Chapter Five: Entertainment
As can be seen from Margaret Ashburner’s diary (chapter two), there was very little in the way of organised entertainment in old-time Ireleth. Most of the events were centred around the religious calendar, such as the Easter balls at Dalton which Margaret mentions. All this changed when Askam became established, with its rapid population growth and the influence of single men from around the country suddenly arriving to make a quick fortune, and more than likely to have a good time spending it.

Pubs and meeting places
Inns were increasingly common in English villages from at least the thirteenth century onwards, especially in villages such as Ireleth which lay on busy roads. However, up until the eighteenth century most ale was brewed and drunk at home.[1] All of Ireleth's pubs have now closed down, though Askam has managed to hang onto its pubs in spite of the demise of the steel industry.

The oldest pub in Ireleth was the Bay Horse, which is marked on the Dalton Parish Tithe Commutation map of 1842 as ‘beershop, cottages and garden’ owned by John Pearson. (The Bay Horse finally closed its doors in 2003, and is now converted into a private residence. This is a sad loss to village community which had already lost its Post Office and shop, and ends several centuries of continuous presence in Ireleth’s life and history.) The Travellers Rest, which was on Broughton Road between the Bay Horse and Ireleth School (next to Blea Beck) was at that time a homestead and garden, and so may have been converted some time after 1842 to take advantage of road traffic, possibly increased following the development of the turnpike in 1763.

Other pubs in Ireleth opened with the growth of Askam, and these include the Hare and Hounds (also known as the Brig Jerry) at what is now 248 Ireleth Road, and the Ship. Both of these have been converted into private residences. There are several pubs, beerhouses and off-licences operating from houses, but the location of many of these is now unknown.

In the 1882 Directory of Furness William Atkinson is listed as being "coal dealer and beerhouse, Victoria Vaults"; John Carson has "out-door ale and porter license"; Isabella Dixon has an "out-door license"; Joseph Lishman owns the beerhouse known as the Grey Horse; Hannah Smith is the "vict." at the Vulcan Hotel; Mary Smith has the beerhouse at the Furness Tavern; George Watkins is the "vict." at the London House.

In Bulmer's 1910/11 register, Henry Barker runs the Hare and Hounds beerhouse; Mrs Janet Crawley now has the London House; Thomas Dixon has the Bay Horse; Thomas Fell has the Vulcan; George Holmes runs an "off beer licence" on Crossley Street; John Jason Stewart runs the Ship Inn beerhouse; Thomas Stuart runs the Askam Hotel on the Lots; George Thexton runs the Black Dog; William Twiname runs the Farmers Arms; Edwin Williams not only ran the Furness Tavern but was also a painter and decorator; while Elizabeth Wilson now ran the Grey Horse, which is listed as being on Duddon Road; John Wilson (any relation?) ran the Victoria Vaults on John Street.

‘Ireleth village, with the Travellers Rest on the right, c. 1910. Jane Massicks was the licensee. Mrs Margaret Parker ran the sub-post office.’ Garbutt & Marsh, p. 156.

In recent years the K-Shoe Social Club has developed into the Duddon Social Club, and both Askam rugby and soccer clubs have club-houses at their grounds on Fallowfield Park and Duddon Road. There was a Conservative Club on Duke Street, which is now a private residence, though whether this operated as a bar or club I don’t know. The Cons is probably the building which was originally known as the Askam and Ireleth Unionist Club, which was built in 1897 on a block of land donated by the Duke of Devonshire.[2] In 1910/11 it contained a library, reading, billiard and games rooms and had a bowling green and miniature shooting range.[3]

Ireleth’s Temperance Hall, on Saves Lane, was built in 1872 by the Society of Friends (the Quakers) as a meeting house. This reflects Ireleth’s links with the Fells of Marsh Grange, which go back to the beginnings of Quakerism (see chapter six). Of course the ‘Temps’ never served alcohol, but it did act as a meeting place for many years, and I understand it had a snooker table — probably to act as an alternative attraction to the pubs. It is now mainly used as a venue for the local branch of the Women’s Institute and for meetings of the parish council.

There was a cinema in Askam for a short time, operated by Harry Barker. I understand that this was at the top of School Street, or around Marsh Street. I also believe that travelling cinemas would tour the country at the turn of the century; my grand-dad told me of one such show in a tent on Tudor Square at Dalton in about 1910, with the film projected onto the tent wall.

Organised sport only really arrived when Askam arrived, for a number reasons. Firstly, there are few level fields in Ireleth which could be used for playing fields. Although there are records of a village green, this has long since been built over. Secondly, many sports were only codified and recorded in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, at the same time that Askam was booming. Thirdly, the population of Ireleth alone was too small to organise teams of eleven, thirteen and fifteen people at a time.

Askam has, or has had, many sporting teams, including: the Rugby League Football Club; Askam Celtic Football Club; Askam Cricket Club; and a men’s hockey club.

There have also been a couple of bowling greens in Askam. I mentioned the one at the Cons Club above, and there was also one next to Dale Street, on the site now occupied by Dougie Lattimer’s garage. People tell me that this bowling club had a beautiful club house with a deep verandah. The current bowling green is on the old Askam School playing field next to the former Cub and Scout hut; it is dedicated to Dennis Jackson, the principal person behind its creation.

Since writing the original book I’ve come across many references to informally organised events such as whippet racing and hound trailing. The picture gallery has a photo of whippet racing (and a reference to horse shoe throwing competitions between Askam, Barrow and Millom steelworks) at the Vulcan Hotel.

Dances, carnivals and other entertainments
As with the other towns and villages in Furness, Askam has an annual parade. When this actually began I don’t know, though I do have a couple of photographs (one of which is reproduced right) of ‘Askam Rose Carnival 1931’, with my auntie Kathleen in a dance troupe.

Askam has had a Silver Band for many years. The photo further below shows the Askam band leading a parade up Ireleth hill, past the Bay Horse, to Ireleth Church for the Sunday school flower service in 1906.

In an article in The News of Friday, August 9, 1963, Mr Edward Walker is interviewed. He describes some of the entertainments of more recent years in Ireleth and Askam. Part of this article is reproduced below:

Mr. Walker, a sprightly 82-year-old, who lives at Askam View, has lived in the village all his life and as a boy attended the village school. Those must have been the grand old days for Mr. Walker, the days when step dancing was at the height of its popularity. Every quarter, a man called Staint Robinson used to come to the village from Lakeside and teach step dancing in the old Bondage Store at Askam, another building which long since suffered under the hands of the demolition crew.
Mr. Walker recalled with some pleasure and a touch of nostalgia, the old jockey, nigger and clog dances. But his favourite was the sailor’s horn pipe done the old way, with a man dressed up as a policeman, another as an old woman and a third as a sailor, and he says he could still do the dance today.
At the end of 12 weeks a ball was always given for all the villagers and the townspeople of Askam followed by a parade for the dancers, which often included tiny tots.
Mr. Walker has many treasured memories of the old village and is rather sorry to see so many of the local events and competitions become things of the past.
One contest he clearly recalls is the smoking competition which was held in one of the public houses. A small prize was awarded to the smoker which produced the best coloured clay pipe. This of course, could only be done by smoking the pipe until it seasoned.
At the time these contests were held, there were six ‘pubs’ in the village, Traveller’s Rest, Bay Horse, Brig Gerry, Ship Inn, Farmer’s Arms and The Railway. Today only two of them are in existence some of the others have been converted to houses.

‘A village band, possibly Askam, followed by the Boys Brigade, wends its way up the steep hill to Ireleth church for the Sunday school flower service in 1906. Askam and the Duddon estuary can be seen in the distance. The Askam Prize Band secretary was Thomas Satterthwaite. The Ireleth church vicar was the Revd T.A. Leonard and the curate the Revd G. Clayton.’ Garbutt & Marsh, p. 157.

Finally, there is the Askam Band Hall, home of the Askam town silver band for many years, as well as countless dances, discoes, birthday parties and wedding receptions.

1 Muir pp.147­50
2 Melville and Hobbs, ‘Askam: The modern settlement’, p.1
3 Bulmer, North Lonsdale Parliamentary Division, p.266.
4 Anon, The days when step dancing was the ‘craze’ in Ireleth, The News, August 9, 1963.