Newsletter – 114

A Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you all survived the  cold weather in November and December without too much hardship, which is more  than can be said of our December lecture and committee meeting, both of which  we had to cancel. I apologise for this, but it has been very rare for us to  cancel anything. We can look forward to 2011 with Cockermouth now approaching  normality, albeit with work still to do, including work on the ‘public realm’,  which hopefully will start later in the year, and refurbishment of the Memorial  Gardens, which is funded & again should happen this year.

In this newsletter, we’ve  included a sizeable article on the flood recovery work to date as it affects  the town centre. It goes to show what can be achieved when interested parties work  together. Les Tickner, the flood recovery coordinator and who was going to be  our December Lecturer, has agreed instead to be our after dinner speaker &  his focus is clearly going to be on Cockermouth Recovery. If you would like to  come to this year’s dinner, please send in your ticket application as soon as  possible because we have an upper limit on seating this year.

Membership Renewal
Some members haven’t yet renewed their subscription this  year. Please, please do so to support the Trust even if you can’t get to many  of our meetings. If you haven’t yet renewed, please send your fee of £5.50  plus £5 for each additional household member to the Treasurer, Mr Ian Dodsworth, 1 Banks Court, Market Place, Cockermouth,   CA13 9NG or bring to any lecture. Furthermore, maybe you know someone else who might  like to join, if so please let us know so that we can give them a membership  introduction pack – a strong membership strengthens our voice.

Annual dinner – Wednesday April 20th
This year’s dinner will be in Carlin’s Bistro at the Allerdale Court Hotel,  Market Place at 7pm for 7.30pm on Wednesday April 20th. The after  dinner speaker will be Les Tickner, the Cockermouth Recovery Coordinator. The  menu looks very attractive & costs £20 per person. If you would like to  come, could you please complete your menu choices on the attached form &  return it along with the appropriate monies.

Tell us your opinions
This year we left space available on the renewal form to  give you the option of voicing your opinions. Some members took advantage of  this and we reviewed all of the comments at a committee meeting.

The feedback received was  very positive, particularly in respect of the work done by the Trust during the  flood recovery period. We are encouraged to keep positive & proactive, and  not to be discouraged by adverse comments received. Issues raised by members  for our attention included disabled access to shops, hazard of bicycles on  pavements, the need for quality bus shelters (preferably canopies at Lowther  Went & Kings Arms Lane) and the return of the flowerbeds onto Main Street

Lecture Programme
A reminder of the remaining lectures this season:
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.

Public Baths
Many of you may have seen the inscription uncovered on the  wall of a building under renovation on Crown Street – ‘Public Baths’. This  building used to be the ‘Railway Hotel’, dating from 1847 and it presumably  offered public washing facilities, a service that used to be fairly commonplace  in the 19th century. In 1846 the Public Baths and Wash Houses Act  was passed, one of several pieces of Victorian legislation to improve public  health and hygiene.  It allowed local authorities to provide public baths  and laundries, and all cities/towns of any size seem to have such buildings  from after that time. However, we are not aware of any specific record of  public baths in Cockermouth and can’t find any mention in Bernard Bradbury’s  books. So if you have any information whatsoever, we want to know please.

Annual Trip – June  –  Skipton
We are planning a trip to Skipton in June. This will include  a guided tour around the town, but we still need to develop an itinerary and  full details will be included in our next newsletter.

From the Skipton website – Skipton is an attractive market  town serving a large rural area. Just outside the Yorkshire Dales   National Park boundary,  Skipton prides itself on being ‘The Gateway to the Dales’. Its name  comes from the Saxon word for sheep – ‘sheep town’. The broad tree-lined High  Street leads up to the church, behind which can be seen the impressive facade  of the 900 year-old castle, and Skipton Woods. The High Street is home to the  famous market with its many varied and interesting stalls, and to numerous  independent shops. Wander down the many alleyways or ‘ginnels’ to savour the  town’s history and character. Explore the side streets where you will find  individual shops, cafes and restaurants. Visit the canal area with boat trips,  marina. footpaths, and picnic areas.

Flood Recovery
Refurbishment  of Shops – The Story so far
(By John Dent)
Many of you will have seen on television just over a year ago  a certain Darren Ward together with his cat being rescued by boat from his  flooded home and deposited on Sullart    Street.   Before he knew what he was going to do about recovering from this  disaster, he was co-opted to a team that went into the Main Street to assess the safety and  stability of the buildings. He saw at first hand the damage and mess left after  the worst floods here in living memory. Instead of despairing, he began to see  that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the look of our  gem town by somehow persuading the owners of the shops affected to rebuild  their shopfronts to a design more in keeping with our heritage. A chance  meeting with Alan Kennon, a Cockermouth   Town and Cumbria County  Councillor, outside the remains of the New Bookshop found that he too was  thinking along the same lines. Together they decided to get together with  others of a like mind and invite Allerdale planners to a small meeting to see  how this objective could be achieved.

On 11th December, Darren found himself chairing this meeting  as an independent chair from the Civic Trust, with representation from the  relevant councils, local architects, the Chamber of Trade, Churches Together  and the National Trust. Les Tickner would later join this group after he had  become appointed as Cockermouth Recovery Coordinator. Now for the difficult bit  – how could this meeting’s unprecedented enthusiasm and cooperation be  harnessed to achieve the objective? It was noted that some businesses such as Jade Garden,  Greggs and Boots were scheduled to re-open imminently so it was already too  late to persuade them to change their shop front design at this point in time.  However, Prince Charles had expressed an interest in the restoration of the  town and it was thought that he might be able to put pressure on the national  chains to conform at a later date.

It was recognised upfront that specific funding would be  needed and a number of sources were investigated, including the Heritage  Lottery Fund, English Heritage and a flood fund held by Allerdale Council. A  grant of £50,000 was subsequently obtained from Allerdale BC.

It was agreed to organise an exhibition to show off examples  of suitable shop fronts – initially for the traders and then open to the  general public.
Rather naively it was thought at this time that most  businesses would be back trading in their premises by Easter.

From January, it was agreed that the Civic Trust would also  provide the secretarial support to these joint meetings.

An  early concern was for the stability of some of the Main Street buildings although it was  considered remarkable that so few had sustained major structural damage. In the  end, it has only been very minor buildings such as sheds that have ended up  being demolished, a great plus for the town.

An initial list of properties that would benefit from a  redesigned shopfront was drawn up. It was agreed that the size of the grants  would be directly proportional to the frontal area of the shopfront, the aim  being to achieve maximum impact from the monies available. A central condition  of the grant would be that the money given would only be over and above the  money paid out by the insurance, – which would have simply renewed the existing  design. A small sub committee was formed to assess the grant applications and  agree the amount of grant to be offered. Very quickly proposals were tabled for  19 shop fronts, indicating that the £50,000 would not be enough. Subsequently  further funding of £55,000 was received from an anonymous donor.

A report by a team commissioned by the Prince’s Trust was  circulated – titled “Cockermouth after the flood – an opportunity to revive and  preserve its history in the public realm”. This report praised the resilience  and spirit of the town and gave guidance on how some of the aspirations of the  townspeople might be achieved. This reflected Prince Charles’s continued  interest and support of our efforts to improve Cockermouth and became the  foundation for the proposals to enhance the public realm in town, i.e.  including paving, trees, signage and street furniture. Two Public Realm  Workshops have been held and things looked positive to improve the street scene  of the town. Funding for this is available in two parts – the first element is  available from County Council Insurances to reinstate the streetscape to  pre-flood condition, (£300,000 to £500,000). Grant aid of £1,500,00 is then  being sought for the incremental costs of the enhancements desired.

The Conservation Officer raised a concern about the  replacement of wooden window frames by plastic in the conservation area. This  would become the subject of an exchange of views in the local press at a later  date. Allerdale Borough Council admitted that they had not been adhering to  their own rules in this respect.

In February, there was dismay at the shop frontage design  installed by Lloyds Bank, which had not received the appropriate planning  permission. Subsequently, after design guidance from Darren, Lloyds installed a  much more appropriate frontage to the satisfaction of the parties involved.

The rebuilding the Millers Bridge was a concern for a while,  issues being accountability for the work, the widening of the river at this  location by the floods making the bridge structure too short, permissions  required from Natural England and, of course, funding. Eventually, all of these  issues were overcome and an improved bridge is back in place.

An offer of 50% discount off special breathable paints was  received from Keim Paints for all buildings affected by the floods. This offer  is still in place and we hope that more businesses will take advantage of it  for the benefit of the town as a whole. To encourage this, the group drew up a  list of properties where it is considered that improvements in the painting  should be targeted.

It was agreed that as well as improving the shop fronts some  grants should be available to improve the signage on existing shop fronts.

A new shop sign for North Lakes Clinic had been fitted  without planning permission or listed building consent despite all the  publicity issued. The subsequent applications were refused in that the signage  did not fit in with the listed building status. They have now appealed.

At the November meeting it was agreed that we would offer  advice to towns in Cornwall  that had been flooded recently.

By the end of 2010, the committee’s work had become more of  a “monitoring” role rather than an “action planning” one, but its remit has  continued into 2011, albeit at a reduced meeting frequency.

As of the beginning of 2011, the shop frontage position is  as follows, (all designated by pre-flood businesses):
Completed and paid: Lee’s Takeaway, Strolling  4 Shoes, Portofino’s,  C & G, Jacy’s.
Contracts in Place and  On-going: Cleeland’s, Rannerdale’s, Ikon, 5 Castlegate, Allison’s.
Applications Approved: Al’s Toys, Lakes Bakes,  DSL Betting, Tandoori, Blockbusters, Marmaris, Artisan, Walker’s Jewellers.
Target Properties for  improvement: Alternative Takeaway, Upholstery Shop – 11 Main St, Little Basil, The Old Sweet  Shop, Main St Fisheries, Pure Touch, Huddard’s Pet Supplies, Wendy’s.

No progress has been  actually made to date with Boots, Greggs and the Coop, despite some promises.

On the paint scheme, the  properties being particularly targeted for improvement include
46 Main St (above Wendy’s),  35 Main St (above Marmaris), 46 Market Place (above temp Jacy’s), 43 Market  Place (above C&G’s), The Brown Cow, 56/58 Main St (above Boots),  Harrison’s.

Before & After the Floods Book
We have decided to put together a book comparing and  contrasting Cockermouth historically before the 2009 floods with the ‘present’  following completion of the refurbishment work. It will be mainly pictorial.  Work has started but will not be completed until the refurbishment has largely  been finished. If you have any pictures that you would like to contribute,  please let me know.

Planning Permissions
There have been 3 significant planning applications that  have been current since the last newsletter. I have given updates on them  below:
Sullart    Street – The planning officer  recommended approval but the development committee refused it since they  considered that the scale & number of extra care residential units would  not reflect local accommodation needs, to the detriment of the balance of the  local community & its health & social infrastructure. This may go to  appeal.
The Fitz – This application is still current with opposition  from the County, Environment Agency & United Utilities, (& ourselves).  The Planning Officer is yet to make his recommendation.
Strawberry How – This is also still current. We  understand that the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment  have not raised any significant objections to the style or materials for the  development. [Allerdale BC referred this application to them for  advice]

Tour of Cockermouth Town Trail (13):
(by Shirley Campbell)
Step 13 on our Town Trail is one of those places in town  that some of us rarely see. If you don’t use Wakefield Road car park and walk over the  footbridge, then you probably fit into this group.

Plaque 13 features Graves  Mill. This was a woollen manufacturing mill started by Joseph Graves in the  1820s. As with many of our mills, this is now flats.

The area beside the River Derwent was known as the Sands,  hence High Sand and Low Sand Lanes. This was an early site for horse and cattle  sales.

Across the river is Derwent Mill which was founded by a  Quaker family by the name of Harris, in 1834. The mill developed steadily &  at its height employed 800 people. A 1912 advertisement features flax &  linen cloths and embroidery threads. The firm produced threads in 200 colours  and sold lace-making equipment – bobbins, patterns, pillows, etc. However, the  firm closed following the Depression in 1934.

Early in the 2nd world war, Millers evacuated  their shoe manufacturing from Great Yarmouth to the mill, bringing 200 workers  with them. This became a permanent move. At one time, the firm employed 1100  people and made 40,000 pairs of shoes weekly. There were also branches in  Workington, Frizington & Egremont. This company also fell into decline and  closed around 1990. Fred Dibnah demolished the once tall factory chimney in  1992 & the remains of the factory was made into flats.

The footbridge damaged in the 2009 floods was built  originally to give mill workers easy access from town to their workplace,  crossing both the Derwent and the Gote mill race.

In Memorandum
A memorial plaque to John  Chakko is to be fitted to the chair beneath the new tree installed on Kirkgate.  John, who died in 2009, was a long term member of the Civic Trust and left a  legacy for use in our work. Part of this legacy was used to fund this tree that  replaced one that had itself died.

Complaint to  Charity Commission
I do have to report that  a formal complaint was made to the Charity Commission during the year about  Cockermouth Civic Trust. The Commission did find in our favour. The complaint  was on two counts.

  • Professional interest affecting Civic Trust decision  making, and
  • The legitimacy of the grant that was paid to Darren  Ward partly covering his time for the flood recovery.

In respect of Civic Trust Committee decisions, it has always  been understood that the decisions are collective – and that any member should  declare any personal interest in a particular project, & should abstain  from related decisions. To my knowledge, this is always done. The Charity  Commission has recommended however that we should have a written policy for  declaring interest – and we have now introduced this.

The grant that Darren received for the flood recovery work was  in fact recommended by Allerdale District Council and was fully legitimate.

Castle Tours
We have agreed to take  over the tours of Cockermouth   Castle from Mary Bradbury  this year. Volunteers are welcome – training will be given.

Workington Civic Trust
You are welcome to attend  their lectures at the Helena   Thompson Museum  as a visitor (£2), all at 7pm. On 22nd Feb, Malcolm Bobbitt,  motoring writer, talks on ‘A trail of Ink across the Fells’. On 26th  April, Sir Brian Donnelly, former Ambassador to Yugoslavia  & Zimbabwe,  talks on ‘Diplomacy with Dictators’. For details, see their website:

Phil Campbell, Chairman

Cockermouth  Civic Trust – Annual Dinner
Wednesday 20th  April 2011 – Allerdale Court -7pm for 7.30pm

Our dinner this year will be at the Allerdale Court   Hotel, Cockermouth on  Wednesday 20th April, 7pm for 7.30pm. As usual we will have an after  dinner speaker – this year it will be Les Tickner. The cost per person will be  £20.00. If you would like to come, please return this sheet to Shirley Campbell  along with a cheque payable to Cockermouth Civic Trust, indicating your menu  choices. Please remember to keep a record of what you have chosen. Address to  send to is 27 The Mount, Papcastle, Cockermouth,   CA13 0JY. A  self-addressed envelope would be appreciated.

Starter Chef’s Homemade Soup of the Day with a chunk of rustic    bread
Smooth Chicken Liver Pate, dressed leaves, Cumberland    Sauce and wholemeal toast
Melon and Fruit Cocktail
Black Pudding and Potato Pancake stack with a sour cream    and balsamic glaze
Garlic mushrooms in cream and white wine with garlic bread
Main Slow braised fellside lamb shank, bubble & squeak with    a red wine reduction & pickled red cabbage
Fleetwood fish pie with prawns, salmon, cod and garden    peas, topped with a cheesy chive mash
Grilled chicken fillet with a stilton & bacon sauce,    watercress salad, cherry tomatoes and hand cut chips
Locally sourced sausage of the week on chive mash with    onion gravy and glazed carrots
Pasta shells with strips of smoked salmon in a white wine    & dill cream sauce with side salad and garlic bread.
Sweet A selection of home made desserts
Coffee or tea


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NUMBER OF  TICKETS_______ AMOUNT ENCLOSED: £________­­­­ (£20.00 per ticket)