03 January, 2013
Lancaster's Ashton Memorial
The linoleum king, Lord Ashton wanted to build a Taj Mahal of the North, and, like the mogul emperor he thought he was, would dedicate it to his wife. But he liked it so much he kept it for himself. Lancaster Council says it's a folly but then Lancaster Council would know all about follys having got involved in Blobbyworld, and having responsibility for Morecambe. When you visit Lancaster you can see where all the money goes - It is to Lancaster and not the seaside resort of Morecambe. I just imagine when Lancaster councillors gained responsibility for Morecambe they saw it as a hostile takeover bid. No matter. The Ashton memorial is not a folly, it's a public shelter, viewpiont and an art gallery. The fact that it performs one of the functions of a folly and catches the eye does not make a thing a folly. In fact it catches the eye from many locations not least the M6 where it towers above the gloomy gothic of Lancaster Moor Mental Hospital and most of Lancaster. It was a rainy day when beloved and I visited. After one of the 'bus companies refused to take my plusbus ticket (but would take beloved's disabled pass) we had a fairly long walk in the rain to get to Williamson park as the other 'busses go nowhere near the park. Williamson park was built on old quarries and is the highest spot in Lancaster. It was laid out in 1877 as a public park and the monument was opened to the public in 1909. It was very welcome to have a dry and warm place to sit. There was nothing much on the ground floor but a marble floor, well polished, and a model of the memorial. There were supposed to be ceiling paintings but these were obscured by a cloth that covered the ceiling and was draped around the huge electrolier. Going upstairs on an elegant cantilevered staircase there were pictures on the walls and an upper room with stained glass windows that was used occasionally as an art gallery and fitted out with a projection booth for cinematograph shows at some time in the past no doubt. A notice stated that the viewing galleries were not open but this was only partially true as one of the decks was open, although it simply looked out over the back of the park. I would not have seen Cumbria anyway through the mist. I could hardly see Lancaster. After tea in the Lancaster Corporation Cafe (don't bother - not much choice and super costly) it was time to walk down the hill to the bus stop again.