With filming set to wrap up on a new documentary about one of Accrington’s most famous roads, Jonathan Macpherson talks to the two men behind the project who hope to shine the light on a forgotten part of the town’s history ...
WHEN Mike Dickinson attended a one-off historical tour down Plantation Road last summer, little did he realise this would be the start of a much longer journey.
Mike, a retired insurance company administrator, took part in the walk organised by the environmental charity Prospects Foundation and led by Accrington resident Lee Aaron.
It was centred around Plantation Road which, during the 19th century, was home to two of the most important families of the era - the Hargreaves’ and the Grimshaw’s.
Between them the two families employed over half the working population in the printing and cotton industries.
After becoming intrigued by the history of the road and it's famous former residents, Mike approached Lee with the idea of creating a film version of the tour to bring the attention of its historical significance to a wider audience.
Mike, of St Ledger Court, Accrington, said: "Before I went on one of the walks with Lee, I, like so many people who must walk round that area, didn’t realise the significance and all the historical aspects of the place.
"At Arden Hall lived Benjamin Hargreaves, renowned as a friend of the poor and a member of the most munificent in the town.
"He was one of the leading lights in raising the funds for what was the Peel Institute which was a memoriam to Sir Robert Peel. That later became Accrington Town Hall.
"The last occupant of Arden Hall was Alderman Arthur Smith Bury, former Mayor of Accrington in 1910-11.
"The neighbouring Owl Hall was home to the Grimshaw's for over a century where James Grimshaw’s son, William Denham, had Plantation House built further along the road.
"Both families were industrious in Calico Printing, with the Hargreaves at Broad Oak and the Grimshaw’s at Plantation Hill.
"After the walk I asked Lee how would he feel about making a documentary and making it available to the library, local schools or individuals who might be interested and thankfully he was."
Mike and Lee began filming the documentary in January this year with Lee narrating and Mike filming and editing.
"I would say we have been up there most weekends filming and trying to catch the good weather," said Mike.
"It’s very much a film on the roads history and really trying to raise awareness of the contribution these historical figures have made to Accrington."
Lee Aaron, 52, who has worked with the Prospects Foundation for over five years, was thrilled to have the chance at working on such a project.
He said: "The sole purpose was to make the documentary and show people what there is as it’s a really key road in Accrington's history.
"I was pleased with the response we had initially with the walk. I didn’t realise so many people were interested in the historical side of it and that's why we wanted to make the film to bring it to a wider audience. We didn't enter into it to make any money out of it."
Arden Hall was demolished over half a century ago with only the foundation stones remaining.
In 2007 a fire ripped through the 140-year-old Owl Hall building but it is now undergoing a transformation to turn it into five dwellings.
One concern the project has thrown up is the whereabouts of a number of the areas historical artefacts which have either been lost, stolen or given away over the decades.
Mike said: "When Oak Hill ceased to be a museum in 1939 many of the artefacts were transferred to Mercer Hall, however this closed as a museum in the 1970's shortly after it had been broken into.
"With Oak Hill now a private residence and the Haworth Art Gallery more dedicated to art, it is such a shame that there is nowhere to display Accrington’s history so future generations can learn of the town’s accomplishments.
"I think it a shame and a tremendous loss to the town if its historical artefacts are either stored away where no one can benefit from them or dispersed across the county and lost to future generations."
The film is expected to be completed within the next month and the pair hope to organise a public viewing of the one-hour film at a future date.
For more information about the film contact Mike at email@example.com or call Gemma Tomlinson at the Prospects Foundation on 01254 380675.