10 Lancashire Love Stories
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 February 2017 | UPDATED: 19:18 12 February 2017
As Valentine’s Day approaches, Mairead Mahon goes through the files to find some of the county’s enduring love stories.
‘Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it’, according to Cole Porter and if you’re looking to ignite, or even re-kindle, a little romance this St Valentine’s Day, then Lancashire Life has plenty of inspiring stories. And not a flea, educated or otherwise, in sight – we hope.
It’s surely no a coincidence that the red rose is a Lancashire symbol. But be warned, the course of true love doesn’t always run smoothly in this part of the world, a fact that didn’t escape the French author Honoré de Balzac. One of his characters described Lancashire as the place ‘where women die of love’.
One of the greatest modern historians, Lancashire lad A.J.P. Taylor, flatly contradicted that when he declared that Lancashire ladies swooning on every corner was as unlikely as ‘they are as brisk and business-like in love as they are in everything else.’ We wonder what he meant!
Before you rush out and buy your loved one that bouquet, sit back and share with us some love affairs from Lancashire. You might decide to take the wrapper off that box of chocolates and instead eat them yourself! Here are some of our favourites.
1. More than 60,000 people from all over the world pay a visit to Carnforth Station each year and there is a definite spike in the numbers at this time of the year. That’s because Brief Encounter, one of the great British romantic movies was filmed here.
Filming usually took place when the last train had left and went on until 7.30am by which time the rather less romantic fish and milk trains were coming in. Celia Johnson, who played the lead role, wrote to a friend: ‘I was playing a sad little scene with the scent of herrings in the air and milk cans rattling.’ Today, you can have tea in a replica of the tearoom where Alec tried to remove soot from Laura’s eye. Little chance of soot these days though so you’ll have to think of another excuse to gaze longingly into your loved one’s eye.
2. George Formby isn’t usually associated with romance but he did have a tragic love story all of his own. He was married for many years to Beryl and, such were the fees that George was able to command, that every year he would buy a Rolls Royce on their wedding anniversary. He usually bought them from the same dealer, Fred Howson but when Beryl died, he found himself falling in love – not with a flashy car – but with Pat, the decidedly unflashy teacher daughter of Fred.
Pat, a woman who had once considered becoming a nun, was 20 years his junior. There was much righteous indigination when they became engaged on Valentine’s Day – only two months after Beryl’s death. Sadly, less than a month after their engagement and before they could marry, George suffered a fatal heart attack.
3. Lady Margaret Radclyffe, of Salford’s Ordsall Hall, went to the court of Queen Elizabeth I with her brother, Alexander. Her beauty led to her becoming an instant hit and before long, she had lots of suitors. As so often happens, the one she really liked, Lord Cobham, was also admired by many others and he made hay while the sun shone.
Just as she was feeling very blue, her brother was killed in a battle and with the loss of the two men she loved most, she slipped into a depression and never recovered. She is said to haunt Ordsall Hall, along with a male ancestor, who liked romance so much, that he still can’t resist giving female visitors a squeeze!
4. Samlesbury Hall is haunted by Lancashire’s own Romeo and Juliet, which is apt as a rumour persists that Shakespeare knew the hall well.
The Catholic daughter of the house, Dorothy fell in love with a Protestant son of a neighbouring family, the De Hoghtons of Hoghton Tower. This was forbidden as far as both families were concerned, so they decided to elope and abandon all for love. On the very night they planned to flee, they were discovered and Dorothy’s brother killed her lover and his two friends. Dorothy went insane and was sent abroad to die. Three skeletons have since been found buried in the walls and Dorothy’s ghost regularly returns to the scene.
5. The Ashton Memorial in Lancaster is Lancashire’s answer to the Taj Mahal. It was commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife, Jessy, who was the love of his life and whose death devastated him. He wanted a memorial to her that could be seen for miles around. If he had built it today, it would have cost almost £8 million pounds.
The romantic views across parkland and the bay would certainly justify the cost. Besides, you can’t put a price on love!
6. Sir Thomas George Fermor-Hesketh of Rufford Old Hall in Ormskirk fell in love with an American heiress, Florence Emily Sharon, who had the money to make essential repairs and improvements to the Hall. They had a happy marriage and both died in 1924.
Apparently, some ancestors had also married ladies of means, so it isn’t too big a stretch to say that Rufford has been built on, or at least repaired by, love! Anyway, the family weren’t alone in following this path – many rich American heiresses married English landed gentry, including the mother of Winston Churchill.
7. There can’t be a better documented Lancashire romance than the one between Robert Parker, of Colne, and Elizabeth Parker of Browsholme Hall, near Clitheroe. They fell in love but, as they were cousins, their parents heartily disapproved and wouldn’t give consent for them to marry.
Robert didn’t give up though, and Browsholme is home to an archive of 81 letters documenting the whole affair until eventually, Elizabeth’s parents relented and they married in 1751, a mere ten days after the marriage settlement was agreed. It was a happy marriage but Robert died when he was only 38, leaving Elizabeth with three children under five. Her story didn’t end there. Seven years later she married a local wool merchant, 17 years her junior. Sadly, her harrowing diaries record just what a bad bargain he turned out to be.
8. Lancashire Archives are home to a collection of 40 letters from another couple. Rossendale machinist Herbert Wilkinson and clerk, Ethel Ormerod fell in love, although Ethel’s father forbade her to marry but, as soon as she was of age in 1904, they went for it.
All the letters-preserved in an old chocolate box date from their courtship and only one was written after their marriage. In them, Herbert tells Ethel that their love will flourish and to be careful in case their letters are steamed open by prying hands. History doesn’t tell us what their marriage was like, but we like to think it was a very happy one.
9. Even Suffragettes can’t avoid love and the greatest of them all, Emmeline Goulden, fell desperately in love with a Manchester barrister, Richard Pankhurst, who was 24 years her senior. Luckily, he was a supporter of women’s rights and, when Emmeline was 21 they married and settled in Manchester, where they had five children.
They struggled financially as Richard neglected law in order to support his and Emmeline’s campaigns. Her wealthy father disapproved and refused to help the couple. Richard died from a perforated ulcer aged 62 and Emmeline then found out exactly how much debt they were in. She sold belongings, got a job, didn’t allow it to tarnish his memory which she always honoured and she never re-married. Their house at Chorlton on Medlock in Manchester is open on Thursdays.
10. Last but by no means least, Eileen Quinn, a Bacup woman wrote a book aptly titled A Love Forbidden about her 40 year romance. She was a divorced mother of four when she met and fell in love with Tony Quinn, a Catholic priest.
Their shared love of music led to friendship and then romance but, as you can imagine, it was not an easy path, as the scandal of their affair made headlines throughout the country. They married in 1976. Tony left the priesthood to run an accountancy firm in Bacup.