Public Meeting Thursday 24 November 2011 – Anne Coles: “Christmas Special”

Posted 31st January 2012 by Maggie Clowes
Newsletter Vol: 99, January 2012

The November meeting of the Appleby-in-Westmorland Society is traditionally the high spot of the year when some of the extensive slide collection put together painstakingly over the years by Graham Cole are enjoyed. Members were touched and impressed by the dedication and courage which led Graham to present the show last year, shortly before his death and perhaps even more so by the fact that Anne took on the task this year. This particular show followed the route taken by the Town Trail produced by Barry and Vivien McKay (available from the TIC ) which starts in the centre of Appleby and continues down Bridge Street to the Sands, on to Bongate, over the river at Jubilee Bridge, up to Scattergate and finally down Boroughgate to the Moot Hall. Unlike the modern tourist following this route we saw it as our ancestors might have done. Boroughgate was busy but the traffic jams were caused by horses and carts. There were thatched cottages where the Post Office now stands. And believe it or not you could once have indulged in hot or cold baths in the Cloisters. Seeing brightly coloured awnings outside some of the shops made one wonder whether the sun really shone more brightly in the past.

The predecessor of Lady Ann’s Pantry was Gregson’s Family Grocer whose splendid shop front was designed by a bridge builder who had been working on the Eden Valley Railway – hence the arched windows reminiscent of railway tunnels. Whiteheads shop in Bridge Street as well as being a printer and stationer, also acted as a shipping agent advertising emigration to Canada or Australia. If only we could have gazed at the bridge in 1911 when it bore a splendid triumphal arch adorned with flowers to celebrate the coronation of George V but, next best thing, we saw a picture of it in all its glory. Arriving in Bongate we saw the Royal Oak with another pub next to it, now absorbed into its larger neighbour. We passed the Boer War memorial and looked over an oddly towerless St Michael’s Church to the Castle.

Coming into Scattergate there was the tree under which John Wesley was supposed to have preached in 1766; however the weather was so bad that he did not stop. It blew down in a gale in 1959 so there is no longer a tree under which John Wesley did not preach! Coming down into Boroughgate we stopped at St Anne’s Hospital where the black clad residents were pictured standing under the watchful eye of the ‘Mother’. Back at the Moot Hall Anne told us the story behind the slide showing a youthful Queen Elizabeth sitting in the Mayor’s chair. Having decided that their monarch should sit by the window, the question arose as to how the very heavy chair should be moved. It was fitted with castors but Councillors then discovered that, as the ancient floor had an adverse camber, her Majesty might glide away from the window. The then Town Clerk took it upon himself to hold it in place!

It’s good to know that this slide collection is to remain in Appleby. With the help of residents it will continue to grow as more photographs and drawings come to light.

The evening concluded in splendid fashion with a varied and delicious buffet provided by the committee but organised, with her usual taste and efficiency, by Anne Crosby – sadly for us, she has decided it is time some one else took over. The Society is really grateful to her for her hard and cheerful work over several years. We will be hard put to rival her achievements but are glad that she is not leaving us altogether. But Anne Coles is. We wish her well in her new home in Scotland and will always be grateful to her for all the behind-the-scenes work she has put in on behalf of the Society, in particular in mounting some very successful exhibitions.