Flax Seal

Ruth referred to the flax bale seal found on the Flora Fields in her talk at the Storey ( slides and podcasts available shortly). She has discovered that there is reference to flax processing on Aldcliffe Lane, now Aldcliffe Rd. Joy Greenwood who was at the lecture has dug deeper with the following result:

Raw flax had to be retted, that is soaked in slow-moving water for about a fortnight after which it was raked out and put on banks to dry before heckling – releasing the fibres ready for spinning.Mary Higham ( History of Linen in the North West) describes a system used in the Ribble valley in 1765 consisting of a series of pools fed by a small stream. Could this have been used in Lancaster?

Later in the book, Margaret Robinson, talking about the flax trade, mentions imports from Baltic states and St.Petersburg to Lancaster in the 1700s as local production of the crop could not meet demand. She says that by 1750 there were flaxdressers in Lancaster, preparing it for the spinners. She quotes a Robert Green of Lancaster as an excellent example of a flaxman at that time. (If I remember rightly it was a ‘Green’ who owned the land alongside Aldcliffe Lane – any connection?)

On the 1840 (and 1890) map there is a Queens Mill shown on Aldclife Lane, probably where B & Q is now. On the strip fields to the east of this there is a path, shown in 1840, passing north to south through woodland. On the 1890 map I think this is labelled ‘rope walk’, and flax (and hemp) were used for ropes.
> Today this is approx. Blades Street.

According to Mary Higham, the linen industry sites are often associated with place names containing ‘lin’ , old english for flax. Just north of Queens Mill, on the 1890s map there is Lindow Street/Lindow Square – is this a coincidence – the rope walk’s northerly end is almost in a line with these?

Can anyone add to this?

Volunteer session 11th October

I forgot to advertise this on the Blog but here is what we achieved.

32 volunteers turn out on a bright autumn morning.

  • We removed self seeded saplings in the Oak Circle and planted wild flowers supplied by Fiona  of Friends of Storey Gardens.
  • We completed the radical pruning of the soft fruit hedge under Keith’s expert guidance.
  • After considerable effort and trial digs we located the drain in the West Field nearer the new and rather dry scrape. Graham will return and block the drain.
  • We experimented with removing the staples holding the fence alongside the east hedge of the West Field. After several tries Philip supplied a spike which held the key to loosening them. Ian will try to get down there to continue before the Hedge Working Party starts work.
  • The hedge alongside the Fauna path adjoining the Grammar School Field was trimmed back further and the brash carted away.
  • An area of self seeded blackthorn near the Stump Circle was cut back and the brash cleared away. The stumps were left for a second go as they were rather larger than anticipated. Hopefully the ramsoms and daffodils can thrive there next spring.
  • Nettles were cut back in the area to the south of the Towneley path in preparation for a visit by a beaver group tomorrow. Debris carted away.
  • Long grass, nettles and other invasives were cut back in three areas toward the southern end of the Orchard and the debris removed to habitat piles.
  • Part of the Pads path hedge at the northern end of the Orchard, laid last summer, was trimmed back and cleared of nettles and brambles


A few days ago a sparrowhawk was on the ground near the crop stubble with three eager magpies hanging around. The magpies were waiting to see if they could get a share of whAtever the sparrowhawk was eating. Think it was a rabbit which one wouldn’t necessarily expect.

Winter flush count

Today was the first count of the season. And the weather seemed to recognise it! Graham, Paul and I found ourselves once again wading though the marshes in squalls of rain. This year’s explosion of Water Figwort has made some parts of the marshes even more of a struggle to negotiate. Whether it is also making the vegetation too dense for snipe is yet to be established. It is probably too early to expect many snipe around yet. However, Graham spotted one in Lower Sowerholme (the ex-Gleesons Field) and five flew up from the Ash Tree Pond area of Big Meadow. (Graham had also found three here on his last monthly inspection on 1st September.) Otherwise the only other bird identified was a wren in the Hay Meadow by Lucy Brook. , For the first time, the phragmites reeds that had been planted in Upper Sowerholme had grown high enough to be readily visible. They appear to be establishing reasonably well.