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As you were

It was good to read about Historic England’s project to give some publicity to the lives and communities of ordinary people in humble settings around the country – beautiful nostalgia, with lessons to be learned: Morecambe landladies celebrated in English working-class heritage project | Heritage | The Guardian

This is not massive funding – between £6,000 and £25,000 per project – though I have not found any receiving more that £12,000.

The Morecambe landlady story raises a grim smile in memory of the ordeal that the one week holiday could be – turfed out after breakfast and banned from returning before teatime whatever the weather. The quote: ‘You had to pay to use the cruet’ made you wonder when we last used the word ‘cruet’, quite apart from the meanness which the rule reflected.

Our holidays to a boarding house were to Aunt Dora at Rhos-on-Sea. Dora had lived next door to the family in a square off Ettingshall Road. I think she must have come into money and set up a boarding house for paying clients, some of whom became long-term residents. When we went it was to stay in rooms right at the top of the house. We were not restricted, enjoyed the meals and loved to go down to the sea beyond the shops just a short walk down the hill. I still have a small model lorry – red cab, cream tip-up section, which was purchased from the corner shop. It sits beside me, a reminder of who I am and where we started.

One of the other stories which caught my eye and fancy was that relating the tin tabernacle at Edge of the Forest Bilson. Partly I was drawn by a miss-reading which gave me ‘Bilston’ – but not to mind. It is well worth giving time to remembering tin chapels and churches wherever they are: there are several good websites telling about them, including Wikipaedia Tin tabernacle - Wikipedia. There are more than 80 ‘iron churches’ listed for England, with others in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. There are at least three on the Isle of Wight – at Blackgang, Blackwater and Rookley. They were erected to meet the need when congregations were growing rapidly in the 1800s. Quick to put up and relatively inexpensive, many have survived beyond the time when there is congregation to fill them, though I believe the Bilson Chapel – originally Primitive Methodist – is still in active use. Others have been converted to provide cottages, retail business or builders’ merchants. We attended the funeral of a much-loved colleague in Old Trafford – a Roman Catholic Church for the Polish Community in a tin tabernacle. A devout and caring community.

Similar tin buildings were used as schools – again in response to rapidly increased demands as people moved into towns to provide the labour in pits, ironworks and factories.

Humble beginnings, but with potential for people to improve themselves and the next generation.

This initiative by Historic England will bring joy and illumination to many people. It will surely become used as a resource in memory services – a treasure trove in itself and encouragement to find out about equivalent stories with local relevance.

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