Local History – Rawtenstall – Whitaker Museum

Local History – Rawtenstall – Whitaker Museum

A Gift to the Children of Rawtenstall – Local Free Man Richard Whitaker bought and donated Oak Hill House and its grounds for the Children of Rawtenstall as a place of recreation and learning.


On the edge of Rawtenstall perched just off Haslingden road is a house and a beautiful garden park. Many know this place as Whitaker Park.

We asked locals what comes to mind when they think about ‘The Whitaker’?

The common theme is the museum – that is found in the house. The people highlighted exhibitions such as the baby elephant, the snake and tiger, and the shrunken head.

Only a few people know the story of how this home became a much-loved museum.

In our research, it took time to get the history of this building.

What we found was working people who were proud and still are of their heritage. We see this pride in the care given to the grounds and house.

What was the original purpose of the house?

In prime location to overlook the Working Mill at New Hall Hey; known to us today as the grade II listed building Hardman’s Mill. The 1840’s family home was built; originally standing on a 28acre park, which held cottages and farms.

The Whitaker Park house was originally called Oakhill and was home for Major George Hardman (1794-1852) and his family.

Oakhill had been a family home until Richard Whitaker bought the house and grounds in 1900, he wanted to create a museum and public park for the children of Rawtenstall.

Mr Whitaker was born into poverty in 1829, one of thirteen he was working in Rawtenstall’s local mills at 6 years old. By the end of his career, he was a director of an Accrington company manufacturing mill machinery.

The museum and public park where gifted to the children of Rawtenstall in 1902. Many Local mill owners gifted Items for the Museum and gardens.

When Richard Whitaker died in 1906 he had seen the growth of knowledge among the children of the needy. Richard not only Donated the Park and the Museum but also donated money for Almshouses, exhibitions, scholarships and allowances to the needy in the area.

What is it now?

From that first museum opening in 1902 by Richard Whitaker, the house has stayed as Richard had set out.

Sadly, the house fell into disuse and in 2013 the Whitaker was brought back to life and transformed into the Rossendale Museum & Art Gallery. Under the leadership of the newly formed ‘Whitaker Group’, a journey began with the restoration and enhancement of this prized park.

The Whitaker Group are passionate that the aims of the museum remain true to its original 1902 declaration; to educate and enlighten the people of Rossendale, providing a focus for learning and cultural activity into the 21st Century.

The Whitaker house is now a privately owned business that runs the museum with a small café open Tuesday-Sunday 9.30am-5pm.

The Whitaker Park is owned and maintained by Rossendale Borough Council.

See what treasures the house has for you to learn from. Maybe enjoy a nice hot drink with a lovely view or a leisurely stroll around the park, the Whitaker is your place.

Learn More

To learn more about the local history and the traditional building works check out our Training courses.

For More information please follow the links below.

Public Art Collection North West: A history and Guide By Edward Morris – p.g. 153, Mill Guide, The Whitaker Official Website. Notes on the Hardman Family, Fishink blog.

The Construction Development Alliance (CDA) Awards Evening 2018

The Construction Development Alliance (CDA) Awards Evening 2018

We are happy to be a part of the Construction Development Alliance (CDA).

One of the reasons is because we are among like-minded construction professionals who are eager to congratulate young individuals who strike to be the best in their fields.

Thursday 24th May 2018 the CDA conducted their bi-annual Young Persons in Construction Awards.

Along with the CDA members were guests from all over the north-west.

In attendance this year was the Chartered Institute of Buildings (CIOB) which is a great privilege for the young professional as they can build on their networks with the chartered building experts.

The Event

The highlighted talk for the evening was Women in Construction.

Along the lines of women in male-oriented roles, the special guest host was none other than Ms Charlie Dimmock from Ground Force.

We were entertained by the story of how she came to be on Ground Force, she shared many bloopers during her career.

Her stories are funny and memorable, we were very impressed with Ms Dimmock.

Charlie Dimmock giving her presentation.

To talk about the benefits of women in construction Chair Emily Millar of Hawthorn Estates.

The Awards

  • Overcoming Diversity – Jack Silcox
  • Apprentice – Megan Talbot
  • Construction Professional – Brad Lees
  • Construction Environmentalist – Caitlin Thompson
  • Designer – Micheal Burdaky
  • Highly Commended Apprentice in Construction – Conor Birtwistle.

Our overall winner when to Jack Silcox.

The members of the CDA are determined to support young people in construction to achieve higher and to create those long lasting business connections that will benefit them in their future plans.


The Charity

This year the charity was the YMCA Housing. So, the amount raised during the awards was £1753.00

If you would like to donate to this charity please follow this link.

There were 11 hampers – eg. picknick, barbeque, bathroom, celebration etc.

A Lollipop Topiary Tree was also up to be won on the night.

The winners of the hampers had received the sponsors business leaflets along with lots of different treats. (depending on what hamper they won)

At the end of the event, the CDA happy donated the Flower arrangements to the Pendall Side Hospice in Burnley.

Construction Development Alliance Awards Nominations

The Construction Development Alliance (CDA) are hosting awards on the 24th May 2018.

It is held every two years to congratulate five construction individuals on their hard work and determination in the construction field.

There are few awards in the country for young individuals and the CDA are excited to be among the few that can contribute to supporting them as well as helping a local charity.

This year’s awards will be held at the Burnley Mechanics.

If you know of an exceptional young construction individual why not nominate them now! the deadline is fast approaching.


Apply By!








Show your support for the young construction people.

The guest host for this years event is Charlie Dimmock from ‘Ground Force’, she along with the award sponsor will hand the award to the winner.


The categories are:

  1. Overcoming Diversity
  2. Young Apprentice
  3. Young Construction Professional
  4. Young Construction Environmentalist
  5. Young Designer

All winners receive a trophy and a prize.



This year the chosen charity is YMCA Housing Trust.

Annual Traditional Plastering Craft Gathering

The  Annual ‘Gathering’ of the New Guild for the Traditional Plastering Craft, was held this year on September 8-9 2017. The venue was the Heritage Craft Alliance training centre in Thorpe Perrow in Bedale, North Yorkshire.

Mr. Glenn Young the founder welcomed us, to this specialist training centre. He explained the need for such craft based training, also the focus and development of the centre.

The setting of the centre is ideal as traditional building are available for repair and renovation.

The guild took a big step forward with the selection of a chairman and committee of who can drive its development. Philip Gaches explained that with an increasing membership and work load, it seemed the right time for him to take on a smaller role allowing other members to move the guild forward.

The Program

The 2 day program began with slide shows and discussions by experienced craftspeople who are leaders in their particular fields, the presentations outlined the work methods that were employed to overcome problems, selection of materials and techniques used.

The sessions were then followed up by practical demonstrations in the centres workshops.

Practical Demonstations

Mr. Keith Langton open the Friday with a demonstration of using a variety of mounds for casting, and the methods and techniques in using plaster and Jesomite products. This included the use of traditional reinforcing materials such as the traditional timber lath, hessian, cotton and the more modern GRG (Glass Reinforced Gypsum) fibre mesh.


Mr. Mark McCorrie demonstrated methods of dealing with plaster lath ceilings that need remedial work to stabilise them. The problems of water penetration, infestation, lath failure to other trades damaging the historic fabric were discussed and methods old and new discussed. Mark reviewed his methods developed from his personal experience. (Photographs show Demonstration of mechanical and resin based fixing methods and solutions). Main point was how to preserve historic ceilings and decorative plasterwork often attached to them with minimal intervention. A very interesting session and lively discussion followed as to the pros and cons of the various methods and techniques.


One of the best known practitioners of Pargetting in the country is Bill Sergeant provided an insight into the historic decorative external lime work he and his team had carried out. Using a small lath panel prepared with a lime mortar floating coat, scratched an outline of the design. Then built up the layers of lime mortar then after completing the design applied a hot lime wash over surface. Bill has been feature on a number of TV programmes over the years.

Andrew Fawcett who works closely with Bill Sergeant, provided an insight into the application of the application of frescos, it limitations and it development from famous examples in Italy, to the history of painted lime plastered wall surfaces.

Phil Gaches and George O’Malley concluded the session with a reminder about how to maintain and length our working lives. Reminding us of  our hand board skills and the fewer the movements the less wear and tear.

Kevin and Bill took the opportunity of wearing our new corporate sweat shirts.

Sympathetic works ltd was represented by Kevin Millar and Bill Oakes. We would like to thank all who made the two days instructive and enjoyable.

The New Guild for the Traditional Plastering Craft.

National Heritage Training Group.

Princes foundation. Email

Bacup: Lime Pointing Day

Bacup: Lime Pointing Day

Bacup THI Project Manager Megan Eastwood, arranged a Lime Pointing Day with the present owner of St Johns the Evangelist, a Grade 2 listed building.

This former church provided the ideal venue for highlighting the challenges faced by home owners and construction professionals.

Constructed in the early 1880s, the present building was a replacement for an earlier church that had been destroyed by fire. The building added to historical context of the day and importance of using compatible materials when carrying out renovation and repair work.


  • The programme began with an introduction to the use of lime in the preservation of historic buildings.
  • Why the renewal of interest in using hot lime mortars in the context of heritage and historic properties?
  • The disadvantages of using modern materials such as (OPC) cements on heritage buildings, and resulting damage created.
  • How lime mortars allow vapour evaporation from a building and added flexibility in the structure.
  • How Lime pointing could be ‘sacrificial’ and thus avoid costly damage to the stone work.
  • Importance of sourcing local/vernacular materials.


Mixing quicklime with sand and adding water, the resulting chemical reaction causes the lime to heat or ‘boil’ and steam is given off, this process is called ‘slaking’.

The lime expands during the slaking process which gives us a richer lime mortar making it more flexible.

After leaving it to cool for about 30 minutes we used the ‘hot’ lime mortar for our practical session. Many delegates’ commented on how easy it was to handle.

We reviewed the methods of removing the older pointing, especially if it was cement based. The challenge is to avoid or minimise damage to stonework, using hand tools and chisels.

After a demonstration of how pointing can be applied, the delegates had a go!

Because some of the joints were very deep, over 25mm, the instructor explained the need to move in stages. This was due the need for lime mortars to be exposed to the atmosphere, as the mix set’s by a chemical process that requires exposure to carbon dioxide. This process of ‘carbonisation’ is needed by air set limes i.e. Hot and putty limes.

The practical demonstrations and ‘hands on’ session.

All had a good time, many really got stuck in!

The white lime rich mortar stood out in stark contrast to the original stonework (see photographs).

What was the answer? The next part of the process is to use a churn brush, which is vital for 2 things; 1) consolidating the pointing 2) exposes the sand, and blends the colour. (See photo) Sand was sourced locally and was part of the specified materials being used for the restoration work in Bacup town centre.

We would like to express appreciation to Megan and Freddie for making it such a pleasurable day, even the weather was kind us.

All delegates received a certificate of attendance, on behalf of Sympathetic Works and Bacup THI.

Useful sources of information 

Buildings Lime Forum.  website.
Historic England publication: Repointing Brick and Stone Walls.