My Memories of Rudyard

My Memories of Rudyard

By Audrey Heath

There are suggestions about revitalising Rudyard Lake and the surrounding areaI wonder where a start could be made? I am an old parishioner and have lived in Rudyard and the immediate area (Horton) for all of my life and my parents and grandparents before me. So I do remember Rudyard how It used to be. From the South end of the lake you would not See more beautiful scenery anywhere in England. The scenery will always be there but I'm sad to say the surroundings have very much deteriorated.

My roots go very deep into Rudyard because aeound 1845 my grandfather Mr. Joseph Tunnicliffe lived in a small cottage by the lake. This was the property of the Trent and Mersey Canal Company. In 1850 my grandfather applied for a licence to sell ale there and was granted one. I still have the licence. This was the beginning of what Is now The Lake Hotel. In the meantime, my grandfather became water bailiff and moved to Reservoir House Which had been built for the water supervisors. He was to live there until his death in 1881. His duties as bailiff meant he had to go into Leek each day on foot arid also to the feeder at Danebridge, to see to the water requirements. He was the first man to have a boat on the lake. to help with his duties.

One day while my grandfather was by the lakeside, a young couple were walking by. They stoped to talk with him and saidi they thought that Rudyard was the most beautiful place they had visited. My grandfather took them Reservoir House to give them tea. This man was Mr Lockwood Kipling with his intended bride. They became very fri endly with my grandparents and when they married they confided that they would call their hoped for son 'Rudyard Joseph after this lovely place and my grandfather for his kindness to them. The Kiplings went to live in

India and there in 1865 Rudyard Joseph Kipling was born. My mother was then 3 years old and Mr Kipling gave her a mug which I still have today. We still have the chair that Mr. Kipling sat on that first day at the Reservoir House, now passed on through the family. My mother and Rudyard Kipling died in the same year 1936.

I still walk around the lake and reservoir House to retrace of my grandparents in those far off peaceful days. I think of my mother's stories of how ladies would walk gracefully by the lakeside with long skirts and parasols to keep the sun from their faces. when I look around today, everyone is wearing tight jeans and I can hardly tell is it's a boy or a girl I am seeing. I remember how I used to fetch our drinking water so long ago, from a spot where a pipe of pure spring water runs by the lake. I believe my grandfather once found it running to waste and fixed up temporary pipe. The pipe is still there today but very few know about it.

I also recall the stories of great ceremonies held by the lake in those days around 1877. For instance Captain Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel gave a demonstration and even walked across the lake on a tightrope. It must have been very exciting and I can imagine all the ladies going home to talk about it as they sat with their tapestry or embroidery in the evening. I still have a 150 year old tapestry, now very delicate, which was worked by my grandmother, mostly by candlelight.

My mother was born at Reservoir House and as a young girl she went to Horton Lea School (now Horton Village Hall). This was about two and a half miles on foot and in all weathers she would trudge along, carrying her case of cocoa and sugar for her midday meal and with a slate on a rope around her neck. Years later, when I was a little girl she would tell me these tales and I loved to hear fo those wonderful dances and balls she had attended. They would travel by horse drawn carriage with bells tinkling, to places like Trentham or large houses in the area.They would dance to the sound of violins and pianos and I could almost hear the rustle and swish of the taffeta and silk gowns of the ladies. The men would have black patent shoes and white gloves. The ladies all carried small programmes with silk tassels and a pencil to write down each dance as the men requested. My mother would boast that her programme was always full and that she had been the Belle of the Ball twice.

When it became time for me to attend school I went to the little chapel in the village to learn my first A.B.C. (this place is now Swiss Cottage as a new chapel was built along Lake Road). I remember the services there and going to the Anniversary each year in a new white dress with a different coloured hair ribbon for each year. There would then be the annual outing which was often to Belle Vue by train.

Outings to the seaside were almost impossible in those days. When I grew older I went to Leek Girl's School by train. When I was young all the girls had a wooden hoop and the boys would have an iron one, guided by an iron hook. We would bowl them along, getting around very quickly and it was a lot of fun.

I would walk around Harracles Mill where the farmers took their corn to be ground. I would collect our oatmeal from there for our porridge and oatcakes. As I stood watching the goings on at the mill I would usually become covered in flour and have to brush it off as I walked home through the village. I usually passed the village 'Bobby' who was very strict. He was always on foot and yet seemed to be everywhere. There was also the road man with his wheelbarrow and a brush and shovel. He had a certain area to keep clean and tidy and he would be seen each day. Litter did not lie around for days like it does now. Where the Rudyard bus shelter is now, there were then two cottages. One was the small post office where I could buy our ½d stamps or eighteen eggs for 1s.0d.

I also remember how Christmas was Christmas in those days. The postman would arrive on Christmas morning and everything would arrive then. Not like today when Father Christmas is in all the stores from early November onwards. We didn't become bored or impatient because it didn't go on for too long.

There was always plenty to do in Rudyard. We were fortunate to have the Pavilion where we could roller-skate to the lovely old tunes of the day. The Pavilion was mad into the War Memorial Institute after the First World War. Today, we have our W.I. meetings and other activities there.

As well as roller-skating, we had the opportunity to skate on ice as we had very severe frosts in those days which would freeze the lake solid. The trains would bring people from miles away all carrying their skates. I particularly remember a night when a dance was held in the moonlight on the frozen Lake.

There were Lanterns and lights all around and we danced to the Strauss Waltzes. To me as a very young girl, it was like a winter wonderland. there were many merry times around the lake in those days around 1912. we had a bandstand by the lake, the pavilion, a dance floor and a rustic harbour where we could view the boating activities. There were shelters for wet days and lots of seats on the very good footpaths. Nowadays it is hard to find a seat never mind a shelter. There were motorboats and rowing boats which could be hired from the landing stage and I would spend many happy hours relaxing in a rowing boat which the owner allowed me to use free of charge.

Both the scenery and the attractions brought in the tourists and the people from the surrounding villages. Of course there was a very good train service in those days. Extra trains would run on Bank Holidays when visitors would arrive in there hundreds. I used to think they looked like bees coming out of a honeypot or a hive as they poured down the hill from the station, on their way to walk along the feeder side to the lake. Rudyard really was the beauty spot of North Staffordshire. Even at night it would look inviting with fairy lights and lanterns hanging from the trees by the side if the lake. Those who didn't travel by train would come by bicycle. Everyone seemed to have one. They would come at weekends and park them in local gardens for 2d per day. All the gardens were full of them.

If we went out of Rudyard we would travel by train also. Sometimes we would go to Manchester for special shopping. It was very cheap, cheaper than the price of getting to Leek on a market day in this day and age.
Transport reminds me of days of the first 'charabanc'. The first time a charabanc came into the village everybody came out to see it.

In the centre of the village we have the jubilee Stone. This was erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The top of the stone was broken off on it's journey to the village from the local quarry at the top of the hill. Other names have since been added to those already on the stone.

On the hill overlooking the village, there used to be a lovely old church, the church of St Gabriel. Sad to say, this had to be taken down because the foundations were unsafe. We missed the one bell tolling each Sunday at 6p.m. calling us to church. The Vicar, old Mr. Blakeway always walked through the fields on his way to take the service.

It used to be a way of life after church or chapel to take a walk by the lake or go as far as the links at Cliffe Park. it was a pleasure to sit there on a warm evening and watch the golfers or perhaps have a cup of tea at the small tearoom. Life was more leisurely, we weren't always running around like today. While walking we would pass Spite Hall, an old building with an interesting history. It was built high on a hillside to spoil a neighbour's view of the lake, after a quarrel.

Over the years, the visitors to Rudyard have dwindled. people have walked through the woods to the Youth Hostel and in the summers children have still picnicked and played by the lake, but not in the same numbers as before, There are still two Hotels here but they patronised for drinks and meals on nights out rather than for Rudyard itself. Apart from the anglers or the few boating enthusiasts, there is little to keep people here for a day out. There is of course peace for those people who wish to have a quiet walk with their dog or their children. I am sure something could be done to bring Rudyard alive again but I cannot expect that it would be the elegant place it once was, especially in these days of noise and vandalism.

At least I can still walk around the lake in peace and think of the long lost days when Rudyard Lake had so much to offer.

A big thank you to Jean Simcock for allowing us to put her late grandmas memoirs 1984 onto the site.