Newsletter – 113

Autumn now approaches and its time for our late summer newsletter. Although there is still a lot of work to do, Cockermouth has achieved a lot over the past few months. In particular, I hope you agree that our efforts towards improving the shop frontages have been well worthwhile and our thanks go to Darren Ward who has put in loads of effort on our and the town’s behalf. This newsletter seeks to update you on what has been happening, but first seeks your membership renewal and looks ahead to our own activity programme – and dates for your diaries.

Membership Renewal
Please remember to renew your membership for another year, not only for our activities, but also to give us your support in the work that we do. The more members we have, the stronger our voice, so if you are able to encourage other people to join as well, even better.

The membership renewal form is on the last page of the newsletter. Please cut it out & send it with your subscription to the Treasurer.

Tell us your opinions
We have left space on the membership renewal form this year for you to ‘tell us your opinion’ on anything relating to the Civic Trust’s interest areas, particularly on anything in this newsletter such as proposals for the public realm on Main Street. Don’t be constrained by the size of the form!

Heritage Open Day – 11th September
Despite the floods, we decided that we should participate in the Heritage Open Day again this year, but we didn’t seek out new properties since at the time of organising, we were not sure what condition places would be in by now. The Masonic Hall for example will not be open this year due to ongoing flood repairs. Properties that will be open in Cockermouth area are:
• Wordsworth House (NT) (11am-4.30pm)
• Banks Ironmongers (10am –2pm)
• Eco Centre (10am –2pm)
• Friends Meeting House (10am –2pm)
• Winder Hall, Lorton (12noon –4pm)
We will be leading ‘flood walks’ starting from the Market Place at 11am and 1pm. We also intend to have members available in the Market Place between 10am and 2pm to explain the significance of the new art-works installed as part of the Market Place Refurbishment.

There are 2 leaflets available from the Tourist Information Centre – our own giving more information on the above, and a Cumbrian booklet giving information on all Heritage Open Day events throughout Cumbria. Both are free of charge.

Heritage Open Days are now organised nationally by English Heritage. To see what is happening nationally, go to

Bernard Bradbury Memorial Lecture (3)
You may well remember that we have established a 2 yearly lecture series in memory of Bernard Bradbury, in association with Cockermouth Museum Group and Lorton and Derwent Fells Local History Society. The third one is now due and it is the turn of the Museum Group to lead its organisation.

This year Susan Dench will talk about the slavery connection of West Cumberland in a talk called ‘Black History’. It will be at 8pm on Friday 1st October in the Kirkgate Centre. Tickets must be obtained in advance through the Kirkgate Centre Box Office at a price of £2. They are available now, so don’t delay. We are hoping that there will also be a small exhibition on research into slave history.

Lecture Programme
We have another interesting programme of lectures for you in the new season, thanks to David and Pat Hardy for organising. All lectures are at 19.30 on the first Wednesday of the month in the Friend’s Meeting House, Kirkgate.

6th October – Greg Greenhalgh, Cockermouth Museum Group, on the history of Cockermouth Theatre, illustrated with some of the images from his recent book. In writing the book, Greg was supported by Hunter Davis and it was launched by Melvin Bragg. The book is free to attendee’s.

3rd November – Ian Goldie, Institute Of Advanced Motoring, on the work they do and, in particular, the free Observed Drive, (Safer driving for the over 60s.)

1st December – Dr Les Tickner, Cockermouth Town Centre Flood Recovery Coordinator, will advise on his role in Cockermouth and the steps towards recovery, including a current update on the situation

2nd February – Jeff Cowton, Curator of the Jerwood Centre, a part of the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, will talk on “The Power of Manuscripts”. This relates to the Wordsworth Trust’s collection of verse and prose manuscripts and copies of manuscripts will be included as handouts.

2nd March – Frank Giecco, Archaeologist, will give his rescheduled talk from last year on ‘Roman Archaeology in Papcastle’, plus an update on the current excavations across the river – following some exciting Geophysics results.

6th April – Joe Human will talk about Fairtrade,  covering a wide range aspects including its history, growth, impact, range of products, why its necessary – from local to international level.

Following our Talk from the First Responders, we agreed to set up a session to enable members to be trained in ‘Heartstart’ – what you need to do if you are with a casualty suffering a heart attack, in the period until the emergency services arrive. We now hope to arrange this during the autumn – we have a list of 10 but there is still time to join us – ring Phil or Shirley Campbell on 823485.

Visit to Workington Courts
We also promised last year to arrange a visit to the Workington Courts, but failed to do so because of the post flood transport issues. We now hope to arrange it for next spring – so wait for a future newsletter.

Annual Trip – Saturday June 5th – Melrose and Abbotsford
And just for a quick look back – 32 came with us to Melrose and Abbotsford on a beautiful spring day. According to feedback – thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Flood Recovery
The group managing the co-ordination and strategy for the refurbishment of Cockermouth’s flood damaged buildings in the Main Street axis has continued to meet every fortnight throughout Spring and Summer – and we continue to provide the chair and secretary. I believe that it has been an excellent example of how the various stakeholders can work together – elected representatives, professionals and voluntary organisations such as ourselves. I hope this can continue into the future, and not end after the flood recovery finishes.

In terms of progress on the shop frontages, I think it is best that you see and judge for yourselves. We are still on the journey, in that there is still a lot of work to be done and promises to be fulfilled, (such as Boots). I hope you agree that the replacement Lloyds TSB frontage represents a victory for the cause – it is clearly a Bank of the 21st century and it fits comfortably within the style and proportions of the building.

Public Realm
– Main Street Consultation Workshops
(by John Dent)
In our March Newsletter (111), we mentioned that there was a flood recovery committee looking at the public realm. There was flood damage to the likes of pavements, which have only been patch repaired to date. There is money allocated for repair to pre-flood standard, but there is opportunity to obtain additional grant money to achieve a higher standard. We also mentioned that there would be public consultation on what we/you want our town centre to look like in the future.

The first round of consultation took place on Wednesday 21st July at Christ Church. Two
sessions were held, 12.00 noon and 5.30pm.
There were presentations by Allerdale BC, Cumbria CC and CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) followed by informal workshops. The area examined in the exercise was Main Street from Wordsworth House to Market Place extending into the side streets thereof. All residents were eligible to attend and have an input. Although attendance was low there were meaningful discussions at both workshops and the results are being collated and will be used to formulate a plan for action.
The Civic Trust Committee had a pre-meeting and discussed ideas to put forward – which we did at the sessions and in writing. These were preliminary ideas sessions, not decision making and we decided we should ‘aim high’.  We have listed some of our & the session’s thoughts below, not in any particular order. Key themes from us were that we are looking for ‘quality rather than quantity’ and for a co-ordinated & consistent approach.
• It was agreed that the higher quality paving in Market Place should be continued down the length of Main Street.
• A must for any scheme should was the inclusion of an adequate number of seats.
• It was suggested that bus shelters of an appropriate design be provided – possibly canopies from Lowther Went and Kings Arms Lane.
• All were in favour of wider pavements resulting in a narrower vehicle thoroughfare. A central pedestrian area with room for bus stops, shelters, planting, artwork, etc was suggested and found widespread support.
• The key point made was less road and more pavement.
• There was some support for a Little Neddy replica or modern equivalent on a roundabout at Station Street junction.
• All agreed that there should be fewer signs and street furniture resulting in less clutter and more coordination.
• The Mayo statue fades into the road scene at present and this prominent feature should have greater emphasis with a paved seating area surround.
• More greenery and planting was a general feeling of the group.
• Suggestions were put forward for a feature to make the Market Place end of Main Street more attractive to walk towards – e.g. arch over road, cleaner and brighter coloured buildings. Main Street into Market Place could be themed to have a better “flow” from one into the other
• It was agreed that parking on Station Street is a problem. One solution may be to widen the west pavement and have full no waiting restriction on the street.
• Everyone agreed that Bridge Street, being the gateway to the town from the tourist car park, had to be improved
• No one was in favour of parking meters, payment meters and street parking charges should never be contemplated. In fact parking free up to a two or three hour limit on car parks to attract visitors found universal support
• Better lighting with fewer poles and lights to be the same standard as in Market Place was a must and it was suggested that poles could be placed on the central reservation and could provide support for canopies/ bus shelters etc.
The people who attended thought that it was time well spent and were happy to have an input into the future appearance of our town. Unfortunately, there will be many residents who will be “against” anything and will complain that they weren’t consulted! So if you have any of your own thoughts you want to put forward, please, please let us know.

Planning Permissions
We have received some comment on the fact that we have objected to the proposed development of 221 houses at the Fitz, but have chosen not to object to the proposed development of around 30 houses near the Rugby Club behind Strawberry Howe, particularly since our architectural adviser Darren Ward has been professionally involved with rugby club development.

First of all, I should stress that every time that any issue comes up at Committee in which Darren has an interest, he declares this and abstains from the decision making process. This was true in this case and it was a committee decision not to object.

As a committee, we believe we have been fully consistent in our approach, the key issue being that we are looking for sustainable development over time. The Fitz proposal is actually a massive development for a town the size of Cockermouth which will impact over a short period of time, with unpredictable consequences. The rugby club development by contrast is small, is on a ‘brown field site’ and may improve the local area, particularly in respect of sporting facilities which otherwise may just decay away.

Market Place
I hope you have noticed, but your intrepid committee members spent a couple of hours on a Sunday morning tidying up in Market Place – removing the weeds and cleaning the seats. It does look a lot better for it and we need to keep it that way.
Civic Voice & the Cumbrian Federation
As you are aware, we decided not to join Civic Voice, but we continue to monitor its development & will keep our position under review. We do continue to be a member of the Cumbrian Federation of Amenity Societies and there is an autumn event and AGM on Monday 4th October. It will take the form of a meeting plus 2 course lunch at the Strickland Arms near Sizergh Castle, with an architectural tour of the exterior of the castle in the afternoon. If you are interested in attending, please let a committee member know.

Archaeology Revealed
(by Eric Apperley)
The flood of 2009 devastated many fields downstream from Cockermouth.  The first of these was Broomlands, behind the Lakes Centre on Low Road.  By spring, there were reports of pottery and coin finds.  Grampus Heritage*1 who are partners in Bassenthwaite Reflections*2 were able to extend their archaeological  remit to include this patch and in June 2010, a geophysics survey was done over much of the field and also over the river below Sibby Brows in Papcastle.  The results suggested a surprising array of features.  Consequently North Pennines Archaeology*3 were contracted to conduct an initial exploration.
Machine-dug trenches on Sunday 8th August prepared the way for work to commence the following day (in persistent rain and hence much mud).  A lot of the hard graft by hand, in these seven evaluation trenches is being done by a band of volunteers, working when their other commitments allow them. The terrain is proving very difficult with much sand and gravel deposit and the archaeology features appearing to be much disturbed.  This may be from repeated floods over the centuries, by a change of river course or by the river having more than one channel over time. The ‘dig’ is planned to continue until September 3rd.

The recording, analysis and evaluation of this work will inevitably take some time, so expectations of an exciting lecture about more of Cockermouth’s history must be some way away.

1.  Grampus Heritage and Training Ltd is a non-profit making organisation based in the North West of England. (Threapland, Bothel)   Since 1997 it has been involved in the management and promotion of European projects concerned with culture, heritage, archaeology and the environment.
2. Bassenthwaite Reflections is a Heritage Lottery funded programme of 30 environmental projects designed to protect the landscape of the Bassenthwaite Lake catchment in the Lake District
3. North Pennines Archaeology Ltd is an established archaeological contracting consultancy based at the heart of the picturesque North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Nenthead, Alston).

Future Archaeological Dig
The local History Society, (Lorton & Derwent Fells), have recently undertaken some archaeological investigations at Peel Place, Lanthwaite Green; (north of Crummock Water). These investigations uncovered cobbled and flagged surfaces, foundations and doorways. Parallel research has produced maps & the will of Henry Peile who died in 1673. Other site surveys showed up interesting ‘humps and bumps’ which the society are now interested in investigating further, and they have submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support this. Their proposal is to undertake these further investigations during the Festival of British Archaeology to be held from 16th to 31st July 2011, and to seek to learn more about the development of this post medieval farmstead.

The History Society have approached other local societies including the Civic Trust, to determine if they and/or their members are interested in taking part in any way. Participation can be in many ways – surveying, digging, ‘finds’ handling, recording (drawing, photography), showing visitors around, preparing exhibitions. If you are at all interested, please let me know, (Phil Campbell – 823485).

Tour of Cockermouth Town Trail (12):
(by Shirley Campbell)
Our next stop on the Trail is at the commemorative plaque to Fearon Fallows, located on his childhood residence on Low Sand Lane, now part of the Trout Hotel. Fearon Fallows is a son of Cockermouth. Not well known now, he was a much-respected scientist in his day. He was born in 1789 according to local astronomer Stuart Atkinson, not in 1788 as the plaque says. His parents were John & Rebecca Fallows. John was a hand loom weaver who wove ‘walloons’, woollen linings. Fearon became his apprentice, but from an early age, Fearon showed great talent at maths. Although he had little money, John was determined to give his son a good education. Fearon was sent to a private tutor in Brigham, John also helped with the teaching and neighbours provided books. Fearon became a teacher at Plumbland School. Local clergy, gentry and businessmen were impressed by his intellect and contributed funds, which allowed him to go to St John’s College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1813 and for several years, lectured in mathematics at Cambridge colleges. In 1818, he became Chief Examiner in the Mathematics Department of St John’s College.

Fearon was a friend of John Herschel, son of the famous astronomer, William Herschel, and had become interested in astronomy through both him and the mathematical calculations he had done through his studies. In 1820, Fearon was elected as a member of the Royal Astronomical Society. In Ocober of that year, Fearon was appointed Astronomer for the proposed Cape of Good Hope Observatory in South Africa.  On New Year’s Day in 1821, Fearon married Mary Anne Hervey, eldest daughter of the Vicar of Bridekirk, and on 4th May that year, he and his wife embarked for the Cape. The voyage took 100 days.

It was Fearon’s job to find a site and supervise construction of the observatory. After many difficulties, the building was completed in 1827 and the instruments arrived in 1829. Fearon mapped the southern skies and measured the exact position of nearly 300 stars. When his assistant left, his wife Mary was indispensable, even discovering a new comet herself.

Living conditions for these early colonists were harsh. All of Fearon’s several children died very young and his own health, whist living at the Cape, was poor. In 1830, he was struck down with scarlet fever. He never really recovered from this, but still battled to continue his work. He died on July 25th 1831 at just 42, and was buried at the Cape. If he had not died so young, he would probably have become famous. His wife inherited all of Fearon’s processions and returned to England, later remarrying.

Phil Campbell, Chairman