Ramsbottom's reputation grows bigger and better

PUBLISHED: 16:51 12 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013

Ramsbottom's reputation grows bigger and better

Ramsbottom's reputation grows bigger and better

From ancient skills to cutting edge festivals, Ramsbottom's reputation is getting bigger and better. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Traditions are strong in Ramsbottom. From the world championship black pudding throwing competition to the steam trains on the East Lancashire Railway that have chugged through the town for decades.

It is the people behind these long established practices that help to it thrive and there is one Ramsbottom family who take their duty to maintain the age old skills they use very seriously.

For more than 20 years Cyril Formby, along with his wife Dorothy and daughters Helen and Catherine, have worked as book binders in the town. Cyril, 72, first started as a 15-year-old apprentice at a printing firm in Oswaldtwistle and eventually worked at Her Majestys Stationery Office in Chadderton, near Oldham. But when he took early retirement more than two decades ago, he decided to set up Formbys Bookbinding Restoration in his home town of Ramsbottom.

Between them the family has restored and repaired some of the most important books, manuscripts and documents in the country. As well as creating new ledgers for hospitals, and at one time producing bound passports for small territories including the Cayman Islands, they have also worked on several books from Manchesters Chethams Library including economics books Karl Marx read when he used to meet with Friedrich Engels.

They also work on collections from the citys Portico Library and Gallery including the winning copies of the prestigious Portico Prize, often regarded as the norths answer to the Booker.

The family also created versions of important texts from originals including work by William Caxton for the National Trust. The biggest project at the moment involves repairs to several pieces from the Duke of Northumberlands familys archives.

All their work is done by hand using traditional methods and it can take years to complete one piece, depending on its condition.

Cyril said: There are not many book binders left in the country and over the years we have worked on some very special documents and manuscripts. It is fascinating because weve done everything from ledgers, which give you an insight into the way people used to live, to the books that Marx read. He had written and doodled in the margin and to see something like that first hand is incredible.

Weve done work on Ramsbottoms archives too. Each job is as important as the last and it is a very delicate task. It may take you a year to complete a book but seeing how it has been transformed is very satisfying. We always wanted to be in Ramsbottom because it is where we live and were very pleased that were here.

Traditional workmanship, like that maintained by the Formby family, is part of the backbone of this Lancashire community. The Calico printing magnates, Peel and Yates, cotton spinning brothers the Ashtons and mill owners and industrialists Daniel and William Grant, all helped to forge the town we know today.

But the modern day residents have picked up the baton and are now working to give their town a new, exciting and prosperous future.

The countryside which surrounds Ramsbottom has attracted walkers and ramblers for a long time and the East 139Lancashire Railway, a steam train that runs through the Irwell Valley, has pulled in tourists from far and wide.

In more recent years, there has been a food revolution fuelled by the many award-winning food producers, restaurants and cafes. Events like Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival, established by Paul Morris at The Chocolate Caf three years ago, has also helped to attract thousands to the town for the two-day event. It is now the biggest chocolate festival in Europe.

Paul said: Were very passionate about Ramsbottom and were proud to see lots of people enjoying it as much as we do. It is very much a community effort and together we have achieved a lot in Ramsbottom. People take notice of us and were not just seen as a quiet Lancashire town.

And another major event will be launched this month. The first Ramsbottom Festival will be held from September 16-18 at Ramsbottom Cricket Club.

It is hoped the music event will become a regular feature on the towns calendar. The festival, which is being organised with the help of Ramsbottom Online and Bury performing arts organisation The Met, will feature international bands including Badly Drawn Boy, The Waterboys and The Guillemots, as well as giving opportunities to local acts to perform on each day.

The festival has been a long held dream for Nicky and Andy Wake, who run event management company Dont Panic in Ramsbottom.

Andy said: We love it around here and we have always been keen to put something back into the community since we moved to the area. It is going to be a family orientated festival and we have already sold 6,000 tickets. The support from locals has been incredible.

But were also expecting loyal fans of the acts appearing to travel here and those people will fall in love with the town. People will be able to travel here, if they wish, on the East Lancashire Railway which will be running.

Where better to hold a music festival than next to the River Irwell, in a stunning valley setting? In the evening the sun will be setting and the steam from the trains will be rising. There is no better place than Ramsbottom for us to do this and we hope it will be yet another thing to put it on the map.

For Chris and Alison Brooks, RamsbottomRamsbottom was the natural choice when they were deciding where to open their independent modern art gallery. The former engineer and teacher, who have a passion for art, set up Atelier Rose and Gray Gallery in January.

They feature work from prestigious artists from the Royal Academy of Art, including Sir Peter Blake, as well as new, emerging talents.

The gallery, in Market Place, more resembles a place you would find down the road in Manchester or in a trendy London suburb. But the couple, who are hosting a music themed exhibition to coincide with Ramsbottom Festival, wanted to indulge their hobby and love for art in the area they love.

Chris said: This was something wed always wanted to do and we finally got the opportunity to go for it. Its been fantastic so far.

People are quite surprised when they see a gallery like this in Ramsbottom, but we like that and why shouldnt we be here. Around 20 years ago, Ramsbottom was a very different place and not a particularly prosperous one.

Where is it? Ramsbottom is located in the Rossendale Valley, near to Summerseat and Edenfield. Type BL0 9AE into your sat nav to get you there.

Where can I park? There are a handful of public car parks including in Market Place and Carr Place. There is also some on-street parking around the town.

What can I do? Ramsbottom town centre may be compact but there is plenty to explore. Browse the many interesting boutiques, galleries and food shops, take a ride on the East Lancashire Railway or take a walk up to Peel Tower to get a birds eye view of the town. You could also follow the Irwell Sculpture Trail, one of the largest public art schemes in the UK, which runs through Ramsbottom.

Are there refreshments?
Absolutely, Ramsbottom is a heaven for foodies. There is everything from a caf dedicated to all things chocolate to a place to eat award-winning sticky toffee pudding. While youre there, why not pick up a bottle of Lancashire Sauce? Its made by David Entwistle from Entwistles Delicatessen in Bridge Street. He uses an old family recipe and the sauce is now supplied all over the country.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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