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.
With grateful thanks to Joan Vincent and Anne Francis. Research by Prue Wilkinson & Jackie Hindle South.
Part of Joan’s interview can be seen here: http://youtu.be/A2rzWXWgHkc
All bedding box photos here http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackiespix/sets/72157637887907723/
All other Towneley photos can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackiespix/sets/72157633397354744/
Vincent’s Garden Centre.
Joan’s husband, George was the brother of Jim Vincent who was the original owner of the garden centre. Jim worked in the mill and had an allotment in Healey Wood. He grew chrysanthemums and would sell what he could locally. A passerby, Mr Haffner, asked Jim if he had thought of taking up growing flowers as a business. ‘Mr Haffner offered Jim a loan and helped him to get a Towneley small holding (the one left standing).
Jim chose that one because of its position near the river. The business thrived with his wife Carry selling home made produce, eg jams, on a market stall.
As the family became more affluent Jim decided to build a bungalow nearby and the stone used was from a chapel in Burnley which had been pulled down. It was believed to be the chapel which was nearby the present Keirby Walk. At a later date a house was built for his son which is also still there. The bungalow can be found down a drive on the right past the garden centre. To find the house go past the garden centre and carry straight on and the house is set back on the left
The Towneley Bedding Box.
Joan has strong memories of visiting her ‘Grandma Francis’ with her Aunt Clara. When Joan visited, the house was on Huffling Lane now pulled down but on the triangle of green below the railway crossing (not actually her grandma but gt aunt).
Grandma Francis was born Mary Shackleton 21st March 1862 and married John Francis 1894 when aged 32. They had one son and ‘Auntie Clara’ married this son. On the censuses for 1881 and 1891 Mary’s occupation is given as cotton weaver. There is no mention of working at Towneley.
However Joan is in possession of a bedding box which she has had for 50 years. Joan remembers it at her Auntie Clara’s house and her Auntie said it belonged to ‘ Grandma Francis’. The story goes that this had been given as a wedding present to her when she left to marry. The wood was from a tree felled at Towneley. This seems an extravagant gift but it was because she had married late in life and had served the family well.
There is a Mary Shackleton on the Towneley servants’ list but the one on the list and Grandma Francis are two different women with 11 years difference and different fathers’ names.
We contacted another member of the Francis family, Anne Francis , who has researched the family history. Anne was very helpful supplying lots of information but despite knowing the story of the bedding box had no proof that Mary had worked at Towneley. Anne is now working to establish if there is any written proof of the Towneley connection.
Joan’s childhood memories of Towneley.
Joan has many happy memories of Towneley. She remembers being able to access the park from a kissing gate on Todmorden Road opposite the bottom of Brooklands Road. This lead to the rabbit walk where they would play as children but also where everyone went when ‘courting’
She remembers the Coop Dairy and Laundry being there. She also remembers when the stables looked like stables. In her memory there were never horses there but benches where you could sit after buying sweets at a little shop around there somewhere. She also remembers going to listen to the bands in the bandstand with her mum and dad and was so sad to see the photos of it today.