Newsletter 126

Welcome to our late summer newsletter. We have had another active summer for members, including:

  • Our visit to Barrow
  • Visit to Helena Thompson Museum, courtesy of Workington Civic Trust
  • Our summer garden party
  • Town Clean Up Day
  • Bernard Bradbury Memorial Lecture (5th Sept)
  • Heritage Open Days (11th to 14th Sept)

Our Cockermouth summer has, of course, been dominated by the major road and pavement works on Main Street. While absolutely necessary, they have caused much inconvenience, not least to the hard pressed shopkeepers. I hope we all can continue to give them our active support.

As you know, we have been actively concerned about Cumbria County Council’s intention to impose on-street parking charges and the additional adverse affect this will have on our already strained town centre at a time when nationally we are seeking to revitalise town centres. We have been in continuing correspondence with the Council on this but have had difficulty in getting direct answers to all of our questions. We have currently resorted to re-asking two questions, now under the Freedom of Information Act, see later.

A major issue for the future of the town has been the proposals for two major housing developments, 221 houses at the Fitz and up to 320 at Strawberry How, over 500 all together. The current Allerdale Plan envisages a new housing need for Cockermouth of 547 houses over the period 2011 to 2029, at a rate of 30 per year, of which 77 are already being built on Sullart Street. This is the prime reason for our formal objections to both proposals, i.e. the scale of the developments are out of proportion to established need and are ‘too much too quick’ to provide sustainable development for the town. We also objected to the Fitz development on the basis of lack of quality. In contrast, the proposals by Storys for Strawberry How came out very well from our assessment, see later. The Fitz development has now been approved.

It is also the time of year when we ask you to renew your subscriptions and announce the forthcoming lecture season. As always, we could do with new members so please consider bringing a friend or two along to a lecture so that they can find out more about us, and maybe consider becoming a member too.

Subscription Renewal

The subscription renewal form for October 2014 to September 2015 is enclosed. 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 2015, so no renewal is required just now. Remember, membership entitles you to a free day pass to both a National Trust & an English Heritage property.

2014/15 Lecture Meeting Programme

Our lecture meetings in 2014/15 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:

1st Oct – ‘Toys from Junk’, by Chris Robson

(Institute of Physics Teacher of the year 2005)

5th Nov – AGM – ‘Geneology’, by Victor de Quincey

3rd Dec – ‘Summat from Nowt’, by Rick Petecki,

Friends of Dubwath Silver Meadows wetland nature reserve.

4th Feb – ‘Nella Last – the War of a Barrow Housewife’, by Pat Martin, Helena Thompson Museum

4th Mar – ‘Tales of the Special Constabulary.’, by Alan Gane.

1st Apr – ‘The Origins of the Historic Scottish Counties’, by Dr Philip Tibbetts

Neighbourhood Development Order

Cockermouth recently became the first place in the country to vote through a Neighbourhood Development Order. A ‘Neighbourhood Development Order’, (NDO), is different to a Neighbourhood Plan. A ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ establishes general policies for the development and use of land in a specified area. e.g where new homes should be built and what they should look like. This allows local people to get the right type of development for their community. Planning permission would still have to be obtained.

A Neighbourhood Development Order allows the community to grant planning permission for developments that complies with the order. This removes the need for a planning application to be submitted to the local authority. Now that an NDO is up and running we see there is no reason why others shouldn’t be created for the town, but this will always depend on the resources and monies available from the local council. One reason that it was possible to do it this time was that we had been selected as a pilot area for the legislation and therefore there was funding available to carry it out.

What the steering group hoped to achieve is the reduction of bureaucracy and time in the change of use of premises; the creation of a cafe culture in the Market Place area; the establishment of a specific design of shop front; and the ability of residents in certain streets to replace wooden windows like for like without planning permission.

John Dent

Assessment of Housing Estate Proposals

We reported in the last newsletter that we had assessed the Fitz proposals against the Building for Life 12 criteria. Of the 12 criteria, we assessed 2 as ‘red’, 7 as ‘amber’ and 3 as ‘green’. The proposals were subsequently resubmitted but this did not materially affect our assessment. Because of this concern over the quality of the development, we formally requested the Secretary of State to call in the application for his assessment. However, he decided, ‘after consideration’ not to do so and Allerdale BC have now approved the development.

Similarly, we assessed the Strawberry How proposals against the Building for Life criteria. We were impressed with the quality of the proposals for this development which scored zero ‘reds’, 2 ‘ambers’ and 10 ‘greens’. It shows that good design can be achieved and we only wish that Allerdale BC would take quality of design and build more into consideration. After all, new housing estates are our legacy for the future. We did, however, formally object to the proposals based on the scale of the development.

Local Listing

I am pleased to be able to report that Allerdale BC have finally agreed the principle of adopting local heritage lists. They have also agreed to proceed with Cockermouth as the pilot for Allerdale and that we as a Civic Trust should take the lead for this pilot. This clearly entails significant work ahead on our part and Duncan Keeler is our lead.

National Grade II Listed Buildings Project

English Heritage is currently undertaking a national project using local volunteers and local authorities to assess the condition of Grade II listed buildings using a template and guidance provided by themselves. We have been asked if we are prepared to take part in respect of Cockermouth listed buildings. We have agreed in principle to do so, but don’t know yet the full implication.

We are clearly going to need help in both listing processes so please consider if you are prepared to get involved and let us know.

Cockermouth Community Hospital & Health Centre

Our new hospital and health centre was formally opened on 15th August. At the ceremony we formally presented our certificate of commendation for the design and build. This is what I said: ‘The Civic Trust is a voluntary organisation that seeks to ensure that our historic town maintains its character and remains a fantastic place to live and work through promoting high standards of town planning and architecture. We have no statutory powers, so we can only achieve this through praising what is good and cajoling where we see room for improvement. From time to time we feel able to issue a certificate of commendation where we recognise a significant positive contribution has been made to our town. I am pleased to say that the Civic Trust consider that the new Community Hospital and Health Centre fits this billing in that it is an elegant building that has avoided the boring stereotype typical of many modern public buildings. Although obviously a modern building, the smooth white render fits in the context of historic Cockermouth where render predominates. We feel that the design of the Health Centre on the upper level has been successful in breaking down institutional barriers and creating a people friendly space. There is no formal reception desk and the large colour coordinated area, with internal planted courtyards giving natural light, creates a welcoming environment. On the ground floor there is a suite of over-night rooms arranged around the arc of the building to give easy, but unobtrusive, medical supervision. Each of the rooms has open views and access into the well landscaped garden that surrounds the main frontage. We consider the gardens to be very much part of the service provided by the building and as such are an integral part of the architecture and of the building’s relationship with its location in a predominantly domestic housing area. In conclusion, we feel that the building is a pleasant surprise and has achieved the objective of placing the individual at the heart of what is an institutional building. I am therefore very happy on behalf of the Civic Trust to present the Cockermouth Community Hospital and Health Centre with a Certificate of Commendation for its design and build’.

On-Street Parking Charges

We have now formally asked Cumbria County Council for the following information under the Freedom of Information Act:

  • Any evidence that the Council has considered national policy on revitalising town centres in coming to the decision to implement on-street parking charges in principle. If there is no such evidence, to state that there is no evidence.
  • The Council states that that the introduction of on-street parking charges will improve areas which suffer from traffic congestion and capacity issues. Please provide a copy of the evidence that supports this assertion.

Britain from Above

The Britain from Above website features images from the Aerofilms collection, an aerial photographic collection that includes over a million negatives and more than 2000 photographic albums. Dating from 1919 to 2006, the collection presents an unparalleled picture of the changing face of Britain during the 20th century. The collection was created by Aerofilms Ltd, established after WW1, and many of the photos were used to make postcards or were commissioned by individuals or industry, etc, to promote their own establishments. Britain from Above is a 4 year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the collection from the period 1919 to 1953. Once conserved, they are scanned into digital format and transferred on to the web site for the public to see –

The photograph above is copied from the database courtesy of English Heritage showing Cockermouth Main Street in 1929.

On 19th August, Brian organised on our behalf an open session as part of the ‘Borders Project’ for Britain from Above, displaying historic aerial photos of Cockermouth and inviting memories, stories and anecdotes from what was seen.

Summer Activities

Around 30 came to our July Garden Party in absolutely perfect weather and indulged in absolutely perfect cakes made by Shirley, Brian and Marj. Not to mention the chocolate coated strawberries!

The weather for our trip to Barrow in Furness was not that bad either and each of the venues proved to be extremely interesting, including the hotel for morning coffee!

Also we were well entertained at the Helena Thompson Museum by Workington Civic Trust with cake & a talk on hats!

Walks from Cockermouth – Roman Road and the Derwent Valley

Bernard Bradbury taught at Cockermouth Grammar School and became Head of the Maths Department. He also developed a keen interest in local History and collected information about the various factories, mills and other historical activities in Cockermouth. In the 1960s, he produced his first booklets, including ‘Walks from Cockermouth’. Once he retired in 1975, he put his efforts into writing his ‘History of Cockermouth’ which was first published in 1981. Following this, he produced his series of ‘Cockermouth in Pictures’. Bernard was a founding and leading member of Cockermouth Civic Trust and subsequent to his death in 2002, his widow, Mary, asked the Civic Trust to take over responsibility for the management and publication of Bernard’s books.

All of Bernard’s books remain subject to review and updating. ‘Walks from Cockermouth’ was last reviewed and reissued as the 8th edition by the Civic Trust in 2003. Having responsibility for this publication, the Trust recognise that they need to ensure that not only the directions remain accurate, but also to monitor the condition and safety of all of the paths contained in the book. This year, we are walking all of the paths in turn, noting any needed changes to directions, and reporting any access problems to Cumbria County Council, with whom we have an agreed arrangement.

Walk 7 in the book starts and finishes in Cockermouth but is essentially centred on Papcastle. It follows the route out of Papcastle along the old Roman Road from Derventio, (Papcastle), to Alauna, (Maryport), until the footpath reaches the current Dovenby to Broughton road. Our path then crosses Priest’s Bridge and takes the footpath to Broughton Bridge, following Broughton Beck. We return to Papcastle along the River Derwent. In June this year, three members of the Civic Trust walked this path as part of our periodic inspection. Perhaps not unexpectedly, we found the Roman Road section extremely overgrown and very uneven underfoot. We duly reported this to Cumbria County Council and also commented that it is a shame that the footpath is not marked in any way as the former Roman Road. Cumbria County Council immediately agreed to clear the undergrowth from the footpath and this has already been done. However, they said that they do not currently have funds to repair the surface which has previously been stone pitched but has suffered water erosion. They offered to undertake a survey of the footpath and to put together a Bill of Quantities to estimate the cost of installing a flagged walkway, improved drainage and improved access furniture if we as a Civic Trust would then apply for external funding through such as ‘Awards for All’ or Friends of the Lake District. We have subsequently agreed in principle to this approach and the council are currently undertaking their survey work. We suggested that piping the stream might be a good idea and a gravel path might be easier to walk on.

Cockermouth Castle – Lord & Lady Egremont

We had a meeting in August with Lord & Lady Egremont to discuss the future of castle tours and Lord Egremont’s role as President of Cockermouth Civic Trust. They are clearly intending to continue using the castle as a family home and have 4 grown up children of their own, plus grandchildren. They enjoy the privacy of Cockermouth Castle in contrast to Petworth, their Sussex ancestrial home, which has many National Trust visitors most days of the year. They intend to visit Cockermouth regularly throughout the year. In respect of castle tours, they are essentially content for us to continue with our existing arrangements and welcomed our idea of a special tour for our members sometime next year. They are keen to get involved in Cockermouth and participate in Civic Trust activities.

Volunteers Needed Please (John Dent)

We are looking for volunteers to help by stewarding at Banks Ironmongers for an hour or two on Saturday 13th September as part of HODS. Please phone me on 824544 or email me at jrdent @


And lastly, a reminder, if its not too late, for you to participate in the Bernard Bradbury Memorial Lecture, (5th Sept) and our Heritage Open Days events, (11th to 14th Sept).

Phil Campbell, Chairman