A Victorian Wedding Dress Revisited

In March 1844 Sarah Fletcher and James W. Kenyon were married in Bury Parish Church.  120 years later, in 1964, Sarah’s wedding dress and James’s waistcoat were donated to the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection at Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley.

Curators from Gawthorpe Hall

Over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd November both of these beautiful items returned to Bury Parish Church as part of the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection-curated ‘A Victorian Wedding Revisited’ project, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. We were lucky enough to meet up with the curators during the exhibition and they very kindly allowed us to photograph the display; it was such a privilege to examine the detail of these garments up close.

Prior to the event, curators from Gawthorpe Hall visited Bury Archives to undertake research into the Kenyon family and were accompanied by James and Sarah’s great-grandson, Mike Hopkinson – we met Mike again during the exhibition and he was more than happy to pose beside the bride and groom!

Mike Hopkinson, the bride and groom’s great grandson

A wedding dress would have been an expensive purchase so they were designed to be worn more than once.  On this particular dress the skirt and cape could be detached and worn separately with different outfits.

Mr Kenyon’s family were drapers with premises in Market Place, Bury, so they would have had access to good-quality cloth and haberdashery for the elaborate buttons, trims and fringing.  Originally the dress would have been a paler pink colour but has changed over time, gradually transforming into its present deeper, rose-gold hue, which happens to be very on-trend!



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Captain Charles Sydney Parsons 1891 – 1957

Ahead of the WW1 centenary over four years ago, we put a call out for donations of WW1 documents and photographs. What we aimed to do was gather together as many records as we could to preserve in our archive so that we might go on remembering the stories these items have to tell both during the centenary and on into the future.

Bury Archives arranged for Captain Parson’s scrapbook to be restored by a professional conservator from Manchester Archives

One of the first people to come forward was the then Reference Librarian, Penney Farrell, whose grandfather, Charles Sydney Parsons, fought at Gallipoli. After the war, her grandfather kept a scrapbook of memories from his time in service. There are some fascinating documents in this family archive: along with the scrapbook there are photographs; diary and letter excerpts; aerial photographs of enemy trenches; trench maps and a neck X-ray, taken in France when Captain Parsons was wounded by shrapnel.

Field Message to Captain Parsons

To commemorate the Armistice Centenary, we have put together a number of displays in our search room cabinets. Captain Parsons’ is the latest one to be featured.

Captain C. S. Parsons

Penney chose not to donate the records to the archive but loan them to us for the duration of the WW1 centenary. Reading extracts from her grandfather’s letters and diaries I can understand the reluctance to let go this captivating legacy. Captain Parsons’ incredible account of his experiences in Gallipoli is a thankful reminder (especially to his direct descendants) that he survived and was given the chance to marry, have children and carry on his name through the generations.

Aerial photograph of enemy trenches

Other documents from the collection including a Christmas card from 1917

Extracts from letters home

Captain Parsons describes the horror of the trenches:

“The Helles front was far more gruesome than the Suvla front, for not only were there heaps of unburied bodies out in front of the trenches, but many of the trenches themselves were cut through old graves, so that there were heaps of places which smelt like grave yards, and in which the bodies were quite exposed to view, and they were all in varying stages of decomposition, varying from the skeleton stage up to the almost fresh stage.”

His relief after spending 23 consecutive days in the firing line and the successful evacuation of Suvla:

“That night I slept like a log on the floor of the ward-room of one of our battleships, underneath a table. It is surprising what extraordinary places one gets used to sleeping in when on active service; I reckon I shall prefer to sleep under rather than on top of a civilised bed next time I get into a house.”

His deep sadness at the loss of comrades on Christmas Eve 1915:

“Unfortunately what little pleasure we might have extracted from Christmas was absolutely knocked on the head by a very sad event which occurred on Christmas eve evening. My company commander and 2nd Lieut. Straight (the newly married Canadian officer from the 12th) went down to the beach to do a little shopping (clothes etc), and to our surprise did not turn up to dinner. Eventually at about 8.30 pm we received a message from which it appeared that they had been killed by a bomb dropped from a Turkish or Bulgarian aeroplane on the beach. It was an awful shock to all of us…”

Photographs and documents from this collection will be on display in the search room for the rest of 2018.


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Donation of the Month: Rifleman Edmund Kaye

We’re reposting the following blog article, written in January 2016, as items relating to Rifleman Edmund Kaye are now on show in the archive’s search room to mark the Armistice and centenary of the ending of WW1.

Bury Archives & Local History

Back in October last year we were contacted by Mr. Bernard Kaye who requested information on how to donate documents and photographs relating to his grandfather, Rifleman Edmund Kaye (from Radcliffe) who was killed in action during World War One. We informed Bernard that we would be delighted to accept the documents into our archives and in return would digitise them and provide the family with a copy of the originals.

IMG_8088 Rifleman Edmund Kaye

The collection includes Army Forms, correspondence from the War Graves Commission, photographs and letters sent from Edmund to his young daughter, Hilda and his wife, Mary Ann.

IMG_8093 Army Form reporting Edmund’s death on 30th November 1917

The letter sent to his little girl, although short, is particularly poignant: Edmund begins his letter, “I thank you love for your card and glad you think of Daddy” and signs off with a heartfelt request for Hilda not to forget her prayers…

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East Lancashire Railway Armistice Exhibition

We could never have imagined, when we began our WW1 project four years’ ago, just how far and deep the sentiment (Bury remembering the First World War) would spread into our community. The extracted newspaper images, obituaries and articles have inspired painters, poets, historians and genealogists to keep on remembering those local lads who lost their lives a century ago.

Luggage Tags with Soldiers’ face images from local newspaper archive; text taken from Bury Station’s Roll of Honour

Armistice Exhibition 2018 on the over-bridge at Bury Station

The Armistice is nearly upon us and this has brought with it fresh opportunities for our community to get involved and to pay their respects to all those who fell. We did just that with a visit to the East Lancashire Railway Armistice Exhibition which decorates the over-bridge at Bury Station.

Using images, obituaries and articles taken from our newspaper archive and displaying them in such a unique way makes for a very thought-provoking tribute. We instantly connected with it because it feels very recognisable; the suitcases, luggage tags and hundreds of faces gathered together helps us to imagine the daily situation on that train station during 1914 – 1918. There would have been cheers and shouts, tears and goodbyes; silent prayers and the terrifying fear that loved ones would never see each other again – reality hits hard when we see the hundreds of military men decorating the station walkway. The ELR have shown us what an Archive does best! and that is to connect us directly to the past.

Above and below are just some of the pictures we took at the station; the red brick walls, dark red floors and knitted poppies complement what is a very striking exhibition:

Thanks to all at the ELR who have put so much thought in helping Bury to remember The First World War.

The Armistice Exhibition will be on display at Bury Station until the 11th November 2018.


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A letter for Ada

Our Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘Bury Remembers the First World War’ has enabled our volunteers to extract newspaper obituaries and images of upward of 3,000 local military personnel who died during the conflict. The published obituaries contain details of next of kin, how the death was reported to them and where and how they died.

Pte. Fred Walker’s image and obituary which appeared in The Bury Times 1917

Pte Fred Walker’s death, on the 19th October 1917, was duly announced in The Bury Times and included the contents of a letter sent to his widow, Mrs Ada Walker, shortly after his death. The letter was sent from 2nd Lt J Tingle – whose duty it was to inform her of her husband’s death.

Original letter sent to Ada Walker informing her of her husband’s death in France

In extracting the obituaries from the newspapers, we have become accustomed to the contents of these letters of duty, published so regularly throughout the period of war. It’s hard to imagine how a family might respond on opening and reading a letter which confirms their worst fears. In the case of Pte Fred Walker we were offered a taste of this sad process when we were handed the original letter, inside the original envelope which was opened by Mrs Ada Walker over one hundred years ago.

We see that Fred Walker’s obituary printed in The Bury Times in 1917 faithfully reproduces the entire contents of the letter; in it we read of bravery and courage and how the writer hopes these attributes are passed over to Fred’s widow, Mrs Ada Walker, while she suffers the loss of her husband.

Pte Fred Walker is commemorated on the Unsworth War Memorial

A little research informs us that Fred and Ada married only months before the war started. I could not find any relevant birth matches so assume that the couple did not have children. I was interested to know what became of Ada Walker in the inter-war years: in the 1939 register she is listed as a widow living at the same address as written on the envelope from 1917 (106 Hollins Lane). The household includes 77 year old retired bleach worker John W Lees (the surname being Ada’s maiden name suggests the man is her father).

Selection of mementos belonging to Pte Fred Walker returned to Ada after his death

So on the eve of the next war Ada is caring for her elderly father in the same house she shared with her husband when he enlisted into the Machine Gun Corps shortly after they married. The letter, along with a few mementos returned to her in a separate envelope, safely stored inside a box or drawer? Certainly a frightening indicator of what to expect in the next few years ahead.

The letter, along with a selection of Pte Walker’s artefacts returned to his widow from France, will soon be on show in the archive’s search room to mark the Armistice and centenary of the ending of WW1. The materials were donated to former Library Supervisor, David Galloway, who passed them to the archives for preservation.

Transcription of letter:
Dear Mrs Walker,
It is my painful duty to inform you of your husband’s death on the 19th inst. It is indeed a painful duty for me, because I know what the consequences mean to you. I took a personal interest in your dear boy, and I cannot speak too highly of the good work and cheerful manner all the time he was in my section. He was shot by a sniper and died instantly, so he knew no pain. I was next to him, and I buried him where he fell. I have only just come out of the line, and am writing you without delay. I am ill with fatigue, strain, and worry, due to the rough time we have had, and so if my letter appears disjointed please forgive me. It is a difficult task to fulfil, and I cannot express my sorrow sufficiently, but I think you will understand me. Your husband will be far happier, for he is in heaven without a doubt, as all our fallen heroes have a place there, where they find peace and solace in a haven of rest so dear Mrs Walker, try and bear your heavy burden bravely for the sake of your dear friends left to you. If there is anything I could do for you write me a line and I shall only be too pleased – Believe me to be, dear friend, yours faithfully, J Tingle, Sec Lt, No 1 Section Officer.


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Sir James Hacking: Mayor of Bury 1913 – 1919

James Hacking was born at Oswaldtwistle in 1861; the family later moved to Knuzden Brook near Blackburn where James, between the ages of seven and thirteen, worked in the warehouse of a nearby mill. His early introduction to the textile industry served him well – by the age of thirty he had worked his way to the position of manager of two large mills in the area and in 1895 he became a manufacturer. By 1901 he was the owner of two mills: Lockgate Mill in Haslingden and Doris Mill in Heywood and it was during this time that he moved to Bury. Well respected as both a businessman and benevolent employer he was elected to the Town Council in 1912.

Commemorative Portrait of James Hacking

In as little as 12 months James had become Mayor of the borough. His term of office began on November 9th 1913 and continued on through the war years up until November 1919. The fact that the borough recognised a need for this continuity during the upheaval of war is testimony to James Hacking’s extraordinary dedication to the role. His war efforts included involvement in the Prince of Wales’ Fund, the Local Relief Fund, the Red Cross Fund, the Belgian Relief Fund and the Belgian Refugees’ Fund. He was also active in Bury’s army recruitment drive and contributed to raising the two Bantam Battalions (for men under 5 ” 3 in) of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

James Hacking was granted Honorary Freedom of the borough on the 2nd August 1917 and less than 12 months later his services received national recognition when he was knighted by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

Commemorative seal, stamps and scroll awarded to Sir James on his knighthood. On loan to Bury Archives

After leaving Bury, Sir James and Lady Hacking moved to Poulton Le Fylde and later on he bought Clifton Hall in Preston where he lived until his death in 1929.


Bury Times, 1929. Death of Sir James Hacking: Ex-Mayor and Honorary Freeman of Bury. The Bury Times, 1st June, p 12.

The commemorative seals and scroll will soon be on show in the archive search room to mark the Armistice and centenary of the ending of WW1.


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Archive Service Accreditation

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been a little quiet here in blog-land! Mainly because we have been busy reorganising our search room into a more streamlined space both for ourselves and our visitors. We now have all the Parish Transcripts and Indexes in here (rather than in the museum space). In addition, we have rehomed the microfilm/fiche computer and scanner into our search room so it’s less hassle for our users when they need some assistance.

We’ve also carried out lots of behind-the-scenes work in our store rooms ready for an inspection from The National Archives Service in response to our accreditation application. We needed everything to be ship shape!!

We are pleased to announce that we have now had confirmation from The National Archives that we have received our award of Archive Service Accreditation. Amongst other things, this will help improve our ability to protect and care for our collections whilst ensuring we provide suitable access for all our lovely visitors.

Exciting times ahead!

Archives Team: L-R Nichola Walshaw, Wendy Gradwell, Adam Carter and Helen Lindsay

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Something Good from Bury

If you were to say the word ‘Bensons’ to a Buryite of a certain age, then firstly their eyes may mist over, soon to be followed by a little sigh as they fall into a chocolate-lime induced reverie.

For several decades and way before Gene Wilder brought Willy Wonka to life, Bury had its own ‘Chocolate Factory’ and the little chap with the toffee-shaped head became familiar to people all around the world as the face of Bensons Confectionery.

Benson’s tin belonging to the Hargreaves family

Thanks to the foresight of one lady, Gladys Ratcliffe, whose father Harry Hargreaves was one of the founders of the business that later became Bensons, we have a first-hand account of the history of this much-loved local company and its origins in the Walmersley area of Bury.   Gladys’s account tells us how Emanuel Pickles started a small confectionery business – Scott & Rose – in 1900.  This was based on Topping Street, near the bottom of Walmersley Road.  A couple of years later he was joined in the enterprise by Harry Hargreaves.  They began to make ‘Tower Sauce’, along with some jams and sweets.  Gladys recalls accompanying her father to Manchester’s Shudehill Market to buy the fruit.  The business grew and moved to larger premises in the old ‘Wolstenholmes’ factory on Huntley Mount Road, off Bell Lane.

Benson’s delivery van

This heralded a new beginning as the sauce business was sold and the decision taken to concentrate on just the jams and sweets.  A new name was required as it was felt that ‘Pickles & Hargreaves’ did not fit the bill!  Out of the hat came ‘Bensons’ and a whole new era dawned.  Harry Hargreaves came up with the slogan ‘something good from Bury’ and his son, Clifford, designed the little ‘Bensons man’ figure that appeared on their distinctive tins, packaging and advertising.

Business continued during World War I, although by now the company had jettisoned the jam in order to focus on confectionery.  Bensons was always very much a family business and in 1921 Harry’s son Alan joined the firm.  In 1937 Alan was joined by his brother Clifford but being a highly qualified engineer he was called up during World War II.   Bensons continued during the war, having been nominated to produce goods for other firms, who would then add their own labels.   They continued to trade post-war, although by now they faced stiff competition from other brands.  Clifford, now back from designing Lancaster Bombers, became Sales Director and travelled overseas to investigate potential new markets.

In 1960 Bensons merged with the Liverpool-based firm Barker & Dobson, and later merged again, this time with the makers of Victory V’s, Nelsons.  Production continued until the late 1980s when Alma Scotland (whose brands included Squirrel and Keillers) took over.  In 1988 the decision was taken to cease manufacturing and Bensons closed its doors in June 1989.  The factory was demolished and in the early 1990s Aldi opened one of their first supermarkets in the area on the site, which still flourishes today.

Benson’s factory. Photo from our image archive

Throughout the 1960s and 70s,  the white paper bags overflowing with sweets and toffees of different colours and flavours were a familiar feature of local households and as a small child I can recall a lovely liquorice aroma filled the air when the wind was blowing in a particular direction.

Many thanks to the Hargreaves family for very kindly bringing in these splendid Benson’s tins and photographs to share with us, some of which are currently on display in our Searchroom, so come along and help yourself to some real toffees and be transported back in time…

Did you work at Benson’s?  Which sweet was your favourite?  …and what was Tower Sauce?

We would love to hear from you!

Helen (Chocolate Limes)


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Reunion of two cousins who died in the First World War

We’ve lost count of the number of coincidences and surprises we encounter through our work at Bury Archives but the reunion of two cousins, who lost their lives in France during World War One, will remain one of the most memorable. It began with a photo shoot to celebrate four generations’ family love and loyalty to their fallen ancestor, Albert Carter. Albert’s story can be read here and here and the resulting exhibition of images can be seen here in our search room. Little did we know that Albert’s story would expand to include another family member! And one, who with the help of social media, Heritage Lottery funding and the kindness of strangers, will never be forgotten.

WW1 Soldier

Albert Carter

Jennifer McDonough was the ‘stranger’ who spotted a small brooch with a WW1 soldier pictured on its front in a local charity shop. She bought the brooch, took it home and posted a picture of it on Facebook group ‘Bury Olden Days’ in the hope that someone would recognise the young man’s image. Of course it was a long shot, yet our Reference Librarian, Adam Carter, began a search through our newspaper images (3,000 of them extracted as part of our HLF project, Bury Remembers the First World War) to see if he could find a match. Within a couple of days of the brooch-picture being posted, Adam had identified the soldier’s image!

Brooch found in Bury Charity Shop

His name was John Nation and as the obituary informs us had a cousin, also killed in action, whose name was A Carter. The information was posted back into the group and Betty Chapman (descendant of Albert Carter) made the connection! Both Jennifer and Betty agreed that John Nation must be reunited with his cousin, Albert Carter, here in the search room at Bury Archives.

Obituary and Face Image from Bury Times

The story of the picture-brooch being identified captured the hearts of Social Media group ‘Bury Olden Days’ and generated 54 comments and numerous reactions – it captured our hearts too and we really enjoyed hosting the special get-together with Jennifer handing over the brooch to Betty. John Nation now sits beside his cousin, Albert Carter, in our beautifully lit corner display cabinet – if you are passing please pop in and take a look.

Jennifer hands over the brooch to Betty Chapman


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Home Learning Challenge: Genealogy

It’s a bit like being a detective when you start tracing your family history – this is what Harry Cain discovered when he visited the search room this morning to find out more about his maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Harry is from Christ Church Primary School in Walshaw and his genealogy research forms part of a Home Learning Challenge set by the school.

Harry ready to inspect the Rate Book

We always like to think the Archives is not just about ‘dusty old ledgers’ but today it was just that! We wanted Harry to take a break from the computer and experience what it’s like to be a real genealogical sleuth, armed with clues and searching through primary source material. The hefty volume Harry and his grandad searched through is a Rate Book for Radcliffe from 1924, in there they located Harry’s three time great grandfather, Richard Pye, who was an Insurance Agent and lived at Whittaker Street in Radcliffe.

Harry with Rate Book for Radcliffe from 1924

Harry with his Granddad

Harry uses a map from 1930 to help locate streets in the Rate Book

Harry was fascinated by the material we showed him and said he would love to come back to the archives to discover more and continue growing his family tree.



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