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A Kerridge Childhood (21)


Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.


Kerridge and Bollington, though adjoining villages, were somehow separate. Kerridge people regarded themselves as a sort of clan. Bollington people were inclined to view Kerridge folk as a bit ‘daft’ but that was far from the truth.

The old Kerridge farmers had little education but lots of nouse and for the most part salted their money away – not in banks but in old buckets and boxes kept in the most inaccessible places. Few of them died poor!

Situated as Kerridge was, just above the Cheshire Plain, it was always possible to walk along any of the roads, even the shortest distance and enjoy the ever-changing scenery.

White Nancy dominated the whole area, giving a kind of benign watchfulness over the countryside. It was a few feet short of being an official mountain. We regarded it affectionately as something rather special and not too difficult to climb. The Pennine chain, sometimes called the Backbone of England, ended in Cheshire and White Nancy was almost at its end. It was quite steep if you climbed up the front face, but easy if approached from the windmill where a gentle slope led up to another hill called the ‘Saddle’ (so named for its likeness to a horse’s saddle) and then it was possible to walk over the ridge to gain the some elevation.

On top of the hill was a conical building, which was also known as White Nancy. Beehive-like in shape, it was perfectly round and painted white, of course. The top had a black ball, almost like a ‘bob’ on a woolly hat. In my childhood the door was never locked and we looked forward to sitting inside to gain our breath, after climbing that steep hill. There was a stone bench running round the interior and a stone slab which served as a table.

It was never clearly explained why this conical building had been erected. Some stories said it had been built as a look-out (though for what, I don’t know). Some said it was a summer house and picnic place. Whatever motive was behind the building of it, it had been built well and there was never a stone out of place. We used to climb the hill solely for the pleasure of climbing and for the marvellous view from the summit.

We could see the canal, looking like a silver ribbon winding through the plain, the train, with its tiny plume of smoke puffing importantly along, reduced to the size of a toy, the rows and houses looking like dolls’ houses, and the church, so big when we were on the same level, looked like a match box with a spire. Each farm, each clump of trees could be, and was, identified, and we would imagine we could make out people walking in the streets.

Close to White Nancy was the quarry where Granddad and Dad worked. It was hidden in a hillside and was not visible from the top of Nancy or the road. Stone had been quarried in the hillsides for a long time and as well as being used for building purposes, it was ‘dressed’ and used as ‘setts’ for building roadways, or flags (flagstones) for making pavements. The setts were simply cubes of stone, cut by skilled masons to the required measurements. There were no mechanical vehicles at that time and the only transport available were large heavy carts drawn by dray horses. Arthur Fox, our neighbour and whose dinner I delivered for a short time (see JUMMY) was one carter.

The carts were loaded up and taken to the local canal wharf for further transportation by canal barges to neighbouring towns and cities. It was quite a long way from the quarry to the wharf and was made longer by not being able to use the direct road – the Private Road built for the exclusive use of the inhabitants of Endon House, a local small stately home. Arthur had to take his team over the Top Road and round a precarious corner which sloped dangerously. Careful use of the brakes on the cart made this possible, but an overloaded cart or such great weight could easily have got out of hand and caused a lot of damage.

Flagstones and curbs were also products of these quarries. Granddad Oldfield was a stone dresser and Dad worked with him for a long time. It was a skilled craft for the stone, and it’s grain had to be understood before it could be worked properly.

During the quarrying, when the stone was blasted out of the hillside with dynamite, many pieces were found containing fossils. Granddad used to bring them for me to collect and I often wonder what happened to them – they were of great value, though I didn’t realize it then. I remember one piece contained a fern, another a perfect specimen of a leaf.

Work was precarious in the quarries, especially during the winter when hard frost made it impossible to work the stone. Dad eventually went to work for Manchester Corporation Highways where his skill was used to form new or repair old pavements.

White Nancy has been the scene of many a picnic and outing since that time. There were other hills in the area, but we never had the same affection for them as we had for our ‘ Nancy.’

© 1985 Enid Simpson

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