You can't lick Lancashire's Chatburn
PUBLISHED: 01:18 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:22 20 February 2013
It's a Lancashire village famous for its warm welcome and its delicious ice-cream. Our artist Gordon Wilkinson paid it a visit
WE all rave about buying local. Using our village shops and suppliers helps to create the glue that keeps communities together as well as reducing food miles. For some of Lancashire's rural outposts it's a passion which has come too late. Post Offices have been shut, corner shops couldn't compete with supermarkets and the local pub called time and converted into a posh new house.
Happily, Chatburn has managed to keep hold of things that are precious to folk who live away from the big towns. Pubs, post office and shops are still thriving in this charming Ribble Valley spot. 'Chatburn very definitely still has a beating heart,' says the Rev Rodney Nicholson, of Christ Church, a fine Victorian structure noted for its stained-glass windows.
'It's a village with plenty going for it. Like most places, it has people who are keenly involved in local affairs and, until I came here, I didn't quite appreciate how much of a village atmosphere there is.'
Christ Church and the village Methodist church work together by staging, and paying for, a joint fun-day of services, barbecues and competitions for local families. It's another day when the village comes together.
When Roy Porter joined the meat trade in 1963, there were 30 village butchers' shops in the Ribble Valley. Today, there are just four and Roy's business, run with wife Daphne and daughter, Jill, plus a team of valued counter staff, is one of the most notable. The shop, in Bridge Street, has sold Scotch beef since it was founded in 1948 but it also specialises in Bowland lamb and Herdwick hogget from the Lakes as well as many other locally-sourced products, such as cheeses and eggs.
The business has been registered with the Soil Association for six years giving it organic status and Roy makes a point of visiting the farms which directly supply the shop.
'It's very sad that the butchers' shop have almost disappeared from the Ribble Valley, but Chatburn remains a lovely place sustaining several businesses,' he says. 'It's encouraging that we have some new shops opening. For instance, we now have a deli.'
Roy is part of the Ribble Valley Food Trail. As regular readers of Lancashire Life will know, this has been a highly successful campaign to promote the region as one of Britain's gastronomic strongholds. Another Chatburn business on the list is Hudson's, the home of the famous ice cream. It received nationwide attention when it was visited by Sheila Dillon for BBC Radio 4's Food Programme.
The building sits on a corner by the road to Downham - you can't miss it in the summer months. Invariably, there is someone sitting outside licking a cornet. It was once the village toll house and it still has a list of charges for travellers.
It's a business steeped in history and the production of ice-cream goes back to the late 30s when it was first produced in a bath tub in the back yard to celebrate a family birthday. It was so popular with villagers that it turned into a commercial operation. Wartime rationing halted it until the mid 40s when it was sold from a big drum on a cart covered with blocks of ice.
Today, the business is run by Mandy and Mark Paul. Mark's family ran it for 20 years, selling it to the young couple in 1999. 'The recipe is a family secret. It's not written down - it's up here,' laughs Mandy, tapping her forehead.
'Mark makes the ice-cream and we normally have nine flavours on the go. It can be anything that's available - gooseberries, blackcurrant, cranberry. Someone came into the shop and asked what they could do with a load of damsons. We made damson ice-cream. It was very popular.'
While Mark makes the ice-cream and sorbets, Mandy is in charge of baking cakes for the shop, which also has a caf. The milk comes from a mile up the road, the eggs are from Clitheroe and much of the fruit is from Gisburn. Mark and Mandy, who have two teenage daughters, have come under pressure to sell their ice-cream further afield in stores and restaurants.
'I'm reluctant,' says Burnley-born Mark. 'I can easily spend eight hours a day making ice-cream. We take terrific pride in what we do - the ice-cream leaves me in pristine condition. There are no preservatives or additives so it needs looking after correctly and I'm concerned that it might not be served in perfect condition. That would reflect badly on me. So franchising it out has been suggested, but I'm reluctant.'
As well as a beauty salon, a big garden centre and even a forge called Age of Iron making extraordinary metal works of art, there is that most precious of commodities - the Post Office. It is run by Martin and Abigail Turner, who moved from Bristol six years ago looking for a different pace of life.
Happily, business is such that they have avoided the fate of other rural POs. The business started off in 1885 as a shop for the men who worked in the local quarry and it has kept going ever since. Things seem to last in Chatburn.
Chatburn goes back to medieval times and the name is thought to come from a derivation of Ceadd's (St Chad's) stream. For many years the village was part of the cotton industry until the mill closed in the early 1990s.
The blackest day for Chatburn came during World War II when a German plane dropped two bombs killing three people. Many others were hurt and there was extensive damage to buildings.
In 1778, workmen widening the road between Chatburn and Worston found an urn containing about 1000 silver denarii - Roman coins - all well preserved. There was also a bronze lamp found.
Christ Church was the first church to open after Queen Victoria took to the throne in 1837. Seventeen years later the spire was struck by lightning and it had to be pulled down. It was restored the same year.
The Chatburn logo was designed by well-known resident Colin Wiseman. It is now displayed on signs along the main routes into the village.
It shows the village's industrial past incorporating a lime kiln, hammer and shovel, as well as a shuttle to portray the textile industry. The River Ribble is at the centre with a red rose.