Category Archives: Places

Particular parts of Towneley Park

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.


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:
All bedding box photos here 
All other Towneley photos can be seen here:

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.

clip_image002As 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.  clip_image002[3]

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.


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

The Sports Pavilion at Upper Towneley Playing Fields

Towneley Playing Fields Pavilion - opened 1931

Football came to dominate Towneley in the 1930s. The Sports Pavilion was completed in 1931 at a cost exceeding that of the Stocks Massey Music Pavilion, being insured for £1,800 , that is £300 more than for the Music Pavilion. It was opened on August 12th 1931 by Edwin Whitehead as can be seen from this plaque, which has now been removed from the changing rooms and placed in Towneley Hall away from the hands of metal thieves who have recently targeted the pavilion.

sports pavilion opened 12th August 1931

In November 1932, the Borough Surveyor reported that the demand for the use of football pitches at Towneley Playing Fields had been very heavy. Considerable difficulty was being experienced in meeting requirements. The land near the Avenue, Towneley Holmes, which was reserved to form part of the extension to the Golf Course would, as a temporary measure be laid out as football pitches.

By 1935, it was necessary to convert part of the stables in Towneley Park into more dressing rooms for the footballers. When the greyhound track was closed and the land purchased by Burnley Corporation, the golfers were hoping to extend their course to 18 holes but demand for even more football pitches won the day. The footballers on Towneley Holmes then made use of Red Gate Barn until it was demolished in 1959. This resulted in the need for 18 additional dressing rooms at Upper Towneley so in 1960 a brick with timber superstructure extension to the Sports Pavilion was completed at an approximate cost of £11,000.