Robin Hood picking rods 1901
The stones known as Robin Hood picking Rods stand today on their platform as their maker intended. They were restored to that position on the 18th of May 1901 by members of Hayfields Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society, which was flourishing at the time, assisted by other men from around the district. Legend says that Robin Hood and his Merry Men used the stones to stretch their bows. Other theories about the stones have them as a preaching crosses or grave markers of the Anglican period. It seem likely though that they marked the meeting of a multiple boundary within the great forest that once covered the entire area, single stones marking the meeting of single boundaries. At present the boundaries of the townships of Chisworth , Ludworth, Mellor and Rowarth all meet at or close to the stones, perhaps these boundaries themselves are ancient and contemporary with the monument. Attention is often called to the similarity of the Picking Rods to the Bow Stones. The men carried with them spades, shovels, cement and all the tackle needed for the work. Interestingly those present were all prominent men of the district, among them were Mr Luke Garside, a well known naturalist and antiquarian. Mr Thomas Mower, relieving officer of the Hayfield Board of Guardians. Mr Seth Evans, local journalist and historian. Mr J. Lomax, brother of the photographer. Mr Wright-Waterhouse, a Hayfield councillor in later years. Mr John Doyle, founder and leader of the Society. Mr T. Higham, Herbert Leech. Mr Stanley Hibbs. Mr G. F. Whiteley, familiarly known in Hayfield as ‘Jupiter’. Mr J.D. Doyle, alderman, J.P. and ex-Mayor of Glossop. Mr Sam Barnes and Mr Issac Bowden, later an Hayfield councillor and public official.
Railway Thieves Hidden Store Discovered. February 1906.
Over a period of two year’s a series of mysterious wholesale robberies occurred on the Buxton branch of the London and North-Western Railway. The discovery of a quantity of stolen property, valued at £100 to £200 in a hiding place at the goods station at Newtown shed some light on events.
Climbing through a small trap door in the ceiling of one of the stables the detectives found the goods hidden in the loft. The property included 16 engraved copper rollers, used in the calico-printing trade, and despatched from Birch Vale Printworks some months earlier. These had been cut in two. There were large numbers of table-covers, shirts, pillow-cases, counterpanes, sheets, dressing-gowns, lace curtains, dress pieces, a large bow of Saxony lace, and all kinds of foodstuffs, besides silver nut crackers, serviette rings, a phonograph and records, and even a volume of ‘Great Thoughts.’ In the cavity between the office ceiling and the roof there were 23 ingots of tin, valued at £50, part of a much larger consignment belonging to the Strines Printworks, which had disappeared mysteriously some months earlier.
Mrs Mackie’s Old Folks Party December 1909
No more pleasant gathering is held during the festive season than that of the old folks of New Mills, who, through the kindness of Mrs Mackie, are able to meet for tea and social intercourse once a year. These annual re-unions are looked forward to with great interest, and as many as 150 of the old folk have congregated in the Town Hall on such occasions. This year about 170 invitations were issued, but the country being snow-bound and the weather being bitterly cold, only the more robust could brave the country elements. Between sixty and seventy were able to do so, and in many cases these had to make their own way along slippery roads and between banks of snow over a yard in depth in order to be present. These were cordially received by Mrs Mackie on reaching the hall, which was made very cosy and bright. A sumptuous tea was provided, with many of the town’s ladies assisting the hostess by presiding at the tables. A package containing good cheer was sent to the homes of each of those unable to attend. After tea a pleasant time was spent in chat, and subsequently an excellent cinematograph entertainment, interspersed with songs by Miss Jackson and Mr Atkinson was given.
On the proposition of the Rev. J. L. Knowles seconded by Mr. Henry Barber, J.P., a hearty vote of thanks was passed to Mrs Mackie and the soloists. The hostess had a few cheery words and a hearty handshake for each of her old friends, who, on leaving the hall, received a package containing tea or tobacco and an orange.
Disastrous Fire at New Mills December 1912
What is described as the largest conflagration ever seen in New Mills occurred on Monday when the Torr Mills occupied by Messrs Warburton and Arrowsmith, fustian cutters, were completely gutted. The mill is, or rather was, situated at the bottom of the Torrs from which it takes its name, between the Midland Railway branch line to Chinley and the bridge which spans Union road, and just at the confluence of the Goyt and the Sett. It was an old structure with wooden floors, and for many years was used as a cotton Mill, and, therefore saturated with oil. There were men it is stated working on the premises on Sunday, but everything was left perfectly safe at night. It was about half past five on Monday morning, when people were going to work that the fire was noticed. One who noticed it was Mr J. Mourne, of Spring Bank, who is employed at the Emery works. He informed the police, and the alarm was quickly raised. Inspector Barnsley and the whole of the police were soon on the spot, as were a number of men from the Co-op stables near by. There was no buzzer attached to the works, but that at the canal foundry was sounded. Mr James Marsland, the Town Hall keeper, who has charge of some of the Councils appliances was aroused, and firemen were quickly on the scene from the Brunswick Mills and the Victoria Mills, Newtown. The District Council has no fire engine, but their hose and standpipes as well as those of the Co-operative Society were available. It was found, however, that there was not sufficient pressure of water in the Torrs to cope with the fire, which by this time had got a good hold. The mains water in Union Road and the higher ground had to be used, but in the meantime the flames had gained a fiercer hold, and the water from the mains was like pouring drops on a mill boiler. Millions of gallons of water were rushing round and under the mill, for the river was in flood, but unhappily there was neither engine nor pump to pour it on the flames. The Watford Bridge Fire Brigade, in command of Mr. W. Dark, came on the scene, soon after seven o’clock, but it was hopeless then to endeavour to quench the flames. The old wood soaked in oil, and the fustian itself, are highly inflammable materials.
The fire is supposed to have started in the second storey from the bottom, and in an incredibly short time the roof - the mill was some five or six storeys high - was falling in with a terrible crash. The flames spouted higher than the mill chimneys. The mill roof was considerably lower than the road bridge, and the chimney very little higher. Fears were entertained for the buildings on Union road especially Mr Thornleys printers shop, which stands just on top of the Torrs. Fortunately the wind of Sunday night had abated, and this further calamity was averted. Water was continuously poured on the flames, but without making the slightest impression.
The blaze was a tremendous one, especially when the wing fronting Union road became ignited and illuminated the country for a considerable distance. Crowds of people assembled on the Union Bridge and the bridge which spans the river at the bottom of Church road. From this spectacular point of view the scene was one long to be remembered, the whole building being one mass of flames. It soon became dangerous to be anywhere near the buildings for fear of the outer walls collapsing. Some sections did collapse but happily no personal injuries were sustained. The fire raged for several hours but the men soon gave up the struggle. The fact that there was so much water about the place and no engine to pump it was the subject of much comment. The opinion is confidently expressed that had a fire engine been available the fire would speedily have been under control, and the district council was strongly criticised for not having provided it. Throughout the day there were crowds of spectators. Mr Sheard, the council’s surveyor, was on the scene attending to the hose and mains. None of the proprietors were at the works, nor were any of the work people inside when the fire was discovered. The proprietors arrived on the scene about noon in response to telephonic messages. The origin of the fire is unknown.
The peculiar situation of the mill has often being commented upon. It is down in a hole, and looks to be more so now than it would before the Union Bridge was built. No doubt the site was selected because of the water which was available for providing motive power, and did so from the time the mill was built until the end. Surrounded by the Torrs it was of course very dark and gas had to be used the whole day in wintertime. Torr mill was one of the oldest in the town, and was built about 100 years ago by a family called Schofield, who worked it for cotton spinning for a long period. The buildings are still owned by a member of the Schofield family, who resides in Liverpool. When the Schofields ceased to work the mill it was taken over by Messrs Hibbert and Alcock, of Hyde, who at that time were proprietors of Clough Mill, Hayfield. When they gave it up a local company was floated. This however, failed, and many local people lost their money. Another proprietor was found in Mr Harold Slack, son of the late Albert Slack, of Hayfield. He did not run it long, and when he gave it up it ceased to be a cotton mill, the machinery being taken out. For several years the mill stood idle. Messrs Warburton and Arrowsmith started it as a fustian cutting works about a year ago, and introduced the new industry to the town. About 70 people were employed chiefly girls. The firm has works at Bugsworth and Chapel, and a fire occurred at the latter works only a few weeks ago.
The amount of damage is not officially stated, but is estimated at several thousand pounds.
Another report mentions a witness to the fire Mr A. E Mottershead; he recalled ‘I was walking to workshop of John Sayer, cabinetmaker with whom I was apprenticed. A man, who had a round as a knocker-up Mr John Tommy Jepson, ran up to me saying ‘Th fustian mill’s on fire!’ I hurried to the Torrs, just in time to see the roof falling in. it was six o’clock, and the fire was most intense.’
New Mills Fire. December 1915
Shortly after six o’clock on a Thursday evening an outbreak of fir occurred at the premises of the Empire Trading Stamp shop, Union Road. It was a lock up shop, and nobody was on the premises at the time. Some passers-by noticed the flames and raised the alarm. A number of Policemen and willing helpers were soon on the scene, but considerable difficulty was experienced in finding the hydrants, which were covered in snow, and even when the hydrants were found much difficulty was experienced in their manipulation. The town did not posses either a fire brigade or an engine at this time, and messages were dispatched to the nearest likely place for help.
In the meantime, the flames had got a fair hold of the premises and the stock was being rapidly consumed. There was a roar when the glass in the window cracked and broke, and the high wind carried the flames to adjoining houses.
A state of panic for a time prevailed amongst the occupants of the adjoining cottages, but with the aid of helpers, the furniture was removed to the Conservative club in Union-road, and to other houses in the vicinity.
At seven o’clock, there was no fire engine in evidence, but the flames were still burning fiercely. A dense crowd witnessed the spectacle, and once they were assured no-one was in danger, there were many sarcastic and humorous comments forthcoming in regard to the absence of suitable fire-fighting appliances. Messages were sent to various parts of the town for hoses. Shortly after seven o’clock, the two adjoining cottages were alight. Several members of New Mills Council were noticed among the spectators.
By about eight o’clock, the fire was practically under control, thanks to the diligent use of the hosepipes available, and the numberless buckets of water thrown upon the flames. The shop was completely gutted and the bedrooms of the two adjoining cottages suffered severe damage, being practically gutted. Other house in the row were slightly damaged. During the process of the fire the removal of furniture from the properties in danger had steadily proceeded. It was found impossible to store it in the neighbouring property, so a great part of it was stacked up in the street.
The buzzers at several mills in the neighbourhood were sounded, but it was not until eight-thirty that the fire brigade from the Strines Printworks appeared on the scene.
A Chaplains Memories of War. 1916
In May 1916, the Rev. J.R. Ackroyd came to the town to give a lecture entitled ‘Twelve Months in Camp and Trench.’ Mr Ackroyd described his work as a chaplain in a convalescent camp, a period he had spent in hospital, and as a chaplain with the 4th London Field Ambulance. He told of the spirit of the men and the horrors he had witnessed before coming to his memories of the Battle of Loos
‘ For the first time in our history we began the battle with a gas attack. All night long the guns were at work, and in early morning I saw rise from our front line a cloud of yellow gas, and it began to move toward the German lines. I knew that the opening stages of the battle of Loos had begun. That was succeeded by a cloud of smoke. A German prisoner said the Germans were most frightened by the smoke attack. They did not know what the great yellow cloud was. This was followed by more gas and into this last cloud the men attacked and the village was taken very quickly. The fight started about 6-30 and the news that the village was taken arrived about ten minutes to nine. I got my first glimpse of all the battlefield and it was appalling beyond words. Men were lying in heaps. I was in charge of three ambulances going up to the lines. It was the most exciting time I have ever had. The Germans were organising a counter attack and the shells were shrieking overhead. We could hear the roar of the battle about two miles away. After the battle had moved away it was my job as chaplain to get work burying the dead. On one occasion it fell to me to be a member of a party sent to rescue some men gassed in a trench. We got into the shelter of a house, but shortly afterwards German shells began to fall. Two gas shells came and we all got a dose.’
Mr Ackroyd went on to describe other experiences from his time in France.
One evening when the moon was covered with clouds he was standing near an old building. Suddenly the moon shone forth, and at the same time a snipers bullet passed within eighteen inches of his head. There was a dirty old ditch near by, and into this he shot like lightening, and as he came to the ground another bullet cut the grass close by, not until the moon was clouded again, was he able escaped. He told of his greatest experience as coming on a night when he was asleep in a good billet. At about one o’clock he was awakened by a tremendous crash, he was a the window in a single bound and found that the enemy had sent a huge shell on what they thought were French guns 25 yards from the house. He knew that in about ten minutes another would come and the range would be adjusted 25 yards nearer or further away. He sat on the bed, counting the minutes, with perspiration streaming down his face. He took a last look at the photo of his wife and child, and then heard the shriek of the shell. But one was alright; they never heard the shriek of the shell that did hit them, knocking them out.
On reviewing all that he had seen Mr Ackroyd said that his conclusion was ‘that the whole business was a complete crime. He was incensed with the utter sinfulness of it. It was hell - hell let loose. It is for you and me by our prayers and work to see that this shall be the last war,’ he declared.
The Peak Invaded. June 19th 1917
Amid the reports of war, the black and white photographs of the dead and missing stands the headline THE PEAK INVADED. Quite an eye-catching headline given it’s the fourth year of the Great War. A time when even the most patriotic reader has begun to fear it’s a war that can’t be won. However, the headline refers to an invasion instigated by Mother Nature and not the Kaiser.
Government Inactivity, The invasion of the Peak by millions of caterpillars continues to excite the greatest interest, and is everywhere the subject of conversation, begins the article in the Reporter.
One concerned citizen, Mr H. P. Huss, described as having high qualifications in natural history took it on himself to try and stir the authorities into action by writing to all the councils and government bodies concerned requesting ‘that immediate concerted action be taken to deal with the very serious plaque of caterpillars with which this district is threatened. A host of insects are advancing from a northerly direction over a frontage of five or six miles. The peak hill district, Edale, and part of Chapel, are already invaded, and there will be very serious loss to farmers and allotment holders, and the public generally, unless energetic action is taken without a day’s loss of time. The caterpillars will, of course, multiply rapidly, and neglect to deal with them will cause heavy loss to the countryside, and might develop into a national calamity. The invasion requires to be checked here and now. But the great thing is to deal with the plaque while it is most serious.’ He goes on to state that the pest is the caterpillar of the antler headed moth more familiarly known as the ‘antler’. Dr. Shepherd of Castleton agreed with him that very much more drastic action than liming the fields would be necessary. Adding, the ‘antler’ prefers high ground, like the grouse and most probably would leave the valleys and stick to the uplands unless driven down in search of food.
Another correspondent wrote to say that the plaque was caused by the mass killing of birds and until the order to kill birds was revoked it would continue ‘at a time when every ounce of food is needed. Grain and fruit eaten by the birds is but a payment for the caterpillars killed. In the British Isles and in the new colonies it has been proved that the balance of nature cannot be seriously disturbed without the most disastrous consequences.’ Another correspondent submitted samples of the caterpillars to a famous naturalist who said they are ‘the army worm or moth.’ There is nothing alarming in the visitation of millions of caterpillars. They are hatched out in the hillsides, in the land of heather, and feed on grasses, but a field of Oats is not to be despised. ‘If the conditions are such that the grasses on the hillside run short, then there is a general exodus to pastures new. They move in a body after the manner of an army, and for that reason they have been given the name of ‘army’ worm or caterpillar. These expeditions like wars, are not annual occurrences, they are dictated by conditions, such as we have had in the last few months. It is a mistake that it is the hard winter that kills the insect. The mild and wet will destroy more than the greatest blizzard or frost. The hard winter has instead killed off the rank grass undergrowth upon which the ‘army’ worms feed, and so they determined to move their quarters. But it is comforting to learn that the movement will not extend, for the reason that there will be a return to the pupae, or chrysalis near the walls over which the caterpillars will not crawl.’
There have been similar happenings, and one gentleman whose memory went back half a century told of the movement of the insects on the hills near Preston, the invasion then being over an area of six miles, about the same distance as on the present occasion. In a few days they will have disappeared. It will, however, be prudent that farmers take the precaution of destroying all caterpillars found in the area, either by spraying with lead arsenic or by dusting with new fallen lime.
The statement that caterpillars will not crawl over a wall is not correct. People have watched them crawl to the top and fall over the other side. For that they were dubbed ‘Tanks.’ The appearance of caterpillars is not unknown especially on the Kinder slopes. There were swarms of them fifteen years ago, and again seven years ago, but not in such large quantities. The Kinder and Hayfield districts seem to be suffering more than the Chapel district. Whole fields have been ruined near Kinder Scout, whilst on Blackshaw, between Hayfield and Rowarth, and at Brookhouses on the Glossop road, beyond Hayfield, tracts of land have been burned to stamp out the pest. The plaque has made its appearance at New Mills. There are millions of the caterpillars on Cracken Edge, at Chinley, and they have made the move down the slopes towards Furness Vale. There can be no doubt that great damage is been done.
A report on the 28th of June updated the situation. The pest is by no means confined to the Chapel district. It is equally prevalent in Hayfield, Kettleshulme, Chinley, New Mills and is now reported at Bridgemont, in the Whaley area. The only action taken at present is by farmers burning the fields and liming them heavily. The burning does not stamp out the pest. Many caterpillars are destroyed, but swarms are still to be seen crawling over the burned fields. This work has made parts of the countryside a sorry spectacle. In June, the most verdant month of the year, the hillsides have a black and brown appearance, a striking contrast to the vivid green of the trees in full leaf. The caterpillars are gradually diminishing in numbers because they are going into the pupal stage. This does not mean they are dying, as many people think. It is simply a stage in the development of the moth, the perfect or propagating stage. The moth will lay eggs, and if the next winter is favourable to them the pest next spring will be infinitely greater than it has been in the last few weeks.
Many people visited the Coldwell Clough district during the weekend to see the damage, which has been done, to various fields by the destructive caterpillars. The unpleasant visitors were hard at work on the approaches to Mount Famine on Saturday and Sunday, and several fields, which they have left behind them, appear to be as brown and dead as on a frosty day in December. Quite a large number of Oak trees in the Kinder district have suffered through swarms of another kind of caterpillar, which have eaten and blighted most of the foliage. It is understood that the field caterpillar will ultimately develop wings and fly away. The sooner the better for the farmers.
There is no mention of the plaque reappearing in 1918, so we can assume
that the weather the following winter wasn’t favourable for the caterpillar.
The Burying of Workhouse Inmates. June 1927
A lively scene occurred at New Mills Guardians about the burial of inmates of the workhouse. A man had been interred at New Mills Roman Catholic Church and an account was presented for the use of a hearse. It has not been the custom to use a hearse, and an account was asked for.
Mr. Larkum, chairman of the House Committee, told the members it had been the custom to take corpses in a motor-van or a motor-lorry to the church. But when this man was to be buried Father Prendergast, who was a member of the Board said he would have no corpses bought to the church in that way. The undertaker had then ordered a hearse and delivered the body. Having regard to the special circumstances, the House Committee recommended that the account should be paid.
Father Prendergast said that some members had been sitting on a bad egg and had hatched a serpent in their desire to have a tilt at the Roman Catholic Church. There were loud shouts of ‘shame’ and ‘withdraw.’
Mr Jennison said he had not the remotest idea when the issue arose that this man belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.
Father Prendergast accepted the explanation. He added that corpses had been bought to the church in motor-engineering vans and he had had to get four boys out of his day school to carry the corpses into the church. He had not ordered the hearse in this case and he did not care who paid for it. So long as he wore a collar every corpse brought to the Roman Catholic Church would be decently buried and there would be no paupers graves.
Mr Mellor said he did not object to people being taken in a hearse to the church, but he objected to the manner in which Mr Prendergast had acted in this case. Father Prendergast claimed the courtesy of being addressed as ‘Father’ and not as ‘Mister.’
Mr. Mellor said he would call him anything he liked, and added that Father Prendergast ordered the hearse. He was only one member of the Board, and he had no more right to give orders than any other member. If there were to be a hearse for burials at the Roman Catholic Church, there must be a hearse for burials at Nonconformist churches and at the Parish Church.
Mr Jennison said he would object to the use of motor-lorries and motor-vans for taking corpses to the church, but all the same, some of the greatest noblemen in the land were taken to their last resting places in carts drawn by horses. What he objected to in this case was one member upsetting the rules of the Board.
Father Prendergast: I take the remarks of Mr Mellor and Mr Jennison as a personal insult. I have told you I did not order the hearse. If you believe me, thank you; if you disbelieve me, thank you. What I say is that I will not have corpses bought to my church in this way.
It was decided to pay the account for the hearse and notice of motion was given that in all future funerals from the workhouse a hearse should be used.
A PLAGUE OF BEETLES AND CRICKETS August 1929
There has been a reoccurrence of the plaque of beetles and crickets at the tip in Newtown, near Acorn Terrace. And again, there has been an invasion of the houses by these very unpleasant creatures. The women folk are most angry about it as they have every reason to be. A house cannot be kept clean under such circumstances. Both beetles and crickets make their way into the houses via the doors, and if the doors are closed, they are small enough to creep under. In the nighttime, they crawl up the walls and into the bedrooms. If the bedroom windows are closed, they seem to find cracks or get into the house by the door and find a way upstairs.
The noise of the crickets is most unearthly, especially when all join in the “concert.” Practically all the tenants have to get up in the night to repel the invasion or otherwise have the things creeping onto the beds, which is something that cannot be contemplated without a shudder. One woman said on Wednesday morning that she had been up many times during the night, having a slaughter of the innocents, and had very little sleep. Said another woman “there is no peace either day or night with the things.” Still another woman complained the children were terrified of them and could not be allowed to crawl on the floor or even walk about at times. It was a creepy sensation to see the things about the house and some of the “kills” seen at noon were not the first of the day. One woman had her captures in a bag at the front door. Though Acorn Terrace, which is nearest the tip, gets most of the invading army, some of the invaders get as far as the houses behind. The council supply a disinfectant, but from our personnel observations on Wednesday morning, it had not been sufficient to keep the creatures out of the house. Several members of the council have been to inspect the place. Two were there one evening, and joined the tenants in a search with tapers for the hosts of crickets and beetles. The little torchlight procession was very pretty but it did not “keep the crickets off the hearth.” Tenants still had to be up in the night on slaughtering expeditions. It must be a terrible experience to suffer these things about the house for days on end. As a matter of fact, a refuse tip ought never to have been placed so near to dwelling houses. A tip is almost certain to create a nuisance when so near houses. The plaque returned the following year. Nor was it confined to Acorn Terrace, Mr Cochrane a member of the council reported that a similar invasion had taken place on Spring Bank, suggesting it was the result of “the heat combined with dampness which made breeding places for them.”
Woodside had endured similar plagues in 1925 and 26, these too were attributed to a refuse tip, in twenty-five a plague of crickets and in twenty-six a plague of house beetles. “The beetles have invaded all rooms, including bedrooms on the second storey, and find their way into cupboards and pollute the food.”
Sunday Thrills. September 1937.
New Mills had two thrills on the same day. The first involved a glider, which was seen floating over New Mills. It soon became apparent it was looking for a landing place. It nosed down in the vicinity of High Lee Park and people hurried there in the hope of getting a close view of it.
But the machine went higher up and eventually made a perfect landing in a field on Knightwake Farm. The pilot was not hurt, but he was considerably excited about the forced landing. The reason for it was that he missed his pocket of air. The machine was dismantled undamaged and taken by a motor to Great Hucklow, Derbyshire, where it started in the national gliding competition.
The pilot was Mr. K. Lingford, of Cotherston, Yorkshire, a member of the Yorkshire Gliding Club. He was a competitor for the £100 prize offered for gliding from Great Hucklow to Blackpool. He had done about twelve miles when misfortune overtook him. A good many people saw the machine as it landed and more while it was being dismantled. Sympathy was expressed with the pilot in not being able to reach Blackpool.
About twenty minutes to nine a Mellor bus was coming down Albion-road, Newtown, and when it was near the Albion Emery Works, one of the huge rear wheels left the vehicle. It careered at great speed down the road, which is steep at this point. A number of people were on the road at the time and also a Rolls Royce car.
The driver of the car saw the wheel and managed by steering to the other side of the road to avoid it. Pedestrians also managed to miss it, although some were within a very few yards of it.
The wheel went round the corner at the Bee Hive Hotel, hit the boundary of the New Mills Co-operative Society’s bakehouse and came to rest in the yard below after a roll of about five or six hundred yards. It was almost a miracle that nobody was hurt by the heavy wheel. The coping stones were thrown back into the road. A gas main was also fractured, but that damage was soon repaired.
People in the bus, of whom there were not many, felt a jolt, but nobody was hurt as the vehicle was quickly bought to a standstill.
Hayfield cut off for three days. January 1940
A visitor’s story of his adventures.
Hayfield, lies at the foot of the wild, but beautiful Kinder Valley, immediately below the junction of the little river of that name with the scarcely larger river Sett. Normally the combined waters of the two streams swirl swiftly through the village like a mountain torrent before continuing at a sombre pace by way of Birch Vale to New Mills where they flow into the river Goyt.
During the night of Friday, January 26th 1940, the turbulent little Sett for the first time within memory of anyone living in Hayfield froze completely over. This extraordinary event, together with a fall of snow and the unusual presence in the district of seagulls, should have been accepted by the prudent, perhaps, as a portent. But seagulls are not altogether unknown at Hayfield; the village had not been free of snow since the beginning of the year, and few could have been expected to know that the easterly wind that arose on Friday night and continued with somewhat greater force throughout the Saturday would assume by Saturday evening the character of an artic blizzard. But that is what happened, and it happened with such swiftness that everyone was taken by surprise.
As I made my way up the old Chinley Road from Hayfield on the Friday night I felt less cold. In spite of the severe wind, than I had felt in the damp climate of Manchester an hour before. As I stood at the gate of the little cottage where I was staying on top of the moors, which commands a magnificent view across the Kinder valley to the Downfall and the long lines of Kinder Low. I looked forward without apprehension of any sort to a perfectly peaceful weekend. This agreeable feeling was still with me when we woke on Saturday to find a white world. Without any real difficulty, we made our way after breakfast down to the village. Hayfield under this white covering, looked delightful. We were delighted too, with the cheerful, unconcerned way in which the villagers were shovelling the snow from their front doors, and particularly with a local tradesman who was delivering milk from a small sledge drawn by a great brown horse. The wind, however, was bitterly cold and we were glad to make our way quickly back to the cottage and pass the rest of the day indoors.
It was not until late on Saturday afternoon that we began to feel any concern. The wind had increased in violence and was now blowing the snow into great long drifts, and we soon realised, and we soon realised it would be impossible to return to Hayfield by car. In point of fact we found the car an hour or two later almost buried in a drift through which it took me more than half an hour to cut a way to the coal shed. We realised that if we were not to be cut off from the world for an indefinite period we must get down to Hayfield on foot as soon as possible. We started after a substantial meal, in the morning. I was nearly exhausted, when after an hour's digging, I had merely cut a way through the snow into the roadway, but I and my wife accomplished the journey, which normally takes about ten minutes, in an hour and a half. At times, we fell into drifts up to our waists; at times we were completely buried, and always a merciless wind blinded us with small particles of frozen snow. When we arrived at the hotel in the village we were almost breaking down.
At the hotel, we learned that no trains or buses, or wheeled traffic of any sort had reached or left Hayfield since the previous evening and that it was unlikely that any trains would leave before the morning. (In fact, the first train did not leave till Tuesday, and as we travelled in it slowly to New Mills, looking up out of the windows at massive drifts of snow over the tops of which we could not always see, we understood why.) And yet as recently as Saturday evening visitors were still enjoying themselves at the hotel under the mistaken impression that the road to New Mills, by which they had arrived an hour earlier, was still open.
When we made our way out of the hotel on Monday morning – we were too spent to venture out on Sunday – every approach to the village by road was impassable. In every direction, the roads were blocked by great barriers of snow extending across the entire width of the streets and reaching in many cases, to a height of ten feet. Many of the villagers had only found it possible to start digging a way to their front doors from their bedroom windows. The village barber had completed an entrance to his shop by noon, and as he was shaving me a young man entered in an utterly exhausted condition who swore he would not attempt the journey to New Mills again if his life depended upon it. The journey however, was actually made that morning by a young Manchester business man who suddenly appeared in the village on skis. He had travelled in this unorthodox fashion from Chinley after spending the night without food or drink in a train, which he had abandoned outside Edale tunnel. Tow additional trains, he added, which had been sent to relieve it were also snowed up.
Hayfield was completely cut off from the outside world from Saturday until Tuesday. There were no mails, the mills were closed, and there was widespread discomfort and some privation on account of a shortage of coal and provisions. In Hayfield however, there are some hundreds of villagers who in times of distress readily help one another. Unfortunately, the scattered inhabitants of the outlying parishes and of the isolated farmsteads and cottages were not so happily situated. From time to time, we heard of their unenviable position. Many of them were without water for days and were compelled to melt snow to water their cattle and for their own drinking. Many of them too were without bread or fuel of any kind, and in one unhappy household in the neighbourhood of Little Hayfield an invalid died for want of medical attention
Wings for Victory May 1943
During the Second World War, the civilian population were asked to raise money to fund the war by purchasing a range of war bonds. This money raising was essential as the country was forced to buy raw materials, food, aircraft and ships from the USA.
In order to encourage and maximise the efforts of the population a clever tactic was adopted. Each town and village in Britain was asked to raise money to fund the three services through fund raising drives called “Salute the Soldier Week, Warship Week and Wings for Victory Week.” By the end of “Wings for Victory Week” in May 1943, the people of New Mills had saved an incredible £500,000.
Many parades have been staged in New Mills during the war, but that on Saturday must have been the largest. Probably there were a thousand people in it, and the County Secondary School playing field was the ideal place for which to assemble it for the opening ceremony. The terrace made a fine viewpoint for it and the march past formed a fitting climax.
The parade, which had assembled on Spring Bank, was led by New Mills Home Guard. Two Wrens Irene Marriott and Annie McNee were the only representatives of the senior service and had the honour of the leading position. Following were the contingent of the R.A.F. Regiment, the A.T.C. the Home Guard, the Army Cadets, Red Cross and St. John with cadets, Police and Special Police, A.R.P. Wardens, Decontamination and Rescue Squad, the N.F.S. and N.F.S. Band, Hayfield G.T.C., Girl Guides and Brownies, (including the Hayfield contingent) and the W.J.A.C.
The flag was raised by the A.T.C. and New Mills Home Guard Band played the National Anthem. Those taking part in the parade were inspected by Group Captain J.A.C Wright, A.T.C., T.D., D.L., M.P., Regional Commander in the Midlands Area of the A.T.C. He was accompanied by Captain Hugh Molson, M.P. of the High Peak. Mr Fred Boyle, chairman of the New Mills Council, wearing his chain of office. Police Supt. Bradwell and Captain C.J.Parr, of the Home Guard, Squadron Leader Carter was the liaison officer for the day.
Captain Molson presided at the opening ceremony and was accompanied by members and officials of the New Mills Town Council, including Mr John Walton, the clerk, who was the joint secretary of the Wings Week. There was a huge crowd to see the ceremony. Captain Molson thought the organisers of the Wings for Victory Week must have had the gift of prophecy when they chose it. “It is most fortunate as we are all anxious to celebrate the great and glorious victory in Tunisia with which the United Nations have bought to an end a long and arduous campaign. When we have given the R.A.F. the best machines in the world, it is necessary for it to have the best human material.
Mr Brocklehurst announced that investments already received amounted to £20,000. The target in New Mills was £40,000, but he hoped that by next weekend they would be nearer £50,000 than £40,000. He believed that could be done and if there were two Lancaster bombers instead of one, nobody would be prouder than he.
The march past of all sections in the parade followed and the salute was taken by Group Captain Wright. It was a fine site as section followed section and New Mills Home Guard Band and the N.F.S Band shared the music. While the parade was on the field, a Lancaster bomber flew over several times and dipped a salute. The crowd got a real thrill out of it. On the market ground at the top of Union road were bombs of various sizes up to 4,000lbs. In the gas
showrooms were bombs in greater variety and many other things, including a dingy, which the R.A.F. use in their work. Some shops and other places were decorated and the town had quite a gay appearance. There were many visitors who had come to see the show.
The Isolation of Rowarth 1947
The February of 1947 saw some of the worst weather in living memory, with isolated villages, farms and communities cut off by snow drifts the size of houses. Some households were forced to cut a way out of their homes, schools and shops were closed. The mail went undelivered. Many householders were forced to get their coal rations from the gasworks, pulling their 28lbs of coal home on sledges. Strong winds blew snow back onto cleared roads and hampered every attempt to bring relief. The cold spell lasted for many days cutting of supplies and bringing down telephone and power lines and causing widespread disruption. Many works were closed. Ferodo, Disley Paper Mill, Garrison Bleachworks, Strines Printworks and many other large employers were forced to close, in all over 2,000 extra claims for benefits were made.On the Moorlands a tragedy was played out as the RAF sought to drop supplies of bread to beleaguered villages. Buxton was cut off completely for several days
In the New Mills area conditions were very bad for farmers and isolated households particularly those on high ground. The worst hit area was Rowarth. The council made several attempts to open the road only to find the cleared stretch blocked again within a few hours. There were several fine pieces of work done in the area to relieve the isolated or elderly.
A particularly fine piece of work was done to provide Rowarth with bread. When he got to his work in Manchester, Councillor G. S. Hyde, in whose ward Rowarth is situated, rang up Mr Devlin, the postmaster and owner of the only shop in Rowarth, to say that he was very disturbed as to how Rowarth was faring for food during the storm. Mr Devlin had happened to get extra bread the previous weekend which had carried him over Monday and he hoped to meet the days demand before running out.
Councillor Hyde rang up the council’s surveyor, Mr Pearson, at the Town Hall and he promised to do what he could to help Rowarth. He spoke to Mr Devlin and said they would get through to Rowarth if it meant going through hedges and over ditches. It is stated that people in Rowarth do not bake these days owing to the trouble of getting yeast, so that the situation was serious.
Mr Pearson got busy in the afternoon. He took one of New Mills Council’s motor lorries to Messrs Wilson’s Bakery and loaded up seven bags with loaves. His road foreman, Mr J. Harvey, drove the lorry; Mr Pearson provided four council employees and Messrs Wilson another. It was impossible to get the lorry any further than just beyond Thornsett Council School.
From there each man shouldered a bag of loaves and set off on the two mile journey through Aspenshaw Fields to Rowarth. It was a terrifically rough journey and the men had to get round drifts and over fences as best they could. It took them about an hour and a half to get to the shop, and they arrived just as Mr Devlin had sold his last loaf! Naturally, Mr Devlin was overjoyed and so were many other Rowarth people, when they knew that over 70 loaves, sufficient to last the village until Friday, had got through. Mr Pearson said that he had been to the Rowarth district earlier in the week to ascertain the condition of the roads. They were blocked and it was useless to try to move the drifts as they blew back as fast as they could be moved. The next best thing was to get food to Rowarth and that is what he did. Rowarth was as completely isolated as it has ever been. It had not been possible on Tuesday to get any milk in or out of the village since Saturday. Farmers had to fill all sorts of receptacles with milk in the hope that the blizzard would soon subside and they would soon be able to get the milk to their customers.
Telephone Exchange goes Auto December 1948
After months of technical work, overalled G.P.O engineers made a few fast moves and the centre of telephone activity for New Mills, Hayfield and Furness Vale switched from the front room of a house to a new stone building less than twenty yards away. Officially New Mills exchange had been transferred from the manual to the automatic system. Put more coldly, it had lost the human touch. From the moment , highly sensitive equipment took over.
For forty years the exchange had been in the front room of Mrs Bailey’s house on Market Street, ever since it was moved from a cottage that used to stand on the other side of the street. In those days the Post Office adjoined Mrs Bailey’s home, and her husband postmaster also had charge of the exchange, but much of the telephony work was done by Mrs Bailey. A year after her husband died in 1933, the Post Office was moved to Union Road. Mrs Bailey was appointed officer in charge of the exchange, and it remained in her front room.
Forty years ago there were fewer than fifty telephones in the area, forty eight to be exact. But people were realising the value of the telephone, and private houses followed the lead of local firms and ‘went on the phone’. in the intervening years , call boxes were put up over the scattered district, and for several years the number of subscribers had stood at 420. With the exchange loaded to capacity, and a growing list of people waiting to have telephones installed, plans were made for the exchange to go automatic. That was about twelve years ago, at a time when four figure numbers replaced the old ones, ready for the coming of the dialling system.
Then came the war and like so many other schemes, it was pigeon holed. Equipment earmarked for New Mills, was put into cold storage, drawn on only to replace bomb damaged apparatus in blitzed towns. Last year the war delayed scheme was started part of the garden behind Mrs Bailey’s home became the site of the new exchange, an imposing building of Derbyshire stone. ‘Too nice to be hidden behind shops and houses’ say some people.
A miniature army of G.P.O. men arrived in their green vans and went round the district doing the thousand and one jobs necessary for the change over. Later, engineers called on the subscribers, changed their old telephones, installed new ones. Kiosk fittings were changed, coin boxes with ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons replaced the former type. Travelling supervisors toured the district showing subscribers how to use the dial. With the coming of the automatic system, telephone operators are not needed at New Mills. A subscriber wanting to call someone else in New Mills, Furness Vale or Hayfield just dials four figures and the machinery does the rest. It even books the cost of the call. The dialling of 84 puts the subscriber through to the Disley exchange 85 to Marple and 86 to Whaley Bridge, while a single 6 connects with Buxton.
Mrs Bailey has had two full time operators and two part time operators. In addition Mrs Bailey’s three daughters were all in the telephone service at other exchanges and able to lend a hand on the home switchboard on accessions. Owing to the greatly increased traffic in recent years, one of them has assisted her mothering the running of the exchange. Immediately after the change overall five operators hurried into the new exchange to check every telephone.. And not for forty years had Mrs Bailey’s front room been as quiet- not even in the small hours of the morning. For, even in ‘quiet places’ like New Mills, emergencies demand the use of the telephone at all hours, and , doing the night duty herself, Mrs Bailey has never found it possible to have a nights rest. As for the number of calls dealt with in any day, well they ran into thousands. Someone once described the telephone as an invaluable servant but a relentless master, and no one knows the truth of this more than Mrs Bailey and her staff. People making calls like to be answered at once often unaware that ten, twenty or maybe more subscribers have decided to lift their receivers at the same time. In some positions, a person can afford to put of work until the next day. But not telephone operators. Even though the non stop noise might have given a splitting headache to the headphoned operator the work must go on. Not even for a minute can it stop, or a signal flashing up and down on the switchboard ( caused by rattling the receiver rest) is a subscriber’s way of telling an operator that patience is not unlimited. Two world wars , and especially the second imposed extra work on Mrs Bailey, who was the ‘ distributing centre’ for all air raid and civil defence messages in the area - calls which had to be dealt with at high speed, with priority over all others.
Probably few people realised the volume of telephone traffic which has been handled at the exchange. A G.P.O. man put it briefly: Subscribers have no idea of the work which has been done. So loaded was the switchboard that sometimes every available cord was in use and before another caller could be answered, the operator had to wait until someone else rang off.
There can be few users of the phone who have not spoken to Mrs Bailey over the last forty years, during which her pleasant London accent has become so well known throughout the district.
Another stone 1949
The centre piece of the Garden of Remembrance is made from stone donated by Mr Enos Stafford of Lowleighton who took the stones typical of the district from Ollersett Moor. Let into the top stone is a slab of Westmorland green stone, on which Mr Stafford chipped an inscription.
The unveiling of the monument recalled to some people another stone story. Soon after the first world war, building operations were going on off Hague Bar Road. A huge stone was unearthed of a kind never seen in New Mills before. The late Mr J. A. Nichols, headmaster of the Grammar School, saw it and identified it as a piece of Borrow-dale stone that had some how or other been washed down to New Mills. He was quite thrilled about the find. New Mills had not then been able to agree on any form of public memorial. Mr Nichols suggested that the stone should be placed on the grass plot in front of the Town Hall where, with a suitable inscription and the names of those who lost their lives in that war, it would make a unique war memorial. He failed to move New Mills Council or any other body to preserve this relic of the Stone Age. The builders held up operations for some days while the discussions were continued, but as there was no result the stone was blown to pieces and the unique memorial was missed. Mr Nichols was greatly distressed about the whole business and never ceased to regret the destruction of the stone.
Chimneys Fall 1949
One of the great landmarks of the industrial age were the factory chimneys which cut the skyline. Most of the chimneys are now gone, remove over the last 50 years. Most recently the chimney at Strines Printworks. However, not all these huge constructions lasted long enough to need demolition.
The following appeared in the High Peak Reporter of 1947 ‘Not until they arrived at the Grove Paper Mill, for work on Monday morning did employees know that the mills 120 feet-high chimney had crashed to the ground during the night’s strong gale.
Owing to the terrific wind, which at times made a loud noise, no one seems to have heard the chimney crash. People living in the nearby houses said that though they could hear the howling of the wind, they had no idea that the mill chimney had been bought down. Built of stone and brick on a grassy hillside near the mill, the chimney completely toppled over, and probably the fact that the grassy slopes were soft as a result of recent snows, somewhat deadened the sound. Most of the large stones and bricks were separated and some pieces of masonry from the chimney - which had a six feet square base tapering to about three feet at the top - were scattered as far as 150 feet away, as the chimney ‘fanned’ itself out. Though some stones and bricks were hurled across the road leading to New Mills gasworks, there was no damage to property. Had the wind been blowing in another direction the bulk of the masonry would have crashed onto the mill but, luckily, the nearest stones and bricks fell some twenty yards from the premises.
After being stopped for a week owing to shortage of fuel, production at the mill was to have restated on Monday. The firm at once made hurried telephonic attempts to secure a temporary sectional steel chimney so that production could restart. The mill employs a workforce of around 120 people and is busy on important works.
Two years later in 1949 the weather claimed another chimney.
Only the stone foundations remained standing after a vivid flash of lightening had struck the 100 feet-high brick chimney on Monday. Bricks from the chimney- which formed part of the Lady Pit Colliery - were hurled as far as 300 yards over the surrounding fields. The bricks crashed with such force that even those thrown two or three hundred yards made six inch holes in the ground. Most of the bricks fell in the opposite direction to the nearby main-line railway and sidings, and although there were telephone wires close to the chimney, they were not broken. Some of the debris tore through the slate roof of what used to be the colliery engine house, only a few feet from the chimney.
Bricks scattered over the winding Lady Pit-road, were cleared later in the day by the U.C.D. on the other side of the road, the stone walls of another building had patches of powdered red brick-work, caused by the force with which the bricks had been hurled. A few bricks damaged the roof of the building.
The chimney was felled by brilliant lightening which lit up the whole district, even older people saying that they had never seen such a blinding flash. In the field where the bricks rained down were Ayrshire T.T. stirks luckily none were hurt. A three year old horse…. had a lucky escape. Normally, the horse would have been in the same field as the chimney, and in bad weather would have sheltered between the chimney and the engine house. But on Saturday night, the horse got out of the field and was spotted on the road. With the aid of torches it was returned to the field, but thinking if it had got out once it might again, the owner moved it into another field. Poultry belonging to Gow Hole Farm were in the engine house when debris crashed through the roof. At first it was thought that some had been trapped, but a check up showed that none had been lost. If the chimney had been felled half an hour later the owner would have been in the engine house feeding the hens - his custom at nine o’clock every morning.
Lightening also cut off electricity supplies for some time and places affected included New Mills, Furness Vale, Whaley Bridge, Chapel and Hayfield.
The Coming of Television 1949
In readiness for mid-December, when the Midland Television Station at Sutton Coldfield, opens ‘H’ - shaped aerials can already be seen in various parts of New Mills and district. Extensive preparations for the demonstration and after sales service of television receivers have been made by Messrs Horsfield’s of Market Street, who were the first firm to receive the present test transmissions.
A special television demonstration theatre has been prepared, and as programmes begin - the Sutton Coldfield station opens on December 17th - demonstrations will be given to the public. The coming of television will open a wide field of entertainment unknown to most people in the North - first rate stage plays, sporting events and public occasions brought to the fireside, with amazing reality, at the turn of a knob.
Paddling Pool is opened. 1949
What proved to be one of the town’s most popular summer pastimes was opened in 1949. So successful was the War Memorial campaign that a surplus was raised, over and above the money needed to provide the extension to the war memorial and the Garden of Remembrance. It was decided to use the money for the benefit of children; paddling pools were built at High Lee and Ravenslack parks.
Situated near the wood, beside the hall in High Lee Park, the children’s paddling pool was opened on Wednesday 12th August. With the summer holidays ending the following week, and in order to make the most of the good weather, no official ceremony took place. This marks completion of stage two of the town’s war memorial scheme.
The pool, constructed by Mr S. B. Marshall, of New Mills, is already proving popular with youngsters. It is fed by the town’s water –through the mouth of an ornamental lion-and there is an outlet at the other end of the pool.
A Million Packets of Sweets 1949
Loaded with a million packets of dollar - earning, thirst quenching sweets, two lorries left the Carlton House works of Messrs. Swizells, Ltd; of New Mills, bound for Liverpool, where the sweets made specially for the American market were shipped in the ‘Parthia’. it was the biggest single American consignment from the works, and the picture shows one of the lorries at a final check outside the firm’s offices.
The American demand for the sweets is increasing - the first shipment was completely sold out after only a couple of days in the New York shops - but labour shortage restricts output. Instead of producing about three million packets a week to keep pace with mounting orders, the labour shortage cuts production to less than a million packets.
Aiming to extend this valuable form of export trade - in a nutshell it is a case of candies for New York kids mean food for British children - the firm has launched a drive to recruit girls between 15 and 18 years, offering school leavers a weekly wage of two pounds, twelve shillings and six pence (2.62½p) with good opportunities and first class canteen facilities.
Feeling that there may be many women in New Mills and surrounding places who could lend a hand doing part time work. The firm is anxious to secure their services either from 7-30 a.m. to 6 p.m., attractive wages being offered. Men and boys too are needed. ‘We could do with 200 more girls so that output can be greatly increased. Already we have orders to keep us going for years’ said a member of the firm, for apart from export orders there is a growing home market for the firms commodities.
Lantern pike October 1950
Led by guides, groups of ramblers wound their way to the bleak summit of Lantern Pike, the 1,100 ft, hill over looking Hayfield, as the setting sun chilled the air, paid tribute to one who fought for the common mans right of access to mountain and moorland.
On the hill top - itself dominated by Kinder Scout across the valley- they honoured Slaithwaite born Edwin Royce, whose death in Manchester four years ago led to the launching of a memorial scheme.
Royce, member of the Manchester Ramblers Federation, Ramblers Association and Manchester Geographical Society, was one of the North’s best known ramblers. It was to the memory of this champion of their ‘freedom’ that men and women walkers of all ages- including members of the Manchester Rambling Club for the Blind- climbed Lantern Pike for the unveiling of a direction indicator. Stone hewn from Birch Hall quarry for the 3 foot high plinth, had been hauled up the hillside by ramblers and by quarry workmen. There- ‘in the presence of the work of God’ as Mr Hugh Molson , M.P. for the High Peak put it- the plinth was erected, mounted by a commemorative plaque and direction indicator , pointing out the surrounding hills and places, the most distant being Northwich, 25 miles away, easily seen on a clear day.
Among those who witnessed the unveiling, and the handing over of the deeds of the land to the National Trust, were members of the organisations with which Royce was so actively associated. There were too, those belonging to no organisations, but who love weekend walks in the open air, and a few local people.
Presiding at the simple ceremony was Mr G. H .B Ward, F.R.G.S. of Sheffield, who said that, as long as they lived, they would never forget Edwin Royce. ‘Let him be an encouragement and a stimulant to the young people who follow on’ commented Mr Ward.
Before unveiling the memorial Mr Harvey Rhodes, M.P. for Ashton, and president of Manchester Ramblers Association, said that, in the quietness of the afternoon, with the fading light it did not need rhetoric or oratory to convey what was in their minds and hearts. Edwin Royce he said, was a simple man, one who would go out of his way to do a kindly action. A man of many interests, geology, geography, literature, the arts and music knew him and he knew them. ‘At the moment we seem to be at the turning point of the ways, when simplicity, integrity of purpose,, honesty, and intellectual integrity are needed more than ever in the history of this great country, and we have it in us to rise to it’ said Mr Rhodes. ‘The man to whom we are unveiling this memorial was one of the men who pointed the way.’ It was not a coincidence that the place on which they were standing was called Lantern Pike, and it was not a coincidence that the memorial had been placed there. ‘Lantern Pike’ added Mr Rhodes, ‘a place where the spirit of Edwin Royce will, I hope, shine out for all the years to come.’ The group of around 150 people stood with bowed heads as Mr Rhodes took the white cover from the memorial , revealing the inscription: ‘This indicator, and the hill on which it stands, were purchased by many friends, as a memorial to Edwin Royce (born Slaithwaite, 1880; died Manchester, 1946) in recognition of his labours in the cause of securing the freedom of the hills.’
Mr Molson, whom Mr Ward introduced as ‘one who had done great works for Derbyshire’ said that he was glad that the friends of Edwin Royce had clubbed together so that this fine eminence could be acquired , for all time, and handed to the National Trust. ‘The National Trust has done most wonderful work for the people of this country in encouraging people to preserve open spaces and present them to the Trust where they are preserved for all time for the enjoyment of those who come after,’ he said. ‘There is no country in the world which stands more in need of preservation of the countryside than this land of ours. Great industrial country as it is, and proud as we rightly are of its achievements and of the energy of hand and mind of the men who work in our great cities, they do stand in need of being able to get out to the countryside at weekends.
‘It is characteristic of our civilisation that so large a proportion of our people are obliged for their livelihoods and for the welfare of all of us, to spend their lives pent up in great cities, and for so many hours at their work in factories and offices. Therefore, there is a special duty upon all of us who can to see that the unrivalled beauties and glories of the English countryside shall be preserved, and that those who work in the cities shall have opportunity of coming to them for exercise, fresh air, and, still more, to obtain that spiritual refreshment which man obtains when he leaves his work of man and comes and finds himself in the presence of the work of God.’
Mr Molson said it was a pleasure to hand the deeds of the land to Major G.G. Havthornthwaite, Peak District representative of the National Trust, who after expressed his thanks.
Several other friends of Edwin Royce paid tribute to his memory including Mr Arthur Smith, secretary of the memorial committee who remarked ‘He was a man who gave his whole life, selflessly and with singleness of purpose, to the benefit of his fellow men.’
Caen Clock 1952
The Town Hall contains many heirlooms of the community in the keeping of the council; the history of some of them has become obscure. One such item is the Caen clock. Luckily its history was recorded in a copy of the High Peak Reporter 9-5-1952.
‘Keeping perfect time in New Mills Town Hall is a Caen stone clock - and, if it could speak as merrily as it ticks it would tell a story of one mans skill and patience. About 45 years ago Mr Horace Arden loved to make things and himself a stone mason enjoyed modelling in stone at the end of a days work. Deciding to make an ornamental clock, he went to Mr W. Wells, then a New Mills jeweller from whom he got a catalogue. From Caen, a French city which is world famous for its white stone - of which several English cathedrals are built- he arranged for a block of stone to be shipped to him. He bought a French movement clock encased in brass from Mr Wells. Then using one of the catalogue models as the basis of his own handiwork he began work. With a ‘cut throat’ razor and a pen knife as his only tools and infinite patience and skill. Mr Arden spent night after night working on the chunk of stone in the yard behind his Jodrell Street home. Altogether he spent 114 hours with razor and knife before the 2ft wide and 2ft high model was finished. Generally it followed the pattern shown in the catalogue, except for the dome which Mr Arden carved after the style of St Paul’s cathedral and an ornamental strip at the front which he copied from a design on the fireside fender at his mother’s home. Above the clock face he cut out his initials in the form of a monogram. The clock strikes once at the hour and the half-hour, and the ornamental design is a fine example of a local mans craftsmanship in stone. Mr Arden died some four years ago; his widow has just presented the clock to New Mills Council.’
Joint Tree Planting at Birch Vale, Coronation Playing Fields 1953
An interesting article appeared in the High Peak Reporter on the 27th November 1953.
An historic occasion in the story of New Mills and Hayfield took place on Saturday afternoon when representatives of the Urban District Council and the Parish Council met at Birch Vale with representatives of the corporate life of the districts to plant trees around the perimeter of Ravenslack Playing Fields as the first step in the establishment of a memorial of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.
Councillor W. A. Leigh J.P. (Chairman of New Mill Town Council) welcomed Councillor G. H. Dale (Chairman) and the members of Hayfield Parish Council, the vicar of New Mills Rev T. L. Weatherhead, ministers of religion, magistrates, representatives of various organisations and others present and reminded them of the reason they were gathered together.
Standing on the boundary between the two parishes Councillor Leigh said "Birch Vale never had a park or recreation ground of its own before, and it seems fitting to me that a start should be made in the Coronation year. We are hoping to continue in the spring by providing a playground for the children and seats for the older people."
Standing as it does, aside the boundary between New Mills and Hayfield, this playing field will be readily accessible to the people of both parishes, and will serve in many ways to foster the feeling of goodwill between the two councils. It is a very great pleasure to my wife and I to take part in the tree planting here today. For us as many of you know it is a case of coming home to Birch Vale. I would like to thank you all for attending this ceremony today and now I am sure you are all anxious to begin. I am going to ask Councillor Dale to say a few words to you and then plant the first tree."
Councillor Dale, on behalf of himself and his colleagues on the Parish Council, thanked Councillor Leigh for his invitation to take part in the ceremony. "You all know my interest in sport and I can think of no better way of commemorating the Coronation of our young Queen than by providing a place where the children of our two districts can find recreation and our old people rest," said councillor Dale. "The members of Hayfield Parish Council are very pleased to be here today and we hope that this will mark the beginning of a closer relationship between us and New Mills Town Council."
Councillor Leigh handed a spade to Councillor Dale and crossing into the New Mills Urban District accompanied by Councillor and Mrs Leigh, Councillor Dale planted a laburnum on the perimeter of the new Coronation Playing Fields. The spade was returned to Councillor Leigh and the party walked a few yards across the boundary where Councillor Leigh planted the second tree - a Sycamore - in the Hayfield parish.
Following this, the remaining trees were planted. In all 44 trees were planted by or on behalf of members and officials of New Mills Council, members of Hayfield Council, vicar of New Mills, superintendent Methodist minister (Rev G. A. F. Gostick), Congregational minister (Rev C. M. Tutt), the Society of Friends, Mr C. E Griffin J.P., Major J Cochrane J.P., Mr F Brocklehurst J.P. Mrs Leigh, Mrs Fenton, Mrs Unsworth, Mr M. Sowerbutts, Rose of Sharon Lodge of Oddfellows. Toc H. (women), High Peak Choral Society, New Mills and District Amateur Operatic Society and the former New Mills Poultry Club.
The land at Ravenslack belongs to New Mills Council, having been bought in 1951 for the sum of six hundred and forty pounds. In addition to the trees estimated to have cost around fifty pounds, the immediate proposals include seats for elderly people, children’s playground equipment, a paddling pool and a putting green.
Spout Gutter 1955
Spout Gutter was a block of dwellings built into the hillside from High Street to Spring Bank, tier upon tier, with a shop at the High Street end. The houses could be approached by footpath or steps from either Spring Bank or High Street. But it could not be properly drained. When the house wife at the top tier emptied her washtub it was possible that the water would run by the side of the other houses into the road drain in High Street.
The houses built into the steep hillside from the river were erected at the time of the industrial revolution when there were mills turned by water power on the river bank. One old resident put the matter this way; ‘It was a case of out of bed and into the mill and out of the mill and into bed. The stone in the hillside was hewn out, broken into small pieces and put back and called a house.’
Nobody was sorry to see Spout Gutter go, although various people visiting New Mills thought it was very picturesque and said that if the property had been in some of the Southern counties, visitors would be charged to see it rather than it being pulled down. It was a place that lots of people went to see and no spot in New Mills was better known. But nobody wanted to live in a hillside.
60th Anniversary Meeting - 1955
The January 1955 meeting of the council saw New Mills celebrate the achievements of 60 years of local government.
"New Mills has many of the amenities of a large town-and all of the advantages of a small one" said Councillor F. S Kitchen when, at the urban district councils diamond jubilee meeting, on Wednesday of last week, he gave a twenty minute review of the development of local government in New Mills during the past 60 years.
Councillor Kitchen ‘father’ of the council, which he joined in 1940 - he was chairman of the council in 1946-47 and is chairman of the finance committee - gave his review at the conclusion of the normal monthly business of the council. The meeting opened with prayers, offered by the Rev T. L Weatherhead, vicar of New Mills.
Instead of being held in the council chamber at the Town Hall, the meeting took place in the large hall, the seats and desks normally used by members and officials having been taken into the hall from the council chamber. Invited into the meeting were former Chairman residing in the district, and relatives of men who have died since holding the Chairmanship, representatives of all local organisations and members of the general public.
There were about 150 people present, and oldest ex-Chairman present was Mr W. A Collins, of Mellor Rd, New Mills, who was Chairman in 1932-33 and again in 1939-40, and who served, as a councillor, for 26 years up until 1946. Displayed in the room were various documents, etc, illustrative of the development of local government.
At the start of the meeting Councillor R Hoggins, J. P. (Chairman) welcomed the guests and members of the public because, as he put it, ‘we who serve in local government in New Mills very rarely see electors and rate payers at our monthly meetings, although, of course, the meetings are public. Tonight you will see and hear how the town's business is transacted. I give you all a very sincere welcome and hope you find the meeting both instructive and interesting.’
‘When the urban district was formed’, said Councillor Kitchen in his review, ‘the area was much the same as today, but the population was 6,700 compared with today’s 8,300. There had been changes in population, probably due to changing trade conditions and wars, because in 1914 the population was 9,000 and, in 1939, 8,900.’
‘Going back to the 1939 population figure’ added councillor Kitchen, it is recorded that in the Second World War 1,371 people from New Mills served in the forces. In its early days,’ he said, ‘the council were fortunate in having a public hall, which had been the envy of many neighbouring authorities, in which to hold meetings and social events.’
The hall (now, of course, the Town Hall) was erected in 1871 and opened by the Seventh Duke of Devonshire, a tower was added in 1875 and a clock and chimes were presented by Mrs Ingham, of Watford Villa.The Town Hall was extended in the late 1890’s and a new wing added in 1900 was also opened by a Duke of Devonshire and in 1939 the chimes were replaced by the late councillor G. A Broome-Coope in memory of his parents.At the beginning of the council they were fortunate in having a gasworks, and this assisted the rates by the profits which it was then making. Turning to Public Health matters, Councillor Kitchen said the sewage works were laid down in 1895-96 at a cost of sixteen thousand five hundred and thirty two pounds and were enlarged in 1939.
Saying that the council used to be a constituent member, along with other nearby authorities, of the Infectious Diseases hospital at Chinley, he said that 1937 was the peak year for diphtheria cases, there were 72 notified. Immunisation started in 1938 and for the past six years there had not been a single case.
The library was opened in 1899, the council having adopted the free libraries act of 1895, and at the time New Mills was one of the smallest authorities in the country to have its own free library. When it was opened the library had about 3,500 books; today there were around 12,000. It was in 1909 with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie, that the new library was built, prior to that books were accommodated in the Town Hall. The library had been a great asset to New Mills.
‘In 1906,’ said Councillor Kitchen, the council acquired the water rights from the Sumner Estate, the council buying, for something like eleven thousand pounds, the rights and privileges which were vested in the estate. In 1953 the council acquired water in bulk from Stockport for distribution throughout the area.
A matter of great importance was the building in 1923 of the fire station, which had proved its usefulness throughout the period and perhaps particularly during the war. Councillor Kitchen recalled that the first fire engine was named Susan, it had often been said that it was christened after the wife of one of the members of the council.
The first council houses were erected in 1922 and between then and the Second World War, the council owned 179 houses. In 1936 they bought Highfield Farm, now Highfield Estate, and a vigorous building policy had been pursued since 1945. Further land had been acquired and today, the council had 600 houses, and more are been built.
In 1928 the council started its own electricity undertaking, but of course both electricity and gas had since been nationalised. All the way through, the members of the council had shown thought and activity in having their own services. There had always been facilities for recreation and pleasure, and invaluable services had been rendered throughout the years by local societies and bodies.
One of the largest ventures, in the matter of playing fields, was the purchase of High Lee Hall and Park in 1937. Before that, there were recreation grounds at Newtown, Bakehurst and Hague Bar, but purchase of the hall and park had proved a really good asset to the district, being enjoyed by many.We are still progressing even today he added, and we have added a series of playing fields and children’s playgrounds, our latest acquisition being at Birch Vale. 'This one is partly in Hayfield and partly in New Mills, and, you will recall we had the tree planting ceremony about two years ago. Members of Hayfield Parish Council planted trees in the New Mills part, and New Mills members planted trees in the Hayfield part, cementing the friendship between the two authorities.'
Councillor Kitchen recalled that, after the Second World War, to commemorate the services rendered by the citizens of New Mills, there was a War Memorial Fund, through which a Garden of Remembrance was laid out in High Lee Park and children’s paddling pool and playground equipment provided. Provision of these facilities was not a council matter, but was a general matter, although later they were vested in the council for care and maintenance for all time.
Meetings of the council were not always as quiet as the diamond jubilee meeting, added councillor Kitchen, but they did work well together as members. Tonight things had gone smoothly and members had been on their best behaviour, but, like today, the councillors in the early days had their moments of anxiety and humour. There was a round of laughter as councillor Kitchen went on; I should probably ask who threw the brick through the window? but I think the most amusing incident I have heard was when one member arrived rather late for a meeting, having bought some poultry which he had in a box and which he placed under his desk. Some other kind member untied the lid and let the chickens out, causing rather a flutter in the council chamber.
After councillor Kitchen had briefly outlined the functions of the council’s various committees, he said the council adopted the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act probably earlier than many larger authorities, and had lent a considerable sum of money to people buying their own houses.
A new committee was the Development Committee and at the moment the council had the draft plan for New Mills and the shape of things to come. The 'new bridge' in Union Road he said was built in 1884 linking Newtown with New Mills and had a changing effect on the district. He was not saying that ”the shape of things to come” would be so drastic as that, but there would be a new layout for the town centre. There were still more meetings and discussions to take place before the plan was put into place.There will be many views he said.There will be many amendments. There will be recommendations. But all will be done for the benefit of the district and the community in general and for the maintenance and general improvement of our area.
Councillor Kitchen said that in making the January council meeting into a special one to mark the diamond jubilee with invitations extended to past chairman or their relatives along with representatives of all local organisations it was, in effect, to record appreciation of the service and time which so many had given so willingly and voluntarily over the last sixty years.
‘We have been very fortunate in having men of vision who have given us such a lead in carrying out the work of local government and given us such a good example to follow in the future, said councillor Kitchen. The present council has endeavoured to carry on where previous members left off, on sound lines, with sound finance, and we look forward to meeting future requirements for the benefit of all concerned. I am sure it has always been that, throughout the history of the council we have been well served by having had good officials, staff and employees in the various departments.”
Nightmare of the Pineapple Ghost 1957
Locals referred to it as the Mystery of the Pineapple Inn, while interested onlookers have travelled from afar to see if it is true. But for licensee Kenneth Wilkinson it had proved an unsolved nightmare since he took control of the old New Mills pub in 1956.
The trouble was a poltergeist or noisy ghost, that has performed in front of several witnesses. It has been described by Mr. Wilkinson’s son Ian, who was not told anything in order not to frighten him, as “someone running around upstairs with clogs on.” A lodger complained that during the night he had heard someone pulling a heavy chest across the floor.
The alarming incidents include:
The removal of a dustbin full of heavy concrete chippings, which could not have been lifted by one man.
The switching on of lights in an aviary at the rear of the pub.
Secure light bulbs leaping from a ceiling light and table lamp, the latter bouncing along the bar in front of customers.
A pint pot left on the bar by waiter Raymond Baxter rising in the air and crashing to the floor.
But the most frightening thing has been the steady THUD, THUD, THUD, of heavy footsteps coming from a first floor room. The steps have always followed the same path and at one point must have passed through a wall.
“It has been terribly frightening at times especially as we have failed to discover the cause,” said 38-year-old Mr. Wilkinson. “One night 10 customers and I searched the whole building and found nothing. The man next door has dropped heavy objects including crates of milk bottles, but the walls are so thick we heard nothing.”
On several occasions, Mr. Wilkinson has sat up till 3a.m. with thin string stretched across the path of the steps, resting on two milk bottles. If anything had touched the string, the milk bottles would have fallen. “But the most baffling of all was the disappearance of the dustbin,” he said as he showed me the solid rock face at the rear of the pub. “It could have been taken out only one way and that is up the narrow winding path cut through the rock. Only a few hours earlier the local dustman Mr. Charlie Ramsden had said he was glad he would not have to remove it, as the council would not accept concrete.” The path was less than three feet wide at its widest point. The floodlights in the aviary were switched on while everyone in the building was only a few yards away. The aviary holds 16 blue and yellow budgerigars, which Mr. Wilkinson breeds for sale. The history of the Pineapple Inn, which stands in High Street, is unknown except that it was very likely used as a mill in its early days. Tapping on the newly decorated walls in the lounge and salon bars shows there are several concealed doors. Does the visitor come through these?
Cinema Closes in Uproar. September 1958
After 36 years The Cinema, on Union Road was due to close a victim of a the international depression of the time. On the final Saturday, night uproar broke out towards the end of the feature film. Gangs of youths downstairs started shouting and then began wrecking seats and throwing them about. Five seats in one row were ripped from the floor and smashed, arms and back of others were broken, and padding pulled from ripped seats. Altogether twenty seats in different parts of the cinema were damaged. Around a couple of dozen fireworks were lighted. The youths ignored appeals from the manager, Mr Fred Chadwick, so he ordered the operator to stop the film (‘The One that Got Away.’)
When police were called the audience of more than three hundred crowded out of the cinema. Mr Chadwick said: ‘it seems that the youths had come with the sole purpose of wrecking the place. They behaved like hooligans. They were not teddy boys, just hooligans, and the more we asked them to be quiet the worse they became.
Death of a Giant. May 1966
The Watford Bridge works chimney was 195 feet high and among the many who watched the felling of this industrial landmark were men who worked at Watford when it was one of the busiest calico printing centres in the world.
For years, this C.P.A. owned works – much smaller than in its heyday as a calico printing place – had been engaged in engraving for the textile printing trade and was heated by oil. The boilers and economisers were taken away years before, and the chimney had been unused since 1929 – except for the burning of rubbish.
Demolition of the chimney by Lomax and Co., explosive engineers, of Bolton, went exactly according to plan. Bricks were cut away from opposite arcs of the 60-foot diameter base – the outer base was five feet thick and inside there was another chimney, lined with firebrick – until it was on the point of balance.
Between the two gaps made in the base, the demolition workers drilled holes and placed inside 56 sticks of gelignite, wired together on the side closest to Bridge Street.
A wooden stake was put in the ground some distance away, and said Mr Mervyn Simpson, the foreman, ‘that’s where we hope the chimney will fall.’
Mr Simpson chipped out a little more brickwork to just beyond the point of balance. The electric cable running from the ‘jelly’ was taken to a point near the office where Mr Simpson knelt beside the firing mechanism.
The chimney of around a million bricks, weighing 1,000 tons, bent into two or three sections, and crashed in a straddled line to the ground. Right on top of the wooden stake, with just a splash or two as a few bricks dropped into the works reservoir.
Demolition was timed for 12-30 p.m., and when everyone had moved to safety, Mr Simpson asked one of his men, ‘how’s the time,’ ‘less than a
minute to go,’ came the reply. So, he operated the firer. There was a bang as the gelignite exploded, a moment’s silence – and the 60-year-old brickwork giant moved slowly towards the river.
Lorry Drivers Miracle Escape 1968
A lorry driver escaped with nothing more than a cuts and bruises when his eight-wheeler made a 40ft nose dive onto the railway line at Bank End. Before plunging onto the Buxton to Manchester line which runs parallel to Buxton Road, his lorry loaded with stone chippings, crashed through a stone wall, narrowly missing a telegraph pole. Rescuers slithered down the grassy embankment to free the driver who was trapped by the leg. As they did so a Diesel train passed them on the up line, only clearing the lorry and rescuers by inches.
The lorry driver who had his black and white collie, Dinky, in the cab, told his rescuers ‘I thought I was going to shake hands with Peter.’
His lorry ploughed through the wall after having being involved with a collision with an empty lorry. It landed on its nose and side on the down line to Manchester. Several men were doing road works nearby hurried down the embankment to find the drivers leg trapped by the hand-brake. As soon as they reached him he gave them his dog, who was uninjured, a local resident took the dog to his home whilst the driver was pulled free and taken to hospital. The local fire service had to take precautions in case the lorry caught fire. Its engine was still running when they arrived and to stop it they had to cut the fuel pipes and remove the batteries. The rail lines were completely closed for about two hours while a railway breakdown gang working under lights lifted the lorry from the tracks and took it down the line to Newtown Station.
On leaving Stockport hospital the driver thumbed a lift back to New Mills, where he collected his dog before getting a lift home.
The New Mills Panther. November 1989.
Reports of sightings of a big cat on the moors surrounding New Mills began in 1981. A farmer at Wethercotes Farm reported lambs being horribly mauled with “bite marks something like a bobcat or lynx” he went on “ I found a group of lambs dead in a circle where they had lain. Something had just sunk its teeth in and held on until they died. Dogs usually shake them.” A couple of months later he found some tracks on a sheep track which he identified as those of a big cat. At the time of the 1989 sightings he reported that for a fortnight his dogs had barked all night, with fright.
The 89 sightings began across the valley on Ollersett Moor, police were called in and the top of Laneside road was sealed off. Officers then actually sighted the animal and watched it playing and pouncing in plain sight for half an hour. They told reporters it had a long tail and brilliant green eyes. Police warned the public, farmers and rangers to be on the look out and report any sightings.
Farmers wife Mrs Monaghan of Shedyard reported that they had been convinced for some time that a large cat had been on the loose around their home. “My husband had seen something earlier in the year,” she said. “At about 12.30pm some of the men who work for us happened to see this black shape in the field a few hundred yards from the house. It was sunning itself. We phoned the police straight away. The men had been standing there watching it, and it moved off. My husband has been up there with a shotgun because he was concerned for the sheep. The Monaghan's, who had been at Shedyard two years said that people did not believe their earlier sightings. “My husband rang all the neighbours to warn them and they thought he was crackers,” said Mrs Monaghan.
Head ranger Keith Woods confirmed sightings and reports going back to 1981, of something black, large and cat like, wandering in the area. “We have searched for it a number of times and have been up there late at night with lights, but we have never found anything.” He added that the hillside was riddled with caves and holes where the beast could hide.
The beast was never found and plans by police marksmen to shoot it came to nothing. It was photographed, but the image was very poor. Some months later it was reported by a Mrs Topliff that returning home she found the beast within her home and drove it out with a brush though not with out being bitten and scratched. More on that when I have it.
Alien Big Cats or ABC's, are reported fairly frequently throughout the U.K.
though strangely there is no conclusive evidence of their existence. No perfect photograph or body, they seem to have a great deal in common with UFO's.