Burnley Historical Society

News and Views


Burnley Express Photographic Negative Archive



Members will recall reading about this Civic Trust/Burnley Express project in the April 2017 Newsletter. It has now been announced that this project has received a £32,400 Heritage Lottery grant which will help to  see that old images from the Burnley Express are digitized and made available to the wider community. Anyone wanting further information or who may be interested in becoming a volunteer for the Civic Trust can email burnleycivictrust @gmail.com or visit www.burnleycivictrust.org.uk


A final  commemoration of the Great War


A little while ago we were sent an email from a lady who lives in the south of England but who had family connections in Padiham. It had an attachment containing a copy of a letter published in 1915/16 in the Padiham Advertiser concerning her grandfather George Victor Mitchell who, at the time, was serving in the 1/15th London Regiment, 47th Division, and which contained a transcript of part of his war diary, being an interesting fragment of life in the trenches.

This account was sent to the newspaper by someone identified only by his initials. This has been a mystery to George Mitchell’s family ever since. Who was J.W.B.H and how did he get hold of part of the diary which George sent to his mother at the end of the war?. Anyway, now read on……..





To the Editor of the Padiham Advertiser


Dear Sir,

As so many of our Padiham lads are shortly going to the front, perhaps the following extract may be of general interest. They are from a letter written by Pte, Victor Mitchell, City of London Regt., son of C.P.O. George Mitchell, late of the Grand Theatre, and H.M.S Cressey, Pte. Mitchell comes of a fighting family, his father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather (the latter was taken by the press gang) having served their country on land and sea. On the day following the outbreak of war he left the Civil Service and volunteered for active service -

Yours faithfully



"I am writing this in the reserve trenches about 50 yards behind the firing line and 180 yards from the Huns. We had an eleven miles march on Wednesday down to the base for the section of the firing line, and yesterday we came into the trenches and for all the excitement there I might as well be in Burnley"

He describes the march to the trenches as

"A pleasant stroll under the summer sun, and the only signs of war were the old trenches on either side of the canal, where the Germans were in January, a few wrecked houses and the sound of an occasional rifle shot or gun. We were distributed amongst the Guards when we got into the position and I am with two fellows who have been through the whole affair without a scratch, and without any leave either."

After describing the trench and their shelter he continues;

"The three of us were rather cramped in there, and the thing that stopped us sleeping was the cold, I could hardly feel my legs and feet when we stood to arms at 3:30 am.  Just as we were going to turn in about 11:00 pm on Thursday night one of the Guards and myself were called for a fatigue party to carry ammunition to the firing line. There were six of us and we had to carry 6 boxes - one each. They were awfully weighty, and the journey to the firing line through a winding slimy communication trench was not very pleasant. It is quite a Brocks' firework display at night you know, star lights and rockets going up every minute, and one fell close to us as we were going along a shallow part of the trench, and brought a bullet whirring over us. "J" and myself got our boxes up to the line and handed them over and started going back. We met one of the Guards absolutely done, he couldn't carry his box any further, so we took it from him and carried it 50 yards along the firing line, and then went back to our own trench - some game I can tell you".

He tells how a sniper tried to "pot" them during the night, and continues:

"At 7 a.m. we made our breakfast - tea, fried bacon, and dog biscuit. One of our aeroplanes appeared about then flying over the German lines and we could see the shrapnel bursting round him but he was not hit. At 7:30 I was detailed for a fatigue party to clear a communication trench which was water-logged. I was served out with a pair of rubber thigh boots and then we went to this trench with spades, scoops, and a pump, and worked there all the morning with an occasional bullet from snipers whistling over our heads. Bully beef, dog biscuit, jam and tea for dinner, but we don't eat much of the bully beef. I filled a water bottle in the afternoon and an exciting game it was. The pump is at a ruined house in full view of the Germans about 175 yards away, and to get it we had to --------------. One Irish Guardsman has been killed there and a few wounded; only one bullet whizzed past us though while we were there. It beats me why we were not killed. I should never have thought of going there unless I had seen the Guards going there, although there are several of them who won't go. We had thunder and heavy showers during the afternoon and "Little Willies" were fairly numerous, although they passed above our heads not being aimed at us. We were relieved at 6 o'clock and came back here, arriving at 8:30 p.m. We had an aeroplane scare on the way back and had to fall out and lie down till it passed over. We were very tired when we got back, very wet, and covered in mud from head to foot. We had some good "gipper" and then to bed until 7 o'clock this morning".





Appeal from Burnley Film Makers


One of our members, Mike smith, is the Secretary of Burnley Film Makers (also known as Burnley Cine Society) a group even older than the Historical Society and they have a project trying to collect old films about Burnley so that they can convert them to digital and so prolong their life. They are particularly keen to find a copy of a film they made in 1951,presumably about the Festival of Britain in Burnley and of which they no longer have a copy. They know about the Sam Hanna films but they are anxious to see any other films made by people or organizations in the past. These could be old cine films or films that were shot on early video cameras and on Betamax or VHS video tape, including home movies but particularly of events in Burnley which they would then put on their website. Films ect copied would be returned to their owners

If you have anything of interest please contact Mike. His email address is mikepsmith@yahoo.co.uk



A new local history book of interest


Ball, Richard


Five kings: the story of Brunanburgh. 2018.


 Pennine Publications. 2018.  £8.99.+ £2.00p&p  ISBN 978-1-64370-095-3.


This is the story of one of the greatest battles in British history fought in 937 between the English under king Athelstan (a grandson of King Alfred) and an allied army led by a Viking King of Dublin and two Scottish kings and is said to be the battle that defined England as one kingdom under one ruler. It is often cited as the point of origin for England as a nation and a victory that preserved England's unity.

 Unfortunately, all accurate description of its location have been lost and it continues to be a famous historical mystery This book covers the many candidates for the site, including an area just to the east of Burnley and this is discussed at some length. Also described are the lead up to the battle, the battle itself and its aftermath.


The book can be obtained online from www.mybestseller.co,uk




Thursday, 8th November, 2018 


Denise North


"Yours in the dark"

(Joel Lee Clark, 12th Btn, K.O.Y.L.I.)


A touching memoir of an ordinary lad's life and times, up to and including his army experiences which, alas, came to an abrupt end in April 1918 helping to repel Ludendorff's final and unsuccessful offensive. This brings to a close our Chairman's interesting lecture series on the Great War.







Thursday, 11th October, 2018


Dr. David Johnson


Old inns of the Yorkshire Dales


A very interesting talk on the historic differences between ale and beer and also between varieties of ancient hostelries and who was likely to frequent inns or taverns or alehouses. nd all supplemented by illustrations of old inns in Cravendale. Some are still there, some still there but in a different guise and many others no longer with us.


Thursday, 30th September 2018



Dr. Christopher Fitz-Simon


Tyrone Guthrie in World War II: from Dunkirk to Burnley


This lecture was given at Burnley Central Library as part of the Burnley Literary Festival 2018 and was attended by a round dozen of persons, including the speaker and some of his family.

We always knew that Burnley is somewhat of a cultural desert, this just proves it! The publicity wasn't good either and the enthusiasm of Burnley Historical Society members rather muted. Ah well, can't win them all!

The talk itself was very interesting and brought to life Burnley's small part in helping to preserve the artistic life of the country in World War II

Thursday, 13th September, 2018


David Wiseman


Transported: the story of two Burnley boys


In 1840 two young men from Burnley stole a few items of clothing etc. and were sentenced to be transported to Australia for 10 years. Luckily they both survived the land prisons, the prison hulks, the voyage to the other side of the world and the 10 years of semi-slavery ,to the extent of writing to relatives trying to persuade them to emigrate and join them. And, finally, leaving behind them the start of a new family, the descendants of which now number several hundred.

This was an interesting story well told by the speaker, the well known historian of the Burnley Football Club and himself a member of the same family as the boys.


Royal Exchange Theatre



On July 25th. members of the society enjoyed the second Summer visit of the year with

a trip to The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Two well informed guides led a conducted tour of the theatre and described some of the unusual features. The guides then talked about the history of the building and again pointed out many of its features. A tour behind the scenes followed including the wardrobe department and the wigs and make-up department where the people running them described their work and showed examples of what is produced. Refreshments were then provided with the guides answering questions asked by the members. An enjoyable and extremely interesting visit.




Dan Snow' History Tour


The well known TV presenter Dan Snow will be conducting a country wide History Tour during 2018-19. His talk will feature anecdotes and experiences from his career as a broadcaster and historian and will include facts and stories relating to each town visited.

He will visit Burnley Mechanics on March 9th, 2019.

Sounds interesting. We wonder which Burnley stories will feature!

added 24/07/2018 


New venue for meetings

As mentioned in the August 2016 Newsletter, we are leaving the New Church
at the end of this season. We have now found a new place for future meetings
from September 2017 onwards. This will be the Parish Rooms at St. John the
Baptist church on Ivy Street. It should be very good as the hall is the size we
want with the requisite number of chairs, kitchen and toilets. There is also a
large car park just outside the hall so no more on street parking.
Many members will already know where St. John's is but if you don't it is just
off Briercliffe Road. If you are coming from the Prairie it is on the left the next
street past Brennand St. If you are coming from the Centre it is on the right
just after Newman St and the LIdl traffic lights. Turn right at the pelican
crossing, When you turn into Ivy St. the car park entrance is immediately on
your right. The entrance to the Parish Rooms is at the far end of the car park
through a pair of large metal gates. The Parish Rooms are then just on your
If you are still not sure you can always Google "St. John the Baptist church,
Ivy St., Burnley" and you will get a street map with the church marked.

added 11/02/2017


If you are interested in online social networking services or even if you are not why not try our Facebook page. This is edited by Philip Cregan and people with access to Facebook and, if not, it is easy to log on to it, will receive updates about the Society and other local history news. The page is proving very popular having now attracted over 200 "likes". Phillip has asked members to send him photographs and information by email.
Find us on Facebook at "Burnley and District Historical Society"


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 rmcreegan@btinternet.com


added april 2017



When Thompson Park opened in July 1930 it was different to the other parks in the town. You could hire a boat on the lake, paddle in the pool on a sunny day, queue for a turn on the high - and no doubt dangerous - slide in the children's playground and end the afternoon with a cup of tea in the Pavilion Cafe, run by the Cece family who were famous in Burnley for their ice cream.

Money to build the park came from James Witham Thompson, a wealthy cotton manufacturer, who left £50,000 in his will for Burnley Corporation to purchase the Bank Hall Estate and make a park for people to enjoy. He was 77 years old when he was knocked down by a motor cycle in May 1920 but building the park had to be delayed for eight years because of fears that the land may be affected by subsidence from all the mining that had taken place in the area, and work did not start until the autumn of 1928.

Arthur Race, the Borough Surveyor, is credited with designing Thompson Park, which has many features in common with Stanley Park in Blackpool. Stanley Park was designed in the early 1920s by the firm of Thomas Mawson, who was a well-known Edwardian landscape architect. Mawson was also responsible for making a new park in Barrow-in-Furness during the time that Arthur Race was Surveyor there in the early 1900s and quite possibly the two men met at that time.

The Boat House, Lodge and Pavilion in Thompson Park all have interesting Art Deco features and the conservatory was an attractive glasshouse where sub-tropical plants were grown - another first for the Burnley Parks. An elegant Italian Garden and well-stocked Rose Garden were also popular features in the new park.

Sadly, in the post-war period the park began to suffer from neglect and vandalism and lack of money to make repairs. In the 1970s the conservatory was demolished, the cafe was closed and motor boats were taken from the lake. Like most Councils, Burnley had not the funds to look after its parks properly and eventually even the columns from the Italian Garden had to be removed for safety reasons.

However, there was one new feature which brought visitors to the park. In 2001 the Burnley and Pendle Miniature Railway Society began constructing a railway near the Colne Road entrance, on the site of the Open Air School. This has proved a popular attraction over the years for children of all ages.

After a successful application for funding, Thompson Park received £861,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2017 which allowed work to start on restoring the original features in the Grade II listed park, which had a second Opening Ceremony in August 2018. The Pavilion has been beautifully restored, the Italian Garden is once more an elegant space, and the new, colourful children's playground is just as popular - and far less dangerous - than the original one.

Do you have memories of visiting Thompson Park as a child, or later as a parent? The Bank Hall project team are collecting memories for inclusion in their archive and if you would like to share your memories of the park please get in touch with me either at one of the Society's lectures or by e-mail to Raymond Pickles at hustheck@yahoo.co.uk

Molly Haines