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Barbara Yorke JP, MBE 5th April 1930 – 11th January 2021

Barbara was someone remembered by Civic Society members for her commitment to the community and the quality of her work in so many areas over so many years. Together with her husband of many years, Dr. Reg Yorke, she played a leading role in researching and writing the history of Formby as well as supporting and running social and community activities through first the Formby Society and later the Formby Civic Society. Barbara first appeared in the records of the Formby Society on their Committee in May 1984 as Vice-Chairman, so she must have been involved in Society activities well before that! She spent two more years in that role before spending 1987 till 1990 as Chair. At that time Reg was still a practising G.P., but eventually they would become together a strong team with a particular interest in our local history.

Her family described her many talents and branches of interest as: “teacher, mentor, magistrate, charity worker, school governor, environmentalist, historian, bibliophile, author and the recipient of a well-deserved MBE.”

In their book they provided very clear documentary evidence from the Liverpool Municipal Archives that shows there was a station established by the Corporation of Liverpool, at Formby, ten years before that at Bamburgh on the North East coast. They wrote, “Here on Merseyside before the term ‘lifeboat’ had ever been coined, a boat had been set aside for the sole purpose of saving life from shipwreck.”

I have been told a number of times from people close to Barbara and Reg that what began as an historical interest and puzzle became a determined and ultimately successful piece of research and published writing because someone said to Barbara that the story of the Formby Lifeboat was ‘insignificant’. Barbara was a keen and determined historian who described herself at the time of publication as “proud to be considered a ‘native’ of Formby”. She saw herself as “combining an active role in local affairs with rearing a family of seven children, yet still finding time to ‘stop and stare’.” Reg described her as having an “unnerving knack of getting to the root of things”, which somehow helps to sum up their success in setting the record straight on the Formby Lifeboat.

2021  NEWS

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Meetings – Programme of talks – Autumn 2021

Talks take place at Ravenmeols Community Centre and begin at 7.30 p.m. Members are encouraged to invite friends and family to join them for our Talks. Visitors are always very welcome. We ask for a small voluntary donation of £2 for each visitor

4 New Local History walks and meetings – please click here

September 2021 – Wildlife Notes

Dr Phil Smith’s Wildlife Notes are added monthly and the notes for AUGUST 2021 are now live, please click here to view

March 2021

To view the complete list of previous Wildlife Notes going back to March 2007 please click here plus an updated article on Formby’s Black Poplars together with a revised Devil’s Hole article

“The History of Human Influence on the Sefton Coast”

Dr. Phil Smith has provided an updated and fascinating (44 page) report
supported with a wide variety of fascinating images for our Civic Society pages.
To view please click here (pdf opens in a new tab) or it can be found on our ‘Wildlife Notes’ page click here 

Recent Projects and Publications

The ‘Formby Folk Community Heritage Project’

We developed a project for use by local community groups with funding provided by the Redrow Community Fund. It is called the ‘Formby Folk Community Heritage Project’. It is aimed at bringing people of all ages together to better understand their local heritage and to record and make easily available to others the contributions made by so many Formby people – ‘Formby Folk’ – over the past century and more.

We give local people – whether those who have lived here a long time or those who may be newcomers and know little about the history, traditions and spirit of Formby – an opportunity to work with Civic Society members and volunteers to find out more and even record their own tales and experiences. The Civic Society will provide active and engaging sessions for existing community groups and local schools as well as opportunities for more recently-arrived residents to join into activity sessions.

Through this project we will create a valuable bank of materials for use by Formby residents so they can themselves be involved and play an active role in remembering and recording the lives and contributions of Formby Folk both in the past and in times nearer to our own. Findings will be placed on this website.

We will also transfer previously inaccessible maps from the 19th century into a format all of our local people can access, handle and research. It will also involve the creation of materials for activity sessions in discovering local history and people involved,: this will include large reproductions of old photographs for use in presentations as stimulus and starting points for discussion and research; sheets reproduced from national Census returns, pages from old Trade Directories and maps to identify detail from our community in the past.

An example of a meeting for a group can be seen below.

Activity – ‘Chapel Lane’

Today we will look at:

●    a set old photographs of Chapel Lane in Formby from the 20th century – in A2 size
●    some map extracts from the 19th and 20th centuries
●    extracts from the 1901 Census, and
●    entries for Chapel Lane in the 1914 Street Directory

We will use the A2 photographs in 3 groupings:
a)    Shops
b)    Chapel Lane 1900 to the 1950s
c)    The Old Post Office and its staff

We will split in groups so that we can all spend some time with each group of old photos. Maps, census figures and Street Directory entries will be used as and when deemed applicable. Use them if you wish.

●    What can you see / recognise / remember?
●    What questions might we ask about each group of images?
●    Are there any memories or stories that you can share?
●    Is there anything we can learn about Formby people in the past?
●    Is there anything we can learn about ways of life in Formby in the past?

What could we do to find out more about our way of life in the past?

The Village that was Formby” by Joan A. Rimmer, a member of the
Formby Civic Society

Joan Rimmer Re-Launchs Her Book The Village That Was Formby

This very popular and informative coffee table book – which comprises Joan’s three history books ‘My Formby’, ‘Formby Remembered’ and ‘Formby Today’ – was originally published in 2007. After several years out of print it has recently been re-published in a limited edition. Its ongoing success has proved its value to any reader of any age whether long-standing resident or newcomer alike and is available from Derbyshire’s on Chapel Lane in Formby Village for the price of £18.99. This would make a perfect present for any Formby residents.

Photo is the award winning Joan Rimmer, a member of the Formby Civic Society, with her new edition of “The Village That Was Formby”

“A Community in Wartime – Formby 1914-1918” – John Phillips and Tony Pawson. Copies of this Formby Civic Society book are still available at Derbyshire’s on Chapel Lane at a cost of £5 each

To view an excerpt of the book please click here (opens in a new window)

Local History Resources

Our resources are often used by local students and are available to all bona fide researchers, but particularly our members. Offers of practical help in our work with research and archive management are very welcome. We get quite a number of enquiries on local history via e-mail from all over the world and try to assist with these when information is available.

Please click here or on the local history navigation tab at the top of the page for articles, online resources ceramic models and others. The Society would welcome any additional images of old Formby. Arrangements can be made to collect these, make digital copies and return them with a CD/DVD. Please contact the Society (see below).

To donate resources, access any of the resources, purchase any of the images, please contact Tony Bonney via email – click here or phone Phone: 01704 872862

Our Collection of Photographs and Images of Formby

We have an excellent archive of digital images of our community from the early days of photography to the present. This collection of photographs is held on Flickr.  It is available to view at our site by clicking here. We invite you to delve through the collection and enjoy walking through our village at different times in its history. If there is any image you would like for a small charge to purchase an image in digital format, please contact us at:

Using these assets, Society members have carried out research on the history of many local subjects such as:

●    The Formby Lifeboat Station (the first in the world, as demonstrated by Reg and Barbara Yorke in their book),
●    Asparagus cultivation, having played a major role in developing the ‘Asparagus Trail’ with the National Trust
●    The Home Front in Formby 1914-1918
●    Walks down Chapel Lane, in conjunction with the Formby Business and Community Partnership
●    Early flying at Freshfield (1910 -12), and
●    ‘Sand-winning’ in Formby during the first half of the 20th Century
●    The Devil’s Hole, with its fascinating wealth of flora and fauna
●    The Lost Seaside Resort of Formby-by-the-Sea

Other than helping to develop the Asparagus Trail, we have worked in partnership with Sefton Council to produce two walks along the Ravenmeols shoreline for local people and visitors alike:

We are also available to give Talks and Presentations on topics of local history for local community groups, as well as Talks and Walks for children in our local schools. In addition we have arranged and presented occasional historical exhibitions or displays such as early flying from Freshfield beach (then officially designated an aerodrome!), 1910 – 1912. We have conducted historical and environmental, research and published several local history books, including:

●     “A Community in Wartime: Formby 1914-1918” by John Phillips and Tony Pawson (2011)
●    ‘Formby, Then and Now’, by Reg and Barbara Yorke, 2012
●    “Viking Village” by Edith Kelly, 1973

Duke Street Library holds the unique ‘Formby Tapestry’, created by founder member, Lilian Rushton. This provides a visual record of Formby’s history from the Vikings to the 20th Century. Our collections also include a unique collection of ceramic models of old local cottages here and in full here.

We have introduced a programme to raise Blue Plaques in Formby to recognise and celebrate former residents who have made significant contributions.

The first three Plaques were dedicated to Thomas Fresh, Beryl Bainbridge and Percy French

We work with people of all ages across the community and are always open to fresh ideas and imaginative projects in order to preserve our culture and our heritage whilst also recording it both digitally and in print forms for the benefit of our community members in the future. We continue to seek ways of making local people more aware of the information we hold and ways of developing our bank of information in text to add to and support these images.