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       Labour History Lancs.              


Curiosity Street By Alan D. Born 

Sunderland Point

"Hard to believe Sunderland Point was once the gateway to the world for much of Lancashire and beyond"

Sunderland Point

Hard to believe Sunderland Point was once the gateway to the world for much of Lancashire and beyond. It was a busy port and ships sailed back and forth from Africa and the Americas. The Lancaster directory of 1912 gives a good account: In the early part of the 18th century, Sunderland was the port of Lancaster, and had a prosperous coasting trade, which continued until the construction of the Glasson Dock at the opposite side of the river, in 1787, after which it gradually declined and came to be known as "Cape Famine"  It is now mostly resorted to for sea bathing. Before cotton wool was known at Liverpool, that article was
introduced here by Mr. Robert Lawson, and was quite a. curiosity. P
eople came many miles to inspect it. It used to be said that the first bale of cotton ever to arrive in the country was landed at Sunderland Point, but it's now thought Manchester received the first shipment.

The cotton came from the plantations of the southern states and meant Sunderland Point was involved in the slave trade.. Africans became slaves to ship's captains and ended up at Sunderland. At least one died there. His grave, known as "Sambo's Grave" is there still and bears the epitaph:

"But still he sleeps till the awakening sounds
of the Archangel's trump new life imparts

then the Great Judge his approbation founds
not on a man's colour but his worth of heart"


A tree grew there once supposedly a cotton tree from a seed blown from a cotton bale. It seems fairly certain that the tree was in fact a black poplar, the catkins of which are covered in a cotton-likedown.

In the 1715 Jacobite rebellion guns were commandeered by the rebels from a ship The Robert which lay at anchor at Sunderland Point. They marched with them as far as Preston where they were surrendered to General Carpenter and ended up in the Tower of London.
Visitors to Sunderland Point should consult a tides table. It gets cut off at high tide, one of the few mainland places in the country where this happens. The photo shows a Lancashire County mobile library battling the incoming waves, living up to the services proud motto - "the book always gets through"

sambo 2.webp

Curiosity Street By Alan D. Born 

Calderstones Hospital

The Battle of the Somme began on 1st July 1916. British troops attacked on a fourteen mile front. Almost half a million soldiers were involved. The British artillery bombardment intensified at 7.00 am and seventeen mines were detonated under the German lines. 

Rum rations were distributed at dawn. It might have helped steady nerves. Raw spirits on, in many cases, empty bellies might have lit a fire. Germans sheltering in their deep dugouts were having a miserable time of it too after days of shelling, but their dugouts were deep and although many suffered trauma and ear bleeds, they were still alive.
At 7.00 whistles were blown all along the British line and soldiers began to scramble over the top. The Germans knew what was coming and scrambled to their machine guns. Private James Snaylham of the East Lancs Regiment described how his best pal was killed straight away, but he kept going, kept going, even though he was weighed down with his full kit of rifle, blanket, trenching tools, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and twenty mills bombs. He reached the German wire, wire that had not been cut by the British bombardment. It was there he received his wound from a German shell.
Getting wounded could be a blessing. If you were picked up by stretcher bearers and carried back to a dressing station, your injuries would be assessed . If you were thought likely to recover, a field ambulance would take you back to base hospital and if your luck still held, you'd be sent back home to Blighty.


Military hospitals were set up all over the country. In Lancashire the recently completed hospital for
'mental defectives' at Whalley was requisitioned by the War Office and renamed Queen Mary's Military
It was in 1898 that the Lancashire Asylums' Board had addressed the problem of the 'great accumulation
of lunacy cases' in the county. It had proposed building an asylum at Whalley.

Calderstones Hospital

There was great opposition from local landowners. Ralph Aspinall of Standen Hall and Worsley Taylor of Moreton Hall
objected to the prospect of 'bands of unhappy lunatics' roaming the leafy lanes of the Ribble Valley. A public enquiry was held and the Home Secretary ruled that work should go ahead. Just as the building was near completion the War Office took over. It opened in April 1915 and the first wounded arrived on May 6th of that year. The hospital had its own railway siding and ambulance trains arrived straight from the channel ports. In a couple of days a wounded soldier could be rescued from the battlefield, from the horrific destruction of nature in France and Flanders and arrive in the tranquillity of
rural Lancashire. Being in the Ribble Valley at the height of summer must have aided recovery. 

They arrived in their hundreds with the mud and blood still on their uniforms. The nurses of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Princess Alexandria's Medical Corps and the Voluntary Aid Detachment would have had to remove, often vermin infested, uniforms to address wounds. Over 60,000 soldiers were treated at the hospital. There were still 2,000 there when the war ended in 1918. It was June 1920 before the last one left. Of course some never left. For some neither the efforts of medical staff nor the balm of the Ribble Valley prevailed. They were buried in a military cemetery attached to the hospital. Some stayed who didn't die. William Edwardson, who'd been a patient, stayed on as an employee when the hospital
reopened its doors as 'Calderstones Institution for Mental Defectives' on 25th July 1921.. In December 1998 Calderstones ended its long stay residential role and by 2019 was the last UK hospital specialising in learning disabilities. 

Alan D. Born 

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