Protect our Place - Marple
A visit took place concerning the Protect our Place (PoP) project to Marple on the 15th of August 2012.
This was attended by representatives from:
- Civic Voice – Protect our Place Project Manager – Sarah Spurrier (SS)
- Marple Civic Society – Gillian Postill, Jane Lawton, Graham Clarke, Alan Postill, Colin Fox
- Mellor Archaeological Trust – John and Ann Hearle
- Marple Locks Heritage Society – Rod Greeves
- New Horizons – Peter Sharp
- Marple Vision Partnership
A follow up visit was conducted on 24th of August 2012, attended by various members of the Marple Civic Society, as well as a group of parents from a local primary school.
The visits were intended to be an information gathering exercise, to discover what local action has been taken in the area to protect and promote the historic environment, and also to trial some survey questions for the Protect our Place project.
Mellor Archaeological Trust
After being met by Marple Civic Society upon arrival, SS was taken to the home of two founding members of the Mellor Archaeological Trust, to have an informal discussion about what it is the group has been involved in, and also to look at some of the site which has been excavated by the Trust in the past.
The discussions led to a better understanding of why the Trust was founded. This was a reactive establishment following the discovery of an Iron Age settlement in the Mellor area, in order to be able to undertake the archaeological project related to this site. However the Trust has expanded its remit, and is currently working towards a project concerning the Mellor Mill which will be discussed in more detail further in the report.
Discussion also centred on the communities involvement with the Trust, and this has been extremely positive with strong participation throughout. The subject of funding was opened, and the Trust has been successful in several grant applications in the past, enabling the archaeological digs to take place. Partnerships have been formed through the Trust’s activities, including close working with Staircase House museum in Stockport, and the University of Manchester and the University of Salford. More recently, working relationships have been established between neighbouring community groups as well, such as the Marple Civic Society, creating a strong local cohort of community action.
The group then visited the site of Mellor Mill, a large site containing the remains of the Mellor Mill, an important example of the industrial period. The mill is part of a current HLF proposal that will involve many of the local community groups in the area working in partnership (see discussion of Lime Kilns and Aqueduct below). The wish is to excavate certain areas of the mill and allow public access, whilst providing some heritage interpretation as well as visitor facilities. Local support for the project so far has been high, with a steady participation rate from local volunteers.
Marple Civic Society and Mellor Archaeological Trust Focus Group
After a break for lunch the group reconvened, along with other members of the Marple Civic Society at the house of the current chair, Gillian Postill. The purpose of this session was for SS to discuss with the group the PoP project, and certain questions which may be found in the coming survey. SS put the question to the group of why did they become involved in the civic movement? The response was varied, however all participants bar one put their initial interest down to a reactive issue, such as concerns about changes to the local road systems. The one participant, who adopted a proactive approach, gave the reason as being a general interest in the history of the area. All agreed on a continued level of participation being a result of a love and pride in the heritage and current state of their local area, and a desire to protect and promote this.
This then led to a discussion centred on the perception of the civic movement and local heritage societies. It was stated by members of the Marple Civic Society that the word civic was seen as old fashioned and not clearly understood by the public, and therefore an obstacle to participation and membership. The issue of the name, however led to an agreement that it should not be changed as the perception of the term ‘civic’ could become positive through the work of proactive groups such as Marple Civic Society and Civic Voice. The problem of name was also aired in relation to Marple Antiquarian Society who changed their name due to its outdated connotations.
The role of Civic Voice and its projects such as Street Pride and Civic Day was raised, and it was agreed that Civic Voice was instrumental in helping societies become proactive, and its support was necessary to strengthen a society’s position.
Marple Warf and the Marple Locks Heritage Society
The focus group adjourned and a smaller cohort went to visit the Marple Locks, and met with Rod Greeves of the Marple Locks Heritage Society. Rod explained the history of the area and its importance to the local community both past and present. SS also put to him the questions of how the society was formed and why he became involved. It was explained that the society was only formed in 2003 as a celebratory society at the bicentenary of the locks creation. The group very much work to maintain the locks and their settings, and are supported by a committed group of volunteers. Rod’s participation in the group was also proactive, and the result of a general interest in the locks, and a desire to maintain them.
The group then went to visit a project that operates from Marple Wharf, the New Horizons Charity canal boat. The group operates trips down the canal for people with disabilities, in a specially converted canal boat. The work of the charity is highly valued in the community, and allows people who may not otherwise be able to enjoy the heritage of the canals to engage with them in a unique way.
Marple Wharf and the Marple Vision Partnership
During the visit to the New Horizons group the future of Marple Wharf was raised. The current state of the wharf is in jeopardy as there is currently a planning proposal to convert the site into housing, being led previously by British Waterways, and now the Canal and Rivers Trust. This would eliminate the current access for the New Horizons group and places their future under threat. The wharf also contains a wealth of industrial heritage and has been in commercial use since its creation, with moorings still being utilised at the site.
To protect the wharf, its setting and the communities it serves, Marple Civic Society wrote the Vision for Marple and set up the Marple Vision Partnership together with other stakeholders. The Partnership involves the local council, community groups and businesses, and is chaired by an elected member. It is there to ensure a positive and sustainable future for Marple, including the preservation of the local heritage. Members of Marple Civic Society and other groups are actively involved in following the Vision to ensure the safeguarding of the wharf, as well as its regeneration in the future.
This concluded the site visits for the day.
Marple Wharf Continued - 24/08/12
Due to time constraints, the whole story of the wharf could not be fully understood from the one site visit. Therefore a follow up visit took place. This allowed the project manager to meet a more diverse set of Marple Civic Society volunteers, including young mothers who had engaged specifically with the Wharf project. The project manager questioned them as to why and how they volunteer. The response was again reactive, with the threat to the Wharf being their main motivator, very in line with other civic volunteers questioned previously. The topic of how they contribute to the civic movement was more difficult. They knew to save the Wharf action was needed further to what had already been undertaken; however the course of action was unclear to them. This was then further probed by the project manager who asked what could the movement do to facilitate their action, in which they replied provide training. It was not that they were unable to obtain funding, but that they lacked confidence and knowledge of the best way to apply for it. When questioned what training would be of assistance, the reply was any which could further their ability to protect the Wharf, whether that be in marketing, conservation, business and so on.
Following the aforementioned interview, a smaller contingent then paid a visit to the now redundant lime kilns. The kilns are now barely visible to the public, in a dilapidated and bricked up state, with no interpretation provided for the public. Future plans for the lime kilns were discussed in reference to the Marple Vision Partnership, as well as the current HLF bid. There has been previous archaeological interest in the site, and if funding is obtained, archaeology as well as clearing and on site interpretation will take place. All intellectual property connected to the site will come under the custodianship of the Marple Civic Society.
To conclude the visit, a visit was then made to the Marple Aqueduct. The Aqueduct is a very impressive industrial structure, with stunning views into the valley as well as to the neighbouring viaduct, making its setting unique to the area. The physical access to the site is not easy as the direct route for walkers is difficult to negotiate in order to enjoy the area; something that is being redressed in the HLF bid. There is also a lack of interpretation, with an inability for visitors to engage historically with the structure.
An integral part of the HLF bid between Mellor Archaeological Trust, Canal and Rivers Trust, Marple Vision Partnership and Marple Civic Society is the increasing of physical and emotive access to this and related sites.
This concluded the site visits for the day.
The wealth of community groups and volunteers in the Greater Marple area is a wonderful example of the strength of the civic movement. There is a patchwork of projects underway in the local area, both reactive and proactive, to ensure that Marple’s historic environment is protected and promoted to its fullest. The current HLF bid, if achieved, will mark a new phase for Marple’s heritage, and has facilitated partnerships within local community groups, strengthening Marple’s civic movement.
If the threat to the wharf is realised, Marple will suffer a great loss, not only to the built historic environment, but also the loss of a potential community asset. However, as a result of the threat there came the establishment of Marple Vision Partnership, again highlighting the strength, commitment and adaptability of the local community in Marple.
The visit allowed Protect our Place to better understand the subtleties of projects being taken on by voluntary groups, and the challenges they face. An understanding of individuals and groups motives for participation was achieved, and this will inform the next stage of the Protect our Place survey.
As project manager I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in the day for their hospitality, openness and frankness. It is very encouraging to meet with communities such as Marple who work together so relentlessly to protect and promote their historic environment, and it was a pleasure to spend the day with them all.