Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Haslingden Corporations Horses....

There was no rush them days… I can clearly remember when the old Haslingden Cart Horse would clip clop along Blackburn Road and down Hud Hey to Carr Hall Street, where the carts and horses were kept.

It would be in the 1950s that I remember, “Owd Jord” (or was it owd jerg? ) as he was called, probably short for Jordan. He used to be in charge of the horses and drive the cart, it was a big thick wooden cart, sort of pink coloured, not unlike “pink primer” paint. I can picture “Owd Jord”, a small stocky chap who always wore a black beret, and I remember his gruff voice has he gave orders to his horse. I can remember one of the jobs I used to see them on quite regular, and that was cleaning out the roadside drains, and the contents would go in the back of the cart and later must have been emptied at the Carr Hall Street Depot.

There were definitely two horses, could well have been three and they were stabled well within the Council building itself, the horses would walk inside by a small corridor (stone floored) until they reached their stables. I think they did away with the horses in the early 1970s. 

I used to have to go through to the weighbridge clerk and you would pass the stable section, in fact now and again one of the horses would have its head sticking out of the stable door (half door), and would always welcome a quick pat has you were passing…

Also close to hand was Bert Marsden the local smithy, who had his blacksmiths at the bottom corner of the Haslingden Corporation yard in Carr Hall Street, which also cornered to the railway sidings. Bert was always on hand to sort out the Town’s horses. I spent hours down at Bert’s and he was always kept busy with horses, in fact I would have thought that he shoed most of the local farmers and other peoples horses.

Horses and horse power obviously played a major role in the earlier development of Haslingden and so here I have included a rare photo below of one of the Haslingden Corporation horses (probably from around the 1920s, and also some other photos of Haslingden businesses who again depended on horses to aide their trades. 1) taken in 1900 of Robert Berry in Bell Row, with Glovers Printworks in the rear.. 2) Walter Holland (Hollands Pies) early delivery cart, taken at the Kirk Show in Newchurch. 3) Ed Holmes with Constantine and Lindsays Cart - Ryefield Avenue.. 4) Getting ready for the Mayday Show. 5) Taylor's Butchers of Haslingden. 6) Luke Ralph - Tinsmith who had his first workplace at the Top O'th Town. 7) Richard Holmes delivery milk in Blackburn Road, Haslingden...

I also remember helping out regularly on a Saturday morning as a boy on the John Gibbons (farmer) milk cart (or float as some would call them) , of Higher Hud Hey Farm. Over the period I helped out their had been two different milkmen: Derek and then later Donald Brennan from Rawtenstall. It was great those days we would pour the milk out of big alluminium milk churns and would use measured "gill" (pronounced Jill) ladles to scoop the milk.

This is a photo postcard kindly sent in by Jim Nuttall, and shows his relation Uncle Moses Ball at the reins of the cart of W.M. Holden (Fruit and Vegetable Merchants) of Haslingden and Bury. 


Bert Marsden the Blacksmith and the Carr Hall Street Smithy - also Bill Nelson who later took over the smithy.

Carr Hall Street Smithy - If ever a man could shod a horse - Bert' was your man!
Picture's not kind but will have to do for now until I can possibly find a photo of him
"Hassy had a man called Bert, best smithy in town,
From old school was Bert who had some shout!
You didn’t mess with him if you knew what’s about.
He stood tall, and well over six foot, with trilby on tilt,
White shirt with sleeves rolled up, and stout built,
A brown leather apron and a hammer in one hand

That was our Bert."

Fantastic! a photo of the great man himself - Bert Marsden (Blacksmith) - Click over to enlarge)
Never thought we would get one and here it is thanks to Stephen and Joan Nuttall. Joan and
her family (nee Watson) were good friends with their neighbours Bert and Beattie and it
the photo shows from L to R . Mr. Watson with his daughter Dot and Bert in the deckchair.

To Joan and her sisters he was known as Uncle Bert and was a friend of Joan's mum and dad (Arthur and Letitia Watson). Joan's family and Bert and his wife Beattie (Aunty Beattie lived next door to each other for many years (25 and 27 Park Street).

It wasn't unheard of for Joan to go out in to the back yard only to find a horse in the yard next door which Bert was dealing with.  The back yards were quite small so not much room for a big horse and a big man.

Another great photo which shows Bert and Beattie Marsden on the right hand side (Click over to enlarge)
With friends on the promenade
Photo: Kindly shared with us by Stephen and Joan Nuttall

"I that's about reet as I remember as a young lad and later on has a young teenager".

"Bert Marsden was the man", he had his place at the bottom of Carr Hall Street, just off Hud Hey. It was attached to the bottom corner of the old Haslingden Corporation Yard and you would also pass it if you had decided to walk along the old sidings with all the coal trucks being used by William Henry Shaw (Coal Merchants). Or if you had decided to cross over the railway into the old "laundry" (previously a tripe works) or you had decided to continue over to Martin Croft.

This is all thats left of Bert's and later Bill's - Smithy on Carr Hall Street (photo 2003)

He was a big burly man and I guess you would think you had probably met John Wayne in real life to see Bert - He stood tall (and I mean tall) with large trilby on a tilt, you rarely saw him without his trilby on.  He would stand there proud with his white "grandad" type low necked shirt with sleeves rolled up always on the ready. He would have his leather apron on which must have weighed a absolute "ton". and then he would have his steel hammer in one hand ready to beat "heck" out of a shoe on the old anvil. All his hammers were self made along with chisels and all sorts which he could make out of steel.  More important he made all his own horse shoes.

I used to spend hours as a child watching Bert. Even in sweltering sunshine he would have his fire going, giving it a regular quick blast of the bellows, he was never happy until the fire had a "white centre" and his shoes were like glistening pieces of gold! and just before he would "dunk" it in the nearby tubs of water.

If you knew what's good, you did not mess about with Bert, he was a man who told you straight in no uncertain terms, he never beat about the bush and said things straight to the point, he could always give far better than he got! I suppose at first you might have felt a little intimated with the roar and bigger than life posture from Bert, but once you got to know him you soon realised he was one of the "Salt of the Earth" type of chaps.

This one wasn't Bert's but it is the same type, yet his was a light green colour, the same colour thats shown here on the bottom section of the car
Even his car fitted his presence it was a really large green rover and he looked ideally suited behind the driving wheel.  I remember once or twice going along with Bert, Harry Wilky and Harry Barton to the Wrestling over in Belle Vue, Manchester and I think Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo, Steve Logan and Les Kellett were on the bill, it was a absolute scream of a night.  But getting back to tale, riding in his large Rover, was like riding in a limousine, it was so big, commanding and so comfortable.

I know for a fact Bert shod all the Corporation horses which were stabled almost next door in the corporation yard.  Also local farmers all brought their horses and all the young girls brought their ponies along to Bert to be shod.  So I don't think he did so bad for business, whenever I saw him he was always busy.

I loved to watch how he had the knack to handle and manoevre those big farm cart horses that seemed so tall I wondered how on earth they ever got through the door, but they did.  He would be out with his "shaveblade" and trim down the horses hoof so it was level and ready to accept the new shoes which were put onto the hoof shortly after they came out of the fire and still hot and after a quick dunking in water. With the noise of sizzling and a cloud of smoke "like a puffing billy", and the horrible smell of the burning shoe against the hoof! but that's the way he did it to get a snug fit for the horse, then he would take if off again and trim down more till he got it so he was happy and then nail up.  The nails where again home made and about 2 -3"in length.

When Bert packed up the smithy was left empty for some time but eventually local farmer Bill Nelson "took up the reigns".

It was interesting to read the following newspaper cutting about Bill Nelson taking up the vacant Smith job. Here below is "Bills" newspaper article:

Bill Nelson busy at the anvil
He answered Haslingden's "S.O.S." for a Blacksmith - BILL LIKES WORK, BUT NEEDS MORE OF IT.....

Bill Nelson is 21, the son of a farmer and is happy in his work.
He's a blacksmith, one of the youngest in the country.  But if things don't look up soon, the Carr Hall Street smithy, which Bill offered to run following an "S.O.S" from Haslingden Corporation to Rossendale farmers, will have to be closed - and Haslingden will be without a blacksmith again.

He doesn't want to have to do that, if it can be helped, but he told the Observer, "I'm not getting half as many horses as I need if the place is to pay for itself."
Bill had only 18 months experience behind him, plus "odd-jobbing" with horses shoes on his father's farm at Friar Hill, Baxenden, when he became "Haslingden's blacksmith" about four months ago.
But he has learned a lot about shoeing horses - and his customers appreciate it.  There may not be many horses in Haslingden, but their owners always take them to Bill's smithy when they want new shoes.  "I try to do a good job." he said with a grin "but, you know you don't need just brawn in this job.  That's not really as important as having had good experience in smithy work and in being able to make friends with horses."


Bill is no giant - but he can bend a horse shoe to his requirements and wield a 15lb hammer as easily as you could, for instance, pick up an empty shopping basket. Alright." we said to Bill, "don't tell us it all comes with experiences"
Did you know that a blacksmith makes his own shoes? The iron, when he receives it, is in straight bars about a foot long but it's surprising as Bill pointed out, just what you can do with a piece of iron when its white hot.
Bill thinks he's fortunate in having a good smithy in which to work.  "This is ideal for the purpose" he said "and it's got practically all the equipment a smith needs."
Like everything else a blacksmith has to move with the times - and that means that, for heating up the fire, bellows are out.  No longer does the smith need to spend energy on blowing up the bellows - nowadays he just moves a lever and the smoke goes up the chimney via an electrically inspired draught.
Bill has a machine, too, for drilling nail holes in the shoes, so we had to admit he was right when he said that brains matter more than brawn now - even in a smithy.


There are all kinds of shoes, it seems, depending on the type of horse, and on the work it does - or does not do, according to the sort of life it leads.  Bill shoes carthorses, light working horses and ponies from other districts.  For these a special light shoe is used - some, made of aluminium, weigh only two ounces.
There are shoes with rubber bars to prevent the heavy carthorse from slipping, frost studs for wintry weather and shoes with iron bars to act as a "brake" when the horse wants to stop in a hurry.
Some of the horses that pay a five-weekly visit to his smithy are far from docile, and although they could be "gagged" with a special instrument, Bill doesn't like to do that, unless it's absolutely necessary.  So he has to resort to all kinds of ingenious tricks to keep his "patient" quiet.
One horse, brought in by two young girls, was so nervous that he just couldn't be shod - so the girls went out for a couple of two pound loaves, gave them to the placated horse - and on went the shoes, without any more trouble.  Even horses can fight shy when they go for a pair of new shoes, it seems.


Bill, young as he is, can remember the time when the smithy he occupies at present was shoeing more than 80 horses every week.  But times have changed; many farmers have gone over to lorries and cars and use horses only for general work.  So bill, realising that he cannot hope to get more than a few horses in Haslingden, is hoping to attract custom from other areas.  "The snag," he pointed out to us, "is that most horse owners will not walk a few miles, no matter how good the smith is, if they can get their horses shod nearer home.  Maybe you cant blame them, but it doesn't help me to make a success of this job."
And it is because he is not getting enough customers that Bill is seriously thinking of vacating the tenancy of the smithy.  At the moment, he shoes horses only by appointment, the rest of the time he helps out on the farm.
"But this job comes first" he said, "and I would gladly make it a full time job if the work was there."
And he would.  If you saw him at work in his smithy you'd know why- he likes his job.
(Thanks to Haslingden Roots and Jackie Ramsbottom for the "Bill Nelson" article

Monday, 10 May 2010

Haslingden Gas Works - Gas Street, off Grane Road.

Haslingden Gas Works was down Gas Street which was off Grane Road, down the side of the new units which used to be Frozen Foods Works and also down by the Arran Nurseries. (Please click over photo to enlarge) ...