Memory Lane: Childhood tales of Victorian mill life

Allen Clarke as a child
Allen Clarke as a child
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MUCH has been written about radical thinker Allen Clarke, who made his home here on the Fylde coast more than a century ago, becoming one of Lancashire’s most celebrated dialect poets.

He coined the nickname Windmill Land for this part of the English countryside, and was even inspired to write a book of that name back in 1916.

Milltown Mischief by Allen Clarke

Milltown Mischief by Allen Clarke

Now his Marton-based granddaughter Shirley Matthews has ensured his Bolton childhood has come back to life by lovingly compiling a host of Allen’s original stories to create Milltown Mischief: True Tales of Daring & Adventure in Victorian Bolton.

Shirley says: “The book came together as a way of showing the real life of children in Victorian England. It is Allen’s adventures in an industrial town and his time spent as a half timer in the cotton mill as a child.

“It shows the friendships formed by Allen and his chum, the brutish Midge, as they faced the thundering mills and the even greater contrast of the brief respites taken to the seaside on the crude railway of that time.

“Allen manages to show Victorian Lytham and Blackpool in the 1800s as a holiday destination and the atmospheric backdrop of an older Fylde.

“His descriptions of the characters are set firmly in that era. As he puts it, ‘The weft of the loom is like the woven thread of Bolton and Blackpool that will live in my heart forever’,” says Shirley.


WHILE you can laugh at some of the daring escapades of young Allen and his rough-and-tough best mate Midge, it is important to remember that these are not fictional tales of little lads getting up to mischief.

Rather, they are original stories which have stood the test of time and, brought together by Shirley, are ready to be shared with a wider audience.

The book is published by Palatine Books at £7.95, available from booksellers or direct from the publishers at or on (01524) 840111.