Bolton Road, Ashton
Part of Group:
At Risk: No
“Throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries, Lily Farm was occupied by the Mather family. During the latter years of WWII Italian POWs from the nearby Garswood Park camp were put to work at the Farm and assisted in the construction of a Dutch barn. A member of the family recalled many years later that:
“Every day they were brought in a truck. My family would not allow them in the house but confined them to a dusty, dirty outhouse where they ate their lunch. One Monday when the weather was foul and they could not work on the barn they sat around in the outhouse. It so happened that that was where my mother did the Monday wash. This particular Monday my mother was further harassed by the presence of the Italian prisoners. They sat on the troughs which contained the animal feed. They even sat on the boiler where the clothes were bubbling merrily. Mother's nerves were getting more and more frayed. However when lunchtime arrived her heart was melted. The overseer arrived and handed out to each one half a loaf and one sardine. Some of the men made a hole in the middle of the bread and stuffed the sardine inside. To quench their thirst they were told to fill up their tin cups from the tap in the outhouse. This was covered in spiders' webs. Among the group was Carlo from Milan. He could just not bring himself to drink from this tap. He was heartsick. From that moment on my mother took them all under her wing. In fact her kindness to them was talked about back home which led the postmistress from Naples, one Gilda Crisci, to write to her up to Mother's death in 1966...
Sometimes tempers flared as they worked on the barn. One day there was an almighty racket at the top of the farmyard. One young Italian thought himself a cut above the rest. To dig a hole for the Dutch barn supports was quite beneath him so he had lounged about all day. When the overseer returned in the evening he realised what had happened so the young Italian was made to dig. The rest of the gang stood around taunting him and blowing cigarette smoke into his face. This so enraged the young man that he went into a frenzy. He had a good command of English and when Grandad went out to find the cause of the commotion he screamed, “I work, he shout. I'll smash heez bloddy face in with theez shovel””.
In recent years, the original farm buildings have either been demolished or adapted for residential use. Only the South Barn appears -at least from the outside- much as it would have done originally. Additional new housing has been built on land south-west of the farmyard, and what was formerly an unmade access track from Bolton Road is now “Lily Farm Croft”.”
Text and images provided by the Makerfield Rambler