Category Archives: Recusant & Jacobite

The time from the Act of Uniformity in 1558 until the coming of age of Charles Townley (1737-1805) in 1758.

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.

Towneley, a health spa to rival Harrogate – 1700

Charles_LeighCharles Leigh (1662-1701) visited Towneley around 1697 and gave an account of the spring water there in A Natural History of Lancashire, Cheshire, and the Peak in Derbyshire, published in 1700.


Leigh described a number of places in Lancashire with chalybeate springs (water containing iron). Early in the 17th century, chalybeate water was said to have health-giving properties and many people have promoted its qualities. Among the first places to establish a health spa around a chalybeate spring was Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Leigh highlighted the spring that enters the Calder on Towneley Holmes and was shown to him by Richard Towneley (1629-1707). Leigh compared the water to that at Bourbon-l’Archambault, a spa town in the Auvergne, and described in  Observations sur les eaux minérales published in 1675 by  Samuel Cottereau du Clos (1598-1685). There was a copy of the book by du Clos in Richard Towneley’s library and Richard impressed Leigh with his knowledge of the subject.

Burnley_1787In the 18th century it was Harrogate rather than Burnley that became known as ‘The English Spa’ and the influx of wealthy but sickly visitors contributed significantly to the wealth of that town. Towneley’s mineral water was not completely forgotten as can be seen in the map of Lancashire published by William Yates in 1786 with a Spaw (spa) south of Handbridge.

Towneley, standing in for the Royal Observatory at Greenwich – 1676

Towneley sundialIn the 1660s, Richard Towneley (1629-1707) was one of the leading amateur astronomers in England. John Flamsteed (1646-1719) visited him at Towneley in 1672 and continued to write regularly to Towneley after Flamsteed became the first Astronomer Royal in 1675. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich was completed in June 1676, in anticipation of a solar eclipse on June 1st. On the day it was very cloudy in Greenwich and Flamsteed saw nothing of the eclipse. In contrast, at Towneley the weather was better and Richard was able to provide Flamsteed with the information needed for the first report from the Royal Observatory. [Flamsteed, John (1676), Philosophical Transactions Vol. 11 No. 127, p. 662-64].

Around this time Richard also started to record how much rain fell at Towneley. His systematic record of rainfall, covering 15 years from January 1677 was published in 1694 and are the earliest systematic records of the English weather. He wrote that at Towneley there was twice the quantity of rain that fell in Paris. He further claimed that the Eastern parts of Lancashire were subject to more rain than Yorkshire due to clouds driven by South West winds falling as rain on the high ground that divides the two counties. [Towneley R. (1694), Philosophical Transactions Vol. 18 p. 52]

In 2000, the Towneley Hall Society commissioned Alan Smith to create a sundial in Towneley Park to commemorate Richard Towneley and it was set-up on the south buttress of Towneley Hall in September 2001.  [Smith, A (March 2002), British Sundial Society Bulletin Vol. 14 (i) p.20-23]

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“.