Category Archives: Mediaeval

The period from when Towneley is first mentioned, around 1200, until the Act of Uniformity, 1558. The early modern period is generally considered to follow the late middle ages between 1500 and 1600 but at Towneley the defining point of history was the family’s resolve to remain faithful Catholics after 1558. The period following the mediaeval period at Towneley was the period of the recusant and Jacobite.

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.

Where have all the trees gone? – 1610

The oldest oak at Towneley, probably planted around 1600.In 1086, at the time of the Doomsday Survey, large areas of what is now East Lancashire were woodland waste. “Much of the woodland had gone by the end of the mediaeval centuries,  … to the extent that the North West became one of the less wooded regions of England.  … However, the increasing value of woodland for charcoal production from the 15th and 16th centuries led to strict management of smaller patches of woodland as enclosed coppice woods.” [England’s Landscape – The North West, Angus Winchester, 2006]. In 1610, a survey and valuation of woodlands belonging to the Duchy in the county was made and this shows most of the trees in East Lancashire had gone. It was reported that in Rossendale Forest and Colne Parish there were no trees at all worth marking. At Towneley there were 80 oak and ash and around twice the number belonging to Towneley across the Calder in Brunshaw. [National Archives DL 43/17/12].

Hamilton map of Towneley in 1661Many more trees were being planted at Towneley after 1610 as can be seen on the Hamilton maps of 1661. When Ralph Thoresby visited in 1702, he reported “great plenty of very fine firs, which they have learnt to propagate by slips“.

The second largest deer park in Lancashire – 1577


Christopher Saxton’s Map of Lancashire, published in 1577, shows Towneley’s large park, not at Towneley but at Hapton Tower. Throughout Lancashire, only Knowseley Park, home of the Earl of Derby, was greater in size. After the Civil War, Hapton Tower was abandoned and a deer park was established on the Brunshaw side of the Calder.

At Manchester on August 10th 1517 Sir John Towneley and others were required to enquire into enclosing a park at Whalley made by the abbot of Whalley. This enquiry was also to consider other enclosures in the area including a park at Hapton (12 Hen.VII), containing 40 acres of arable land & 10 acres of wood & moor & 200 acres of waste; and another park at Towneley (6 Hen.VII) containing 30 acres of arable land & 40 acres of wood & pasture [LRO DDTO O 1/65].

The best evidence of the state of Towneley at the end of the mediaeval period comes from the Rent Roll of Sir John Towneley dated 1st January in the 27th year of Henry VIII (1535-6). The vellum roll was given to Chetham’s Library [E.6.10 (3) ] by Francis Raines in 1878. Raines published the contents in full in Chetham Miscellanies VI, Chetham Society, o.s. vol. 103 (1878). It lists Towneley’s lanes, orchards and gardens along with the old park, the little park and the intakes of the old park. In accompanying notes, Raines wrote they “may simply signify enclosures, …. No deer are named in this rental, nor was a park mentioned in the great surveys of the demesne in 1603 and 1612.” Towneley field names in the Rent Roll still in use today are High Royd, Broad Ing and  Castle Hill. Fisher Ing is now the site of Higher Towneley Playing Fields and the Chapel Lee the site of Offshoots.

Across the Calder in Brunshaw was Argam Rode and three “water earths”. Their location can be seen on the copy of Lang’s survey map of 1735 and are recorded as fields K22 and K3 to K5 on Hamilton’s map of 1661. The nature of these long and narrow water earth fields has never been described by later historians. Raines reported that Argam Rode was elsewhere written as organroode and suggested organ was another name for a freshwater ling. The Riverside Car Park now takes up part of Argam Rode, whilst the rest of it and the water earths stretch west across the land now occupied by Unity College. All this land, along with much of Fulledge, is part of the Environment Agency Flood Plains Zone 3.

Today little can be added to the Raines account of Towneley Park at the end of the mediaeval period. Stuart Wrathmell’s 1982  evaluation survey of archaeological remains in Towneley Park identified remains of ridge and furrows that may date from mediaeval times but much of the park has been subjected to mining subsidence during the first half of the 20th century making it harder for a casual observer to distinguish possible mediaeval features. A site assessment of the Triangle and Avenue in September 2004 [Professional Sportsturf Design (NW) Ltd] reported – “Visual examination of surface levels indicate that they undulate considerably, … possibly associated with mining.”

High Royd Pitch and Putt – watch out for the wolf

Before the Deans of Whalley were granted land for a hunting lodge at Towneley, around 1200, the people of Burnley were sharing land there as common pasture for cattle. Then it was called Tunleia and since then has been written in many ways including Tunlay, Thonlay, Touneley and Townley. It means the clearing belonging to the town.

The area was mainly woods and wet boggy ground were little grew. Cattle were taken to pasture on the hills in the summer and returned to lower land before winter. Young animals needed constant protection from wolves and so clearings were made in the woodland and enclosed with fences to prevent the cattle roaming. A woodland clearing was called a rode or royd. High Royd was probably one such an enclosure and these enclosures caused all the surrounding area to be named Tunleia.

The original grant of land from around 1200 no longer exists but another grant from 1273 records land owned by Gilbert de la Legh lying on both sides of the River Calder and named Weterode and Waderode.


Manuscript DDTo O/1/12 dated 1273 in Latin [Lancashire Record Office]

Around 1304, Cecilia de Thonlay, widow of Richard, brother of Roger, the last Dean of Whalley, gave to John de la Legh, son of Gilbert de la Legh, the land she held at Towneley.  John de la Legh had married one of her three daughters, also called Cecilia and John’s second son Richard took de Towneley as his surname and his descendants continued at Towneley for another 600 years.


Manuscript DDTo 25/11 dated 1303-4 [32 Edward I] in Latin [Lancashire Record Office]

There is nothing apart from legal documents to give any details about Towneley itself early in the 14th century but two documents dating from 1296 and 1305 give a clearer picture of the state of agriculture across East Lancashire as a whole at this time.  These are the accounts of the Lancashire and Cheshire manors of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. They record Gilbert de la Legh was a farm manager for Henry de Lacy and show that in 1295 Gilbert paid a man 14 pence to guard calves from the wolves on the farms in Rossendale. It is likely that cattle were prey to wolves across East Lancashire well into the 14th century. { Chetham Society OS 112 Two compoti of the Lancashire and Cheshire manors of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, 24 and 33 Edward I [1294-6; 1304-5] (ed. P.A. Lyons, 1884). }