Category Archives: 19th_century

The period of Towneley Park from the death of Charles Towneley (1737-1805) until the departure of Lady O’Hagan in March 1902.

Burnley Wakes Fun Fair

Burnley Fair, 1900Burnley’s mill holidays are a thing of the past but the annual wakes fun fair is still going strong. The Burnley Wakes Fun Fair returns to Fulledge Recreation Ground on Wednesday July 9th to Monday July 14th. The fair has been held there every year since 1956 except 2008 when severe weather prevented the event going ahead.

An annual fair was held every year in Burnley from 1294, originally three days around the feast of St Peter, June 28th to June 30th. By the 19th century there were cattle fairs each month and the Burnley July Fair became a local holiday with a fun fair as part of the festivities. The local schools held their annual processions and, with the coming of the railway, the scholars went away on day trips. The Preston Chronicle on July 14th 1849 reported that 1,400 Church of England scholars and friends from Burnley, “accompanied by a band of music, went to Liverpool, crossed into Cheshire, and enjoyed themselves well”. In the previous year, after the scholars belonging to the various schools held their annual procession, “the scholars of the Sunday School Union availed themselves of the privilege to walk through Towneley Park, for which leave had been obtained [Blackburn Standard  July 19th 1848 page 3]

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the trips increased from day trips to full weeks away. The mills took the opportunity to close down for maintenance. The week’s holiday was at first unpaid but in 1906 agreement was reached with mill owners and, from 1907, mill workers were given 12 annual days holiday each year. Each town in Lancashire was allotted a different week, known as the wakes week, for its holiday. For those who could not afford to go away there was always the parks for recreation. Here is a report on the close of the annual holidays in 1904 . Burnley Express July 23rd 1904, page 5 col.1

To-day the holidays come to a close, and last evening saw the return of hundreds of townspeople who have spent the week “down by the sea” or in some inland holiday resort.  If bronzed faces were any criterion, they have spent a delightful week. At home, too, many of those who remained behind have endeavoured to extract the utmost enjoyment out of the holiday. The parks have been exceedingly busy with visitors, especially Towneley, where no fewer than 5,325 persons have passed through the art gallery this week. Bowlers will regret to learn that the bowling green which is being made in the grounds at Towneley will not be ready until next year. There has been a vast amount of bowling on the Queen’s and Scott Parks during the week; in fact, one of the officials yesterday assured us that for them it had been “a record Fair.” He stated that there were no fewer than 200 on the greens at Queen’s Park on Thursday. At Towneley the botanica1 gardens are being stocked with choice loca1 specimens, and some collections, we understand, are to be imported from the Channel Islands and one or two Continental countries.

1801 – The Great Oak West Walk


Robert Lang drew a map of Towneley after the death of Richard Towneley in 1735. The original map has been lost but there is a copy in Lancashire Record Office (DP322). This copy was made by Edward Lovat for Charles Townley (1737-1805) in 1801. The map shows a path from the Hall to Causeway End. The map is damaged, showing only –useway — wood but purchase deeds in Lancashire Record Office for the period 1719-1726 records a farm at Causeway End. [DDTO D 9/1-5] .The path was described in 1735 as “new avenue west of Park”. Charles Townley recorded it in his diary as “the great oak west walk”. [ 22 August 1801, British Museum  TY 1/16].

On the 1661 estate map this area was covered with oak trees and there was no path shown. In 1715, Richard was present at the Battle of Preston on the side of the defeated Jacobite army. He was arrested and tried for treason in London in 1716. Richard managed to get acquitted and the Family History records: “He cut down a fine wood of oaks near to the mansion, to pay the expenses incurred in his defence”. This was Old Parkwood, now part of the golf course.

Local historians have often tried to link Causeway End with the Long Causeway, which runs from Mereclough in Cliviger to Blackshaw Head in Hebden Bridge and is thought to date back to the Bronze Age.  Walter Bennett in his History of Burnley claimed “Before Towneley Hall was built, the road from Causeway End proceeded through Causeway End Wood in the Park and thence to Mereclough” [History of Burnley , part 3, 1948, page 20-21]

In 1903, a Burnley Express reporter enquired “Why Causeway End, and where is the Causeway of which this was the end? Many people, no doubt suppose that it got its name from the fact that it was here the causeway beside the turnpike ended. That is not true we believe. It is said that it was the end of the causeway which led through the woods towards Todmorden. [Burnley Express, page 3, June 6th 1903]

The Express reporter was correct that Causeway End had nothing to do with the turnpike, as Causeway End was first mentioned around 1719 almost 100 years before the building of the turnpike to Bacup in 1817. Bennett on the other hand had no evidence to support his claim for a road through Causeway Wood to Mereclough before Towneley Hall was built. Rather there is evidence that in mediaeval times, the road passed south of High Royd and on to Cliviger Mill. This is recorded in Lovat’s Timber Account book of 1836 as High Royd and Old Lane.

On the day of the opening of Towneley Park in 1902, the dignitaries after entering at Causeway End rather than walking directly to the Hall, “proceeded through the woods which surround Higher Royd Meadow. Thus the party approached the hall by passing the Foldys Cross and proceeding round the building.” [Burnley Express, page 3, July 2nd 1902] The newspaper article went on to explain that this route was along the old highway and descended to the original Boggart Bridge, where “the scene was one of exceeding beauty”.

The direct path from Causeway End to the Hall was never referred to as the Causeway in any of the Towneley family papers. Early in the 20th century, the Parks Committee simple called it the approach road. In 1913, the committee considered a complaint as to the state of the footpath from Causeway End to Towneley Hall but no action was taken on account of the subsidence in the footpath caused by the working of the minerals underneath. The committee appear to have had little further to do with the approach road until 1963 when the Street Lighting Sub-Committee discussed the possibility of the lighting of the Towneley Hall approach road with antique lamp standards. In October 1963, approval was given at the same time as plans were made to conserve the ice house.

The first Towneley Park Management Plan of 1994 divided the woodland into a number of compartments for ease of management and description. Compartment 12 was described as “the narrow compartment of the avenue through Causeway End Wood, leading to the Hall”. Before 1998, it was given the name “The Causeway” and was so named by English Heritage in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens as list entry Number 1000954 . Perhaps it is time for it to return to the name of “West Walk” as given it by Charles Townley (1737-1805) in 1801.

1902 – The People’s Park


The above photograph shows the dignitaries arriving at the Causeway End entrance to Towneley Park just before 3pm on Saturday June 28th 1902. The general public were admitted about a quarter of an hour later in time to see the speeches declaring the formal opening of Towneley Park at front of the hall.

Over the past year, the Friends of Towneley Park have been preparing a leaflet describing changes that took place in the park throughout its history, the main change being the transfer from Towneley Demesne Parkland  to The People’s Park after 1900. This might suggest that before 1900, the general public of Burnley were excluded from the Park and that after 1900 they were able to come and go as they wished. Of-course, things are never that simple.

On 10 March 1863, the Prince of Wales married Princess Alexandra and all of Burnley took a day’s holiday. Over 30,000 came to Towneley Park to see a military review. This was the first of many celebrations that took place before Towneley Park was purchased for the town. The greatest gathering was for the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, when on Tuesday June 22nd a crowd of between fifty and sixty thousand heard a choir of 13,000 Sunday School children singing the National anthem.

There had been for many years prior to 1900 a public footpath running through Towneley Park, known as the Rabbit Walk. It is still there today. You need to take great care when you pass along it today as it cuts right across the golf course.

There was not unlimited access to the park after 1900. High Royd was available for Sunday School field days but there was a charge of one guinea each day for its use. The Park gates were locked at night and bye-laws were established to define the opening times and the rules were strictly enforced. In 1916, the Parks Committee refused a request from the Burnley Miners’ Association for workmen employed at Towneley Pit to be allowed to pass through Towneley Park between 6 and 7 a.m. from the Small Holdings.

The term “People’s Park” rather than “Public Park” was first used to describe Birkenhead Park, the first publically funded civic park in Britain, opened in 1847. By 1860, there were over 20 People’s Parks throughout England and the local newspaper, the Burnley Advertiser, from 1860 supported the provision of a People’s Park in Burnley. The first aim was simply to provide space for recreation rather than flower gardens and the first recreation ground was opened at Healey Heights in 1872 on land rented from the Towneley family.

John Hargreaves Scott, a former Mayor of Burnley who died in 1881, left money to purchase and lay out a public park for the people of Burnley. In 1887, the Burnley Gazette reported it was proposed to place this park on a plot of ground near the Rabbit Walk in Towneley Park. The newspaper was very much against this proposal on the grounds that it was too far from the town. The report continued

“Again, the public have the right of entry into Towneley Park, and use it pretty freely as a public resort.  The Scott’s Park in this locality can only give us a right to sit down when we are tired more than we now possess, and many people would rather see the park as it now is than when decorated by the gardener. The site chosen for the park is flat, and otherwise unsuitable for a people’s park. Money can of-course do anything in the way of decorating but it cannot make full grown trees. A Scott’s Park may spoil Towneley Park, but we do not see how anything more than a sort of garden can be made near the Rabbit Walk. We feel sure that if this site be chosen for the Public Park, much dissatisfaction will be felt throughout the Town” [Burnley  Gazette 22nd October, 1887, page 5]

It was not until 1895 that Scott’s Park was opened on Manchester Road, two years after the opening of Burnley’s first public park, Queens’ Park, on July 1st 1893.

Monk’s Well

Reconstruction of Monk's Well in Thanet Lee Wood, June 2009Originally providing watering for young trees, it got the name “Monk’s Well” in the 1930s, when it was called a 19th century folly.

The well in Thanet Lee Wood is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1893 but not on the first OS map of Towneley of 1848, nor on any earlier estate maps. On the OS map of 1912 it is marked as Well (covered). There is no mention of it in any of the Towneley family papers. Burnley Corporation bought Thanet Lee in August 1927 but did not open it as part of Towneley Park until 1930.

monkswell_1930On 3 January 1932, the Burnley News published an article Interesting Find in Thanet Lee Woods reporting a Burnley Corporation employee discovering an old well. It was described as having “the appearance at the first glance of a cairn of stones, but on closer inspection it is a cunningly built affair, the stones being cleverly built together“. The article continued “A Burnley man now living in Cheltenham, who has seen the structure, says there is a similar one near Cheltenham, which is known as the Monks’ Bath.

Within a few years, this “cunningly built affair” was in a state of collapse as described in an article by Ian Williamson in the Burnley Express on 3rd April 1955 under the title Mysteries Of Townley Park. By then it had been allowed to fall into a ruinous state. Here the ‘Monks’ Well’ was described as a rectangular corbelled hut, with a floor one foot below ground level, consisting of a rectangular stone trough, similar to a large horse trough. The use and age of this place was a mystery, though there appeared to have been little evidence for it being a “monks’ well”. It was very doubtful if the building was more than 200 years old. Was it a 19th century ‘folly’ built to amuse some little daughter of the then master of Townley?

stages_of_constructionThe structure then became overgrown and mostly forgotten about until the site was cleaned up by the Blackburn College Archaeological Group in August 2003. They made carefully measurements that show the well, rather than being a folly built for amusement, was a well-constructed structure whose purpose was to provide a water reservoir for use during drought.The group suggests that the well was constructed in several stages and it is likely the corbelled hut described in the 1932 newspaper article was added much later. The “cunningly built” cairn of stones recorded in 1932 could have been devised by Blackadder’s Baldric. The stones appear too clean to have been there for long. They fell down within a few years, probably not because of vandalism but due to the weather. In winter, rain water between the stones freeze and pushes the stones apart when the ice starts to melt.

The construction of Monk’s Well

Behind the stone trough, the Blackburn group found a large capstone that covered a cistern. This cistern collects water from a surface spring and channels it into the trough.


monk's well

There is no evidence to date the well but there are records showing the site was part of two fields belonging to Hecklehurst Farm until 1790. At that time, Charles Townley (1737-1805) turned the Hole House brook away from Broad Ing so that it flowed through what then became Thanet Lee. He planted large numbers of trees in and around Thanet Lee and needed to water the trees during any summer droughts. His diary entry for 11 August 1801records “opened a hole 4 foot 10 inch deep in Broad Ing half way between oak clumps and haha, all springs being low at this long drought and this hole soon filled with 10 inch deep of water“. Ponds were an alternative to wells when watering was needed for tree plantation and there were several fish ponds at Towneley at the end of the 18th century.

Edward Lovat (1773-1841), was land agent at Towneley from 1803 and continued to plant trees at Towneley for more than 30 years after the death of Charles Townley. He is another possible candidate as the builder of the covered well in Thanet Lee. At this time it was commonplace for people to create water storage systems at the site of surface springs and there are many reference to surface springs in Towneley records. Some Towneley maps in the first half of the 19th century record a pond called Lovat’s Pond on what is now Woodgrove.

green_wellThere are two possible reasons for the well being covered. First it would reduce evaporation during hot weather, second it would avoid the standing water being covered in green algae. This photograph of the trough in May 2004 shows what happens to stagnant water in sunlight.

What lies beneath – early 20th century

Today beneath Towneley Park along with clay and sandstone are large amounts of water and a small amount of coal. When Burnley Corporation purchased Towneley Hall in November 1901, they also purchased the mineral rights directly beneath as otherwise the coal would have been taken and the Hall would have fallen down. Coal was taken from beneath the rest of the Park and subsidence occurred there throughout the first half of the 20th Century.


This is a plan for the mineral support of Towneley Hall, signed Wm. Eagle and dated 5th July 1897. The coal seams near the surface such as the Thin Mine and the King Mine had worked since early in the 19th century but had not undermined the Hall. The lowest seam, the Arley Mine, was the most valuable and had been mined at Towneley Pit since 1876, This plan of the Arley Mine shows the Hall is still being supported today by pillars of coal left after the rest of the coal below Towneley Park was worked out.


No coal was taken from Towneley Pit after 1948 but it continued as a pumping pit removing water for another twenty years to safeguard the deeper workings of other pits in the area. It is remarkable that during its lifetime, Towneley Pit probably brought up 5 tons of water for every ton of coal.

There is a common myth that there are hidden passages beneath Towneley Hall that allowed the family to escape capture from the Roundheads in the 17th century and emerge elsewhere in Burnley. At that time Bank Hall was still owned by a Catholic member of the Towneley family and so could have been on the escape route. However, anyone attempting to tunnel to freedom would  quickly have found their workings filling with water. After the creation of the National Coal Board in 1947, the tunnels of the Bank Hall and Towneley Pits were connected, so in the 20th century it became true that there were passages joining Towneley with Bank Hall. This photograph from the 1950s shows the tunnel to Towneley deep in the bowels of Bank Hall Colliery.

Bank Hall Colliery, junction of under-ground tunnels, 1950’s [Tunnel to Towneley Colliery]

Foldys Cross

south west side of Foldys Cross after restoration in 2009The Foldys Cross has been at the top of Lime Avenue since 1911. Latin words at the base ask us to “pray for the soul of John Foldys, chaplain, who caused this cross to be made – AD1520”.

It was cleaned and restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009.

It has been the subject of much controversy since it was brought to Towneley by Charles Townley (1737-1805) around 1789. Why should this be?

One version of the story is that the cross marked the grave of a Catholic priest in St Peter’s churchyard but was destroyed by an anti-Catholic mob in 1789. Charles Townley (1737-1805), brought the remains to Towneley to preserve the memory of the Catholic priest. In 1911, the Council restored the cross to its original condition and re-sited it at the top of Lime Avenue.

In fact, much of the above story may be incorrect. For over 150 years, local historians have been arguing over why the cross was set up, why it was knocked down, why Charles Townley brought it to Towneley and what was the best way to restore it.

The earliest account comes from the diary of Ralph Thoresby, the Yorkshire antiquary, who visited Burnley in 1702. He wrote “after dinner, we rode through Burnley, where was another cross in the church-yard, but with the addition of a new stately cross erected above the steps”. [1] It is important to know that in mediaeval times crosses were not only used for memorials but also to indicate a marketplace. The market traders would stand on and around the steps. So the cross may have been set up as a market cross rather than to mark a grave.

The first account of the demolition of the cross comes from Thomas Dunham Whitaker in his History of Whalley in 1801. Here he claims it was destroyed by a drunken rabble as an act of puritanical fury and further reports it has since been removed to Towneley.[2] Charles Townley never wrote why he brought the stones to Towneley but an entry in his diary in 1802 provides a clue. Here he writes of “making some holes to plant trees betwixt the Burnley Cross and the horse chestnuts”. [3] This suggests he saw the cross as Burnley’s market cross rather than as a memorial to Foldys and brought it to Towneley as a fashionable landscape ornament. He was no doubt aware that the Bristol High Cross had been re-sited at Stourhead in Wiltshire in 1780.

LancashireLegendsIn 1856, Thomas Turner Wilkinson dismissed Whitaker’s account of the removal of the cross, writing that it was levelled to the ground by one drunken barbarian for a wager rather being due to any anti-Catholic prejudice. He added that the whole was removed by the church wardens in 1789 to make way for a new footpath. [4] This both gives us a date and the authority for the removal to Towneley.

In 1873, a drawing of the cross by William Angelo Warrington appeared on the title page of John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson’s Lancashire Legends, titled “Foldys Cross, Burnley”. In the preface, Wilkinson expressed the hope it would be restored to its original site. The 4th edition of the History of Whalley, published in 1878, claimed : “The base and head are original; the present shaft is disproportionate and out of character as well as rough base stone.” Waddington again provided a drawing to accompany this description.

hofw1878This idea of restoring the cross to something like its original condition remained in the minds of the local historians until the beginning of the 20th century when Henry Taylor described it in The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire – “This cross is alleged to have been used for market purposes. Possibly, indeed, it was built as a second market cross, … The old shaft was broken; the present one is a roughly squared modern stone, incongruous with the cross and pedestal.” [5]

In 1908, the Council authorised restoration of Foldys Cross according to a sketch drawn by Henry Taylor. The stage was now set for the completion of the restoration during 1911 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the Borough. The Parks Committee took some time to make up their mind before finally resolving to re-erect the cross at the southerly end of the Avenue on the south side of Towneley Hall and this was completed on June 28th 1911.

During the 1920s, the cross was disfigured by chalk and pencil. In 1928 there was a proposal to fence it off with a suitable ornamental unclimable iron railing, at an estimated cost of £55. On January 23rd 1929 the Commissioners of H.M. Office of Works welcomed the proposal but there is no evidence that the proposal was ever implemented. If a railing had been put up it would have been removed in June 1940 in order to supply the Government’s pressing need for scrap metal.

foldys_crossWas the Council right to make the changes to the cross in 1911? The earliest photograph is from a Towneley family album and shows Emily Towneley and her cousin, Lady Caroline Molyneux, decorating the old cross with a lantern around 1860. There are many other photographs of visitors alongside the cross up until 1911. In over 100 years since there have been very few photographs taken of people alongside the cross. If the changes of 1911 had never been made and were proposed today, they would be rejected by English Heritage, but equally any change to the existing cross would be rejected. The cross is now a grade II listed monument with the English Heritage Building identity number  467232. So like it or not Foldys Cross is here to stay.

Four visitors with Foldys Cross around 1900

Visitor with Foldys Cross

[1] Diary of Ralph Thoresby, Edited by Joseph Hunter, London, 1830

[2] History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe, Blackburn, 1801

[3] British Museum TY1/20

[4] History of the parochial church of Burnley, Burnley, 1856

[5] Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Volume XVIII – 1900, Manchester, 1901.

Visitors from America – the 1880s and the flower garden

Towneley Hall - croquet lawn in the 1860s

This is one of the earliest photographs of the gardens at Towneley in the 1860s. In the foreground are croquet hoops, while a flower garden enclosed by a wire fence can just be made out to the south east of the house .

In the 1880s, the fictitious Lawrence-Townley Estate was used to separate thousands of people in North America from their money in a great fraud. It was suggested there was a large estate in England held in the Court of Chancery because the rightful heirs had gone to America. These heirs were the descendant of Mary Townley who married John Lawrence. All the heirs needed was the loan of money to prove their claim in the English courts and, when successful, the heirs would repay the loans ten times over.

While this does not concern Towneley Park directly, it tells us that Towneley was well known throughout America and some of those duped came over to England and recorded their visit to Towneley. Amongst these records is one giving a good description of the gardens around 1884. It is the only known written account of the flower garden to the south east of the Hall in the 19th century:

“”From the side windows of both drawing rooms there is a beautiful grass plat surmounted by a fine wire fence to keep the hares out. This is changed into a beautiful garden in the center by beds of flowers which are arranged into different designs each year. The design at present is a crescent about two feet wide by ten feet curve, filled with red and yellow flowers; opposite the curve, some three feet away, is a rosette some four feet in diameter filled with flowers; then to the right of the first crescent is another facing the other way and a rosette in front of it, and on the opposite side another one with a rosette in front of that; beyond the three is a diamond. The same arrangement is on the other end, while in the center the crescents are reversed; the whole with the bright colored flowers making a beautiful picture. In the rear of the gardens are large sized forest trees bordered by numerous rhododendrons. In the rear of the building is a smooth, well kept, grassy plot of nearly an acre in size bordered in the distance by large forest trees, several paths lead in different directions through the woods; one to the farm-house, one to the kitchen garden, one to the flower garden, and others to other portions of the estate.” [Other Days, Charles Valentine Townley, Olathe, Kansas] .

The flower garden and the wire screen fence appear in many postcards of Towneley Park after it was opened to the public. These show that Burnley Corporation retained the Victorian flower garden, as can be seen in this postcard from the 1920s, before the War Memorial was built.

Flower Beds, Towneley Park, Burnley

During World War II, the fence was removed for scrap metal, and then in 1944 a fountain-type bird bath added to the garden. In 1950, the current hedge of green and golden yew was planted. The photograph below shows the Italian Garden, as it came to be known, in 1987.

Italian garden in 1987


As part of a 2013/14 Heritage Lottery funded project to explore the history of Towneley Park and its landscape some of the project researchers interviewed local people to record their memories of Towneley. 

Grateful thanks to Brenda Rochester for this interview, carried out 16th April, 2013. Research by Prue Wilkinson & Jackie Hindle South.

Brenda’s great, great grandfather was James Shackleton born around the mid 1820s and on the 1841 census he was already a gamekeeper living at Clough Foot, Widdop where now only a barn remains. On his marriage to Alice Helliwell on December 27th 1852 he was already 28 years old, still a game keeper and living in Widdop. Their first daughter Mary Jane Shackleton was born just two days later on the 29th of December1852. Mary Jane Shackleton married James Foulds and Brenda is descended from the Foulds line.

image                image

imageJames and Alice had a son born 11th June 1857 when their address is given as Towneley Park and it is believed James worked as a gamekeeper at Towneley from 1853 onwards until at least 1856. Brenda’s grandmother said that James did not live in Towneley Cottages behind the hall but in the gamekeeper’s cottage at the other side near where the present Offshoots is now. James died in the Old House at Cliviger, which was also owned by the Towneley family. 

Brenda had many happy memories of her own including the path through the golf links called the rabbit walk. She also remembered visiting the bandstand which it was felt may be what is known as the theatre.

Part of interview here

Towneley – 1850s the best shorthorns in Great Britain

A herd of shorthorn cattle was started at Towneley in 1849. In the next fourteen years the herd won 26 gold medals and over one hundred other trophies at agricultural shows across Great Britain, Ireland and France. In September 1857, the French Ambassador, Count de Persigny, visited Towneley to see the shorthorns. When the herd was sold on March 17th 1864, over 3,000 people from all over Britain came for the sale.

Cattle sale at Towneley in 1864

Memoirs of Kathleen de Beaumont – her childhood at Towneley in the 1880s

Although the Friends of Towneley Park History Group’s Heritage Lottery activities will officially begin with the launch meeting at Towneley on Saturday April 13th, some work has already begun. Prue Wilkinson is researching Towneley Farmhouse and is interested in photographs of anyone, either family or servants, who lived there.

Memoirs_of Kathleen_de_Beaumont  – Kathleen de Beaumont (1876-1974), eldest child of the 1st Lord and Lady O’Hagan, wrote  her memoirs in 1964 including something of her childhood at Towneley in the 1880s. Here are extracts including a recollection of her visit to the Home Farm and of the Edmondson family who lived there,