7 May 1904
A Garden Village
For some weeks past, the “London Daily Mail”
has been deploring the deterioration of rural North Country
as if pretty nearly every available square mile in that
part of the world was occupied by forests of chimney stacks,
which belch forth volumes of smoke enough to asphyxiate
those whose cruel fate has placed them into this benighted
portion of the kingdom.
Lancashire figures prominently in the “Daily
Mail’s” jeremiad. In these articles, which
the writer calls “Life in the North,” an extremely
despondent note is sounded. He bewails the rural depopulation
and the usurpation of the land by products of industrialisation,
and the only conclusion one can draw from a perusal of
the article is that a healthy blade of grass or a tree
without a blight is a phenomenon indeed in Lancashire.
On Saturday, the unhappy township to fall
under the writer’s pen was what he terms, “The
deserted village” of Hartshead, of which he draws
a mournful picture. That the village of Hartshead presents
an appearance of a deserted village cannot be denied.
The crumbling tenements and farmhouses that dot the landscape
are irrefutable proof of that fact. “The long grass
o’er tops the mouldering wall” on many a spot
that was once sweet with flowering blossoms, but to draw
such a depressing pen-picture as the “Daily Mail”
writer draws is to overstate the case somewhat.
Recognising this, a “Reporter”
representative called on a gentleman who has made an exhaustive
study of such matters, with a view to ascertaining his
opinion on the article. After he had perused it he shook
his head despondingly, and remarked, “The greater
portion of it is too true.”
Pressed for a further opinion of the matter,
he said there was no shadow of doubt that the farmers
were now struggling strenuously to keep their heads above
water. Not that the soil was entirely unresponsive, but,
in his opinion, the farmers did not adopt sufficiently
up-to-date methods, they were afraid of launching on fresh
enterprises, or deviating from the beaten path traversed
by their fathers, with the result that they were only
able to subsist on the bare sum which was the reward for
True, they were not encouraged by the lord
of the soil, who preferred to rent the land to the modern
builder and contractor, who would make the landscape hideous
by erecting red-brick jerry-built “desirable villa
residences.” Of course, that was quite natural in
these times of commercialism.
What remedy would you suggest? queried his
interviewer. – Ah! That is the opportunity which
the Corporation of Ashton should be quick to grasp. If
ever their county borough dream should be realised that
would be their opportunity for providing healthy and sanitary
homes for the toilers in the mills and workshops. –
Asked if he thought the scheme would entail severe outlay,
he did not think it would, for the district of Hartshead,
already bounteously provided by Nature with her adjuncts,
would lend itself ideally to conversion into a miniature
The trams, which were such a white elephant
to the Corporation, would become a paying concern by providing
easy access to the village. More so, if the lines were
laid along Lees-road to Lilley-lane. By a judicious co-operation
of capital and labour, cottages – not rows of red
brick erections of ugliness, but ideal ivy-clustered country
cottages – might be erected.
And are there not many beauty spots which
are subject to vandalism at present he was asked. –
Many, but surely with adequate police protection they
might be preserved from the destructive hands of such
senseless folk, and with protection natural life would
derive more propagative strength, and they would become
veritable “Haywards Hills,” where wild life
in all its wonderful and varied forms could be studied
by those whose forte lay in that direction – and
there are many such places.
Interrogated as to the right of land, the
gentleman said it belonged to the Lord’s estate,
or at least the portion of land known as Hartshead Common,
the strip of land on which the beacon stood, but old inhabitants
had informed him that it had been once common property.
By arrangement with the estate however, he thought it
might be regained and converted into an attractive resort
for the town workers.
But how will the smoke-blight, which kills
so many of the natural beauties in the locality, be remedied?
was asked. I think rapid strides are being made in the
direction of appliances for the consumption of black smoke.
The public indignation has been aroused against manufacturers
who are so regardless of health and natural beauty, and
they are recognising that some measures must be taken
against this crying nuisance.
When black smoke is abolished, or greatly
mitigated, Lancashire, or at least Ashton, will in some
measure resume the rural garb which it were before the
advent of steam, and its attendant chimney stacks and