Saturday, 10 October 2015

Story of village life told in archive film

HOLLYWOOD came to Kirkby at the weekend as the Beckside Rooms hosted a six-hour rolling programme of unique films about rural life and crafts more than 60 years ago.

HARD GRAFT: Workers at the Burlington slate quarry, Kirkby, pictured around 1905

Charles Rowntree of the History of Kirkby Group was projectionist as around 30 people at a time enjoyed seeing relatives at work in a blacksmith’s shop and at the slate quarries.

The movies were made by Burnley educational film maker Sam Hanna either side of the Second World War and have been preserved as part of a the North West Film Archive based in Manchester.

The camera was turned on the Soutergate blacksmith John Coward whose traditional workshop is now a house.

He could be seen making and fitting horse shoes and burning iron hoop wheels on to traditional spoked cart wheels.

A peat fire expanded the metal enough to hammer it around the edge of a wooden wheel with buckets of cold beck water then used to shrink it to a tight fit.

Slate dressers at Kirkby quarries could be seen working with incredible speed and precision.

They worked sitting on the ground with the slate balanced on a hobnailed boot and trimmed with a large blade like a machete. Each one took a matter of seconds to finish.

Wagons filled with finished slates were then loaded into wagons and sent slowly down the steep slope on rails to incline foot where they went on weighbridge ready to be sent away by road or rail.

While locals and visitors waited their turn for the films, there was an extensive local exhibition to see.

It included a series of then and now pictures based on old postcards and new views by a Kirkby Photography Club which meets in the Burlington pub at Kirkby.

Three pieces of antique church silver were on display including a collection plate donated by sea captain Richard Kirkby in 1698.

It is inscribed “taken from ye French who had plundered Carthagena in New Spaine”.

One of the displays gave brief details about the Kirkby railway crash of 1939 which involved two excursion trains and left 30 people injured.

You can find out more about how villagers came to the rescue of the passengers on Monday’s Memories Page.

You can have a look at some of the Sam Hanna vintage films on the North West Film Archive website at


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