Arts & Crafts Awakening project meeting 6pm Thursday 11th February
We had a great meeting on the evening of Thursday 11th, with an excellent turnout. Fortified by pizza, cheese and biscuits and cake, we worked through the upcoming activities and plans, not least the planning of September Golden Cluster Month. With the establishment of the not-for-profit company, tACT (the Arts & Crafts Trust) last year, Middleton Heritage is now developing new areas of community heritage activity, conservation and research. Rupert Hilton gave us an update on the Redcroft restoration, which is finishing very soon. As the scaffold is wrapped in plastic sheeting, we can’t wait to see the result when it all comes off. We also discussed some of the other up and coming THI grant schemes, not least the one for the Middleton Edgar Wood Centre, at the former Long Street Methodist Sunday School! Because of the excellent communication among group members, we are moving to a quarterly formal meeting to free up time for these new things.
CLICK HERE for a wonderful set of photographs of the restored studio, opposite the Watts Gallery (illustrated), which became the home of Victorian artist Frederic Watts and his wife, designer Mary Watts, in 1891.
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.
There was a great turn out to Wilson Potter’s Heritage Open Day soirée. People relaxed and savoured the moment in Edgar Wood’s Long Street School Hall, aka Middleton Edgar Wood Centre. It was a joint event where real ale and heritage aficionados mingled and enjoyed one another’s company.
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 very first visitors to ‘A Grand Day Out’ were Shirley and Roaf who arrived 5 minutes early, at 12.55pm… but there wasn’t a queue! Later on we had visitors from Didsbury, Worsley, Macclesfield, Stockport and a couple from Plymouth who discovered the event from their camp site info. Our youngest visitor was Jennifer, who came with her grandparents. Their daughter is of one of our new volunteer guides!
If you would like to visit, CLICK HERE for details.
Middleton Heritage, minus a few on holiday, had an enjoyable meeting Thursday tea-time. We picked up where we left off at the July meeting, chatting about recent and upcoming events/activities such as the Wilson Potter beer soiree, September Arts & Crafts exhibition, ‘Art Nouveau to Art Deco’ Edgar Wood buildings guide, Word War I memorial web pages and the Awards for All grant application. August and September are such busy months but we nevertheless started thinking about what we should be doing next year and how to present the Middleton area more as an Arts & Crafts place.
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!
Members of Middleton Heritage met on Thursday evening to plan the September Golden Cluster Month and Heritage Open Days. It was a very positive meeting with lots of ideas coming from different groups. Among initiatives discussed were new and improved visitor guides and trails, including new versions of the Sam Bamford trail and Edgar Wood guide (see opposite) to be published by September. Another was a Heritage Open Days Beer Soirée by Wilson Potter Brewery.
We are also planning some initiatives for this web site, including an archive, by the Family History Group, on the Middleton soldiers who fought in the First World War and a series of 50 posts, by the Friends of Middleton Parish Church, on the art and craft objects found in Middleton parish church.
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
Milton Street Independent Labour Club is featured in Historic England’s newly published 2015 Designation Yearbook. It is, perhaps, one of the most interesting buildings highlighted, despite its modesty. Click here to download the ILP entry.
Chris and Lindsey led the final ‘pre-feasibility’ workshop for the Arts & Crafts Awakening project – fourteen people came.
Chris first went through the duties of those who have become directors of the Arts & Crafts Trust. We then learnt about the new THI manager, Sue Oakley, who has been running the Keighley THI in recent years. We discussed the new plan to restore the Edgar Wood Centre buildings in phases aligned with new uses as well as Heritage Open Days and a beer festival in September.
We are now reading through the 90 page draft report!
Our next meeting will be at 7.30pm on 23rd July. We will be concentrating on the summer events such as Golden Cluster Month and Heritage Open Days, two new trails for Middleton town centre and the broader strategy for Middleton’s Heritage.