Category Archives: Charles Townley (1737-1805)

Charles Townley regularly signed his surname as Townley rather than Towneley.

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.

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.

Towneley – an agricultural wonder – 1795

In 1795, Charles Townley (1737-1805) engaged Joseph Elkington (1739-1806) to improve the drainage at Towneley. Elkington was the first person in England to understand and apply modern geological principles to improve land drainage. In the year he came to Towneley, the House of Commons approved an expenditure of £1,000 to document his methods. Charles Townley was very pleased with the improvements made by Elkington and did all he could to publicize his work. Many people visited Towneley in the next few years just to look at the drainage including the Duke of Norfolk who visited in September 1798 and stayed overnight at Towneley Hall.


This drawing is based on a map drawn on tracing paper by Charles Towneley sometime around 1798. It is likely that he was tracing the field boundaries from an existing estate map. The broken straight lines appear to be the location of the Elkington drains.