Burnley Historical Society

News and Views




On Saturday, 12th July, a blue plaque was unveiled commemorating Dr. Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1789 – 1826) on the wall of the Memorial Gardens outside St. John’s Church, Holme- in- Cliviger. The plaque was jointly produced by the Burnley Civic Trust and Cliviger Archives and financed from the fund from the Long Causeway wind farm. Roger Frost (Chairman of the Civic Trust ) performed the unveiling at the same time outlining some of the many achievements of Dr. Whitaker who was largely responsible for the building of St. John’s and who was, in fact, the priest there from 1797 until his death in 1821.

The blue plaque to local author, Eric Halsall, famous for his role in the television series, One Man and His Dog, which had formerly been here was moved and placed on the wall of The Ram Inn, directly opposite. It was thought that as Chairman of the Lonk Sheep Association and the man who had been largely responsible for bringing the Lonk Sheep Fair to Cliviger this was a more suitable position. (The fair took place for many years in the field at the side of The Ram Inn but, since Eric’s death, has now moved to a site in Westmorland).

Historical Society Members might like to know that St. John the Divine Church, one of the area’s most historical old churches whose history goes back as far as the Reformation will be open to visitors on Saturday, 13th September, from 11 am. until 2 pm. as part of the town’s Heritage Week. As this coincides with the annual Scarlett’s Stride Walk, Church House, next to the school, will be open serving both hot and cold refreshments for most of the day.

The text reads:



(1759 – 1821)

Clergyman, magistrate, author of four local

histories, including those of Whalley, Craven

and Richmondshire, Winner of the Gold

Medal of the Society of Arts, Builder

of the Church of St. John the Divine,

Cliviger, 1794, appointed

Minister there, 1796




 Medical Bulletin



Members will be glad to know that both Ken Spencer and Brian Hall are on the mend. Ken is nearly back to his old self without knowing exactly what has been the matter with him and has just celebrated his 91st (?) birthday with friends.

Brian is also a lot better but still has a troublesome kidney stone which needs to be dealt with which means a return to hospital at some time.


Summer Visits


June 3rd, 2019


St. Leonard's Church, Padiham


Eight stalwarts turned up to tour this church to the relief of our Secretary. Not a very notable building but we had a very pleasant visit and an enthusiastic guide who took us round the main features which included an outstanding collection of Victorian stained glass, a medieval baptismal font given to the church in a previous foundation by the last abbot of Whalley, before he met his untimely end at the hands of that friend of all abbots HenryVIII, and some quite enormous banner poles. And so to tea and biscuits.


Weavers' Triangle Visitor Centre


The Visitor Centre has re-opened for the summer and will be open on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 2.0pm to 4.0pm until the end of September and on Saturdays and Sundays in October.

This year there is a temporary exhibition about Victoria Mill, telling about its history and restoration to become part of the University of Central Lancashire's Burnley Campus. There is also a display of images from the Civic Trust's Burnley Express Photographic Archive,

The Visitor Centre is badly in need of more volunteers. If you think you can help, please contact Brian Hall at the Visitor Centre or by telephoning 01282 453007, preferably in the evening.



Libraries to be reprieved .No. 3


Pike Hill Library is the second of Burnley's many libraries closed recently to re-open. It opened its doors again on Wednesday 20th April 2019. The hours of opening are as before. This is something to be applauded but we do wonder why it had to be closed in the first place, how much this activity cost, both the closing down and the re-opening and why Pike Hill was chosen rather than Briercliffe Library, which was the better used of the two and the one furthest from another library. No sign of any reprieve for Rosegrove Library either yet.






Thursday, April 1th, 2019-04-17

Hylton Craig

The River Irwell: from source to sea.

An interesting account of a major Lancashire river as it meanders from Deerplay on the moors above Bacup through many villages , towns and cities. It goes from life as a small pond to pouring its flood into the Manchester Ship Canal.

The speaker showed many and varied slides of buildings en route.



Victoria Theatre, Burnley


Following Dr. Fitz-Simon's visit to Burnley and his recent talk about the stay here of the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells companies during the war, the plaque commemorating this event went missing recently but has now been tracked down to a wall in the former Reference/Music Library/Crib which is on the first floor of the Central Library and which is now closed to the public. The Historical Society are trying to find a more suitable and more accessible home for it.


Summer visits

Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley St., Manchester

Tuesday, July 30th 2019 at 11.00 a.m.

If 20 people come on this visit it will cost £4.00. If less than 20 it will cost more.

Please let Stephen know by June 1st if you would like to go on this visit.


Tel 01254 491295


66 Langdale Road, Blackburn BB2 5DW


Ramon Collinge


Censuses are an invaluable tool in local history research and I was quite interested when I opened the 1881 census for Worsthorne. This is the first census where the street names in the village are mentioned and some of the ones given were a little surprising.

Bottin Road was obviously the way Extwistle Road was described and I knew that The Old Parsonage was the name given to Wallstreams. When St. John's Church was consecrated in 1835, the first vicar, Rev. William Thursby, continued to live at the family home, Ormerod House, whilst the much appreciated curate, Rev. Daniel Sutcliffe, occupied Wallstreams (1851 census) until he was appointed Vicar of Cliviger in 1860. Bottom Parson Fold must also have been connected to this property.

What is now known as Captain's Cottage is listed as Captain's Farm with36 acres; presumably this spread up the moor behind the present cottage, but it would be interesting to have a few more details. The same goes for Stocks Nook, close by.

Higgin Street is a short, narrow street that runs behind the row of village shops in the Square. In this census there is only mention of (John) Higgin Houses, possibly referring to the owner. But of interest to Wesleyans is the entry for No. 6 Higgin Houses; interesting because it is a joiner's workshop and when the Wesleyan movement first came to Worsthorne, aided by the Wesleyans from Mereclough, they met in a joiner's cottage, Chadwick's, on Higgin Street before renting a room in the Old Hall when their numbers grew.

One of the great surprises for me was the mention of a Town Gate, using the Old English word, gate in the sense of street. This, I concluded, must be the name given to the present Ormerod Street, and was confirmed when I saw The Red Man and Red Man Row included there. But which was Bottom of Town Farm? Was it Greenwood's Farm or Butcher's Farm? There were other references to streets and buildings in this locality which I could not place. Where was Gray Lane? Was Whittam House in the vicinity of the Methodist Chapel? Or Astin Court t ? Halsted House is mentioned; was this somewhere in the Square?

In the Square and situated between The Reading Rooms and The Grocer's was what looked like Culchard House (the writing was not very clear). What was this building and how did it get its name?

On what is now Burnley Road, a Roberts Row is mentioned; it comes after North Nook but which of the terrace rows was it and why was it given this name? Was it because two of the residents were James Roberts, a 45 year old coal miner and his wife, Martha?

Also mentioned in this locality was Lane Gate; only one family lived there, Robert and Anne Ormerod with their son, Laurence. Could this have been the old name for what was to become Lennox Street?

I said that censuses offer useful information for local historians. The 1881 census records that "At the end of Mount Pleasant Street was a caravan occupied by Frank Birtwell - political agent." Who was he, what party did he support and what was he doing in Worsthorne?

The number of what were back-to-back houses - Back Water Street, Back Hope Street, Back Gorple Road, Back Town Gate, to name but a few - is quite surprising but is a reflection of the advent of the cotton industry and Worsthorne's growth, up until then a largely rural village.

The Conservation Area proposals for Worsthorne (2018) describe the history of the development of Gorple Mill. It states that "on 28th September 1863, 2,260 square yards of land behind Clogger's Tenement and the Old School (where the Reading Rooms now stand) were acquired by the Halsted family for building the village's first textile mill." From old photographs there seems to have been a row of old cottages in front of the mill on Brownside Road, even after the mill had been built. Does anyone have any information about Clogger's Tenement, how it got its name, whether it was part of another farm? Once again, if anyone can supply information, I would be most grateful. Just email me at ramon37@talktalk.net or ring 01282 412815

Censuses are, indeed, fascinating if one has the time to look closely at them but often raise more questions than they answer.

dec 2018 


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

 dec 2018


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".


 nov 2018



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 etc copied would be returned to their owners

If you have anything of interest please contact Mike. His email address is mikepsmith@yahoo.co.uk TEL no 07932672156


nov 2018  

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"