Female pioneers are celebrated in a new booklet about ‘amazing women’ who lived close to the Mid-Cheshire (Chester to Manchester) and Calder Valley railway lines (Manchester-Leeds).
The free booklet – which can be downloaded here – aims be a starting point to explore the North’s history and attractions by rail.
Outstanding women from Cheshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire feature including authors, politicians, singers, reformers, political activists and business women.
The booklet includes write-ups and illustrations about the women as well as information about nearby attractions, some of which, like the women, are described as ‘hidden gems waiting to be discovered’.
Jointly produced by the Mid-Cheshire Community Rail Partnership, Friends of Littleborough Station and Community Rail Lancashire with support from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, the booklet includes famous Northern women.
Among those featured is the late June Williams (nee Mottershead), a zookeeper and daughter of Chester Zoo founder George Mottershead, who passed away at the age of 88 in 2015.
June helped shape the very fabric of the zoo and, in her younger years, was the face of the zoo with George using her time and again for publicity shots.
She provided the material for the 2014 BBC1 Our Zoo drama series, about the history of the zoo, engaging with scriptwriters and acting as a consultant.
Historical figures include novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, from Knutsford, author of ‘North & South’, notable for her biography of friend Charlotte Brontë.
Less well known, but equally extraordinary women, are also included like Elizabeth Raffald (1733-1781), a businesswoman and writer from Northwich , and Mary Fildes (1789-1876), a political activist and an early suffragette, who was one of the protagonists at the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester. She later moved to Chester where she settled down as the owner of the Shrewsbury Arms.
Beautifully sketched illustrations of many of the women are by Cheshire artist Nicky Thompson and the booklet has been researched by historian Richard Lysons who offers information on where and how to do further research and follow-up reading.
Sally Buttifant, Mid-Cheshire community rail partnership officer, said: “When you are sitting on a train it is not easy to appreciate what lies just beyond the station. Following the success of last summer’s 1930s-style posters along the Chester to Piccadilly line, we wanted to find another way of encouraging people to step off the train and explore hidden histories, whether people’s lives or places.
“This eclectic mix of amazing women, who embody courage, intelligence, femininity and passion, was too good not to explore but so was the chance to highlight fantastic attractions along the rail line, such as Manchester’s fascinating Victoria Baths, Rochdale’s Pioneers Museum, Burnley’s Gawthorpe Hall and Hebden Bridge’s Heptonstall Museum.
"In Cheshire, Elizabeth Gaskell’s house (Knutsford), the Anderton Boat Lift and Lion Salt Works in Northwich and Chester Zoo are also highlighted.”