Leek is the principal town of the Staffordshire Moorlands and the most important centre on the south western edge of the Peak District. It stands on a hill in a large bend in the River Churnet and is locally known as 'The Queen of the Moorlands'. The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'Lec' but there was certainly a settlement here well before that because the churchyard contains two crosses - one is in Mercian style but is damaged and can be dated to the 10th century while the other is a magnificent 11th century Norse style cross. In the late 18th and 19th centuries the town changed from a sleepy market town to a centre of silk weaving and several large mills were constructed, one of which can be seen looming above the road to Macclesfield. Leek boomed and the population multiplied during this time but nothing now remains of the silk industry in Leek. The town still has a lively shopping centre and a market every Wednesday and is a good centre from which to explore the south and west of the Peak.
Neil Collingwood was born in 1956 in Leek, Staffordshire (where he now lives) although most of his life has been spent in Newcastle-under-Lyme. He developed an interest in local history following a period working as a Museum Attendant at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Museum after obtaining a degree in Applied Biology. He soon discovered the archive collection of old photographs that the Museum held and asked for permission to catalogue them on computer (up to that point there was only a handwritten paper list of about 1,500 photos). After his fixed-term contract ended he remained working as a volunteer archivist at the Museum for about 7 years and catalogued a lot more of the archive besides the photographs. He has had two previous local history photo books published and also an Atlas of the Dragonflies of Staffordshire. He has done many slide-talks on Newcastle-under-Lyme using both old photos and his own and have also delivered a couple of lectures at the Museum on using and dating old photographs to people on local history courses. He is probably now an authority on photos of Newcastle.
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