2017/18 Programme

whs-2017Warrington History Society is pleased to announce its 2017/18 lecture programme.

Designed to appeal to the widest possible audience, this season’s programme will include talks on public transport, George Formby, the Rylands family, life in 19th Century Warrington, the Chemical industry and more, as detailed below.

Lectures will take place at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel in Cairo Street and are free to Society members (membership costs £11 per annum, click here for joining details)

Monday 18th September 2017
The Chemical Industry in Warrington & Widnes
by Diana Leitch

Monday 16th October 2017
Thomas Penketh
by Bill Cooke

Monday 20th November 2017
A Century of Public Transport in Warrington
by Ron Phillips

Monday 18th December 2017
Christmas Party / Quiz Night

Monday 15th January 2018
The Life of  George Formby
by Bill Hallworth

Monday 19th February 2018
The Rylands Family: Wire, Women & Song
by Phillip Jeffs

Monday 19th March 2018
Life in 19th Century Warrington
by Andy Green

Monday 23rd April 2018
William Beamont
by Harry Wells

Visitors are welcome to attend our talks for a small fee (£2 for adults; 50p for students/U18s, payable on the door). All talks start at 7.30pm.

Established in 1964, Warrington History Society’s aim is to encourage an interest in all aspects of local history with particular reference to Warrington and its surrounding areas. For further details visit www.warringtonhistorysociety.uk

Lewis Carroll Talk

frances_broomfield_alice_paintingLewis Carroll, creator of the much loved ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ stories, will be the subject of Warrington History Society’s next talk on Monday 17th October 2016.

Carroll’s influence looms large in Warrington. There’s the iconic Tea Party sculpture in Golden Square (officially unveiled on 30th May 1984 by HRH The Prince and Princess of Wales), two pubs – The Looking Glass in Buttermarket Street and The Hatter in Whitecross – and much more.

The area’s most notable Lewis Carroll landmark however is probably the Visitor Centre located within All Saints Church, Daresbury, where Carroll’s father was vicar from 1827 to 1843.

This month’s talk, “Lewis Carroll Through The Window”, will be given by Irene Rutter, one of the Centre’s visitor guides. Irene will recall the life and times of the famous Daresbury-born author, who spent the first 11 years of his life in the Village, through the memorial window that was erected in his honour at the church.

lewis_carroll

Daresbury-born Lewis Carroll whose work  is said to have drawn inspiration from some of the curiosities on display at Warrington Museum.

Carroll, real name Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was much more than an author. The Visitor Centre refers to him as a “churchman, storyteller, University don, pioneer photographer and puzzler” and Irene will touch on many of these aspects of his life during her talk.

Warrington History Society’s talks are open to members and non-members alike. The Lewis Carroll talk will take place at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel, Cairo Street, Warrington (opposite the Postern Gate’s car park) on Monday 17th October at 7.30pm. For further information visit warringtonhistorysociety.uk

Irene Rutter: Irene was born and brought up in Warrington, attending Beamont and Warrington High School before going to Manchester Royal Infirmary to study Radiography. She has worked in the Health Service for 41 years at various hospitals, including the old Warrington Infirmary, and her passion for Lewis Carroll’s work started at an early age.

alice_statue

Edwin Russell’s sculpture in Golden Square, Warrington. Created from granite and depicting four classic Lewis Carroll characters (Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Sleepy Dormouse and the March Hare), the piece cost £25,000 to create and includes a number of empty seats allowing passersby to join the party.

Warrington History Society: Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 with the aim of encouraging an interest in all aspects of the history and archaeology of Warrington and its surrounding areas. For information on how to join the Society visit warringtonhistorysociety.uk/join-us/

Main image (top of page): ‘The White Rabbit’s House’ – the latest Lewis Carroll inspired painting by Warrington born artist Frances Broomfield. To see more of Frances’ paintings and illustrations visit francesbroomfield.co.uk

Warrington’s Libraries

As LiveWire’s consultation period over the modernisation of Warrington’s libraries enters its final weeks, Warrington History Society’s Chairman ANDY GREEN takes a look back at the history of the town’s book-lending service, the origins of which date back to 1760, and urges townsfolk to have their say.

Eyres Press - located close to where Golden Square now stands - and the origin of Warrington's municipal library.

Eyres Press – the private library that operated from within this building, was the precursor to Warrington’s municipal library.

In 1848 Warrington had the proud distinction of becoming the first town in the United Kingdom to open a rate-supported public library. It was born from a long-established private subscription library that had been operating in Warrington since 1760 from the Horsemarket Street premises of the printer William Eyres. Known as the Warrington Circulating Library, it was used mainly by tutors from the nearby Warrington Academy, but in 1844, six years after joining with the town’s Natural History Society, its members sought to make its collections available for the benefit of the town as a whole.

In 1848, this wish became a reality when the town’s first Mayor, William Beamont, and its first Clerk John Fitchett Marsh, took advantage of the government’s 1845 Museums Act by vesting the Society’s books and artifacts in the council. The Museums Act allowed boroughs with 10,000 or more people to raise monies for the establishment of museums and thus, almost by default because of its sizeable book collection, Warrington became the first town in the country to have a municipal library.

In the same year the cities of Canterbury and Salford followed suit by establishing libraries as annexes to their own museums. Nearby Manchester later became the first local authority to provide a dedicated public lending and reference library but this wasn’t until the passing of the Public Libraries Act of 1850 and its opening in 1852 was a good four years after Warrington’s rate-aided library had come into being.

Crowds gather to watch Mayor Willian Beamont lay the foundation stone for Warrington's central library and museum.

Crowds gather to watch Mayor William Beamont lay the foundation stone for Warrington’s new purpose-built central library and museum.

By the mid-1880s, Warrington’s municipal library – by now housed in purpose-built premises in Museum Street, the foundation stone of which was laid by William Beamont in front of a massive crowd – boasted over 20,000 books and was thought to be the largest of any town in England based on the number of books per head of population.

Warrington has another distinction with regard to its libraries. Another unrelated library service, known as the Warrington Perambulating Library, is recognised as one of the first mobile libraries in the country.

Warrington's Perambulating Library - operated by the town's Mechanics Institute and one of the first mobile library's in the country.

Warrington’s Perambulating Library – operated by the town’s Mechanics Institute and one of the first mobile libraries in the country.

Established by the town’s Mechanics’ Institute in 1858, it comprised a travelling one-horse cart that set out to visit “every door in Warrington”. It was said to be a resounding success with the Institute’s book lending rates increasing by over 300% in just 12 months.

The existence and success of these libraries led to an increase in literacy levels across the town and Warrington became known as a centre of cultural excellence – facts seemingly overlooked when the RSA voted the town bottom of its Heritage Index in 2015.

Our current library service is something I feel we Warringtonians should be very proud of. The proposal to close our central library in favour of a wellbeing centre in Golden Square that does not include a true lending service seems a backward step as it detracts from one of the town’s great historical distinctions. Surely, if the library in Museum Street is to be turned into a heritage centre, the ability to lend books as well as view reference books should be maintained to continue a service that dates back to 1848. It is much better to say Warrington “has” the longest established rate-aided library rather than “had”.

Personally, I believe it is good that the town is reviewing its library service, even if it has been sparked by the need to reduce costs. The establishment of libraries within ‘neighbourhood hubs’ seems a sound idea particularly if sharing a number of facilities within one building reduces costs and increases book lending.

For areas without a nearby hub, we should think very carefully before closing their libraries. We should not forget that books are enablers – they help educate and improve lives. On a recent consultation with a GP, a member of my own family was offered a book “on prescription”, an initiative supported by many public libraries including Warrington’s LiveWire. This national scheme helps people manage their well-being through self-help reading and is endorsed by health professionals who acknowledge how empowering books can be.

Such services, and the advice available from librarians and archive support staff such as the ever-helpful Lynda and Patsy in the local history section of our central library, should not be jeopardised and I would urge anyone with similar views, or indeed different views, to take advantage of LiveWire’s consultation period which runs until Friday 21st October 2016. They are our libraries and we should have our say.

Let your views on the future of Warrington’s libraries be known by visiting LiveWire’s website.