Newsletter 132

September has arrived along with a new Civic Trust season and we are still in argument with all 3 councils. The Town Council collectively fail to see the future benefits of a Neighbourhood Plan for Cockermouth. Allerdale BC continue to exclude our Conservation Areas from Local Heritage Listing. The County Council still will not keep us informed of their plans for the Cockermouth projects. On a brighter note, we have another excellent programme of lectures for you this year and 2017 marks our 50th anniversary, which we aim to celebrate in style. We have just had a successful Heritage Open Days weekend, this year having the added focus of the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Dalton, a famous son.

On the subject of Neighbourhood Planning, we do need to be able to demonstrate the support of the community. This is where you can help. If you do support its development, please write and tell us, or better still, write to your town councillor.

It is time to renew your subscriptions please. I hope you will because we rely on having a strong membership to support our work and campaigns. A membership renewal form is enclosed. The subscription rate is unchanged from last year.

Lecture Programme 2016/17

As usual, all lectures will be on the evening of the first Wednesday of the month at the Friends Meeting House, 7.30pm.

Oct 5th Phil Brown Saving Cumbria’s wildlife & wild places
Nov 2nd Jane Laskey Senhouse Museum – latest finds. (preceded by AGM)
Dec 7th Julie Ward Neighbourhood Planning
Feb 1st Stephen Bray Non-Tech, New Reactor
Mar 1st Diane Hewitt National Garden Scheme
Apr 6th Darren Ward Restoring Underscar Manor

50th Anniversary Year

The first meeting of the Cockermouth Civic Society was held in Derwent School on 13th September, 1967. Right from its start, the Society was considered to belong not just to Cockermouth, but also the neighbouring villages. The local ‘Times’ reported that the enthusiasm shown ‘was a good augury for its future’.It was reported that there had been small groups of people popping up at all parts of the town, looking for interesting places, bemoaning the fact that so much had already disappeared’.

49 years on, we like to think that the Civic Trust is still going strong and having an influence for the good on the development of the town. A measure perhaps is that Cockermouth continues to be a hugely popular place to live. Another measure is that we do seem to be a very busy society for our size. Anyway, we are not going to let our 50th birthday pass without a celebration, both of our anniversary and of our successes over the 50 years.

Our 2017 annual dinner will therefore become our ’50th Anniversary Dinner’. I hope that a good number of you will be able to come. Details will come in a later newsletter.

Our lecture meeting on 4th October 2017, being very close to the actual anniversary, will also be a celebratory evening. 

Heritage Open Days 2016

Talking about birthday anniversaries, you will be aware by now that September 5th or 6th was the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Dalton, and that we enriched Heritage Open Days this year with a John Dalton 250th Anniversary Weekend.

The celebrations opened with a lecture by Tom Smith on Dalton’s life and work, accompanied by an exhibition by Cockermouth Heritage Group. Both were very well received, & the lecture was attended by around 80 people. It probably would have been a full house if the weather on the Friday evening hadn’t been so foul.

The weather on the Saturday was much kinder and it opened with an exhibition in Cockermouth School. It demonstrated how different scientific theories are taught in school today, theories that would have been known about when John Dalton was teaching. It also showed how science teaching has developed in the lifetime of many of the visitors. 34 people took the heritage walks from Cockermouth to Eaglesfield, along the first part of the John Dalton Way, a route similar to that which Dalton would have taken to visit friends in Eaglesfield when staying at the Globe Hotel.

On arrival in Eaglesfield, the walkers and others were in for a treat. First tea and cakes in the village hall, whilst exploring the exhibition on historic Eaglesfield. Then a walking tour of the historic village itself, guided by a map and interpretation boards at 18 properties. These were expertly produced and very informative. Visitors were even invited inside some of the properties, including John Dalton Cottage, the actual birthplace of Dalton.

Bus transport between Eaglesfield and Cockermouth was provided by Workington Transport Heritage Trust and around 100 passenger journeys were made. On the return journey, the bus paused at the John Dalton Memorial Church, St Philips, and around 100 people visited the church during the day.

As well as the John Dalton celebration activities, a number of other properties were open for Heritage Open Days. Special for this year was the bell tower at All Saints Church and a WW1 centenary exhibition at the Friend’s Meeting House on the Quaker’s response to war and peace and the impact of the Military Service Act of 1916.

Riverside Footpath Repair, Waterloo Street to Low Sand Lane

We have been seeking since early this year to get this footpath repaired following the flood damage.  Many locals use it for leisure, and it also forms part of our Town Trail. This is used by many visitors, including on our own guided tours. At first it was difficult to establish ownership as all of the local councils declared it not to be their responsibility. Our research eventually established that this area of land actually belongs to the individual properties adjoining it, and that it has gradually grown over the centuries, as the river moved away. This has complicated our options for repair. Initially, we proposed to use voluntary effort to replace the infill for the gouged out section with new gravel.  Finally, we have collaborated with Allerdale BC to get a full repair of the path, including the damaged area at the bottom of Low Sand Lane, with the aid of a grant from the Cumbria Community Fund Flood Appeal. This work will also include measures to prevent future vehicle  access which has added to the path damage. 

I am pleased to say that our funding application has just been approved, which has cleared the way for work to begin before winter arrives. 

Adoption as a Public Right of Way

Although the above footpath is marked on the Ordnance Survey Map as a path, we have come to realise that it is not registered as a formal Public Right of Way. We have decided to rectify this by making a formal application. This does require supporting evidence of footpath usage. If you have used this path regularly over the years and are willing to assist our application, please let us know. There will be a simple form to fill in which we can help you with.

War Memorial  Condition Surveys

Following the workshop, members have started inspecting the memorials in our locality. Most of them such as the one above at Broughton, have been found to be in very good condition. A few, such as the cenotaph in Cockermouth, are in need of maintenance. We register our findings on a national web site. Those that we register as good or fair are just registered. Any that we identify as poor or very bad are highlighted as requiring remedial work. 

What is Neighbourhood Planning?

Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. They are able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided, and grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead. Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community where the ambition of the neighbourhood is aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area.

Cockermouth Neighbourhood Plan

You will be aware from the last newsletter & other communication routes that we were very disappointed with the Town Council decision not to proceed with the development of a Neighbourhood Plan for the Town. We felt that the concept of a Neighbourhood Plan for Cockermouth must not be lost and we therefore have established a ‘Community Forum’ with the objective of producing a scoping document for the production of such a plan for Cockermouth. The intention is to present this document back to the Town Council to allow them to reconsider their decision based on informed evidence. This Community Forum is not legally empowered to produce a Neighbourhood Plan itself, this will still need the agreement of the Town Council. Furthermore, the government funding for the plan development has to come to the Town Council.

An opening meeting for this Community Forum was held in July. This was very well attended by Civic Trust members and other members of the community, around 32 in total, and was very well received. It was agreed to proceed with a smaller group of around 20, jointly chaired by Ros Earthy and Darren Ward, both from the Civic Trust Committee.

To date, 2 further meetings of the established Community Forum have been held. One of the objectives of the forum is to demonstrate that there is community support for the Neighbourhood Plan. You can assist them in this by writing a letter or email of support to the Civic Trust, and ideally to your Town Councillors as well if you live in Cockermouth itself.

Local Heritage Listing Progress

Unfortunately, we are at the same impasse with Allerdale BC on the Local Heritage Listing as we reported in the last newsletter. The process that we produced was all but agreed with Allerdale BC but at the 11th hour, someone on their Scrutiny Committee proposed, to save money, that Conservation Areas should be excluded from consideration. This was agreed and ratified by the full Council. They took no consideration of the fact that all but one of our nominations for the Local List in Cockermouth lie within a Conservation Area. They also took no account of The Good Practice Guide for Local Listing stating that ‘Heritage assets can be added to a local heritage list regardless of whether they are sited in conservation areas’. We have been in communication with the Chief Executive of Allerdale BC without making significant progress. His hands are tied by the elected Council decision. We are currently following up on two avenues. One is to see if we are able to nominate a few assets for consideration outside of Conservation Areas. These will need to be outside of Cockermouth itself. This will start the ball rolling and allow the Council to assess the actual impact on their resources. The second is to determine if we can open a channel of communication directly with the Councillors who were involved in the decision.

Town Centre Projects

We still have the following questions for the County Council:

  1. Are they going to complete the storm drain project by connecting their expensive drains in Main Street to the river, or are they going to decide its too difficult & quietly forget about it?
  2. When are they going to rectify the faults identified on the Main Street project snagging list?
  3. When are they going to address the faults in the road & pavement infrastructure in Market Place and what are they going to do?

Clearly, we are concerned that they are walking away from their responsibilities and we are worried that they will come and damage the character of Market Place, particularly if they remove the art work.

We have made a formal complaint to the County Council about their lack of communication with us on these issues. They have actually acknowledged receipt of our complaint but that was the last that we heard.

The one communication that we did receive indicated that they hoped to start the storm drain connection in autumn this year, followed by Market Place. No indication of what they are going to do.

Workington Civic Trust

We were sad to learn that Workington Civic Trust has folded. It seems that they were unable to maintain sufficient volunteers to serve on their committee or in executive roles. Many societies have the same issues, even Cockermouth U3A with its large membership is organising a special meeting to consider their lack of willing organising committee members. We as a society are not immune!

It is sad for Workington that they no longer have a civic society. It is sad for us too. They were a local companion society and we were able to learn and share with each other. 

Visit to Carlisle  & Lanercost Priory

A good example of the impact of the demise of Workington Civic Trust on us is that over a number of years a few of their members have come on our trips. If half a dozen of them came it helped spread our costs and keep our prices down. Only one Workington member came on this year’s trip. Partially as a result of this, we had fewer on our trip this year than expected and made a loss on the day of around £60. Also fewer of our members came, possibly because it was nearer to home and possibly because of the amount of walking that was envisaged.

The 2015 trip was a sell out and we had a waiting list. Some years we make a profit, some times a loss & we aim to break even in the longer term. Lets hope that continues and our members continue to support our outings.

This year’s trip actually went very well and the slightly smaller numbers were actually a benefit on our tours. We started off in Carlisle with a town tour organised by Carlisle Civic Trust and led by a Blue Badge Guide. A central feature of the tour was a visit to the old civil and criminal courts.

We all had a buffet lunch at ‘Cakes & Ale’ cafe before moving on to Lanercost Priory. Here we had a stimulating tour of the Priory Church and the old Priory ruins, ending up in Dacre Hall. A cream tea followed.  

Cockermouth Castle

You will all be aware of the flood damage to the castle mound. We have undertaken all of our programmed castle tours this year, including specials for Keswick U3A and the Papcastle Archaeological Group. We have had to introduce some additional access constraints as a result of the risk assessment, pending the outcome of the engineering assessment

The engineering assessment has now been completed and this has shown that the castle is built on glacial deposits, not solid rock. Therefore, if no remedial work is undertaken, there is a high probability that the castle walls will collapse in the relatively near future.

A planning application has been submitted for remedial work to the exposed mound. This involves inserting ‘soil nails’, typically 3 to 4 metres long into the bank at intervals of around 2 metres. A schematic is shown below, apologies that you can’t read the text unless on email.  The nails will be installed using a long reach mechanical device sitting on the boulders below. A mesh will be installed between the nails to allow vegetation to grow. Its not going to look very good for a while, but will recover well in time.


Happy 180th birthday to JB Banks Ironmongers. All members are, (or were), welcome to a charity coffee morning there between 10am and 2pm on Wednesday, September 21st.

Phil Campbell, Chairman