Read the articles published on our website for an insight into the history of Brindle and find out more about the lives of the people that have lived in the village and local connections.


Reviews of some of our previous meetings



At our meeting on 16 September Steve Halliwell gave us the benefit of his detailed research into the life of Moses Holden 1777-1864, whom Steve has described as a freeman of Preston, astronomer and self-taught genius – a man who has never been eclipsed.

Holden was born in Bolton and moved to Preston with his family when he was approximately 5 years old. As a child he worked as a handloom weaver; as a youth he worked in a foundry in Preston until disabled by an accident, and then became a landscape gardener. Early in life he and his older brother, John, developed a love of astronomy, mathematics, and geometry. He also managed to collect a remarkable library by his mid-twenties, even though at that stage his earnings cannot have been very great. He was however brought up in a strict Wesleyan family and had an appetite for hard work, which he maintained all his life. Moses himself described his efforts in this way: “.. I had to make my way solitarily and take as it were the pickaxe and cut my way through the solid rocks without assistance or help from anyone; but I labored at it; yes, I persevered and fainted not.” And: “While others were sleeping in their beds I was acquiring knowledge.”

In his history of Preston (1837) Peter Whittle wrote: “we full well know and consider that, had Moses Holden been a classical scholar, great additions in the display of science would have been given by him: he most certainly possesses the propensity to constructiveness in a high degree. If to this had been given the intellectual and perceptive faculty of language, the great work in one man would have been more fully developed.”

What were some of his works? In 1811 he embarked on an evangelical missionary tour lasting some 18 months to Poulton and the Fylde. Thereafter he spent time preparing for tours lecturing on astronomical matters, his first lectures being given in 1815 in the Theatre Royal, Preston. After that he lectured in many towns in the north of England and midlands. To illustrate his astronomical lectures he constructed a large orrery (reportedly “a truly novel and ingenious instrument”), which it was claimed in advertisements for his lectures was 21 feet in diameter although others said it was more than that, and also magic lanterns. He was clearly something of a showman. He met numerous scientific men, one such being William Rogerson of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich; Rogerson wrote to Moses in May 1833 saying, amongst other things, that he deemed it “a mental feast to see and hear your praiseworthy performances”! Moses produced various publications in his life and assisted in establishing the Preston Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, the forerunner of UCLAN. In 1834 the freedom of the borough was conferred on him. He died at Preston on 3 June 1864, aged 86. Recently his importance has been recognized by the installation of the Moses Holden Telescope at Alston Observatory, part of the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Mathematics Physics and Astronomy at UCLAN.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this energetic and interesting man, who also made telescopes and ground and polished lenses, I suggest reading Steve’s book, “Moses Holden, 1777-1864 The Preston astronomer who was never eclipsed”.

July – our annual trip

Our Trip to Stonyhurst College on 12 July was a great success. 26 people attended and after meeting for coffee, were provided by our guide, Andrew Snape, with a brief(ish) history of the site, the Shireburn family (pronounced and also written as “Sherburne” we were told), culminating in the buildings then on the site and some land being given in 1794 by Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle in Dorset to the Society of Jesus. A licence to occupy the land had originally been granted in about 1200 to a John de Bayley, the Shireburn family being his descendants. During the reign of Elizabeth 1 Sir Richard Shireburn managed to tread a careful middle path and avoid any fines or confiscations himself; but his wife, who was staunchly catholic and a recusant, was fined. Sir Richard was also able to make himself a fortune and began to carry out alterations to the existing house. Unfortunately he died in the 1590’s before they could be completed. His son, also Richard, carried on the work and by the 1640’s there was a 3 sided mansion. Cromwell commandeered the house in 1646 before the Battle of Preston and is said to have slept on a long table which we were shown. After 4 Richards Sir Nicholas Shireburn, born in 1658, inherited the estate and carried out further works, including the ponds, avenue, and gardens. On his death the estate passed to his daughter, the Duchess of Norfolk; and on her death without issue, it passed to her sister, Elizabeth Weld, wife of Thomas Weld.

In 1593 when penal laws prohibited catholic education in England a school for English catholics was set up in St Omer in what was then the Spanish Netherlands. The school later moved to Bruges (1762) and then Liege (1773) before coming to Stonyhurst in 1794. The school has numerous illustrious alumni, such as (in no order of illustriousness) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (whose name was carved into a desk we saw), John Francis Moriarty (classmate of Conan Doyle and Attorney General for Ireland in 1913), Gerard Manley Hopkins (poet), several Rugby internationals, a Prime Minister of New Zealand, 7 VC’s in wars between 1897 and 1945, and numerous others in different spheres of life. Parts of Stonyhurst are said to have provided Conan Doyle with his model for Baskerville Hall and the hounds. The museum is full of interesting books and artefacts. There is of course much more to be said but no room here to say it. It is a fascinating place and well worth a further trip.


Our talk in May was from Keith Hick, who spoke with great enthusiasm and much personal knowledge acquired over many years, about the interesting tangled and complex history of the railways to and from Southport.  At one stage 5 railways companies vied for the benefits of serving the town, which was one of the preeminent seaside resorts in the country.  Did any of us realise that following the railway mania in the 19th century, which reached its peak just before WW1, Southport had 22 railway stations and that only 5 remained today?  And even then “green” ideas were being developed; electric trains ran from Liverpool to Southport as early as 1904 with the traction systems being supplied by Dick, Kerr & Co of Preston.  Later, why was it that the line northwards from Southport to Preston was closed in September 1964 in the Beeching cuts, following a survey carried out in the winter months when the line was least used? Keith grew up with railway lines at the bottom of his back garden and could tell the time by the passing trains. Regrettably many of the lines have now gone and have been replaced in some cases by housing estates; and today there is no direct line from Southport to Preston.  Thank you, Keith.


At our April meeting Bernard Fleming gave his talk, “When the Cold War came to Brindle”.   Many will know of the efforts being made to restore the nuclear “bunker” or monitoring post (1 of over 1500 which were built across the country in response to tension during the “cold war”) opened in 1962 on Denham Hill, led by Michael Prescott and supported by a number of other enthusiasts.  For some strange reason it was known as the Brinscall Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post despite being in Brindle.  It was shut down in 1991 when the threat was judged to have reduced sufficiently, new technology was emerging, and the MOD was cutting costs; the equipment was removed; and essentially an empty concrete box was left.  For more information try putting Brinscall ROC Monitoring Post into Google.  We hope to be able to give more information as the project moves forward.  Thanks, Bernard, for a most informative talk to a well-attended meeting, and also to those members of the audience with personal knowledge of the “bunker” who contributed, one of whom had been in charge of it for a period.    


Our speaker on 15 October was Barbara Williams talking on James 1st of England and 6th of Scotland.

James became King of Scotland in 1567 when he was 13 months old after his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been forced to abdicate in his favour.  He was separated from his mother at this time, never seeing her again, and brought up by guardians, Scotland being governed by a series of regents until James reached his majority.  He became King of England after the death of Elizabeth 1st in 1603; he was a great-great-grandson of Henry 7th.  He was baptized as a catholic but brought up by strict protestants; he was extremely well educated, being able to speak Latin and French at the age of seven; amongst other things he wrote a treatise expounding the divine right of kings to rule, a practical guide to kingship for his son, Henry, and poetry.  He promoted music, poetry, and other literature, including the English re-translation of the Bible, what is now known as the King James Bible.  He had though suffered a series of traumatic events in his early life (apart from the separation from his mother), which must have had an impact on his later life.  Some say that he wore so many clothes because he feared attempts at assassination, as a protective layer against the dagger.  He also did his best to avoid war, in particular with Spain, and, when Sir Walter Raleigh was sent on an expedition to South America, instructed him not to exchange fire with the Spanish under any circumstances, even to defend himself and his force.

King James of course visited Hoghton Tower in 1617 where, it has been claimed, he knighted the loin of beef.  Barbara’s view was that, although James never allowed any sharp instrument anywhere near him, he was fond of theatrical gestures, was verbally witty, and so he may well have borrowed a sword from a guard to perform the deed.  On balance she thought it likely that he had.

An interesting and amusing view on King James’ life.


Members and some guests visited Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire on 22 September on the Society’s Annual Outing.  The weather was kind and it stayed dry the whole time we were there.  The organised tour of the Apprentice House opened our eyes to the very hard life of children from the age of 9 in the late 18th century – up at 6 am, 2 hours work in the Mill, breakfast at 8 am, then back to work in the Mill till approximately 7 pm, dinner, and then an hour’s schooling before bedtime.  No plates or cutlery for breakfast – only thick gruel on the hand – and so no wasted cost or time on washing up!  But they were fed home grown vegetables and suchlike; and they were better off than many elsewhere although most certainly not when compared with today’s standards.  The engineering skills on show in the Mill were amazing – the huge water wheel and associated gearing which provided power to the spinning and other equipment, and the steam engines, which were installed to ensure that, when the River Bollin was unable to provide sufficient water, the Mill could continue to operate at full capacity.  An industrial community comprising mill, owner’s house and garden, workers’ houses and apprentice accommodation could be visited.  This mill and other similar mills built in the latter part of the 18th century revolutionized the cotton industry.   So much to see and learn from.  Thank you, Kathy, for organising the trip for us.

On 17 September 2018 Bill Brierley spoke on “Mesopotamia – The Forgotten Front in WW1 and why it’s important today”.   The Ottoman Empire, which had controlled huge areas for centuries, had been losing territory and influence in the 19th century.  Early in the 1900’s they allied with Germany to help stem the losses.  Very shortly after the European war had begun, they attacked the Russians in the Black Sea at the end of October 1914.  Within a matter of days the Allied Powers had declared war on them and the British offensive, led by the British Indian Army, began. By 22 November 1914 Basra had been occupied and forces advanced up the Tigris.  A year later British forces were close to Baghdad but were forced to retreat to Kut where in April 1916 they were forced to surrender.  The British launched a further offensive in from the south in late 1916 and by March 1917 had taken Baghdad.  Behind the scenes though other things were happening which continue to have impact today.  Promises were made by the British to Arabs that in return for their support against Ottoman forces in the region a national Arab homeland would be created in what was then known as Greater Syria.  At much the same time the British, however, secretly negotiated with France what is often known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement (signed in May 1916) in which both powers agreed on the extent of their respective spheres of influence and control in the former Ottoman controlled Arab areas drawing boundaries which exist today; but they made no provision for an Arab homeland.  In 1917 the Balfour Declaration was published providing for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  The Treaty of Sevres in 1920 marked the beginning of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire by the Allied Powers; but the terms were such that they led to the Turkish War of Independence and in 1923 the creation of the modern Republic of Turkey.  It is though impossible to summarise here in a few words the complications which arose from all that happened.  Those who attended the talk listened in awe to Bill’s exposition and careful analysis of the complexities.  Thank you, Bill.


On 21 May Dr James Mawdsley took members and guests on a Tour of the Cemetery and then the Church of St James We were fortunate in having a pleasant warm evening.  James drew our attention to various points of interest on the outside of the Church and in the Cemetery.  A large monument on the Goodier family grave brought mention of Preston North End.  William Sudell, who had been instrumental in making North End so successful in the late 19th century, had, it seemed, funded the success by embezzling thousands of pounds from the Goodier family business, of which he had been the manager, to pay players wages and expenses.  He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 3 years.  Inside the church there was much of interest about both people and artifacts, but worth mentioning in this short article are the chandelier from 1793 (one of a few examples in Lancashire but a particularly nice one), the choristers’ memorial placques behind the choir stalls (not commonly seen in churches), and a small portable communion set.  The church web site has a useful summary of the history of the church, mentioning just some of the detailed information we were given by James.  Throughout we were accompanied by the peal of bells as the bell ringers had their usual Monday evening practice session.  Our thanks to James for the tour and to David Ward and Martin Coane for allowing us into the Church and making it possible.


Our talk on 19 March by Ralph McMullen, “Brindle and the Gerards – A Tale of Adventure and Loss”, gave us a fascinating insight into the rich history of the village. The Gerard family owned the Brindle Estate for two hundred and fifty years before losing it in 1572 in the reign of Elizabeth 1. The story, which, for Ralph began in Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, was the story of two men, Thomas Gerard and his son, John, a Jesuit priest and Brindle’s own Scarlet Pimpernel. Both were at various times imprisoned in the Tower of London and survived. Thomas unfortunately lost the Brindle Estate in the process to the Cavendish family. Thank you, Ralph. We all enjoyed it enormously.