GEOFF CRAMBIE: When the cobbles were laid in Nelson streets

editorial image

A QUANTUM leap back to Edwardian days this week with an evocative street scene capturing the era of the mighty steam traction engine.

Yes indeed, here, steaming along Manchester Road, just past the Hard Platts (“Camel’s Hump”, great for sledging down) in Nelson, is a superb yesteryear vehicle loaded with three trailers chock-a-block with stone setts on their way for laying down in one of Nelson’s newly-built streets. Note up front, our three cloth-capped workmen who would carry out the back-breaking task of making up our streets with these setts as well as the heavier still, huge Rossendale flags, a truly skilled job for men of great strength.

Locally, we had the “Three Billys” all “Men of Steel” working as “Flaggers”, Billy Smallwood, Billy Rayson and Billy Watson and not forgetting “Iron men” Eric Judson and Ray Parker.

Sadly today, many of our streets have had their setts Tarmacked over and the flags taken up and replaced by the now ubiquitous Tarmacadam.

Once our millworkers’ clogs gave us that wonderful sound of the “Song of Sunrise”, clog-irons echoing in the early morning on the stone flags as they walked to work. It’s a sound that’s gone forever.

For myself, I’m a lucky man indeed. The street where our family has lived for 44 years now still has its original stone setts and stone flags laid down in the Victorian era in the year 1897 and I’m so proud to be living in one of our area’s heritage streets which ensures the now 115-year-old stone setts and flags will still be in situ down Lancaster Street as long as our mighty giant town hall flagstone still stands.