Heritage Open Days gets the Mayoral Treatment!

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.

Nick Baker, curator
Mr. and Mrs. Wild
Mr. and Mrs. Wild
Family History Group

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.

Mayor Surinder Biant and Mayoress Cecile Biant
Christine with Mayor Surinder Biant and Mayoress Cecile Biant
Merlin the Magician
Merlin the Magician and visitors
Christine Grime points to the initials of T. B. Wood, Edgar Wood's father carved into the wall.
Christine points to the carved initials T. B. W. – Edgar Wood’s father


Merlin the Magician in action
Merlin the Magician in action
Edgar Wood arrives on the ‘land train’
The prologue to the 90 minute trail which, on Sunday, was extended to over two hours!
The prologue to the 90 minute Arts & Crafts trail which, on Sunday, was extended to over two hours!
Lynden Easterbrook holding a jug made by James Smithies, and guide Sharon Dawson

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.

Norman Redhead and Robert Huddart
Blacksmith’s forge
Display in Middleton Parish Church

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.

Colin Gilbert Art Exhibition
Colin Gilbert Memorial Art Exhibition
Looking through the medieval rood screen
Looking through the medieval rood screen
Visitor refreshments at the back
Visitor Refreshments!

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.

Visitors exploring_proc
Visitors exploring.
Historic Pottery and Artefacts_proc
Historic china and artefacts
History of the Grammar School_proc
Grammar School exhibition

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.

The Inspector Calls

8 SeptBarry 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.

All is Ready for Golden Custer Month and HODs – Almost

 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’




EWS Visit the Moravian Settlement and Broadway

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 HenrSundialy 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.Wood or Sellers

Clitheroe U3A Visit

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!

The new THI officer is in post

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 

Saddleworth Civic Trust Visit the Golden Cluster

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)

SCT Members in Middleton

The Garden is Looking Good


Thanks to Maureen, the garden is looking good. There is no end to her talents, we have seen her in previous posts  mopping the hall floor and painting the ‘beer cellar’.

We hope the visitors on Saturday from the Saddleworth Civic Trust will be suitably impressed.

The Grass Keeps Growing

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.

Oldham University of the Third Age

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.

Manchester Walking Tours Visit

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/

Honorary Member of Edgar Wood Society Makes a Surprise Visit

165-167 Manchester Old Road Middleton EW (2)_procMr. 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.

Renovation Continues

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.


Manchester Age UK Group Visit the Golden Cluster

opr00256On 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.

Lettings Group

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.

Autumn Clean-up

IMG_4216 IMG_4215 IMG_4218

Today Friday 7th November Christine had a birthday party putting the garden to bed for the winter. The moss was raked out of the grass – mainly moss and not much grass! The bushes and lavender hedge was trimmed, the several bags of spoil were removed to the waste disposal plant.