Reflections: Buildings

Clitheroe Castle

Some memories of the castle from various recordings. There’s so much material concerning the castle it was hard to cut these areas down to this amount. More on different aspects of the castle will be posted later. Thanks to Steve Burke for the photos – Andrew Schofield.

 Castle 1

The Robinson family & the Castle

When we lived in Eshton Terrace the Castle was privately owned and peacocks were strutting in the field behind our house. We used to climb over the walls to find the lovely peacock feathers, which Grandma had in a vase on the mantelpiece. You weren’t meant to go over the wall for these feathers. It always seemed to be such a daring thing to do, climbing this wall. When we were in the grounds although we were looking for the peacock feathers we always kept a lookout for people, gardeners and suchlike I suppose, so that we could get out or hide before we got into trouble. We did occasionally see someone but even if they spotted us we managed to get away before we were caught.

You never went up the Castle when it was privately owned it was sort of taboo. But I do remember playing ball near the walls and of course the ball would go over. Well I was only six but I was sent over and we used to find peacock feathers. When I look now it doesn’t seem such a high wall but I remember thinking what a terrific wall it was and I must get over chance I was caught. There were no paths across the Castle field and there were no entrances. It was like a meadow and they used to haymake in it and they had a barn right at the bottom of the Castle field towards Parson Lane way. But when the Council took over they made the paths and the entrances. I remember when the paths had been made and we used to go through the grounds the barn was still there and it had bits of hay in it. They said tramps used to go in and sleep there and so we children used to run past it because we were frightened. The barn must have been knocked down in the 1920’s.

The castle was an exciting place for us but you were only allowed to go up that long winding walk that went to the keep, the rest was completely private. However I was fortunate because my grandfather was a well-known grocer in Clitheroe and the shop boy used to deliver groceries to the castle and to Waddow Hall and Waddington Hall. All the big families of the district were customers of grandfather. And so, when I was off school, I used ride round on the cart with the shop boy delivering groceries to the castle. I used to see parts of Clitheroe nobody else ever saw. I was extremely privileged. You never saw the mistress of the house when you went up the castle. There would be a servant come to the door with black dress and white apron and so on. The shop boy was a young lad called Stark and he had an eye for the girls and he always had a joke with the servants when they came to the door and sometimes they’d ask him round to the back and there’d be a cake or a cup of tea, or something like that. That was at the door right at the back of the house but you actually delivered the groceries to the door on the right hand side.

  Castle 2

The Castle for the people

Then of course the Castle was bought as a memorial to the soldiers who had died in the 1914-18 war. The path by the railway line was laid, the entrances were made and trees were planted all along the path, and now they are very tall.
Everybody helped when they decided to buy the castle as a war memorial. The Town Council appealed to everybody to help in every way they could. They all rallied round and it was wonderful. We valued it then because we felt it was ours, what with helping to raise the money to buy it. All the different sections of the public worked together with their various efforts and then it went into the fund and they bought it.

When the castle was private going down Woone Lane they had a great high wall. We went to Moor Lane Church and the Manse was there in the main street and this great wall was up against the manse. The Manse was nice but there was this great wall up against it. Anyway the Manse moved and somebody bought that house and when the wall came down it was wonderful. It made a lot of difference for light in the houses that were nearby. It was a great high wall. Then they made steps up from Woone Lane and from the junction with Moor Lane. It was great because people from the town could go into the castle.

 Shortly after the end of the First World War the castle grounds came on the market. They wanted a lot of money for them for the time but Clitheroe was determined to have it for a war memorial. So all kinds of events were held, a fete on the castle field, I remember that’s where I first saw sheepdog trials and then the castle grounds were bought and really there couldn’t possibly be a better war memorial anywhere. I remember the actual unveiling of the war memorial. The mayor was of course supposed to do the job, to officiate, or lay the first wreath. It was the late Alderman Whipp and he was about to lay the first wreath and he turned to a man in the crowd and said `No Mr. Snape you have a better right than I’ because Mr. Snape had lost, I think it was five sons in that dreadful war.

 Castle 3

Castle house and the Museum

When the Council bought it Castle House was rather dilapidated then they made it into offices and it remained the main council offices for years. I went in once or twice and the offices always seemed to be rather run down and austere. If they were like that then I wonder what they would have been like when the Robinsons lived in them.

The strongroom, just on the left when you go in Castle House is where all the charters for the town were kept for donkeys years and they were all folded up and crushed into a little box, a little wooden box. It’s unbelievable. Now, since the County took them over for preservation, they take about four tables, they’re all spread out and mounted you see. So the charters were kept in the strongroom along with all the old minutes and all the old records. It was full, packed to the ceiling. When it came to local government reorganisation most of it, apart from the valuable stuff like the charters, was just tipped out. We’re often told that it should have been kept, but it’s too late now, it’s gone. The strongroom was badly heated and everything and the charters and things were rotting away but eventually they realised this and got some special heating in to preserve them.


Castle 4
The room where the museum shop is now was the main general office for the Town Clerk’s Department and it also served for a register office for many, many years. So all the marriages for the Clitheroe registration district were performed in that room. Of course, as it was offices, the staff were working round this one big table and every time you had a wedding the desk was moved about and the office staff who were working there went into another room, because that was the registered room and, by law, it had to be in that room did the marriage. To put it bluntly if you were married in any other room but that one you weren’t married! The fireplace was still in use, a coal fire, and it was rationed was the coal. The Town Clerk then was a very strict, stern man and he used to have to ring the fuel officer for extra coal. It’s so big the fireplace that a bag of coal didn’t go anywhere, you were always freezing, you were always very cold. It was the only form of heating. If we ran out of coal we had to work on wearing our coats and scarves. We didn’t even have a coalscuttle. What we used to do we used to use a black ballot box to get the coal. What is now the office at the back of the shop was the Town Clerk’s private office. It was like getting in to see the King, you had to knock and wait or, if he wanted you, he would ring for you. So there was just the one big general office all working round one big square table and the Town Clerk in his office and that was it.

The museum used to be in what had been the steward’s office. Then you went in at the front and down what seemed to be a narrow corridor and turned left and you were in this room with what seemed to be dark wood carved panels on the right. In that room there were all these glass topped cases full of artefacts and documents with lots of paintings on the wall. You then went through into the next room and there were more of these cases, some of them stood on trestles. Most of the cases in this room were full of rocks and fossils. I remember there were also fossils, just sat on the windowsill in that room, ammonites and such. Anyone could just have walked off with them but nobody seemed to in those days. You went upstairs and this was my favourite part because up there were weapons and stuffed animals and birds. In the room on the right at the top of the stairs there were more cases and exhibits on the floor, but what particularly interested me were the muskets. There were perhaps half a dozen of them mounted on the wall opposite the door and they seemed so big to a small boy. I could never imagine anyone carrying one of those around, never mind firing one! Then there was a small room off the back of that with stuffed animals and birds in glass cases and under glass domes. There were the various birds and a fox and squirrels but what particularly fascinated me was this bird, I think it was a blackbird, and it had two heads just sat there next to each other. Looking back it might have been a fake but at the time it fascinated me, even if it did rather give me the creeps. Also in that room was the best exhibit of the lot – a stuffed brown bear stood there on its hind legs. To a young boy it looked terrifying rearing up there, so big with all its teeth showing, it was so much bigger than I was. That’s all of the building you could go into then. I suppose the rest of it was an office and storerooms and the like.

The Clinic 

I remember taking my daughter to the Castle to the clinic in the early 1950’s. If you look at Castle House there’s a little path up the side, on the right hand side, and you went in the door there, and you went into some rooms there. It was the mother and baby clinic. There was Nurse Bates and Nurse Wilson and they were the health visitors. They were qualified nurses and were based there, and they also came to you in your home to check up what you were doing and check the baby, that sort of thing – giving advice and checking that you were looking after your baby properly.

My daughter was born in 1946 and we had to go up to the baby clinic. It was silly really because we had great big heavy prams in those days and you'd to push them all up that steep hill. You went in through the door on the right hand side and it was an awful old place. I used to think `oh they didn’t live in such a nice house’. We had to go there for dried milk and that sort of thing. You went in through the door and you went up the stairs and turned left and it was in a room there. You had your babies weighed and you were given cod liver oil and orange juice because that’s what kept the children going during the war and just after. You were also given dried milk. You were supposed to go every week.

You went into the school clinic on the right hand side of Castle House and you went up these steps into a big room with a dentist’s chair in it. I once went to the dentist there, only once though, I wouldn’t go again. It was horrible, it was really frightening. I had a tooth out there but I didn’t go again. I also once went from school to the clinic. I’d been pushed against a radiator pipe, a really hot one, and my leg came up in big blister so they sent me up to the clinic to have it dressed. I also remember when I was at Pendle Junior School someone coming into the classroom with a list of names of those who had to go on that particular day and they were taken by an older pupil up to the clinic. They would come round the school and look at everyone’s teeth and then you took a letter home and if you needed treatment your parents had to sign it if they wanted you to go privately to your own dentist. Otherwise, if they didn’t sign, you went to the clinic. The dentist’s room was very stark and bare, very frightening for a child. I just remember this frightening chair in the middle of the room. The school nurse, Miss Bates, was also based up there and she would come round the school inspecting your hair for nits.

In the dentist there was this chair with like a red velvety plush covering. It wasn’t all modern like it is now. You weren’t given an injection when you had a tooth filled. He just got his drill out and drilled. The drill was very slow and he used to run it with this foot pedal, like the treadles you got on the old sewing machines, I suppose. Then later on he got an electric one but it was still very slow.

Where the toilets are now in the museum was the dentist and the health clinic and it was a prenatal clinic as well. I remember a vicar of Clitheroe, the Reverend Bland, who had to come up and see the Council to discuss some problem affecting the church and the town walking up the hill and he arrived panting and blowing and sat down and said `My goodness these mothers having to push up here with their prams and pregnant I’m surprised they don’t give birth half way up the drive’.

The room where the lead-mine is was used by the clinic, but before that it was the health department, the public health department, sanitary inspectors, they were in there. They then covered the health of children, food inspection, meat inspection and all that was dealt with on that floor. The Public Health Inspector had one room to himself and the other was the staff.

The Salthill Room in the museum was also part of the clinic, as well as the Westhead Room. The nurses used to have the children up, sometimes at half past eight in the morning, because they had impetigo and nits and they’d wash their hair and cover their face with stuff. That was done in the Westhead Room. There was a geyser on the wall for the hot water. The clinic itself was run by the County Council. It was run by two nurses and a clerk, and every Tuesday when it was ante-natal days the doctor came, Doctor Royle and the dentist came certain days into the other room but the doctor came on the days when it was the ante-natal. The two qualified nurses did everything. They not only served in the clinic with all the schoolkids but they also actually dealt with public health services as well, school inspections and going out to people who needed treatment in their homes. It was a heck of a job. They also used to go and educate parents who couldn’t cook and look after their children. They didn’t just cover Clitheroe but the rural areas as well and they got around on a bike, they didn’t just stick in Clitheroe.