One of my first ever teaching jobs was supervising a history group called the Orford Memories Project back in 1999, the aims of the group being to collect photos of the old village and to print a booklet. Orford is now a busy suburb or Warrington, an industrial town in the north-west of England, but in the early twentieth century, before the housing developments of the 1930s, Orford was a village surrounded by fields and still celebrated age-old traditions that are now lost. The walking day tradition is an example of this, but there was also a May Day procession that featured a May Queen and the mysterious character of Punch, who became King for a day. A May Pole was also assembled, and the villagers celebrated the coming of the summer, something that is still celebrated in some country villages in England today. For a rural community, a successful harvest was vital to the survival and prosperity of the villagers, and the tradition of May Day was part of this.
The village of Orford had a typical village structure by the early twentieth century; it had a Hall, it had a church, a village school and a pub, along with scattered farms, cottages and shops. The Hall was once owned by the Blackburne family and the village pub is still called the Blackburne Arms. William Beamont who had served as Warrington’s first Mayor in 1847, moved into the Hall in the late nineteenth century and built a new village school in 1861, to replace the old school that had been built by John Blackburne. The school was also used for religious services until the church was opened in 1908. The old school building is now demolished, but there is still a school in Orford. The Hall was demolished in the 1930s and was situated in what is now Orford Park. Some of the stones from the Hall can still be seen in the gardens of the park, the Hall gate posts can still be seen and part of a wall from an outbuilding is still standing. Here are a few of the photos of old Orford that I kept from the Memories Project.