And the band played on

For the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic I’ve decided to post this extract from my book Lancashire: Who Lies Beneath?

Wallace Hartley

In the cemetery at Colne you will find the grave of Wallace Hartley who was drowned at sea when the Titanic sank in 1912.  Go straight down the main central path and the grave

Wallace Hartley's grave in Colne cemetery

is near the bottom on the left hand side, just set back from the path.  It is a tall white monument that is engraved with the words ‘In Loving Memory of Wallace Henry, the beloved son of Albion and Elizabeth Hartley Formerly of Colne who lost his life in the S.S. Titanic Disaster on April 15th, 1912, aged 33 years and was interred on May 18th 1912.

A violin is also carved into the gravestone and there is a page from Arthur Sullivan’s setting of the hymn Nearer My God To Thee, the hymn tune which was reputedly played by the band of which Wallace Hartley was the leader, as the ship sank.  Whether that is true isn’t actually clear, but it was the bravery of Hartley and his musicians in continuing to play that night that went some way to preventing a mass panic and a stampede for the lifeboats which may have saved many lives.

Wallace Henry Hartley was born on 2 June 1878 at 92 Greenfield Road in Colne.  His parents, Albion and Elizabeth Hartley were textile workers and he had an elder sister Mary Ellen and a younger sister Lizzie.  A younger brother died in infancy.

He was a talented violinist and as he came from a musical family his father had always encouraged his talent.  But when he left school Wallace Hartley went to work in a local bank, the Craven and Union, as a clerk and stayed there until he moved with the family to Huddersfield in 1895, where he joined the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist whilst continuing to work as a bank clerk during the day.

It wasn’t until 1903 that he first played professionally when he moved to the seaside town of Bridlington where he played First Violin in the Bridlington Municipal Orchestra. In 1909 he began his career as a musician on board the Cunard liners that sailed between the UK and USA.  He played on the Lucania, the Lusitania, playing the second violin in the ship’s five-man band, and in October 1910 he was promoted to bandmaster on the Mauretania, which was the best and fastest ship afloat at the time.

When the new White Star Lines ship Titanic sailed from Southampton on 10 April 1912 Wallace Hartley was the bandmaster, although he had been reluctant to accept the job as he had just proposed to his fiancée, Maria Robinson, and was considering giving up working on the ships to be with her. But not only was this a promotion, it also meant a pay rise for the musician who was not highly paid and, hoping that the voyage would provide him with contacts for future work, he agreed to go.

On 10 April 1912, Wallace Hartley and his band played on the upper deck of the ship as the First Class passengers embarked.   The Titanic made good speed westwards across the Atlantic towards New York until there was a sighting of ice around noon on Sunday 14 April.  Wallace Hartley, who had crossed the North Atlantic Ocean over eighty times, probably wasn’t unduly concerned, but shortly after midnight, it became clear that the ship was sinking and passengers were directed to the lifeboats.  Wallace Hartley assembled all the musicians together to play in the First Class lounge and as people in life jackets waited to board lifeboats, the band continued to play as if nothing was amiss.  When passengers were moved out onto the Boat Deck, Wallace Hartley and his musicians moved outside too, to continue playing and many people believe that their playing helped to keep passengers calm and allowed the lifeboats to be loaded in an orderly fashion.

At 2.20 am on 15 April 1912 the Titanic sank and in the last wave to engulf the decks all eight bandsmen were swept into the icy waters and drowned.

Two weeks later, Wallace Hartley’s body was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett.  First recorded as body number 224, his identity was soon apparent.  He was still clothed in his bandsman’s uniform of brown overcoat, green facings, black boots and green socks.  His music box was still strapped to his body and amongst the items found in his pockets was a gold fountain pen with his initials on – W.H.H.

His body, perhaps ironically, packed in ice to preserve it, was returned to the UK aboard the SS Arabic and he was brought home to Colne to a hero’s welcome.  Over forty thousand people lined the streets of the small town to pay their respects at his funeral on 18 May.  The procession, led by seven bands, made its way to the Bethel Chapel, where Wallace had sung in the choir as a boy, and was almost half a mile long.  The congregation for the service totalled over a thousand, in a building designed only to hold seven hundred.  As he was buried an orchestra played Nearer My God To Thee.

There is also a memorial to Wallace Hartley on the main street in Colne that was erected in 1915.  The plaque records that it was ‘Erected by voluntary contributions to commemorate the heroism of a native of this town.’

If you would like to discover more stories about people buried in Lancashire my book is available from Waterstones and other bookshops and at Amazon


A Mummified Cat and a Lost Manor House

The other day I went to see the new exhibition at Gawthorpe Hall about the Lancashire Witches.  It will be there until the 8 July and will then be on show at Lancaster City Museum from 21 July until  29 September 2012.  It’s been collated to mark the 400th anniversary of the witch trials and, as well as telling the story of the Lancashire witches, it has a number of interesting artefacts on display, including the children’s shoes found in the attic of the Aspinall Arms at Mitton and a mummified cat.

This is a mummified cat which is displayed on the wall of the Stag Inn in Hastings.

The mummified cat was horribly compulsive.  It was one of things you really don’t want to see but can’t stop yourself looking at.  It was more or less intact, and certainly had more teeth than my own cat, but was literally just skin and bone and little more than the size of a part grown kitten.

A skeleton of a cat was recently found walled up in the remains of a cottage near Barley.  It was discovered by archaeologists brought in by United Utilities to survey an area near Lower Black Moss reservoir who believe that it was placed there to protect the inhabitants against evil spirits. Similar finds have been made in other places.  Recently a mummified cat was found in the attic of a house in Knaresborough when it fell on a decorator.  But no one is sure whether these cats were placed in walls or attics when they were dead, or whilst they were still alive.  The one on display at Gawthorpe looks as if it has been posed so I really hope that it was concealed after its death as the alternative is a repugnant thought.

The site of Ightenhill Manor

Speaking of things which are concealed, after leaving Gawthorpe Hall I drove up through a nearby housing estate in Burnley to the top of Ightenhill Park.  Here, behind the houses, are the remains of Ightenhill Manor house. Ightenhill was part of the vast lands that belonged to the de Lacy family.

Ightenhill is first mentioned in a charter by John de Lacy to Monk Bretton Priory, dated there in 1238. In 1251 Ightenhill  was named in the grant of free warren to Edmund de Lacy.  After the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311 it was recorded that “the capital messuage in Ightenhill was of no value beyond reprises; the park, with moss and herbage, was valued at 40s.; and in demesne there were 8 acres of land worth 2s. 8d. and an acre of meadow worth 1s. The halmote, with a perquisite called Thistletake, was worth 40s. Tenants at will had 52½ acres, paying 50s. 5d. Thus the value was £6 14s. 1d. in all.

Henry de Lacy had used Ightenhill as a stud to breed horses, but one version of the family history says that it was from a window here, and not a turret at Pontefract Castle, that his son and heir fell to his death and that afterwards he abandoned the place.

Ightenhill passed to Thomas of Lancaster, the husband of Henry’s daughter Alice de Lacy, and during his rebellion the horses were taken to Skipton.  The inquiry recorded that in 1324 “there were no mares here, but a trifling head of rounceys and colts“. It was also recorded that “Nicholas Maulleverer then constable of Skipton Castle, with many others from Craven and Airedale, did take from the Equitium or Haras (the horse breeding establishment) of Ightenhill and the Instaurators (chief cow keepers) of Pendle and Trawden various animals, and did waste the King’s wine at Ightenhill to his loss, as they understand, of £232. 6d“.

After the execution of Thomas of Lancaster, Ightenhill passed to the king, Edward II – Alice being forced to relinquish any claim on the land that had been in her family’s possession for generations.  And although Alice and her husband, Eble le Strange, managed to recover some of her property in the reign of Edward III, the king retained Ightenhill and continued to use it as a stud farm.

In 1426, the kitchen, granary and other buildings of the manor-house were thoroughly repaired at a cost of £13 3s. 6d. under the superintendence of James Banastre. Thomas Lord Stanley held the park at farm in 1459 at the rent of £20 6s. 8d., John Pilkington in 1464, and Hugh Gartside in 1474. In 1495 Sir Thomas Walton was tenant. The manor courts appear to have been held at Ightenhill until the reign of Henry VIII, when Higham was adopted.

In 1522,before the Crown granted the lease of Ightenhill to Sir John Towneley a survey was made and the report was entered  on the halmote roll as follows:

At the day of taking this inquest the great hall and the timber of the manor-house of Ightenhill are in ruins and fallen to the ground, a great part carried away and not to be found there. The great chamber at the western end of the hall is in like state; the kitchen, butler’s house, and pantry are destroyed and no part to be found, nor are any timbers or slate-stones now left. The oven-house and great barn are in like state. The long chamber at the western end of the hall has fallen down and no part of it remains. Only the park-keeper’s house remains standing, with timber and slate-stones; but the doors and windows have been taken away, and it is like to fall for lack of repair. The chapel there and the stable also remain in like state. John Towneley has not been found guilty of the removal or destruction of any timber or stone of the said houses.

In 1894 the foundations of the keep could still be traced and the old draw well had only recently been covered.

Today it is just a field with some bumps.  But the view is stunning and although you can’t really see it in the photograph, Pendle Hill stands on the horizon and the de Lacys would have been able to see miles and miles of their property from here.

Buxton and Mary Queen of Scots

Last week I visited Buxton in Derbyshire, a town well know for its healing waters.

The  steady stream that gushes from the lion’s head at St Anne’s Well attracts many visitors.  I had to wait until a number of people had finished filling their plastic bottles before I could get this picture.

During the 1570s, when Mary Queen of Scots was being kept under the care of the earl of Shrewsbury at Chatsworth House, she was allowed to visit Buxton to take the waters in an attempt to improve her health.  She had pleaded with the queen, Elizabeth, to be allowed to make the visit and eventually she was given permission and made her first visit in the late summer of 1573.  She stayed for five weeks at the Shrewsbury’s New Hall, built on the site of the Auld Hall and which is now named the Old Hall Hotel.

 Here she had to give an hour’s notice before she could leave her apartments and was allowed no visitors after 9 p.m.

Because of the many important visitors to the hall, including the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Suffolk and Lord Burghley who all discussed the politics of the day, as well as seeking cures for their ailments, it became known as ‘that royal house of intrigue’.

It was here that Mary Queen of Scots supposedly scratched her famous couplet of Farewell to Buxton with a diamond ring on one of the bedroom window panes: ‘Buxton, whose warm waters have made thy name famous, perchance I shall visit thee no more-Farewell’

 Buxton’s other famous building – The Crescent – was built in 1780 to house the increasing number of visitors.

 At the moment it is standing empty and looking rather sad but there are plans to redevelop into a spa hotel with a cafe and specialist shops.

I hope this goes ahead as the town presently seems quite run down and not as appealing as I remember it from a previous visit quite a few years ago.

The restored gardens are very attractive though and the weather was so warm last week that it was pleasant just to sit and enjoy the scenery.

Tea in the Pavilion was particularly pleasant.