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Mills, Lifeboats and Local History

 

 

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The Story -  Lytham Heritage Group

Lytham Heritage Group (The Group) has been in existence since 1987 and is an undoubted success, far exceeding the expectations of the founder members. The volunteers have been able to take advantage of opportunities that have arisen to establish a storehouse of local history and to display this in exhibition format.

  

As well as promoting Lytham's history and heritage, The Group now hosts exhibitions by local art societies, individual artists, local schools and community groups, and provides information on what to see in Lytham and where to find it, together with booklets and pamphlets for educational purposes, including the history of Lytham - 'Our Town'.

 

 

Introduction by Group Chairman, Alan Ashton

 

The Lytham Heritage Group aims to entertain, inform and educate its public - the membership, the local population and visitors to the town.

 

These activities need invention, management and execution by people, and this requires willing volunteers. To date we have welcomed over 700,000 visitors to the Windmill Museum and the Heritage Centre in the heart of Lytham.

 

The Group was created through the drive, will and passion of a number of people who cared deeply about the preservation of Lytham’s heritage. Amongst these are Stanley Brown – founder member and The Group’s first President and creator of the Group's constitution; Marilyn Adams, founder member responsible for the setting up of the Windmill Museum; Joan Cross, founder member and Treasurer and wise investor of our assets; Tom Battersby, surveyor to Clifton Estate; Barry Dawson who assisted in the Walter Eastwood Exhibition and was creator and designer of the Group's logo and Peter Sharman, founder member and librarian.

 

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the contributions to Lytham Heritage Group of two former presidents, Fred Treasure and Burt Briggs, both alas no longer with us. As Chairman, I always valued the wise council of these colleagues and friends to whom we all owe a deep debt of gratitude.

 

I pay tribute to the members of the Executive Committee, past and present, who work hard and tirelessly for The Group and all those who actively support our efforts through giving their time and energy to the activities of The Group – such as stewarding, staging exhibitions, working in the Archive, giving support at social events.  

  

Whilst reminiscences of the past are appealing, there is a need to keep younger generations firmly in mind - they are the next custodians of Lytham's Heritage, past and ongoing. 

 

At the present time the Heritage Centre sits comfortably in the centre of Lytham. I believe that the town needs the Heritage Group and the Group needs the town - we are inextricably linked.

 

 

Origins

By 1987 people had identified the need for a society or organisation to cope with the ever-increasing amounts of historical material in many forms, relating to Lytham, much of which had been brought to Lytham Library.

 

Alan Ashton, MBE, Group Chairman says, “Local people had inherited many extensive family collections as I had myself. My father, Ed Ashton had written a definitive history of Lytham in 1946. Peter Sharman, Lytham Librarian myself and other like-minded people put a proposal to a public meeting in February 1987 to establish such an organisation.”

 

This was agreed and in August 1987 The Group took its first opportunity to demonstrate its role when the Baths building, (originally built in 1863), was to be demolished and the site redeveloped.

 

Fylde Borough Council was persuaded that part of the building fronting Dicconson Terrace with its pillared frontage should be preserved and established as a set of Assembly Rooms for the local community. The Group staged a landmark art exhibition, displaying some 130 paintings by Walter Eastwood a prestigious local artist. This attracted national and regional publicity. A sponsored schools' award exhibition was run in parallel and these exhibitions raised much-needed cash to fund The Group at this time. By late 1988, a constitution had been produced which would be legally acceptable to the Charity Commission. Membership arrangements were made and a programme of meetings and social events were arranged to suit the interests of Members.

 

 

A Windmill of Opportunity 


A second major opportunity to establish the role of The Group arose in 1989. With financial assistance available from the European Development Fund and the Countryside Commission, Fylde Borough Council was refurbishing Lytham Windmill, a heritage landmark on Lytham Green. The Group had been retained as advisers on the restoration of the Windmill and was invited to stage an exhibition of the Windmill's history. This enhanced the building itself and after the official opening in March 1989, the Council granted a long lease on the Lytham Windmill to Lytham Heritage Group in 1999, which would ensure continuity of the exhibitions.

 

Members of The Group worked closely with Fylde Borough Council, to advise on the Windmill layout to accommodate visitors with access to all floors and the basement area and a small team of volunteers set out the Windmill exhibition that we see today. The Group also published a booklet about the history of the Windmill and how grain unprocessed into flour.

 

The Windmill is open from spring until early September.  Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for school visits. Admission is free although donations are most welcome.

 

In 2001, the Windmill was granted full registration as aMuseum by the Museums and Galleries Commission enabling items to be loaned for exhibition and giving the support of a curatorial adviser. The Windmill exhibition also gained a Silver Award from the NW Tourist Board as a visitor attraction. Members of The Group volunteer their time as stewards at the Windmill, welcoming thousands of visitors every year. By 2007, over 367,200 people had enjoyed its exhibition.

 

In 1989, there was a further opportunity for The Group to share its knowledge and archive material at a local historical site when the then owner, Guardian Royal Exchange agreed that The Group could stage an exhibition at Lytham Hall, which was occasionally opened to the public for viewing. The Heritage Room provides a useful and complementary addition to the Georgian building.

 

At around the same time, Lytham Town Trust had been formed. The Trust had responsibility for management of the Assembly Rooms and masterminded the purchase of Lytham Hall and Grounds when it came up for sale in 1998.This is now managed by the Heritage Trust for the North West assuring the future of this valuable asset for the town.

 

Gifts and legacies, donations, subscriptions and, in particular, an individual donation of £186,000 in the early years have given The Group financial stability.

 

By 1994 The Group had reached a height of activity. The archive collection had been established in Lytham Library and was proving its value. The Group had a presence at many of the visitor attractions in Lytham where visitor donations were encouraged. The people of Lytham had been stimulated to take an interest in the history and heritage of the town.

 

The Group needed to find a location for its administration and a base for regular exhibition activity.

 

In 1996 the former Trustee Savings Bank, a Grade II listed building (originally built in 1989 for the Manchester and County Bank) and an architectural gem, became available and was purchased by The Group as its Heritage Centre. The purchase, restoration and renovation of the building was enabled by an unconditional Gift which was made to The Group together with The Group’s own funds and support from Gift Aid.

 

The Heritage Centre currently comprises two exhibition rooms and a reception area on the ground floor, and an office/archive on the first floor. The Group was honoured to receive a Civic Conservation Award in recognition of the excellence of the restoration work. The purchase, restoration and conversion of the building cost The Group in the region of £189,000.

 

 

The Future 

 

In its quest to seek avenues to inform and educate about Lytham’s Heritage, The Group has entered into negotiations with Fylde Borough Council to secure a lease for the Old Lytham Lifeboat House located next to the Windmill on The Green. It is hoped to stage an exhibition, which will commemorate Lytham’s maritime history. More detail of these plans is given elsewhere on this website.

 

With help and support from members and visitors alike, The Group will continue to preserve the records of Lytham’s cultural and traditional heritage and make them available for future generations to enjoy.

 

 

Lytham Heritage Group – “Preserving the Past….. for the Future”

 

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