Biddulph & District Genealogy & Historical Society Biddulph Grange by Kath Walton

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

Meeting Reports - 2009

Searching for an Artefact or Relic and Other Stories - 21st December 2009

The influence of Geology on the Early Development
of the Biddulph and North Staffordshire Coalfields
- 16th November 2009

The Problem of Researching Female Ancestors - 19th October 2009

Coffee with Samuel Johnson and Tea with Arnold Bennett - 21st September 2009

A Summer Walk Around Biddulph Moor - 15th June 2009

A Pub Crawl through Time - 18th May 2009

A Visit to Apedale Mining Museum - 13th May 2009

Missing the Boat - Some Local Canal and Railway Schemes and their Effect - 20th April 2009

Annual General Meeting followed by Searching the Census - 16th March 2009

Creation vs. Evolution in Biddulph - 16th February 2009

Recording History - The Voices of Local People - 19th January 2009


Searching for an Artefact or Relic and Other Stories - 21/12/2009

Mr Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to a seasonally cold meeting in the Biddulph Library for the Christmas Lecture of the BDGHS on Monday the December 21st. This year’s 'John Sherratt Christmas Lecture' had the title 'Searching for an artefact or relic and other stories' and was a re-telling of some of John’s adventures this year illustrated with John’s own collection of artefacts, objects and documents.

John started his talk from behind two library tables covered with mining equipment and piles of papers and proceeded with a definition of an artefact as any object ‘made or modified by a human culture’. The audience enjoyed a ramble through the lamps, detonators, wills, maps and deeds before finishing with a number of stories of John’s early working life at the Victoria Colliery.

The first artefacts from John’s collection were related to the mining and farming industries and included a number of hammers and picks. A methane detector, an ‘Evereshed’ earth testing machine and a railway shunter’s lamp were included amongst the collection. A number of bill hooks, one of which was found on Whitfield tip, and finally, a demonstration and working respirator. The latter gave a miner about an hour of air if there was a fire, smoke or damp underground but became very hot if they were used.

The second sort of artefact was a pile of papers - too many to record here and the following is a small sample. First there was an Act of Parliament of 1898 which set an Inebriate Tax which included possible imprisonment for regular offenders for being drunk and disorderly. From 1767 there was a deed for Firwood House which gave the residence a value of £640 and mentioned a number of local names including Mr. Richard Dalton. As well as wills there were bonds for money which were made between two people to outline the repayments - for instance between Mershall or Minshull of Rushton Spencer and Mr. Richard Vernon.

Also amongst John’s collection was a copy of the London Gazette dated the February 16th 1856 and a first edition copy of the Evening Sentinel. The next papers were a breakdown of all the expenses of Mr. James Bateman from October 1811 to September 1815 whilst living at the Cottage House in Kendal. As John said there was “quite a rook of these”. If you want to know what the local Biddulph roads cost then John can detail all the deliveries of stone, gravel and bricks that were supplied. The 1836 Biddulph turnpike road included detailed deliveries which give the name of all the drivers of waggons and what they hauled to the road works. For instance on the November 26th 1836 Richard Sheldon, James Green Senior, James Green Junior and Johnathan Cotterill spent 11 days hauling stone to the site.

Further along the desk John had a collection of wills and deeds which gave information on farms at Odd Rode, Marchfield Farm, Newpool Farm and Meadowside Farm. These detailed kitchen utensils, furniture, a cheese press, dairy equipment and livestock including red coloured cows. As well as providing an interesting view of the times these documents also give the names of all the parties involved and in many cases the names of the individual parcels of land. The sale document, for example, for New Pool Farm details the sale between William and his wife Mary Stubbs and Thomas Gibson in 1705.

Another ‘rook’ of documents was about James Bateman and the Company for the navigation of the River Trent and there were so many that they would “drive you soft”. Finally the meeting heard a number of stories from local history, which started with the sale of the coal under Knypersley Church by two fraudsters for £3,500 knowing that the outcrop couldn’t be recovered. Finally, when John returned to the Victoria colliery after an accident he was put on ‘light duties’ and assigned to loading coal for two seasoned miners who sent him to the foot of the shaft with a can to collect a ‘tin of fresh air’.

The Chair of the Society, Derek Wheelhouse, thanked John for an interesting talk and wondered where John kept all this information at his home. Perhaps the most over-worked piece of the equipment in 2009 has been the photocopier at the Records Office at Chester which had produced such a 'rook' of copies of interesting documents.

The meeting enjoyed a warm drink and mince pie (or two) before braving the cold weather at the start of Christmas week.

The next meeting of the Society will be in Biddulph Library at 7 p.m. on Monday January 18th 2010 when the speaker will be Mr. Paul Deakin with a presentation of his 'Photographs from Below Ground' taken from his large and varied collection of photographs.

The influence of Geology on the Early Development
of the Biddulph and North Staffordshire Coalfields
- 16/11/2009

Mr Derek Wheelhouse welcomed a packed third meeting of the season on Monday November 16th. He introduced the speaker Mr. Keith Whitworth to talk on “The influence of geology on the early development of the Biddulph and North Staffordshire coalfields”. Mr Whitworth has worked in the mining industry including the North Sea Oil Industry, the NCB and as a consultant for the UK Coal Authority which looks after the former collieries of the NCB. He started by describing Biddulph as a watershed town as the rain which falls here can travel either north to the Mersey or south to the Humber.

Before looking at the local geology of the area it was important to look at the general development of European geology to understand why Biddulph stands on so many coal layers. Around 600 million years ago Biddulph was in the southern hemisphere near Antarctic, then between 500-400 million years ago England, Wales and Scotland came together nearer to the equator (in the Devonian period and then around 300 million years ago moved north of the equator. This was the Carboniferous period when hot swampy conditions formed the coal deposits with continuous flooding followed by earth movements and long period of erosion. Around 200 million years ago then hot desert conditions (the Permo-Trias) saw strata deposited round and over earlier coal measures. A series of floods, hot drying conditions when trees began to grow to be flooded layered down a series of ‘horizons’ each within a recognized coal measure - in the Biddulph valley the lower and middle coal measures.

  • Coal is a source of methane (natural gas) and hydrocarbons (oil)
  • Mudstone seatearths worked to make bricks, tiles, pots etc.
  • Sandy seatearths (Ganister) worked for refractory bricks
  • Sandstones worked for building stone, silica bricks and crushed sand for smelting (Hursts), glass, sodium silicate, cement and agriculture.
  • Course grained sandstones are minor aquifers
  • High quartz siltstones mined for whetstones
  • Thin Limestone bands
  • Marine horizons give detailed correlation
  • Ironstone bands and nodules used for iron and steel making.
  • Mudstones worked for bricks, tiles, pots etc.
  • Mudstones (oil shales) heated to extract oil
  • Coal used for heat generation, coke and gas production etc.

In the North Staffordshire area these bands of coal were folded into a spear shaped valley which was then subjected to the glacial period which started about 2 million years ago with the last glaciation about 18,000 years ago. Since then there have been three glacial periods with ice up to 1000 metres thick and between them two interglacial periods with floods and large lakes and differing deposits. The English Channel opened up about half a million years ago and this covered the glacial channels and surface overflow channels. With all these changes in the Biddulph area layers of coal deposits formed which have a total thickness of 147ft (25ft more than any other coalfield). However, with the spear shape of the valley, the folding of the land and large volumes of water, large deposits of coal would have been found at the surface of the valley and easily extracted by bell pits or ‘footrails’.

You can see above the thin black lines of the coal seams to the west of the Bradley Green label (above) very steep, up to 90 degrees on the left, and about 45 degrees on the right.

So what are the early signs of coal mining in the Biddulph Valley. Coal workings reportedly date back to pre-Roman times with the finding of flint axes in old workings. In 1282 there were ironstone and coal mines in the Tunstall area and reports of coal being worked at Shelton in 1297. This coal was mainly quarried by adits (‘footrids’) or previously mentioned bell pits with very small output. In the 14th century the first UK soughs (drainage tunnels/gutters) were cut. In the Biddulph Valley the ‘soughs’ would run at right angles to the valley which allowed coal to be mined along the seams as they were cut across. The coal mining locally expanded in the 17th century with increasing demand from the Cheshire salt industry. In the Potteries major soughs were driven at various sites including Burslem (in 1719), Longton, Hanley and Northwood and they remain as a way of draining the surface water in the area.

Early 17th and 18th Century mining included drainage works, a sough or gutter near Knypersley Church on the line of Park Lane or earlier Gutter Lane. There were 'Mill colepits and a bloomsmithy' which took the level (sough) before them. There was a record of a coal pit sough near Bradley Green Colliery in 1759 and Biddulph coal was delivered to Astbury Lime Works. On the Crabtree Farm Estate, “coal and canal was in and under the said land and was got by means of a gutter (sough) and two side pits” (1790). The earliest Mine Abandonment Plan [WM895] was registered by the Knypersley Estate in 1860.

Mr. Whitworth then described the many local collieries and pits that were worked in the valley before the deep mines like Victoria and Chatterley Whitfield. All of these small collieries like the Falls, Tower Hill and Lea Colliery were worked by sough, footrail, shaft and even opencast but the exact workings still require a lot of research. If you want information about some of the shafts in the area there are many sources of geological and mining information:

  • Local and County Archives and Estate Records
  • Ordnance Survey Maps
  • British Geological Survey (BGS) plans, boreholes, wells
  • The Coal Authority Mining Records Office - Mine Plans
  • The Environment Agency

Finally here is an example of a local colliery map to show how Lea Colliery was worked over the years.

Mr. Whitworth continued with many more slides and much more information with supporting maps and drawings. He was thanked by Derek Wheelhouse on the meeting's behalf for a most interesting, illuminating and enjoyable talk. Questions were invited and answered before the meeting broke up for refreshments.

The Problem of Researching Female Ancestors - 19/10/2009

Mr Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the new season of talks and stressed the importance that researching family history has to the Society. The October meeting of the Society has traditionally been to do with family research and he was delighted to welcome Joan Irving as the evening’s speaker. Joan is the librarian of the Family History Society of Cheshire and her book 'A Guide to Family History Research Resources for the Macclesfield Area' is in its fifth edition.

The main problem for anyone researching their female ancestors is that until as recently as the Second World War society treated women as ‘minors’ and records such as birth, death and marriage certificates and wills would give little information about the females involved. Even today where married women have a joint banking account with their husband and the man pays all the household bills it is possible she will be unable to apply for a bus pass if she hasn’t a passport, driving licence or any utility bills in her own name. Joan then explained that whereas historical research works forward through the years then family history does the opposite. So to aid in the search for your female ancestors Joan began in the present and then worked backwards through time giving the available records at each stage.

The search began between 1900 and 1950 as most people can usually trace their family trees from memory back to 1950. The two World Wars saw some of the first changes in the rights of women. More women had to work as well as run the household and the maxim that ‘marriage was the summit of female achievement’ was tested to destruction. For the family historian the changes in employment and family legislation added a number of new sources for information about the women who until then had few separate records from their husbands. In 1918 women over thirty (with property rights) could at last vote and in 1943 part time war work was compulsory for single women aged between 18 and 46 years. These and many other changes to Sex Disqualification and National Service Acts gave those searching for female relatives many more sources of information.

The period from 1850 to 1900 had seen a slow simmering of the changes that occurred in the war years. A number of pieces of legislation, such as the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, Infant Custody Act 1873, Married Women’s Property Act 1882 and the National Insurance Act 1911 for all workers between 16 and 70 were among many that gave women more rights at work and in the making of family decisions. Wills would have to include the detail of all family members and their relationships and a more accurate disposal of assets. Richer women were able to gain degrees and start to make an assault on the professions and local and national representation. There were still barriers - a qualified women was barred from becoming a member of the legal profession as ‘there was no precedent of a women being called of the bar’.

Between 1750 and 1850 the sources of information on female relatives are difficult to find but the researcher needs to rely on the marriage records and the fact that widows had more rights than married women for instance in the running of licensed premises. One important change was Hardwick’s Marriage Act of 1753 which amongst other regulations limited the number of churches who could marry people to just the ‘mother’ church. In this area the researcher has to look at Astbury records of marriage as this was the ‘mother’ church of the Congleton area and Prestbury for Macclesfield. The detail in these marriage licences can be greater as they often ran to three pages and needed to include parental consent for those under 21.

Before 1750 the Church dominated the record keeping in the country. People transferred from Parish to Parish, were returned to their home parish if they could not support themselves, and unwanted children could sent as apprentices by churchwardens so as not to be a burden on a parish. As well as these records and Church Court Records many other pieces of information can be gleaned from legislation like the Poor Law Act 1601, Hearth Tax of 1662 and Burial in Wool Act of 1678. Poor relief records will often give names of the unfortunate people receiving money from the parish. Parish Records should go back to 1538 if they have survived and copies will be kept for the area in Chester or Stafford Records Offices or nationally at Kew.

These are only a small selection of the pieces of information and references that Joan presented to the meeting and three of them prompted this correspondent to undertake further research. The first was the fact that the first petition for women’s suffrage was presented in 1851 but this information would take up a whole report. The second was the Hearth Tax Records which charged householders two shillings per annum for each hearth, with half the payment due at Michaelmas and half at Lady Day. The tax was introduced on May 19th 1662 and exemptions to the tax were granted, to those in receipt of poor relief, those whose houses were worth less than 20 shillings a year and those who paid neither church nor poor rates. The returns were lodged with the Clerk of the Peace between 1662 and 1688 and the tax was abolished by William III in 1689. Hearth tax records are important to local historians as the numbers of hearths are generally proportional to the size of the house. Published lists are available of many returns and the original documents are in the Public Record Office. The most informative returns, many of which have been published, occur between 1662-1666 and 1669-1674.

The Burial in Woollen Act 1666-1680 required that the dead should be buried in shrouds of pure wool. In Parish Records, there may be written within the entry 'Buried In Woollen'. They are important as it was usually married women who would lay out the body and complete an affidavit which had to sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace confirming that the body had been buried in wool. (This excluded plague victims.) There was a penalty of £5 if any other material was used but If a family were poor and could not afford a woollen shroud, the entry in the register may have the word ‘naked’ written in it. The incumbent would then write the word affidavit, or note ‘A’ or ‘Aff’ against the relevant entry in the Parish Register. Affidavits may have been copied into Parish registers, also notes of burials and affidavits along with fees paid may be found in church-warden accounts or vestry minutes. The law stayed in force until 1814 but was usually ignored after 1770.

Derek Wheelhouse thanked Joan for making her talk both interesting and thought provoking. He asked the meeting for questions and the importance of Church records for those searching for female records led to a discussion about records for Catholics and non-conformists. There were, as always, many examples of luck playing a part in finding your ancestors and also the need to include unusual records that you initially believe have no relevance to the search. Perhaps the biggest change over the years is that you are now unlikely to find an entry on a certificate which describes a woman as ‘husband of ....’ but will give her full maiden name.

Coffee with Samuel Johnson and Tea with Arnold Bennett - 21/09/2009

Mr Roland Machin greeted a packed Biddulph Library to the September meeting. He introduced the speaker Professor Ray Johnson to give his illustrated talk 'Coffee with Samuel Johnson and Tea with Arnold Bennett' as the first of the new season of society meetings. What followed was an interesting journey following the lives and writings of the two authors. Professor Johnson has written and performed a pair of one man shows to represent their work and place them into an historical context. As September the 18th of this year had been the tercentenary of the birth of Samuel Johnson his two plays were based 200 years apart in 1709 and 1909.

Although born centuries apart there are parallels between the two men. Both were prolific writers wishing to make their living from articles and books. Both suffered from ill health. Johnson, an unhealthy child, was scarred from scrofula, and suffered a loss of hearing and was blind in one eye which along with a disregard for his appearance and cleanliness must have made him a formidable individual. Bennett suffered from a stammer which occurred in adult company and stopped him from speaking in public but disappeared when talking to children. Both were born in Staffordshire but chose to move to London as soon as possible to be writers. Both attended University - Johnson was at Oxford for a year but was so short of money he had to leave whereas Bennett completed his studies at London University. From working as a teacher in Johnson’s case and as a solicitor's clerk in Bennett’s they went to London and worked on periodicals. Bennett, for example, became editor of Woman in 1893.

Both men knew the leading names of their day. Johnson would frequent the coffee house - a cheap place to write - meeting the likes of Joshua Reynolds and other painters and writers. Two other important contacts were David Garrick, who had been his pupil in Lichfield and took to London with him to become a luminary of the London stage, and Robert Dodsley, a writer and publisher of Johnson’s early poems and who would finance and organise one of Johnson’s most famous works The Dictionary. Bennett at the outbreak of the First World War was invited by Charles Masterman, the head of the War Propaganda Bureau (WPB) to discuss ways of best promoting Britain's interests. Others who attended the meeting included Arthur Conan Doyle, John Masefield, Ford Maddox Ford, William Archer, G.K. Chesterton, Sir Henry Newbolt, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Gilbert Parker, G.M. Trevelyan and H.G. Wells.

In one area they were very different, not in the making of money but in its management. Johnson was incapable of managing his finances and would have to move house frequently to avoid the bailiffs. Bennett was more careful and had houses in Kent and France to escape to.

There were too many pieces of information to record from Professor Johnson’s talk so here are a couple of potted histories of the two writers.

A Short History of Samuel Johnson

Johnson was born in Lichfield, on September 18th 1709. His father Michael was a bookseller who made little money. The availability of the books in his father's shop, however, and his natural proclivity for learning, contributed to his having extensive knowledge at an early age. When Johnson spent time with an elder cousin (who would succumb to a surfeit of alcohol), he was exposed to a broad range of thinking and culture. As a young man, Johnson tried his hand at a career as a school master; he was unsuccessful in part due to his ungainly appearance, twitches, and mannerisms and lack of a degree. In 1735, Johnson married Elizabeth ‘Tetty’ Porter, a woman several years older than him; she was 46, and he 25. In 1737 he went to London to seek his fortune, and found employment as a writer for various periodicals. Johnson obtained some notice with his works London (1738) and The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) which were published by Dodsley. The 1750s saw the publication of his Dictionary in 1755 after nine years of work and the Rambler essays (1750-52). His wife died in 1752 but although bereft he published the Idler essays (1758-60) and Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia in 1759.

In 1763 Johnson met a young Scot named James Boswell in a bookstore in London. The two became friends and Boswell took notes of their conversations and other material to write a The Life of Samuel Johnson. Johnson died on December 13th 1784.

A Short History of Arnold Bennett

Bennett, the son of a solicitor, was born in Hanley, Staffordshire, in 1867. In 1893 he became the assistant editor of the journal Woman and published his first novel The Man from the North in 1898. This was followed by Anna of the Five Towns in 1902, The Old Wives Tale in 1908, Clayhanger 1910, The Card and Hilda Lesswaysboth in 1911.

As a member of the War Propaganda Bureau (WPB) he became one of the most important figures in this secret organisation. His first contribution to the propaganda effort was Liberty: A Statement of the British Case. It first appeared as an article in the Saturday Evening Post. In December it was expanded and published as a pamphlet by the WPB. In June, 1915, the WPB arranged for Bennett to tour the Western Front. Bennett was deeply shocked by the conditions in the trenches and was physically ill for several weeks afterwards. Bennett, however, agreed to provide an account of the war that would encourage men to join the British Army Over There: War Scenes on the Western Front (1915). He was also appointed director of British propaganda in France.

After the war Bennett returned to writing novels and film scripts such as Riceyman Steps in 1923 and Imperial Palace in 1930. Bennett also became a director of the New Statesman. Arnold Bennett died in 1931.

Professor Johnson showed clips of his one man plays about the two men to illustrate his talk. These gave a personal insight into the characters and works of the two men. They also showed the techniques the playwright employs to give his audience a memorable experience - using accents, costume, mannerisms, timing, timbre and props to make a piece for the theatre flow.

An interesting question and answer session followed and then Mr. Derek Wheelhouse thanked Professor Johnson for starting the Society’s new season which such a memorable talk. The recommended reading for anyone wishing to start reading their works would be the preface to the Dictionary or the poem London by Samuel Johnson, and for Bennett either the short stories in The Matador of the Five Towns and Other Stories or Tales of the Five Towns.

A Summer Walk Around Biddulph Moor - 15/06/2009

The Summer Walk of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society took place on Monday June 15th 2009 starting at the main lych-gate of Christ Church on Church Lane, Biddulph Moor. Intrepid members of the Society braved the glowering storm clouds circulating the moor and were rewarded with a warm and almost dry evening with a stunning rainbow. The panoramic views in the evening sunlight were breath-taking with the sunlight falling on the rolling hills of Derbyshire to the east and a sunset across the Cheshire plain which picked out the Welsh Mountains and Liverpool on the western horizon.

By arrangement with Biddulph Library those who missed the walk this year can collect the walk instructions from the library and then return the quiz sheet to be entered in a free competition. The walk is suitable for all ages and would make a good family afternoon stroll.

The History Society Summer Walk and Quiz June and July 2009. You can collect a set of instructions and quiz sheet from Biddulph Library. The circular walk starts at the main lych-gate of Christ Church on Church Lane, Biddulph Moor.

  • You will need sturdy and waterproof footwear to attempt this walk.
  • It is 6 kilometres (just over 3 miles) in length and has one long fairly steep climb - but stop and enjoy the views. The Competition (Closing date 31st July 2009)
  • Those completing the ‘treasure hunt’ quiz sheet can enter a competition by returning the form to the Biddulph Library.
  • The highest score will win free membership of the Society for a year and a choice of the Society’s publications.

A Pub Crawl Through Time - 18/05/2009

Derek Wheelhouse introduced the evening’s speaker, Mr. Lyndon Murgatroyd, and reminded the meeting it was now two years since Lyndon’s last talk to the Society when he had brought the 2007 season of talks to its close. Mr. Murgatroyd explained his illustrated talk would be a review of how he came to publish his book A Pub Crawl Through Time which has sold over 1,500 copies and raised over £6,000 for local Congleton charities.

How it all started: When Lyndon retired from Astra Zeneca he went to the inaugural meeting of Congleton U3A and joined the Local History Group. The meetings were held in various places including the public houses of Congleton and it seemed like a good place to start. A trip to the library produced a first list of the pubs of Congleton and so the research could commence.

Historical sources: The first sources of information were the trade directories which were first published around 1781 by Broster’s and finished around 1939 with Kelly’s directory. Starting with landlord and name, for example John Wilkinson, Black Lion and Swan in 1789, by 1818 the street name would be given and from 1896 a full address such as William Axon, White Bear P.H., 16 Lawton Street, Congleton. Books about Congleton would also give information about the public houses. They included McGregor’s book on alehouses, Robert Head’s Congleton Past and Present and W A Stevens History of Congleton.

Local newspapers like the Macclesfield Courier and Herald from 1830 or the Congleton Chronicle and Macclesfield Mercury from 1893 which had a front page of adverts were also sources of information. Lyndon also took an eventful trip to Crewe to view the Licensing Records for the Congleton area. Local maps often had the names of public houses marked on them for instance the 1906 for example the 'White Bear' and 'Black Rabbit' appear on this map (the 'Black Rabbit' probably refers to the hare found on the Shakerley Coat of Arms). The census records would give the details of the owners of public houses and most would have two professions for instance the 'White Lion Inn' was run by a butcher and publican. Finally, a lot of information was given in interviews with Congleton people and publicans.

Pub history - Pub names and characters: In 1932 a Mr. Davenport issued a 1d. publication to raise funds for Congleton Football Club. Called 'Congleton Ancient Inns Travestied' it used the actual name or local name of eighty seven public houses in Congleton. Lyndon believes there were over 100 public houses in the Congleton area when villages like Buglawton and Astbury are included and this excludes individuals who brewed beer at home and sold direct to the public. (Public houses are different as they are licensed to sell spirits). The names of public houses do change over the years and may be transferred from one site to another. Lyndon gave a number of examples of this but 'The Board' (possible from bed and board) changed its name to the 'Fair House' (it was opposite the site of the Cherry Tree Fair) and later the 'Coach and Horses', at Timbersbrook because the artist painting the inn sign decided he could only paint a stage coach.

A view of the 'New Bleeding Wolf' Public House, Scholar Green in 1940 with the old 'Bleeding Wolf' in the foreground.

Lyndon then treated the meeting to a series of historical anecdotes about a number of Congleton's Public Houses which included the ‘Lion and Swan’, ‘Bleeding Wolf’, ‘Brownlow Inn’, ‘Durham Ox’, ‘Swettenham Arms’, ‘Kings Arms’ and ‘White Lion’. Just to quote one interesting fact about each one: the 'Lion and Swan' landlord dug up the bowling green to make a car park in the bowling club's centenary year. The present thatched building of the ‘Bleeding Wolf’ was built in 1940 whilst the original country house style building stood in the front car park (see the picture above). When the coaches called at the ‘Brownlow Inn’ which only had a single toilet a trench was dug at the rear for the customers to use - this led to the public house having a reputation for the finest rhubarb. The ‘Durham Ox’ is named after an enormous almost grotesque type of cattle. There is an underground passage to the church adjacent to the haunted ‘Swettenham Arms’ from this former nunnery. The possibly oldest pub in Congleton the ‘King’s Arms’ of 1595 is also said to have a tunnel from the Town Hall and then the Church opposite but for a more serious purpose - as a way of getting felons from court to the gallows. The ‘White Lion’ was once a mansion and the office where John Bradshaw was trained as a solicitor before, as President in Court, he signed the death warrant of Charles the First. Unspeakable things were done to his dead body on the accession of Charles the Second to the throne.

Finance and book launches: The financing of the book’s first print run was mainly by donations from individuals as none of the breweries and publicans approached by letter responded to the request for help. When Lyndon rang the local landlords however they responded and produced enough funds to help cover the initial print run of 250 copies. This first print run was sold out at its launch at the 'Bull’s Head' in 2000. Despite the set-back of his printer going out of business before the second print run, over 1,500 copies have now been sold contributing over £6,000 to local charities.

An interesting question and answer session followed with reminiscences about a number of Congleton’s early public houses and the meeting agreeing that the parlous state of the industry will have a detrimental effect on the social life of the area. Mr. Derek Wheelhouse thanked Lyndon for his talk and reminded members of the forthcoming events - hedge dating, the annual walk and visit to the Mow Cop Chapel Museum.

A Visit to Apedale Mining Museum - 13/05/2009

The society visit to the Apedale Mining Museum on Wednesday May 13th 2009 was organised by Mr. Roland Machin.

Twenty four members of the Society arrived at the museum at 7pm little realising that they would spend more than three hours looking round the museum and spending more than an hour underground.

After a fortifying pie and pea supper the group were split into four groups of six and were guided underground or round the exhibits of the museum by the experienced former miners that now run this excellent homage to the country’s drift miners.

This was a most interesting experience and we recommend all members of the Society to take the time to make a visit to the museum.

Many thanks to all the staff at the museum and good luck to them with the next phase of the museum’s expansion - exhibiting and running some of the sixty plus industrial locomotives at the site.

The Apedale Mining Museum is part of the Apedale Heritage Centre, Loomer Road, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs. ST5 7JS. Telephone: 01782 565050.

Missing the Boat: Some Local Canal and Railway Schemes and their Effect - 20/04/2009

Mr Roland Machin greeted a packed Biddulph Library audience to the April meeting and introduced the evening’s speaker, Mr. Richard Dean, who is a cartographer with a great interest in the history of the canals and railways of the United Kingdom. Richard started by stating that Biddulph had been bypassed in the development of both the canal and railway boom of the C18th and C19th. However, if some of the proposed plans had come to fruition then Biddulph would have been a canal and railway centre. A canal was surveyed in 1758 for the North Staffordshire land-owners to link south to the River Trent via Longport and north to the River Weaver and on to the Mersey. At the same time Richard Whitworth proposed a canal to link the Trent and Mersey rivers but by an easier more westerly route via Madeley. However, the pottery owners pursued the building of the Grand Trunk canal even though it involved many more locks and the long tunnel at Harecastle. In 1772 the Potteries were connected to the Trent and Mersey rivers but not all the local businessmen were happy - water shortages and the long tunnel were causing delays - and Sir Nigel Gresley proposed the Commercial Canal to link the Chester Canal to the Ashby Canal using barges and not narrowboats. The Trent and Mersey Canal (T&MC) with its monopoly position responded by promising to build a new reservoir at Rudyard and canal branches to Burslem, Hanley, Leek and Uttoxeter.

The T&MC surveyed a tram road from the Caldon Canal at Milton to Brindley Ford, Mill Hayes and Brown Lees in 1800 to access the Biddulph Valley coal mines. In 1811 a rival canal was proposed to link the Peak Forest and Caldon Canals via Macclesfield and Rudyard. The T&MC responded with a proposed canal following the Biddulph Valley - from the Caldon Canal through Norton Green, Knypersley through a two mile tunnel and then a deep cutting, where the Biddulph Leisure centre is, and then across, Halls Road, Mow Lane, Marsh Green and Whitemoor to the Cloud. Its route would then go towards Bosley and north to join the Bridgewater canal at Sale. Once again the proposed scheme succeeded in seeing off the competition but alas neither the tram road or Biddulph Canal were ever built.

The Proposed Biddulph Valley Canal

A proposed railway of 1825 was planned to join the canal at Kidsgrove through Congleton and Chelford to Manchester. This plan persuaded the T&MC to join in the building of the Macclesfield Canal, which was completed in 1831, and followed a similar route. In 1837 the Grand Junction Railway was built following a route via Warrington, Madeley and Stafford with the aim of linking Manchester and London. It wasn’t the most direct route and the Manchester and Cheshire Junction railway was proposed by the engineer John Raistrick through Stockport and to a point on the Cheshire Plain where it joined the Grand Junction at a site which would develop into Crewe. Two alternative schemes to link to Macclesfield and Congleton finally combined to build the Manchester and Birmingham Railway (B&MR), a line which linked Manchester with Macclesfield, Congleton, Kidsgrove, Stoke and then south to Rugby. Although the Biddulph Valley was surveyed for a number of these schemes Biddulph would have to wait for the North Staffordshire Railway to build the Biddulph Valley Railway.

The engineer, George Watson Buck, began work on the B&MR at the Manchester end and started with the magnificent viaduct at Stockport. Congleton would need a similar viaduct over the Dane which would be two thirds of a mile long. Materials for this structure began to be delivered to site in 1839 and a foundation stone was laid. Scaffolding for the structure which would start at Hulme Walfield with 41 arches to be built 60 feet apart and 100 feet above the Dane was erected. The project was abandoned and the contractors left the site and moved to building the main line south of Alderley Edge and the Crewe Branch instead. The un-needed materials found alternative use - it is believed the houses in Astbury Street where built using some of the 26 million bricks that would have been delivered to the site if the viaduct had gone ahead. Congleton like Biddulph had missed out on a main railway line.

The Proposed Congleton Railway Aquaduct

The Macclesfield Canal meanwhile proposed a canal from Brookhouse through Dane-in-Shaw to Whitemoor with a mineral railway to run up the Biddulph Valley through Bailey’s Wood, Marsh Green and Biddulph to Knypersley with branches to the Gillow Heath, Falls and Woodhouse Collieries and the Troughstones Quarries. This project was withdrawn when Robert Williamson, of Stonetrough Colliery proposed a private tram way through a tunnel at Mow Cop to a canal wharf at Kent Green. Biddulph and Congleton still had no rail link. In the 1840s thousands of miles of rail track were proposed and only one, the Buxton, Macclesfield, Congleton and Crewe Railway of 1845 planned to use the Biddulph Valley. The North Staffordshire Railway (NSR) finally built a branch to Congleton in 1848 and after coal owners in the Biddulph Valley proposed a private line in 1853 the NSR built the Biddulph Valley Line in 1864.

An interesting question and answer followed before Mr. Derek Wheelhouse thanked Richard for his talk and pointed out the work Richard has done in mapping the canals of Great Britain. Some of these maps were made available to the meeting and should anyone wish to view them please visit the website

The next meeting of the Society will be on Monday the 18th of May 2009 in Biddulph Library at 7pm when Mr. Lyndon Murgatroyd will be the speaker and his talk on the subject “Congleton Public Houses”.

Annual General Meeting followed by Searching the Census - 16/03/2009

Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to the March meeting of the Society on Monday the 16th at 6.30 p.m. in Biddulph Library. The meeting started with the Society’s Annual General Meeting. Mr. Wheelhouse then thanked the members of the Committee of the Society for their hard work through the year. All the present members of the Committee were re-elected, Mr. David Outhwaite as Secretary of the Society; Mr. Brian Nightingale as Treasurer and Mrs. Elaine Heathcote as Archivist. Mr. Roland Machin and Mrs. Kath Walton will continue as Committee members. Derek asked for volunteers from members of the Society to act as committee members. He also thanked Irene Turner and her staff for their help with the sale of Society publications and use of the Library facilities, particular thanks go to Jayne for setting out the seating and providing refreshments. Finally, Mr. David Moore was thanked for presiding over the web site and updating its content.

The Treasurer of the Society, Mr. Brian Nightingale, then outlined the audited finances for the year ending on February 28th 2009. The main points were:

  1. An improved bank balance to enable the Society to finance further local history publications
  2. Very good sales of the Societies current publications
  3. Members of the Society will continue to pay £5.00 annual membership from March 1st 2009. It was agreed members would continue to have free entry to meetings with non-members paying £1.00 per meeting.

After a short break the main part of the meeting began at 7.00 p.m. when Derek introduced Cath Walton of Leek. As well as being the Secretary of the Leek History Society Cath has published a series of books of pictures of Leek (now in its fourth edition) and on the Lost Houses of Staffordshire. An expert on the collection of data for the census and the use of the information for family and history research, her talk was entitled 'Searching the Census'. Unfortunately, a recent accident on holiday had restricted her preparation time for the talk and this would be its first outing.

So, “What is a Census?” and why are governments interested in data on the population?

There are a number of answers to the question and one used at the time of the United Kingdom’s first modern census in 1841 was based on finding out about the country's major asset - its population. One of the first, the Domesday Book of 1086 gave a picture of life in Norman Britain by describing the assets of the country. Not only were people listed but also their possessions and it provides a map which can be used to place families in areas of the country. The Church was heavily involved in the gathering of this information and kept its role by being enumerators in local parishes for the C19th censuses. If you are doing family history research before 1801 a major source of information is the 1662 - 1689 Hearth Tax Returns. This was followed in the C18th by a survey of inhabitants by head of household in 1779 which was collected by Parish. In 1801 there was a count of people by village perhaps to ensure that enough food was being produced. Surveys at the time would include questions about Church attendance and also if the individual could read and write.

1841 saw the start of the modern census when the head of every household was given a form to complete. If the householder was unable to complete the form then each area had an enumerator who would call to fill it in. Every ten years the census was repeated with the number and type of question being extended with each one. The census is usually held in the spring to reduce the effects of seasonal work - by the summer people may be living and working on the nearby farm land. The enumerators role was still important as they would standardize the entries and even provide codes, for example, FS for female servant, before passing the books to the local Registrar. Be careful if you are doing family history research as the early census didn’t make the relationships clear. For example a man and women at the same address could be married, brother and sister or father and daughter. Another problem is that the age of people can vary by up to five and ten years and can be arbitrary (not everyone knew exactly how old they were).

In 1851 the name of the street but not the house number where people lived was introduced and a means of registering the blind, deaf or dumb was included. Again the age of people would vary as the requirement for a birth, marriage or death certificate wasn’t introduced until 1860 and most people didn’t need to know their age until the introduction of the Factory Acts. The 1861, 1871 (also know as the RG10) and 1881 (RG11) were very similar and not until 1891 (RG12) were a number of new questions added. The number of rooms in a house if less than 5; whether you were an employer, employee or neither; where born - either County or place; the first register of lunatics or the ‘feeble-minded’, and finally, do you speak Welsh?

The on-line 1911 Census - note you pay by credits to do more than search for your relatives

Mrs. Walton then took the meeting through the census entries for a Biddulph man, Mr. James Whalley in preparation of his family tree. Starting in 1901 James was 67 years old, living with his wife Martha and a pork butcher living at 10 Congleton Road, Biddulph. (His was a single household as the census showed the \\ lines next to the address). Ten years earlier he was 54 years old, married to Martha but living at 23 Albert Street. In 1871 he was 36 years old, married to Martha who was born in Nantwich) and living with their children on Bridge Street. In 1861 the only James Whalley to be found is a 24 year old coal miner boarding at Union Street, Stoke on Trent and in 1841 aged 8 years he appeared to be at Gillow Heath with two Whalley families sharing the same house. These bare bones can be checked by looking at the I.G.I listings (‘Family Search on the web’) and at the Staffordshire Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The advent of the World Wide Web has made family history searches much easier but the user has to be careful and remember a lot of Census sites charge for information. (Note: The Ancestry site can be accessed free from Libraries in Staffordshire.)

If you suddenly find your family history comes to a stop and no one can be traced in an area for a particular date then remember that the people entering the data, both family, enumerator and Registrar may make mistakes or change the spelling of surnames from one census to the next. Sometimes it is worth searching with a single first name for a range of ten years and then browse the results for similar but not identical spellings.

This completed a pacy and illustrated talk and a short question and answer session followed. Derek Wheelhouse thanked Mrs. Walton for such an entertaining evening and invited the members to thank her in the usual way.

Creation vs. Evolution in Biddulph - 16/02/2009

Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to the meeting which was addressed by Mr. Brian Nightingale with a talk entitled “Creation vs. Evolution in Biddulph”. Charles Darwin (shown below) was born 200 years ago (February 12th 1809). He was born into a wealthy family, his grandfather Erasmus was a friend of Joshua Wedgwood and founder of the Lunar Society. His mother Susannah died when he was eight and he was sent to boarding school at Shrewsbury. Charles left school at sixteen years old and was sent by his father first to study medicine in Edinburgh but left after two years before being sent to Cambridge to study theology. He had taken to hunting, shooting and fishing and had little interest in theology when he joined another Cambridge tutor Adam Sedgwick to study geology in Wales probably because it was an outdoor pastime. After graduating without honours, Charles should have been a country parson but another tutor, J.S. Honslow, offered him a place on board HMS Beagle which finally set sail on December 27th 1831. So Charles Darwin began his scientific career not as a biologist, but by surveying the geological importance of the countries en route. From his research on the voyage he published, 150 years ago, “On the Origin of Species” which started the conflict between the creationist and evolutionist arguments.

Brian began his talk remembering that when he was a young boy being taught in Sunday School about God and the bible there was nothing about evolution. Morning prayers were said every day at his Grammar school but again no mention of evolution. You picked that up yourself as you grew older. In the 1800s nearly everyone went to church on Sunday, some 3 times a day and their problem was how to square the teachings of the Creation as fossils were being discovered and also written about which seemed to pre-date its given date. So what were fossils? Brian's hope that the story he was going to relate, of what seems to have happened at Biddulph Grange, would show creation and evolution both existed side by side.

The talk was illustrated by a number of slides starting with a picture of Biddulph Grange built from 1840/2. The date of the Geological Gallery is uncertain but thought to be between 1856 and 1862. The Gallery may have been in answer to Darwin's 1859 book, 'Theory of the Origin of the Species by Natural Selection', or it may have been in Bateman's mind for some time and started before 1859. There are no known letters but it is thought that Bateman wrote to Darwin rejecting his theories.

This talk was carrying on from Paul Baker's excellent presentation in early 2008. The talk was not about the people involved at the time, but was to show what is now taking place in the gallery. Seven volunteers started carrying out guided tours in the gallery during 2008. Brian is one of the volunteers but with so few volunteers we are unable to carry out regular daily tours. You should check prior to a visit if you wish to see the gallery.

The gallery was originally about 110 feet long by 8 feet wide and approached by a 'modern' door made of Deal (or in other words Pine wood). This is to the east side, being the original exit door as James Bateman would have shown his personal visitors into the gallery from the west door. The west door is original, made of mahogany probably from Honduras, and outside the door there are corbals on each side. These probably stand for some kind of small stature and although the actual use is not known they could have been a depiction of India on one side and Africa on the other. The gallery was built of Horton red sandstone and there is an inlaid, probably Minton, tiled floor. It is difficult to photograph a gallery 100 foot long with restricted natural light as the only light is from skylights along the gallery length.

Brian explained that the gallery was divided into 7 bays (or biblical days). There was a frieze on the north side of geological strata starting with pre-Cambrian rocks and ending with the tertiary period. Above the frieze were fossils associated with them. The main building became a hospital in 1924. The hall proved too small and was extended by a very large building (some would call it a 'carbuncle') totally out of keeping with the hall. At the time of the extension it is believed about 10 feet was chopped off the gallery to provide building room. The gallery was then converted to a machine shop to support the hospital. The frieze was ripped off, leaving only day 3. The fossils were also removed, together with tables displaying geological specimens (and also a model of the largest gold nugget ever found). The National Trust have about six of the fossils. We understand that some 10 others were given to Keele University to start their geology section. The total number of fossils was probably about ninety.

The gallery is divided into the days of creation starting at Day zero: Before God started to form the Earth there was little in the way of fossils, and the stones are arranged in a chaotic fashion. Day 1: God is starting to form the Earth. Fossils appear. Day 3: The only 'almost' complete frieze. Day 5 & 6: Some recognizable fossils.

James Bateman (below), along with most other people, believed in the Bible's account of creation. How could someone like James Bateman believe in creation when faced with all these fossils from different periods? James’s mines would have thrown up some preserved fossils, especially ferns. There is a school of thought which goes: 'As the heads of the geology department at Oxford and Cambridge University were both vicars then the theory for dating the “Creation” should be changed so that that one of God's years was about 1 billion years long. After all he created not only the Earth, but also all the other planets and stars, and they all have different day and year lengths. Something which was not known in the mid-19th century, but which is known now, is that the earth is probably about 5 billion plus years in age. This fits rather neatly into God taking six days to create the Earth and all its flora and fauna!

In the present Gallery opposite the geological wall the other wall has a series of display boards showing what it is thought was on the wall. For example, Day 5 shows a reptilian head. Day 6 has an obvious tusk, probably a mastodon or mammoth. This panel has six niches where a small fragment in one shows there were maps of the geology of Staffordshire. Remember that James was elected to be president of the Royal Horticultural Society, because of his knowledge of plants, and of the Staffordshire Geological Society.

Day 7: There is only about 2 feet, whereas the other days are about 12 feet long. Most of Day 7 was ripped off to provide room to add on the hospital extension, hence no nice mahogany door. What fossils are missing? What was on the opposite wall?

If you would like Brian or one of the other volunteers to guide you through the Creation at Biddulph then please contact Biddulph Grange Gardens to find out about a tour.

Following questions from the floor Mr Wheelhouse thanked Brain for his interesting visual tour of the gallery.

Recording History - The Voices of Local People - 19/01/2009

The January was addressed by Mr. Nigel Bowers with a talk entitled “Recording History - The Voices of Local People”

Mr. Bowers introduced the meeting to the Biddulph East Oral History Public Art Project. The project was commissioned by the Biddulph East Public Art Partnership which ran from 2002 to 2004. It trained children and young people from the local schools to interview and record people talking on a variety of subjects, for instance, what it was like to live on the estate, work down the mines, what food they ate and spare time activities. A total of 34 Bidduph East residents were interviewed and their words were recorded on CDs and then transcribed to make an oral and written history. The historian in charge was Helen Lloyd and reference copies were created and are kept at Staffordshire County Council Archive, Biddulph Resource and Community Centre, Park Middle School, Biddulph High School and Biddulph Library.

A number of other projects were commissioned and include: ‘Lamp Light’ with historian Tony Stallard and ‘Look Out’ by artist Ondre Nowakowski

Nigel played a number of tracks from the CDs to the meeting - the following are the edited highlights of two of the people who took part in the survey: Mr. Norman Lancaster and Mrs. Nellie Newton.

Norman was born at the White House, the timbered property off Akesmoor Lane, which is one of the oldest houses in Biddulph built in the 16th century with its wattle and daub panels and thatched roof. He had three sisters and two brothers and they all took it in turns to walk to Mitchell’s on Moody Street to collect milk. One of his earliest memories was when he was about three years old when the doctor was at the house attending to his older brother (about 6 years old). Unfortunately Tom, his brother, was put in the wooden box in the back of the car having succumbed to his illness. His father worked in the steel industry at the Black Bull works of Robert Heath, however, he was also a local preacher and would farm the land around the house. He remembers helping to plant 600 cabbage plants in a day and being covered in dust whilst holding a corn sack to catch the grain from the threshing machine. His mother was both a wonderful cook and a good singer.

His two sisters were employed as nurses at Biddulph Grange Hospital when Dr. Platt was in charge but he didn’t think any of the nurses were able to make a good cup of tea. His eldest sister didn’t marry until she was forty years old. He and his remaining brother walked to the Central Boys School in Biddulph. His sister Jane was taken to Miss Cotterill who she found friendly but daunting teacher of the three Rs. He later moved to the Higher School where Mr. Pollard was the headmaster and his teachers included John Buxton from Macclesfield and a Mr. Edwards who taught literature - in fact, Norman won a literature prize - ‘Hiawatha’.

Back to the house: It was painted black and white and had a long room of about seventeen feet by twelve with a range for cooking. Water came from the pump which had to be primed and which froze in winter when boiling water had to be used to melt the ‘clack’. As soon as he had the pump working again neighbours would come out to fill their buckets as well. He would have to run errands - going to Bill ‘Crockey’ Bailey’s, famous for his china, to buy corn and bran for feeding the livestock. At the foot of the garden was the Biddulph Valley Railway line and he would see the miners come home on the ‘nigger’ train covered in coal dust from working in the narrow seams in the colliery which didn’t have a wash-house. The tin bath would be filled with water and the backs of the miners, often covered in cuts and bruises, would be cleaned. He remembers the house being re-thatched by a firm from Sandbach. Sparrows loved to live in the thatch and he remembered Bill Bailey taking his shotgun into the field behind the house and killing sixty sparrows with just two barrels.

More about school: He remembered that good boys were always at the front of the class and bad boys at the back. Mr. Cotterill was his English teacher, his father kept the stone yard off Congleton Road. All staff would cane or strap pupils who mis-behaved, Mr. Hunt a tall fellow with a thick stick, was quite brutal when trying to teach him maths and basic science. Out of school he would go with his friend Jack Haydon down onto the allotments behind Tunstall Road. When he was at Knypersley school he remembered making a wooden tray which had to be 18in by 12in but because of a shortage of wood he had to join a strip of wood to a piece of 11 and a quarter inches to make it up to 12in. He also made a little oak trinket box which he still has somewhere. The allotments where taken away because they were going to build a new road - all of seventy years ago.

His family moved onto the Woodhouse Lane estate in the 1930s and he became an apprentice painter and decorator. His career was interrupted by spending three years in the army, starting with two years in France. He was then sent to Cairo, going across North Africa via Algiers and then Tripoli (here there was ‘a most beautiful strip of land’) before traveling north through Italy.

Nellie was born at Craigside, Biddulph in 1935. She was taken ill at six months when she caught paratyphoid from her father and her brother who was four at the time also caught it. She didn’t like school and by the age of thirteen she didn’t want to go anymore as she wanted to be at home with her mother. She thought she was reasonably well educated as she liked geography, history, P.E. and needlework while she was at school and was good at mental arithmetic, however, she didn’t like any written work. If she didn’t go to school then she couldn’t play out as the school bobby might find her and she would get into trouble. When she did play it would be on the space behind her house called the ‘Rec’ near Slater Street where she would skip and play football. She also played ‘tin can altery’ realizing how this must have annoyed the elderly residents when they would knock on the doors.

She remembers the air raids of the Second World War and hearing the sirens giving the alarm and the all clear. There was a school air raid shelter on Moorfield Avenue off Well Street and she remembers when the sky was red over Manchester they would also be put under the ledge in the pantry. Air raid practice sessions at school would involve carrying your gas mask and she remembers her younger sister in a big egg shaped one. When the war ended there was dancing down by the Cenotaph. Althouhg she was warned not to get involved with the Yankee soldiers based on Shepherd Street her brother would earn pocket money by shopping for them.

She started work in a pot bank in Tunstall where she put handles on cups. She didn’t like the job as the factory was always dusty and dirty and she managed to get a job making ammunition at Radway Green. She did enjoy the conditions and found it a good place to work making many fiends before being made redundant when part of the factory closed. She then worked in a number of places before becoming a Caretaker. For entertainment there was the Picture Palace in Biddulph which had two films a week - one on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and a different one for the rest of the week and if she was with a boy she would sit on the back row. There were also Public Hall dances, and events at the ‘Gym’ as well as concerts and dances in Tunstall and Congleton. If she was short of money you could get some change by returning empty bottles.

When asked what food she ate, she recalled, rabbit stew and chips, potato baps and potato dinners and home made pies like the ones in the ‘Dandy’ all of which had nicknames. She would also collect oatcakes from John Street and have them with butter and syrup. Fish at the time was too expensive and for the whole family and she would have savoury ducks and gravy hot from the butchers instead. Bread would be bought from the bakers on the High Street and milk was delivered by horse and cart. It was kept cold by placing it in a bucket of water and if you ran out you could walk to the farm to collect some. She remembered that a 40th Wedding present was a first ’fridge. She was married when she was twenty and has always enjoyed living in Biddulph because it is surrounded by fields.

Mr. Lomas gave his audience a couple of tips on recording oral history. If you want to record the reminiscences of people it has become much easier as the tape recorder has given way to digital recorders which can be downloaded directly to a computer. Secondly, to be successful always record everything that is said on a first visit. If you only listen on your first visit you can’t expect the person speaking to repeat what they have already said as dress rehearsals do not always work.

The next meeting will be on Monday the 16th of February 2009 in Biddulph Library at 7 p.m. when Mr Brian Nightingale will talk on the subject “Creation v. Evolution in Biddulph”. It is 200 years since the birth of Charles Robert Darwin (12th February 1809) and 150 years since “On the Origin of Species” was published. Biddulph has a unique record of the conflict between the creationist and evolutionary arguments in the James Bateman ‘Biddulph Grange Geological Gallery’.

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

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