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Get to know A Bit About Britain - an idiosyncratic view of places to visit in Britain, British history - and stuff. Warts and all. Where shall we go today?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remember Clitheroe

Clitheroe, war memorial, Lancashire

Clitheroe doesn’t shout or seek attention.  It’s an unremarkable, yet pleasant, bustling, Lancashire market town in the Ribble valley; worth spending time in.  I like it very much.  The population is around 15,000, it has an array of good independent shops, the usual chain stores - and the bits, common to every human habitation in the world, that somebody should either tidy up or hide from public view.  To the north is the glowering mass of the Forest of Bowland; to the south, Pendle Hill, famed for its witches.

Clitheroe Castle, Lancashire

One of Clitheroe’s most prominent and enduring landmarks is its castle.  Probably built in the 12th century, possibly on the site of an earlier fort, it sits open to the elements on an isolated limestone lump, dominating the town below.  There’s not much left of it: a tiny keep – one of the smallest in England – and a portion of curtain wall.  A museum is housed in the 18th century steward’s house, with an adjacent café serving good cakes and indifferent coffee.  The castle was the seat of the ancient Lords of Bowland.  During the Civil War it was garrisoned by Royalist troops and, in 1649, ‘slighted’ by Parliamentarians – which means they made a damn great hole in it so that it couldn’t easily be used again.

Clitheroe, Norman keep, Civil War

Clitheroe Castle is surrounded by 16 acres of public space, which includes a bandstand, skate park, gardens – and its war memorial.  One of the legacies of the First World War is up to an estimated 100,000 war memorials all over Britain, ensuring that we never forget the men (mostly) from every farm, factory, village, town and shire who left their homes, and those who never came back.  The people that went were forged by their neighbourhoods, shaped by a history shared with a thousand other communities.  The construction of their memorials, mostly during the 1920s, was a unique occurrence.  Every year, on or around the anniversary of the Armistice – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns finally fell silent – services take place at these cenotaphs and wreaths of red poppies are laid.

Louis Roslyn, sculpter, Clitheroe, First World War

Clitheroe’s memorial shows a soldier, head bowed and arms reversed, looking over his town below and to Pendle Hill beyond.  It was unveiled in 1923 and the inscription reads: “Erected by the inhabitants of Clitheroe in grateful remembrance of their fellow townsmen who gave their lives in defence of their king and country in the Great War 1914 – 1918.”  The good citizens of Clitheroe made the mistake of thinking it was ‘the war to end all wars’; the memorial commemorates 324 sons who died in the First World War and a further 72 from the Second.

Park, Clitheroe, Lancashire towns, Ribble valley

The sculptor of Clitheroe’s memorial was Louis Frederick Roslyn, who produced monuments across the land from Basingstoke to Wetherby.  He was born in Lambeth, London, and changed his name to Roslyn from Roselieb during the war.  Roslyn’s father was a German – appropriately, in my view.  I do not believe these memorials were erected in a spirit of narrow nationalism; far from it, they were set up out of love and respect, and so that generations would remember the terrible ease with which precious life can be carelessly erased - irrespective of its origins.  So, whilst Clitheroe has its own particular character, in terms of its position in history, especially over the last century or so, it could represent us all.  And, like most of us, Anytown is special; yet also unremarkable.

Clitheroe, war dead


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), Lancashire poet.

Visit Clitheroe

23 comments:

  1. Thank you for this little journey, (which I interrupted for a moment to place it on the map for me) what a charming and lovely town it is. I always enjoy these jaunts that you take us on. Your photos are stunning and interesting to learn about each stop.

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  2. The cenotaph has a great poignancy and power to it.

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  3. Such a shame that it didn't end all wars.

    No, I don't think it's the same woodpecker. It is interesting to see how similar our birds can be.

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  4. Nice to see those fall colors across the valley below.

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  5. I read with a solemn heart. I just finished watching the 40 hour series World at War last week (twenty minutes at a shot during lunch, since early spring)...

    My family lost two young men to the war, one cousin both legs, another lived with scarred lungs for forty years from mustard gas. There aren't enough poppies to pay tribute to our losses.

    So sad.

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    1. The 888,246 ceramic poppies placed in the moat around the Tower of London each represent one of Britain's war dead - but something like 16 or 17 million died worldwide. And you're right - many were scarred for life, physically and mentally.

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  6. A wonderfully reflective spot. Two bad it wasn't the war to end all wars.

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  7. Your first photo is breathtaking, Mike! Another fascinating post. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  8. A lovely post! We honor our soldiers on November 11th ....Veteran's Day. We use our flag, but I love your tradition of using poppies!

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  9. It would be nice to think that such memorials were erected to the memory of all the dead irrespective of nationality. However I can't recall the wording on any monuments suggesting such a thing. Even the most recent memorial, the sea of poppies around the Tower of London, only represents the 888,246 British dead rather than the 17 million who died worldwide.
    Clitheroe certainly has one of the most striking memorials I've ever seen.
    Whilst on the subject of memorials you were quite right in thinking that the small memorial on a Cambridge church which I posted recently was for soldiers killed in the Boer War. Thanks for the correction.

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    1. I don't suggest memorials were erected to remember the dead of other lands. I do think they were erected to commemorate the lives lost in a community and as a reminder for everyone of how precious life is. With the distance time gives us, we can also take a wider view. It is right that Britain remembers its war dead, and that other countries remember theirs, but I think we include those of allies and former enemies in our thoughts too. To suggest the poppies at the Tower is somehow lacking because the poppies 'only' represent Britain's dead might miss the point - it doesn't mention the many more who were wounded - some scarred for life - either. It is symbolic. The dozy art critic who suggested the work (or memorial) is nationalistic - which I heard somewhere - needs to get out more! Personally, I thought of the losses worldwide when I saw this - and I'm pretty sure millions of overseas visitors saw it that way too; I hope so, anyway. As for Clitheroe, I like to think it speaks the same language as countless memorials in countless 'anytowns' all over the world. And I like the fact that the artist had a German dad.

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  10. This is a beautiful post! Hubby would so love to visit England. We have to schedule it between cancer treatments, though. sigh.
    We shall see!
    (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

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  11. 'Tis good to remember such things. Great piece!

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  12. A very moving and beautiful post--so appropriate for Veterans Day (Armistice Day) I love the statue of the memorial. Wonderfully done! How interesting that there is a castle here, though only ruins and a small and lovely little Anyplace type of town. I enjoy history so much, and love seeing areas of Europe on the blogs. These posts of the UK will be especially enjoyed, I know! Glad you visited me, and asked me to come back to yours!

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  13. A beautiful & poignant reminder to revisit Clitheroe, which I've always liked - thank you!

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  14. That is lovely. Remnants of castles seem to be everywhere in your good land. Very moving verse, and quite in keeping with tonight's episode of Downton Abbey.

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  15. a beautiful and touching post...our vets hand out poppies on veterans day each year here in the usa...i was so happy when i sent my youngest 2 into the store over the weekend and saw them come out and buy poppies from a veteran without me telling them to... here's more on our poppies http://www.vfw.org/Community/Buddy-Poppy/

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  16. A very beautiful and sensitive tribute to this beautiful place. The commemorative statue is quite touching, as is the poem. Lovely photos.
    Thank you for visiting :) - Karen

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  17. danke für die bilder und inspirationen!!! iebe grüße von angie aus deutschland und einen schönen dienstag

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  18. What a lovely post. My other half's father and step mother live in a village just outside Clitheroe, so we go up there every so often.

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  19. Thanks for bringing to our attention another much under rated town. A very apt post for the time of year.

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Hi - thanks for dropping into A Bit About Britain. New material is now being posted to www.bitaboutbritain.com and most of the material here will gradually be updated and moved over to that new site. Please drop in there, click on the blog page, and take a look round. TTFN - Mike.