Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Opening of the Barlow Institute - 1909

Extract from The Barlow Institute by James J. Francis, part of chapter 4, pages 22-25.

The Grand Opening and Early Use

The opening ceremony was held on the afternoon of Saturday, October 30th, 1909. The Bolton Journal and Guardian reported that `this was an event of great importance to the social, educational and recreational life of Edgworth. The new Village Institute was erected by the sons and daughters of the late James and Alice Barlow in their memory`.

A large number of friends and neighbours assembled by special invitation for the opening ceremony which took place in the lecture hall. The guests included the Barlow family, Col Winder, Councillors R Ashworth, G H Ashworth, R W Kenyon, J Bowling, J Hamer, T Lomax, F Whowell, A W Mayer and many other local dignitaries and industrial associates.

The Reading Room with its comprehensive collection of books.
The Reading Room with its comprehensive collection of books.

The proceedings opened with a hymn and prayer after which Mr John Robert Barlow representing the family members made an opening statement:

`Mr J R Barlow opened referring to their father being born near here and spending his life in the district up to young manhood, when he left his home in Brandwood Fold to push his fortunes in Manchester and Bolton and how in 1860 he bought Greenthorne Farm and began to build his new home. He was always greatly attached to the country and the people and they had felt they could do nothing more in harmony with his and their mother`s feelings than in trying to improve the surroundings of their neighbours’ homes and to give opportunities for healthy and rational enjoyment. Often talking in their home during the lifetime of their parents of the desirability of a village institute, this became possible with their subsequent acquisition of Walleach Farm Estate and there they had carried out the project. The Institute overlooks the recreation ground which the family also presented to the village and forms a fitting completion to that magnificent memorial gift. The Institute contains a spacious lecture hall which would be available for public lectures and concerts, and when not in use, could be converted into a gymnasium. There was a library in which there were some hundreds of readable books and public reading rooms; a coffee room to which anyone may resort, a large committee room for the use of the various sports clubs connected with the Recreation Ground, and which the donors invite trade and friendly societies to make use of. There were Girls’ Rooms for the teaching of cooking and sick nursing, caretaker’s quarters and living accommodation for Nurse Turner who is maintained by the Barlows for the good of the village. All the recreational and outside facilities were already being used with the temporary exception of the Billiards Room for which a license is required.`

Mr John Robert Barlow then requested his elder brother, Sir Thomas Barlow, to formally open the Institute and associated facilities.

Sir Thomas referred to the characteristics of their late father and mother which had guided the general conception of the memorial scheme and the endeavour to carry out their ideals. The family would not be satisfied until the Institute was managed by Edgworth people for Edgworth people; this was the only truly satisfactory basis on which it could be worked.

On the platform were a number of girls from the Edgworth Homes, in the establishment of which the late Mr James Barlow took such a prominent part.

After the opening, tea was served and the guests entertained with a selection of instrumental and vocal music – details of which were printed in the Souvenir Programme.

Our local Bradshaw diarist, Samuel Scowcroft, recorded the event in a rather blunt manner; `Lizzie and I went to the opening of the Edgworth Institute given by the Barlow family. Sir Thomas Barlow opened the door!`

The Billiards Room for use of the various clubs
 The Billiards Room for use of the various clubs

The activities already established continued. The seventeen Tennis Club members paid 2s.6d and presumably brought their own racquets. William Kingsley continued with his frequent reports. Teenagers Harold Brindle, David Alderman, Edward Ramsbottom, John James Mather and Percy Woods were caught stealing duck eggs from the boating lake islands. The bowling green was cleared of worms, getting a three-quarters full bucket. Annual licenses were granted on February 6th, 1911 for billiards and music. Swans and ducks were sold and exchanged. The grass verge round the cricket field was taken up and replaced with stone.

A crisis was reported in the billiards room when on March 6th 1913, Mr William Holt, the billiards table maker, came to examine the cushions after a complaint that they would not take side. Mr Holt said it was the fault of the players not having put side on. Perhaps to demonstrate that the table was alright, Mr Holt played a game with H Waldron of Bradshaw conceding him 300 in a game of 750 up and won rather easily by 150!.

New gymnasium equipment was delivered in April, 1913 including a stretching ladder and a punch ball.

In March, 1914, the Cricket Club, for the first time, went into the `A` section of the Bolton and District League and the Bowling Club received an invitation to join Bolton Sunday School Social League. In June a meeting was held to form a juvenile Harriers Club and the Swimming Club arranged to use the Children`s Home’s baths in bad weather.

Early photograph of the Institute with the Bowling Green in the foreground.
Early photograph of the Institute with the Bowling Green in the foreground.