Last News Letter available to members


Newsletter April 2018



Ken's Corner


Three things that never were


Three things that never were: the Culvert, the Summit, the Cattle market. Any dictionary will tell you that a culvert is a watercourse that has been covered over, which is not what we have in Burnley. We have an aqueduct, so why do we always call it a culvert.

What we call the Summit is obviously not at the top of Manchester Road, which is about a mile further up near the Waggoners' Inn. I think the name goes back to the tramways, when it was, indeed, at the highest point of the lines.

We have never had a cattle market to compare with those at Colne, Clitheroe or Haslingden. No doubt there was once an intention to create such a thing in central Burnley but it came to nothing and the site was a fairground from 1866 to 1949. Cattle were, of course, bought and sold in Burnley on fixed dates and in certain places along the roads: Brunshaw bottom, Trafalgar Street, Ashfield Road and Parker Lane. The latest such sale was in or about 1921.

Do other towns have anomalies like these? I expect they do.


Ken Spencer




Libraries under threat. No 28

Since 2010 at least 478 public libraries have closed in England, Wales and Scotland.
Since 2010 the number of books held by surviving libraries has dropped by 14m.
Since 2010 the number of librarians has been cut by 8000.Statistics released recently by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy showed that in the past 5 years loans of books have dropped by 25% and spending on public libraries by councils fell by £66m in 2016-17. Bear in mind that libraries are regarded in public spending terms as "fiscally insignificant" so that becomes an even larger amount.
Book loans to children since 2011 have fallen, as evinced by the following examples:
Birmingham - 32%
Newcastle - 25%
Sheffield - 56%
We wonder what the Lancashire figure would be?
As to the future, Northamptonshire the County Council is considering closing as many as 28 of the county's 36 libraries. In Bury, Manchester 10 of the 14 libraries are about to close and closures are looming in Cheshire, East Sussex, Anglesey, Shropshire and more.
[This information is taken from a "Guardian" article by John Harris on 15th December 2017]



Libraries under threat 29


Some UK libraries are looking at ways to increase borrower use. Trafford Council, for example, are abolishing library fines from April2018. They say that fines don't bring them in much money and, anyway, they are off-putting for the public. They feel that they can trust borrowers to return their books more or less on time and, if they don't, then they will be banned from borrowing anymore. We cannot see the LCC following suit, library fines having been somewhat of a sacred cow since the beginning of rate supported public libraries. Still, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this initiative.

We are more concerned about the lack of book security at the Central Library. Some years ago book losses were sufficient to persuade the powers -that- be to install airport style security gates which worked very well. But these were dispensed with when the "save staff time/get the readers to do the work/self service check out and in computer stations" were put in at all the larger libraries in the county. We imagine book losses have soared again.






Membership Secretary

Following the resignation of our long serving Membership Secretary Molly Haines, Roger Creegan has kindly volunteered to fill the vacancy and has now taken over. So any queries about membership matters can now be referred to him. He can be contacted at 01282 436542 or at


Libraries to be reprieved No. 2

Under the County Council's programme to reopen libraries recently closed
Burnley's Campus Library on Barden Lane has become the first in East
Lancashire. This is good news for those readers in the Colne Road area.
There are no signs, however, of any further re-openings in Burnley.
Just a thought. The 1972 Local Government Act was a disaster for our local libraries. Amongst other things it passed control of libraries to the County Council from the then County of Burnley. Since 1974, when the Act came into force, they have proved fairly conclusively that they have not risen to the occasion. Pre-1974 they ran an efficient library service in the large parts of the county which were not served by the medium and large municipal authorities like Burnley but they have failed to make the step up to controlling these larger library units as efficiently.Some authorities in Lancashire such as Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen have managed to opt out of the county run system of local government and have reverted to being, amongst other things, library authorities in their own right. Burnley joined with Pendle in applying for such a change, twice, but were turned down on both occasions by the government's decision that, even together, they were not large enough. There has been some talk recently about applying for unitary status as an East Lancashire unitary authority based on Burnley, Pendle and either Rawtenstall or Accrington
Perhaps the next chance might come with a change of government and then we could start to rebuild our library service, once one of our town's treasures, to its former status. If only……





Historical Society Publications

Until fairly recently stocks of Historical Society publications had been stored for many years at the Central Library.
For reasons which seemed good to the authorities there we then had to move them elsewhere. Fortunately our friends at the New Church were able to store them for us but now they have closed we are in difficulty again. We have now been offered storage space in the Town Hall basement which is where our book stock is now but we still need to reduce the numbers. The great majority of the volumes are copies of Bennett's History of Burnley, Parts III and IV. In previous times this would have been a slow but steady seller, mainly through the Central Library and the local bookshop (Badger Books), with reprints required only infrequently Both sales outlets are now closed to us so the number of volumes ,some 500, is an embarrassment. So, as an experiment, copies of Parts III and IV, which are currently priced at
£8.00 each, are being offered at £5.00 for the two - a saving of £11.00.
These are available as follows:
At our Society lectures

At Towneley Hall shop 

At Towneley Hall Society lectures

At The Weavers' Triangle Visitors Centre
At Nu-Age Productions, 289 Padiham Road,

So far the experiment is going well.


 Brian Hall

 As many of you will know, Brian Hall, our treasurer and Retrospect editor, has been in hospital for several weeks now recovering from a serious operation. 

Progress has been slow but Brian has been very positive throughout and this past week - March 8th/9th he has been able to start drinking and eating again after a long period of being "Nil by Mouth". Hopefully this will speed his recovery.

Brian would like to thank everyone for their cards and best wishes and hopefully it won't be too long before he's back with us.





Society Lectures


Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Dr Ali Ronan and Denise North
The Women's Peace Crusade 1917-18

This was a talk accompanied by a slide/film show outlining one of the many, alas, unfruitful attempts to achieve a negotiated peace in the midst of the World War I carnage.The majority of the women were from the working class and were led by a small number from the middle class with backgrounds in the suffrage, socialist and co-operative movements.
Their efforts by marches, meetings and propaganda eventually failed due to the refusal of the power obsessed leaders of the government to listen.
Locally the movement was very strong, especially in the Nelson area.
A moving way to commemorate November.

11th December, 2017

Annual General Meeting

After the usual 10 minute meeting to receive reports from officers, re-elect the said officers and decide NOT to increase the subscriptions until next year, the 20 or so of us settled down to listen to Edward Walton of the Burnley Civic Trust updating us about their progress in organising the Burnley Express photographic archive. They now have a home for this in the basement of the Town Hall and have made a start in assessing how to move the project forward, hopefully, with Heritage Lottery assistance. They are still looking for volunteers to help them, as outlined in the April 2017 Newsletter. Forgotten already? Not to worry. If you are interested in volunteering you can contact them at or get in touch with Edward Walton on 01282 426618 or at It sounds like something worth supporting.

Thursday, January 11th 2018


Brian Jeffery

Floods in Whalley

A fascinating talk by an accomplished speaker who suggested that Whalley's recent liquid problems are due, not especially to climate change, but to how the natives of that part of Lancashire have treated their landscape over the centuries.
Not enough trees, ill-advised fiddling with various water courses too many buildings, too much intensive agriculture, not enough flood plains and lack of political will!

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Douglas Jackson
Desperately seeking Joseph: the search for the English "Tiffany"

An extremely interesting account of a local lad ( well, fairly local) made good. Joseph Briggs of Accrington emigrated to America late in the19th century, got a job with Tiffany's the famous producers of Art Deco glassware and never looked back. He left his own collection of the best bits to his home town in the 1930's when Tiffany Glass was having a downturn in value. Now it is one of the most valuable collections of glassware in the world and lives in four rooms of the Haworth Art Gallery in Accrington.



Thursday, 8th March 2018


Alan Crosby

Turnpike roads and the landscape of Northern England


A government that doesn't care, a road system in ruins - sounds familiar? Only this is England in the 16th century not the 21st. And

then someone had a good idea and many major roads were turned into turnpike or toll roads. Pay a fee and we we will fill in the pot holes! And a bit later on, the idea having caught on, new turnpike roads were built with just as many curves as the old roads but with fewer gradients, just the thing for horses pulling heavy loads.

The above is just a taste of Dr. Crosby's talk on turnpike roads, intensely knowledgeable, relevant to today and expertly delivered.





Roger Frost

We were pleased to read in the Burnley Express of 23rd February, as part of an article on the history of shopping in Burnley by Roger, who is one of our Vice-Presidents, that he is at last feeling quite a bit better after his serious illness. Good news indeed. He felt well enough to go to Preston recently in search of a good bookshop. These have, of course, long disappeared from Burnley. Whilst there he visited Preston Library. Here is what he wrote:

"I made my way to Preston's town centre library… When I got there it seemed to me that the recent cuts in the County Council's library provision had not applied to Preston. In my home town the LCC has closed whole floors of library space, moving the Local Studies/Family History Library into a dark corner of the lending library. Not so in Preston. There was still a little shop, selling local history and heritage items in the entrance and it appeared to be fully staffed.

Surely this is not right. If there have to be cuts they have to be spread equally through the county"


New Venue


Most members seem to find the premises at St. John's acceptable but there have been murmurs about the heating and the fact that the room is in need of some redecoration.

Fr. Waters has been very helpful with regards to the heating and has provided supplementary heating in the form of fan heaters etc and the heating level has improved.

The hall has now been redecorated (nothing to do with us, it was due anyway) and looks much brighter and welcoming.


Readers' Letters


Many newspapers and periodicals run a "Letters Page" where readers can comment on either items in the paper or can initiate a correspondence about something which might interest other readers. We don't do this very often although when one of our members does (and we are thinking about Ramon Collinge and the Cliviger poem) interest is shown and further information is forthcoming. We would like to encourage this so "think on" and either write or email the editor. You can even complain about the Newsletter!.



 Lecture Programme 2018 - 2019


September 13th 2018

Rev David Wiseman

Transported: the story of two Burnley boys

October 11th

Dr David Johnson  

Old Inns of the Yorkshire Dales  

November 8th 

Denise North


December 13th






January 10th 

Harold Hoggarth

There's a famous seaside place called.... A brief history of Britain's most famous seaside resort, where many of us spent childhood holiday and which was "noted for fresh air and fun. 

February 14th 

Brian Jeffrey

The 1643 English Civil War Battle at Read Bridge and Whalley.

March 14th

Isobel Stirk

Charles Dickens: His life and works.  The lecture tells of Charles Dickens' life and how his own experience, and circumstances and lives of those he observed and the social conditions of that time influenced his writing.

April 11th  

Hylton Craig

The River Irwell from source to sea