Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Snapshot Series: The Roxy Cinema, Dalton

This photo was taken in 1997 and shows the then dilapidated remains of the old Roxy Cinema and bingo hall in Dalton. The building was one of the 'Picture Palace' style cinemas, the name visible at the top of the building in the photo above. These 'Picture Palaces' became popular in the 1930s and were built in many towns across the north west.

A cinema had stood on this site since 1912 when two men, Backhouse and Drinkwater, built the Empire on the site of a former brewery. This was Dalton's first cinema and became a popular place to be.

In 1936 however the interior of the building was demolished, leaving the front mostly intact, and rebuilt in a more contemporary and luxurious style. At this point its name was changed to the Roxy and was re-opened to the town on Christmas Day of that year.

In later life the cinema closed its doors and the building became the Roxy Bingo Hall. It stayed as such until it too closed sometime in the late 80s to early 90s, leaving the building to become more and more dilapidated.

Sadly this building with is wonderful, evocative architecture no longer exists. In the late 90's the Co-operative company bought the building and it's land, demolished it and built a brand new supermarket on the site.

It is a real shame that the old cinema had to go. I can remember when it did - I used to love the old building, it was a real snapshot in time and looked so nice (if a little run down). I often wish they had kept the frontage of the cinema and incorporated it into new building but alas this never happened.

Still I am glad that images exist of this wonderful old building so it can be remembered. The image above was taken by my father before demolition took place and I'm so please we have this image of what was one of my favourite buildings in the town.

The site of the Roxy Cinema as it is today with the Co-operative food shop standing in its place.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Snapshot Series: The Conishead Runes

In 1928 a block or red sandstone was discovered at Conishead Priory during an excavation of the medieval priory. This stone was the capital of a pilaster (an architectural element used to give the appearance of a supporting column) which would have once been part of the priory church. There was something different about this stone though, interestingly it had a runic inscription carved into it. Not something you would usually expect from a Medieval monastic site. The runes themselves had been translated as 'Dotbert' or 'Rotbert' (as in Robert) but some have suggested that it may translate as 'Kotbert' meaning Cuthbert, which could be very interesting.

Sadly this fascinating block went missing sometime after its discovery and its whereabouts became unknown. That is until a chance visit to an English Heritage store in 2016 led to its re-discovery!

I, the author of Furness Hidden Heritage, had visited the English Heritage stores in Helmsley to view the artefacts in storage there from Furness Abbey. While being shown around I was intrigued by one particular piece of stone which had a runic inscription upon it. The curators at the store were unsure as to what the inscription said and were under the belief that it was a stone from Furness Abbey. It certainly is in the same red sandstone synonymous with the abbey so it easily fit with all the other artefacts in storage.

Image courtesy of Greenlane Archeology.
I was curious about the stone so took a picture of the inscription for my own records. On leaving the stores I didn't put much more thought into the stone until one day when I was reading up on the priory at Conishead. I had found a report by Greenlane Archaeology, of Ulverston, and in the document there was mention of a unique stone found at Conishead with a runic inscription, a stone that's whereabouts was now unknown. Below the text was a black and white picture of the very same block I had seen in the stores.

My heart jumped and I immediately thought "I know where that is!". Quickly I checked the photograph I had taken of the stone in the stores to confirm my initial thoughts and yes, the runes matched, they were the same stone!

I soon got in contacted with Danny of Greenlane Archaeology to let him know of my discovery. He immediately got in contact with the curators at English Heritage and soon had confirmation that the Conishead Runes indeed sat on a shelf in the Helmsley stores. This marked the re-discovery of this fantastic piece of local history.

The Snapshot Series will be a series of short posts on singular locations, features or artefacts found in the Furness area. Not large enough to warrant a long blog post we will explore these sites in snapshots!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A beautiful building gutted by fire, the House of Lords pub, Barrow

Sat on Abbey Road, which stretches through the centre of Barrow-in-Furness, stands a beautiful Victorian building. Built in 1870-71 the building served as a working mens club and later went on to become a public house called Lords Tavern or the House of Lords.

Image Courtesy of Google Maps (https://www.google.co.uk/maps/)

The building was designed by architect HA Darbishire. Derbishire served as the architect to the Peabody Trust from 1864 to 1885. The Peabody trust was set up by an American man, George Peabody, who had gained an affection for London. The trusts aim was to, in London, "ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy of this great metropolis, and to promote their comfort and happiness".

This charitable goal must have been something Darbishire was passionate about as much of his work, even outside of the trust and the capital, aimed to promote the welfare of others. The designing of a social club for working men, such as that in Barrow, is a natural fit for this philanthropic architect.

The building is exquisite with its large windows, ornate architectural features and cute oval dormer windows projecting out of the steep roof. The whole place looks grand, impressive and slightly gothic. It surely is a fine building on the streets of Barrow.

Sadly, just a few weeks ago, this building was nearly lost to a large, destructive and harrowing fire. The fire ripped through the property destroying the roof, causing walls to collapse and nearly  condemning this edifice, which has stood 146 years.

Luckily this may not be the end for this fine building, it may have life after the fire but only time will tell. 

It is always a saddening affair when something like this happens. Fire is so destructive and in an instant it can nearly destroy a part of our local history. But it does shine a spotlight on the need to look after these wonderful buildings. Not to let them fall in to disrepair or be left empty and abandoned. These buildings were built to be used, built to serve a purpose and it is a crying shame for them to be left to rot and for inevitably something like this to happen.

We are all guilty of ignoring these buildings, we see them every day, they become part of the background, something nice but something we don't take time to think about. But maybe we should all spend a bit more time looking at these old structures, seeing them for their beauty, their design and for what they are - places to be used, to be admired and loved, places to create safe havens for all.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Snapshot Series: The Pinfold, Dalton

In the shadow of St. Mary’s Church, sitting on Goose Green in Dalton-in-Furness, is a peculiar little feature known as the pinfold.

The pinfold is a circular enclosure built out of local limestone. It was built sometime in the late 18th – early 19th Century. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact date of construction but it does feature on the Merryweather’s town plan of Dalton in 1825. It is thought though that the structure may well have been present in the 1700s.

In its day this cute little feature would have been filled with any animals found roaming the streets of Dalton. Any stray sheep or cattle would be locked within until the owners came to retrieve them. You can really imagine how it must have been, the grassy patch of land between the walls brought to life with animals roaming, chomping on the grass.

The Snapshot Series will be a series of short posts on singular locations, features or artefacts found in the Furness area. Not large enough to warrant a long blog post we will explore these sites in snapshots!