of the most attractive and interesting items in the collection is the Reeve’s  collection of models of some of Formby’s old cottages and farmhouses. Fortunately once again the refurbished and popular Atkinson Gallery has expressed willingness to take care of this unique collection and put it on display where it can be seen by the public once again. At one time we were able to display these in our two large glass cases in Duke Street Library, but unfortunately the last of these two cases has now been removed, to make space for reorganised library activities. If we can agree to let them go to the Atkinson we can then look at the future of some of our other historic possessions, including a working Victorian slide projector, currently stored in Medlar Lodge! Now that the last glass case used to display our local history collection has been removed from the library I suggest that we should review the future storage of the rest of the ‘accessions’ currently in the care of the society. These have been carefully catalogued by Peter Lucas and include.


Further Ravenmeols research.

The one time existence of a  watermill at the mouth of the Alt on the Ravenmeols bank and connected with Stanlaw Abbey, Wirral, has been recognised for some time but little has been known about it and it does not appear in national lists. There are however details contained in historical archives, which with the transcription help of Dylis Firn I am looking into with great interest. There was obviously a connection with the former Grange situated on what is now Altcar Rifle Range. The existence of this watermill (possibly a tide mill), would help to explain the existence of the sandstone revetment recently exposed on the bank of the Alt near to the Grange. I hope to be able to give a short report on this in future talk to the society.


WW1 Project.

We are very grateful to the tremendous amount of work put in on this project during the last year by Tony Pawson and John Phillips particularly. Their week by week summaries of news reports in the Formby Times have now reached the end of 1918.  This picks up the immediate response/effects post war and may provide information for some useful closing comments for the written report/booklet from this project, which we must now process. It is interesting that one of the first peacetime activities to resume was hare-coursing!  The Guild of War Service requested that their work should continue, as "we dare not relax") and arrangements for reception of returning soldiers and sailors speedily  made.


It had been complained however that “Formby took the signing of the Armistice without any celebration worthy of the occasion”.  There was not in fact a great deal of rejoicing in the district during the week, but perhaps after all the most fitting celebration was that which took place at St Peter's Church Freshfield, when the Chairman of the Urban District Council attended and invited the members of the Council, members of the committees and others to accompany him”.  There was however an enthusiastic meeting to discuss erection of a memorial to the fallen Formby soldiers; suggestions included  a cottage hospital, and “a block of granite engraved  with names of the fallen”.

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 high 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.


Formby did of course finally create a rather splendid War Memorial. 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


The ‘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.


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.


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. We can only congratulate the hard working owners for their efforts and keeping us informed.


Woodvale Commemorative Panel.

We have been aware for some time that RAF Woodvale completely lacks any form of public Memorial to the many airmen based there who died in Service during WW2. In discussion with Fiona Whitfield of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust it has now been agreed that a suitable Interpretive/Memorial panel could be erected overlooking the South end of Runway 2 on the Wildlife Trust side of the aerodrome’s Southern fence. We have already received a useful grant from the Sefton Mayoral Fund and work on its design and contents is proceeding. Aldon Ferguson, author of the history of  RAF Woodvale is giving his support.


Green Lane Conservation Area.

This was designated some years ago after considerable research by then History Group Secretary, Jen Lewis together with the then Planning Officer but much has changed since then and review of its Conservation Status is required. We have been invited to assist. Peter Lucas and Ray Derricott are both helping.


 Reg Yorke,

History Secretary FCS History Group.