Eccleston - a community full of local pride
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 July 2014
We visit Eccleston to find out what this Lancastrian village has been up to
Whisper it softly, but there is more to Eccleston that a certain cyclist. This picturesque village, set in the heart of Lancashire, may have gained national attention after the Olympics and the Tour de France, but locals know there is plenty going on that doesn’t involve two wheels and a lot of lycra.
With several new developments added over recent years, Eccleston has seen a boom in new homes being built and shops opening. However a place still responsible for a big draw of visitors to the village is the antique centre, Bygone Times. One of the largest in the region, it is housed in one of the two old mills that employed most of the villagers. Grove Mill is now an Aladdin’s cave of antiques drawing coach parties from as far as Yorkshire and the Lakes, and has over 250 stalls selling a wide variety of items, from ladies vintage wear to giant grandfather clocks.
‘It is such a great place to work,’ said Paul Hamlet, assistant operations manager at the centre. ‘Every day is different, full of diversity. We have some outrageously unusual items. At one point there was a range of stuffed animal heads.’
The centre was becoming such a sought after location that they had to extend a cobbled alley way down the side of the building into a space to sell items. ‘We have 300 people on a waiting list to become stall holders. The recession has had a huge impact on tenants and visitors. Most tenants just have stalls here as a hobby, but for many it is their livelihood. With people feeling the pinch nowadays, antiques and second hand items are increasingly popular, so many items just fly out of the door.’
Antiques aren’t the only things visitors come to this converted textile mill for. June saw the opening of the Bygone Times war museum, with informative sections covering both world wars and providing details of events involving British and Commonwealth servicemen and women.
The exhibition and gallery space features a range of antique items, including some from the local area. ‘We have the home front exhibit, but we wanted to have a new, changing display to commemorate World War I,’ said Paul. ‘The museum will feature exhibits from around Eccleston, many which are personal items that have been donated, and we have been on buying trips around France and Europe.’
From D-Day and aviation relics to WWII uniforms, medal plaques and even a replica of a trench, the new museum is sure to be a popular aspect of the centre. Paul said that they will be offering educational school visits, and visitors can take home realistic memorabilia including war-time cookery books. ‘The community have been really positive about this, wanting to get involved with volunteering and donating their time. Everyone here at the centre and in the village is excited; it should be another great aspect to Bygone Times.’
It’s not only at Bygone Times where the community of Eccleston are keen to get involved and help others. Pupils and staff at Eccleston Primary School have been raising money for a school in Uganda. The Pencott Valley Primary School in Mbale has been adopted by a few schools in Lancashire via the charity, Operation Orphan. ‘Our previous school advisor, Mrs Jen Farrington, is involved in raising money for the charity and then we started to do it as a school,’ said head teacher Liz Fletcher. ‘Through various fundraising efforts, from school council events to Christmas concerts and donations from parents, everyone has really got involved to help pupils at Pencott.
‘The school in Mbale was a shell of a building, and with the money raised they have managed to build toilet blocks and make other great improvements.’
Many pupils throughout Eccleston Primary School now regularly keep in touch with pupils in Pencott via email and posting letters.
‘There is a real personal connection now with the school. Pupils have helped send stationery, towels and footballs, and the school even has a wall hanging and photos of us now up on their walls.’
However, three members of staff at Eccleston Primary School, wanted to do more than just raise money.
In October of last year, Kayleigh Armitage, Clare Brown and Karla Evans flew to Uganda to spend a week at Pencott School to help teacher and pupils.
Miss Brown, a year six teacher, said they had already done a lot of fundraising so they decided to fund this trip for themselves and just go for it.
‘It was really rewarding. We taught more than we thought, often from 8am-5pm. Some pupils don’t get fed at home so the longer they stay in school the more they are taken care of. I taught them maths, English and street dance. It was so fun to swap dance tips, we all learnt a bit of African dancing!’
‘We gave them more of a structure, as they have a different approach to teaching over there. The teachers observed us Monday to Wednesday, and then come Thursday it was wonderful to watch them using the tips and resources we had brought over - that will last forever,’ added Miss Armitage, a reception teacher. ‘It would be great to go back in a couple of years to see the impact of what we have given them.’
Miss Evans, a higher level teaching assistant, said that through the school and Mrs Fletcher they had already done so much, so when this opportunity arose they couldn’t pass it up.
‘The link with the school was the main thing. Pencott was so real to us and close to our hearts so, to go out and experience helping them first hand, was just incredible.’