Charles Jackson Collection

We have another fabulous photograph collection ready for viewing over on our image website. This collection concentrates around the centre of Bury including many shops, banks, pubs and parks all taken by Bury Photographic Society member, Charles Jackson, during the 1950s and 60s. We have done our best to identify the images. However, there are several which are proving tricky so if anyone out there can help, please head on over to our website for a viewing.

Charles Jackson – Brief Biography

Charles Jackson joined Bury Photographic Society in about 1925. The manager of the C. W. S. (Co-op) Weaving Works, adjacent to the Pilot Mill in Alfred Street, Bury, his reserved occupation enabled him, with a handful of other members, to keep the Society alive during the war years.

A keen printer and exhibitor, Charles often organised the panels for the club’s annual Exhibitions as well as running the club’s own darkroom.

He was, however, best known for his hand coloured lantern slides, which he made his speciality, and for which he received an award in 1949.

Charles was a keen rambler and led many Bury Photographic Society outings to the Yorkshire Dales, often using the Settle and Carlisle Railway. His favourite area was Swaledale, where, it is said, he was usually treated as a local!

Charles was twice President of the Society, in 1946 and 1953.

He died in 1986.

The Collection

The collection was very kindly donated to us by Mr Andrew Gill and arrived as negatives. We have since had these digitised locally and are thrilled with the resulting images! One of my personal favourites is this one:


It took me a while to work out where this little garden is situated; with its smooth lawn and neat shrubs squatting underneath fringes of leaves from young trees – a leafy little oasis under the moody gaze of a gothic church. Popular too, it seems, for the elderly who like to rest and people-watch. Also for young mums with harnessed toddlers, promising them a trip to that place across the road brimming with stories. Are you there yet? I know it looks so different! It’s none other than The Library Gardens on Silver Street.

The church is Bank Street Unitarian Chapel which was the oldest of the dissenting churches in Bury, dating from 1719. The first chapel was replaced by a new building on an adjacent site in 1837, but this proved to have serious defects in construction, and was replaced in turn by a third chapel built in the gothic style (the one we see here) which opened in 1852. This building was demolished in 1970. The current church we know today was built (slightly forward of the old location) in 1972. The gardens are still a place for rest and reflection and maybe a word or two with Victoria Wood.

Sources used:

Charles Jackson biography taken from Introduction to a Memories Photographic Exhibition produced in 2000. With kind permission from Bury Photographic Society. Records held at Bury Archives. Cat Ref RBP

Records of Bank Street Unitarian Church held at Bury Archives. Catalogue Ref CBS

Posted in Donations, Images, Local History | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Frank Sunderland Collection

While our service has been closed to the public, we have been busily digitising new photographic collections to add to our image website. One of these is a set of images which belonged to Frank Sunderland (1918-1999) and were donated to us by a member of the Lancashire Authors’ Association. It is a relatively small collection and the majority of the photographs relate to Radcliffe – which is fabulous because we want our image database to reflect the whole of the Borough, not just Bury.

Writing on the reverse of image: Wednesday 6 June 1956, first dig on Roman Road – abortive. Between Whitehead’s and Bottom Lodge. Left to right: Walter, Olive, Frank Sunderland. Remaining Army huts at top.

Frank was born in Radcliffe in 1918 and attended Stand Grammar School. He qualified as a Chartered Librarian and was appointed Borough Librarian of Radcliffe in 1948. In 1974 he was promoted to Principal Librarian and oversaw the running of all Bury’s Libraries. Frank just couldn’t get enough of libraries (who can blame him?) and, in 1975, became Librarian of the Lancashire Authors’ Association. Whilst in this position, he supervised the relocation of the library twice: from Manchester to Preston and then from Preston to Accrington.

Some of the pictures in this collection you will have seen in Frank Sunderland’s, The Book of Radcliffe (yes, he was an author too!); others you may find are duplicates of what we already hold. However, what makes this collection stand out for me are the fourteen images of men working at Hardcastle’s Ltd (Dye Works). These set of images offer us a captivating glimpse into the working lives of the men who were employed by Hardcastle’s in 1913: from colourers to clerks and fitters to foreman. Being a librarian and historian, Frank would have seen the cultural value of these photographs and has painstakingly identified most of the men pictured. All the information has been added to the website alongside the photographs – so for anyone who had ancestors working at Hardcastle’s you may find a hitherto hidden family-history-gemstone.

Writing on reverse: Copper Roller Room, F. Sipe (engraver).

Hardcastle’s Ltd was situated opposite Coronation Park on New Road in Radcliffe. According to Frank Sunderland in his Book of Radcliffe, it began life in 1865 as a spinning mill by the New Road Mill Co Ltd before being taken over by Hardcastle and Co, firstly as bleachers and then as printers. The firm closed in 1973.

Please follow the link to our image website for more information:


Sunderland, Frank, The Book of Radcliffe, (Baron Birch for Quotes Ltd, 1995)

White, G.W., ‘Obituary Frank Sunderland – 1918-199’, The Records (Lancashire Authors Association, 1999)


Posted in Donations, Images, Photograph of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Box of Photographs

What could be more delightful than a box of photographs? Did someone just shout chocolates? Well maybe … but working in an archive we’re not allowed chocolates; sticky fingers and culturally precious documents don’t mix! One thing’s for sure though – like chocolates (and life) when you open a box of photographs, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’.

The original box in which the photographs came

This box arrived on my desk a few months’ ago, transferred over from Ramsbottom Library. There was no accompanying paperwork or donor details only word that the photographs were handed in at the library some years’ ago; probably before the archives here at Bury came into being.

Reverse of carte-de-visite showing photographer George Haworth from Ramsbottom

On a quick perusal of the photographs there did seem to be a Ramsbottom connection; many of the images carried the studio photographer’s logo: George Haworth of Stubbins Lane, Ramsbottom; some photographs were identified on the reverse linking the subjects to the Ramsbottom and Holcombe area; some were annotated with a date or name but, sadly, many were left blank. There was one in particular which stood out … well … like a nut cluster in a box of mint creams! What’s this got to do with Ramsbottom? A cabinet card photograph of a smartly dressed couple posed outside an ivy-clad house with the photographer’s details emblazoned at the bottom – not our Mr Haworth from Stubbins Lane but some imposter from Todmorden! I was determined to uncover a Ramsbottom connection and so began another journey into the past….

Photograph displaying the name of the photographer: H. Slaney of Todmorden

I had a surname for the couple! On the reverse, in smudgy green felt tip pen, is written MA and FE Hitchon. Underneath, very faintly in pencil, I could read M1903. A marriage in 1903 with the surname Hitchon! I used Lancashire BMD entering the information I had and was delighted to find a Fred Edwin Hitchon married a Margaret Alice Robinson in the registration district of Bury. Surely this must be the couple in the photograph … but why would they use a photographer’s studio in Todmorden?

Reverse of photograph showing annotations

Before plunging into the labyrinthine world of Ancestry I decided to look more closely at the photograph. Although not immediately recognisable as a ‘wedding photograph’ I wondered whether this was a picture taken to celebrate the couple’s marriage perhaps taken a short time after the ceremony. Our photographer, Mr Slaney, has posed the ‘bride’ so that her left hand is gently resting on the table facing the camera – her wedding ring prominent. Her right hand holds a scroll, perhaps to signify the marriage contract? A clever prop which adds balance (the groom’s hands are arranged in symmetry) and meaning to the composition. Hands are notoriously hard to pose and I think even George Haworth would have congratulated Mr Slaney on his expertise in this aspect of portraiture. If I’m correct and we can date the image to the couple’s marriage in 1903, the medals worn would suggest the groom was a veteran of The Boer War (1899-1902). Certainly these are a handsome addition to decorate any groom’s waistcoat: a man of experience and adventure; a man with a story to tell…

Cropped view of photograph showing position of hands

Let’s find out if Ancestry can help with our narrative. The first census where they might appear as man and wife would be in 1911 – I searched all over Lancashire and West Yorkshire without success. Where were they? A new collection offered hope: Lancashire, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1935. Whoa … I couldn’t believe it! A match for Fred Edwin Hitchon in a register for 1905. You’ll never guess where he was living!? Ok yes in Todmorden but at number 13 Plane Street – right next door to the photographer, ‘Harry Slaney’ at number 11. When the sparks from my imagination settled I could plainly see this scenario in my mind’s eye: man returns home from The Boer War, meets woman somewhere in the Bury District, has a job opportunity laid out for him some 20 miles away in Todmorden, a wedding ceremony takes place in their home town (to please the family), then off they go to begin their married life in a new town! Once they’re settled in they have a conversation: ‘there’s a bloke with a camera next door – shall we have a picture to show we’re wed?’ I’m betting it was Fred who suggested it. He needed to show off those medals!

Oh no, this can’t be, I won’t believe it but it’s there right in front of me. I can’t bear look but I have to click into the awful realisation that Fred Edwin was not content fighting in one war, he had to enlist in another: a transcription from a WW1 Pension Ledger and Index Card reveals the death of Corporal Fred Edwin Hitchon with next of kin being Margaret Alice Hitchon. Further down the sombre military listings is another record confirming that he died on 6th August 1916; his enlistment place was Bury and his birth place in Ramsbottom. There’s only one more place for me to go and that’s to our very own soldier database compiled from the local newspapers. And here he is:

Obituary taken from local newspaper.

So there you have it – our intrepid adventurer from Ramsbottom, South Africa, Todmorden, America – is finally laid to rest behind a firing line in France. It’s really hard for me to envision how a man approaching late middle age, after laying his life on the line in one terrible conflict would (using the adverb from the obituary) cheerfully hand himself over in the next. It’s not for me to judge, ‘the past is another country’ … and all that. But my thoughts now lie with Margaret and her two boys, Fred and Joe (yes I did do some more research, it’s addictive!). How one day she looked out of her window at Ducie Street and hoped that the postman would bypass her door. And how many months later he knocked again with three shiny new medals to add to the collection.

Now c’mon folks! However lavishly decorated and promising tastes of paradise, no box of chocolates has ever transported you to so many places, left you with so many thoughts of long-ago people you’ve never met. Turkish Delights? Sorry, there’s no comparison. And what’s more – through careful preservation, our box of photographs will just keep on giving. Telling us more stories from the archives for years to come.

Photograph collection repackaged in archival poly sleeves ready for long term preservation

Sources UK, World War 1 Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923. Original data: World War One Pension Records, The Western Front Association, England. UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919. Original data: British and Irish Military Databases. The Naval and Military Press Ltd. Lancashire, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1935. Original data: Lancashire Electoral Registers. Preston, Lancashire, England: Lancashire Archives.

Photographs catalogued Bury Archives Cat Ref MLP/135


Posted in Bury Remembers the First World War, Photograph of the Month, Voices from the Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Demolition of Philips Park Road Viaduct

This was not your ordinary peaceful Sunday morning in Philips Park, Whitefield; nowhere in sight were the strolling dog walkers in the valley, perhaps once or twice gazing up at the 78ft high structure which had been built long before they were born. This morning, the 28th November, 1965, would be the last time its eight arches formed sentries across the land. Today, heralds The Express, marks viaduct ‘execution’ day!

Philips Park Viaduct. Image from Dorothy Moran Collection held at Bury Archives

On this occasion we might forgive the sensationalist headlines as it was a job that required dramatic action and military precision. In marched territorial sappers from the 42nd Lancashire Division Royal Engineers who, no doubt, helped draw a crowd of two thousand or more – themselves patrolling the borders, an extension of the army; getting ready to bear witness to the monster plumes of smoke which clouded the valley and marked the end of a century’s worth of service. It must have been a morning worth remembering for 17 year old Burnley lad, Peter Lyons, who having been given the order by Major John Timmins, triggered the firing system.

Demolition of Philips Park Road Viaduct on Sunday 28th November 1965. Image from Dorothy Moran Collection held at Bury Archives.

Safety concerns were raised decades earlier after storms had washed away some of the foundations of the viaduct. Disputes then arose surrounding ownership which, in turn, hindered Town Council decision-making. Who actually owned the viaduct? And who was responsible for its maintenance? Thomas Holt, in his book, Pilkington Park, has some suggestions:

I will state what information I have as to who opened the road and built the arches. The second Robert Philips wished to have a coachway to the park without the long detour round Park Lane … Thomas Statter, as agent for the Earl of Derby, who owned the land, desired to open out the district and improve the land values. Also the East Lancashire Railway, who owned the station at Mullineux, wanted a better road to it.

Newspaper reports from March, 1934, stated that Lord Derby had sold the land and was accepting ‘no responsibility for the structure’. And while Miss Philips had always paid for upkeep of the road over the viaduct she would not be liable for any costs relating to what was underneath. The case was presented to a King’s Counsel who came to the conclusion that no one was liable to repair the viaduct.

Three decades later and the collapse of large sections of brickwork in two of the arches finally forced a decision from the Council – to have the whole viaduct demolished! Back to The Express who advised us, ‘explosives had been placed in 171 parts of the 78ft high, 110yd long structure.’ Said Major John: “Everything went according to plan. In fact, every brick just about fell where we wanted it to.”


Newspaper articles and photographs taken from our Dorothy Moran Collection. Archives Catalogue number FDM

Holt, Thomas, Pilkington Park: An account of Whitefield, Besses o’ th’ barn and their parish, (Prestwich & Whitefield Guide, 1962).

Posted in Photograph of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Portrait of a Soldier

After we were awarded Heritage Lottery Funding for our project, ‘Bury Remembers the First World War’, the years 2014 to 2018 were a very special time for us here at Bury Archives! Along with a fabulous crew of volunteers we were able to fulfil our quest to extract and digitise the thousands of soldier images and obituaries which featured in local newspapers during the period of WW1. The project attracted a lot of attention in our community, not least from a group of artists named ‘The Bury Collective’. After presenting them with articles and images extracted from the local press, a whole new body of work emerged consisting of lino prints, etchings, canvases, wood-burnt images and even pottery! All of them signifying an act of remembrance in some way while paying tribute to the many locals who lost their lives during WW1.

Exhibition at The Met, Bury, of artwork produced from the project

This arresting portrait, painted by local artist, Dennis Markuss, is one we’d like to share with you to commemorate Remembrance Day.

I asked Dennis the inspiration behind the painting:

This painting was done as part of a project with artists in The Bury Collective to commemorate The Great War. It was inspired by an obituary in a Bury newspaper announcing Private Leonard Barker being killed in action. What struck me was the contrast between his peacetime job at Messrs. Isherwood’s hat shop and his death in war. I wanted to show him in a helmet partly as a reference to his job, and almost as if he was behind a shop counter, but with the ‘thousand yard stare’ that soldiers develop in warfare.

Below is a transcription of the obituary:

Mrs Barker, of 172, Wood Street, Bury received a War Office notification yesterday morning that her husband, Private Leonard Barker (1997) of the C Company 1st 5th Lancashire Fusiliers (T.F.), had been killed in action. Private Barker was called up on August 9th last year and proceeded to Turton. He was previously on the National Reserve. His name is on the All Saints’ roll of honour and he was a member of the Conservative Club, Elton. In time of peace he was employed at Messrs. Isherwood’s hat shop. Mrs Barker has received letters of sympathy from Sergeant J. White and Private W. Isherwood, on behalf of the non-commissioned officers and men of her late husband’s company, and also Lord Kitchener’s message of sympathy from the King and Queen.

The soldier’s eyes, looking past the viewer and into the distance, powerfully convey Dennis’s intention to create the ‘thousand yard stare’ of traumatised service men de-humanised by warfare. Yet much more is communicated through this heavy-lidded gaze – it almost feels like an appeal for empathy. As viewers we can respond to this appeal and identify the human emotions reflecting back at us: despair; hurt and suffering; fear; sadness and, perhaps, resignation. His helmet, although signifying his military role, is framed by light – a kind of spiritual glow which rises above him. This and the soft pastel green of his jacket creates an aura of serenity in contrast to a scene of battle. Once we know the story behind the painting it makes us aware of the lives these men left behind: for Leonard Barker, what could be more peaceful than standing behind a counter helping the people of Bury choose their hats?

You can see more of Dennis’s remarkable artwork on Facebook

Posted in Bury Remembers the First World War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo Donation of the Month: St Chad’s Violin Class

This splendid class photograph was donated to us by Joan Lord who had acquired it from the home of the Riding family from Phoenix Street, Bury. The inscription on the back of the photo reads: ‘St Chad’s Violin Class, winners of the 1st Prize, Bury Music Festival, 30th April 1909’. After checking the 1911 census and finding there were two daughters living at 29 Phoenix Street: Hannah aged 17 and her sister, Jessie, aged 13, Joan helpfully suggested that one of these girls may be pictured.

St Chad’s Violin Class, April 1909

While The Bury Times published the results of the various competitions held during the festival in 1909, unfortunately, individuals in these larger classes are not named. What we do learn, however, is how well St Chad’s Violin Class played their piece, ‘March from Eli’ by Costa:

“Accuracy good, a really capital tone, full and smooth; intonation also remarkably good;
bowing appeared good, plenty of bow being used; a capital sense of rhythm; the portion
in F major was played with nice singing tone, but the quavers were rather hurried;
a good attack, well in hand and well drilled – 72 marks”

The children’s violin classes were set for competitors under the age of 14; looking at the ages of the Riding girls in 1911 it would seem that Jessie would be about the right age to compete. Another reference to the Riding family can be found in Michael H. Helm’s book, The History of St Chad’s C. of E. School, Fishpool, Bury; commenting on the school’s success at the music festival, Helm reveals the St Chad’s violinists were nicknamed “Daddy Riding’s Violin Band because he gave them weekly tuition”. Checking back to the 1911 census we find that the ‘Daddy’ of the house is William Alfred Riding whose occupation is a ‘furniture salesman’ (could he be part-time violin teacher too?). If the research fits the picture there would have been a lot to celebrate in the evening of 30th April, 1909, at number 29 Phoenix Street. Much congratulations from father to daughter with a warning, perhaps for next time, not to hurry those quavers!


Posted in Donations, Photograph of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VE Day 1945: a town’s celebration

Using three editions of The Bury Times newspaper published just after VE day in 1945 we discover how the town celebrated this momentous occasion in history. Be inspired by archives.

Out of the darkness…

…there was light. Both literal and metaphorical: people turned their faces from years and years of rooms without views to welcome in the day’s light. It was contagious, so much so that after the new spring light had dimmed towards the end of the day night lights were lit, some by the Channel Island Evacuees, to decorate window sills in rainbow coloured jars; little miracle pots of light which burned all night. For passers-by looking in, the display of warmth and glow would have been a stark contrast to the blacked-out windows which had punctuated their streets for so long:

There are spears of light in the grim darkness.
The night is ending, and dawn, sweet and serene
is breaking.

(Bury Times, Saturday May 12th, 1945, Pg 4)

What to do with all this dark material that had served our town so well? Members of the Women’s Voluntary Service, experienced in distributing clothes for those in need, now turned their thoughts to dressing servicemen stationed on the Norfolk coast. We can’t have our Lancashire Fusiliers dilly-dallying through the waves without a pair of decent-fitting trunks! Duly and dutifully they shaped those blackout-blinds into soldiers’ bathing costumes. Parcelled for the attention of Major R Trevor Roper, 6th Infantry Holding Battalion, Hunstanton, Norfolk.

VE Day Street Party, Infant St, Prestwich. From Dorothy Moran Collection, Bury Archives.

On Infant Street in Prestwich and Ivy Road in Elton, householders reached into their linen cupboard to air their best spot-clean tablecloths, spreading them over the trestles outside their front doors. The swathes of white reflecting the sun lit up the faces of children as they took in what was before them: Never before had they seen such food! A reporter shook his head and noted down, “some households will be on short rations for a few days”.

Image taken from Bury Times, Saturday 12th May, 1945.

More light

After the children had finished their taste of partying the night promised more. Parents were eager for their boys and girls to be lost in “the thrill of fireworks” where “the crack of rip-raps” and “exploding rockets” may have made some folk wonder upon the notion of peace. Bonfires were lit, some alight by the side of air-raid shelters where once they’d gathered, gas-masks in hand, to share a mix of hopes and fears.

For grown-ups, the public houses were granted an hour’s extension. The dance halls, including the Palais and Derby Hall, allowed music and dancing to carry on past midnight. Well into the night people “waltzed from war into peace”. In the Market Place a farandole was performed around the tram stop, while others chose the Peel Monument to be their dancing partner.

Image taken from Bury Times, Saturday May 12th, 1945


Sunday 12th May marked the official thanksgiving day for the whole nation. Every church in Bury and the surrounding townships welcomed in a congregation ready to share their gratitude. The two services at Bury’s parish church gave thanks firstly to the military, secondly to the townspeople with a special mention for workers and the part they played in wartime services.

Image taken from Bury Times, Wednesday May 16th, 1945

Above the singing congregation, the walls of the church reflected ‘battle honours’ from past wars; for most of them this would not have been the first time they were assembled together offering praise and thanks for a conflict’s end. The rector gave them hope:

It is for us to embody, to bring to its maturity,
and display in all its glory, the idea of unity in diversity;
to make it plain to the world that such a way of life
not only works, but works better than anything else;
to show that it is both possible and uplifting for people
to do different things, follow different traditions and hold
and propagate different views without impairing the underlying unity.

(Canon Hornby’s address to the congregation, Bury Times, Wednesday May 16th, 1945, pg 1)

Interior shot Bury Parish Church taken August 2014

Disgusted Ratepayer

A list of criticisms came from this quarter aimed at the Town Council. Why hadn’t they opened up the coffers and splashed out on something flash to decorate the town! The Derby Hall had nowt, one paltry Union Jack bedecked the electricity showrooms and a few ‘dirty flags’ hung miserably from the transport offices! Not good enough, an utter disgrace! What about all that bunting used for the Royal Visit? Why couldn’t Bury be like Whitefield? This neighbouring township was easily the best in show with masses of bunting, clean flags AND coloured lights!

The Town Council had their reasons and may have taken to heart Winston Churchill’s acknowledgement, in his VE day announcement, that there was still work to be done: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.” Yes there were those throughout the town who still had loved ones in the Far East: “hundreds of families with men-folk fighting in the East will not really celebrate until those boys are home”.

The Italians love their children too

At Warth Mill Camp a hundred or so German prisoners would not believe their country had been beat; amidst the firing rockets and searchlights they kept close, “their faith in the fallen Wehrmacht”. Hang on a minute! Another reporter has more enlightened news: some of these same prisoners turned their floodlights towards the neighbouring Bolam Housing Estate, reflecting the help they’d given during the day to prepare victory parties.

Imprisoned in a mill at Burrs, Italian POWs sought comfort in the knowledge they would soon be home with their children. Memories spoke to them warmly from the cold brick walls.

Star Bleach Mill, Burrs, Italian POW artwork, image taken c.1979 from Graham Cooper Collection, Bury Archives

The other day’s news

There was a reward for the safe return of a grey and black tabby kitten, a family mourned its loss at 38 Union Street.

A nest of chicks toppled from a gas lamp on Ainsworth Road, despite Bury Corporation Gas Department’s best efforts the baby birds did not survive.

Ainsworth Bill argued with Ainsworth Joe over the next ‘V’ Day celebrations. There should be a special thanksgiving for the reinstatement of the Cockey Moor bus stop: says Bill, “wey’n bin feightin’ for’t bus stop o’ this while” – why should our little war finish because, “nowt’s bin said about it on’t wireless”.


Inspiration for this piece is taken from:

Reports in The Bury Times, Wednesday May 9th 1945, Saturday May 12th 1945 and Wednesday May 16th 1945.

Churchill, Winston (8th May, 1945) “End of the war in Europe” International Churchill Society, available at: accessed May 7th 2020


Posted in Voices from the Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Spirit of a Town: Graham Cooper & Douglas Sargent Photographic Archive

Back in 2016, Graham Cooper donated a slide collection which consists of over 300 images taken during the late 1970s and early 1980s of Bury, as Graham describes, ‘at the threshold of change’.

Editing the slides during lockdown 2020

In his publication, Sense of Place: Outside Art in Bury, Graham refers to this collection of Kodachrome slides as, ‘examples of individual creativity as expressed in the decoration of homes, ornately adorned public houses and various other forms of novel measures which were also aesthetically appealing’. Graham and his photographer friend, Douglas Sargent, undertook a journey which sought out these forms of local outdoor art; forty years on from the images being created we get to see which features were identified in creating the ‘spirited nature of a town’.

Graham Cooper’s publication, ‘Sense of Place’

For all of you who were living in Bury during the 1970s and 1980s, these images will have a powerful effect on the memory! You will really start to feel that sense of place. Ask me how I know? I witnessed two very strong reactions: one from former Archivist, Helen Lindsay, who was thrown (with a jolt!) straight back to her childhood and her memories of Birtle Church; the other reaction was from Stephen Perry (who helped scan the images) – he chased himself back to his schoolboy-days when he and his friends gathered, causing mischief? (no we don’t believe that!), on street corners. Let’s see the images and read what they have to say:

Mural of Christ and the Fisherman, Birtle Church Hall. c.1979.

Helen and her memories of Birtle Church Hall:

This magnificent mural adorned the wall of Birtle Church Hall, on Castle Hill Road. The Hall played host to hundreds of events and groups such as Brownies, Guides, Recorder Group, Playschool, Harvesters, Sunday School and Keep Fit, not to mention the countless jumble sales, coffee mornings and seasonal fairs held throughout the year.

Sadly the Hall was demolished to make way for housing but thankfully Graham recorded the interior for posterity as part of his brilliant photographic archive.

When I first saw this image it stopped me in my tracks and instantly I was transported back to the 1970s and, dressed in my Brownie uniform, gathered with my contemporaries singing around a toadstool, (not a real one) or playing a vigorous game of British Bulldog. I think I was an Elf (the yellow ones) and only ever attained one badge, Safety in the Home. To this day I always ensure that saucepan handles are turned inwards. A useful skill to have!

Stephen and his memories of Bell Lane:

Bell Lane/St Paul’s St, c.1979. ‘Distinctive window configuration’.

Having recently moved back to Bury after decades away, I was delighted to be transported back to the Bell Lane of my childhood, prior to the demolition! This image of the area on St Paul’s Street reacquainted me with Mr and Mrs Albert Berry from No. 2A. I recall them having an immaculate house full of antiques, and a beautifully manicured garden which was situated at the double-fronted rear of the property.

Another fond memory: The Grapes pub on Bell Lane/St Paul’s Street. The street lamp on the corner was a place where children congregated and could be quite noisy! Aunt Mary’s (Mary Warburton) hardware shop was next door to The Grapes (this property had moved from near Berry’s Yard when those properties were demolished). All now a distant memory for me so it’s great to be transported back in time.

The Grapes public house on Bell Lane/St Paul’s Street. c.1979. ‘Ornately adorned public house’.

This article isn’t intended to be a full-on exploration of why the images were taken; Graham’s retrospective vision of the reasons behind the shots can be gleaned from his Sense of Place publication. However, an awareness of their conception should be borne in mind when viewing them as a complete archive; it can then be appreciated how challenging this venture must have been. Armed with a camera and a quest to search the neighbourhoods for all types of both recognised and informal art must have presented a dilemma: what to include and what not? Browsing the images will enable you to become the photographer’s eye – you will then see: ceremonial architecture; commercial advertising; Bay City Rollers graffiti; garden ornaments; prisoners’ of war reminiscences; spitfires on brick; a Van Gogh bus shelter … and so much more. It seems that Graham and Douglas, quite literally, left no stone unturned!

No stone left unturned: Steam Tank Engines Graffiti by railway workers created c.1900

From Helen and Stephens’ memories coupled with the rationale behind the images we discover the visual language which is intrinsic in every photograph we create. Images from the past, especially, offer multiple ways of connecting with us; they evoke memory, spark conversation and fire our imagination. These three aspects knit our community together (so important in these uncertain times) and allow us to celebrate our heritage – a shared ‘sense of place’. Archives of photographs are unique and special and need to be preserved, as Graham very eloquently states in his publication:

Although it is important, where possible, to understand the context by visiting such community assets in situ, please note many of the examples illustrated…may no longer exist and are lost without trace. They now exist in the collective memory and photographs available to the public in the Archive.

Working from home has allowed me time to prepare these images, along with their accompanying data in a format ready to be uploaded to our new website. We will keep you posted with our progress and certainly let you know when the images have been added.

Graham Cooper was born in Bury in 1949. He left his home town in 1975 to study mural applications at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington. He was based in London until c.1998 and then moved to Sidmouth, Devon, where he currently lives with his family. Check out his website for further information on projects he’s been involved in.

Grateful thanks to Stephen Perry and Daniel Cooke who did a fantastic job of scanning the slides.


Cooper, Graham, Sense of Place: Outside Art in Bury (Harmonie Press, 2016)

Posted in Donations, Images, Photograph of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Photo Donation of the Month: Birth and Death of a Mill Chimney

A couple of months’ ago we were asked to carry out some research into the history of Bury Boot & Shoe (formerly Woodhill Mills) off Brandlesholme Rd. The request came from an interior designer who was carrying out renovation work on the mill building (now Wharfside Apartments). It’s always a complex business delving into a building’s past and Woodhill Mill was no exception, especially as the place existed well before building plans had to be submitted to the local authority for approval around 1860.

A lot of groundwork had been covered in an archaeological survey carried out by Matrix Archaeology in 2005. We have a copy of the resulting publication and it makes fascinating reading – it’s available to view here in the search room, should anyone wish to do so.

Mill chimney at the side of Bury Boot & Shoe Co. 1982

During our research we managed to locate the original building plan for a new mill chimney dated June 1903 – it was to be a towering structure that once built reached 60 yards into the sky! There is an interesting piece of oral history quoted in the archaeological survey from a John Yates whose mother witnessed the chimney being built from her home at nearby Woodhill Cottage. John recalls how the hole being dug for the foundations of the chimney was so huge that his mother was afraid their cottage would collapse! He also remembered seeing a photograph of the chimney being felled, “but where the picture is now I have no idea”.

Plan of new mill chimney for Woodhill Mill, 1903

Not long after we’d carried out the research, and exhausted the resources we hold here, we were visited by an ex-employee of Bury Boot and Shoe who kindly donated a block plan of the mill building and some photographs of the chimney demolition carried out in 1982. Perhaps these were the same images seen by John!*

North West Steeplejacks; felling of mill chimney, 1982.

The photographs have now joined the building plan and have helped to create another story from the archives! We have a beginning: a design for a new chimney which once building work commenced put fear into a local woman as she saw the ground opening up close to her cottage; we then have an ending – when the North West Steeplejacks arrived to knock it down. What happened in between? It would have been a dominating presence in the lives of the folk who lived nearby and we’re sure they all have their own stories to tell.

* We’ve since been advised that the photograph John Yates was relating to was one of the demolition of the original mill chimney demolished when the featured chimney was erected in 1903. For more information see comments below.


Matrix Archaeology, Bury Boot & Shoe Co, Woodhill Mill, Brandlesholme Road, Bury: Archaeological recording, (2005)


Posted in Photograph of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stand United Reformed Church: An Expanding Archive

As each year passes we welcome in more and more church records; some wait to be catalogued into new and exciting collections where others join existing ones – helping to create a comprehensive archival record of a church’s history.

The old Stand Chapel built 1792 and demolished to make way for the new church in 1885.

Stand Lane Independent Church is an example of an archive which keeps on growing! And with the church closing its doors to regular worship, we have opened ours to include another set of carefully preserved documents and photographs to add to our collection.

Part of the new donation of records.

The history of Stand Lane Independent Church at Chapelfield is well documented; not only as an archive in our holdings but in the many local history publications that sit on our shelves. Reading about the church is one thing, seeing its historical documents another but to hear stories told by one of the congregation added another dimension to this extraordinary archive!

Church Secretary, Renata Cappelli.

We were entertained this way when we visited the church at the end of last year. While handing over the extensive set of building plans, church publications and photographs, Church Secretary, Renata, regaled memories of the congregation at Chapelfield; taking us back in time and introducing us to ministers from long ago.

Rev Richard Slate
A newspaper article printed after his death describes Rev Slate as a “tiny, careful, smoothly-earnest man, consistent and faithful as a minister made more for quiet sincere work than dashing labour or dazzling performance”. After listening to Renata, we know better! This diminutive gentleman, along with fellow Reverend from Farnworth Church and armed only with their sermons, marched into Pendlebury to convert the ‘heathens’! Did they succeed? Not exactly … the people from Pendlebury were having none of it and chased the pastors away, pelting them with stones for good measure!

Rev Richard Slate, minister from 1809 to 1826.

Rev Alexander Anderson
In the church’s souvenir booklet of the Grand Bazaar 1897, a character sketch of Rev Anderson draws on his benevolent nature – his ministry is regarded as one of “a lifetime of singularly beautiful and devoted service”. Renata confirms this with tales of his kindness and consideration for the poor and destitute during the cotton famine of the 1860s: so moved was he that he sold his own furniture, books and clothes to provide food for the victims.

Rev Alexander Anderson, minister from 1852 to 1894. This enlarged portrait was on display in the Sunday School ‘so that his face may become familiar to the younger generation’.

It was a real pleasure to meet Renata and her tour of this beautiful building gave further insight into the church’s history. We were shown the breath-taking memorial window of Rev Anderson.

Memorial window of Rev Alexander Anderson.

And also of prominent member of the congregation, Walker Allen.

Section of memorial window for Walker Allen.

Below are some other images taken during our visit:

Amongst the records we collected from Renata are an extensive set of architectural plans, drawings and sketches. They’re perhaps the largest and most complete set of plans we’ve ever seen, the most surprising being a blueprint for the memorial trowel (presumably used for the laying of the foundation stone).

Drawing of the memorial trowel, 1884.

The records have now been repackaged, listed and accessioned and are ready for integration with the existing collection. Check out the entry on our catalogue using Catalogue Ref No. CSI for more details.


Posted in Donations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment