The Singing Ringing Tree


Yesterday I met my friend Ann at The Singing Ringing Tree. I had read about this sculpture or Panopticon, just over the border in Lancashire, in one of those magazines that you find in the pocket of your airline seat. It sounded fascinating. And indeed I can now say that it sounds fascinating too. The wind blows through the open pipes and amazingly creates music when you get close up to it (it’s a few 100 metres from the blustery car park).

Continue reading


Coastal Lancashire : Heysham to Morecambe via Middleton and the Coastal Route

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a railway walk but with my new diary in hand on New Year’s Eve I scanned the Foscl and Dalesrail and other guided walks websites and pencilled in a few dates including :

Saturday 2nd January 2016 – Heysham to Morecambe via Middleton and the Coastal Route. Travel on the 08.19 Leeds to Morecambe train and book, alight & return Morecambe (bus out to Heysham) 8 miles Easy. Continue reading

Report of a Sunday in Lancashire

Last weekend I ventured over to Lancashire. I’d been invited to a garden party at a friend’s allotment (dress code: fascinator and wellies) in Higher Walton, near Preston. It was raining as I left home in Yorkshire but by the time I was across the Pennines it had stopped and we enjoyed a Jacob’s Join lunch in the open air. I must say that allotment gardening, and gardening in general, look like an awful lot of hard work … but the gain is tremendous; Kath’s plot exceeded all expectations.

Plot 98 7

Welcome to the Party!

Wildflower bed

Wildflower Bed

Plot 98 1

Plot 98 6

Kath's Bee Hotel

Kath’s Bee Hotel

The Pottering Shed

It may be a shed


It turned out that the allotment is just a few minutes from Hoghton Tower so after lunch two of us made our way to the Tower where we came across a reenactment of the Battle of Preston (1715). Amongst the reenactors I was surprised to see the Leeds Waits a group of musicians specialising in medieval music and, incidentally, my next-door neighbours!

Leeds Waits

The battle of Preston at Houghton Tower 2015 : a short film showing the musicians that used to play at executions!”

We booked a tour of the house at 2.30 and made for the tea room for refreshments beforehand.

Hoghton Tower

Some significant people are associated with Hoghton. In particular our guide was impressed by the James I connection. James is reported to have spent a few nights at the Tower in 1617 and it was here that he was so pleased with his roast beef dinner that he knighted the joint Sir Loin. James was apparently a small chap and instead of dismounting outside in the courtyard he rode his horse right into the house and up the stairs.
It is also reported that William Shakespeare spent some time here during the period known as his ‘lost years’.

Charles Dickens was also familiar with the house and wrote a short story centred around it including a description of the building as a farm house: George Silverman’s Explanation.

And so, by fragments of an ancient terrace, and by some rugged outbuildings that had once been fortified, and passing under a ruined gateway, we came to the old farm-house in the thick stone wall outside the old quadrangle of Hoghton Towers.

Courtyard today

The “quadrangle” today

Read here about another blogger’s visit to Hoghton.

The Battle's over

The Battle’s Over – Time to go Home



An August Bank Holiday Lark

The men do some strange things over in Lancashire. They wear fancy straw hats with real flowers in them; they dance in lace-up shoes with wooden soles and they celebrate something called The North West Rush Cart Tradition by building and decorating a tall cart with rushes upon which they place a saddle and one of them is brave enough to climb up onto the top of this cart with a kettle on a rope – don’t ask!  At least they did in 1914 – 1915 when this play was set.


Written especially for  Northern Broadsides Theatre Company ‘An August Bank Holiday Lark’ is based on a rural village in Lancashire where the cotton mill rules but the old traditions still continue.

Commissioned to write a suitable play as a Remembrance for the World War I Centenary Deborah McAndrew has produced a winner. There is music and dancing and humour and traditional customs and, I’m afraid, needless to say, tragedy as well. The title is taken from a line in Philip Larkin’s poem ‘MCMXIV’.

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day—

And the countryside not caring:
The place names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.


Back in November last year I wrote about my great uncle Marshall Howman who was killed at Gallipoli in August 1915. The lads in this story enrol in the 6th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment which in real life suffered many casualties and great loss of life in the ill-fated August Offensive in the Dardanelles in 1915 .

It is currently showing at The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, which where I saw it this afternoon, but will move around the country for the next couple of months.



Lancaster II : The Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park and The Judges’ Lodging

A couple of weeks ago I paid my second visit to Lancaster. The main purpose of my visit last March was meet a friend and visit the newly refurbished Landmark property The Music Room. From the Music Room roof we could see across the city Williamson Park and the very prominent Ashton Memorial. We promised each other that later this year we’d meet again and visit the Memorial.

Ashton M Ashton M from MR

The Ashton Memorial from Music Room Window and Roof

So that is what we did. Again we met at the Railway Station and headed for coffee and catch-up. Then we took the bus out of the city and up Wyresdale Road to the entrance to the park. In September the weather proved to be drier and sunnier than in March.

Gate Williamson Park

Williamson Park Gates

The Ashton Memorial was commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife. It was designed by John Belcher and completed in 1909, the restored interior hosts exhibitions and concerts and can be hired for private functions, including wedding ceremonies.

Externally, the dome is of copper. The main stone used in the building is Portland stone although the steps are of granite from Cornwall. Externally around the dome are sculptures representing “Commerce”, “Science”, “Industry” and “Art” by Herbert Hampton. The interior of the dome has allegorical paintings of “Commerce”, “Art” and “History” by George Murray. The ceiling is presently undergoing restorative works and has been covered with drapes.

Ground Floor Wedding Venue

The Ground Floor Wedding Venue

At around 150 feet tall it dominates the Lancaster skyline. The first floor outdoor viewing gallery provides superb views of the surrounding countryside and across Morecambe Bay.

[From The City Council website]

Ashton Memorial

The Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park

Hazy view to coast and Morecambe

Hazy View from the Gallery to Coast at Morecambe

It’s a lovely park with lakes and follies, woodland paths and a Butterfly House in the original Edwardian Palm House. We ate our lunch from the very nice Pavilion Cafe out on the sunny terrace.

Butterfly House

Butterfly House

We decided to walk back to the city centre and had a peep at the Lancaster Grammar School Hall and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter on our way.

The Judges’ Lodging is so called because it was where until the 1970s the circuit judge would be accommodated during his visit to the Assize Court in the Castle.

Judges' Lodging

Discover the treasures of Lancaster’s oldest town house

Built in the centre of Lancaster against the backdrop of Lancaster Castle and Lancaster Priory this elegant, Grade I listed building is Lancaster’s oldest town house. The house was originally home to Thomas Covell, Keeper of Lancaster Castle and notorious witch hunter. Between 1776 and 1975 the house became an impressive residence for judges visiting the Assize Court at nearby Lancaster Castle.

The museum is now home to a renowned collection of Gillow furniture which is displayed in fabulous Regency period room settings, fine art and also the enchanting Museum of Childhood which explores toys and games from the 18th century to the present.”

[From the Judges’ Lodging website]

Gillow Lancaster

Gillow Plaque

The former Gillow and Co. workshop and offices is next door to The Judges’ Lodging.  After our visit (No Photography Allowed) there was just time for a cup of tea outside the cafe below the Music Room in what is now called Lancaster’s “Coffee Quarter”.

Music Room Cafe

It was warm and sunny on our last visit!

A Music Room and a Castle and Lancastrian Hospitality

The Music Room sign

Yesterday was Open Day at The Music Room Landmark Trust property in Lancaster. Last weekend a fellow Friend of the Landmark Trust, and friend of mine now, asked if I’d like to join her to visit the newly refurbished and freshly repainted apartment in the centre of the city. There’s a direct train from nearby Shipley, which has plenty of useful parking availability on a Saturday morning, and an early start gave us six and a half hours to inspect the property, chat with organisers and fellow visitors and include an unhurried lunch (Morecambe Bay Shrimp Platter – what else??) and a tour of the major Lancaster landmark – its Castle … and more!

The Music Room ext

From the station the Music Room is only a few steps away. We were glad to take shelter from the rain and we spent a couple of hours inside and out on the roof top (during a lull in the rain). Coffee was supplied courtesy of the nearby coffee merchant and dispensed by the Housekeeper to which she added information about the before-and-after appearance of the property.

The Music Room - Kazia

A member of Landmark’s Head Office staff, Kasia, the Education Officer, (above, in the new kitchen) was also on hand to fill us in on news, plans and  future events at Landmarks.

Music Room help yourself

The Music Room dates back to about 1730 and was probably originally a garden pavilion; hard as this is to imagine, being now in the busy city centre. I also note from the free history sheet which is available, along with other Landmark Trust free literature and postcards and handbooks for sale, that music never really had anything to do with the building and that Music Room is probably a corruption of Muses Room (nine plasterwork muses adorn the room).

Music Room plasterwork 1

Music Room plasterwork 2

Still, it must be very special to have an elegant grand piano in your bedroom!


Photo : From the Landmark Trust website

When the Landmark Trust took on the property in the early 1970s it “was in an appalling condition” and when it was finally opened for letting it slept 4 in two bedrooms and the Music Room, with its exquisite plasterwork, was the sitting room or grand salon. I now quote from the history sheet :

In 2013, 35 years after the first restoration, it was time for a thorough refurbishment, including overhaul of the Baroque plasterwork, which needed hairline cracks repairing and a really good clean. The opportunity was taken to reconfigure the attic floor, since few visitors seemed to be occupying the now rather second-class twin bedroom up there. Partitions were moved and a larger bathroom and a larger area for a new kitchen at one end of the opened-up living room, with its fine views out across the roofs of Lancaster. They are even better from the roof terrace.”

The Music Room bed

The Music Room bed

Sitting room view

View from Sitting Room Window (Ashton Memorial on the distant hill)

Castle from roof terrace

The Castle from the Music Room Roof Terrace

On the Roof Terrace a most delightful thing happened! We were taking pictures of each other when another visitor offered to take a photo of us both. We thanked her and got talking to her – she’d pointed out her house in the background of the picture she’d just taken – she is also a keen Landmarker, lives in an historic house herself and by the end, as we were saying goodbye, she invited us to call in and have a look round her own home and have a cup of tea with her just before returning to the station! In addition to this she recommended a place for lunch (The NICE cafe inside The Storey) and that we join the 2pm Tour of Lancaster Castle. Both of which we did and even managed a peep inside the Priory Church of St Mary next door to the Castle.

Main Castle entrance

Main Castle entrance

The Tour of the Castle is excellent and well worth doing. No photography is allowed but you are taken into two court rooms, the old cells, the grand jury room and much more. We learnt that it is a Royal Castle as our Queen is also Duke of Lancaster, that it had connections with the Pendle Witches, it housed a Debtors’ Prison in addition to a regular prison and that prison is now closed and due for refurbishment and change of use.

Inside Lancaster Priory Church

Following the hour long tour we had just time to peep inside the Priory Church and admire the view of Morecambe Bay. The choir were rehearsing for a concert this evening so we were unable to inspect the Choir Stalls which are an important feature of the church. There are some beautiful 17th century chandeliers, a Russian icon and two organs.

Organ, icon and choir stalls

One of the organs, the icon and a glimpse of the choir stalls

It was soon time to take up the kind offer of our fellow Landmarker and we enjoyed a house tour and cup of tea before heading back to the station for our trains. Despite the cold winds and rain we came away with a very warm feeling towards the city, the buildings  and the inhabitants of Lancaster and we have a lot more ideas for future visits!

Shuttleworths, Shuttleworths everywhere … some Old Warden history

Gawthorpe Hall

Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire

Shuttleworth College

Shuttleworth College in Bedfordshire

See how similar the two buildings above are – they are connected only by the name “Shuttleworth”. In October I met a former work colleague, who lives in Lancashire, at Gawthorpe Hall. I knew the owners were the Kay-Shuttleworths but I never at all linked their name with the Collection with the same name down in Bedfordshire.

I was fascinated to read in the Keeper’s Cottage History Album :

What is intriguing is that there seems to have been no connection whatsoever between Joseph Shuttleworth and the Gawthorpe (by then Kay) Shuttleworths. In seeking to establish his own pedigree in Bedfordshire, Joseph seems to have wished to imply a connection with these ancient, Lancastrian namesakes that was apparently without foundation. He adopted a crest that was similar to their own and the family arms also feature the Gawthorpe Shuttleworth’s ‘three shuttles sable tipped and fringed with quills of yarn and threads bend or; a cubit arm in armour proper grasping in the gauntlet a shuttle of arms.’

… the estate at Old Warden represented a perfect fit for the new dynasty, with a model village half begun by an expiring family (the Ongleys) offering the opportunity for benevolent philanthropy as well as revivication of an ancient estate.”

Old Warden Booklet

The Landmark Trust have published a history booklet “Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Estate : the history of Old Warden told through three buildings; Warden Abbey, Queen Anne’s Summerhouse and Keeper’s Cottage”. 

Warden Abbey

Warden Abbey (now also a Landmark Trust property)

Queen Anne's Summerhouse

Queen Anne’s Summerhouse (now also a Landmark Trust property)

I was able to buy a copy from the housekeeper at Keeper’s and it tells the history, briefly, of the area from the foundation of the Cistercian Warden Abbey in 1135 to the present day  co-operation between the Shuttleworth Trust and The Landmark Trust.

The Shuttleworth Trust was set up by Dorothy Shuttleworth following the early death in 1940 during an RAF flying accident of her only  son and the squire of Old Warden, Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth. The hall became a hospital during the War and afterwards the devastated mother turned the entire estate into a charitable trust in his memory. The hall is now a College  specialising in running outdoor and country-based courses. Richard’s collection of old aeroplanes formed the original Shuttleworth Collection.

I took a walk one day to visit St Leonard’s church, in Old Warden (2 stars in Jenkins’s book). Unfortunately it’s only open at the weekend so I wasn’t able to inspect the various Ongley and Shuttleworth memorials and the 14th century window depicting an abbot in a white habit from the Cistercian Warden Abbey. But in the porch Richard is commemorated and the Ongley Mausoleum and the Shuttleworth graves lie in the churchyard.

St Leonard's Old Warden

St Leonard’s Church

Porch 1

Porch 2

The porch is a memorial to Richard Shuttleworth

The Ongley Mausoleum

Ongley notice

The Ongley Mausoleum

Shuttleworth grave

The Shuttleworth Grave

Additional Note :

Old Warden sign 2009

Village sign in 2009

Old Warden sign 2012

The Sign today in 2012

I’m not sure that I don’t prefer the older, more distinctive one.

Bring me Sunshine … or at least Lunch in the Sun Terrace Restaurant

Small wonder Eric Morecambe was wanting people to bring him sunshine. We didn’t see much of it on our day out at the seaside in Morecambe yesterday. In fact when my train drew into the station more people were getting on the train than were getting off it. Not deterred, my friend A and I headed for the seafront and the recommended traditional Italian Ice Cream Parlour Brucciani’s.

Taking us back to the “good old days”

The Lavs are free now! (To Brucciani’s customers)

Much of Morecambe has seen better days but it has such great potential for revival with its Winter Gardens, the Platform Theatre in the former Midland Railway Station, cafes like Lewis’s and Brucciani, the star of the show beautifully restored Art Deco Midland Hotel and the lovely Stone Jetty where ferries tied up in days gone by. It’s such a shame about the weather and the credit crunch hasn’t helped either. We noticed lots of new sculpture, most of it taking the form of seabirds, and a path from the front to the station called Flock of Words.

The Winter Gardens

The Midland Hotel

One of the Tern Project Sculptures

After a quick photo shoot with Eric Morecambe we visited one shop on the front: Woods of Morecambe. We made a few purchases and then battled against the wind and rain to walk back along the promenade  and around the front of the hotel before taking our places in the Sun Terrace Restaurant of The Midland Hotel for lunch.

For starters how could we resist Frank Benson’s Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps with Toasted Sourdough as we sat looking out at the tide rushing in over the bay itself?   For afters we both chose the Selection of Lewis of Morecambe ice creams.  I must say the Selection of Great British Cheeses with Fruit Chutney and Home Made Chorley Cakes sounded very tempting, had I not filled up on the previous two courses. True to its name as we dawdled through our meal, chatting and savouring the food and the experience, slowly the sun did appear and by the time we reluctantly felt we should leave the sun was out and blue sky appearing through the cloud cover. On a future visit Afternoon Tea on the Sun Terrace is definitely high on my list.

A quick visit to the Tourist Office (for postcards) also in the former Midland Railway Station was followed by a stroll along the Stone Jetty which looked to have a nice old cafe which itself is topped by a lighthouse. The views from Morecambe seafront and the Jetty are amazing and worth the visit alone. All of the Lake District mountains and the mysterious sands and channels of Morecambe Bay fill the picture.

The Stone Jetty

Some of the postcards

All too soon it was time to go our separate ways and we returned via the Flock of Words footpath to Morecambe’s modern railway station – just 2 empty platforms these days: even the ticket office was closed. But Morecambe has lots going for it and if it can weather the storm of the present tough financial times I foresee a return to a form of former glory.

Sun and blue sky appear as we turn to leave