Tuesday, 20 December 2016

FRONT PAGE - Photos, Postcards, Snippets, Notices Etc (for approx one week...ish before archive)

Old Adverts from catalogue kindly shared by Marie Ives (Click over to enlarge)


Bob Phillips has kindly shared his family "sledging" and "snowfun" photos with us which he 
took down at Victoria Park back in 1979, before the park was reduced in size for 
the by-pass

with Martyn and Kaye Warwick and their children Kennedy and Joanne of 325 Blackburn Road
Photos: Kindly shared by Bob Phillips and dated mid 1980s. Uploaded here on 17th Jan 2017



Dear Brian, we've just bought a lovely terraced house in HUD Hey road and would like to know where we can find old photos and information about HUD Hey rd and the neighbouring area to include the Clough Manor House. Is there going to be another exhibition of Haslingden Memories like that in September 2015? Thank you Caen

or if you still want to check out
After one week the above photographs or text will be moved over to their appropriate blogs and will also be transferred over to  PHOTO ALBUM and SNIPPETS NO.5 (YEAR 2017 which can be accessed by clicking here

PHOTO ALBUM AND SNIPPETS NO.4 (year 2016) which can be accessed by clicking here

 PHOTO ALBUM and SNIPPETS NO.3 (year 2015) which you can access by clicking here

or if you still want to check out


Dont Forget!  HASLINGDEN ON FILM is accessed from the title further down on the left hand column - please enjoy the films.


It all started off from Haslingden......

And here we have a little bit different! its a fabulous story about "The Ural" motorbike which Bob (ex pat from Blackburn Road (Hud Hey) used to own.  He brought it back to life whilst in his wooden garage which was "where Pinch Belly Row (Hud Rake) used to be, and the garage is still there today (with slight modifications) - Its a cracking tale which covers lots of local and social history at its very best, so here we have it in Bobs own words:

The Ural

The bike

The Ural is a mighty motor bike.  Manufactured in Russia to BMW plans.  (In !945, the Soviet Zone of occupation of Germany included the state of Thuringia, and the BMW motorcycle works at Eisenach.)  A 650cc horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine, with the BMW trademark of cylinder heads sticking out horizontally on  both sides of the frame.  Without the other BMW trademark of shaft drive – that had not been invented in 1945, when the plans for the Russian Ural were frozen to the blueprints they captured.
Deep black with almost no markings; heavy – really heavy, with a sidecar made from thick steel.  (There are tales of collisions between a Ural and a camel in the Sahara, and the Ural coming off relatively unscathed; the camel dead.  A less exotic tale of my collision with a Ford Cortina taking a wrong turn to park in King Street, Cambridge, at about 3 m.p.h.: the Cortina wing crumpled, the Ural sidecar body dented perhaps ¼ inch.)

The search

We had decided that we couldn't really afford the car.  A motorcycle seemed an affordable alternative, if a little hardy for the Lancashire winters.  I started buying motorcycle magazines, and read about the Ural – mighty retro beast.  Immediately I coveted it – the engineering chic of the BMW; the political chic of a communist machine; the street chic of a big black frame with separate triangular seats, the passenger seat mounted high up on the hefty steel rear mudguard.  It looked like something straight out of the 1940s – which it was.  A vintage motorbike manufactured in the modern age.
And cheap.  Cheap new, because the Ural’s performance (meaning speed) was absolute crap.  Much, much cheaper second-hand because all the trimmings (cables, chrome, switches, etc.) are so badly manufactured that the machine looks like a wreck when it has been out on the streets for a few months.  As for performance, that did not signify with me – I was not after speed (scared of it, in fact) but after solid transportation and street credibility.
The most alarming thing about the Ural combination for me was the fact the sidecar is mounted on the European side – the wrong side.  The Valleys are full of steep roads with sharp bends, and the cambers are not always too carefully engineered.  I had visions of a bike with the centre of gravity made high by a passenger perched up on the rear, being completely unsteady with the sidecar turning the whole bike over on a reverse camber bend, crushing the driver beneath hundreds of pounds of steel.  (My fears were justified: if one ever rode the bike with passenger on board and an empty sidecar it would be lethal, and even properly loaded, it need careful handling on bends.  Just as well it did not go fast.)
So, I had identified the bike of my dreams.  How was I going to get one?  There were very few in circulation, and the chance of finding a second-hand one nearby was virtually nil.  Or so I thought . . .
I started buying Exchange and Mart weekly.  Standing about in the factory reading the Motorcycle section of Exchange and Mart on breaks introduced me immediately to the company of the bikers in the workforce.  We had a topic of mutual interest to discuss – something I was often short of.  They were very generous in their interest: just a little hint of mutual interest – opening the paper up to the interesting section – and they were almost welcoming in their willingness to open up conversation.  8 or 12 hours at a stretch at work is pretty boring, after all, and there is not that much to talk about unless you work at it.
Douglas of the yellow Ducati (he who managed to strip his bike and reassemble it in the pit under the paper-making machine, in one shift.  My this was a busy factory!) knew a bit about the Ural.  He was complimentary, even though for himself he would never buy anything so slow or so un-stylish.  His yellow sporty 650cc machine had a big tank and saddle set back so that the rider adopted a racing position stretched across the top of the bike to slightly drop-down handlebars.  Douglas was a man for fitting leathers in a colour that matched his bike, not the oil-stained Barbour jacket that I acquired with my Ural, that really rather matched the bike.)  We bent our heads over Exchange and Mart together.  But “Not a common bike – you don’t see many of them on sale.”  was Douglas’s warning.

The purchase

The Gods must have been favouring my plan.  Unbelievably, in the second week after I had made my commitment that a Ural it had to be, there was an ad in Exchange and Mart for a Ural and side-car, in Todmorden.  Todmorden, that had just become Lancashire instead of Yorkshire in the county boundary reorganisation: in other words right on the county boundary, in the same Pennine hills and valleys that surrounded Haslingden.
Anna and I took the little Morris Traveller – the car that I had been given, second-hand, for my 21st birthday – up into the hills.  The journey to Todmorden takes one up from Waterfoot, between Lumb and Cowpe, into the branch of the Rossendale Valley that runs through Bacup – straight east into the middle of the Pennine chain, through industrial desolation much worse than Haslingden.  Where the side valleys rise into the bleak saddles of moor land, the industrial revolution had its most tenuous hold, and faded first.  In Bacup, the industry had been shoes, and it was no more, aside from a few (and locally famous) clog-making shops, hanging on desperately.  The factories were small, grey, empty and weather-beaten.  
On, across the moors that divide Lancashire and Yorkshire[1], to the south of Todmorden, towards Mankinholes, on the side of the town where Jim Denniston lived.
I had, of course, been in contact with Jim, the bike’s owner, to arrange a meeting.  They were ready for us – they being Jim, his wife Helen and their baby, Oona.  It was more like a meeting of friends than a commercial transaction.  Todmorden, and even more so its neighbouring town, Hebden Bridge, was a centre of the alternative lifestyle even in 1974.  Small waves of hardy hippy types had converged on this cheap and attractive little corner of the Pennines since the late 1960s.  The signs were along the road as one passed through the towns: small whole-food shops, stores selling bright, flowing dresses, hand-printed signs for bands and political meetings.  All the regalia of the drop-out.
Jim worked in a local mill, like me, if I remember correctly. They lived in a house not unlike ours, except that their road was one of the many cul-de-sacs in Todmorden, running at right angles off the main street straight into the hills.  Grey stone terrace; two up, two down; the valley walls lowering at the back.
Baby Oona made the side-car rather inappropriate and, mirabile dictu, what Jim and Helen were looking for, ideally, was a Morris Traveller.  Jim took me out to look at his machine.  It was everything I had wanted – ancient, black, heavy, almost like an agricultural implement.  (In fact, Jim explained, the massive torque and low gearing were designed to give a rock-steady slow speed for dragging a plough!  The gearing was what kept the top speed down to about 60 m.p.h.)
Jim was scrupulous in telling me everything that was less than perfect – as expected, the chrome-work was in a sorry state.  He looked at my Traveller, and a deal was struck in no time at all.  Completely amicable – more like barter than a commercial transaction.
In keeping with the social nature of the transaction, we stretched it over several visits.  Finding that the two families liked each other, and that we had a similar history of escape to the hills, of course contributed to the leisurely pace of the deal.  Also – Jim was very reluctant to let go of the beast: he was as much in love with the Ural as I was to become.  (My Morris Traveller also had a pull on my affections – the little Morrises are that sort of car.  My first car, at age 17, had been a Morris Minor, and in Zambia with my stepbrother before then in 1967 we had shared another Minor, on loan.  Many memories of time spent pulling the guts out of a Morris and putting them back again – in Lusaka, with David Jones, in Farnborough with David Stratton, in Putney, in Cambridge.)
This first trip, we simply agreed upon a transaction – the exchanged of much-loved vehicles and some incidental monetary accompaniments (I think from Jim to me, but I am not certain – the money side of the transaction was definitely secondary, or even tertiary.  The much-loved objects came first, and the growing inter-family relationship came second.  The social priorities of the barter economy.)  On the second trip, Jim showed me how to ride the beast, and then how to ride it in the hills on badly-cambered roads.  It was on the third or fourth trip that the wrenching exchange actually took place.
On one of these trips, Helen and Jim took us for a walk through Colden Clough, as Helen told us about one of the famed natives of Hebden Bridge (actually of neighbouring Mytholmroyd) - Ted Hughes.[2]   Then we explored, more with Jim in the lead, another world of relaxed commercial transactions – the rescuing and recycling of useful building material.  Jim was an habituĂ© of building demolition sites and auctions.  He introduced Anna to a dealer who had a remote mill stacked to the rafters with rescued timber and fittings, and that man in turn took Anna to a church in Todmorden that was being demolished.  The last journey of the Traveller for us was to transport a long pitch-pine pew that Anna bought for a song.  (With very clever planning and cutting, it later provided all the material for the construction of a long sideboard that went with us from Haslingden to Milton Keynes to Dallas and to Philadelphia, where it was passed on to the Germantown Unitarian Church.)
We returned to Jim and Helen’s house.  I had the extraordinary Ural maintenance manual and toolset to explore, while the two families deepened their new friendship.  The manual was about 200 pages thick, printed on cheap-paper and poorly translated.  The opening chapters explained that there was a front wheel and a back, and what brakes were and the principle of the internal combustion engine.  By the end of the book, the owner of the magnificent machine had been told how disassemble the engine and to strip and service the main bearing.  This was a book written for people who had never owned a machine before, but were going to be entirely on their own in looking after it.  The toolkit corresponded – a magnificent array of very carefully chosen implements designed to do both very simple and very complex jobs, economically packaged and wrapped in a tight little cloth bundle.  “Economical” is the word – unfortunately the whole enterprise was marred by the fact that the tools were constructed in the cheapest of materials, and did not look as if they would actually do the jobs for which they were intended, without bending or breaking.  (There is an allegory for the Soviet Communist planned economy here.)
The day came to an end, and all parties were highly satisfied.  I cannot remember if we went away in the bike then and there.  I am sure that I needed Jim to give me a couple more riding lessons.  (I didn't need a motorcycle endorsement to my driving licence - the sidecar puts it in a category with a car.  That was one of its attractions, from the start - no need for a motorcycle driving test.) 


Anyway, we came back to visit Jim and Helen and baby several times; there were evenings in their little house when Helen played the guitar and we all sang.  Both families had been learning a bit about Lancashire folk-songs.  Helen taught us a lullaby sung by the wife of a railway engineer, and we taught her “The Four-Loom Weaver”.  Helen was a performer – a dancer as well as a singer, from somewhere in the West Indies.[3]
Helen ended up separated from Jim.  We last had contact with her when she was one of the artists and prime movers in a community arts collective in Battersea that became very big - the Battersea Arts Centre.  On the way there, she actually came to live with us.  We cannot remember exactly how Helen announced her wish to stay.  She turned up, with baby Oona, and did not, as far as I remember ever go back to see Jim.  I do not even remember what caused the fatal rift, although Helen complained that it was hard to get Jim to stir himself, and it is clear that Helen herself was a dynamo.  
I say “was” because, sadly, I only learned about Helen’s extraordinary achievements in her life from her obituary.  (From that obituary, we learned of more tragedy: Oona had died too, in a street accident, in the year 2000, just as her grandfather was in his final illness.  Oona would have been about 14.)  Helen and baby stayed with us for several months, in the tiny room we had carved out from one of the two top rooms, dividing it from the new bathroom.  The room that was later to be Joanna’s nursery, and had been planned as such.
Helen and Oona were the beginning of something big.  Even at the time, Anna and I realised that by opening up our household to extra people we were doing something that had implications.  Later on, there were people in our house who really did become part of our family.  That was not completely the case with Helen and Oona, but this was the first step towards something  that became enormously important to us.

The bike at home

Back to the story of the Ural motor-bike.  (Let me run that story through to its conclusion, even though it means jumping ahead in time for a spell.)-  We had found a little room for the motor-bike, too.  The road that ran diagonally up the steep hill opposite our house, from the other side of Blackburn Road, was called Hud Rake.  There were a few houses at the bottom of Hud Rake – a short stone terrace than ran down to the ginnel along the back of the Blackburn Road houses (the terrace that included Martin and Kaye Warwick’s house at 325).  Above this short terrace, I guess the land was too steep even for Lancashire builders.  The next architectural phenomenon above the terrace was a line of ramshackle wooden garages.  The weather in the Valleys is cruel for wooden structures, and Hud Rake really is exposed.   I think it would have taken heroic (and totally uneconomic) levels of maintenance effort to preserve these garages in anything like decent condition.  No chance of that – there is not much sentiment for building maintenance in these climes, and even if there was, these mean structures did not deserve it.
The garages were black – not with paint but with weathering, with tar-paper roofs nailed down with boards.  They leaned against each other down the hill, and it did seem to be a marvellous thing that they had not slid down into the valley.  Mine was the second from the top – I cannot remember how I found its owner and arranged the rental, no more than £1 a week.  I was very pleased with it – a suitable house for my fine machine, close by (visible from the top floor front window) and on a road with a name like “Hud Rake” – perfect.
As the year passed on into winter, I discovered the need for an addition to my garage.  I purchased a little paraffin lamp, designed to be put under the engines of cars in the extreme cold.  I guess in a later age of elfansafety, the idea of putting a naked flame under an engine containing hydrocarbon fuel in a rotten wooden structure butted up against other wooden structures, might have been considered to invite disaster, or at least litigation.  But Haslingden was in a different age, and the instructions on my new appliance assured me that was exactly the use for which the lamp was intended.  It burned quietly all night.  The Pennine winds raged outside the little garage, and through the cracks in its walls, but they seemed to show no propensity for blowing the flame either out or onto something inflammable.  Without my little lamp, the oil in the motor-bike sump would have been congealed every morning, and I would have had no hope of turning the engine over with the kick-start.  With my little lamp, the beast started perfectly almost every morning, and when it didn’t, it was for other causes.
It was outside my garage that I had some of my most intense heart-to-hearts with my new steed.  The struggle of coming to terms with the carburettor will serve to illustrate them all.  The Russian built carburettor cannot have been part of the old BMW design – I refuse to believe that BMW would have engineered such a crude thing, even back in 1945.  It required constant adjustment, and fiddling with the carb before kicking the beast into life became a regular morning routine, sitting outside my garage.  The Ural Owners Club newsletter came to the rescue, with a tip about creating an airflow between the inputs to the two cylinders. As directed, I  threaded a little piece of clear plastic pipe through the frame, with two little pipe ends tapped in.  That is the sort of home-spun engineering that kept the Ural in fine fettle.

Emergency maintenance

A wonderful example of this – away from home – cropped up after I had owned the bike for a year or so.  On a long journey to Cambridge (following faithfully the Yelloways bus route on a big chunk of its journey from Blackpool to Clacton - wakes week to wakes week), I had a terrible mishap in Leicester – half way between my two homes at the time, and a place where I knew no-one to call upon.
The sound of the mishap was most alarming – a strangling metallic crash that seemed to come from the centre of the engine.  Off the bike, and look for damage.  A combination bike stands up to be looked at on its own, and a BMW engine, with its cylinders hanging out sideways, invites inspection.  But there was nothing obvious.  So I took a cylinder head off to see what I could see  – the toolkit had a spanner for everything, and the spanners worked if you were very deliberate and careful not to over-stress the poorly-manufactured tool.  The cylinder head was right there, clear of the side of the bike, to be tinkered with.  The head and gasket came off, and there was the problem – the inlet valve was obviously bent.
(I worked out later that the valve clearances on a new Ural are set for Siberian weather.  For most of my bike’s life in the Pennines, that was exactly the type of weather the beast experienced - there had been no need for Jim or me to adjust.  When I drove it to the balmy south, metal expanded, clearances closed, and BANG.)
A bent valve following a collision with the piston head in most modern engines would be a major disaster, calling for new parts, specialized tools and expert mechanics, maybe even a new engine.  Not so the Ural, with its agricultural tolerances.  I pulled the inlet valves out, took them to the filling station over the road, used a bench vice to straighten the valve stems as much as I could (eliciting a great deal of interest and pitiful shaking of heads from the Indian mechanics in the shop), inserted them and tightened up the cylinder heads (no new gaskets), and I was off.  In fact, I never touched those valves or heads again during the lifetime of my ownership of the bike.
Another result of the crude tolerances in the whole design of the bike was that I had a freedom of fuel choice not afforded to the owner of your average internal combustion engine.  After experiment, I established that my beast would run comfortably on a mixture of ¾ paraffin and ¼ petrol.  Illegal, but very cheap.
I could go on for a long time, and bore my readers to death.  This was a bike with a personality – rugged charm and economy, vintage graces, idiosyncratic mechanical habits, and an eccentric ride.  A wonderful machine.  When I eventually let it go – as payment for a commissioned diptych of the Wolf’s Leap Gorge in Radnorshire (and a crummy ancient Morris van thrown in to get me home) – I rode my motorbike for 7 hours through freezing rain to Hundred House with Anna in the sidecar, wet accumulating behind her back.  Even that did not entirely kill our love affair. 

[1] The realignment of the county boundary was very recent - 1974.  I had seen an article in the local (Lancashire) paper that had hoped to surface some of the traditional rivalry between white and red rose by interviewing those affected by the change.  One dour Yorkshireman, transformed without consultation into a Lancastrian, was encouraged to express anger, or at least disappointment.  The interviewer got little traction - the gentleman didn't think life was going to be very different as a  result of the boundary change.  However, right at the end of the conversation, the interviewer struck gold: "There's one thing that is a bit of a bad job - the weather.  It's gonna be worse now.  It allus rained more in Lancashire."
[2] Ted Hughes was raised in a house called The Beacon, at Slack, just outside Mytholmroyd, but he  returned to buy the mill owner’s house in the village - Lumb Bank.  Helen took us past it; she was excited that the house had just become home to a foundation which teaches creative writing - The Arvon Foundation.  For Helen, this was all part of an exciting birth of culture in this little town.  
Of course, Helen was right - the flowering of Hebden Bridge came in her lifetime, though she had by then moved on to Battersea Arts Centre.  Hebden Bridge and Haslingden may have started as similar dour towns, but in all but architecture they diverged greatly in the last decades of the 20th century!
[3] We later discovered that Helen's origins were quite famous.  Her father was "Oswald "Columbus" Denniston [who in 1948] booked a one-way passage from Jamaica to England on the Empire Windrush. Thus, later, did he become the first African-Caribbean trader in Brixton market in south London. His entrepreneurial spirit and sense of community made him a key figure in the growing migrant population." (from the obituary of Columbus in the Guardian, 17/2/2000.  Helen herself was a sufficiently important figure to merit an obituary in the Guardian too - on her lamentably early death on 27/6/2005: "In 1989 the arts consultant and administrator Helen Denniston, who has died of cancer, aged 53, played a key role in the Colour Of Europe festival at the South Bank Centre. That led to her co-directorship of Africa '95, the six-month season of African arts which took place across Britain. And that festival in turn inspired African Odyssey, at the John F Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, for which she was, from 1996 to 2000, a consultant."

Added by Robert Wade on 18th December 2016

Love the Ural story on the blog, I can remember the bike!  One slight error, in the 1974 boundary re-organisation Todmorden did NOT change counties, Barnoldswick and Earby did.


Friday, 16 December 2016

Snow tales - Sledging, Sliding, Skating and other fun things

From David Desforges (12th January 2017)

Been reading the sledging clip,we would sometimes use the hill to the side of the row of houses on donkey row side of the railway and sometimes we would sledge down railway road starting of at the top where it joined station brew road swinging right hurtcaling past the bottom of station steps  to the bottom  and over the road that went past the railway where someone would be watching if a car  was coming, on one trip down and on getting near the bottom car coming was shouted so I had to sledge straight on into the house wall banging my head in the stonework ,67years old now and still have that lump on my forehead ,david desforges


For the four years we lived in Haslingden, each winter was predictably enveloped in deep snow since the westerlies brought ballooning mountains of moisture which , confronted by the implacable Pennines, would dump onto us avalanches of snow which would drift and blanket the town for weeks and months  on end. The local kids quickly became adepts at dealing with the stuff and there was a perfect sledge slope in Victoria Park which, after the first snowfall would  speedily fill up with families out for a spot of fun.
But in some ways the best sledging wasn’t done in winter at all. They were four hot summers we lived there (1974-78), with uncharacteristically dry weeks stretching rainless and shimmering through the school holidays and beyond. The reservoirs shrank, the NO SWIMMING notices got ignored and bewildered oldies were thwarted from complaining  about the weather.
Now was the time to find cardboard boxes, beat them flat and trudge  up onto the heights above the town. We lived on Blackburn Road just where Hud Rake swoops down and joins the main road, so for a brief walk we could cross the road, turn up Hud Rake and scramble up the steep hillside beyond, up towards Slate Farm. In minutes we were high above the town with a commanding view over towards  the hills in the west known as Oswaldwistle Moor .

We threw our cardboard down, slid our bums into position and we were off, careering down the grassy slope as fast as over snow. There’s something special about grass at 800 feet: it is quite unlike the grass you find in parks and gardens in the valleys. Its tough resilient blades aren’t flat but cylindrical, dark green and shiny and perfectly designed to allow any smooth surface to travel over it at speed. The more sophisticated sledgers brought out their winter sledges – plastic trays appeared too and a riot of kids would hurtle down the hot slippery grass , tumbling in a heap to rise and climb again.

uploaded here on 7th December 2016


Skating on Holden Wood Reservoir (Photo: Andy Metcalfe) 

Above is a photograph from the distant past kindly sent in by Andy Metcalfe.  Andy is the one in the centre with the blue and white (Leeds) bobcap and to his far left with the red and white bobcap is Stuart Beardmore.  It was said that the ice on the res that year was 8" thick for quite some time. 


(Photo: kindly shared by Andy Metcalfe)

Andy wrote: This is the bombhole at Longshoot in early 1979.  We could sledge from the top all the way to the stream by Grane Mill.  In Summer we would sledge on cardboard on the dry grass then go "Sweelin" (set on fire). Is "Sweelin" a local word?



Following on from Anna Cunnynghams memories of sledging in 1974-78.

In the 1950's which were my formative years in Haslingden, the heavy winter snow falls arrived with regularity and stayed for weeks which curtailed the movement of motor vehicles everywhere except the main bus routs.

Everyone would reclaim their home made sledge from the coal hole and set about polishing the iron runners to clean off all the accumulated rust otherwise you would not get any speed up, no fun in that.

Every location would have its own sledging place.  As for me living on the Long Shoot housing estate we made good use of Kirk Hill, that is the rough track extension at the top of Poplar Street at its junction with Cedar Avenue up to the junction with Haslingden Old Road.

It had a right hand bend half way down with a set of five large stone steps which allowed access to the allotments, when covered with deep snow made a high speed bank to be negotiated on the way down.
Several failed to get round the bend and ended up shooting up and over the garden fences behind Cedar Avenue which was even more exhilarating.  
If it was a prolonged cold spell, with work, the sledging track could stretch as far as the bottom of Poplar Street and Hillside Road.  All to soon the council would battle its way through and salt the side street followed by the thaw.

The thrill of sledging down an uncontrollable run was as exciting as it got, even better when you linked up to ten sledges together to make a flexible toboggan train with each rider having to hold the sledge rope tight otherwise the train broke apart creating a pileup.  Despite the risks I never knew anyone who sustained any injury.  Only for the brave was belly flopping, like the Cresta Run with your face just a few inches from the ground.  As well as belly flopping another rider would sit across the back of the laid down rider like riding a horse... great times, you cant replicate that on an electronic gizmo. 

Another good sledging track was the pavement down Rosewood Avenue, that was until the householder came out and scattered the hot ashes from the coal fires across the track spoiling the fun.
 Great times. 


Monday, 12 December 2016

Bleach Works (Holden Wood Bleaching Co.Ltd.)

Thank you to Bob for kindly sharing with us the above "engraving/advert" (Click over to enlarge)

Photo: kindly shared by Alec Taylor (Please click over to enlarge)


It was a place that everyone knew! The Bleach Works (Holden Wood Bleach Works).  The amount of turnover of workers that place had, was phenomenal!.  In fact during the late fifties early sixties, they in particular seemed to always be crying out for labour.  I was one out of the many hundreds who ended up there

Either you went down direct to the Mill or was sent by the dole, you were told to ask for Mr. Davis, he was the manager (and director) a small welsh chap who seemed to have all the shout, in fact everything was run by Mr. Davis.  You approached him not knowing what to expect and he would probably have said yes and what do you want, the reply, I want a job, OK then when can you start--- tomorrow? And that was it, a quick look over and the quickest interview ever!  Start over in the Sheeting plant and ask for Harry Seville, we start at 6am. Wow that was it!!

I found out before long that more or less everyone started off in the sheeting plant and then if you were lucky you may later have been moved to the warehouse, and if you were luckier still you may have been moved over to the wet end.
Harry was foreman of the sheeting plant a great ex mancunian who later became real good friend. He told us go over there to that table and join the other guys they will show you what to do.  Well they made it look so easy! Twisting and turning these oblong bales of compressed bleached paper which looked just like super white bales of cotton.  You had to place the bale in the middle of the table with brown paper equalled sides and then parcel it up with string in readiness to be later transported by what they called the “bogey” from there and up to the warehouse for storage.

Another great chap in the sheeting plant was Jimmy Ryan who was a character that everyone seem to love, he was Irish (and had the twang) with long wavy dark hair and he was a thin wiry sort of chap.  He operated this machine which I think cut the “blotting paper” the machine sort of went backwards and forwards and ever so noisy, just cannot think of what it used to be called. What I do know is that Jimmy could operate this machine like no other.  If the machine was playing up they would always send for Jimmy Ryan before they sent for the engineer.

Another job they did in the sheeting plant but rarely was the “reeling” and this was done on a different sort of machine again.  Usually this was checked out with Steve Crossfield who was the Main Engineer for the whole plant, but somehow he used to love taking command of the “reeling”.  I hated it because the machine went too fast and you had to try and keep up with it by pulling the cut ribbon edges off whilst feeding through your hands and then letting it drop on the floor below you. It would regularly get tangled and Steve would go mental! Shouting and bawling at whoever was the operative. 

For me it was one of those OK for the moment jobs and it served its purpose, I did manage a few months and that’s about all and being honest I certainly didn’t lose any sleep with that one………….

Possibly more to follow soon..........

A lovely engraving of Holden Vale Bleach Works (Click over to enlarge)
Kindly shared to us by: Bob


Dear Mr. Yorke

I have been reading old posts about Holden Vale Flash.  Mike in France writes “Around the back of the bleach works there were railway lines which ran to warehouse loading bays facing the so called "lake" which was full of industrial waste with a nasty chemical odour.

That made me think about a piece of memoir that I wrote about working in the bleach works in the 1970s.  You may be interested to read it – it is attached.
  • Holden Vale Manufacturing Company was closed down in 1997.  There was an accident some time before with chlorine bleach in which several workers were injured (I believe some lost their lives).  Do you know of any Press references to that accident?
In my day, we hadn’t learned to be scared of the bleach.  I had my mind focused on the possibility of byssinosis:

Cleaning the drier

The weekly maintenance of the cotton drier is what triggered my intention to be a shop-steward.  Byssinosis is a nasty disease of the lungs, caused by breathing in cotton fibres.  Everyone in the Lancashire valleys knows about "brown lung disease" - it is the occupational disease of the cotton worker.  Every Sunday, on the afternoon shift, we got our prime chance to start a career into byssinosis.
The continuous process in the factory was shut down on Sunday afternoon, for as short a time as possible, for cleaning the cotton drier.  This was a tunnel about 80 yards long, just big enough for a man to crawl into, lined with fine wire mesh on sides and top.  On Sunday afternoon, the drier heaters were turned off long enough for it to be possible for two guys on that shift to crawl up the tunnel without burning their gloved hands on the metal floor or suffocating.  They each took a dust-pan and brush, and swept the cotton dust down from the far end towards the mouth.
Factory rules required the sweepers to wear a mask - the most rudimentary "protection" of 5mm of gauze held in a flat, bendy metal frame.  Most of the guys wouldn't wear this - they said it made it even harder to breathe in there.  A couple of them brought in big coloured hankies that they tied over their mouths like bandits.
I raised the uncomfortable word - byssinosis.  "Oh, no - you get byssinosis in weaving or spinning.  This is different."

Wet end

The Holden Vale Bleach Works in 1975 was a simple place.  One raw material – cotton linters – one product – cellulose – provided in two forms of packaging: block and sheet.  The process that transformed the raw material into the product was pretty simple too – wash, bleach and dry.
One set of tubs for washing and bleaching everything that came in through the devil hole, and then wet white cotton pumped either to be dried and pressed into blocks, or laid on a paper-making machine to be rolled up as sheets of thick blotting paper.
Very little was automated.  The big tubs were filled and emptied with the simple control of a 20 foot long wooden dipstick.  Pumping to one or other output process was simply a matter of the team running that process calling the keeper of the blend tub – “Pump some!”  (And I mean calling - just shouts across the factory.)  And then “Stop pumping!” (and therein lies a tale – later).  This is not high tech; this is a factory that hasn’t been touched since it was built sometime in the 1920s, I guess.  The gap between “Pump some!” and “Stop pumping!” is a matter of handed-down knowledge – just enough minutes to supply the need which has been the same half-a-dozen times a day every day for the 21,000 days since the factory was built.
The “wet end” is the wet end of the highest tech process in the factory – the paper-making machine.  Clean cotton suspended in lots of water is pumped to a holding tank about 25 feet off the ground from which it runs off evenly and gently over an 8 foot wide lip into a long shallow bath with a moving bottom conveyor made of fine wire mesh.  The flow of water down the bath keeps the layer of cotton moving, and as the water drains away, the layer forms a wet deposit on the moving mesh.  
The nascent paper, forming as an even film on the mesh conveyor as the water drains out of it should be just coherent enough to transfer (carefully!) an inch or so down and across onto another conveyor, this time of felt.  Hot air dries the cotton mat as it passes along on the mesh until it spills over as the mesh belt doubles back.  What spills over has some integrity as a damp mat, and it drops an inch or so down and across onto another continuous band, this time of felt. 
The felt of which the second conveyor is made has a very even surface which transfers into the smooth surface on the forming paper. (This surface is created by the urea in which the felt is pounded during its formation - this is the finish that used to be created just round the corner in Higher Mill - I alluded to this in my discussion of toilet matters.) The forming paper is dried with heat as it is conveyed along, forming something closer to a wide ribbon of paper, with the beginning of a paper’s strength.  
At the end of the felt (where that band doubles back) the sheet drops, maybe an inch or so, onto a big heated roller (maybe 7 foot in diameter, 8 foot wide), turning slowly to carry the paper along..  This second transfer is another vulnerable point in the process.  The surface of the roller has to be turning at exactly the same speed as the paper coming down the felt runway.  The forming paper has to be dry enough to cohere, but wet enough to be flexible.  If everything is right, the paper, maybe 8 feet wide, will cross the inches of space between felt conveyor and roller and be carried on steadily round the roller and on to three or four rollers in turn, the heat diminishing as it passes.
What comes off the end is a continuous sheet of the consistency of blotting paper,  which is either rolled up for shipment, or put through a cutter for those customers whose factory processes demand sheets of cellulose.
The technological demands are fairly obvious.  The rollers have to be going at exactly the same speed, or they will tear the paper.  The speed of the rollers, picking up the wet paper needs to match the speed of the felt band which needs to match the speed of the wire mesh band.  The gradation of heating (drying) through the process needs to be right within fairly close tolerances.  And so on.  Not exactly high tech – but higher tech than anything else in this factory.
And some art, too.  How the cotton wash slops over onto the start of the production line determines how evenly the cotton will be laid and therefore the consistency of the paper produced.  Taking the wet mat from the wire mesh onto the felt is a delicate process, and so from the felt onto the rollers.  Even drawing paper from roller to roller demands some care.  After a break in the production (an accidental tear, or something deliberate) the wet end man comes into his own, with the chance to put production back on again in a few deft steps, or to lose production as the paper tears or collapses over and over.
An honour, therefore, for me to have been made a wet end man, after 11 months mostly wrapping blocks of cotton in brown paper and 3 months absence teaching developmental psychology at Cambridge.
I was never the wet end man, though – just a wet end man; assistant to Donald.  Now, Donald – there’s a few stories.

"The Bleach Works"  (Click over to enlarge)

Photo kindly shared to us by Alec Taylor


I presume that Donald must have had many episodes of working at Holden Vale, or maybe he had been a steady employee some time ago.  He was a recognized master of the wet end, and he had to have learned that sometime.  He turned up after I had been in Holden Vale a few months, and stepped straight into the wet-end job.  But he carried the air always of someone who was not going to be with us for long, and who would give no warning when he wandered away.
He was one of the very few people I connected with in that place for the years I was there.  Which is, superficially odd, because Donald was one of the most unconnected people I have ever met.  He was a gypsy.  (That may not, nowadays be a politically correct word to use, but in this case it is the mot juste - it encapsulates perfectly Donald's lack of investment in the practical here and now and the sense he exuded of being transitory.)  For all I know, he might actually have been a Romany – he didn’t sound like a Lancashire man.  What I meant, though, was that he moved among us like a gypsy.  Always a few days growth of stubble.  Odd that – for a period I saw him up close every day.  You would have thought that I would see him after he shaved, or else I would see a beard grow.  The perpetual two-day growth was just one of the mysteries.
The sense of connection that emerged for me with Donald was one of mood and empathy with his detachment.  I know I recognised him in this; I came to believe that he recognised me.  His detachment was life-long, or at least by the time I encountered him it seemed so.  At that stage, I did not know if my detachment was life-long, but I was beginning to fear it was so.  In me, it was my separation into an unreachable mental state that detached me from the world.  God knows what it was in Donald - upbringing? deprivation? some sort of madness? even a spiritual state, whatever that is?
Donald always wore a jacket.  Greasy and old, with a torn pocket, but it contributed to his air of dignity.  His hair was mostly grey, on black, and straight.  Quite long (maybe collar length) and always combed across his head.  He was quiet, hardly talking to anyone.  The guys who had been in the factory forever respected that.  They did not try to engage him in conversation – they gave him a respectful distance.  And Donald put the newer guys effortlessly in their place if they accosted him.  He had presence.
I joined Donald when I was promoted to being second man on the wet end, after a longer stint on the base-level folding job than most employees.  The label “student” sticks hard, and one of the things it meant was – “don’t promote, he's not staying long”.  Ironically, it was after I had come back from a three monthe gap, when I was lecturing at Cambridge, that they decided I could move on.
The wet end is one of those jobs like being an anaesthetist or an infantryman: mostly long gaps of inactivity with occasional bursts of panic.  The bursts of panic – planned very occasionally when there was a break between batches, or caused of a sudden by breaks in the paper – were occupied with the business of getting the stream of wet cotton running through until it was a wide ribbon of rolling paper again.  
I have given the mechanical description of the paper-making process above.  This should be flavoured with a sense of what the work felt like.  I don’t want to make too much of it.  No-one in that place really cared a damn whether we were productive or not.  Nevertheless, there are two of you, standing high up on the gantry where the wet flow begins, responsible for restarting the flow of paper without which all the hands below you are idle - on the rollers, the cutters, stacking, moving pallets and in the warehouse.  This does induce a sense of responsibility, even urgency.
When restarting is hampered by cotton that won’t flow smoothly, and tears appear between the conveyors or between the felt and the roller, between the rollers, and so on, then all of these men are not only idle, but sarcastic.  If the foreman decides that they should not be idle, but should be busy doing something like cleaning up (usually when a suit is expected to be visiting from the other side – the offices), then the sarcasm rapidly gets nasty.
Working with Donald, I rarely suffered these indignities.  Donald always adjusted the flow so the cotton spread evenly; when Donald caught the end of the wet proto-paper and flipped it onto the felt and then onto first hot roller, it always stuck and rolled without a break.  I followed behind him, in close and respectful attendance.
As a result, the gaps of inactivity with Donald were long – often a whole shift.
Donald spent those periods, apparently, almost completely without occupation.  He would roll a cigarette.  He would smoke it very slowly.  He did not appear to be looking at anything, but he looked attentive.  He would patrol his machinery, occasionally making little adjustments that were mysterious to me both in terms of what they were and what had alerted him to their necessity.
I would read.  I could get through two novels in a shift, and make huge inroads into more serious stuff.  I read George Trevelyan’s History of England as if it was a whodunit (which it is – or many, many interlocking whodunits), in a series of concentrated bursts.  
There was an unfortunate consequence to that particular burst of reading.  Absorbed in the Tudors and the birth of modern government, I failed to test for the completion of a batch of cotton pumped over from the bleach tubs.  (The test was very high-tech – an 18 foot wooden stick dipped into the tub to see how deep it is.)  I failed to call over to stop the pumping.  Only when a guy on break, smoking a cigarette in the open air, saw the cotton spilling over from the tub and ran in to shout an alert, did I remember that I ought to tell them to stop pumping.
That one stopped the whole factory.  It was the middle of the night-shift, with no management in sight.  Tom the foreman, a phlegmatic chap from Duckworth Clough, decided to get the problem out of the way before management came in the morning.  He closed down the whole factory, gave every man a shovel, and we shifted a huge pile of wet cotton, stinking of chlorine, from our car park over the wall into the neighbour’s yard.  (I am not sure who the neighbour was.  It might have been the bottom end of the lot occupied by the candlewick bedspread factory, formerly the Mission Hall, by Holden Tenements.  In any case, the yard did not look as if it was in constant tidy use so as anyone would notice any time soon the change wreaked by a few hundredweight of cotton.)
Donald didn’t mind that.  He was quietly amused.  He liked the fact that I didn’t need him as a source of diversion during the long shifts.  He contemplated; I read.  It worked comfortably for both of us.
Donald introduced me to his local – the Robin Hood.  That was a major act of social grace.  We took to meeting there before shifts, and going up to the factory together.  I have described this fine institution elsewhere in this book, and recounted the habits of Donald’s breakfast – a pint before the 2.00 p.m. shift, drawn as soon as the landlord saw Donald’s curtains twitch.
Donald lived in a terrace of houses opposite to the Robin Hood, across Holcombe Road.  The atmosphere of the whole of that road, below the factory, felt as if it was unchanged since before the First World War.  The fabric was unchanged, of course – solid blocks of grey stone stained by water and age, slate roofs, stony ground and a few scraggy sheep looking miserable.  Holcombe Road winds in and out beside the branch railway line, and the cottages are tucked in by the railway or lining Swinnell Brook.  The Robin Hood is hunched down on the east side of the road, between road and railway and brook, and Donald’s little terrace of six houses was opposite.  I guess they were built for the favoured workers at Sunny Bank Mill in the previous century.
The terrace did not look occupied.  It was as if Donald was squatting there.  It was not just that Donald did not leave much impression on the place he lived in, but one could see little evidence of the other residents either.  It was a place that a gypsy was passing through.
I did not learn much more about Donald from this new friendship.  Whether we were in the saloon bar at the Robin Hood or up at the back of the gantry by the filthy windows of the factory, we just coexisted in companionable silence.  I felt that the quality of the silence was changing – that was my only measure of the friendship.  I do not think that there was any externally observable change.  But I felt, increasingly, that I was being let into a private space that Donald normally kept to himself.  I have to admit that my own mental state must have been a factor in this perception – this was a period of intermittent, but continuing, mania for me.

I am reasonably sure that my intimacy with Donald was privileged.  I do not think that he had many others in the factory (or outside) with whom he had the same comfortable, long silences.  However, I am also reasonably sure that if I could have had a conversation with him (which was, itself, fairly inconceivable) on these lines, he would regard me as if I was demented – these are lines of thought on which I am sure his mind never travelled.

by Bob (Ex Pat living down South)


Chris Kirby has kindly shared the following photos with us 14th December 2016 - Please Click over the photo to enlarge

This photo of the "Wet End" was captured just before demolition

This photo is from the Office Block side and shows the gatehouse and other parts of the works

This is especially interesting, it shows the boxed in conveyor which travelled both sides of the road. Also on this photo you can see the laboratory building middle left hand side


It seems ages ago since I did this blog (further down the page) for
my Grane Blogsite, in fact it was in 2009 when I wrote it, but it refers to times around the beginning of the 1990's. And nowadays I regular think about the "Holden Wood Flash" and wondering how its doing. Just at the moment I am hearing all sorts of stories about a local company with proposals to fill in the "wildlife area" and develop the site for commercial vehicle hardstanding.

A lot of people will be well upset if this is allowed to go ahead. I still remember the words being uttered from the mouth of the Lancashire County Council Engineer, who at the time of the original development gave us his assurances that this sites future was "purely for the long term benefits of wildlife". It was at that time the home of the rare schedule one (protected) breeding bird "The Little Ringed Plover". Also it has become a well established breeding area for toads - a protected species (see photo above - I took this photo near the East side outlet of the pond in 2009.

On Sunday last Wadey had lots of beautiful dragonflies at the pond. I have always suspected Water Voles being present at this site, simply because they are or were present very closeby on the bottom boundary of Holden Wood Reservoir (a few hundred yards away), they certainly where on my last check at the turn of the millenium. I also knew the area to support breeding Reed Bunting, and Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers in the more recent past along with the more commoner Mallard and Moorhen etc.
If you feel you wish to check out the proposed application and make any objections known please click on this link for details:

If you want to check out my "Toad Breeding" photos taken at the Holden Wood Flash (or pond) on 19th March 2009 Please Click Here. Then when photos load, click over photo to enlarge, if you want to enlarge even more go to top of photo and point curser to top and then on "zoom" and click.
Here is a copy of that original blog:

" When all them years ago, we stood in front of the bulldozers to stop the destruction of the Little Ringed Plover site, and after negotiation with the LCC Engineer, we actually thought we had won a do for them little birds!!"
These are four photos which I took of when the Lancashire County Council were making the Holden Vale Flash (Clearing the old toxic waste dumping area of the long gone nicknamed "bleach works", or the Holden Wood Manufacturing Co. Ltd a subsidary partner of the corporate giant USA Hercules group. (Please click over photos to enlarge)....
The whole idea had been to try and preserve some resemblance of the original habitat for the continuation of the breeding of the rare Little Ringed Plover, which had successfully bred on this site for each year over a decade, prior to this excavation and rebuild of the area.

Sadly, all went wrong!! the outcome to what was originally proposed, never materialized as it was supposed to do, and consequently it was tragic and devastating to lots of us, to find out that the LRP never returned the following year.

Some excellent news is that thankfully in more recent times the LRP has actually bred at another habitat closeby, and we do hope that at sometime in the future it may return to its long established breeding site at the "Flash".

19th March 2009 (Click over to enlarge)

19th March 2009 - Proof of Toads breeding (Click over to enlarge)

A email received on 30th August 2012 from Mike in France (ex pat) :
Hello Bryan,
Around the back of the bleach works there were railway lines which ran to warehouse loading bays facing the so called "lake" which was full of industrial waste with a nasty chemical odour.
In between these two sites there was a huge pile of clinkers from the "boiler house" and an area where the clinkers had been flattened to make a lorry park. In several places, the ground was warm as some of the coal waste was still burning and had been for years. The local kids used to dig around these warm places to catch small lizards and we were told that they were sand lizards. Recently I have been searching the internet for photos and information about them and I am pretty certain that they were not "sand lizards". In fact, I have not been able to find any photos which match these reptiles. They were up to 2 inches long with a brown back and a beige underside with orangey/light brown stripes on each side of the body, separating the brown from the beige.
I often wondered if these lizards had been hiding in the bales of cotton (the warehouse was full of these) which came from foreign countries and were naturalised because of the ground temperature.

My Letter sent to the Rossendale Free Press on 4th Sept 2012 - In response to their letter of the week offered by Messrs. Solomons.

To: Rossendale Free Press. dated: 4th September 2012.
Dear Sir/Madam,
I would be extremely grateful if you would kindly print the following reply to the letter offered up by Messrs. Solomons. I do think that the public have a right to know exactly what that "Pond" was built for.

In reply to the “Letter of the Week” from Messrs Solomon Commercials Ltd. I do feel I need to go over a “historic point” which has been incorrectly outlined in their letter of intent in regards to the history of “The Pond”.

First of all let me assure you that the area you classify as “The Pond” was only built in the early 1990’s, specifically with the intentions for wildlife in mind. It was not built for any other reason whatsoever.

You will probably have noted that one side of “The Pond” is a shallow pebbly scrape, intentionally put there for the purpose of “breeding waders” especially with the main purpose in mind of the rare Schedule 1 “Little Ringed Plover” which had been nesting within close proximity to “the pond” for the previous ten years prior development. “The Pond”, was also set to create suitable habitat for other birds species, small mammals, amphibians, insects, and varied flora, which over the years since the 1990s has become very successful and matured ecologically just has was expected of it. It has been specifically successful in the population growth of the “Common Toad” (with at least 20/30 breeding pairs in 2009 – monitored during Feb/March from their breeding area at the small outlet).

I will try and give a brief summary of how the pond got there in the first place.

It started as a sort of Flash or shallow lake and used in the main for the dumping of industrial waste (a sort of blotting paper – cotton waste product) manufactured by the Holden Vale Manufacturing Company Limited (nicknamed: Bleach Works). The size of the Flash (or Lake) was perhaps six times the size of what you see “as the Pond today”. After the Company ceased trading, it was later considered that this area was very toxic and contaminated with “Caustic” and other dangerous chemical elements.

Lancashire County Council moved in and it was decided that the area needed to be cleaned up of such a hazard. I am sure that this must have been a tremendous cost to the Ratepayer/Taxpayer at the time.

At the start of the clean up, I received a phone call from a friend to say all this heavy equipment had turned up on the site and had started digging and moving soil about.
On hearing this, I plus another individual quickly moved down there and went on site to try and stop the work immediately which we successfully did. The reason for this was that the site held a very rare Schedule 1 protected breeding bird called the Little Ringed Plover and that at that time of this disturbance the birds had chicks, and on our arrival it was quite obvious the parent birds were under much distress.

Immediately the “Lancashire County Council Engineer” was called and it was decided there and then that the proposed work be stopped completely until we where all fully satisfied that the birds had finished breeding and left the site to return to Africa.

When work recommenced several weeks later, it had then been decided that we should first try and preserve the “crust coating” (a sort of thick blotting paper), which was to be piled to one side to be re-instated later, but this never turned out as planned. Also it was decided that the new plans should have a pond built at one side, with a gravelly shallow sloping scrape for the intentions of breeding waders. And that’s the pond you have today (built in the early 1990s).

We where told at the time categorically by the Lancashire County Council Engineer that this site (the new pond area) would be preserved for evermore for the long term benefit of wildlife. And that this had been agreed by all parties concerned, and that the sites future was secure for these purposes.

Yours faithfully,
Bryan Yorke
(Haslingden resident for 62 years) 

A Email kindly received from John Sumner on 16th September 2012.
Hi Bryan
Regarding the "newts" in the lodge at the back of Holden Vale Bleachworks. There was quite a lot of varied wildlife in & around the lodge which was actually a catchment area for waste cotton from the mill.
It is quite possible that they came in with the cotton bales as we used to chase allsorts of weird & wonderful things from the bales.
I was actually on the last shift when it closed down & someone mentioned it was to be preserved as a nature reserve because of the wildlife & also because no-one knew how deep it really was.

A Email kindly received from John Sumner on 17th September 2012.

Hi Bryan
Re- reading the blog your corespondant says it was nicknamed 'bleachworks'. It was known as Holden Vale Bleachworks as their main business was the bleaching of cotton.
I spent 8yrs there starting in the dryhouse. Then had a spell as a forklift driver working between the dryhouse & sheeting plant moving the finished product.then had a spell as a floater working between the warehouse, devil hole & wet end before finally ending up as chargehand in the sheeting plant operating the cutter & reeler.
Eventually the dryhouse wrapping area was moved into the sheeting plant so they could cut down on staff.
I still have the company tie that Hercules gave to every member of staff when they took over.It would be good to read your article in the rfp as I haven't read it for years.