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Earth Floors to Fitted Carpets
Mere Brow Local History Society - August 1990
ISBN 0951643509
Extracts reproduced, with permission, for reference only
Web Transcript © Hubmaker 2002. Reproduction by any means strictly prohibited.

OLD FRIENDS
Some well known characters & friends

Alice Wright - Innkeeper at the Legh Arms about 100 years ago.
She was renowned for her cooking and was regarded as the best "ham-fryer" for miles around. It was said that she never left the pan once the cooking had begun. She would turn the ham as it cooked and the flavour would be perfect.

Lord Lilford's shooting parties would go in for lunch and also the dignitaries at the Mere Brow Show which was held in the field behind the inn. A great favourite as a "starter" was a dish of freshly-picked garden peas served with lashings of butter.

Alice was a crusader for family rights whom we would have been proud to have in our society today. Saturday was pay-day for the farm workers. If they called at the pub straight from work she would refuse to serve them until they had been home to give some money to their wives!

She was licensee at the Inn for about 30 years when the licence passed to the Lea family.

Charles & Alice Mayor of Tabby Nook
Mr. and Mrs. Mayor worked a small farm in Tabby Nook. The farm was sited where the new bungalows are built on the south side of the lane near to what was known as the "Mere Gate".


Mrs. Alice Mayor of Tabby Nook

Charles was one of nineteen children. Alice was one of the very old school of dialect speakers.

A friend who was studying at a London university loved to hear her speak, and he brought a fellowstudent back to Mere Brow to hear the fascinating way she could speak the local dialect. He asked "Mrs. Mayor, will you tell my friend about the straw?" Alice replied "Cl, aye, you meeun abaate um comin 'fer a bottle o'streea?" (This was a small amount of straw for the villagers to make the straw nests for the hens to lay their eggs in). Charles and Alice lived to a ripe old age and when they died it was within a few days of each other.

Richard Hart - Local Grocer

Richard Hart, Grocer.

Richard Hart's shop was at the house which is now No. 51 The Gravel. The bakehouse was the building which is now The Cottage Tea Shoppe.

Delicious fresh bread was baked every day and wonderful home-boiled hams were highly recommended. Two of his sons, Richard and John, helped him in the business and his daughter, Margaret, managed the branch at Tarleton (on the site where the long-awaited library now stands). His other children did not join him in the business.

Hugh and Mary Sutton - Shoemaker


Mr. & Mrs. Hugh Sutton, Long Fold

The village shoemaker and his wife, Hugh and Mary, lived in a small cottage in Long Fold. Hugh was the village cobbler and shoemaker. His cobbler's shop was opposite the cottage in Long Fold and it was a gathering-place for the men of the village, for a social hour. During the weeks approaching Christmas, the men could be heard enthusiastically practising the Mere Brow anthem "Behold".

It was said that Hugh was a descendant of "Duke Sutton", one of the founders of Southport.

John and Margaret Hough - The Gravel, Mere Brow
Mr. and Mrs. Hough lived in a small white-washed cottage on the site where No. 116 now stands.


Mrs. Margaret Hough, The Gravel

The cottage was thatched and was very warm and cosy. Margaret wore the old-fashioned white bonnets or hoods as they were sometimes called. This type of hat was very elaborate and required a lot of patience when washing, starching and ironing them. In March 1940 John and Margaret broke with tradition when they left their cottage and moved to a modern house in Marshes Lane.

The cottage was commandeered by the wartime fire-service. The old-fashioned cooking range and the fireplace were put to good use by the firemen who cooked tasty suppers when on night duty.

John and Jane Taylor - Bank Farm
Our first-known occupants of Bank Farm were Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. They had four sons, James, John, Thomas and William and one daughter Alice. After John's death, the farm was taken over by his son John who was a well-known and respected character.


Mr & Mrs John Taylor and sons, John and Thomas

Son John was a staunch Primitive Methodist and was the Secretary of the Rechabites Association ("Club"). Members were able to take out a mortgage with the Association and also a form of health insurance which enabled them to draw a "benefit" when off sick from work. Anyone receiving this benefit was said to be "on t'club" and had to be home by 8.00 p.m. John was very diligent in his role as Secretary and made sure that they kept strictly to the curfew. John was also a member of Tarleton Parish Council, travelling to the meetings on his bike. He died at the age of 88, leaving behind a host of memories.

Thomas and Alice Ascroft - Grocers and corn-millers
On 12th March, 1838, Alice Southworth acquired a plot of land on Marshes Lane for a "dwelling place two storeys high, the same to be built with good mortar composed of lime and sand in proper quantities, well timbered throughout, the windows to be made of oak or red deal, and to be roofed and slated with good blue slates."

It was on a 21 year lease from Thomas Hesketh at a rent of £2.2s.0d. In his terms, he specified that during this time, Alice Southworth should not "apply or make any application whatsoever at any time or times for any licence to convert the said intended dwelling-house into a public house or beer shop on any pretence whatsoever." This dwelling is now the shop which exists today on the corner of Marshes Lane.

Thomas and Alice Ascroft were the grandparents of the present owners of the grocery shop and cornmill. Alice was a member of the Southworth family of Samlesbury Hall. It is said that her ancestors were amongst the passengers who sailed to America on the Mayflower. One of them, possibly 10th in line, eventually returned to these shores and Alice married Thomas and so began their own particular dynasty.

As well as caring for her growing family, Alice managed the shop and baked bread each day. Attached to the gable end of the house facing Marshes Lane was a small brick bread oven which opened into the living-room. The oven was fill with red-hot coals until it was hot enough to retain the heat for about one hour. The coals were then scraped out and the bread was put in.

In 1934 and 1940 Thomas purchased land adjacent to the dwelling and extended the corn mill. He had a horse and lorry on which he delivered provender to the farmers and cottagers. His two sons, Thomas and William, eventually took over the mill whilst his daughters, Winnie and Daisy, ran the shop. At the present day, three generations later, the sons of the late Thomas Ascroft junior operate the corn mill and the shop is run by his two daughters-in-law.

The Ascroft family have served the village of Mere Brow for over 100 years, a truly remarkable achievement.

Mr. Swarbrick - village schoolmaster
Mr. Swarbrick was one of the last schoolmasters to live in the school house (this is part of the main school building now used as boiler-room and store-rooms) - He lived there with his wife and one son and two daughters.

He was a very strict teacher, making good use of the cane. If the child refused to hold out their hand properly he would grasp the child's arm firmly whilst he thrashed the culprit.

There were no formal examinations set, but pupils were only allowed into a higher class if their progress merited it.

John Webster - Tarleton

John Webster of Tarleton and Jack Johnson of Banks
John Webster with Jack Johnson - steam roller before restoration

John was a good friend to many people in Mere Brow. He had a regular "round" each Monday, selling haberdashery, bedding etc. from his van. He used his round as an excuse to give many kindnesses to his elderly customers and they looked forward to his visits.

He owned a steam-roller which he restored to a very high standard. On summer evenings during the late 70's and early 80's it was a delight to see him drive through the village on board the iron monster.

He was a regular visitor to many steam fairs held in various parts of the country. Following John's death the steam-roller was sent, on loan, to the Leyland Vehicle Museum.

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