Volunteers Maureen and Alan close the gates at the end of the final day of Golden Cluster Month at the Arts and Crafts Church (Long Street Methodist Church and School). Over 300 visitors came from throughout the local area and the wider region. One couple travelled from Maghull, having picked up a leaflet at Ellesmere Boat Museum. Comments in the visitors’ book read, “Inspirational” “Wonderful building, an eye opener” “Peaceful”. The list could go on.
Heritage Open Days got off to a busy start on Friday 11th September with over 45 visitors to the Arts & Crafts Church and Edgar Wood Centre, just one of the four Middleton Golden Cluster buildings open. Mr. and Mrs. Wild walked from Norden (most of the way) to visit the buildings! Nick Baker, Edgar Wood Society archivist, showed visitors around the new exhibition while the Middleton Family History Group explained how to explore the lives of our forebears.
On Saturday, Mayor Surinder Biant and Mayoress Cecile Biant were the first to arrive. They spent a good 45 minutes with Christine Grime before setting off to visit a further four buildings. Then came Merlin the Magician who performed throughout the day to coincide with the ‘land train’ running from the town centre arrived. ‘Train’ turned into ‘trail’ as Christine Grime took a group of visitors around the Middleton Arts & Crafts buildings, designed by Edgar Wood. One visitor came from Liverpool; each year he picks a different location to visit. Then on one land train, Edgar Wood himself arrived, albeit in the form actor Colin Meredith.
A special treat was to meet Lynden Easterbrook, the great granddaughter of Middleton artist and metalworker, James Smithies, who is featured in the exhibition alongside Edgar Wood and Frederick Jackson. Lynden lives in the Inverness area of northern Scotland and travelled 400 miles to be in Middleton for the day, bringing with her various items that belonged to James Smithies, including an Arts & Crafts copper jug made by him.
Meanwhile at the top of the hill…
Walking up through Jubilee Park to St. Leonard’s Square, visitors Middleton Archaeological Society completing their three week excavation of Church House/Grape’s Inn where the rear walls, cellar, cobbled passage and a possible blacksmith’s forge have been unearthed. Norman Redhead, County Archaeologist, visited the site with the dig leader Robert Huddart and agreed there was a lot of interesting archaeology. Finds were displayed in Middleton Parish Church adjacent.
Visitors were then treated to guided tours of Middleton Parish Church, the oldest building and finest interior of any church in the county. It is jam-packed full of historic art and craft work from medieval to modern times, including many Arts & Crafts workers, such as James Smithies, Edgar Wood, Christopher Whall and, in the 1960s, the designer George Pace. Over the past few weeks and over this weekend, a large number of people have visited St. Leonard’s and, this year, Rochdale Art Society mounted a special exhibition in honour of their late president, Colin Gilbert, who was a champion of the arts, a local historian and member of the church.
Then down the other side…
Visitors went to see the wonderful sixteenth century Queen Elizabeth I Grammar School. The history of the school was shown on several display boards and around the building. Finds from the Langley Hall archaeological dig were exhibited and two cabinets showed various artefacts relating to Middleton. Visitors had fun locating the initials of the young Edgar Wood inscribed in three places. He was one of the school’s last scholars.
Some visitors also went to see the Middleton Tapestry at Jubilee Library in the park and then popped over the road to visit the ancient timber framed Ye Olde Boar’s Head P.H. opposite.
We had a great turnout in all places. In the Arts & Crafts Church it was 45 on Friday, 60 on Saturday and 36 on Sunday afternoon, and there were plenty of complimentary remarks. People can still visit on Tuesday or Friday afternoons during September for ‘A Grand Day Out’ before we wind down – details are here.
Barry Noble the Quality Assurance Assessor for ‘Visit England’, made his unannounced inspection visit this afternoon. Maureen, a guide for the afternoon, at the Arts and Crafts Church impressed Barry with her knowledge and friendliness. He was complimentary about the visitor experience and made a few helpful suggestions as to how we could improve.
We can continue to display our ‘Visit England’ accreditation symbol.
The first day of the Golden Cluster openings is only 24 hours away and the final touches are being made. We hope to see many visitors new and old throughout the month and also on the Heritage Open Days.
Nick Baker, the curator has done a great job putting together the exhibition titled: ‘Middleton’s Arts and Crafts Trinity’
An excellent evening was had by all who visited the Georgian Moravian Settlement and this was followed by a walk around an extension to the settlement designed by Edgar Wood and Henry Sellers, in the 2nd decade of the 20th century.
The first part of the tour was led by Jean Bailo, a Manchester tour guide and the walk around Broadway by our very own Nick Baker. Nick explained that Wood and Sellers were at the fore front of the Garden City movement and early town planners.
The Wood and Sellers extension blended beautifully with the original settlement and is well worth a trip. If you missed our trip then your next opportunity is on the Heritage Open Days in September.
Thirty members of the Clitheroe U3A Architectual Buildings Group visited the Arts and Crafts Church today followed by a walk around a selection of the Edgar Wood houses. In the image Christine is pointing out something skyward. It is more likely to be a slipped roof stone than a passing bird!
Sue Oakley, the new THI officer is given a guided tour by David Morris, chairman of the Edgar Wood Society and members of the committee. We all look forward to working with Sue in the coming months and wish her well in her new position
Twenty members of the Saddleworth Civic Trust spent Saturday doing the full tour, lead by Geoff Wellens at the Parish Church and by Christine Grime at the Arts and Crafts Church. This was followed by a conducted tour of the Edgar Wood trail. Christine led – the rest followed! In the fore ground are Christine and Charles Baumann (Sec.of the SCT)
The lawns in the garden need to be cut every week at this time of year and there are also those areas that are out of sight and sometimes out of mind that also need attention.In this instance the heavy mob had to be called in.
Seventeen members of the Art section of the Oldham University of the Third Age visited the Arts and Craft Church (Long Street Methodist Church and School Rooms) this afternoon. Following a introduction about the building and the importance of Edgar Wood to the Arts and Crafts movement, they set off to explore other buildings by EW in the locality. A round of applause was given and everyone said what a good afternoon it had been.
On Sunday 17th May, seventeen members of the public turned up for a guided walk around Middleton’s Edgar Wood buildings. They were led by an official Manchester tour guide and Edgar Wood enthusiast, Elizabeth Sibbering (Sibby). The group visited the Arts and Craft Church (Long Street Methodist) as part of the tour. For more information see http://manchestertourguide.com/
Mr. John Archer a retired lecturer of Architecture at the University of Manchester ‘re-discovered’ the work of Edgar Wood while doing on the job training at Middleton Town Hall in the 1940’s. Edgar Wood’s ‘Toblerone’ houses, 165 &167 Manchester Old Road, Middleton facing the then town hall took his attention. John is subsequently reputed to have cycled the highways and byways of the area to discover other buildings by Edgar Wood.
One of the directors of The Arts and Crafts Trust Ltd is continuing the work to get the room next to the kitchen back into use, but what else could Maureen be going on a wet afternoon. The room next to the kitchen was traditionally known as the cutting up room. Can anybody suggest why, other than it being next to the kitchen.
Re-plastering of the room next to the kitchen in preparation for future use. All the damage to the original plaster was caused by damp penetration, resulting from a badly fitted hopper at the end of a boxed gutter.
On Thursday the 12 March a group from Manchester Age UK visited the Arts and Crafts Church for a tour followed by lunch at the Old Boar’s Head P.H. next door. They particularly liked the small rose windows in the porch doors.
As they were visiting the Parish Church in the afternoon, Christine told them to look out for the various windows there by Arts & Craft’s designer Christopher Whall. A visiting expert Alec Hamilton, has suggested that we investigate the possibility that Whall also made the rose windows at the Arts and Crafts Church.
The newly formed Lettings Group met on Monday 9 March to consider all the requirements necessary, relating to the hire and lettings of the rooms. This was a mind boggling session and we are now starting to work our way through all the regulations regarding applying for a Premises Licence.