My Home Town Quality Web site Award, Awarded August 2001, click the image to visit My Home Town.
Hyndburn online review in May 2001 gave the site 7/10. Web site is now defunct - http://www.btinternet.com/~hyndburn/featurerishton.htm.
As featured in the October 2001 edition of Lancashire Life Magazine... This is the full article wrote by Marie Clapham, with photos by Bill Wilkinson.
We report on the small East Lancashire town that has built a fantastic virtual community.
Main picture: Rishton in bloom
Below: The commemorative plaque to Sir Ernest Marsden
Opposite below: Paul Wilkinson, creator of the website
IT’S a town that could never be accused of being flash or glamorous. In fact, you could say that Rishton is an unremarkable place. It lies between Blackburn and Accrington, has a population of only 9,000 and like many of the towns in this area, has seen its industries, from coal mining and weaving to brick making, slowly fade away. Yet it is this seemingly insignificant part of the county that has inspired perhaps the best community website in Lancashire and it is all the work of one man.
Paul Wilkinson has made it his mission to produce an unrivalled resource for his home town on the internet. Residents can learn about their history, keep in touch with the people and events of today and be a part of this ‘online community’.
The idea for the site came after Paul heard many stories about the Rishton of yesteryear from his friend Mr Parson who owns a printing firm in the town. After listening to tales of 50 years ago and looking at old pictures, he was surprised at the wealth of history. Did you know, for example, that Rishton was home to the very last hangman in Britain? Harry Allen became the chief executioner in 1956 when Albert Pierrepoint retired. Or that local resident Captain Robert Petre won the Grand National in 1946? And Sir Ernest Marsden, a pioneer in experiments which led to the birth of the atomic bomb was born in Rishton and a plaque on Hermitage Street commemorates his work.
By taking the past as his starting point, Paul (who has completed a two year computer course) built a website to rival that of many cities. The in-depth information includes the geology, industry, leisure, sport, schools and churches of Rishton, providing a permanent record of this little town. Even better, this is also somewhere for the residents to share their stories or simply find out everyday information like where to get shoes repaired, it is constantly updated and expanded and the sky’s the limit.
You can read about the ‘great snow’ of 1940 when the roads were completely blocked and the snow was as high as a bus, or about the reputed poltergeist activity that centred around one particular house during the 1970s. Walkers can explore Rishton and the surrounding area by following the guide for the ‘three towns ramble’ or ‘mill walk’. If that’s too strenuous, there’s a full list of pubs and clubs for rest and relaxation. And if you subscribe to the newsletter, you won’t miss a trick as it is circulated by email whenever something new is added to the site.
Above: The Leeds and Liverpool canal runs through the town
Amazingly, Paul did all this single handedly and with no funding. It took ten months to get the first pages up and running and he used every spare minute to do research at the local library, take pictures of the town or talk to residents about their life in Rishton. Once the word spread about the site, he found people stopping him in the street to ask about buildings or places and giving feedback on his work.
‘People email me from around the globe as well.’ he says ‘Some asking for specific sites in Rishton, some for their histories and others with great little stories. The website is almost growing on its own.’
And it doesn't stop here, Paul has big plans for the future.
‘The aim now is to totally complete the history of Rishton, as well as keeping it up to date. I would like to add a community no where people can say their own thing, or place a local advert.’
He is also hopeful that, along with the local fundraising groups that are springing up in the area, his website will encourage people to exchange ideas, chat and use local services to keep Rishton alive and vibrant. ‘I like to think of it as putting the community into the 21st century.’ Perhaps residents of similar towns will follow his lead.
• You will find the site at www.rishton.org