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On first sight, this might pass for a traditional Willow pattern Design, but look more closely.
You will see Ormskirk Parish Church with its tower and steeple, the Clock Tower, nearby St Anne's Church and, away on the hill, Christ Church.
The surrounding design shows a dozen or more items and symbols depicting products and trades for which Ormskirk was well-known in times past - including specialty cheeses, the 'Ormskirk Heeler' hunting dog, & many more fascinating facts.
Only 100 each of these plates have been made, (in Cumbria) and they are sure to become family heirlooms in the near future.
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Size: 10¾"£58.00 each
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Size: 13"£65.00 each
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The story behind the 'Ormskirk Willow' Plate
The artist, Gerard Swarbrick, has long collected 'Willow Pattern' china crockery - from original Spode & Wedgewood to modern reproductions.
The picture is a combination of actual features in Ormskirk town, and features commonly found in the traditional Willow Pattern: the parish church replaces a pagoda, but the stylized trees remain. The zigzag fence remains in front of the churchyard, but town houses appear down in front. The clock tower and Disraeli's statue add to the Ormskirk feeling, together with a few more houses.
But then we see that the stream has now become Dyers Lane Brook, with the Aughton Street bridge still looking very 'willow-patternish', and beyond lies the boating lake in Coronation Park. St. Anne's Church stands to the left, and up the hill beyond is Christ Church. The central feature of the willow tree, and the two lovebirds remain in pride of place.
Symbols on the Ormskirk Willow Plate
(The symbols represent activities & skills for which Ormskirk has been renowned in the past.)
Cheese and Apple
Appledore Cheese, also known as 'The Ormskirk Cheese', formulated in 1977, was made and sold in Mawdsley's Cheese and Delicatessen. It is now manufactured by Singleton's Dairy, Longridge, and distributed countrywide.
Ormskirk Heeler Dog
Bred for centuries by local farmers and herdsmen, a black & tan terrier renowned for cattle control, vermin-catching, intelligent house watching and companionship.
Several hemp rope-makers thrived in the town, supplying farming and Liverpool shipping. The largest, Rigby-Jones & Co expanded and moved to Ireland to become Irish Ropes Ltd.
Mug of Ale
Ellis Warde, Forshaws and Knowles were substantial breweries for well over a century.
The Ormskirk Advertiser was founded in about 1837, and is still a regular weekly newspaper.
Hamper of Potatoes
Ormskirk was famous as a centre of potato growing. On market-days, the saloon of the Kings Arms was crowded with merchants.
Many blacksmiths are listed in records. The last active one was at the bottom of Ruff Lane in St. Helens Rd, still working when I was a boy, c. 1935.
Sheaf of Corn
Much Wheat was grown in this district, in the rotation of root crops. The Wheat Sheaf Inn was the oldest hostelry in town, demolished in about 1960.
Originally a home industry, a large factory was set up in Derby Street by Eddie Stoker, supplying lace collars and cuffs to dressmakers country-wide, such as Woolworths etc.
Henry Swarbrick set up a bacon-factory in Southport in the 1880s, and it moved here in 1920. Their hams were famous, even as far afield as Pond's Store off Bond Street, London.
Ormskirk vied with Prescot in the making of Watches and Grandfather Clocks. Many makers such as Wignall, Helm, Ackers, Winstanley, & Grice are highly valued as working antiques. The 'Ormskirk Escapement' was an important development in the science of clock mechanisms.
Taps, Valves & Flow-gear
Hattersley's Brass Foundry in Burscough St. was a heavy industry and the largest employer of labour in the town. Only recently, it was the victim of take-over and moved elsewhere.
The Bacon Pig
H. E. Swarbrick Ltd were Bacon-curers and meat manufacturers in the town from 1920 until they ceased trading in 1989. Their Pork Pies were a bye-word for quality in South Lancashire and beyond.
Gingerbread was produced in the town for well over 300 years, as a home industry for sale on market days. In 1800 Robert Mawdsley, a corn and provision merchant and grocer, established his 'Original' recipe, which survives to this day.
Growing willows and basket-making was the principal occupation of Mawdesley villagers, but Ormskirk market was the principal outlet. The last working basket-maker in Ormskirk (off Burscough St) was Harry Cobham, remembered by many, and a descendant of the famous Cobhams of Mawdesley.