August 10th 2021

Dear GHS members,

Some good news.

We intend, DV, to resume our meetings at the Garstang United Reformed Church on

October 6th, 2021 at 7.30pm.

We hope to have an enrolment session that night (from circa 7pm in the church hall), followed by the meeting in the church, on a topic of local / regional history, followed by refreshments in the hall.

Hand sanitisers will be placed in the church and the hall and it is requested these are used. Guidance on masks will be given nearer the time.

Membership cards and the programme for 2020 / 2021 should be available on October 6th.

The topic for our October 6 meeting is

* Richard Kuerden, Lancashire's "first" historian, who was also a topographer and antiquary.

The speaker will be Dr Bill Shannon of Fulwood..

Further info will be sent to members who have given use their email addresses nearer the time. Further information will also appear on our website, Your Garstang Facebook page, and Focus (October issue).

Regarding the guided walk to Greenhalgh Castle on September 8th (see earlier email for details and booking info), we have had a good number of folk wishing to come along. There are still some places left so please book soon. Booking is essential. Note, dogs will not be allowed on this walk, part of which is on private farm land.

Note, for personal reasons our chairman, Peter Burrell, may not be able to attend some of our meetings in the first part of our new programme. Pre-pandemic we had considered a revised line-up of officials / committee folk, but this was put on hold for obvious reasons. We hope to hold an AGM in 2022 when the matter will be discussed.

We look forward to seeing you on September 8th (walk, to be booked) or October 6th (first meeting of the 2021 / 2022 programme) or on both evenings.


Anthony C
Vice chairman, GHS


Those members who have not given their email addresses to officials, and who would like to keep in touch with matters of local historical interest, are encouraged to send their email addresses to


Recent emails sent to members have included copies of the latest newsletters / bulletins of the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University and the Lancashire Archives at Preston.


A tribute to James Dodding, tutor to the stars
(this is an extended version of the tribute which has appeared on various Facebook pages)

“He was our Pied Piper with his meticulous preparation and infectious enthusiasm, and we all would have followed him anywhere” (Michael Huie, one of James’s US students).

“Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (King James Bible, 2 Samuel 3:38)

Retired theatre director and drama tutor, James Dodding, died today, aged 87. Former Courier deputy editor Anthony Coppin, a close friend of the much-respected Garstang resident, pays a personal tribute.

Jim Dodding was a legend who created constellations of stars.

From humble beginnings in Garstang (he was the son of a local postman from Dimples Lane) James had a half century-plus career in teaching at top drama colleges on both sides of the Atlantic.

He helped train generations of performers including David Bowie, recent Oscar winner Gary Oldman, Tom Baker (Dr Who), Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole, Coronation Street) and Pam St Clement (Pat Butcher, East Enders).

More locally, and post “retirement” he was active in this area’s artistic community, being an encourager of Garstang Arts Society (including its poetry group) and helping church / liturgical readers (and others, such as Town Crier Hilary McGrath) with their voice skills.

James's Garstang roots were deep. One of his ancestors was Colonel George Dodding, involved in the 17th century English Civil War siege of Greenhalgh Castle. Other relatives were from a Barnacre farming background and others had run Calder Vale Post Office.

James attended Garstang St Thomas CE Primary School and Lancaster Royal Grammar School. As a youngster he enjoyed taking part in fancy dress parades in Garstang festivals (fellow fancy dress paraders included Eddie Livesey and Ann Wicks). In his young days he was also in the Garstang Sea Scouts, a group run by the local vicar.

In his teenage years he was involved in youth work and entertainment in Garstang and Lancaster (Punch and Judy shows, magic shows, children’s show, theatre work, and with Garstang amateur drama groups). His early stage appearances were at The Grand, Lancaster and Garstang Institute and on the Whit Festival / Children's Festival showfield.

In 1949/1950 he was called up for National Service. He wanted to be an officer in the Royal Air Force so ‘added’ a year to his age to meet the age criteria, but the fib was discovered and he ended up being posted in the RAF as an AC - the lowest rank possible! His drama interests though were put into good use among the ranks, producing uproarious plays and pantos (think ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’) for His Majesty’s services.

(More than 30 years later, when working for the BBC, he was 'called up' again - by Her Majesty’s military education wing to lead a drama course for the British Army in Dusseldorf, being given the honorary title ' Lt Colonel' for the period - a big promotion on his initial military AC2!)

After National Service in the early 1950s he studied youth work and social studies at university level, then gained a scholarship to study at the Rose Bruford Drama College in London to gain acting and teaching qualifications.

Speaking of his student days at the Bruford College (1956 -1959) he said: "It was there I was given a code of work ethics - of caring, respect for others, honesty, straightforwardness, and above all, a love and passion for all aspects of theatre."

He had a particular interest in magic and mime and took extra time to study those skills (the latter with European mime artists Marcel Marceau in Paris and Ladislav Fialka in Prague). He also wrote a series of best-selling books on mime for children, and was editor of "The Art of Speaking Made Simple" published by WH Allen.

His other artistic interests included poetry - he started and maintained a correspondence with Poet Laureate John Masefield.

At Bruford he was a popular student leader and, despite occasional clashes with college principal Rose ‘Bru’ Bruford, they became good friends and James was offered a teaching post at the college after qualifying (much later he became a governor and Fellow).

As well as being a tutor at Bruford, James set up his own freelance teaching agency, working part-time at other London-based creative and educational institutions including the City Lit. He gave voice coaching lessons to various groups including the leaders of the Confederation of British Industry.

He also became involved in radio work - for a generation of children in British, Commonwealth and British Forces Overseas schools in the 1960s James was the voice of the BBC’s Music and Movement radio programme. The programme, featuring drama, movement and mime, won the international Sony Prize for children's broadcasting.

Around this time he was offered the principalship of another prominent London drama college, but decided against taking the post as he believed he could achieve more by freelance teaching.

During the 1970s his career went global, with teaching and directing engagements in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Malta and Ireland. He enjoyed his travels, particularly his time in 1972 / 73 at McGill University and the National Theatre School, Montreal, as well as time spent in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

The mid-1970s saw him heading up the London branch of the North Carolina School of the Arts. The group of students who were in the capital that year were wowed by “Mr Dodding.” Some of them were among the US contingent who visited Garstang in 2015 when James gave an autobiographical talk for that year’s Garstang Lecture.

The late 1970s saw the start of an aspect of his career which gave him huge pleasure and fulfilment - a once a year Springtime semester with the drama department at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, USA, a US liberal arts college. He was initially an assistant professor, being awarded full professor status in 1990.

As well as teaching in the USA he also put on well-remembered performances, including The Passion, HMS Pinafore, Guys and Dolls, Servant of Two Masters and a son et lumiere production, the first such production to be staged in that region of the USA.

HIs US students loved what one of them, Michael Huie, later called this "charming, clever, inspiring, slightly mischievous Englishman."

In the USA his proteges included Tom Hulce (who took the title role in the movie Amadeus), and many others who went on to be leading figures in the US entertainment industry.  Prominent Canadian theatre director Steven Schipper is another protege.

Throughout his career James kept in touch with many of his students as well as his own contemporaries with whom he had studied at Bruford, and they with him. One close friend was Margaret Tyzack (Forsyte Saga, 2001: A Space Oddsey). She came to his aid when he was trying to persuade authorities in a United States educational institution to continue funding a London programme for US drama students.

Although he has worked with and taught many who became well-known names of stage, cinema and TV, he rarely 'name dropped.'

His directing credits included: Hamlet, The Mikado, The Country Wife (USA); The Beggar’s Opera, The Winter’s Tale, the Wakefield Mystery Plays (UK); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Trelawny of the Wells (Canada). He directed in Malta, Ireland, Hong Kong and Belgium. Opera directing includes the world premiere of Manuel Garcia’s L’Isola Disabitata. Writing/directing credits included: Son et lumière and Promenade Productions in the USA and UK. As well as directing he also acted, including the role of Davies in The Caretaker (USA). He had also presented solo performances at the Royal National Theatre, London.

Other North American institutions at which he had taught had included McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and the National Theatre School, Canada. After stepping down from his one semester a year at Wake Forest University, USA, he was awarded the title Emeritus Professor of Theatre.

During his decades in London he was a regular visitor to his home town of Garstang, returning to see his mother for whom he had bought a bungalow which he eventually made his own home.

James never really retired.

As recently as his early 80s James was still in demand as a theatre director in North America, being invited to direct plays at important regional theatres in the USA and Canada. When Garstang friends dropped him off at Manchester Airport we marvelled at his abilities and stamina.

He told me, a short while after his 80th birthday he was helping with a play in Halifax. I assumed he meant Halifax, Yorkshire. He meant Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he was to direct the Restoration comedy 'The Country Wife' at the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie University. A year or two earlier he had directed Trelawny of the Wells there.

I once asked him: "How come one minute you're directing an important play in North America, and the next you're back home ferrying a little old lady neighbour in Garstang to Preston Hospital in your Nissan Micra?"

His reply, with a stoical smile, was: "That's life!"

In 2007 James took the lead in organising and directing (along with Avril Bevan) the first Garstang Passion Play, a local equivalent of the Oberamagau festival. It told the Easter story using parts of Garstang town centre for various ‘stages.’  Scores of people (some from local churches, some with no church background) took part. Hundreds came to watch the street theatre.

In the run-up to the Passion Play James invited me (on that occasion as a friend rather than in my journalistic capacity) to one of the rehearsals. There I observed the teaching techniques he used to turn a group of polite Garstang citizens … into a baying mob clamouring for the crucifixion of Jesus.

One of the photos from that time shows James with the cast, outside St Thomas’s, the church which has been an important part of James’s life in Garstang since his boyhood. In the photo, typical of the humility of the man, he is standing on the fringe rather than in the centre.

Eight years ago James encouraged me when I set up the Garstang Lecture as part of the annual Garstang Arts Festival. In 2015 I invited him to be speaker, to tell the local community and, it turned out, a contingent of friends from the USA and London, about his career. It was a great occasion, held in Garstang Arts Centre.

Also in 2015 James and his former student and friend Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole on Coronation Street) became as double act for a “An audience with Malcolm Hebden”, a fundraising session at the arts centre. Another success.

The arts centre, the artistic and cultural hub of the town, was a place close to James’s heart. He remained active member of Garstang Poetry Appreciation Group, of which he was one of the co-founders. He organised annual “workshops” on poetry and related subjects most years during the Garstang Arts Festival.

James’s love of Shakespeare was well known. Astonishingly he could memorise complete plays as well as the bard’s poems. On April 23, 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, James took part in a special evening of the Tudor music and poetry, reading sonnets by the bard.

Last autumn, again at the arts centre, James was one of those asked to join the “table of honour” when our mutual friend, Colombian-born Garstang resident and poet Graciela Lemos launched her poetry book Unfolded Dreams. James had written the glowing commendation stating “Graciela Lemos has re-opened my ancient eyes to vibrant life.”

Within the past year James was been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He suffered several falls, leading to hospital visits. Despite his increasing frailty he continued to drive (to the worry of some friends) his somewhat battered, silver grey Nissan Micra, to have his breakfast at Booths café. Regular car journeys around the town included visits to see and chat with members of what some of us jokingly/affectionately called “James’s harem” – single or widowed lady friends who hugely appreciated his gifts of flowers, his company and his conversation.

James was generous of spirit and with his finance. He took such pleasure in showing his beloved home town of Garstang and the wider Lancashire area to his frequent visitors. He was enthralled by the Blackpool circus, the Illuminations, the Lake District.

He suffered a fall last Sunday in St Thomas’s churchyard, while visiting his parents’ grave. He hurt his face, one of his hands and his torso. He received treatment at Lancaster Royal Infirmary before being allowed home. On Thursday he had severe pain in his other hand and wrist and was taken to the hospital again. While in hospital he a had a stroke. He died late  morning today (Sunday, March 25 2018).
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.


It’s tempting to quote a portion of a Shakespeare play or poem to close this tribute but instead I’ll close with one of James’ own poems, a light-hearted ditty which shows his love of Garstang and the townsfolk.

I'm Garstang born and bred
And yes, I've got a swollen head
for I am proud to have been raised
In a town I've always loved and praised

My work has taken me far and wide
to places only dreamt of as a child
but now I'm back home from the great rat race
To gradely folk - in a gradely place!


Uploaded by Anthony Coppin, Garstang, Lancashire, UK
March 25, 2018

A Facebook page called "Dodding Stories" has been set up for people to share their memories about James. Please visit Facebook and type Dodding Stories into the search / site box.


The following tribute appears on the website of the Rose Bruford College (March 26 2018).

James Dodding (1931 - 2018)

The College was saddened to learn of the death on 25 March 2018 of James Dodding, who had very longstanding connections with the institution both as a student, teacher and board member, and with Rose Bruford herself.

James Dodding was made a Fellow of the College in 2012. He was Emeritus Professor of Theatre at Wake Forest University, USA, where he enjoyed a very notable career as a distinguished teacher. He was a theatre director and teacher at major drama schools and theatres in the UK, USA, Ireland, Malta, Belgium Hong Kong and Canada, including the National Theatre School of Canada and McGill University in Montreal.

For 17 years James was a writer and broadcaster of BBC programmes for children. He studied for the theatre at Rose Bruford College between 1956 and 1959 and with Ladislav Fialka in Prague and Marcel Marceau, both renowned mime artists.  He was the author of several books on mime for children and other publications as well as being an outstanding workshop leader in all facets of drama from mime to public speaking.

James Dodding always acknowledged that his talents as a performer, director of contemporary and classical plays, writer, speaker and teacher were aroused by his association with Rose Bruford, her college and the time he spent there. He gave an address at Rose Bruford’s memorial service at St Paul’s Covent Garden in June 1984.

Prominent former students whom James Dodding taught have included Tom Baker, David Bowie, Tom Hulce, Gary Oldman and Pam St Clement.

James was fondly remembered by many alumni who regularly invited him to join their reunions, with his last visit being in 2015. 

Our sincere condolences go to his family and friends.


This announcement was emailed to faculty and staff on March 27 by Wake Forest Communications and External Relations, and appears on the website of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA (March 27, 2018)

We are saddened to announce that James Dodding, professor emeritus of theatre, died March 25 in England.

Details about plans at Wake Forest to honor Professor Dodding are not available at this time, but will be announced later in various ways, including on the Inside WFU web site.

Professor Dodding joined Wake Forest’s Department of Theatre and Dance as a visiting lecturer and director in 1979 and continued his association with Wake Forest until 2008, when he last directed a play.  Although he retired as professor of theatre in 1998, he had continued to return to Wake Forest to direct many productions in the department.

Professor Dodding, who received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award at Wake Forest, was known internationally as a theatre director and teacher at universities and colleges in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere.  He also enjoyed a career as a performer, author, broadcaster and more.

We grieve Professor Dodding’s death and extend our condolences to his family and friends, as well as those at Wake Forest who had the opportunity to know him.


Dear web viewer,

Yes, welcome indeed.

This website aims to promote the work of our historical society as well promote interest in local history in Garstang and district.

There is plenty of history locally  - as witnessed by the recent rapid growth in numbers of people attending our monthly lectures.

We do our best to keep this website updated, but please note, there are some gaps and improvements still to be made. We only have a small organising committee and, to coin a relevant phrase.... Rome was not built in a day!

That said we will try to update / incorporate news and information and historical matters from time to time.

With good wishes

Peter Burrell,

Chairman, Garstang Historical Society
01995 601054

One of the latest issues which has attracted attention in our area is the ongoing work to repair the damaged 169-year-old Plover Scar lighthouse at Cockersand. One of our members has written on the topic for the Lancashire Local History Federation. His latest article is reproduced below.

Another topic which has aroused interest is a fascinating suggestion to bring back part of the old Garstang and Knott End Railway route. An article on that topic will appear on this website soon.


PLOVER SCAR LIGHTHOUSE: update (Late January / early February 2017)

Repair and reconstruction work is continuing on the 169-year-old Plover Scar lighthouse in the Lune estuary (see article in the November 2016 issue of LLHF newsletter).

The lighthouse off the north Lancashire coast (near Cockersand Abbey) was hit at night time by a large light (ie empty) cargo vessel en route to Glasson Dock in March last year.

Substantial damage was caused by the impact. The upper section of stone wall was nudged/shifted a third of a metre off-centre and metal strengthening bands around the lighthouse snapped. The impact also left a gap in the stonework which in rough seas and high tides would have meant more stones being dislodged, further threatening the stability of the structure.

An engineering inspection recommended the only method of repair to be the dismantling and rebuilding of a substantial part of the upper part of structure - an exercise complicated both by the movement of tides and the need for approvals from environmental regulatory bodies and the procurement of a Marine Licence.

Another issue which had to be considered was whether the work should be done using a spud barge (a specialised type of flat decked boat with legs, used for marine construction operations) or onshore. The latter option was chosen.

The lighthouse is owned and maintained by Lancaster Port Commission, based at Glasson Dock. Its website reports (January 4, 2017) "The project is taking longer than originally anticipated for two reasons. Firstly, due to the length of time it took to obtain the necessary licences and permissions, the contractors lost a considerable length of time when they could have been working during two low-tide periods per day in daylight, rather than the one they are now restricted to.

"Secondly, our only view into the internal structure before work began, was through a hole created at the impact site. From this view, it had been assessed that the centre of the structure was loose stone rubble fill. This has turned out not to be the case, as the stone rubble was actually set in concrete, which has had to be jack-hammered loose before removal. All this fill material has had to be hand-shovelled into tote bags, which have then been lifted by crane onto the seabed, awaiting re-use as the structure is rebuilt."

The lighthouse has been shrouded in scaffolding for the past few months, giving contractor MPM North West Ltd of Maryport the opportunity to carry out work when the tide is out.

Last October a crane carefully lifted the cast iron lantern off the "top" of the lighthouse. The lantern has been taken by trailer to Maryport for restoration work. The lantern did not contain any old lighting gear, prism lenses, etc.. Equipment of that nature was vandalised many years ago, and the lighthouse has used battery/solar-powered lighting in more recent years. Similar lighting, to maintain the statutory requirement for a lit navigational aid for shipping in the estuary, is currently attached to the temporary scaffolding.

Lancaster Port Commission says 229 stones have been removed from the structure, each of the stones being individually numbered before being lifted off. They have been laid out on the beach and dressed ready for re-use.

The onshore work has been carried out in a specially created compound on the car park overlooking the estuary as well as on the beach.

A suggestion from one quarter, at an early stage of the post-impact discussions, was that the damaged lighthouse be completely dismantled and permanently removed, and replaced with a simple, concrete tower with a navigation light on top. That idea was firmly rejected by Lancaster Port Commission which was determined to see the iconic structure restored to its pre-impact condition.

One interesting historic point discovered during pre-work research, and proved during the dismantling works, is that an extra casing of stones was added to the lower section wall nine years after the lighthouse was constructed in 1847.  This extra stone casing actually formed the lower walkway.

No definite date for completion of the current work has been announced, but Lancaster Port Commission is hoping it will be within the next two months.

The likely costs involved in the repair and reconstruction project have not yet been made public as legal and insurance issues have yet to be fully resolved.

* Report by Anthony Coppin, vice-chairman Garstang Historical Society

* Thanks to Helen Loxam, CEO of Lancaster Port Commission for assistance with this article.

* Photo courtesy Lancaster Port Commission.

* For more information about the ongoing work at the lighthouse visit www.lancasterport.org/news


e to the website of Garstang Historical and Archaeological Society.
The society was formed in 1965 to promote interest in historical subjects both local and national.
Lectures are arranged from September to April on a variety of topics.
Our meeting venue is Garstang United Reformed Church Hall.
This website was launched in early summer 2013 .... as it develops we hope to carry more news and information about historical goings on in this part of Lancashire as well as articles, some popular in tone, some slightly more academic, on matters of local historical interest in Garstang and district.
We will be inviting local historians such as Paul Smith, Brenda Fox, Ron Greenall and John Askew to contribute to this site.


ABOUT 40 members and friends of Garstang Historical Society took part in the group's summer outing on May 6 2014..

The trip was a combined coach and train journey taking in highlights of the Settle to Carlisle railway including Ribblehead Station, the nearby viaduct, Pendragon Castle, Hawes and Appleby.

The trip was led by rail historian David Alison, who last year gave a talk on the history of the Settle to Carlisle line, which prompted interest among Garstang Historical Society members for a trip on the line.

The first part of the trip was by coach, the second was a rail journey between Appleby and Settle. Mr Alison was thanked by society chairman Peter Burrell. The trip was organised by society treasurer Pat Hanger.

The 73 mile long railway line takes in vast tracts of scenic countryside in the north of England. In 1984 British Rail announced plans to close the line on cost grounds, but a five year fight by rail supporters resulted n the government saving the line in 1989.

Archive item (September 2013):
RIP: The society is sad to report the death on September 9 2013 of our much loved and respected treasurer Jean Porrit.
The society sends its condolences to her family.
A service was held at Garstang United Reformed Church on Friday, September 20, attended by family and friends.
The minister spoke of Jean's early years, her enjoyment of dancing, her marriage and family life and of her move to Garstang.
She was involved in several local groups as well as the historical society, including the Scottish Country Dancing society.
Following the service cremation took place at Lytham Crematorium.
Garstang Historical Society was represented at the funeral by several committee members, including chairman Peter Burrell and assistant treasurer Pat Hanger.
The society extends its condolences to Jean's family on their loss.

This website was created in early summer 2013.
Web design Google Sites.
Techy stuff/sorting out hosting Norman Hadley of Garstang (using Webfusion).
Answer: Eric Gill, one of the most controversial characters in the arts movement in Britain in the 20th century as well as the nation's best known typographers.
What is his connection to Garstang? Click here or on the photo to find the answer.