Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Saturday, January 19, 2002



As you can probably guess, I thoroughly approve of David Whipp’s efforts to convince the powers that be that Barlick is worth walking round. I read the piece that was printed on August 18th and immediately asked him whether he would be offended if I expanded on it. He agreed and, being a Councillor, asked me whether I’d write some more stuff for him. I told him that this would depend on how I felt! One thing at a time, so here we go on David’s walk.

The Corn Mill looks slightly the worse for wear these days but used to be a regular calling shop for me when I lived at Hey Farm and we kept stock. We got all our proven from Anthony Hoyle. (‘Proven’ is short for provender and is the old fashioned name for cattle feed other than forage, which is hay or straw). There is little doubt in my mind that there has been a water-powered mill on this site for a long time. The earliest mention I have of it is that in 1822 the miller was Thomas Ellison. By 1887 William Bracewell was the owner, this is ‘Billycock Bracewell’ who owned most of Barlick and not the other William Bracewell who owned Old Coates Mill. In 1885 Billycock died and his executors had to realise his assets. In a sale document dated August 1887 the Corn Mill is described as having ‘modern roller grinding machinery driven by steam’. If you look in the grass in the open space behind the present mill just before you pass the gable end of Powell Street you’ll find the base of the chimney which served the boiler at the mill.

Next to the mill is the old gas works that Billycock had started building in 1852. In 1887 his executors sold the enterprise to the Barnoldswick Gas and Light Company Limited who ran the works until 1892 when they sold it to the Barnoldswick Local Board for £13,850. In the days before North Sea Gas, town’s gas was made by burning coal in closed retorts and purifying the resulting vapour by cooling it in distillation towers before storing in a gasholder. The Local Board ran the works, and it was a useful service for the town. (Barnoldswick Urban District Council was formed to replace the Local Board in 1894)

The most visible by-products from making gas were coke, which people burned on their fires and gas tar which the council used for road-making, all the stone setts in the roads were sealed by pouring hot tar round them. In summer the tar would melt and small lads used to collect it to use as plasticine. The only problem was that it stuck to everything and the only thing that would get it off your hands was lard! Another useful but unofficial service provided by the gas works was as a cure for whooping cough! If one of your children had this ailment and you took them down to the gas works, one of the workers would carry the child on to the top of the retorts where exposure to the fumes made it cough and this was supposed to help alleviate the condition.

As you follow Whipp’s Way up the end of the gables towards Gisburn Road take note of the fact that on your right is a large garage site between you and Butts Beck that is running at a much lower level. Ask yourself the question, if the Corn Mill was driven by waterpower originally, where did the water come from? We know from our walks on County Brook that there has to be a fall for the water in order to drive a water wheel. Where was that fall coming from when the beck is at a far lower level? This fact gives us the clue; the piece of land that the garages stand on was the lodge for the Corn Mill. When you get further on along the walk, to what is now Briggs and Duxbury’s premises, look in the beck as you cross the footbridge and you will see a well-built stone dam across the beck with a cast iron gate in it. Above the dam is a small hole in the wall nearest the gardens. This was where the water was diverted from Butts Beck through what is now Valley Gardens. The ornamental stream that is laid out through the gardens is what remains of the goit feeding water into the Corn Mill Lodge through a culvert under Gisburn Road. When the Corn Mill was first built, there was a small round dam at the end of the goit but in 1850 this was enlarged to give more storage.

Walking up Butts, take particular note of the builder’s premises and the garage beyond it. These are built of Accrington brick, quite unusual in Barlick. The buildings were originally erected as ‘model’ lodging houses. You’ll still hear the older end in the town refer to this area as ‘The Model’, they can remember the time up to the 1930’s when these buildings were populated during the week by weavers who lived in other towns but came to Barlick for work and stayed in these lodging houses during the week. Notice also that Butts Beck seems to appear from nowhere under the road. It’s actually the confluence of Springs or Calf Hall Beck running down from Calf Hall and Gillians Beck, which rises above Bancroft. They both feed another mill lodge here but you can’t see it because it’s under Butts Mill. Harold Duxbury once told me he went under the mill to inspect this lodge and he said it was a frightening experience and one he wouldn’t want to repeat.

Before you strike off down the side of the Pigeon Club, take a minute to have a look up the lane at the top end of the builder’s yard. On the left is a modern building but there used to be a range of stables. Remember that in the old days many horses were needed to pull traders and carriers carts and they all had to sleep somewhere at night! Just at the top end of where these stood is a path going off to the left along the side of the beck behind Briggs and Duxbury’s which, if you look carefully, is paved with stone setts. There is a building on your right that has one storey opening out on to Commercial Street above and what look like garages opening out on to the side of the beck at lower level. The buildings on top used to be a marine store (a junk shop in our terms) at the far end and a livery stable at the end nearest the path down into Butts. The lock-ups below were a very important part of town life, they were the premises used by the town’s butchers for slaughtering their beasts and cleaning the carcasses. The beck was a useful way of disposing of waste. Harold Duxbury once told me that in the big flood of 1932 a man nearly drowned in one of these lock-ups, the water was so high.

Go back on to Butts have a look at the Pigeon Club. This building was erected in 1843 as a National School to replace the existing school in St James’ Church. From 1901 to 1907 it was a Catholic Chapel and then became a workingman’s club when the first ‘tin tabernacle’ was built on the site of what is now St Joseph’s. If you go round the Welfare Clinic and get back through the garage site to the beck you will find a small old building now used as a garage. It used to be a house or two cottages and I have an idea it is one of the oldest buildings in Barnoldswick.

Before we leave Butts, give a thought to where it got its name. The usual explanation given for this is that this was the place where the men of the district practiced archery as part of the Lord of the Manor’s obligation to provide soldiers in case of war. This could be true but the name is also associated with mediaeval field systems. It’s very easy to imagine a time when the village of Barlick was much smaller and this fertile bottomland was where the communal village fields were situated. The name ‘Butts’ could just as easily come from this source. I don’t know one way or the other, there isn’t enough evidence but it seems just as likely as the archery theory.

David’s next instruction is to go ‘through the snicket into Parrock Street’. This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how much I have to learn about Barlick. I’ve been coming across references to ‘Parrock’ and ‘Paddock Lathe’ (this is how it is spelt on the 1851 OS map but should I think be ‘laithe’ as this is the local word for a barn, it comes from Old Norse.) for years now and am not much nearer to sorting out the truth of it. There is a wonderful book called YORKSHIRE COTTON by George Ingle and in it he mentions Lower Parrock House Mill, which, in 1808, was owned by Henry Lambert. I’ve found Henry on an electoral roll of 1807 for Barlick and he was described as a ‘cotton manufacturer’ so that fits. He rented the mill to William Hall for cotton spinning. William Hall is on the same electoral roll in 1807 and is also described as a cotton manufacturer. Henry Lambert went bankrupt and in 1813 the mill was up for sale. It was described as being three stories high and measuring eight yards by three yards and adjoining it was a two storey sizing house that measured six yards by three and a half yards. Lambert also owned Gillians Mill, a spinning shop and a warehouse. By 1831 the mill was owned by William Mitchell and rented to John Smith. William Mitchell also owned Mitchell’s Mill, which later became Clough Mill.

All very interesting but where was the mill? Later on in the 1880’s the Calf Hall Shed Company were mentioning ‘Parrock Laithe Estate’ during their search for land to build Calf Hall Shed on. My problem with the description of Lower Parrock House Mill is its size, it was tiny. The word ‘Lower’ seems to suggest it was below Parrock House, was this on the site that later became Butts Mill? The earliest detailed map we have for the town is the first OS map which was surveyed round about 1849, this shows ‘Paddock Lathe’ and Butts mill but no mention of ‘Lower Parrock’. Somewhere there is an estate map that could solve the mystery but until it pokes its head above the parapet we will have to remain in ignorance. I have another small clue for you; the History of the Baptist Church in Barnoldswick describes how, on January 7th 1695, a William Mitchell sold ‘The Parrock’ to David Crosley who was the Baptist minister for £25. The land was described as ‘adjoining the meeting house in Walmsgate’. This ‘meeting house’ was the first non-conformist chapel in Barlick and is now a second-hand furniture shop. What all this illustrates is the complexity of local history. We can be certain there was a mill somewhere below what is now Paddock Laithe but we don’t know where it was.

The other thing you can be certain about is that there is much more to this short section of David’s walk than I have described. Use your eyes and your heads and see what you can discover for yourselves. I’ll walk a bit further behind David in another article.
SCG/22 August 2000.

Open All Hours.

I’ve been reading the extracts from Edgar Wormwell’s book in the View and decided I wanted a copy so I went down to Earby today and pressed £8 into Eunice’s hand and got a copy. I got home and read it straight through without stopping and think it’s wonderful. He’s captured the atmosphere of Kelbrook so well that it triggered me off into thinking about the time in the fifties when the family and I kept the grocer’s shop next to Sough Mill. I spent quite a lot of time in Kelbrook because, being single, the big attraction was the Craven Heifer where I too made an acquaintance with King’s Ale! (By the way, if you look on the 1853 ordnance maps the pub was called the Scotchman’s Arms)

I’ve always said that running the shop at Sough was one of the best bits of education I ever had. Whenever ‘Open All Hours’ is repeated on the TV I try to watch it because it reminds me of the days when we sold everything from boiled ham to firelighters with greengrocery and a café for the workers at Bristol Tractors, Forecast Foundry and Kelbrook Sheet Metal thrown in. My Mother and I used to make about fifty bacon butties every morning and then she did a hot dinner for about twenty-five that we served in the room behind the shop. We also ran a mobile shop and I used to go out three days a week round the farms delivering orders and selling out of the back of the van. It was hard work because I was also working part time for West Marton Dairies in the early days and later, full time for Harrison Brothers who were carriers for the dairy. In summer I used to start at two in the morning and work until eight o’clock at night; I can tell you I loved my bed and didn’t get much time for the pub.

Looking back, it was amazing what we sold in that shop; there were odd occasions when we were caught out but I can remember selling gas mantles, wicks for paraffin brooder lamps and donkey stones. Everything was sold loose in those days. We weighed sugar up in two pound blue bags and I was a dab hand at wrapping butter cut out of the slab or slicing cheese with a wire cheese cutter and getting very close to the weight that was asked for. A modern Health Inspector would blanch at the rudimentary level of hygiene but funnily enough I don’t remember there ever being any complaints about people getting food poisoning. My own theory is that we were all getting a drip feed of low-level infection and this protected us against anything worse.

There were few perks when you were behind the counter but I’m afraid I have to confess to one bad habit; I loved the purple wrapped chocolates in Quality Street and White Heather that had the hazel nut in them. I used to pick them out of the jars and eat them! I remember one lady saying that it was funny but they didn’t seem to be putting them in the mixture any more. In those days I smoked fags and never went short while we had the shop.

One of the great things about a shop like that was that you got to know everyone and heard all the gossip. We knew who was bothering with whom before anyone else! We also got to know all the characters. There was Billy Banks who lived in Barlick but worked at Bristol Tractors; he used to come to work on a cycle that had a Power Pack engine on the back wheel. The funny thing was that he used the engine when he was coming to work in the morning but not when he went home at night. I couldn’t understand this, as it was all downhill in the morning and uphill at night. I asked him one day why he didn’t do it the other way round and he informed me it used too much petrol! I suppose he had a point but it seemed all wrong to me. Eddie Lancaster came in regularly for his sixty Players a day and I soon got to know him. He worked for West Marton delivering bottled milk to the depots in Barlick, Nelson and Burnley and I used to go with him when I had any spare time to give him a hand. It was through doing this that I eventually started to work as a driver at the dairy. We always used to stop at the Craven Heifer on the way home and have a pint or two. As my Dad used to say, ‘One’s just right, two’s too many and three isn’t half enough’. It got to closing time many a night before we came out and boy, did we have some fun!

Jimmy Talbot and his wife Gladys Redfern (as was) were licensees at that time and Eddie and I spent many a happy hour early doors with Gladys in the bar. I remember one night in November we got in at about half past five and we were glad to see a big coal fire roaring up the chimney at the end of the bar. We sat on two stools getting the maximum benefit and Gladys opened the door out of the bar next to the fireplace and stood there chatting to us. At this time, Gladys was waiting to go into hospital for an operation on her stomach and we knew she was having a lot of pain. All of a sudden she moaned and we immediately jumped up and tried to get her to sit down but she wouldn’t let us move her. We hovered there waiting for her to collapse or something but after a few minutes she stirred and said she was all right. We asked her whether it was her stomach and she told us “No, it was my suspenders, they were red hot with standing in front of the fire!” We had a good laugh but she had put the wind up us.

In those days everyone had their favourite seat in the bar. Old Mrs Turner used to have the one closest to the fire and woe betide you if you didn’t get up when she came in. Dobbin Berry and Charlie Lancaster, both farmers in Kelbrook, always occupied the two seats next to her. They were both a good age and used to go everywhere together. I saw them one day when they had been to Gisburn Races and asked them how they had got on. Dobbin said that they had backed every winner bar the last one and if they’d had any money left they would have backed that one as well! The problem was of course that the winners were all low priced favourites and they were boozing the money away faster than they could win it. They always drank halves of bitter and it was amazing how much they could put away in a day. I asked Charlie one day how old he was, he wouldn’t tell me but he said that old folk in Kelbrook were like horse muck, they didn’t get old, they just dried up and then blew away. I was in the churchyard at Kelbrook not long ago and found both their graves I think. They are very close to each other just as they were in life. Nice. [I got a phone call the week this piece was published. It was Charlie Lancaster’s son. He thanked me for writing about his dad and told me I was right, they had been buried together deliberately. He said they were such mates all their lives that the families decided they should be near each other in death.]

In those days I was as fit as a butcher’s dog, I could work hard all day and had an appetite to match. After a few pints in the Heifer I used to go across the road to Albert’s chip shop and have fish, chips and peas twice and then go back in the pub and have some of Gladys’s stew and hard. I never put any weight on or lost any, I was exactly 168 lbs. and stayed at that for years. I don’t know about you lot but nowadays if I look at a chocolate cake I can feel the weight piling on.

In 1959 I bought Hey Farm and we had the benefit of a little shop at the end of Crow Row (I think the posh name is Longfield Lane). It was run by Mrs Brown and was a wonderfully tiny shop where you could get almost anything you wanted. Most of these little shops have gone now killed by the supermarkets and ease of travel. The problem with this is that once the habit is formed to go out of town to the supermarkets the other shops in the town suffer. It’s hard to imagine now but forty years ago you could find a blacksmith, a shoe shop, a bespoke tailor, a picture framer, a general drapers and even a crumpet and oatcake maker, all in the centre of the town. Nowadays we have plenty of tanning salons and nail replacement boutiques but very few shops selling what I would regard as really useful items and those that are will tell you they aren’t making a fortune.

I suppose that what we are looking at is change. Reading Edgar’s book reminded me about Kelbrook and I’m certain that people who live there will have noted changes, not all for the better. I look at Barlick as a historian and recognise that what we are looking at is our history progressing and developing. I don’t like many of the changes, my reaction is to shop inside the town whenever I can but I do realise that not everyone can afford to do this. We can’t go back to loose butter and sugar in blue bags but whenever possible we should stand up on our hind legs and voice our opinion about what is happening. We are lucky enough to live in a unique little town with many advantages, we should do all we can to preserve the best aspects of it.

SCG/17 August 2000

Thursday, January 17, 2002


While walking up from Victoria Park the other day, I took a short cut through Corn Mill Yard and was surprised to see the biggest silage cutter I have ever seen parked there. Now anyone that knows me will tell you I’m no stranger to big lumps of machinery but even I was impressed by this one. The engine compartment was bigger than my back kitchen! For those of you not brought up to farming, a silage cutter is a machine that cuts the grass, chops it and blows it into a wire mesh box trailer for transport to the pit at the farm buildings where it will be tipped, consolidated and sealed airtight so that it will keep for winter feed for cattle.
Preserving winter feed for cattle in this way has been understood for over 4,000 years and is even mentioned in the Bible; if any of you are interested, look up Isaiah, 30:24 in the Old Testament. However, it wasn’t a common practice in Britain until the 18th century when many improvements in agriculture were made. Even then, it was mainly arable crops that were ensiled. As late as 1950, silage was virtually unknown round Barlick and the usual method of keeping grass for winter-feed was haymaking.
When I left school I only wanted to do one thing, get into farming. I went as a pupil to a farm in Warwickshire and was on course for going to agricultural college when two things spoilt my plans. One was the Queen who wanted my body for two years and the other was the fact that when I finished serving her, I had to scrap my plans because my Dad was going blind and I was needed to run the family’s grocery shop at Sough. My love of farming hadn’t deserted me and I soon found a farm where I was welcome to give them a hand when it was needed. This was Greenbank up on Gisburn Old Track above Whitemoor Reservoir and Abel Taylor and his wife Maude farmed it. More about this in a minute but we need to take note of a connection between farming and the cotton industry here.
In the early days of the water-powered industry there was a very strong link with farming; this was often described as ‘One foot in the field. One foot in the shed.’ It arose from the fact that many of the early manufacturers and spinners owned land. They needed to in order to get the water rights to the stream powering their mill. As we’ve discovered earlier, one of the problems with waterpower was that it could be very unreliable in summer when there was dry weather. If the manufacturer owned land, this would be just the time when he needed labour for his hay harvest and so it made sense to use his workforce on the land instead of in the shed. A tradition grew up which survived to some extent into the steam-powered industry when some people would use their holidays to earn extra money helping with the hay harvest. It worked the other way round as well. Harry Horsfield from Sunnybank on Whitemoor once told me that his father used to send him to work in the mills when he could be spared from farm work; he said he hated it but had to go.
Back to Abel Taylor and Greenbank. I have little doubt that some of my younger readers would be amazed if they could go back and see what conditions were like on an upland farm in the 50’s. Electricity wasn’t installed in Barlick itself until the 1920’s and by the 1950’s was just reaching the outlying farms. It must be very hard for young people to appreciate what life is like without electricity, no lights, no washing machine, fridge, iron, TV, in fact nothing automatic or labour saving at all. In most respects, life was exactly the same as it had been a hundred years earlier. This applied to the farm machinery as well. Abel farmed with a horse, Dick, and a variety of horse drawn machinery, all of which would qualify for a museum nowadays. The only thing that could be considered ‘modern’ was a 1930’s Austin heavy 12 car converted to a light wagon by cutting the body off and building a flat on the back. Anything that couldn’t be done using these implements or the horse had to be done by hand. Hay time, which started round about the end of June if you were lucky, carried on until mid-September if you were unlucky! It all depended on the weather.
Haymaking was very labour intensive and everyone had to lend a hand. If the farm were a large one, an Irishman would be hired for the month. These men were itinerant labourers who, because of the shortage of work in Ireland, used to come to Britain and, starting in the south, would work their way up the country following the harvest to make money to tide them and their families over the winter. They would have their regular calling shops and would turn up just before they were needed and set on for an agreed sum plus board and keep for a month. If the weather was bad they were put on to other work like thistle mowing or walling but the farmer hoped for good weather so that he could use the Irishman for the hay harvest. I can remember during the 50’s when the cost of an Irishman went up to £50 for the month and the local farmers thought it was the end of the world!
Abel couldn’t afford an Irishman and the way he got extra labour was to rely on his neighbours for help; in return he would help them when they had a heavy day; and free casual labour like me who just enjoyed the work. This way of working is long gone now so I’ll describe just what had to be done to get the grass dried and stored in the barn as hay. I’ll assume that there’s a spell of good weather, recognise that if at any stage there was a wet day, the whole process was halted and had to be started from the beginning and each time this happened the quality of the hay went down with subsequent bad effects on the winter feeding of the cattle and the need to buy concentrated food in from the millers. A good hay time was the foundation of the farm’s finances for the year. Be aware as well that we are describing what had to be done to get one small field in, if everything was going well another field would be started before this one was finished so as to provide a progression of work.
Abel’s first job was to mow the grass. This was done with a horse drawn mower that had a small petrol engine to drive the cutter bar. This felled the grass in swathes, each one separated from the other by a small strip of bare ground. This bare ground was important because it had to dry out before the swathe was turned over on to it to dry the underside. The grass was left in the swathe long enough for it to dry on top; in good weather this could be 24 hours, in bad it could be a fortnight. The longer it took, the worse the hay. The small engine was water-cooled and Abel carried an old baked bean tin with him; each time he got near the ditch he would stop and replenish the cooling water. Dick, the horse, knew his job and needed little guidance, he kept straight by following the previous cut and knew when to turn at the corners. Abel told me he had seen his Dad hang the reins on part of the machine and cut his twist up for a pipeful of ‘baccy while the horse plodded on without any guidance. He had a young bloke there one day demonstrating a modern mowing machine. Abel said he was going so fast he couldn’t even have lit a cigarette let alone a pipe!
Once the swathe was dry on top it had to be turned. This was done by hand with rakes and his wife Maude and daughter Margaret would join us for this job. Swathe-turning is quite an easy job and with practice it gets to be automatic, you just walk along the swathe with the rake at an angle behind you and stroke the swathe over by raking the butt ends where it had been cut. With four of us working it was amazing how quickly a field could be turned. 24 hours later, with luck, the swathe was dry on both sides but still wet in the middle. Abel and the horse would set into the field with the shaking machine. This was a large cylindrical rake that was driven by the motion of the wheels on the ground and as it passed over the swathes it whirled them up into the air and left them scattered on the ground. This was hard work for the horse as it was pulling the machine and driving it as well.
Once the hay was ‘abroad’ as it was called, it was left until it was dry on top and then shaken again. This could be done with the machine but if the horse was tired or working on some other job, the labourers, (Maude, Margaret and me), would shake it out by hand using two tine forks. Each evening, while the hay was drying, we would go in to the field and rake the hay into foot cocks, so called because you used the rake and your foot to make a small pile of hay. This was to stop the dew from wetting too much of the hay again during the night. If the weather was really bad and looked like setting in, the hay was made into larger heaps called pikes that were like a small haystack. This made it less likely to be spoiled by the rain but was a lot of work and didn’t improve the quality.
Assuming all had gone well, we finished up after four or five days with a field of beautifully dry, sweet smelling hay. The job now was to get it into the barn. We would set to with the rakes and rake the hay into cart rows. These contained the equivalent of four or five swathes and the idea was to roll the hay over in such a way that it could be forked up on to the cart for carrying up to the barn. Once in the barn, it had to be forked up by hand again either on to the baulks above the shippon or on to the floor in the barn to make an indoor stack. Out in the field, as soon as it had been cleared, Margaret came into her own with the ‘rover’ or ‘donkey rake’. This was a large rake with curved tines that you dragged behind you as you walked in order to gather up any hay left lying on the ground. These tailings were gathered up and carted to the barn with the other hay.
There you have it, a brief description of what had to be done in order to feed the cattle over the winter. If all went well, haymaking was a lovely job but if the weather turned it could be a nightmare. By the way, we’re into living history this week! Some of you will have recognised that Margaret Taylor is now Margaret Broadhead and is licensee of the Foster’s Arms. Go and have pint and ask her if she can still use a donkey rake!



I have to tell you that I’m a bit angry this week because I bought 250cc of semi-skimmed milk at a motorway services last week and was charged 80p for it. I know we are all used to being ripped off in these places but I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that the farmers round here are getting between 10p and 16p a litre for full cream milk! In other words, not only are the middlemen working on a margin of over £3 on a litre of milk but they are skimming the cream off as well!

I can hear the usual question; what’s this got to do with history? Well I think it has a lot to do with it because what happens now in this area will have a tremendous effect on the future. This has triggered off some thoughts about agriculture and the local countryside.

We are very lucky in Barlick, if you walk in a straight line in any direction from the middle of town for 15 minutes you are out into open countryside and some of the nicest views to be found anywhere in England. What many people don’t realise is that, with the exception some parts of the moors on the tops of the hills, everything you look at is man-made. Our countryside isn’t natural; it’s a product of over 3,000 years of agriculture.

10,000 years ago, as the ice caps receded and what we now call ‘The British Isles’ became inhabitable again the land looked very different than it does now. For a start off there was no such thing as the Isles because we were connected to the continent by a land bridge that wasn’t broken until probably about 5,500BC. The Celts were the dominant race in what is now Western Europe and as conditions improved, they gradually moved in to the peninsula over the land bridge. The only way they knew how to survive was by hunting and gathering whatever natural food was available. These hunter-gatherers had to keep moving as they soon exhausted the resources of a locality and had to follow the wild animals and the seasonal crops. There were no settled dwellings and they made little impact on the landscape.

Out in the Middle East, there was no Ice Age to interrupt progress and by about 8,000BC the people living to the south of the Dead Sea in Jordan were finding better ways of providing food for themselves. They realised that if they stayed in one place and improved the land by cultivation they could encourage far better crops of the wild fruits and grasses they needed to survive. They kept the best examples of their crops for seed the following year and by a process of natural selection evolved the first improved grasses or cereals which eventually became our staple crops of wheat, oats and barley. At the same time they started to catch animals and keep them in captivity until they needed them for food and made another interesting discovery. If they fed them the cereals and grasses and encouraged them to breed there was no need to go out hunting and so the first animals were domesticated. This new system or culture of ‘ager’, the Latin word for field gave us our modern name of agriculture, the cultivation of fields. This new culture was so successful it spread outwards from Jordan and 6,000 years later had reached Barlick.

The new culture had a tremendous effect on the landscape. Land had to be enclosed to keep animals in and protect crops. Ownership of land became important, there was no concept of owning land until agriculture; look at the culture of the Australian aborigines, the native North Americans and any hunter-gatherer tribes for evidence of this right up to the present day. Field enclosures became boundaries, shelters were built and people became rooted to their own land holding. Once people were stationary they tended to use the same routes when travelling about the locality and tracks were worn into the ground following boundaries and these eventually became roads. Remember the bends in the road at Hollins Hall that we looked at a few weeks ago?

Places where roads met assumed their own importance as meeting places and villages sprang up. All this took thousands of years but by the beginning of the first Millennium AD the face of Britain had been changed entirely. As population increased and other civilisations moved in and influenced the land there was more enclosure and building and roads. By the end of the 16th century, as we have seen in Barlick on the 1580 map, there had to be more enclosures of land for cultivation and in the early part of the 19th century there were even more encroachments on to the moor which left us with the field pattern we have today.

All this farming had even greater effects if we look at what was growing on the land. The native scrub and woodland was cleared, the land drained and cultivated for crops of grass and cereals and the result was the pattern of fields we see today. The end result was a landscape that was totally altered by the uses it was put to and these changes were maintained by the continued cultivation. This brings me back to the point I was making at the beginning of this article; what happens if the pattern of farming is interrupted?

The place to look for evidence is where farming has been under-funded longest, the hill farms in the Dales and on the moors that rely entirely on sheep subsidy. Go up there and use your eyes. The highest fields are not being grazed or mowed and are reverting to the moor from whence they came. Clumps of rushes grow indicating that the drainage is breaking down and walls are left unrepaired. The out-barns have fallen into disuse and ar crumbling into ruin. Nature is taking over and reclaiming the land as moor and fell.

There is little evidence of this happening as yet in the lower fields because they are continuing to be farmed, but for how much longer? This all depends on how long the family farms can hold out against losses caused by uneconomic prices for milk because liquid milk is the main source of income in this area. The stock-rearing farms are no better off because the price of cattle has suffered in the last few years because of BSE. I was talking to an old mate of mine who farms in Barlick and he was telling me that he is getting a ‘good’ price for his milk, 16p a litre. When he says good he means in comparison to others who are getting less, some of them as low as 10p a litre in summer. Production cannot be sustained at this level of return and what it means is that eventually, these farmers are going to reach the end of their resources and go out of business.

Consider then, if nothing is done, the pattern of well-kept fields and walls, which we have known all our lives, will gradually disappear. The only animals grazing will be horses owned by people who are doing very nicely thank you in industries other than agriculture. Horses are all right, I have nothing against them but they are selective and untidy grazers. Unless the fields are topped regularly with a mower they will gradually become full of docks and thistles and well-kept grass will be a thing of the past. What makes it worse is that other pressures are bearing in on the farmers due to the plethora of regulation that bears down on every walk of life these days. If you have a farm you can’t sell your eggs at the gate or make cream, butter or cheese unless you invest a fortune in modern dairy equipment and submit to stringent inspection. The government exhorts farmers to diversify but there is a limit to how many golf courses, driving ranges, pony-trekking operations or rare breed farms a community can support.

Horticulture, the production of vegetables for the local market, could have been a way out but have you looked at some of the countries of origin on the labels in your local supermarket lately? I have seen onions from New Zealand, carrots from Australia and milk products from France. I came across a statistic the other day that amazed me; twenty years ago the average distance a carrot travelled to market was 40 miles, today it is 4,000. The main customers for produce like this are the supermarkets. Talk to any producer who supplies them and they will tell you that they are getting pitifully low prices for their produce and cannot get any advance because the supermarkets can source their needs abroad just as easily.

The only spark of hope I can see on the horizon is the growth of ‘Farmer’s Markets’ where farmers get together and sell their produce at a central location and charge economic prices. Where this is happening it seems to be a success because there are people about who are willing to pay extra for fresh local produce.

So, back to the history. It took 2,000 years of care and cultivation to give us the landscape we know and love. It will take less than fifty years to destroy it. As things stand at the moment, history is being re-written in Barlick and your grand children and great grandchildren will not have the benefit of the lovely landscape that we enjoy. What can be done about it? Simple, take the time to write to Nick Brown the Minister for Agriculture and tell him you think farmers should be paid a fair price. I know that you’ll naturally think that this won’t do any good but if everyone who reads this did this and copied the letter to Gordon Prentice it would create a small wave. Just imagine what would happen if everyone in the country did the same. One thing is sure and certain; if we don’t open our mouths we will lose our heritage. The buck stops here.

SCG/03 August 2000

[This was written before Foot and Mouth hit us in 2001. Needless to say, the body blow to local farming and the increased legislation that will result as government tries to manage nature will do even more damage. The consumer is still king. Vote with your wallets at the shops and supermarkets. Support your local farmers. If you don’t, you have no grounds for complaint about the changes that will ensue. 17 January 2002]

Tuesday, January 15, 2002


Studying history is a fascinating occupation and can have surprising consequences. I was sat minding my own business the other night in the kitchen, Eigg, the Jack Russell was snoring gently in her basket under the table and all was quiet, just how I like it. Then the phone rang and a fascinating piece of Barlick history plus one or two coincidences rose to the surface.

The call was from Holyhead on Anglesey and the caller was Eddie Spencer. This name didn’t ring a bell until the caller reminded me of an extremely noisy motorbike and sidecar that used to race down the road at what seemed like highly illegal speeds when I lived at Sough and pursued my trade as a grocer, ‘Open All Hours’ as they say.

This was the Eddie Spencer who came to Barlick originally in the early years of the war as one of the first Rover workers to move into Bankfield Shed. He started the conversation by giving me a surprise when he asked me where I was sitting. I told him and he said that he had sat in the same place in the back room at 10 East Hill Street many a time when he lived here until he moved back to Holyhead after the war. He also informed me that this room, where I am writing this now, was where the Barnoldswick Motor Club was formed. I had a bit of a surprise for Eddie, I told him he was not the best man in the world at clearing the cupboards out when he flit, and he had left something at the back of the cupboard in the front room! It was his turn to be intrigued.

When I first moved in here five years ago I found two pieces of brass bar and a print of Ironbridge at night in the cupboard. These, plus the fact that one or two repairs and fixtures in the house had been done in a particular way had convinced me that a fitter had lived here at some time. I took a guess that it was Eddie and told him I had used the brass and that the print was up on the wall and he couldn’t have it back! Honours were even so Eddie settled down and told me his story.

He spent his childhood in Holyhead; his father was a marine engineer and was away from home a lot. Things got bad after the Great War and his dad decided to leave the sea and set up a garage in Holyhead. For a while things were OK and Eddie served his apprenticeship with his dad as a fitter and automotive engineer but during the 30’s trade fell off and eventually his dad decided to sell the business and go looking for work. He found employment eventually in the Midlands with the Rover Company and the family moved down there, Eddie got a job at Rover as well.

Early in the Second World War, the Rover Company was fully engaged in the war effort and Eddie was working on reconditioning ‘Cheetah’ aero engines. The government were getting very worried at the time because the Germans knew where all these factories were and a decision was made to disperse essential industries to new and less vulnerable sites all over the country. Barlick was a suitable candidate; it had a railway line, a disciplined workforce and plenty of space in the shape of mills that had shut because of the depressed state of the textile trade in the 30’s. So, one day, Eddie and some of his mates were told that they had to move to somewhere called Barnoldswick in the far North and set up their workshops there. A bus was hired to take them but Eddie decided to travel with one of his mates who had a car.

I think a word of explanation is needed here for any young ones reading this, travelling around the country by road in 1940 wasn’t an easy matter. At the start of the war all signposts were taken down so that in the event of an invasion the Germans wouldn’t have any help in getting round the country. In addition, all street lamps were extinguished for the duration of the war. To make matters even worse, car headlights had to be covered with a mask with slits in which only allowed a small amount of light to shine out directly at the ground in front of the vehicle. The idea of these last two measures was to give no help to the enemy bombers. One further thing, there were no main roads or motorways in those days, we would regard most of the trunk roads as no better than country lanes now.

Eddie and his mate had another problem, the only map they had was a very large scale one of the whole of the British Isles that didn’t show any of the minor roads. Barnoldswick wasn’t even on it. They asked how they were to get to this strange place and were told to drive straight up the country until they were level with Blackpool and then turn west and start asking. As they were going up during the night this was not the most helpful of suggestions. I shan’t bore you with the details but Eddie tells me they eventually found Barlick but only after many adventures and a brief tour of Huddersfield and Halifax!

When they arrived at Bankfield Shed it was in the early hours of the morning and they found that the bus had got there before them, the driver must have known the way. They climbed on the bus and settled down for an uneasy sleep until daylight. Eddie was woken by an old lady tapping on the window, she wanted to know if they were the lads who were coming down to re-open Bankfield as an aero engine factory and when they said yes she invited them in to her house for a pint of tea and a bacon butty. Eddie says it was the best breakfast they ever had. He went on to tell me about how they set up shop with a few benches and the tools they had brought with them and found lodgings in the town. He stayed here until after the war and, as he had already told me, got interested in motor sport. There will be lots of people from those days who remember him, he reeled of a whole list of names and I asked a mate of mine only this week if he remembered him and he said yes, he was a member and gave me another long list.

Eddie then told me that there was one thing that had always bothered him, and this is where I want a bit of help from my readers. He said that he had always felt guilty because he never went back to find the old lady who gave him the tea and bacon butty that morning when they first arrived. He said she lived in the house that was on the Skipton side of the Post Office next to what is now the main gate to the factory. Eddie says that the front of her house faced on to the lane that ran down the front of the shed and that it was requisitioned as offices for the factory and later demolished to widen the entrance. His reason for trying to find out about her is that he wants to find her grave and put a bunch of flowers on it as a belated thank you for the kindness she showed him on that cold, dark morning. So, if any of you out there have any ideas, please give me a ring on 813527 and I’ll let Eddie know what we have found out.
I’m writing this at the beginning of August and Eddie goes into hospital for an operation on Monday at Liverpool. He is planning to come up to Barlick in October and it would be nice if we can find out who his benefactor was so if you have any information about that old lady and where she is buried there’s a bloke wants to give her a bunch of flowers.

Talking to Eddie reminded me of others who were affected by Rover coming to Barlick. We used to have regular caller at Hey Farm, Arthur Entwistle, who worked for Rover as well and moved the opposite way to Eddie. When Rover became Rolls Royce he went down to Coventry and finished his days retired in Warwickshire. I often wonder what would have happened to Barlick if Rover hadn’t been sent up here. The cotton industry was dying on its feet and there is little doubt that the transferring of those industries to the town had a major effect on prosperity and employment after the war. If you think back, the first steam mill opened in 1842 and by 1980 the industry was gone. The aero industry has been here for sixty years now, how long will that last and what will replace it? It’s all part of the tide of history flowing over us and only one thing is certain, Barlick has survived so far and I have no doubt will carry on doing so.

As you’ve probably noticed, Barlick summer is upon us. I was at home for the holiday fortnight and spent a lot of time peering through the window at the rain and laying small bets with myself that as soon as the holidays were over the weather would take up ready for going back to work. My dad always used to say that God cried when he wasn’t working, I know what he meant! However, thoughts of summer weather got me to thinking about farming and the relationship between the shed and the field so I think we’ll get away from war for a bit and do a few pieces on gentler things. Thanks for the feedback I’ve been getting; it’s nice to know that my ramblings interest so many of you. I’ve been surprised how far the Barlick View travels; Eddie Spencer was triggered off to write to me because he gets it sent to him every week. I was particularly pleased to hear from a twelve year old lass who says she never misses a week and enjoys me talking about ‘The Old Days’. When you come to think, fifty years ago to them is like 1890 was to me, it makes you wonder what age you have to be to seem ‘old’. Actually, I’m only 35; there is some sort of a mistake on my birth certificate! See you next week.

SCG/01 August 2000


This is the last of my foreign correspondence views for a while. I’m going to get down to some serious Barlick history writing now and will be here in the town until August next year but before I get back to the local stuff I thought the Editor might let me tell you about a trip I took last week to the Great War battlefields at Ypres or Iepre as the locals call it because they are Flemish, not French.

I’ve been wanting to see Iepre and the surrounding country for years; my grandfather, John Shaw Challenger was killed there in 1917 and my father was wounded and won the DCM there. In case you’re wondering why I haven’t given his name it’s because there’s a bit of a mystery about this. He was an Australian who joined up as a volunteer at the beginning of the war and after Gallipoli went to Loos, Vimy Ridge and finished up at Iepre fighting in the battle for Passchendaele in 1917 which was where we think he was gassed and wounded by a bayonet in the neck. Grandad Challenger has been fairly easy to trace but father has been more difficult as, like a lot of the Anzacs, he signed up under a false name. We haven’t found any official record of him yet but one of these days I will crack the mystery!

A friend of mine, Mrs Brigid Pailthorpe, was in the party and we soon realised there was a connection between us because her father in law was a surgeon at Bailleul where my grandad Shaw died and could easily have been the surgeon who treated him. You can take it as read that we both did a lot of weeping that day.

We started the day by going to the exhibition in the Cloth Hall at Iepre. When you buy the ticket you are given the name of a soldier who died in the area, I got a German called Max Beckman, nothing wrong with that and I thought of him as well as my relations as I went round the exhibits. It’s a very good display and gives a clear and sometimes shocking account of the horrors of industrial war.

It is very hard to realise that apart from the foundations of the Cloth Hall, (Iepre has always been a textile town), not a stone was left standing of the town. After the war, Churchill suggested that it should be left as it was as a memorial but the Belgians said that they wanted it put back exactly as it was. Germany was made to pay for the public buildings and the Belgian government paid for all the private property. By 1930 they had a new town but it was an exact replica of what had been there before. The war cemeteries usually mark either the site of a major battle or a casualty clearing station where many of the men died. After the war, the Belgians gave the land on which the cemeteries lie to the British Government so that the soldiers who died could be buried in British soil. With the exception of one cemetery, the Germans were made to take their dead home, the Belgians refused to give land to the people whom they regarded as the aggressors. All the graves are tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission using Flemish workers and they are immaculate.

It was heartbreaking to walk through these long rows of white stones, many of them unidentified, ‘Known Only Unto God’ is the inscriptions on these. The others are marked with the name and regimental crest of the soldiers unit and what particularly affected me was the graves of the Jewish soldiers which were easily identified by the rows of stones balanced on the top of the headstone. These are ‘Kaddish’ stones and are placed there by relatives to signify that they have said the ‘Kaddish’ or prayer of mourning over the grave. I was reduced to an emotional wreck at Tyne Cot Cemetery, just below Passchendaele Ridge where all the graves face uphill towards the German positions. One of the pill boxes, the strong concrete buildings housing the machine guns, is still there covered by the memorial stone. This hill is only 150 feet high and looking down the hill into the flat valley you clearly understood what an advantage this was. Nothing could move for about a mile without being totally exposed, no wonder so many men were killed. The casualty figures are telephone numbers and the mind soon becomes numbed by the sheer scale of the slaughter. Britain and the Commonwealth lost 500,000 men in five months on an area no bigger than the side of the Weets facing Barlick and this was only one small sector of the front line. The irony is that late in 1917 the whole salient was evacuated and it’s possible to speculate that these men died for nothing. The truth is probably that the Germans were so worn down by the assault here that it stopped them deploying troops elsewhere and so changed the face of the war. The one thing that is absolutely clear is that this was a war of attrition, deaths were swapped for deaths until both sides were so exhausted that they couldn’t carry on and a resolution had to wait until 1945.

A young American who was there asked me why a man should volunteer in Australia to come and die on the salient. I told her that this was a good question and that when she found an answer she should let me know. We can’t imagine the circumstances that bred the enthusiasm for war that existed in 1914. Billy Brooks, an old Barlicker who was about a hundred years old when I talked to him, told me how he and a mate of his had cycled to Skipton to enlist at the beginning of the war. When they got to the recruiting station the sergeant in charge told them that the queue was so long they couldn’t get processed that day and they should come back early the following morning. Billy said that the enthusiasm wore off during the night and they never went back. Eventually he was conscripted into Kitchener’s Army as a stretcher bearer because he was a member of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and though he had a hard time, he survived the war.

The Flanders Field exhibition in the Cloth Hall is very honest. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that the British Army shot over 300 men for ‘cowardice in the field’. Contrast this with the attitude of the Australians who didn’t shoot any at all. Their attitude was that there wasn’t much point killing their own men when the Germans were making so good a job of it. We even shot one lad who was only 15 years old when he joined because he was frightened to ‘go over the top’. Our government, to this day, still refuses to give these men a pardon and admit that they should not have been killed, this is a national disgrace.

On the same trip I also managed to go to another place which gave me an unforgettable experience. I managed to gain entry to Room 600 at the Nuremberg Courts of Justice where the Nazi War Criminals were tried. My first reaction was that there was something wrong as the room was too small. My guide told me that this was because the Americans had knocked the end wall out to make room for the press and spectators but that it had been reinstated afterwards. The room is still used but only for murder trials. I was particularly interested in this place because when I was in Berlin in 1955/56 I occasionally went on guard at Spandau Gaol where Funk, Doenitz, Speer and Hess were held prisoner. Somehow, seeing the courtroom completed a circle for me.

I’m sorry that this week’s View has been so dire but if we are going to look at history we should look at the nasty bits as well as the pleasant. Both wars had a tremendous effect on Barlick. The Great War wiped out a generation of young men and condemned many women to being either spinsters or widows. The second World War brought Rolls Royce to the town and created a new industry. More about this in another View. I’d just like to leave you with another thought about World War Two, the same American lass who asked me about volunteers had another question about how valuable the Russian contribution was in WW11. I told her that one of the best kept secrets of the War was that the Russians lost almost 30,000,000 lives keeping the Germans occupied on the Eastern front. She would have to work out the significance of that for herself.

I’m left with one small question of my own, how can it be that (unless I missed something) I saw no mention of deaths amongst the Gurkha or Indian troops at Iepre?

SCG/June 27, 2000


I think I’ve mentioned before that now I am retired, the next project is to write a History of Barlick. One of the reasons why I like doing these pieces for Barlick View is that it helps me to polish up my writing and also keeps me thinking about our local history and even more important, gets me into what I hope is an entertaining and readable way of writing it down. I have read too many boring academic histories and I don’t think that you sacrifice truth or authority by making your work readable. By the way, I’d like to hear what you think about the style so far, please let me know whether I am easy to read and what you think of the content.

As I keep saying, you’ve got to do a bit of investigation first in order to know what the questions are you want to find answers to. I don’t know about you, but history wasn’t my favourite subject when I went to school. I’m not blaming the people who taught me, perhaps I wasn’t ready for it, but I do blame the sort of history that was taught. Until recently I didn’t really understand why but then a friend of mine gave me a massive 1200 page history book and said “Read this for me will you and let me know whether it’s any good.” It was by Norman Davies and is called simply ‘THE ISLES’. It was published last year and if you’re really interested in history I recommend that you get hold of a copy and read it, I think it’s brilliant. It explained so many things that have puzzled me for years and has opened up my understanding of the general history of these islands we live on beyond anything I could have hoped for.

However, the point here is ‘what does it have to do with Barlick?’ Let me see if I can give you a clue.

The history I was taught said that there were some people living in these Isles called ‘The Ancient Britons’ and that they were invaded by the Romans and almost wiped out. Then the Anglo-Saxons invaded and those that weren’t killed were driven into Wales and became the Welsh. Then the Normans, who were French, invaded and changed everything again and so on. I could go on and I think many of you were taught the same sort of history but what I have found out now is that just about every ‘fact’ I have stated so far about what I was taught is wrong!

Norman, (I feel I can call him by his first name because after reading his book I think I know him quite well!) starts off by telling an amazing story which I was vaguely aware of but hadn’t understood in the context of the history of these Isles. Let’s see if it blows your mind in the same way that it did mine.

In 1903 some archaeologists doing a dig in the Cheddar Gorge found the remains of a man in a cave. Typically, they called him ‘Cheddar Man’ and did a lot of speculating about who he was and how long he had been there. In recent years a technique called carbon dating was applied to him and it was found that give or take 150 years, he was at least 9,000 years old. This fact intrigued Norman because he knew that until about 6,000BC our isles weren’t separated from the continent but were a peninsula of what is now Continental Europe. He also knew that the isles were uninhabited until after 10,000BC because of the Last Ice Age so Cheddar Man had to be an incomer from Europe and therefore was a Celt because they were the dominant race at that time.

In recent years, another technique has become available, DNA testing and matching. Some bright spark got the idea of examining Cheddar Man to see whether they could get a viable DNA sample from his bones. They succeeded and proved that he was indeed a match to other finds right across Europe which of course, supports Norman’s theory. Then, and to me this is the magic bit, some genius decided to ask for volunteers from the village of Cheddar to give samples of DNA for comparison. The headmaster of the local infants school, a Mr Targett, turned out to be an almost exact DNA match with Cheddar Man. Unless there was a million to one mischance, Mr Targett is directly related through the maternal line to this anonymous Celt who died at least 9,000 years ago. Further, the fact that he was still living in the same village seems to indicate that all his ancestors did as well! I don’t know about you but I find this absolutely amazing!

Norman then started to do what any good historian should try to do, he drew some conclusions from his evidence. As I have said before, this is the essence of how we learn, take some facts, construct a hypothesis and then try to prove it is wrong. Personally I think Norman makes a pretty good case and I’ll buy it until someone proves any different. What he deduced from this event was that if one of the original Celts could leave a line of ancestry in one village like Cheddar Man did, others could have done the same. The chances that this is an isolated case are too great to imagine. Therefore, all the Celts (or Ancient Britons) weren’t driven into Wales or killed and perhaps this applies to all the other invasions we have enjoyed over the last 2,000 years.

I’m not going to chase this hare any further, get the book and read it if you want to know more. What I do want to do is apply this thinking to Barlick. If Norman’s theory is true for Cheddar, it could be true for Barlick. Somewhere in the Pioneer store you could be queuing for the check-out next to a person whose ancestors have lived in this district for over 9,000 years. As Dame Edna would say, “Spooky!” If you also think about the fact that until the Romans arrived in the first century AD the Celts were the dominant race, the odds in favour of this being true are far greater. Add to this the fact that this part of the North West of Britannia was never really of interest to any invader and was largely left alone until the Industrial Revolution and we end up with a racing certainty.

You may have realised that it looks as though there might be a bit of a flaw here in the theory. I know Barlickers are different but they certainly aren’t Welsh! There could be an answer to this. The breed could be the same but the culture might change when ‘foreign’ influences bore in on it. We know that in Cheddar Man’s day there was no ‘culture’ of agriculture, in other words, the concept of cultivating ground and growing crops hadn’t arrived from what is now Europe. The ancient Celts were ‘hunter-gatherers’, they lived off what they could kill or find growing already. The old view of history was that as the ‘agriculturists’ spread across from the continent they drove the existing hunters before them because they had a superior way of life and could survive times of famine and hard weather easier. If the evidence of Cheddar Man is anything to go by, this didn’t happen, the hunter-gatherers adopted new ideas and used agriculture. There is far more likelihood that it wasn’t so much the farming Celts that travelled across the land bridge but the culture itself.

All this has shed a new light on how I look at Barlick. It gives me some clues as to why we are a different breed in this part of the country. As you know, I shouldn’t really use the word ‘we’ because I am an off-comed-un. However, half my ancestry is Australian and the other half Northern so I reckon that in any comparison with Ancient Barlickers I am probably a pretty good fit, especially in the ‘peculiar’ stakes!

We hear a lot these days about the ‘North/South Divide’; for political purposes we are told that it doesn’t exist. Most people are thinking in economic terms when they join this debate but there could be another element to consider. This part of the country, unlike the South, was never part of the ‘Civic’ Roman Occupation, it was always under military rule. The Norsemen didn’t have much interest in us because we were too far from their preferred travel route, the sea. The Normans policed us but we were too poor to be of any great interest and the Saxons concentrated on the East side of the isle. Once the Kingdom of England was established we were too far from the centre of power in the South and the main route to Scotland in the East to be of any great value. Preston was the only town in the area that had a guild system, this is a good indication of the levels of trade and profit. Finally, we were one of the early bastions of non-conformity in religion. All these factors seem to indicate that we were left alone to develop in our own way and were relatively unaffected by the succession of different cultures and influences that came in from the continent. The far North of Scotland has a similar history and they are different as well.

So there you are, I read a book, did a bit of thinking and a lot of different pieces of the puzzle that is Barlick began to fall into place. I’ve always known that this town was different, now I begin to see why. I give myself credit for having realised something 40 years ago about Barlick which I always knew had something to do with the character of the town; it isn’t on the way to anywhere. Anybody who lands up in Barlick either had a reason for being here or was totally lost!

Being an incurable romantic I now let my mind wander and started to think about some of the characters I’ve known in this district. Which of them could be the equivalent of Mr Targett in Cheddar? I came up with a list and am certain that I could be proved wrong but I reckon a lot of the older end could qualify as Ancient Barlickers. No, I’m not going to name any names, that would be far too dangerous. The things they have in common are that they are (or in some cases, were) able men, cantankerous and definitely one-offs. Work it out for yourselves, if you’ve taken any interest at all in the town and its inhabitants you will be able to come up with your own candidates. Have fun!

SCG/13 June 2000


I want to finish our look at the map of Whitemoor this week by having a close look at County Brook Mill. I rely heavily here on information from the Wilfred Spencer papers and from Raymond Mitchell, the present owner of county Brook Mill who wrote a splendid booklet about the mill in 1994. Helen Spencer, Wilfred’s widow, gave me other clues, largely connected with estate maps.

There is mention of Hullet Nest Farm and a mill in an indenture of 29th August 1785 in which the owners were Joseph Hartley of Cragg (Foulridge), Margaret his wife and Daniel Parker of Hague, yeoman. The mill has changed its name frequently. In 1828 it is Hey Mill, in 1838 New Mill, in 1910, Stew Mill and I have heard some call it Mitchell’s Mill. The first mention I have found of it is on a map of the Midgeley Estate in 1810 when it was described as a worsted mill, in other words processing wool. This was very early for power weaving and I would suggest it was a spinning mill then. Raymond Mitchell told me that when his grandfather took over the mill it was three storied and there was evidence of corn milling having been carried on there. The water frame for spinning came into general use round about 1785 so it may well have been a corn mill up to that point. (Was it the replacement for Wood End Mill?) Raymond has a sale notice in his possession dated June 1842 for the Hullet Nest Farm. A William Hewson and his wife Betty Hartley were the owners at the time. In the description of land and property ‘the cotton mill Hey Mill’ is mentioned. The vendor reserved the right to remove the ‘engine, boiler house and waterwheel’ unless the purchaser wished to keep them at a cost of £30. So, from this we know that Hey Mill had embraced change, had changed to cotton and was supplementing the water power with a steam engine. The buyers were William and John Midgley hat manufacturers of Colne and they paid £1440.

The practice of installing an engine to work in conjunction with a water wheel was common. What isn’t immediately obvious is that there were other advantages from this arrangement beyond simply increasing the power available. Any form of textile machinery works best at one particular speed. One of the major disadvantages of water power was the fact that it is very difficult to guarantee constant speed. Governors were fitted to them but were almost useless in that their response time was so slow. With the advent of steam, water power users soon realised that if they installed an engine in the power train and ran the water wheel at full flow, topping up the power with the engine, they could control speed far more accurately by varying the steam to the engine by means of a governor. This steadier speed would increase production, cut down on weft breakage and put profits up. Another surprising benefit which Dr Mary Rose proved in her work on Quarry Bank Mill at Styal is that steam power was cheaper than water power and so profits went up for this reason. Water power looks as if it ought to be free but in practice, the maintenance of the wheel and it’s water resource was very expensive.

The 1851 census records three families as living at Hullet Nest (now known as Owlet Nest) and all are connected with textiles, two of them as handloom weavers of wool. Two old women, one 65 and the other 69 are described as bobbin winders but this is almost certainly in connection with the domestic industry. In other words, no evidence that there was any activity at the mill.

In the 1861 census there is no mention of any trade connected with the mill. This was the time of the Cotton Famine and it may well be that the mill was disused for textiles then. However, in the same census a man called Edmund Riley of ‘Hullet Nest’ [Owlet Nest] is described as farmer of 27 acres and ‘Mordant Maker’. He was in partnership with a man called William Yates in this business. (Mordant is a term used in dyeing to describe a chemical which fixes the colour in the cloth.) This fits in with the name ‘Stew Mill’ because we know that this was coined when the site was used for charcoal making. The wood was ‘stewed’ in closed vessels and the vapour which came off was distilled and produced a range of chemicals from light fractions like wood alcohol and naphthalene through phenols to heavy distillates like Stockholm Tar. This process was a valuable source of chemicals before the advent of the petro-chemical industry. Raymond says that in 1928 there were still retorts in the mill and tanks containing liquor

The waterwheel at Hey Mill was 34 feet in diameter and four feet wide. During the 1950’s the mill ran on water power supplemented by an oil engine. By the end of the decade the shed was electrified and it became uneconomic to use the original power. The wheel was demolished in 1960 and the shaft can still be seen in the mill yard.

On March 27th, 1876 William Mitchell was born at Ryecroft Bingley and he was to become owner of the mill at County Brook in 1907. We know he worked in the quarries at Barnoldswick and in 1907 when he left Salterforth Mill he was a tackler and so would have been in the cotton trade for some years. By 1907 canal traffic was falling off and the irregular water supply that had dogged the mill ever since the Canal Company bought the lease on the water in 1815 and then built Whitemoor reservoir would be easing. Perhaps this was just the time for an intelligent man to step in and take advantage of the low price of a disused watermill when everyone else was thinking steam power and larger units. Whatever happened, on Nov 11, 1910 the Nelson Leader printed a piece describing ‘Stew Mill’ as a weaving mill running 36 looms. Charcoal production was still being carried on and the article mentions the fact that production has not had to stop for shortage of water ‘for the last two or three years’.

The mill was subsequently enlarged and additional power obtained from an oil engine. It is now electrified and still, at the time of writing in 2000, still producing cloth and in the ownership of the Mitchell family.

Looking at the County Brook as a whole, its potential importance as a water power source was blighted in 1815 when the Canal Company took control of the water. The one thing that water powered industry needs above all others is an uninterrupted supply. The Company had only one interest, to let down the water when it suited them for the operation of the canal. This obviously conflicted with interests of the mills who needed continuous water day and night. By day County Brook ran the mill, by night it filled the dam and gave a reserve for the following day. This single fact explains the chequered history of the mills on the watercourse between 1815 and 1907. The degree of success that William Mitchell achieved at County Brook Mill was almost certainly connected with the decreased usage of water by the canal as traffic dropped. If you want to speculate further about this, consider what might have happened if the canal hadn’t taken the water at all. County Brook would have had a bigger water resource than Kellbrook, Foulridge or Salterforth and might have developed into a small town. This may seem far-fetched when we look at the present-day rural setting of County Brook Mill but it could all have been much different.

Back to the Black Brook. The 1580 map shows it flowing away in the general direction of Kelbrook and Earby. It is joined by a tributary marked as ‘Mearclough Water’, this will be what is now known as Lancashire Gill which used to be the continuation of the county boundary. It rises above Mere Clough Farm on the original road between Foulridge and Kelbrook. (Mear or mere is Old English for boundary) The road in the valley bottom which is the main road today is relatively new. Mrs Tordoff, who was about 90 years old when she lived in Kelbrook in 1957 once told me that when she was a girl her Mother told her that this road used to end at the Stone Trough Inn and became a cart track into the fields.

I say the water ‘flowed’ towards Earby, this is a bit optimistic actually. The bottoms between Foulridge and Earby are on the watershed between Lancashire and Yorkshire and there is very little fall to get the water away. In 1580 this whole valley would have been a bog in all but the driest times. Sometime in the 18th century I suspect, Dutch drainage experts were brought in to construct the New Cut to improve the drainage of water towards Earby and away through Thornton bottoms. I have heard it said that this is the origin of the name Hague in the valley. I’m a bit wary of this as I’ve also come across an inference that it was called after the disease, ague, which was a fever contracted by living in wet areas. Place names can be very deceptive and until I have some better information I’ll keep my options open on that one. (Hague is a corruption of Haig or haga which is an Old Norse term for an enclosure, especially a hedged one.)

What is certain is that in 1840 when the Canal Company built Whitemoor Reservoir and appropriated most of the water for the canal, apart from a small amount they would have had to let forward down the original Black Brook by law, they would have improved the situation in Sough and Earby quite considerably as regards flooding. I lived in Sough in the late 50’s and can remember that Lane Bottoms at Earby flooded regularly. I wonder whether this was a reversion to the days before the canal because the Leeds and Liverpool was almost abandoned then, commercial traffic had almost ceased and pleasure traffic was only just starting. One can imagine that more water was coming down the bottoms than at any time since the canal reservoir at Whitemoor was built. One more comment before we leave the Black Brook, Sough is the local dialect name for a drain.

As you can see, there is a lot more work to be done on County Brook and the three mills. It seems obvious that from 1815 onwards the use of the water for the canal blighted Midge Hole and County Brook Mill. The fate of Wood End is slightly more obscure. All I can say at the moment is that it seems to have fallen out of use before County Brook Mill was started and there must be a possibility that the stones in County Brook Mill might have been from Wood End, they weren’t the sort of thing you moved far unless you had to. Perhaps County Brook Mill was the successor to Wood End?

One word about millstones while we are on the subject. The nearest source I know for millstones is at the top of Noyna above Foulridge. If you take a walk up there you’ll find stones half cut and some that were flawed and cracked while they were being worked. I came across an account somewhere, I have an idea it was in the Barcroft Diaries which used to be held at Pendle Heritage, of two stones being brought down from the quarry. A shaft was fixed between the centres of the two wheels so that they were like two cart wheels on an axle. A pair of oxen were yoked up at the front and another at the back to act as a brake and the wheels were moved like that. From the middle of the 19th century, English millstones went out of fashion and built up, iron bound ‘French Burrs’ were imported as they were much harder than native stone.

Right, I think that’s the end of our look at the 1580 map. Remember what I always say, these accounts are never complete, there is always something new to learn about them. What I have done over the last few weeks is to lay out some of the more obvious points. There is plenty left to do and all sorts of discoveries to make. As for the court case, we don’t even know what the official verdict was until someone goes to the records and looks it up, probably in the Public Record Office in London. Whatever the verdict, Whitemoor stayed within the boundaries of Barlick so I suppose if you were desperate for a result you could say that Barlick won!


Sunday, January 13, 2002


In the process of working our way along Higher Lane as far as Cross Gaits last week we jumped over Black Brook (County Brook) without taking a proper look at it. There was a good reason for this, I wanted to save it for this week, the fourth of our study of the 1580 map.

Right, let’s enjoy ourselves, but before we do, we have to take note of some facts which we need to understand before we get down to the serious business of poking about on County Brook. The first thing to remember is that Whitemoor reservoir wasn’t built until 1840. By then, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was coming under increasing pressure as the amount of traffic was greater than they had anticipated. The stretch of canal or ‘pound’ between Barrowford Locks and Greenberfield is the summit level, in other words it is the highest part of the canal. The higher the number of boats using the canal, the more water is used in the locks at each end of the summit level and the greater the amount of water needed to make up the losses. This situation had been a constant worry since the canal came into use. In 1796, following the completion of Foulridge tunnel, the canal reached the stage where it was open from Leeds to Burnley and the water supply to the summit level was taken from various springs and streams along the way plus two reservoirs, one above Ball Bridge, now known as Foulridge Lower and one at Slipper Hill fed by water off the west side of Whitemoor.

Incidentally, older readers might remember a time in the late 60’s when a sign mysteriously appeared on the side of the road at Foulridge which declared to the world that Foulridge Lower Reservoir was actually ‘Lake Burwain’. The word was that some of the locals thought it would raise the tone of the area and property prices as well. The Canal Company took a dim view of this and as the new sign had been erected on their land it was rapidly replaced by one which read ‘Foulridge Lower Reservoir’. This was the end of that particular gentrification project!

By 1810 the company was actively seeking extra water. In 1815 they purchased the lease of the County Brook for £100 per annum. We don’t know who sold this lease but it could have had an important bearing on things we will look at later on. The problem still persisted so they brought in a noted civil engineer, John Rennie, to have a look at the problem. His first recommendation was that the two rise lock at Greenberfield should be replaced by three separate locks on a different line. His reasoning was that multiple rise locks (locks that share gates like the ‘Five Rise’ at Bingley) use more water than single locks and the existing two-rise lock was in bad condition anyway and needed extensive re-building, you can still see the original line if you go and look. At the same time, Foulridge Lower was enlarged by the simple expedient of raising the embankment two feet at a cost of £150! Later on they repeated the exercise, this time raising it a further three feet at a cost of £4,119. Even so, they were still short of water.

The purchase of the lease at County Brook must have concentrated minds and by 1840 the company had built Whitemoor Reservoir at a cost of £10,150. In 1861 Foulridge Upper Reservoir was started and was completed in 1866 at a cost of £14,774. In 1882 a reservoir was built at Barrowford to catch the overflow from Whitemoor and Slipper Hill but at the same time the company were starting on a major new reservoir at Winterburn above Eshton. This reservoir, together with the pipeline connecting it to Greenberfied was completed in 1893 and relieved the situation but didn’t completely cure it. By 1890 an average of ninety boats a week was passing the summit.

At this point I can hear you saying that this is all very interesting but what’s it got to do with Black Brook. A good question, the answer is that in order to understand the events on Black Brook, you have to know what the pressures were on the canal company because the measures they took to control and utilise the water had a direct effect on how County Brook developed. There is one more fact we have to take into account. There was no need for water power in the textile industry of the area until Arkwright had perfected his waterframe which was the first practical power-driven spinning machine. He took out patents to restrict use of the principle to those who paid him for a licence but in 1781 his monopoly was broken and the technology was thrown open to all. This started a boom in the conversion of old water mills and the building of new ones for the water-powered spinning of cotton.

Right, I think we’ve done the spade-work, we can get on now with the enjoyable bit! We’ve already noted that the sources of the water draining down County Brook are the spring that fed Lister Well, the water running out of ‘Gail Mose or Fail Mire’ marked on the 1580 map and of course, natural drainage of surface water on this part of the moor. Before 1840 all this water combined just above Wood End and flowed down the gill towards Salterforth Bottoms. The watercourse that we can see now emerging from the culvert under Higher Lane is essentially unchanged from what would have been there in 1580 even though all above the road has changed. At the top it is 700 feet above sea level and down at canal level it is 500 feet so there is a fall of 200 feet on a sizeable watercourse over a distance of half a mile. This is an ideal water power site and could have served several mills. Let’s walk down the road and see what we can find. Anybody can do this, it isn’t rocket science.

The first thing of interest we see isn’t a water mill, it’s Mount Pleasant Methodist Chapel. This is a wonderful little chapel which is still in use. I’ve read somewhere that Wesley once preached there but can’t remember the source. The chapel was founded in 1822 by John Barritt who was born at Hullet Hall Farm (now Owlet Nest) in 1745, he entered the Wesleyan ministry and accompanied John Wesley at times as he travelled around the north of England preaching. John’s sister Mary was a woman preacher and became accepted as a leading exponent of the Methodist movement. I like this chapel with its lack of frills and an air of do it yourself Christianity. If this isn’t grass roots religion I don’t know what is and I’m all in favour of it.

Just below the chapel, down in the clough, there are some ruins. If you look carefully you can see the outline of a mill lodge, a building and a depression which at one time would have housed the water wheel. This is the site of Midge Hole Mill which we know was taken over by Ezra Sellers from his brother Marshall sometime in the mid19th century and was in production until 1882. Thanks to dedicated research by another local historian, Wilfred Spencer, formerly librarian at Colne, we also know why Ezra gave up the mill and why it never ran again. He said that ‘the new canal company waterman wanted too much palm oil’. In other words, he was asking for a bigger bribe than the old waterman to let the water down from the reservoir at times which would suit the workings of the mill. This needs a bit of explanation.

In the days before the canal company built the reservoir there would be no problem in running the mill so long as there was enough water running down County Brook to power the wheel. The only time there would have been a shortage of water was in time of drought in summer or very hard frost in winter. Once the reservoir was built, all this changed. Say the reservoir was low and the canal company wanted to build up their reserves, they could shut the clough (the sluice gate that controlled what water dropped down the stream) and keep all the water in the reservoir. This meant that Midge Hole, or any other mill on the stream for that matter, would have to stop work. The waterman employed by the company had the mill owner by the throat. If he let water down to the canal at night but stopped it during the day he would stop the mill. If a small payment persuaded him to let the water down during the day the mill could run. This was the ‘palm oil’ that Ezra Sellers, the manufacturer, was alluding to. Evidently the waterman got too greedy and lost his source of income!

From the size of it I would say that Midge Hole started life as a water-spinning mill taking advantage of the new technology sometime after 1785. It looks about the right size. There’s a bit of a trick to this, mills using Arkwright’s waterframe are all about the same width, 27 or 28 feet as this was the space needed to accommodate a water frame and a walkway on one side. Midge Hole looks about right although we know that from the mid 19th century it was running as a weaving mill with about 24 looms weaving wyncyette shirting for the Bradford market. Old Mr Barritt at Hey Fold told Helen Spencer that it was the canal company that demolished the mill and they used the stone to build a wharf down on the canal near where the water from the stream flows in. Did they buy the mill in 1815 when they took the lease on the water? If there was an existing lease I would have thought that Midge Hole would have controlled it.

As more and more people do research we may learn more about Midge Hole. I got a tantalising clue the other day when I got a letter from Chris Aspin who has done a lot of work on these mills. He told me he had come across a reference to a ‘worsted mill’ in Foulridge in some insurance company records. This must have been an early mill and if it was, is one of the very few references to Arkwright’s waterframe being used for wool, the other two are at Addingham and Dolphinholme. I think the main lesson we have to learn at this stage from Midge Hole is the influence the canal company had on it’s running. Their management of the water closed what was a promising mill site which was quite capable of expansion.

Before we go any further down the road it would be as well to point out that it is private from here on. It would be polite to ask for permission from County Brook Mill before going any further. I have little doubt that it would be granted.

As you walk down the road, observe the ground carefully on the far side of the stream. You will see unnatural straight banks just above the stream and these give a clue to what is going to happen next. What you are looking at are the remains of a mill leat which once carried water from a dam across the stream in an artificial culvert with just enough fall to transport water. As the stream is falling much more rapidly than this artificial channel, the difference in height between the leat and the stream is growing. This difference in height is what you need to power a water wheel. There was no need for a leat at Midge Hole because the bed of the stream is falling so rapidly at that point that there was enough difference in height between the top side of the mill and the low side to give the fall necessary to run a wheel. In the case we are looking at now, we are building up enough of a fall to drive another mill, this one is Wood End Mill.

Further down the County Brook, just above the Stew Mill, there is a footbridge across the brook and if you look carefully above this point you can see traces of a building and a mill leat. This was the site of Wood End Mill and the first mention I have of this is in about 1694/5 in a letter written by Thomas Barcroft of Noyna Hall at Foulridge to Richard Moore of Ball House Foulridge. Thomas is complaining about the fact that Richard is threatening to take him to court over non-payment of rent for Burwains Mill, a corn mill which stood in the valley now flooded for Foulridge Upper Reservoir. He cites one of the reasons for bad trade at Burwains being because of Pollard’s recently built mill at Wood End. By implication he seems to suggest that Wood End was a corn mill and had a drying kiln which was a big advantage in a damp climate like the Pennines. We have to use our heads and make some deductions from the Barcroft diaries to get any further with this mill.

In 1694/5 Thomas Barcroft describes Wood End as ‘recently built’. It seems a fair guess that in terms of its affect on Burwains that we are talking about ten or fifteen years. So, we know that there was a mill on this site by about 1680. Remember what we said earlier on about the evidence in the 1580 map of an increase of population in the area. This didn’t just put pressure on the production of food which forced the taking in of land from the waste but also to the means of processing it. Corn mills were a vital resource for grinding locally produced grain both for human and animal food and as the demand increased, new capacity had to be found.

Up to the middle of the 16th century, water power was a jealously guarded source of wealth. They were all either Royal Mills operated under licence, monastic mills controlled by the monasteries or manorial mills rented out by the Lord of a manor. The Dissolution of the Monasteries from about 1535 onwards threw all the monastic mills on to the open market and at the same time fractured the rigid systems of control that had tied down entrepreneurs for hundreds of years. It becomes common at this time to find references in various Court Rolls of fines being imposed on the owners of ‘pirate’ mills which had been built to satisfy the increased demand. The courts recognised that these mills were necessary to solve the problem of shortage of capacity and allowed them to function as long as they paid the fines which were, in effect, a rent. By the mid 17th century there had been a further relaxation and the courts no longer exercised any control. If a person could acquire the rights to use the water and had the capital to buy the land and build a mill, he was free to do so. It seems that this was exactly what Pollard did, he saw a gap in the market, built a mill and ground corn. Having said this, we have no clear idea of how long he was in business or what stopped him. All I can say with certainty at this point is that on a map of Midgeley’s Wood End Estate dated 1810, Wood End Mill is marked as ‘ruins of (?) mill’ so we know that whatever stopped it, it wasn’t the canal company as they didn’t control the water until 1815.

If you want to get serious about this here’s a clue; according to Peter Wightman’s WILLS OF COLNE, the Lancashire record office at Preston holds the following documents: Alice Pollard of Slipper Hill, 1676. Admin and inventory. John Pollard, yeoman of Foulridge. 1608 Admin and inventory. John Pollard of Slipper Hill. 1675. Will. Take a trip out and have a look at these, then let me know what you found! It will save me another little task.

I mentioned that there was an indication that Wood End had a drying kiln, here’s a tip about drying kilns connected with mills. The corn was dried on heavy cloth, sometimes made of a mixture of wool and horsehair supported by poles over a small fire. The poles were in turn located by grooves cut into stones surrounding the aperture over the fire. These are known as ‘rack stones’ and are quite easy to identify. If ever you’re looking at an old corn mill site, examine the walls adjacent to the site carefully because old stone was always re-used in the vicinity and the rack stones are quite easy to spot. If you find them you can be certain that there was a kiln somewhere near.

Well, I think we’ve used up our allocation of space for this week. Next week I’ll finish County Brook off by having a look at the last, and biggest mill on the stream, County Brook Mill.

SCG/21 April 2000


This week I want to look at the boundary of the earliest improvements starting at Barlick and working south along what we now know as Higher Lane, the old road from Barlick to Barrowford via Standing Stone Gate. Starting in Barlick there are three ‘laynes’ marked on the map. As near as Doreen and I can make out the first two are called ‘Barnoldswick Layne’ and the third is called Salterforth Lane. I think the nearest one to Barlick is probably what we now know as Manchester Road. On older maps of the town it is called Barnoldswick Lane and originally was a branch off the main route into the town, what we now call Gillians Lane. Bear in mind that the centre of the town at that time was Town Head.

In passing, think about the name ‘Gillians’, there was an old English name ‘Gylla’ and it occurs to me that Bernulf wasn’t the only early inhabitant of the town, there could have been the family of Gylla and it could be the root of Gillians. The key thing to remember is that all the ancient names became corrupted over time and that there was always a good reason for the original form. We don’t question Gillians because it is a forename that we are familiar with but I have seen it spelt ‘Gillions’ and Gillons so it is almost certain that it has been corrupted over time and is a very ancient name. Just think, if he had been more important than Bernulf we could be living in Gillonswick!

The next lane to the south looks to me as though it might be Hodge Lane which strikes off Higher Lane at Upper Hill towards the valley bottom at Park. If you walk this it seems as though it might originally have gone right through into the valley. Salterforth Lane up through the quarries has managed to keep the same name for at least 450 years, this might be some sort of a record!

Higher Lane itself is a very ancient road. I think it is far older than the improvements because of the connections it makes and some of the features we will find as we travel along it. It seems to me that it could have been one of the most important roads in the district long before the 16th century. It is the only direct route from the Barrowford/Bradley area out to the higher Ribble Valley that runs to the East of Whitemoor which would have been a considerable obstacle in older times. It picks up connections from Earby, Salterforth and Foulridge and must have carried quite a lot of traffic. In 1580 it had been used as the top boundary for the early improvements and everything above it as far as Pasture Head was the Waste.

This might be a good place to flag up some of the characteristics of these early roads. The ones that are of interest to us at the moment are the mediaeval roads, the ones in use from the end of the Roman Occupation up to the present day. There were of course trade routes from the earliest times. The Bronze Age track across the Weets which was the precursor of Forty Steps, Blue Pot Lane and the far end of Long Ing Lane in Barlick is a good example. Next we have the Romans who built roads like the one from Elslack through to Ribchester. It cuts, straight as a die, through Barlick and is now Geenberfield Lane and Brogden Lane. It’s important to realise that the Roman roads cut across the old routes because they were built more for troop movements between military forts than as trade routes. Higher Lane has all the hallmarks of a route that has been in constant use for almost 2,000 years. It keeps to the contours, avoids the high moor and bad weather and the low ground and bogs. It has high banks, on both sides in places and if you look carefully at the walls you will see that some parts are built of large rounded stones sunk in the bank. These are the oldest stone walls you will find in the area and are easily distinguished from walls built with new stone like those around the enclosures on the moor. The rule is that the larger and more rounded the stones are, the older the wall.

Another good marker for the old roads is the number of holly trees on the banks. I have never been able to understand this but if you were to plot all the holly trees on the map you would find that the oldest roads are marked by lines of holly.

Higher Lane is obviously mediaeval as far as Wood End Farm just before Whitemoor Reservoir where it opens out and changes character. I think this is because in 1840 when the canal company built the reservoir they must have ripped the landscape to bits and re-aligned the road. At Standing Stone gate there is a cross-roads. The road to the left descends to Foulridge , the road in front used to go down to Slipper Hill but now peters out in the fields and the one to the left goes on to Pasture Head and Barrowford. Before we go further along have a look at Standing Stone Gate Farm. I think we can date this exactly because in the reservoir behind the farm there are some ruins that are only visible when the water is very low. It looks as though the canal company demolished the original farm and built the new one in 1840. It certainly looks about that date.

When I was looking at the 1914 6” OS map of the area I saw that all the boundaries coincide along the line marked on the 1580 map as the boundary of Whitemoor so I went poking about in the field behind Stanistone Bungalow. The ‘standing stone’ that the farm is named after is still there and there is a small section of abandoned mediaeval road on what looks like the original alignment. There are two stones, one is a big square heavily worn stone and the other is a lighter upright stone. The square stone looks very old indeed. If you’re expecting me to put an age on the boundary marker, forget it. I haven’t the faintest idea. All I can say is that it’s certainly more than 500 years old and probably dates from before the conquest. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when I found these remains, how many people have passed these way markers over the years, if stones could talk they could certainly tell a story.

At Pasture Head the 1580 boundary deviates from the line mentioned in the charter of 1147. From the details of the perambulation it would appear that Henry de Lacy crossed to Blacko Hill higher up the moor. The 1580 line follows the line of the old Gisburn road and Slipper Hill Clough. Again, when we look at the 1147 line, we are looking at a boundary which has survived to the present day. Henry’s line is the same as the modern boundary of Barnoldswick and used to be the county boundary as well. The 1580 boundary makes sense because it’s the obvious line down to what would have been a ford at the top of Slipper Hill. There was evidently another boundary marker at this point, it is marked on the map as ‘The stone at Slipper Hill’. I haven’t been able to find it.

As all of us know who use this road, at this point it takes a series of bends before straightening out again on the run down to what is now the Cross Gaits pub. The question that comes to my mind is why are these bends there? There is no topographical reason for them and even in those days, people tended to take the most direct line between two points and there is nothing on the ground which would have stopped this. There can only be one reason, there must have been an existing boundary here that is at least as old as the road. Since the route is at least a thousand years old, it looks as though there may have been a very ancient settlement here.

Hollin Hall occupies the boundary now but looks as though it is a relatively recent building. There might be a clue here, just as you go round the third bend, where the road widens out, there is a mound on the right and a piece of mediaeval wall just beyond it. There is a watercourse running down off the waste alongside the mound and this has all the hallmarks of an ancient boundary, water was an obvious marker to use. Even more interesting, if you stop and look at the mediaeval wall, it has demolition stone in it. This doesn’t look recent and could indicate that at the time the wall was built there was a ruined stone building somewhere very close to the site of the wall. If it was as early as the evidence suggests, it must have been an important house because all common houses at that time were timber construction.

This little puzzle is a good example of how the historian has to work. All you can do is look at the evidence and construct a hypothesis that fits the facts as you see them. It’s almost certain that further evidence will modify your original theory but this should never stop you from having a stab at it. Discovery has to start somewhere and just because the answer changes over time due to more knowledge doesn’t mean that the original ‘answer’ was wrong. It wasn’t, it was a start.

The 1580 map raises another question at this point because the spot is marked as ‘the thorn at Haynslack’. There is another notation half way to the site of Cross Gaits which repeats the name. Haynslack is yet another lost name. ‘slack’ means a watercourse and could refer to the one that runs alongside the bank at Hollins. ‘Hayn’ is slightly more obscure, it usually means ‘hay’ but I’m not too happy with that meaning here. I think I’ll leave this on one side for the time being but at the same time note that if you walk back into the fields you come to a very famous site, Malkin Tower of Lancashire Witch fame. I haven’t walked this site and all I know of it, apart from the Demdyke connection, is that it was the home of a branch of the Towneley family for several generations. We know this because Doreen Crowther picked this out of a transcription of the Halmote Court Rolls for the Honor of Clitheroe which recorded land transactions in the area. (This is a fascinating source of information, go seek them out!)

The last notation on this part of the map is one I have noted earlier. The site of Cross gaits is marked as Black Dyke Mill. It is certainly on the end of the line of the Black Dyke. According to Maurice Horsfield a lot of water runs down that drain. Although diverted into Beverley Road now it could have all been channelled to a mill and would have been sufficient to drive it. I have done a lot of research into water power in the area and have never come across a reference to Black Dyke but this doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. We have to trust our sources until we find them in error, the 1580 map is, as far as I can tell, remarkably accurate and so we should accept that in 1580 there was a mill on the site. That’s enough puzzles for this week. In the next look at the map I’ll go a bit further into water power.