Roman; Saxon; Norman; Schoolboy

Whatever your persuasion, whether you look at it as Beltain, May Day, or the first day of summer, yesterday, for once, the weather played its part. Actually the weather always plays its part-it’s just that it’s not always the weather you want!

Anyway the sun was out, and after doing my errands for She Who Must Be Obeyed I took time out in our local Jubilee Park which was certainly dressed for the occasion.


Adorned in her best Cherry blossom, who cannot be lifted on a day such as this? Even I-Autumn and Winter lover that I am.

Though it may not be the exact geographical centre of my town I certainly look upon this area as both its historic and spiritual centre. St.Leonard’s church, part of which dates back to Norman times, is the church that my wife and I were married in.  It is believed there was a wooden Saxon church here before this, and possibly built, as was the custom, on the site of a pagan temple. A stone’s throw away is the suspected place of a Roman signal point, and just behind it some long gone prehistoric barrows.


And speaking of history-here’s a building that has figured prominently in mine. This is Middleton Library. You guys know I’m a bookworm, right?  Go beyond those upstairs windows, in what is now the reference library, and you just might see the ghost of an eleven-year-old Jackdaw diligently doing his homework with his school mates in the former children’s section.

I wonder if I’d recognise him? Would he know me?

I’ve been a member of that library for something like thirty five years. And now my own book is in there. How cool is that?


Near to the bandstand I found the Middleton coat of arms, shyly stating its claim in the grass. And those dandelions-so important for the early bees when many flowers have yet to bloom. At least that’s what I tell my wife when she wants the garden doing.


The Maybe Maypole

Well it wasn’t exactly May Day, that being the first of May, but today was the May bank holiday, and the plan was to take the kids to Jubilee Park (the place that featured in my Halloween post, obviously a park for all seasons) to watch some local school children dancing around the Maypole. I could go on here about the link with the Celtic pagan festival of Beltane, the re-enactment of old folk traditions and customs concerning the Green Man and the rites of Summer etc, but I will leave that to more informative blogs. It doesn’t feel right with a mouthful of candy floss. I will just show you a few photographs of the occasion instead.

It was just a normal, leisurely, bank holiday afternoon. Sat in the park. Being approached by some bearded men with feathers in their hats and bells on their toes.


The band in the bandstand struck up. Where else would you expect to find a band, except in a bandstand? Perhaps jumping on a bandwagon?


This guy here offered his drumstick to my children, to hit the drum with as hard as they could. Neither of them would do it. I couldn’t believe it-you want to hear the racket that they make at home. Yet when given the opportunity they play the shy card.


A processional file started following The Green Man around the park. The procession went anti-clockwise, widdershins, for those of you who care about those sort of things.



Up close to the Green Man, my little boy was afraid of the ‘walking tree thing!’ and kept an out-of-reach-of-branch-arms distance.


It was a scary experience all round for him. He earlier got half way up the steps of the Edgar Wood-designed Exedra (admit it-you thought that they were just steps, didn’t you?) when the church bells started ringing out and he abruptly turned and ran straight back down.





The Green Man was demonstrating, with the help of a narrator and some young dancing children, how he had slept through the Winter months before awakening from his dormancy in the Spring, but being at the back of the crowd my children couldn’t see and were getting restless. So we decided to leave and seek out a real park that had swings and slides and things.


On the way I showed them this anchor, which is attached to the outer wall of Middleton Library, that once belonged to the Norwegian brigantine Sirene that ran aground in Blackpool in 1892. Any excuse to share a bit of history, their interest waned when they learnt that there were no pirates involved. I should have just lied for entertainment purposes.


Through one of the old, cobbled town passageways, we left behind the traces of a diluted, earlier tradition to emerge blinking into the concrete jungle of twenty first century Middleton life.


Still no sign of a Maypole. Next month we’ll search for Juniper berries.

Halloween Retrospective:Jubilee Walk

I don’t normally post a lot of photographs (apart from the old, black and white ones that I try to breathe new life into).  But I do enjoy seeing the ones that other people share, particularly the bloggers in other countries. It gives me a limited sense of their communities. Their lifestyles.

So I thought I would reciprocate. No fancy camera or technique, just a temperamental phone.

On Halloween I went for a walk with my son, ostensibly to give my wife space as she finished cooking food for our buffet, but in reality I think we both were in need of some autumn air. Us guys can only be cooped up so long, you know?

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We went to Jubilee Park, which is a small park in the center of the town in which I live. I don’t know whether it is the exact, geographical center of the town, but it has always felt that way to me. That is how I regard it. Here is the Victorian bandstand, scene of many a trumpeted triumph.

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The building in the background is Middleton library, a building I think I have spent most of my life escaping to and in.

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This is the exedra designed by Edgar Wood. Sounds exotic doesn’t it?

Wood was an architect who now lies buried in Italian soil. There are many buildings locally designed by him that survive. Looming large above it is St.Leonard’s church-the place where my wife and I were married.

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View from the top. At the top of these steps there used to be a fountain, but nobody knows, neither layman nor official, where it now is. Always check your pockets.

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Looking towards the monument which is a memorial to the three people killed in the flood of 1927. (A future post, dear reader.)

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Lost in Autumn. Fun before the fall.

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Fairwell, faltering sun.

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I remember visiting the park with my primary school class. After the flood memorial we were shown this rock. I could not remember the significance of it-the visit was decades ago after all, and the plaque is no longer on it. Pockets again?

My line of thinking was that it was another marker connected to the flood, perhaps an indicator of how high the water rose, or how far it travelled. But I have since been persuaded that it is a rock that has been transported by glaciers in the last ice age. Sounds right..but we could do with a replacement plaque, though, to aid us ignorant people.

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We went into the Old Cemetery above the park-it was Halloween after all.

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Old highways and dieways

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Don’t let night catch you here.

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The forgotten lie underfoot.

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Celtic Circle of Life.

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A hint of heralded Winter.

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The Sam Bamford memorial, a local Radical/Reformer/Poet.

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Damn vandals! They have painted his eyes white and given him black eyelashes. I cannot say it is a generational thing though-I recall seeing this face when I was a teen and some wag had written ‘Dracula Lives’ on his forehead.

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There was an old saying about  the people of Middleton in regard to this church-wooden steeple, stubborn people.

If you were born within earshot of the Nowster bell, you could class yourself as a true Moonraker, a true Middletonian. The mythological term ‘Moonraker‘ came from a folklore tale of two local men trying to rake the reflection of the moon from a pond. Obviously two of the more brighter ones.

St.Leonard’s church is said to date to around the 1100’s, but is thought to be built on the site of an earlier, wooden, Saxon church. Perhaps if you peel back all the layers of Christian worship you would also come to pre-Christian ritual at a pagan temple, as the Christianisation of pagan sites was the custom. Before Christ and his Father God were worshipped here, I wonder who the local Gods and Goddesses were?

There is a hill nearby where it has been suggested a Roman beacon was kept.

Not only do I look at this area as the center point of the town, but also as its most ancient  anchor too.

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Looking towards the cemetery.

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Looking towards The Ring O’Bells pub, reputedly haunted by the sad cavalier.

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Opposite the library, down the hill from the church, is the oldest pub in town, the Olde Boar’s Head, an old 16th century coaching inn. Rumours have always persisted of a tunnel leading from this pub up to the church on the hill, and also from the church to the Ring O’ Bells. (There must be that many passages criss-crossing beneath our feet, we best not jump up and down too often if an orchestra should suddenly strike up in the bandstand.)

Bamford wrote about his father, in the 1800’s, taking part in the stand up fights that frequently occurred in this place. These days you can catch a pub quiz.

Continuing the Halloween theme, there are stories of hauntings associated with this pub too, as there are with any historic building worth its salt.

There are a few other notably old buildings in this immediate area, but for us twilight quickly began to descend, tummies were rumbling, and James insisted he wanted to go home for his ‘Halloween Tea‘ so we called it a day.

As we made to leave, James found a discarded mask on one of the park benches.

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Had Michael Myers nipped into the library to check his Facebook notifications online? Maybe he fancied picking up an Enid Blyton.

James had a great time scaring his poor Dad, but once Dad had a turn, well, let’s just say the peace of the park was suddenly shattered.