Newsletter 120

Welcome to our late summer newsletter. I trust that you have been able to enjoy the summer, despite it being a damp one. Our new season is almost upon us and so the main theme of this newsletter is subscription renewal and our early season activities. An additional theme, however, is membership numbers and participation in our activities.

Over the last couple of years, we have found that numbers attending our events such as lectures, trips and dinners have been falling to such an extent that we may have to question their viability. For example, the last lectures of the 2011/2012 season only had attendee numbers in the mid teens. Is it fair to continue asking lecturers along for so few? When we ask people who do come, they are generally very complementary about the events & do ask us to continue. So what are the problems, and is there anything we can do to encourage or enable people to come? For example, would a different day and/or time for the lecture meetings suit people better?

For this reason we have included a questionnaire with the subscription renewal form. Please take some time to complete it, adding as much information as you can to help us optimise our activities to best suit our membership.

An associated and continuing issue is membership recruitment. We still have a membership of around 90, which sounds quite healthy in principle. However, we do have an ageing membership and do need to recruit new members to contribute to our activities. This year we have produced a membership programme flyer with the objective of recruiting new members. This will be available from the library & at our events. If you would like copies for friends or to distribute at other events, please ask for some copies.

It is perhaps ironic that at this present time, we are perhaps as busy as we have ever been in terms of activities, for example, planning assessments, castle tours, heritage open days, walks of pride, participation in town centre improvements, etc. So please help, as they say, ‘use it or loose it’!

Subscription Renewal

The subscription renewal form for October 2012 to September 2013 is enclosed, along with the questionnaire. The annual fee again remains unchanged at £5.50, and £5 for every additional member in the same household. Corporate membership remains at £30. Membership for new members who have joined us in the last 3 months lasts until September 2013, so no renewal is required just now. Could you please return a completed questionnaire even if you are not due to pay a subscription renewal.

Remember, membership entitles you to a free day pass to both a National Trust & English Heritage property. These passes can be downloaded from the internet. If you wish to do so, please request details of the internet sites from either the Chairman or Secretary.

Member’s Special Meeting

We had planned the next special meeting for 5th September. Unfortunately, we have had to delay this until later in the year when we found that a number of the committee would not be available. A new date will be included in the next newsletter, by which time we will have had the results of your questionnaires. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

2012/13 Lecture Meeting Programme

First of all, do not forget that on Friday 28th September at 8pm in the Kirkgate Centre there is the ‘2012 Bernard Bradbury Memorial Lecture’ – a joint event with the Museum Group and Lorton & Derwent Fells Local History Group. Alan Crosby will speak on Family Life in Victorian Cumberland – Explorations in Cockermouth and District. Tickets at £2.50 are available from the Kirkgate Centre and you are best advised to pre-book.

Our normal lecture meetings in 2012/13 will again be held at 7.30pm on the first Wednesday of each month at the Friends Meeting House, Kirkgate. The topics are as follows:

3rd Oct – David King will speak on ‘Mills, Millers & Millwrights’.

14th Nov – AGM – Eric Cass will speak on ‘The changing face of Cockermouth, 1870 to 1970’.

5th Dec – Philomena Morley will talk about her life growing up in Africa.

6th Feb – John Whitwell will give an illustrated talk on ‘Maritime Maryport’.

6th Mar – Amanda Thackeray will speak on ‘The Wordsworth House Garden, pre and post flood’.

3rd Apr – Mike Murgatroyd of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will talk about ‘The Friends of the Lake District’.

Federation Meeting, Rose Castle, 27th October

It has been decided that it is now appropriate to close the Federation of Cumbrian Amenity Societies, subject to agreement at the ‘final’ AGM at Rose Castle on Saturday 27th October. This is essentially because we now have the regional NW ACTS (North West Association of Civic Trusts & Societies) and the national Civic Voice to represent our interests and it is no longer sufficiently supported to have another layer at Cumbria level.

This ‘final’ meeting will include a guided tour of the building & gardens of Rose Castle. This has been the Bishop’s Palace for 700 years & is not normally open to the public.

In view of this being the last meeting, we are extending an invite to all of our members to attend. The cost will be £15, which includes lunch, coffee refreshments & the guided tours. If you would like to go, please apply direct to Barbara Colley at 12 Rawes Garth, Staveley, Cumbria, LA8 9QH, enclosing £15pp & stating that you will be attending as a member of Cockermouth Civic Trust.  The agenda is as follows:

10.30am  Arrival & coffee/tea

11am       Welcome & Chairman’s report

11.40am  ‘Plug for Publicity from NW ACTS

12noon    ‘Saving the See House’ & introduction to the Rose Castle project officer

1.15pm     Lunch

2.30pm     Guided tours

3.30pm     Tea & biscuits

A ‘see’ is another word for a diocese occupied by a Bishop, but can also be applied to the area immediately round his cathedral. We understand that Rose Castle is one of a small but significant number of see houses identified as part of our national as well as local heritage.  It is unusual because it was not only the bishop’s residence but, because of its location in Borders country, it was built as a castle, capable of being defended.

The diocese, the last one created in England before the Reformation, was specifically created by Henry 1st   to ‘administer the lands which were Scottish’. The gates through which strode Edward 1st and Robert the Bruce still stand, as do the pele towers and crenellations. The castle today, together with its land and gardens, which include a thirteenth century fish pond, have an exceptional sense of serenity and calm.

Book Launch – Friday 16th November

Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society have 2 books relating to Cockermouth and Angus Winchester has agreed to give a talk as part of their book launch.  This has been arranged for Friday, 16th November at 7.30 at the Kirkgate Centre, when Angus will talk on ‘Writing the History of Cockermouth and its area’.  The two books being launched are ‘The Cockermouth Congregational Church Book (1651-c1765)’ and ‘Cockermouth, Cumbria: Archaeological Investigation of Three Burgage Plots in Main Street’. The books will be available to buy on the evening.  Admission will be free to this event, but no pre-booking.

Annual Trip – Thursday 1st November – Blackpool

First of all, apologies if you were expecting to go to Lytham St Annes, but we decided to postpone this visit to another year when we learnt that Lytham Hall is going to close early for a major refurbishment. However, Blackpool Civic Trust, (who visited Cockermouth earlier this year), have stepped in and offered us an exciting programme in Blackpool. More details are given on the enclosed booking form, but the key features are:

  • A guided drive down the prom on arrival, with the local history
  • A civic reception by the Mayor at the Town Hall, with guided tour of the Town Hall
  • An included ‘hotpot lunch’ at the Town Hall, or vegetarian alternative
  • Guided visit to the Winter Gardens
  • Guided visit to Blackpool tower
  • An included 45 minute tour of the illuminations by vintage tram
  • Time for refreshments at the Solaris Centre Café before returning home.

The total cost per ticket for the day is £25 per person. This includes the coach, lunch and the illuminations tour. Note that our tours of the Winter Gardens and the Tower are being provided free courtesy of Blackpool Civic Trust, but I am told that these would normally cost at least £18!

I am also told that there is plenty of seating available in all of our visit venues, so not to worry about being on your feet all of the time. All of the venues are reasonably close together, apart from the Solaris Centre where we will be transferred.

All in all, we should have a fantastic day, so please do come. I would also encourage you to bring any non-member friends so that we can keep the trip financially viable to the Civic Trust – and we might get new members that way!

I would appreciate early application for tickets so that we can advise Blackpool on numbers.

Walk of Pride

We held our first ‘Walk of Pride’ on Saturday 7th July, around Cockermouth Town Centre. The objective was to identify buildings & streetscape that we are proud of as well as areas that the group felt could be improved for the benefit of Cockermouth as a whole. It is fair to say that all of the 12 people who took part were proud of Cockermouth town centre and felt that the vast majority of town centre buildings now make a positive contribution. Clearly, the shop fronts that had been improved as part of the post flood heritage improvement scheme were well received. We decided to write to each of the owners of the buildings that the group as a whole decided that they ‘were most proud of’. These were:

  • Old Kings Arms Lane
  • Annabelles
  • Fagans
  • Lees Fish & Chips
  • Strolling for Shoes
  • Meriendas
  • Houses on Rubby Banks, south of the foorbridge
  • Regent House
  • Town Hall

We have also written to the building owners where we feel that improvements to their buildings would enhance our town centre. These were, (in no particular order):

  • Co-op. We felt that the Co-op occupies an interesting building & the upper half has been well maintained. However, an opportunity has been lost in that the existing shop frontage breaks the architectural and colour lines.
  • Golden Dragon, (formerly Jade Garden). This building is in a poor state of repair & is situated at a major entrance to the town.
  • Alternative Takeaway. The shop frontage is poor and at odds with the surrounding buildings, not in keeping with a listed building.
  • House on Castlegate in poor state of repair
  • Riff Raff – this we felt was an excellent shop frontage, but spoilt by flaking paintwork.
  • PFK Estate Agents – poorly maintained area behind the building inCockton’s Yard
  • Lowther Went. We just felt here that more could be done to continue the feeling of ‘Cockermouth’ into the Went, perhaps by more use of colour, vegetation, etc.

In addition, we wrote to Allerdale Borough Council in relation to issues under their jurisdiction, i.e:

  • Poor state of garage buildings on Bridge Street, a main entrance to the town
  • Evidence of drug taking in Cockton’s Yard
  • Lack of routine maintenance of trees, weeds & seats in Market Place & Main Street
  • Poor maintenance of seats in a number of locations
  • Loss of trees adjacent to the River Cocker in the Riverside Car Park.

And to Cumbria County Council, we drew attention to,

  • The uncontrolled use of ‘A’ boards. While we appreciate the needs of some businesses, we counted over 80, some of which block the thoroughfare.
  • A damaged street sign.

We are hoping that that there will be at least some improvement following our ‘walk’ and intend to repeat it next year to measure this.

Heritage Open Days, 6th-9th September

Those of you who receive hard copies of this newsletter will probably receive it too late to remind you to attend this year’s Heritage Open Days events. A reminder for those on electronic distribution is that we have a number of activities in and around Cockermouth on the Thursday, Friday & Saturday. These were foreshadowed in our last newsletter and there is both a Cockermouth and a Cumbrian booklet available, principally from the Tourist Information Centre. Late additions to the programme are details of the Saturday open day at the Papcastle Roman Dig, (10am to 4pm), and the opening of the Riversmeet Resource Centre off Market Place, (Thurs, Fri & Sat, 10am to 2pm).

You may well be aware that Grampus Heritage & Training Ltd have received a new 3 year grant for further investigation of the Papcastle Roman site. This commenced in August and already they have exciting finds. I would therefore particularly commend to you the lecture on the investigation at the Kirkgate Centre on Friday, (10am), and the dig open day on the Saturday.

If you have an email address but have not yet elected to receive electronic copies of our newsletter, I would commend you to do so. This not only enables faster distribution of newsletters to you, but we provide interim updates to our email distribution list between newsletters.

Planning Applications

A quick up date on where we are on recent significant planning applications:

–        The Fitz. Outline planning permission has now been granted, (despite our objections). We will still have the opportunity to comment on the detailed design when this is submitted.

–        Mitchells. We objected to this proposal in that it could have a detrimental affect on existing businesses on Main Street. However, it has been agreed by Allerdale BC.

–        Kirkgate Centre. We expressed reservations on the initial design & requested that it be submitted for independent review. This was done and we felt able to support the revised plan. However, it was refused by Allerdale BC. The Kirkgate Centre have resubmitted their application, but intend to go to appeal if it is refused again.

–        Jennings Brewery. After undertaking a building for life assessment on this application, we were able to positively support it.

Public Realm

Just to report that the plans and funding for Main Street appear to be progressing well. A mentor from the Heritage Lottery Fund was appointed in June to support the project. The pavement material has been confirmed as York Sandstone and the pedestrian crossings are to be finished in black/white granite. The road surface will be colour chipped. Parking spaces will be in sandstone sets.

Allerdale Plan

Allerdale BC issued their new draft plan in July for consultation. We welcome the plan & it is important to get it finalised as soon as possible to remove the current ‘void’, as the old plan has expired. We as a committee scrutinised the draft & had a number of detailed comments, which we submitted on behalf of the Civic Trust. These amounted to 37 in number, so I won’t present them here, although copies will be provided to members on request.

Tour of Cockermouth Town Trail (18):

By Shirley Campbell

Bernard Bradbury said that the two essentials for a mediaeval town are a castle and a market place. Cockermouth has both. In the last newsletter we discussed the castle. Here are a few interesting points about the Market Place.

It is, of course, in the oldest part of the town. According to Place Names of Cumberland, in the sixteenth century ye Merket Place was sometimes referred to as High Street and the Castlegate area of town was also known as ‘Above Bridge’. There was once a Moot Hall in the centre, with a covered market on ground level and the Town Hall upstairs. This was demolished in 1829, the stones being used to build the new Courthouse on Cocker Bridge.

The market charter was granted in 1221, initially for a Saturday market. But this soon moved to Monday. The scavenger took charge of some market duties for the lord of the manor. It was his duty to ring the market or butter bell to signal the opening of the market, to avoid forestalling. The local court of 1685 stated this should be at 12 o’clock. There were rules that no-one was to do business elsewhere in order to avoid market tolls.

Interesting buildings on Market Place include Percy House. This was built in the fourteenth century for the Percys and has a listed plaster ceiling. Allerdale Court Hotel was a large house in the eighteenth century, that once belonged to the Fletchers of Old Hall. It was Paul Fletcher’s home in the early 1700s. It opened as a hotel in August 1973. What is presently the Barbers Shop was probably Joseph Sanderson’s Cockermouth Old Bank of the 1820’s. This was sold to the Carlisle City and District Bank in1837. Part of the original strong room still exists.

In 2008, with a grant from the Market Towns Initiative, Market Place had a major revitalisation. Our Town trail leaflet lists the features that can now be seen.

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes, having reached the grand age of 80 this year, has decided it is time for him to step down from our committee as from the AGM in November. Tom has been a very long-standing member of the Civic Trust and the committee and was Chairman for over 10 years from 1990. He gained a particular reputation for his special interest in public transport, primarily buses and trains. I would like to thank Tom on behalf of the Civic Trust for his massive contribution over the years and hope that he will continue to take an active interest in our activities for many years to come.

Phil Campbell, Chairman