Welcome to ActonBridge.Org Centenary of the Parish Room

Update 2. April 2010 : link to Northwich Guardian article

This page carries details of events we held in 2009 to celebrate the Centenary of the Parish Room.

Click to see some pictures of this year's butterflies and caterpillars from the village competition.

On Friday 8. May 2009 there was an Exhibition of paintings, drawings and photographs of Acton Bridge, with prizes in categories under 10 years, 10 to 18 years, and over 18 years, with a small entrance fee. There were display panels showing the history of the Parish Room, old plans and photos, and pictures from events such as the Silver Jubilee and the Millennium.

Here is a link to the report in the Northwich Guardian

Sir Hugo Brunner kindly agreed to be present at the celebrations - he is the great-grandson of Sir John Brunner, who officially opened the Parish Room a hundred years ago to the day.

Sir Hugo Brunner (left) and Bob Heaton, ABCA Chairman, with the silver key with which Sir Hugo's great grandfather, Sir John Brunner, opened the Parish Room in 1909. Sir Hugo has generously donated the key to the Parish for safe keeping (photo by Rosemary Mullett)

The silver key in its glass display case, made by Bob Heaton

The ribbon is cut by Mrs Phyllis Latham, one of our more senior parishioners, with Sir Hugo Brunner (left), Ruth Cottle (grand-daughter of Ezra Gandy, the Architect of the original Parish Room), and Bob Heaton and Veronica Oliver of ABCA. The book being held by Sir Hugo is a biography of Sir John Brunner by Stephen Koss (photo by Rosemary Mullett)

Sir Hugo (right) discusses the Centenary exhibition with John and Veronica Oliver of ABCA

Bob Heaton with Veronica Oliver and Sir Hugo

Visitors enjoying the exhibition of the history of the Parish Room and the village

Veronica Oliver with Mike Hall MP, and the silver key

Steve Pardoe (Vice-Chairman, Acton Bridge Parish Council); Mike Hall MP; Veronica Oliver ; Mr Hall's Agent ; and Peter Young (ABCA Treasurer) (photo by Rosemary Mullett)

Below are some photos of the exhibition panels, and the all-important tea and cakes!

On Saturday 9. May 2009 there was another Caterpillar (and Butterfly) Trail and Competition, with maps of the exhibits in the Parish Room, where you could cast your votes for the winners. We hope this will become an annual event, perhaps later in the year to coincide with the pear blossom for which Acton Bridge is famous. You can see some pictures of this year's butterflies and caterpillars here.


Historical notes: here is a transcript of an article from The Chronicle of Saturday, May 15, 1909. Thanks to Judy P and Caroline R for the typing!

A GREAT DAY FOR ACTON BRIDGE

NEW PARISH ROOM OPENED
SIR JOHN BRUNNER'S GENEROUS OFFER

Saturday was a day of importance at Acton Bridge; it marked a new era in communal advancement; it set the seal upon a work undertaken by the Parish Council for the parish good, and at the expense of the parish. Some communities rarely do anything for themselves - that is, if they are to cost money - but, taking their courage in both hands, the Acton Council have levied a rate of 6d. in the , and have built a delightful village hall, where meetings, concerts, recreational pursuits, and the like may take place. It was to open this hall that the Right Hon. Sir J.T. Brunner (fresh from the Liverpool University, where a signal honour had been conferred upon him), came to Acton on Saturday. And what a welcome was given to him! Flags and bunting adorned the way side cottages but Nature had been especially lavish. The village hall nestles in an orchard, and, as far as the eye could reach, pink and pearly fruit blossoms glistened in the sunlight, and the perfume of spring filled the air.

Nearly all the village and his wife attended the opening ceremony. Sir John, who was accompanied by his son, Mr. J.F.L. Brunner, M.P., was received by Mr. Wm. Hough (chairman), and the members of the Parish Council, and Mr. Hough said, as the representative of the ratepayers of Acton, he gave Sir John a very hearty welcome in their name. He did not think that Sir John could have come at a better time. The decorations were by Nature largely, and they thought it was the nicest village in Cheshire. (Applause). He asked Sir John's acceptance of a silver key to open the village hall. (Applause).

Sir John said he was absolutely and frankly sincere when he told them that, added to the ceremony of that morning in Liverpool, the ceremony of that afternoon in Acton made it one of the most momentous and delightful days in his life. (Applause). He would have more to say shortly, but would proceed to declare the room open. (Applause).

The public now flocked in the hall, a spacious well-lighted room, calculated to be of immense service. The room was prettily decorated with plants lent by Mr. J. Fairclough, of Weaverham. The chair was occupied by Mr. Wm. Hough, and amongst those present were the Rev. F. Lowe, (vicar of Weaverham), Messrs Ezra Gandy, John Hough, Newton Gandy, H. Clarke, John Rigby, F.C. Alcock, W. Edgerley, E. Breeze, W. Barcroft, James Holland, W. Ward, R.J. Nicholas (council clerk), E.R. Gandy, J. B. Gandy, Dickenson, and Noden, and James Burton, Mrs. Holland, Misses Gandy, Mrs. W. Hough, Miss Hough, Miss Walker, Mr. & Mrs. Jos. Clarke, Mr. and Mrs. A. Walker, Mrs. Alcock, Mr. and Mrs. John Pratt and many others.

HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT

The Chairman intimated the receipt of letters of regret for absence and expressions of sympathy with the movement from Mr J.S. Neil, Major Wilbraham, Mr Dawson, Mr J.T. Clough, Mr R.O. Leycester, Mr. J.O. Neild, Mr Wyndham Smith and Dr. Smith. He (the chairman) had had the honour of presiding over the Parish Council ever since the Parish Council Act was passed, but he had never felt his responsibility more than on that occasion. At the same time he regarded it as a great honour, and his duty largely was to be the mouthpiece of the Parish Council and to give them a brief outline of the course which had been taken up to that day. They had long felt the need of a room in the village. They had thought that they would have had a public school and they would have used it for public meetings and other purposes, but though they had been twice within sight of it, they had been foiled at the last moment. So at last after a good deal of consideration of the difficulties they had to face, they decided to build a room for themselves. They gave it so much consideration that people began to say there never would be a parish room and that it was all talk. Through the agency of Mr. Gandy, Messrs. Milner were approached and they had very generously given the site. (Applause) Mr Gandy looked out for rooms something like they required and the Parish Council went to inspect one which they thought was just the thing they wanted. Mr Gandy generously consented to act as architect free of charge and the next course was to decide how to raise the money. The county rate had been going up by leaps and bounds and they were afraid to increase the rates very much. They, however decided to raise

6d. IN THE

in one year. This brought a little over 200, and they got Messrs. Dickenson and Noden of Over to build it for that money. They had to put another penny in the for furniture, lamps etc., and there were many things they still required which they hoped would be provided by the generosity of their friends and neighbours. He was glad the room was built, and thought it would be very useful in the village. They had never had a room and even the Parish Council had had no home except through the kindness of the Wesleyan trustees. Now that they had got a grander room he hoped the council would attend better and take a greater interest in the work. The hall would be a council chamber, it would be used for public meetings of all sorts, irrespective of party or creed. There would be no barrier to it being used for any and every purpose of a legitimate character. (Applause). One of the grandest features was that it was a place where they could meet on neutral ground, where political differences could be forgotten, and where they were nothing but friends and neighbours. (Applause). It would be place where the young men, the cricket and the football clubs could meet.

Many of their meetings had hitherto been held in the open-air, or they had been dependent upon friends. It would be available for recreation and some of them had ambitions to possess a billiard table and various other amusements which he hoped they would succeed in getting. They could not raise the money for such purposes by rate and they would be dependent upon their friends. They hoped at some time to be able to furnish it properly and that it would be found a source of use, interest and benefit. (Applause).

Mr Gandy, on behalf of Messrs. Milner, at whose unavoidable absence he expressed regret - one brother was abroad and the other a captain in the army could not get away, prepared the deeds conveying the site to the Parish Council for the benefit of the parish of Acton for ever. (Applause.)

The Chairman accepted the deeds with pleasure and called upon Sir John Brunner who had taken such a deep interest in plans of that kind and in educational matters generally. (Applause.)

Sir John said he had had the opportunity during the last two minutes of looking the the deed of conveyance from Messrs. Milner to the parish and he was very glad to see that it was an

ABSOLUTELY CLEAN GIFT

without any hampering stipulations. That was a matter which betokened a public spirit on the part of Messrs. Milner and of which he would like to express his admiration. There were so many gifts which were but half gifts, that when he heard of a clean and open-hearted and full gift he acknowledged it with delight. the word "pleasure" was too cold and inadequate a word to use to describe the feelings with which he came to them that afternoon. he had had a very great honour paid to him by the University of Liverpool the place of his birth, in that they had made him a member of the university and had put him into a position to be able to tell his friends that, henceforth, he was a learned Doctor of Law. (Laughter and applause.) The company in which he had been was a very marvellous one, and one which made him proud in a fashion that they would understand and sympathise with when he gave them the names of his fellows, who, equally with himself, received a honorary degree of the university. Having mentioned their names and their record of service, Sir John a alluded to Dr. John L. Todd, a young graduate, who had done brilliant service for the Empire in teaching the people of more than one tropical colony how to get rid of mosquitoes, the tsetse fly, and tick upon cattle. He had been the means of teaching them how to save tens of thousands of lives in the future and many more tens of thousands of pounds through the saving of the loss of animal life. Dr. Todd had as a companion another graduate of Liverpool, a student, like himself, of tropical medicine who lost his life in the service of his country equally with those who fell on the field of battle. Young Dr. Todd came back in a delightfully modest spirit, claiming no credit for himself, but full of praise for his dead friend. Then there was Mr. Charles Parsons, the inventor of the turbine, which in the course of 14 or 15 years had advanced from the stage of a small mechanical experiment, to being adopted by the great liners and all the great ships of the navy. That morning he (Sir John) was concerned, as he had been since the beginning, in helping to do honour to the University of Liverpool, and in witnessing another step

FORWARD IN ENGLISH CIVILISATION.

That afternoon he has helping civilisation another step (Applause.) Some one had said that the only thing that a man need interest himself in was civilisation. Now they as politicians, he regretted to say, had to concern themselves with a great deal that could not be dignified by the name of civilisation, and it was therefore because he had to give his thoughts to so much that was unworthy that it was a double pleasure and a double gratification to be interested with them in an act that was purely one of civilisation. (Applause.) He had begun by expressing his admiration of the public spirit shown by Messrs Milner. He wanted to accord a mood of praise to Mr Ezra Gandy for giving his professional services for the benefit of his neighbours. (Applause.) He wanted to express his entire satisfaction with the enterprise which had been shown by the Parish council. He was sorry that they had given up the old name township. A Cheshire township was a far older thing than the parish. There were townships in Cheshire long before the Normans came. It was an old Saxon name, much older and more dignified, in his opinion, than parish. A Cheshire township was not a parish, and a great many townships went to make a parish.

He hated such a new fangled notions, and if he hadn't had the influenza when the last Local Government Bill was going through the House of Commons the change from township to parish would never have been made. (Laughter). He was very pleased that they had had the pluck to build the room without borrowing. If they had borrowed the place would have cost them more, for they would not only have had to pay the cost of it, but interest upon the cost, so that it was cheaper to do it all at once. Mr Hough had told them that it was the hope of the Town Council (laughter) that the place might be used for recreation - he hadn't the pluck to say for a dance - (laughter and applause) - but he hoped it would. (Applause.) He noticed also that with the ordinary manly egotism and indifference when the chairman talked about the young people it was always the boys. (Laughter.) As a family man, and having more daughters than sons he thought of the girls as well and the boys - (Laughter) and he hoped that the young men and the girls would dance there together and that the fathers and mothers would come and look on.

He hoped it would be the home of a library, for, when he was a member of the committee which had to do with consolidating the Library Acts he introduced an amendment to adapt the law to the circumstances of a community such as theirs. The Parish Council could now adopt the Acts without occurring any liability to spend any money out of the rates. They would pay a subscription to any of the lending libraries and could receive supplies of books. They were not bound to pay a librarian and he was perfectly satisfied they would find people competent and willing to receive the books, to distribute them and to collect them at the end of the month. He appealed to the council to go through the necessary form for the adoption of the Library Acts, and, in order to enable them to pass that resolution with a light heart, he undertook that for the first five years at any rate there should be no need to make any call upon the rates. (Applause). He would have great pleasure in sending them

A CHEQUE FOR 50

that they might spend in subscriptions and in the purchase of books as they chose, and he would be glad indeed to supply them with a carefully thought out list of books.

For more than 20 years he had been in the habit of sending to five libraries, and latterly to six, a good many Parliamentary returns and reports which were largely wasted in the house of members of Parliament, but which were found useful by some intelligent men in such institutions as theirs. Their library would go on his list for the distribution of those Parliamentary papers. (Applause). They might take it from him that the moment they established a library they would find people ready to give to it. There were many who had books which they would be glad to get rid of and which the library would be glad to receive. If he received just a hint from the members of the council that there was a likelihood of the Libraries Acts being adopted he would go away that afternoon with a heart very full of joy. (Applause) Mr Hough had told them some of the things for which the room might be used. He (Sir John) had had some experience in the matter in the building of a similar character which he had given to the town of Runcorn. It had been reported to him that no fewer than 700 distinct and separate meetings were held in that building in one year. He dared say there were members of the Oddfellows, Shepherds, Druids or some other friendly society, and by all means let them apply to the council for the use of the room. He would be glad to hear that in that building, just as in the building at Halton which he had the pleasure of giving to the Parish Council, wedding festivities had been held. (Applause and laughter) They had gone so far as to have christening suppers after, that the building would be hallowed by the tenderest of recollections. (Applause). That it might be so, that it might tend to their happiness, that it might tend to their self-respect, was the dearest wish of his heart and he commended the building to the public use of the people of Acton for ever (Loud Applause).

The Rev. F. Long expressed his intense delight at being present and to make the most of such opportunities for meeting his neighbours on common ground. The common ground that day was a high and noble one, that of

DUTY AND SOCIAL SERVICE.

Sir John had modestly omitted his own contribution in the matter of social service, and, perhaps the illustration that touched them most was that of the young doctor who gave his life. They could not help feeling how much they were indebted to those who so generously and so modestly performed acts of social service, and in this particular they gratefully recognised Sir John Brunner's extraordinary generosity. (Applause). They could all do something even if it was only in one household or group of houses to make the world a little better than they found it. (Applause)

Mr J. F. L. Brunner, M.P., congratulated Acton upon the admirable room they had obtained and upon the public spirit which they had shown in rating themselves. He was sure that as time went on they would wonder more and more how they had done without the room. He knew of other rooms in the constituency, and night after night social and educational work was carried on therein. They too, would find varied opportunities for social intercourse and innumerable uses for the room, and he trusted that the beautiful weather which had greeted them was an augury of a great prosperity. (Applause)

Mr W. Bancroft said it had been an extraordinary pleasure to him to listen to the admirable speech, so pre-eminently delightful in tone of Sir John Brunner. He asked Sir John's acceptance of their unanimous congratulation upon the distinguished honour which had been conferred upon him (Applause). He voiced his own pleasure at being in the delightful village of Acton which seemed so entirely out of the world and maintained such a splendid isolation. They breathed the true spirit of the old village community and by their action that day they were bringing the old ideas into accord with modern civilization. He thought the room would not fill its full objectives unless they took pattern from Weaverham and used if for a recreation club. Work was a glorious thing, but the individual life must not be too self-centred and recreation must follow the day's work. Further in all these questions of village halls they invariably left out the women. He looked upon the lives of the women as

HUMDRUM AND FULL OF DRUDGERY

and he knew of nothing that contained less pleasure than the lives of many workingmen's wives. It would be a happy idea if that room could be used to brighten with a little of the social element some of the women who obtained little brightness in their own homes. (Applause.) He was sure the room would be a big success and, with the distinguished patronage of Sir John, who had such a big heart and generous hand, they had no need to fear. (Applause.)

Mr Breeze added his congratulations to the Parish Council upon their public spirit and believed that they were realising the intention of the Legislature when the Parish Council Act was passed. They had picked a most picturesque site, and he could conceive of nothing more beautiful than an opening ceremony on such a day. He admired the Parish Council for their courage in levying the rate and he imagined that there must have been many anxious Cabinet meetings before their scheme was elaborated. (Laughter.) At any rate their premier ought to be highly satisfied and gratified that the top-stone had been put on the scheme with such rejoicings.

THANKS, ETC.

Mr Ezra Gandy proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Sir John Brunner for his attendance and address and remarked that the reception they had already given him was an indication of the pleasure they felt in his visit. He believed he was right in saying that though Sir John had been a member of the Division a long time it was the first occasion that he had made a speech in Acton, but now they had got a public room there would be no excuse for him. (Laughter and applause.) He was sure they would remember his speech as long as they lived. (Applause.)

Mr James Burton seconded and said one degree had been conferred upon Sir John at Liverpool but he thought his good friends and neighbours would style him "The Grand Old Man of Cheshire".

Mr Herbert Clarke and the Chairman supported the latter thanking Sir John for his generous offer and promising to bring before the Parish Council the question of adopting the Library Acts.

Sir John Brunner in reply said he wished the could realize the joy that library was to him as a boy. Oh! how well he remembered the delight with which he read Fennimore Cooper, Harrison Ainsworth and Dickens. And how later, he read Shakespeare and Milton and later again, when he had ceased to be a boy, he was able through having acquired a taste and habit for reading to read and to enjoy Herbert Spencer. "Oh, gentlemen," said Sir John, "I do recommend this adoption of the Libraries Act to you with all my heart and depend upon it that you will be giving a very great amount of happiness to the people of Acton by your adoption of them". Why was it asked Sir John, that in Scotland and Wales they would frequently find amongst the rural labourers men of high attainments as scholars? Why should the English people not have the same delight in literature and in study as the peasants of the North of Scotland had. One main reason was that we had not had the Universities that Scotland had enjoyed for so many centuries. In Scotland it had been the habit of the schoolmaster to be appointed on account of his high literary qualifications, and almost every village schoolmaster in Scotland had been highly educated enough to carry every bright boy in the village up to the point of his being able to enter a University, and the result had been that the Scotch people were the

BEST EDUCATED IN THE WORLD.

On the two pages which recorded the granting of honorary degrees at the Liverpool University that day there appeared 23 names. Three of those names were the names of foreigners - a learned German, and erudite Russian, and a brilliant Italian. Of the remaining 20, no fewer that 13 were the names of Scotchmen. Was it not time that they adopted the Libraries Acts, because libraries were a preparation for getting to Universities, and Universities were one of the finest instruments of civilisation ever invented by man. (Applause.) He did not wish to be in their minds as having done them a favour. Let it be understood between them that he was going away that afternoon cordially grateful to the people of Acton. (Applause)

On the motion of Mr John Rigby, seconded by Mr James Holland, and supported by Mr. Frank Carey and Mr E.R. Gandy, hearty thanks were recorded to Mr W. Milner and Capt. Milner for their generous gift of land for the site of the building, and regret was also expressed at their inability to be present at the opening ceremony.

Mr John Hough moved, Mr Edgerly seconded and Mr John Gleave supported a cordial vote of thanks to Mr. Ezra Gandy for giving his services free of charge - Mr. Gandy said he had done very little, and they were very welcome. He moved a vote of thanks to Messrs Dickenson and Noden, the builders, and said they had got as good a room as was possible for the money - Mr Alcock seconded, and Mr Noden, in reply said they had worked very amicably together - Mr J. F. L. Brunner moved, and thanks were accorded with acclamation to Mr Hough for presiding.

Afternoon tea was served to those present by a committee of ladies, consisting of Mrs William Hough, Mrs James Holland, Miss Gandy and Miss Nicholas.

A very successful and enjoyable entertainment followed, and was presided over by Mr R. N. Gandy. The Runcorn and Widnes Glee Party supplied the music in fine style. Songs were contributed by Miss Davenport and Mrs L. Yates each of whom was frequently encored. The song "Hear the wild winds blow" was admirably given by Mr Shaw as was also the duet "Spider and fly" by Miss Davenport and Mr Shaw. Humorous quartettes by Messrs Mavers, Emery, Tittle and Harper was greatly enjoyed, which Mr and Mrs L. Yates sang with great taste "O give to me those early flowers". A vote of thanks to Mr A. Newall and party brought a very enjoyable evening to a close. The glee party and other friends were subsequently entertained at supper by Mr and Mrs W. Hough of Wall Hall Farm.


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