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Roaming round Rimington
(Reprinted from Lancashire Life February 2002)

Julie Frankland discovers an amazing railway museum deep in the Ribble Valley

WHEN it comes to having its praises sung, there can be few places in the world which have raised more voices in exaltation than the Ribble Valley village of Rimington.

Rimington was the childhood home of early 20th century composer Francis Duckworth and as a testament to his youth, he penned the popular hymn 'Rimington' in celebration.

Young Francis' parents ran the village store and post office and he was free to roam Rimington's hedgerowed lanes and lush farmlands, which eventually  give way to the heathery roughs that rise to form Pendle Hill. There are secret glades before the climb and among them is 'Swanside,' immortalised in another Duckworth composition. Here a Roman packhorse bridge crosses a shady trout filled beck on a footpath, which joins Rimington with its neighbours of Chatburn and Downham.  

Although Francis later moved to Colne, he wanted Rimington as his final resting place, but with no church or churchyard, he had to settle for burial in nearby Gisburn. Rimington acknowledges its famous son with a blue plaque, nailed to the wall of its former Methodist chapel, which stood next door to the Duckworth's business-cum-home.  

Today, it is just a home. Rimington's native farm workers and weavers, who either worked from their three storey cottages or at now defunct mills down the road in howgill and Newby, left long ago in search of work in bigger towns.  

As a consequence, not only did the chapel not have enough worshippers to sustain a preacher, but neither did the post office, shop and village school which all closed because of lack of custom. Rimington's once epicentre is now a huddled collection of sought after private houses, with price tags which prove the desirability of their location.  

In a reversal of fortunes, Rimington's outskirts - the approach road from Chatburn where houses stand in line as if in a guard of honour leading to the former centre - is now the hub of village life. What has made it so are two Ribble Valley institutions - Rimington's 18th century coaching inn The Black Bull and  ladiesí and gentsí outfitters Cosgrove's House of Colour.  

There are many pubs making claims about their ambience, hospitality, choice of beers and bar menu, yet for something completely different, visit The Black Bull. It is renowned  not just for its food but its Platform 4 Model Transport Museum.  

This free- entry museum is open daily from noon to 3 p.m. It was founded by railway enthusiast the late Michael Blades, who became The Black Bull's landlord in 1993 on his return to his native Lancashire from Canada, where he and his wife Barbara, still the landlady, had run a contract sales business. Explains Barbara: 'We were   when we saw The Black Bull, which at the time was empty and boarded up. It had been closed for more than a year when we moved in.

'The idea for the museum came from Michael needing somewhere to put his railway collection. We converted a room just off the bar into a store. Michael had acquired a Platform 4 signal box, which he rigged outside the room and because he now had the space, began to add to his collection.

'New pieces included other modes of transport from models of warplanes to Mississippi River cruisers, Customers began showing interest and he decided to open his collection as the Platform 4 Model Transport Museum.'

Barbara, whose brother Derek Lee now helps her run the pub, added: 'The museum was officially opened in October 1998. Sadly, Michael died shortly afterwards but he would be so proud to know that the museum is going from strength to strength and attracts visitors from all over the world.'  

Throughout autumn and winter (September to March), The Black Bull hosts railway evenings on the last Thursday of the month. Hundreds of railway buffs from Lancashire and Yorkshire come to swap stories and memorabilia and to listen to expert speakers. February and March meetings focus on steam trains running in South Africa, India and Burma,  

In keeping with its transport theme, the pub is also hosting a special gastronomic feast towards the end of this month when chef Gary Newsome will recreate and serve a typical dinner menu from cruise liner The Aurora.  

For some villagers, the transport museum is a reminder of the days when Rimington had its own busy railway station, with hourly services to Clitheroe and Hellifield. It closed under the Beeching Reforms but Rimington, it would seem, has always had an affinity with mechanical transport. It was one of the first Ribble Valley villages to have a garage. In fact, Rimington had two garages before most other places even whiffed diesel.  

Today, one remains. Originally opened to supply vehicles to farms, it now trades as a Land Rover dealership and is a focal point for the farming community.  

The other garage was founded by Edgar Duckworth and expanded by his son Ronnie into a haulage and taxi business. Today, the premises have been converted into Cosgrove's House of Colour by Ronnie's widow Dorothy and her second husband Cosi Cosgrove, who had also been widowed.  

Cosgrove's specialises in women's 'encore' bridalwear dresses and suits for those having another go at marriage - as well as occasion outfits and smart casual clothes for both sexes.  

Dorothy Cosgrove and her staff of 29 full and part-time assistants, which includes her daughters Sue Winckley and Helen Watterson and their husbands Paul and Martyn, pride themselves on polite, attentive, old-fashioned service.  

A plaque above the door dates the shop to 1897. The business has made the village an unlikely Mecca on the fashion map.  

For those who call Rimington home, a Lottery grant has been a cause for celebration in that it has financed a project to refurbish Rimington Memorial Institute, which neighbours the village playing fields.  

The institute was built to commemorate those from Rimington and its closest neighbours who fell in the First World War and nowadays is a valued social centre and meeting place.  

Mary Bairstow, a retired teacher, said: 'There have been a lot of changes in Rimington from the time when I was a girl but there is still a strong sense of community. Anyone living here has a lot for which to be thankful.'  

As I am sure Francis Duckworth would agree, Rimington is a Lancashire treasure worth making a song and dance about.  

Fact file  

  • For romantics wanting to celebrate February as the month of love. The Back Bull is offering the ultimate St Valentine's Day grand gesture. New to the menu is fresh Beluga caviar, served on Ogen melon with ice shavings and a quarter bottle of Champagne.  

  • Rimington's nearest house of worship is the picturesque Martin Top Chapel, which sits on the road to Howgill.  

  • For ladies wanting to lunch, Dorothy Cosgrove is treasurer of Ribble Valley Ladies' Luncheon Club. It formed three years ago and now, has more than 400 members, who have raised approximately £ 150,000 for research into childhood cancers.  

  • Table tennis, indoor bowls, snooker and keep-fit are some of the sports activities on offer at Rimington Memorial Institute. The institute is also used as a meeting place by various organisations such as the WI, as well as a venue for dances and parties.