Ivy Cottage has been given a new "ridge" thatch. Amazingly, the thatcher (from Altrincham) kept working during the recent appalling weather and has kept to his four week estimate for the work. Using straw, he has removed the old ridge material and woven a lovely new decorated ridge which should last some years. Interestingly, straw is not always the material of choice for the ridge and on the continent, they usually use reeds instead. He has done a lovely piece of craft work which enhances the cottage and thus the village generally.
A Heritage Trail, linking all 26 Conservation Areas on the Wirral, has been launched on the Visit Wirral website.
The brainchild of Alan Chape, Chairman of Conservation Areas Wirral, the Trail has been devised by Alan working with Robin Tutchings, Wirral Council's Rights of Way Officer, Eileen Willshaw (Heritage Officer) and Jess Malpus (Conservation Officer). The Trail can be used by walkers, cyclists and even drivers and includes information about all the heritage assets/artefacts that you might see along the route. Currently only available on line it can be downloaded onto a smartphone or printed out for ease of use along the way although the team hope to have all the trail printed out into a handy booklet sometime next year.
To view the Trail go to: Conservation Areas Heritage Trail
Bruce Berry, one of our local Councillors, is circulating a letter confirming that the application for a residential development on the Diamond Farm site has been refused. If the application had been successful Diamond Farm would have ceased to exist as a farm and up to ten jobs would have been lost as the Reid brothers looked to re-locate elsewhere on the Wirral. The reasons for refusal are listed below.
1 The site lies within the Green Belt, where the National Planning Policy Framework and Policies BG2 and URN1 in the Wirral Unitary Development Plan make it clear that there is a general presumption against inappropriate development and substantial weight must be given to the harm arising from inappropriate development. It is not considered that very special circumstances have been demonstrated that would outweigh such harm.
2 The proposed development by virtue of its design, layout and elevation treatment fails to preserve the special historic character of the listed buildings within the application site. This is contrary to Unitary Development Plan Policy CH1 and the National Planning Policy framework.
3 The proposed development by virtue of its design, layout and elevation treatment would have a detrimental impact on the character of the Conservation Area which would be contrary to Unitary Development Plan Policies CH2 and CH17 and the National Planning Policy Framework.
4 The proposed new dwellings and the conversion of existing barns would result in a lack of privacy to existing and proposed dwellings and a poor outlook for future occupants of units 13 and 14. This is contrary to Policy HS4 of the Wirral Unitary Development Plan.
The applicant does have a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate and they have 6 months to submit an appeal should they choose to do so. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition and also made individual comments to the Planning Officer, opposing this application.
We are delighted to welcome a new Broster to the village. Harry, son of Amy and Philip, arrived on Monday, 21 November 2016 and is already starting to enjoy his new life at Prospect Farm. Many congratulations to them and also to Iris and John Broster who are delighted to welcome Harry to the Broster clan. We believe John is already working on a suitably sized tractor - so Harry can help with the harvest in 2030 !!
The Conservation Areas Wirral (CAW) committee (of which Saughall Massie CVAS is a member) has recently been negotiating with Wirral Borough Council to get more Blue Plaques around the borough, commemorating famous people who were born here. Currently there are only 6 in the whole of the Wirral - but following last Saturday's ceremony - there are now 7 !
Dixie Dean was born in Birkenhead and after playing for Pensby football team, he joined Tranmere Rovers in 1923. After making a name for himself he joined Everton Football Club, scoring a record 60 goals in the 1927-28 season, which has never been equalled. The plaque at Tranmere Rovers was unveiled by the Mayor of Wirral, Pat Hackett, before Tranmere's game against Chester on Saturday and is the first in a series of plaques which the CAW committee is determined will highlight Wirral's famous sons for residents and tourists alike.
Sunday, 14 August, saw our first Saughall Massie Village Garden Party take place. With two marquees, kindly supplied by Les's son-in-law, erected on the lawn of the White House, they provided the perfect backdrop to a really lovely event. The sun shone brightly, the Pimms flowed and the delicious food - which was kindly prepared by several of the ladies - was very much appreciated by everyone.
Tracy's Tremendous Tombola proved very popular with lots of exciting donated items including champagne (thanks to Clint at the Saughall, wine, sweets, other useful (and not so useful) items as well as two beautifully crafted wooden bowls made by Ken. The Table Magician went round entertaining everyone with his tricks and humour whilst the children had plenty to do with the Wild over Waterways activities provided by Peter and Gillian Bolt. Peter's knot tied dragonflies were extremely popular with children and adults alike. We also had THREE quizzes - one based around pictures of residents when they were much younger, some of which were hilarious! The other two quizzes were based on "How well do you know the village" and "Who said this famous quotation" - there were some brave efforts and everyone learned something!>
Our local artist Grace Horne also came along and we displayed some of her pictures in one of the marquees. Of particular interest were the ones of the village in the sixties but she also brought some of Birkenhead and Liverpool - showing how the scene has changed over the years. All in all a lovely afternoon, much enjoyed by everyone who came and particular thanks must go to Chris and Glen Hill for kindly allowing us to use their garden.
Following earlier presentations in the village to mark the centenary of WW1 - our Chairman, Les Spencer, took his 91 year old father on a battlefield tour of Belgium and France during May 2016. Les's grandfather (Fred Spencer) was in the 2/7th Lancashire Fusiliers which was made up of lads from Merseyside and East Lancashire.
Fred joined up at the age of 18 in 1916 and he fought at the Third Battle of Ypres, during October to November 1917 and on the Somme in March 1918. Heavy casualties were incurred at Paschendale/Ypres and the 2/7th were transferred for rebuilding and replenishment to the Somme front, adjoining the French defensive line in early 1918. In March 1918 the Germans launched Operation Michael and crashed through the allied lines at the precise location of Les's Grandfather's battalion. Out of nearly 750 men, only 37 escaped death or capture. Fred Spencer was one of those who escaped and during this retreat he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in action.
At the same time as Fred was doing his bit, his two brothers were also on the front at the Somme. Sadly one was killed and he has no known grave - just a name on the Thiepval memorial to the undiscovered dead. Fred's father (Les's great grandfather) was a stoker for a Liverpool merchant shipping company (1914 - 1918) dodging German submarines and delivering war supplies to France and Belgium. That's four men from two generations from one small terraced house in Walton, Liverpool.
Les's dad, Ronald, was also in Belgium as an artillery man involved in the liberation of Belgium in 1944/45. In view of the Belgium connections of the Spencer family through two world wars, Ronald was invited to lay a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. (This ceremony is held every evening at 8 pm and has been carried out every day since the end of the war.) Ronald was also interviewed by France 24, an on-line news channel. The picture shows the journalist shaking Ron's hand.
Les and Ron also visited the grave of one of Ron's Liverpool friends who was a member of the East Lancs Parachute Regiment, killed during the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945 so the whole trip was a very interesting but also moving experience for both of them.
Private Herbert Gardner Smith was born in Saughall Massie. He was the eldest son of Annie and Samuel Smith and they were tenants of Carr Gate Farm, Saughall Massie and the farm had been in the family for generations. The farm itself stood at the junction of Carr Lane and Hoylake Road. Many of the local lads were keen amateur musicians and Bert Smith was said to be a popular violinist. Bert volunteered to go to war in September 1914 and joined the 13th battalion of the Cheshire Regiment which was raised at Port Sunlight and had the unofficial title of The Wirral Pals. Following a years training they embarked on the SS Victoria, sailing for France on 24 September 1915.
Bert served as a Signaller with 3 company. After nine months at the front the battalion were active in the Douave Valley, south west of Vimy Ridge, France. A new strategy was being employed - tunnels and specialist mining groups were formed. The mine tunnels extended under the opposition's front line trenches and were packed with tons of explosives. At zero hour the mines were detonated, blasting the enemy to oblivion. The battalion's war diary for 15 May 1916 records "at 8.30 pm the allies spsrang mines and occupied the near lips. The enemy attacked at two locations, placing a very heavy barrage on our trenches and advanced. .......the trench fighting became critical by 10.20 pm due to a shortage of bombs. Two men were sent back repeatedly under heavy fire to obtain more bombs... By 11.15 the bombing attacks ceased." This dreadful situation continued and on Wednesday 17 May 1916, the battalion were again in support. Weather was fair. Enemy artillery and trench mortars were active all day. Casualties were reported... and attention was drawn to the fact that W/731 Private Herbert Smith had died of wounds.
Bert actually died at a Casualty Clearing Station approximately 15 km away, aged just 20 years old. The fatally wounded soldier's family received a letter of sympathy from his nurse who described the soldier's bravery and cheerfulness. According to his nephew, Private Smith had lost his hand as a result of an explosion. Private Smith is interred at Aubigny Communical Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France. (Information from Moreton & Districts Patriots 1914 - 1919, by Stephen McGreal, 1999)
Private Percy Smith was the son of John George and Martha Smith - the family living at Carr Farm in Saughall Massie. Percy was Herbert Smith's cousin. Percy was one of the Argyle Theatre volunteers who joined up in late January 1915 but he would witness the decline of the original battalion as they were ripped apart on the Somme. The opening days of October 1916 saw the 11/Cheshires still involved on the Somme killing fields and on 10th October they were located at "Ovillers Post", approximately midway between the town of Albert and the village of Thiepval. The men were involved in digging trenches, parallel to the enemy trench system and the Germans bombarded them with rapid machine gun fire. All the evidence points to Private Percy Smith being wounded on the night of the 10th and being evacuated, probably by hospital train, a distance of 90 miles to the town of Rouen where there was a vast military hospital complex. The area contained 15 various hospitals and one convalescent depot. On the 13 October, Percy sadly died, aged just 22. He is buried in St Sever Cemetery and Extension, located 3 km south of Rouen Cathedral and a short distance west of the road from Rouen to Elbeuf.
It must have been a very sad day for both local families when they received the dreadful news. Other local men who served included Edward Lester who was a Private in the RAF, Edmund Broster who served in the Cheshire Regiment and Joseph Broster who served in the Royal Garrison Artillery.(Information from Moreton & Districts Patriots 1914 - 1919, by Stephen McGreal, 1999)
A sunny spring morning on 10 April saw residents tackle some of the litter that seems to arrive in our village from many of those just passing through! Empty vodka bottles seemed to be a favourite along with crushed cans, meal deal packs and drink cartons. Along with various kinds of other rubbish, villagers were surprised to find a modern toaster in the ditch down Garden Hey road - sadly it was clearly beyond recovery by this time! Councillors Chris Blakeley and Bruce Berry kindly gave up their Sunday morning to help and with many of the finds going to recycling the village feels a little cleaner for the time being.
We have now done two tours of the village, in October 2015 and April 2016. One for the Wirral Tuesday History Group who meet in West Kirby every week and the second for Heswall U3A. Doing a village tour was a new experience for us but using material and pictures from the website the Conservation Society Secretary and Web Editor put together a tour of the listed buildings in the village. We were also greatly assisted by Brian Meadows of Ivy Cottage who kindly opened up the house to the tour groups and showed them photos of the house as it was when he bought it in the 1990's. Having had no work done on the property for many years it was in need of complete renovation. (The architectural survey details can be seen on the link to Ivy Cottage on the History page). Brian kindly showed the cruck frames (3 of them), the wattle and daub walls and the original "lift the finger latch" doors which had been retained upstairs. The group listened in silence to Brian's account of the ghostly experiences that he and his family have had over a number of years. The groups then visited the Saughall Massie bridge, built by Thomas Brassey and shown the "watering road" arrangements to enable horses and cattle to drink from the brook.
Brian Meadows showing John Kennedy of the Wirral Tuesday History Group the small door in the upper rooms of the cottage. The door provides an escape route in case of fire in that side of the house.
After their tours the group members examined some of the old maps, photographs and a copy of the Kingston Survey done in 1665 and told us they had thoroughly enjoyed their visits, kindly making a donation to the Society's funds.
The Society is a member of the Conservation Areas Forum, (now Conservation Areas Wirral - CAW) and the plan is to make Heritage Trails for each of Wirral's conservation areas which can be downloaded from the various Society websites as well as from the Forum's new website - to be launched soon. A book of the trails is also in the pipeline. Our Society is therefore ahead of the 'game' in having provided a tour of our village already!
Members from your Conservation Society Committee attended the recent History & Heritage Fair in the Town Hall, Birkenhead on 7th March 2015. We were promoting the Wirral Conservation Areas Forum group and raising awareness of the work the group is doing to keep heritage and conservation at the forefront of the Council's agenda, despite the budget cuts that are still on-going. The Fair was very well attended and we talked to many of the visitors who were keen to see Wirral's heritage protected as it is a huge tourism draw as well as giving a unique character to many of Wirral's towns and villages. The next Forum Conference will be in April 2016 when many issues pertinent to Wirral's Conservation areas will be on the Agenda.
Our commemoration programme started with a talk about the Wirral Pals regiment in November 2014 and the second was Battlefield Remains by Judith Beastall in January 2015 (see below).
Judith has spent many hours studying and visiting the WW1 battlefields of France and her very interesting talk (22 January 2015) showed the audience artillery shells (still being dug up in their hundreds today), trenches, inside bunkers, tunnels with amazing carvings on the walls, a purpose built "village" in the woods and much more. Interspersed with archive war pictures her talk painted a real picture of the battlefield structures as well as how soldiers had to live - in some cases underground - for months at a time. Judith's interest in the subject was infectious and the audience thanked her for a most interesting evening.
Peter Threlfall is a local Great War historian and Chair of the Merseyside Branch of the Western Front Association. He spoke to a packed audience at the Saughall Hotel last night (20 November 2014) and did a great presentation about how the Wirral Pals regiment was recruited, their training and the various battles they fought. Some of the archive photographs were very interesting and rather sad as many did not return from the war. However the news that initially the Wirral Pals had to wear blue serge post office uniforms and have a white band around their cap as the Army had run out of uniforms came as a surprise! Fortunately by the end of their training they had proper "khaki" to go and fight in. With maps to show their locations in France during the war, the Regiment was slowly decimated and eventually had to be merged with another after three years of heavy losses. A fascinating talk - Peter Threlfall is hugely knowledgeable and keen to share his interest with the audience.
A display of trench art and WW1 memorabilia including newspapers was also on display. Trench art was done by the men in the trenches during "rest" periods and they often used spent shell cases and etched patterns on to them. They are frequently beautiful and the collection included two very rare items believed to be done by Chinese and Indian soldiers. They were much admired by members of the audience during the interval. With over fifty people attending the talk, the Society made a surplus so that over £60 will be going to the Help for Heroes fund. Thanks to all those who attended and gave so generously.
The Saughall's themed meal included Lentil Soup with homemade chunky bread, Slumgullion (a thin beef stew served with Pommes Frites (pan cooked spuds) and cabbage followed by homemade Bread & Butter Pudding (using their own eggs) and served with custard. It was absolutely delicious and it was certainly the case that many men who went to war actually ate better food than they received at home, especially if they were from the poorer areas of the towns.
Sunday and Monday, 27 & 28 July, saw members of your committee taking up arms against the Himalayan Balsam invasion of the Arrowe Brook again. Despite last year's efforts, more had come down from the dense growths higher up in Arrowe Park and some very thick clumps were removed. The flowers and seed heads were removed and taken away for disposal with the stems left to mulch down on the banks, waiting for the EA to do their annual cut. Members of your committee have seen, at first hand, how this plant has taken over the waterways in the midlands, with huge stands up to 14' high and six feet thick on the margins of the canals and the River Severn. In only a few years this could happen on the Arrowe Brook, making it impossible for wildlife to live along it or even access it for food and water.
Councillor Bruce Berry joined us in our efforts and has promised to take up the matter with Wirral Council to find out what their policy is with regard to dealing with invasive, non-native species when they are sighted on the Wirral.
We know that Defra can offer some very good incentives for farmers to diversify into other crops and activities but the small town that suddenly appeared on the fields by the by-pass was a big surprise. Even more so when it turned out to be an old-fashioned circus with a camel, an ankole (rather like a wildebeest)and llamas among others. They also have young Thomas Chipperfield - a circus name that goes back to the 17th century - with two lions and a tiger (all bred in captivity). The show is delightfully old fashioned and all the animals looked in the peak of condition.
So it appears that there won't be herds of llamas or ankoles in the Saughall Massie fields just yet - but who knows what could arrive in the future, especially in the hot weather continues. Camels could become a common sight if the hot weather continues.
Tired of all the litter lying around the village, residents turned out on a lovely sunny Saturday morning to clear it all up! Now hopefully the daffodils can raise their heads in pride.
The first task was to create a relatively safe area from the traffic whipping past us but traffic cones were a great help. From there we moved round to the by-pass and cleared as much as we could behind the field fencing. Others went onto the far side and cleared that area.
Over FIVE bags were collected from just over 100 metres of roadway and hedge. The contents of many supermarket bags also proved to be a whole lunch - now eaten - and then casually thrown out of a passing vehicle window, presumably.
Other residents concentrated on the brook area and grass surrounds. Supported by Councillor Chris Blakeley and Bruce Berry, local resident and Newsline editor, they were amazed to collect over 50 empty bottles, many of them whisky or brandy, and as they were the same brand in many cases - clearly someone passing by has a huge thirst. At the end of the morning the rubbish was taken to the tip with the bottles being tipped into the glass recycling containers. A good effort but it was a huge amount of rubbish for such a small area and it would be nice if people could "take their rubbish home" with them in future! A press release has been sent to the local newspapers about the clean-up so hopefully they will give us some coverage.
The plaque remembering 2nd Lieut Jay Simpson of the US Air Force, who crashed while test flying a plane over Saughall Massie in 1944, now has a brass bar attached to the base to facilitate the placing of poppies on Remembrance Day. This has also been used by the Warplane Wreck Investigation Group (WWIG) to leave a recent floral tribute on the 9th January 2014, at 15.08 pm, marking the date and time of the crash. WWIG are based at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton where the engine from the crashed plane forms part of their display. The group were also responsible for installing the polished stone plaque which is located on the new bridge over the Arrowe Brook, on the by-pass south of the village. 2nd Lieut Simpson was laid to rest at the American Cemetery in Madingley, Cambridge.
January Update: Recent activity by the Environment Agency, following the floods around the country in January, has cleared away even more of the vegetation in the water course between the Saughall Massie Bridge and the by-pass bridge. However, over-hanging trees still need to be removed as they prevent the EA bringing in their mechanical plant. The trees, of course, are the responsibility of the adjacent householders - not the Environment Agency - and need trimming to facilitate removal of the Himalayan Balsam which has taken up residence.
Following extensive lobbying by the Village Heritage Officer, Tuesday 1st October saw some unusual activity along the Arrowe Brook. The Environment Agency and their vehicles had come to cut the long grass down the side of the bank. However, they were not aware that the piece by the Bridge was also now included - as the Council had taken away the fencing some time ago. Following conversations and a quick telephone call to the Supervisor, they then moved the vehicles into the small grassed area next to the by-pass and cut the offending greenery. Only to within a metre of the water, though, to protect vole habitats. As you can see from the pictures, they have done a good job. October update: We are pleased to report that they have been back again to cut the brook margins.
The greatest Wirral businessman of all time - 2005 saw the international bi-centennial celebration of the birth of Thomas Brassey, the iconic Victorian Civil Engineering Contractor. Brassey remains to this day the most prolific global builder of railways, bridges and viaducts the world has ever known. Even today, 5% of the world's existing railway system was originally built by Thomas Brassey. From his factories and offices in Birkenhead, in a pre- telegraph, pre-phone era he managed a global workforce which at its peak amounted to over 85,000 staff.
The first bridge building commission given to young Thomas was the Saughall Massie Bridge in 1829 when he was only 23. The village was delighted to discover the new found significance of the little bridge, and our Society applied to English Heritage to have the bridge classified as a Grade II structure.
Following the listing we approached two local schools to become partners in designing an Interpretation Panel to go beside the bridge and this led to whole school projects at Overchurch Junior School, including maths (building a bridge), art (drawing the bridge) and drama (re-enacting an interview with young Thomas about building the bridge and being filmed for ITV.) One of the school drawings was included on the Interpretation Board with other information about Thomas's life and professional career.
To celebrate the granting of the listing, on Saturday, 28 April 2007, the now famous bridge was closed to traffic and various dignitaries attended the "grand opening" with speeches being made. Villagers had started preparing for the day at 6 am, erecting a marquee with an information and picture display about Thomas's life and work. Many of the local children and adults dressed up in Victorian clothes, the whole area was decorated with bunting, brass band music was played through loud speakers and the event opened with a Thomas Brassey look-alike leading a shire horse over the bridge. A brass plaque had been previously attached to the bridge side and this was unveiled by the Mayor. The Interpretation Panel was also unveiled by the oldest resident of the village, Mrs Mary Robinson of Poplar Farm and one of the youngest, a pupil from Overchurch Junior School. Our then Society Chairman and his wife generously extended the hospitality of their garden to entertain those present during which a superb buffet was provided by the ladies of the village along with a celebration cake.
The day's events attracted widespread interest from the national and international civil engineering community, and were attended by the Mayor of Wirral, Peter Johnson, local councillors, descendants of Thomas Brassey, residents, visitors and local school children.
Thomas Brassey - Wikipedia
the pictures shown above with kind permission of Simon Star
Brassey talks - In the opinion of many, Thomas Brassey, though a modest man in his time and latterly almost forgotten about, was perhaps the greatest of the great Victorian civil engineering contractors. His global engineering achievements and the scale of his impact upon connecting the peoples of the world remains quite staggering. Our Heritage Officer and his wife have conducted many interesting power point presentations on the accomplishments of Thomas Brassey and and would be happy to give talks to any organisation who wishes to hear the Brassey story in full. (contact: email@example.com)