Welcome

Welcome to the Whitley History website, which is a community project aiming to bring together and share photos and stories about the village of Whitley, Cheshire.

If you have any photographs, memories or stories to contribute, or would like more information, please contact me at clare.olver@gmail.com

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Old Railway Accidents

Old Railway Accidents

Old Railway Accidents @RWLDproject

I’ve come across this great Twitter account: Old Railway Accidents a few times which isn’t surprising given that they’ve posted nearly 12,000 times in just over a couple of years. However, what was surprising was the sheer number of people killed working on the railways a 100 years ago and the tens of thousands injured.

So what has this got to do with Whitley? Whilst we don’t have any railway lines in the village, and no one (as far as I can find) was working on the railways, the death of one of the village hierarchy proved that no one was immune.

To many villagers of Whitley, the relative wealth of Grimsditch Hall was far removed from their lives. However it wasn’t without tragedy.

In 1871 Samuel Rowland moved to Grimsditch Hall shortly after the birth of his daughter Jessie. He was born near the Birch and Bottle, in Higher Whitley, the son of Peter Rowland, and nephew of the famous Liverpool architect by the same name.

Some fifteen years later on 3 June 1886 Samuel Rowland was killed at Huddersfield Railway Station having fallen between a train and the platform.

Huddersfield Station

St George’s Square, Huddersfield, 1890s from Yorkshire Live

It was a shocking accident and was followed by an inquest, the details of which were graphically reported in the Huddersfield Chronicle:

On Thursday afternoon a shocking accident occurred at the Huddersfield Railway Station. It appears that on arrival of the train from Leeds, due in Huddersfield at 4.39pm, a gentleman, aged apparently about 45 years, alighted from a second-class compartment.

Just as the train was starting he rushed from the bottom end of the platform and caught hold of one of the carriages. He, however, lost his footing and was dragged along by the train and dropped down onto the line in a sitting posture between two of the carriages. The wheels passed over his left leg and he was immediately crushed between the carriage and the platform. When the train had gone by the unfortunate gentleman was taken up, placed on a stretcher by the direction of Mr. Green, the station master and conveyed to the Infirmary with all possible speed, but on arrival there it was found that life was extinct, which it was feared was the case before leaving the station.

On searching the pockets of the deceased the return half of the second-class ticket issued at Warrington (Bank Quay), on the 24th of May for Harrogate was found. There was also a bill made out to a Mr. Rowlands, at Harrogate on the 29th May, and the same name, “Rowlands” was found worked on the deceased’s pocket handkerchief. From these things it was supposed that the gentleman belonged to Warrington, and had been staying for a few days at Harrogate, and that he was on his return journey when the shocking accident occurred. It was subsequently ascertained that the deceased gentleman was Samuel Rowlands, 45 years of age, gentleman of Grimsditch Hall, near Northwich, Cheshire.

An inquest jury returned a verdict of “accidental death” adding that no blame attached to anyone in the matter.

This was a terrible tragedy for the family, as indeed for any family. Samuel Rowland’s widow Catherine was left managing the house and farm with her sixteen year old daughter, Jessie. Thanks to a donation received by Cheshire Archives and Local Studies in 2013,  of a number of letters found in a chest of drawers at auction, it has been possible to see into the personal lives of the family affected by such a shocking event.

letters

From Cheshire Archives and Local Studies

These were sent to Jessie in the weeks and months following her father’s death by her 27 year-old cousin, Charles Edward Rumney who was called upon to identify the body and attend the inquest. From a lovely blog by the Archives we get some idea of what happened next. On the face it seems a simple love story but knowing the grief and unbelief that the sixteen year Jessie must have been going through, makes the letters even more intimate than on first reading.

Despite the shocking events at Huddersfield Station in June 1896, there was a happy ending – at least for Charles and Jessie.

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Painting the Forth Bridge

Forth Road Bridge

Researching the history of a parish and its families does feel a bit like painting the Forth Bridge – a bit of a never-ending job, one which takes so long that when you have finished it, it is time to start again.

All the time new information is being released – whether it’s something as simple as a new release of scans of local newspapers, a new set of records or a chance conversation – this means a renewed interest and research.

That is the beauty of running a website. It can be updated all the time, there is never a cut-off date. Great for correcting typos too! Of course, it is lovely to have something in print, and this might happen in the future. For now please do check back from time to time even if you have looked before.

All the pages will have been updated in the last few weeks, and if you do see anything that you think is incorrect or have information to share, please do so. There are a couple of ways to get in touch: either comment publicly at the bottom of the relevant page or send a short email.

For those who do like to have a book to read, Peter Ratcliffe’s book “A Whitley Lad” is available for sale. More information here.

In the meantime, we’ll keep on painting – and live in hope knowing that in 2011, the painting the Forth Bridge really did come to an end.

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One Place Studies – where family history and local history unite

ops-image

About 20 years ago when when talking to the older residents of the local villages, they would look in incredulity and say “well of course, she was his sister/cousin/mother” as if it was plain for all to see.  As a relative newcomer, it clearly wasn’t!

So to properly progress with delving into the history of Whitley, there was only one thing for it….to reconstruct the family tree of the village. Roll forward to 2019 and is one large tree containing folk from StrettonAntrobus and Whitley – nearly 9,000 in total. Without the hours of work to put it together, we wouldn’t know so much about the villages as we do today.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that this bit of dabbling in local family history and then the playing around with the census returns was part of a growing movement called “One Place Studies”.

One Place Studies researches the residents of a particular place by gathering a full range of historical records, memorabilia and stories that mention those individuals, and analyse them to gain insights into the social and economic workings of that place.

The Society for One Place Studies is a worldwide group of interested individuals and the website has some inspirational examples of other studies from Comberbach just down the road all the way to Queensland in Australia. Stretton has just been added to that list so do take a look and if you’ve been inspired then do get in touch.

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TNA

Back in April I paid a visit to The National Archives at Kew – somewhere where I had always wanted to go and it certainly lived up to expectations. After a prolonged winter, spending a cloudless day inside a air-conditioned building seemed a travesty but it was time well spent.

One of the most interesting finds were the Charity Commissioners files of the ancient Whitley School founded by William Eaton in the 1600s.  Little did the Rev’d Belcombe, vicar of Lower Whitley, know when he wrote to Charity Commissioners on 12 March 1858 raising concerns about the condition of a school in the adjoining township of Higher Whitley, that his actions would still be causing disquiet some fifty years later.

Other useful records was the National Farm Survey. This took place at the beginning of World War II when Britain needed to increase home food production. County War Agricultural Executive Committees and district committees under them had exceptional powers to determine the direction of farming at a local level.

The National Farm Survey was begun in the spring of 1941 and largely completed by the end of 1943, undertaken by district committees who visited and inspected each farm and interviewed the farmer.  The farm records are arranged by county and by parish, and were completed in light pencil so digitally reproducing the records is difficult. From the records available the farms have all been updated on the web pages.

Finally, the Valuation Notebooks were copied and all the household details have been updated.  The inspections as a result of the 1910 Finance Act and is  some instances, the household entries even included maps.  As with the farms, where new information has been made available the web site now includes the findings of a great day out.

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Greenbank, Limes Lane

image1

Can you help? Greenbank has a got a really interesting history through its occupant, Henry Neild a practising Quaker but very little information exists in more recent times. And certainly no old photographs of the house.

There is more information about the house here; and from his obituary which appeared in the Northwich Guardian, we know that Henry Neild was:

…a Justice of the Peace for the county of Cheshire and an income tax commissioner for the West Bucklow Division For some years he was an alderman of the Cheshire County Council, and Chairman of the Whitley School Board, and District Councillor for Whitley Superior, and in each capacity he rendered valuable service his remarkable attention to his duties being very pronounced.

Does anyone know anything or might be able to point us in the right direction? Feel free to reply below or drop a line to Clare.Olver@gmail.com.

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Whitley Village Info

website

A  quick plug for this excellent website – the one stop shop for Whitley  – a really useful site with everything you need to know about the village: www.whitleyvillage.info

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What Happened Next?

memories-of-a-whitley-lad

If you have enjoyed reading the stories here and want to know more about the residents after 1945, then you should read this wonderful book by Peter Ratcliffe: Memories of a Whitley Lad 1945 – 1960. In this he recalls life in Whitley during that period and includes a list of all the residents, along with many photographs of people and places in the village. Since 2009, over 230 copies have been sold at £5 a copy and all the profits have been donated to charity. If anyone would like a copy please contact him on 730287.

As part of his research for his book Peter amassed a collection of photographs from residents of the village over many years. Peter is keen that these memories and stories live on so has very kindly supplied many of the photos and information here. Thank you!

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Whitley’s Famous Son

St_Brides_Church_Liverpool

St Bride’s Church Liverpool

Not many people would connect this famous Classical style church in Percy Street, Liverpool with rural Whitley in Cheshire.  The architect was a Samuel Rowland but until now very little has been known about his life. Samuel was born to Samuel and Ellen Rowland at Fogg’s Farm in Higher Whitley on 9 July 1789, and baptised at Lower Whitley the following month. He was the eldest of nine children, and married Ann Hodgson of Liverpool at the age of 25 at St. George’s, Everton, Liverpool. He lived in fashionable Canning Street and became a well-known architect.

The other buildings he designed include:

    • Pleasant Chapel Scotch Secession Church (1827) – Mount Pleasant Chapel was opened in 1827 as a Scotch Secession Church. Its members were Scottish immigrants who had met, since 1809, in Gloucester Street Chapel, on the site of Lime Street station. The Chapel became a United Presbyterian Church in 1847 and, in 1877, a Presbyterian Church of England. The Chapel was closed in 1939 and destroyed by enemy action in 1941. The site was sold in 1945
    • North Dispensary, Vauxhall Road (1829)
    • The Royal Bank, Liverpool (built 1837-38), Dale Street, Liverpool for The Royal Bank
    • Deane Road Cemetery, Liverpool (oldest Jewish cemetery), the most striking feature of which is the Grade ll Listed entrance façade.
    • St James’s Church, Latchford, Warrington, 1829 and is still in use today.
    • Bootle National School, the foundation stone of which was laid on 28 August 1835,

Rowland’s influences included his uncle William Byrom, the brother of Samuel’s mother Ellen. the brother of his mother Ellen. He was born in Moore, Cheshire in 1768 and baptised at Daresbury church. William was also an architect from Liverpool, and designed Renshaw Street Unitarian Chapel.  William Byrom was married to Sarah Hope, the daughter of John Hope, architect (1734 – 1808), and was a witness to the wedding of Samuel and Ann Hodgson.

Another influence was John Hope – the father of his aunt Sarah, wife of William Byrom. John Hope designed Holy Trinity Church, Wavertree in 1794 which is considered to be Liverpool’s best Georgian church. He also worked on Rode Hall for Randle Wilbraham III and Enville Hall, Enville, Staffordshire. Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Hope was married to William Lowndes of Ramsdell Hall (near Rode Hall).

Samuel died on 26 December 1844 at 31 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, at the age of 55 after a “long and severe illness”. In his will he left detailed instructions as to his burial:  ‘my body may be buried in Duke Street Cemetery or in Everton Church yard at Liverpool aforesaid and in a dry vault to be build there and I direct that the same vault shall be enclosed with iron railings and that the body of my dear wife Ann Rowland on her decease may be buried in the same vault and that the body of no other person shall at any time be buried therein.’ He was buried on 2 January 1845 at St George, Everton, Liverpool.

In his 22 page will, Samuel Rowland left detailed instructions as to the establishment of a trust fund. He also made a number of legacies: to his cousin David Rowland, his sister in law Mary Elizabeth Hodgson he left an annuity of £150 pounds a year. To his nephew James Stelfox, and niece Elizabeth Rutter (nee Rowland) he left £25 a year. His Godson was Charles Rowland Goodson, and he was left £250. Samuel left £500 to his brother-in- law Henry Hodgson, and he was particularly generous to his brother Peter Rowland leaving £2,000 (approximately £230,000 today).

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Sister site

SAM_1960

The History of Whitley is a new website created at the beginning of 2016. At the moment it’s still looking a little bare, with few photographs or memories. Each week more details are being added, and I’ll upload some photos shortly. If you know of information that you are happy to share, then feel free to comment on the bottom of the relevant page for all to see or send an email to Clare.Olver@gmail.com. There is lots of information of neighbouring village of Stretton on this sister site: History of Stretton.

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1939 Register – new information available

1939 Register of Whitley

A valuable new resource, the 1939 Register, is now available to provide more information about the residents of Whitley just after the outbreak of the Second World War. It was taken on 29 September 1939 and provides a snapshot of the civilian population of England. The records were used for identification cards and, once rationing was introduced in January 1940, to create ration cards. The reason why this register is so useful for looking at the history of the village is because the 1931 census for England and Wales was destroyed by fire during the Second World War and no census was taken in 1941.  It provides very precise details of the occupations, rather then the general terms used in census returns.

However, don’t get your hopes up too much as much of the information researched to date has been incorrectly transcribed which makes searching for an individual very difficult, and lots of the personal details are still redacted. This is true if anyone is still alive or if no record of the death certificate can be matched to the individual.

Over the next few weeks, most of this information will be added to the History of Whitley website and will provide an interesting insight into life that was soon to disappear.

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