Where is Pew Springs?

We have received the following email from someone who would like to find out where ‘Pew Springs’ was in Bolton.  If anyone can help, please get in touch with the branch and we will pass on the message.
I am hoping that someone in your society can help in identifying a location in Bolton circa 1923.
I am researching family history and trying find out where a great aunt lived before embarking on a voyage to Canada where she eventually married and raised a family.
My cousin in Canada has an Outward Passenger list for April 24 1923 stating the last address in the UK as 60, Pew Springs, Bolton. I cannot find this address despite trawling through contemporary OS maps.
My great aunt worked in a cotton mill as did many other relatives of the time. The various family members seem to originate around the Rumsworth area of Bolton but my aunt would have lived in Baxendale St, Astley Bridge at the age of 11 before moving to live with aunts on Wigan Road after her parents died (between 1911 and 1916). She was issued a work permit at the age of 12 and it’s more than likely she started work around that age.
Any suggestion would be gratefully received.

Voices from the Armistice

On Monday 5 November, the Bolton Branch commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War by hearing about the experiences of six individuals as they discovered that war had ended.

Ms Charlotte Czycyk, from Imperial War Museum North, talked us through the lives of men and women involved in the war effort at home and abroad, as combatants, auxiliary staff, in supporting roles and even as conscientious objectors.  The responses of these individuals to the news that the war had ended were diverse:  although they were all pleased and relieved, not all were elated; several felt a deflated sense of anti-climax, and for some, little in their day-to-day experience changed over the following months.


The vignettes were taken from the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War project, which aims to capture the stories of 8 million people involved in World War One.  This publicly-sourced database holds records of men and women who contributed to the war effort in some way, and members of the public are encouraged to upload documents and add further details to the stories.  This interactive phase of the project will finish in March next year, although the site will then be archived as a permanent memorial.

Following the talk, Ms Czycyk led an extended discussion of the project, encouraging some members to get involved by contributing their families’ stories.



Boccacio and the English Renaissance


Our second lecture was given by Dr Guyda Armstrong of the University of Manchester on ‘The Renaissance English Translations of Boccacio’.  The excellent lecture focussed on the ways in which the English translations were adapted to fit their market, with illustrations and changes to the text in order to make them both acceptable and titilating.  As an Italian text, it had an exotic air.

Dr Armstrong brought along a seventeenth-century copy of the Decameron for members to have a look at after the meeting.

Cement Armada gets season off to flying start

Following our Annual General Meeting, Dr Steven Pierce, from the University of Manchester, gave us an eye-opening lecture on the historical roots of Nigerian corruption.

Dr Pierce began by commenting that, objectively-speaking, Nigeria is very corrupt.  He noted that it is common to see signs saying “this house is not for sale” because often people sell houses that don’t belong to them. Nevertheless, Nigeria hasn’t been at the top of the corruption index for about 12 years.  Yet it is often Nigeria that we still associate most closely with corruption because of the email scams.  This kind of fraud, which made Nigeria synonymous corruption, is known as a 419 scam, because 419 was the section of the penal code that outlawed confidence scams.   This sort of confidence trick emerged in the early years of colonial rule when people dressed in British army uniforms and pretended to be them.  So the perception of Nigeria as the home of confidence tricks goes back to the very start of the colonial period. The emails would not be possible without the much longer history of 419 scams which were always aimed at duping gullible westerners – it is the format of the scam that has changed.  This gave an overall theme to Dr Pierce’s paper: the 1970s ‘Cement Armada’ was a very juicy scandal, but in order to understand it we need to give it the longer term context, because the historical circumstances of the country made the armada possible.

Nigeria was unified by Britain 1914. It has a huge land mass almost 4 times the size of the UK, with over 200 languages, each synonymous with different ethnic groups and cultures.  Dr Pierce focussed on one group, the Hausaphone Nigerians, as indicative of the rest to give us insights into government practices.  He pointed out that they had nearly 1500 years of history. Each of their city states had a king supported by officials, who appointed heads of villages. They collected taxes which they passed to an official and then on to the king.  Hausaphone society was based on deference to superiors and any leaders worth following had presence and charisma. Nevertheless, although it was a highly deferential society, it was a reciprocal arrangement.  At beginning of the 19th century, an Islamic jihad conquered the whole area. In order to control the region, the Jihadis retained the Hausaphone government system intact, but added another layer on top.

Then the major European powers divided up Africa and the region was given to the British, who weren’t too interested because it didn’t have any resources that they wanted. They ruled the country through a protectorate.  When the French and Germans started to threaten the area, the British rescinded the protectorate and installed Lugard  as the first high commissioner. He conquered these areas even though there was no economic incentive to do so and the colonial office didn’t want to pay for maintaining them.  Lugard was married to Flora Shaw, who wrote for The Times and she was an excellent publicist for him.  Lugard rule the country in a pragmatic way using a skeletal colonial administration while the retaining the caliphate’s ruling structure: there were fewer than 20 British officials in place in 1907 in northern Nigeria.  British colonialism in the area became invested in not interfering in indigenous governance, but did increase taxation, and regularise the system.  Made the indigenous officials salaried but did not pay them enough to undermine the need for largesse, so a system of patronage continued.  The British, therefore, also displayed a lack of understanding of the culture.   As a result, extorting money and engaging in confidence schemes became part of the culture.



The region became able to pay for itself through state control of the export of cocoa, palm oil and groundnuts, while in 1939 Nigeria became a federation of 3 regions.  Following the Second World War, Britain allowed its colonies increasing degrees of self rule.  The 3 regions began to be able to direct the revenues for exports.  In 1951 a federal parliament was constituted, but politicians still needed large amounts of money to keep their own positions, and they had been put in charge of the export revenues.  The 3 parties from the regions fought a lot and accusations of corruption formed part of this.  Formal decolonisation took place between 1960 and 1963.  A series of military coups in 1966 and the Biafran attempt to secede led to a brutal civil war.  As oil had been discovered at the end of the 1950s, by the end of the 60s it was clear that it was going to make government rich.

However, there was much reconstruction to do after the civil war. The entire country needed roads and buildings, but domestic cement was in very short supply.  The government estimated a need for 4.9 million tonnes, while the ministry of defence required 16 million.  More than 100 million tonnes of cement arrived because of the different groups ordering it.  This led to the arrival of a massive oversupply of extremely overpriced cement shipment.  They couldn’t offload it at Lagos because there was simply too much.  The government ordered cranes to help but they couldn’t get through because of the queue of 400 ships with cement. When the cranes finally arrived, there was no-one trained to use them.

digAn official inquiry blamed a single British official who was ‘left over’ from colonial days, who had apparently been seduced in to writing all the extra orders. Meanwhile, the international media followed the colourful stories in some detail. One lurid British scandal involved a British minister called John Stonehouse, who happened to be a spy for Czechoslovakian government.  He was a key figure in arranging an order of Romanian cement to Nigeria.  Romanian cement was controlled by princess Jeanne of Romania – although her husband was a prince of Romania, she was a con artist from Tennessee.  Instead, she gave contract to a Nigerian who turned up dead in the Thames. Two days later Stonehouse faked his own death and fled the country.

Coverage of the cement mainly derisive, but other reports took the paternal view, either presenting Nigeria as a greedy child, or suggesting developed western countries should have known better than Nigeria about what it needed.

Dr Pierce argued that the Cement Armada was much more important than just being about corruption.  It served as a demonstration to westerners that corruption was a significant problem, since the Nigerian government didn’t have good enough records to be able to tell real contracts from false ones.


When the first republic gave way to a civilian government, this second republic made the first look like an advert for good government.  By 1983 there were billions of dollars just completely missing.  It was overthrown in a coup and the officials of the second republic fled.  One ended up in London where in 1984 he was kidnapped from outside his Bayswater flat. He was found a couple of days later in a crate in Stansted, being smuggled back to Nigeria for trial.

Free lecture at Bolton School

Nefertiti’s Face

Bolton School will host a talk about Egyptology from Old Girl Dr Joyce Tyldesley. Members of the public are invited to join Bolton School pupils and staff for this free lecture.

The talk will be based on Dr Tyldesley’s latest book, Nefertiti’s Face: The Creation of an Icon. This promises to be particularly relevant for anyone studying historical subjects at GCSE and A Level but should also appeal to anyone with a keen interest in Geography, Archaeology or visiting ancient sites.

Born and brought up in Bolton, Dr Tyldesley remains true to her roots: she is President of the Bolton Archaeological and Egyptology Society and has an honorary doctorate from Bolton University. She attended Bolton School before studying Archaeology at Liverpool University and went on to earn her Doctorate in Prehistoric Archaeology from Oxford, working on hand axes produced by Neanderthal man. She currently teaches at Manchester University and has written several books.

Dr Tyldesley’s books will be available to buy on the evening of her lecture.

This free event is open to everyone and will take place in the Girls’ Division Great Hall on Thursday 4th October 2018, beginning at 7.00pm. Refreshments will be available beforehand from 6.30pm. Parking will be available in the Girls’ Division Quad, which will be clearly signposted on the night.

  Event Contact: Mrs J Hone, Academic Enrichment Coordinator for the Arts (JHone@boltonschool.org)

This event is part of an ongoing series Arts and Sciences Enrichment Lectures hosted by the Girls’ Division.

First Meeting of the 2018 Season

Please join us for the first event of the 2018-19 season on Monday 10 Spetember, at 7.30pm in the Sutcliffe Suite of Bolton School Girls’ Division.

Dr Steven Pierce: ‘After the Cement Armada: Nigeria, Corruption, and the Politics of International Reputation, 1967-1986’

Portland_Cement_BagsCorruption has objectively been a terrible problem for Nigeria for more than a century. Indeed, the inventor of the term ‘kleptocracy’ (a government with corrupt leaders that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political powers) deemed Nigeria a perfect instance of the form back in the 1960s—discussing a government that is now remembered as being relatively honest. However, only in the 1970s did Nigeria become notorious for the over-the-top looting of state resources still famous today. I will discuss several factors—the advent of vast oil wealth, the politics of Nigeria’s competing ethnic and religious groups, a set of institutional problems dating from the colonial period. Even these would not have been sufficient without several international scandals that cemented Nigeria’s reputation.

The talk is drawn from Dr Pierce’s most recent book, which is entitled Moral Economies of Corruption: State Formation and Political Culture in Nigeria. He is currently a senior lecturer in modern African history at the University of Manchester, and has published widely on Nigerian law, politics, and gender issues.

This meeting will be preceeded by a short AGM.

HA Fellowship for Bolton Branch Member

A member of the Bolton Branch was made an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association at the annual Medlicott Awards Evening in London in July.  Geoffrey Berry was given the honour in recognition of his many years of service to the Historical Association.  He was the Treasurer of the Bolton Branch for many years, and we would like to thank him for his vital contribution to the smooth running of the branch.

Heritage Open Day at Hall i’ th’ Wood Museum

Date: Saturday 8 September   Time: 2:45pm – 4:00pm

To celebrate Heritage Open Days join us for a tour of this beautiful building.

The tour will include a rare chance to view the attic space where Samuel Crompton allegedly hid the spinning mule during an outbreak of machine-breaking in the late 1700s.

The tours will take place at the following times:




Free event and no need to book.

Heritage Open Day at Smithills Hall

Date: Sunday 9 September   Time: 2:30pm – 3:45pm

Discover more about Smithills Hall at this year’s Heritage Open Day with a tour of this fantastic building . Smithills Hall opened to the public as a museum in 1963 but its history dates back to the 14th century. Today, much of the Hall has been restored to its original splendour and you can see rooms and displays from across the centuries.

You can stand in the same room where Bolton Protestant Preacher, George Marsh, was interrogated by the owner of the estate, Robert Barton. Marsh was later burned at the stake because of his faith. Legend has it that as George Marsh was being led from the Hall he stamped his foot on the flagstone, leaving a mark that has remained there ever since as a declaration of his steadfast faith.


There will be tours at the following times: 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

AGM Notification

The Bolton Branch AGM will be held on 10 September 2018, immediately prior to the first lecture of the season.  Documents for the meeting can be found below. Please note the updated AGM agenda (the incorrect dates were sent in the programme information) – printed copies will be available on the evening.


Historical Association Bolton Branch

Annual General Meeting 2018

7.30pm, Bolton School Girls’ Division

Monday 10th September 2018


  1. Apologies
  2. Minutes of the AGM held on Monday 11th September 2017 and Matters Arising (see below)
  3. Chairman’s Report and Presentation of the 2018-19 Programme
  4. Treasurer’s Report
  5. Secretary’s Report (see below)
  6. Election of Officers and Committee for 2018-19 (see below)
  7. Any Other Business

Item 2 Minutes: Annual General Meeting 2017

7.30pm, Bolton School Girls’ Division
Monday 11th September 2017

1. Apologies – Glyn Redworth, Ken and Flo Wood, Charlotte Starkey, Brenda Keighley.
Mr C. Owen chaired the meeting owing to the ill health of the branch chairman

2. Minutes of the AGM held on Monday 12th September 2016 and Matters Arising
The minutes of last year’s AGM were unanimously agreed to be a correct record of the meeting.

In response to a question, the secretary reported that the branch stand at the HA conference in Manchester had been a worthwhile effort and had illustrated to delegates the variety of branch activities available through membership of the association.

3. Chairman’s Report and Presentation of the 2017-18 Programme
Mr Owen congratulated the secretary, Dr Hyde, on the sterling effort which went into producing such a high-quality programme. He encouraged members to bring their friends along to meetings.

4. Treasurer’s Report
The outgoing treasurer, Mr Berry, outlined the financial health of the branch. Figures were broadly similar to those of 2016-17, with the branch again making a small surplus. Income was generated principally through the 27 branch members’ subscriptions, with the visitors’ receipts and book sale also contributing. Visitor numbers were slightly down on the previous year, while profits from the book sale had increased by £20.

Administration costs had increased the branch’s expenses while in addition the branch had paid a single delegate’s fee in order to man the stand at the national conference adequately. Mr Berry noted that lecturers’ expenses can vary dramatically, but that last year more than half had not asked for their expenses.

The accounts have been audited and submitted to head office.

A member requested larger print copies of the accounts in future; Mr Berry responded that the form was provided by HA head office.

A member asked how the Bolton branch finances compared to those of other branches; Dr Hyde replied that as she was a member of the national Branches and Members’ Committee, she could confirm that the branch was in robust financial health without sitting on more reserves than was necessary. As a charity, the Association is keen that branches have plans to use any large reserves of money in a manner appropriate to the charity’s aims.

5. Secretary’s Report
Dr Hyde reported on last year’s activities. Turnout for lectures had been good, but the audience for the event with Bolton Archives had been disappointing despite the event having promoted on Bolton FM.

6. Election of Officers and Committee for 2017-18
The following officers and committee were elected unanimously:
President – vacant
Chairman – M. Shipley
Vice President – G. Redworth; M Shipley
Treasurer – M. Taylor
Secretary J. Hyde
Committee Members – G. Berry, J. Ball; D. Johnson; C. Owen; F. Wood.

7. A.O.B.
Mr Owen assured the branch that the school was happy to continue its association with the HA; the headmistress had suggested to the girls in assembly that attending HA meetings was a good way to broaden their horizons, and she would herself attend when she could. The 6th form girls would provide the refreshments from the next meeting. The history department was grateful for the branch’s donation, which this year had been used to buy class text books following the GCSE and A level reforms.

Mr Owen drew attention to the school’s first public lecture of the season: former MP John Pugh would speak on ‘Life at Westminster’ on 22 September at 7pm.

A member had brought a leaflet for Warwick History Festival.

Dr Hyde reminded members that the branch would have a stand in Bolton Library foyer on Saturday 16 September and she would be grateful for volunteers to help out – it would increase awareness of the branch in the town.

Dr Hyde had also received notice of Halliwell Local History Fair, which was taking place on the same day.

Dr Hyde informed the branch that a student had offered to run the branch Twitter and Facebook accounts for the forthcoming season as his Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme voluntary service.

The meeting closed at 8pm and was followed by a short paper entitled ‘Ravenous, bloudye, and Man eating people: The Cannibalistic Amerindian in the Early English Colonial Imagination’, given by Dr Rachel Winchcombe.


Item 5: Secretary’s Report to the 2018 AGM

The Bolton Branch maintained its position in the 2017-18 season.  The branch has 19 individual and 8 joint associate members, as well as 10 full members who attend regularly.  An average of 37 people have attended our monthly lectures.  There were 19 visitors over the course of the year.

Our lecture programme remains the heart of the branch, and we hold 7 lectures a year.  Following the AGM, we heard about Dr Rachel Winchcombe’s fascinating research into English understandings of cannibalism in the early modern period.  Our first full-length lecture of the season was given by Dr Stella Fletcher, who pointed out that the Borgias have been reinterpreted by every generation to suit their own ends.  In November, Dr Martin Alexander talked about General Custer’s reputation and in December, we welcomed Dr Stephen Kelly to speak about Airey Neave, Margaret Thatcher and the Northern Ireland peace process.  Our first lecture of 2018 was given by Dr Kate Ash-Irisarri, who gave voice to the ‘Dangerous Women of the Scottish Wars of Independence’.  She was followed by Dr Julia Hilner, who continued the theme of women in history by describing ‘The Changing Image of the Late Roman Empress’.  Our March lecture had to be postponed because of inclement weather, but it was worth the wait, as we welcomed HA President Prof. Tony Badger to give the David Clayton Memorial Lecture on Martin Luther King.

The branch continues to hold its meetings at Bolton School Girls’ Division; we offer our thanks to the Head, history staff and sixth form students for their support.  As a token of our appreciation, we have given a small donation to the History Department and offered the 6th formers who provide the refreshments for the meetings the President’s Award of Studentzone HA membership.

Our monthly bring and buy book sale continues to make a welcome contribution to branch funds, but this year we have not attempted to attract members to social events or other activities.  Committee members took a branch stand to Bolton Library in September, but there was little interest.  Likewise, we attended Bolton Station Community Day in June and we hope for more interest from this event.  During the summer, the branch featured in The Historian, not only with Stella Fletcher’s article based on her Bolton lecture, but also with the secretary’s ‘A Year in the Life of a Branch Officer’.

Michael Taylor resigned as Treasurer in March 2018 and we would like to offer our thanks and appreciation for his efforts during his term. Nigel Anderson was appointed as Treasurer with effect from 25 May 2018.  Geoffrey Berry, who served as branch treasurer for many years, was made Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association at the Medlicott Awards Ceremony in June 2018.  Our secretary, Dr Jenni Hyde, was a judge in the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award for historical fiction.  This season the branch also benefitted from the services of James Hyde, a student at Longridge High School, who looked after our branch Facebook and Twitter accounts as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.  We are now looking for another volunteer to maintain our social media presence.  In recent weeks we have also been taking steps to ensure that we meet the requirements of the new European GDPR legislation.

Although the branch is currently stable, we would like to see our membership rise to the levels we saw during our time at Bolton Parish Hall.  As word of mouth is the best publicity, we would ask that all our members encourage their friends to come along to meetings.


Item 6: Officers and Committee 2018-19

  • President – vacant
  • Chairman – M. Shipley
  • Vice President – G. Redworth; M Shipley
  • Treasurer – N. Anderson
  • Secretary – J. Hyde
  • Committee Members – G. Berry, J. Ball; D. Johnson; C. Owen; F. Wood; L.   Leach; C. White; A. White