AMHS Newsletter April 2018
Alston Moor Historical Society

Alston Moor Historical Society Newsletter April 2018

Welcome to our First Newsletter

This newsletter is rather long because it's the first one. It is a report of the first AGM to be held in three years, so there was a bit of catching up to do. There is also information about when the Archives are open and our next meeting. Do bear with us and read on ..."

Next Meeting

The next meeting is at 7.30pm on Wednesday 2nd May in the Masonic Hall. The title is 'Alston Moor - the Scottish Connection'.

The talk ranges from the Norman Conquest to the Battle of Bannockburn, and covers ground from France to England to Scotland, and, of course, Alston Moor. The Moor has a peculiar situation whereby the people who lived here were responsible either to the King of Scotland or the King of England, depending on whether you were a lead miner or a farmer.

The De Veteriponts, the lords of the manor, could, and sometimes did, play the situation to their own advantage.
lead miners


The Archives will be closed for one week on Saturday 14th April to make way for the Alston Pantomime (tickets sold out within hours). When we re-open on Saturday 21st April the display about Agriculture will have been replaced by - appropriately enough - a display about Entertainment on Alston Moor.


On Wednesday 4th April 2018, Alston Moor Historical Society held its first meeting for three or four years. As well as the business to be conducted there was a talk about the 1,000-year Lease of Alston Moor, by local historian Alastair Robertson.
It was a cold, wet, snowy night and the meeting was due to start at 7pm. At 5 to 7 there were four members and one visitor. Jeff Rogers (Chairman) and Alastair Robertson (Secretary) were about to call the meeting off, thinking no one would be mad enough to turn out on such a snowy night, when people began to arrive, and arrive, and then more came until in all about 28 people were in attendance.
People on he Stairs
In surprise, Jeff and Alastair were thrown off balance and so the business of the meeting was thrown out of kilter, half of the Secretary’s report and the Archivist’s report were forgotten before Alastair launched into his talk. Alastair admitted to being almost computer illiterate and, expressing his disappointment, he apologised for the quality of his illustrations, but nevertheless the story of the tangled web of the Hilton family of Sunderland, the Lords of the Manor, and the 1,000-year lease and other leases got across. A question and answer session followed, in turn followed by refreshments and general socialising. Over half of those present joined the society, giving it a firm base for future activities.
1000 Year Lease

Chairman's Report

Summary, with items that should have been included.
- The last meeting was held four years ago when, due to declining membership and declining attendance at meetings. it was agreed to put the Society into mothballs.

- The Society was revived temporarily in 2015 in order to apply for a Heritage Lottery grant to fund a conference and celebration to commemorate the 120th Anniversary of the arrival of the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company of Belgium with its international workforce on Alston Moor.

- The Society’s Archives were under threat of eviction from the Town Hall due to lack of space, when a reprieve came from the Parish Council acting as the Sole Trustees of the Town Hall, in the form of a grant of six months rent-free use of an office in the Town Hall.

- Coincident with the activity in the Archives, the Society’s website was fully revived, expanded and developed beyond all recognition, which together with ‘Facebook’ and other links, brought the Society into the 21st century world of social media.

- On the strength of the success and level of interest in both the Local Stories on the website and in the Archives, it was decided to try a revival of the Society, hence the meeting that night. And the planned meetings to come.

Treasurer's Report

- The only major activity in the Society’s accounts during the last four years was the deposit of the £9,200 Heritage Lottery Grant for the Vieille Montagne 120th Anniversary, all but £84 of which was paid out in the budgeted fees and expenses.

- Income from the delegates’ conference fees increased the bank balance from £82 to £432.

- A payment was made recently for £95 towards the Society’s website expenses - for the domain name and hosting.

- £60 was paid for the part re-decoration of the Archives Office at the Town Hall. The rest of the paint and labour was given voluntarily.

- A ‘Paypal’ facility has been added to the website to enable membership payments and donations to the Archives.
Membership is only £10 for the year, so if you haven't already done so please become a member. Or if you are feeling generous, please make a donation. Thanks
Make a payment
Road Repairs
(We thought you might like a picture of how they used to repair the road, as it is topical with the current road closure!)

Secretary/Archivist’s Report

- The 120th Anniversary event in Nenthead in August 2016 was a great success. Of the six speakers at the Saturday Conference, three were English, one was Italian, one was German and another was French. Two directors of the VM had come for the weekend, and representatives from a village in the Italian Alps, where many of the Italian miners had come from to live and work in Nenthead. Two ladies from a museum in Belgium unveiled the commemorative plaque next to the playground in the village. On Sunday Nenthead village gala was revived, Nenthead Mines opened especially and the village schoolchildren put on a display of related projects. Wright Brothers coaches ran trips with their vintage bus to Barneycraig Mine at Carrshield in Allendale.

- The lottery grant for the event included an amount for the creation of the ‘Vieille Montagne History (GB)’ website, which became the subject of international attention with contributions coming from afar to the Archive page and Photo Gallery page. Included on the site are biographical details of as many foreign workers as are known, with the intention of forming an international family history research facility to be based in the refurbished Nenthead Chapel.

- The follow-up to the VM event in Nenthead happened in February this year when Alastair went to Belgium to participate in the foundation of ‘Vieille Montagne Heritage Association’.

- The Archives, thanks to the generosity of the Parish Council, got off to a good start last September in terms of visitors, and, except in bad weather, numbers are consistent, with interest from locally-born people, newcomers, long-term incomers, holiday makers and day-trippers.
- A team of volunteers has evolved (those words ‘a team of volunteers’ sound like poetry and have to be repeated) with weekly workshops to improve the storage, cataloguing and retrieval systems. The upgrading of stationery to archival quality is an immediate requirement and an aim for the group.

The contents of the Archives are in the process of being re-catalogued with willing help and advice from the County Records Office in Carlisle. We are also working towards putting all the archives online - but its a massive job!
Working in the Archives
Working in the Archives
- To say that the website has been re-constructed is an understatement. With new photos, information and a "Back Office", it has to be at the cutting edge of all websites. Social media has led to many visitors coming to the website and we hope they are duly impressed. Coupled with the VM website it makes an excellent shop window for Alston Moor, not only for information as to what made Alston Moor tick in the past, but also for potential historic tourism.

In Conclusion

Single Woman
- The next meeting will be more organised!

- The talk in May will be about Alston Moor’s links with Scotland – involving at times war and international politics.

- We are now seeking nominations for the posts of Chairman/woman, Vice-Chairman/woman, Secretary, Treasurer, Archivist, Membership Secretary: Your suggestions please to the Secretary. Phone no below. (Note that Alastair wishes to stand down as Archivist.)

- Don’t forget – those who joined (And Thank You) – this is your Society.
It’s what you want to make it.

Would you like to have talks only about local subjects, or should we include regional subjects and national subjects?

A bit of everything?

Would you like regular historically-themed local walks?

Coach trips to places of regional interest? How often should we meet?

Should a research group be established, based on the Archives?

Would you like to help out in the Archives?

Would you be willing to help out on the refreshments rota at meetings?
Man with papers
Please give the whole situation some thought and let’s talk about it.
You can send us your answers either by email or by filling in the online form on our website. You could also give Alastair a ring on the phone number below. We look forward to hearing from you.
View from Tyne Willows

Visit us online

Post Card to Alston
Alston Moor Historical Society
Archive Office, Alston Town Hall, Alston, Cumbria. CA9 3RF
Phone: 01434 381769

All images are copyright to Alston Moor Historical Society.
All rights reserved
(except Facebook image)

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