Sunday, 30 October 2016

Village Bands

When I first came to Loughborough way back in the late 1970s, I was very interested in the musical activities of the town, and did some research into these, which resulted in a directory of such things. I remember there used to be loads of brass bands in the town, the surrounding villages, and nearby towns, which was great because having lived in the coal-mining areas of South Wales, and also having lived in Yorkshire, brass bands have been a big part of my musical life. 

It seems that bands may have originated from the town waits from Medieval times, or from musicians associated with the army. The latter may have influenced local musicians to found their own bands. The tradition of Medieval wandering minstrels may also have had some influence on local bands.

Brass instruments didn't become particularly common in town bands until about the 17th century. Village bands could either be small, and composed of families, or they may have been bigger affairs which practised in the local pub.

Over the years there have been many, many bands in the area. As I was saying I remember the Loughborough Town Silver Band, as well as the Desford Colliery Band, and the William Davis Construction Group Band. At the time, Hathern was a little too far for my interests, but, of course, I have since become very familiar with the Hathern Band family of bands! The Loughborough Echo has had some great pictures and news of Loughborough bands on its Looking Back pages recently.

Anyone who follows the world of banding will be familiar with the website 4 Bars Rest, where there is live coverage of contests, lists of band rankings, news from the world of banding, and notice of vacancies within bands. Of course, there are loads of other band-related websites out there, and I would suspect that most bands have their own page: I know Hathern does.

While I was hopping around the internet, I also found a very interesting site on which people list what it is about banding they are researching; collections of music and instruments of historical interest, like at Cyfarthfa; some great old pictures of people and their brass instrument (check out the trombones!); and lists of both existing and defunct brass bands. Do have a look at the defunct bands, as probably every town, village and hamlet you can think of in and around Loughborough and North West Leicestershire has at least one entry (although I couldn't find one for Mountsorrel, so do let me know if you spot one!). Would you believe that Newtown Linford had its own band in about 1840-1850, that Lord Donington had a private band around the 1890s, and that there was a band called the Best Blooming Band between Burton and Bagworth, known as the Five Bs Band about 1890.  

Anyway, this is what I was up to last evening:

At Hathern Church we were treated to a veritable cornucopia of beautiful music from English composers, played by the Hathern Band. The last time I was here, the band were joined by Loughborough Male Voice Choir, but tonight was solely hosted by the band. Music from the royal court of the 16th century (John Bull's King's Hunting Tune) and from King Henry VIII himself (Pastime with Good Company (aka The King's Ballad) and strains of Greensleeves in the first half piece Fantasia on the Dargason (by Holst) jostled for favourite position alongside pieces by Vaughan-Williams, Coates, Binge, Langford, Elgar, Lloyd Webber, Walton, Alford, Elgar, Vinter, Sullivan, and Lennon & McCartney.

I simply can't remember when I last heard Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron, nor Pineapple Poll, but I've certainly heard Cornet Carillon and Fantasia on the Dargason more recently. Ashamed to admit I was not familiar with Spitfire Fugue. I was relieved the Vaughan-Williams piece played was the theme of the film the 49th Parallel, and not the Talis Fantasia which is a very powerful piece of music that never fails to reduce me to tears!
As ever, the conductor, Dave Newman, tells me something I don't already know, either about the music or the composers. This time it related to the composer of the music for Desert Island Discs, which was composed by Coates, and that for the Shipping Forecast, which was composed by Binge.
Finally, for encore, we were treated to Jerusalem, a rousing English anthem, that always has me longing to hear music from my own country, and leaves me with a strong feeling of hiraeth.

So immersed was I in the music that I only took a couple of photos, which really didn't do the band justice, so here's some taken at previous events:
The 4-piece trombone trio at Hathern Church!

On the Banks at Quorn, summer 2016

On stage at Loughborough Town Hall in Brassed Off!

At the bandstand in Queen's Park, summer 2016

At the Baptist Chapel in Shepshed.

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Village bands. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 30 October 2016]

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Loughborough Ladybird and its book illustrators

So, this week has been hectic, in fact, more than a bit hectic! Early in the week I managed to finish an essay for my local history qualification. I have to admit it was hard work - and that's only the first of 6!! Oh dear!  

On Wednesday evening I went along to a talk by Andy Everitt-Stewart on his life as an illustrator of children's books, including Ladybirds. He explained how he got into illustration, that he'd worked on designs or book illustrations, greetings cards, t-shirts and more! He explained the process of creating an illustration for a book, of the style guides that are used, and the approval process that sometimes has to be gone through!! It was obvious from his talk that he was passionate about his work, although he did admit that he gets bored easily, but that's ok because it means he can be very versatile. One of the things he rather likes doing at the moment is paper engineering, so making pop-up books and the like. He brought quite a lot of samples along, and some of his framed original artwork, as well as some of his engineered paper, so we were very lucky!


On Friday I popped into the Charnwood Museum to see the new Harry Potter exhibition that's on. Wow! Jim Kay has created some wonderful interpretations of J.K. Rowling's characters! Like Andy, Jim is keen to encourage youngsters: " ... keep scribbling!, he says. " ... ideas ... are important; the technique will come with practice." He also says: "Sometimes it's the mistakes that make us interesting and different." Some of the best advice Jim got came from a university lecturer who said: "keep trying things outside [your] comfort zone" and he has!! Like Andy, he also admits to getting bored easily: "I also get bored really quickly, so I like to try different things."    

There is much more to the exhibition than I can possibly describe here, but hopefully those few quotes will have whetted your appetite and you find time to visit the exhibition sometime: just remember it closes on 8th January 2017.

When I'd finished in the museum I popped across to the public library where those wonderful Local Studies Volunteers had staged a Ladybird books exhibition, showcasing the work of the illustrators. Earlier in the week I had visited Nuneaton. It happened to be market day and it was lovely to see all the little stalls selling a huge variety of goods. Funnily enough, some of the conversations I heard were so similar to the ones I hear in Loughborough market about dwindling trade and increasing rent. So as well as visiting the market, I also had a good look around the museum, which houses a display room dedicated to George Eliot the novelist. They also have a space for temporary exhibitions, so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the work of David Kearney: beautiful little landscapes - and a couple of book covers, including some for Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and those for the Three Billy Goats Gruff, Ladybird edition!

Anyway, back to our own Ladybird exhibition! As I said, this exhibition focuses on the illustrators of the books, and to accompany the books on display, there are bibliographies, being a catalogue not only of the books each of the artists illustrated, but also a list of all the other books they illustrated, that the local studies folk could identify. This really is a lovely exhibition which is well worth a visit, but hurry, as it's only on until 29th November!

So, that's been my week! Next week I'm expecting a slightly less frenetic week!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Loughborough Ladybird and its book illustrators. [Online] Available from: 
[Accessed 23 October 2016]

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Well, over the years I've skim read a lot of local history material, some of which I later look at again in more detail, some things I do a bit more research on, and other things I forget. Or, at least, I think I've forgotten about things, but then something happens and all becomes clear to me!

Something like this happened to me earlier this week. I had spotted an advert for a talk happening in Heanor, being presented by the Heanor & District Local History Society. I don't know why, but I thought it might be interesting to pop along and listen to a talk about a hosiery factory in Heanor, so I might compare it with what I knew about hosiery factories in Loughborough. 

Hubby used to work throughout the whole of Derbyshire, and he had taken me to Heanor twice as there is a lovely antique shop there, but he was away this particular evening, so I filled the car with petrol (I have a phobia of running low on petrol, never mind running out!), braved the sudden cold spell, typed the postcode into the satnav and headed off up the M1. About 40 minutes later I arrived in Heanor, parked the car, and then promptly got lost, and had to go and ask for directions in the local corner shop!

Eventually I found the venue, arriving about 10 minutes later than planned, but approaching I thought, no, this can't be it! In front of the reception desk was a queue, a queue for a local history talk! Looking beyond the queue into the room, I could see it was full! It wasn't a small room, but it was crammed with people who had come to hear the talk. All in all I counted about 150 people! Heanor only has a population of just over 17,000, so this was a brilliant turnout the likes of which I've never seen at a Loughborough heritage talk: maybe I just don't go to the right places in Loughborough?!

Anyway, I eventually found a seat in the crowded room and prepared to listen to a knowledgeable lady talk about the firm of I & R Morley, hosiers. 
Awaiting the talk!
They had a big factory in Heanor, and it seemed that half the population of the town worked for them I think the figure of 1200 was suggested). We were told about the origins of the firm, the working conditions and the life and death of the owners of the firm. 

It was during the middle of the talk that it suddenly dawned on me that I knew Morley's! Now, I don't think Morley's have been in their factory on Nottingham Road since I've been living in Loughborough (since 1978) or at least, not since I've been more aware of buildings etc., so I think I only remember the building being Riker, but you know the one I mean, on the Nottingham Road canal bridge, the L-shaped building with the chimney that is now 3M.

Once I'd realised why I had been attracted to the talk in the first place, I really paid very close attention to the story of the Morley family. Apparently, as well as the Loughborough and the Heanor sites, they also had factories in Nottingham, Leicester (on Bonners Lane, which is very near where I work today!), London, Paris, Daybrook, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Grenoble.

The company was established in 1795 by John Morley and his brother Richard. So the company ought to have been J and R Morley, but actually was known as I and R Morley. This was because since Elizabethan times the letters I and J were interchangeable (apparently there were only 24 letters in the Elizabethan alphabet). 

Perhaps the most prominent member of the Morley family was Samuel, born 1809, died 1886. He was the one who built up the company, such that on his death, he left about the equivalent of £93m in today's money (I think that was the figure the speaker mentioned!). He was, apparently, a good employer, which was evidenced by the fact that he paid employees when they went to war, and in his will he left money to each worker, a sum dependant upon the number of years they had worked for the company.

In common with many men of the era, Samuel Morley was a philanthropist, an abolitionist, and a member of parliament. A further point of interest (for investigation at some later date!) was that he may have worked with someone by the name of Paget. There is a statue of Samuel Morley in Nottingham Arboretum: bizarrely, I visited this park for the first time ever at the beginning of September this year when we went on a guided D H Lawrence walk around Nottingham, and I stopped and looked at this statue, but at the time had no idea who the man was, nor what his significance was! Strangely, I didn't even take a photograph of him. 

When the speaker at the talk was introducing us to Samuel Morley, she spoke of things that were happening at the time he was born: so, in 1809 the first Indian restaurant opened in London, and 1886 was the first year that coca-cola became available.

Other little snippets I picked up were that a lady called Ann Birkin who worked for Morley's, had embroidered stockings for Queen Victoria (and I have a strange feeling that I saw these earlier this year when I paid a visit to Ruddington Framework Knitter's Museum), and that it was Morley's who made the stockings for Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her marriage. The talk was quite interactive, and imagine the surprise the speaker had when someone showed her the pair of Morley stockings, still in their box, with a price label of 2/6, that they had brought with them!

So, it was a very interesting evening, and I picked up a lot of information, both about Morley's and Heanor itself. 

Here's a link to some information about a project that's been going on to discover more about Samuel Morley and his factories

Much work has been going on at Morley's Nottingham factory, which is now, partly, a gallery space run by Backlit

There are a couple of videos on youtube - interviews with Heanor people who used to work at Morley's and a film about the inspiration behind the renovation of the Nottingham factory.

Apparently, like Loughborough, Heanor used to have a cinema called the Empire, although ours still exists as The Odeon, and the car park I used was opposite the King of Prussia pub (of which there is also one near Abergavenny in Wales, where I used to live)! The street signs in Heanor were also very, very interesting:
A Heanor street sign
Here's a link to a picture on the inloughborough website of the Morley factory from the canal towpath taken in 1968. And below are some pictures of the 3M Factory today:
Approaching from Leicester along the canal towpath

From the canal towpath

Bridge Number 38, 3M to the right

Looking up from the towpath

Looking along the building from the towpath

The frontage onto Nottingham Road

A view from the opposite side of the towpath

The chimney from the opposite side towpath

From the opposite side towpath
Anyway, that's enough from me for one day!!

See you next week!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Morley's. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2016]

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Bradgate Park

Last week I mentioned Lady Jane Grey, so this week I thought I'd tell you about the recent meeting of the Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society (let's call it LAHS, for short!).

It was the first meeting of the Winter season, and the talk was delivered by Peter Liddle, former County Archaeologist, who over the last two years has been helping out on the dig at Bradgate Park. If you've been to Bradgate recently, you may well have seen the dig in action. Peter explained that permission to investigate, via an archaeological dig, has been granted for five years. This may seem like a long time, but Bradgate is big so they will be making carefully considered choices over where to concentrate their efforts, in order to find the most evidence!

One of the parts of the dig had proved extremely fruitful, yielding flint tools, the likes of which are found only in a few places in the UK (called Cheddar and Creswellian flint). There are some better pictures over on the Creswell Crags website. These finds are likely to be from the Palaeolithic era (about 12,000 years ago). 
Selection of flint tools in the Visitor's Centre
Another dig has taken place next to the house, where more flint has been found. Other important revelations during this dig has been the discovery of the foundations of a building, perhaps a park lodge. A quantity of slate, and some ridge tiling has also been found.

Suggestions that the area behind the house was previously a tilt yard, an enclosed courtyard used for jousting, have been disproved, and the area was almost certainly a traditional, formal garden.   

There's a fuller account of the digs than I can give on this blog over on the Leicester Mercury website.

Some more information about this year's dig and the flint that was found.

Information from ITV news on the dig

The project also has a presence on facebook.

If you want to know more about the history of Bradgate, pop along to the Visitor Centre in the middle of the park, where there also a cafe in the Old Deer Barn. The history of the park, and this one of the earliest Tudor houses in the county and the sole remaining enclosed deer park in the East Midlands, is laid out on information boards, some of which have been summarised in a small booklet which is available to purchase. The ruins of the house is also open to the public at specified times. Alongside this is the chapel which, as well as several information boards, also houses the alabaster effigies of Henry and Anne Grey.

I took a visit to Bradgate the other day, so here are some photos of my trip:

The approach to the house

The site of the formal gardens

A view of the Leicestershire Yeomanry Memorial

Enjoy your visit to Bradgate!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Bradgate Park. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 9 October 2016]