Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Saturday, March 09, 2002


For the last two years I have been writing weekly articles for what was Barlick View but as part of the recent changes our editor has decided that it would be better if I had a corner in the Times. Many of you will have seen the View articles and be used to my ways, for those who haven’t, here’s a word of explanation.

I live in Barlick and for the last thirty years I have been researching the history of the town and the surrounding area. I hold the view that there is no point doing the work if you can’t pass it on to people. Most historians attack this by publishing books and I might even do this myself one of these days but for the time being, I’d rather get on with the research and enjoy myself once a week writing these articles.

Why bother? What’s the use of raking up things that are long gone? Of course I can give you several reasons for doing it. I happen to think that if we know something about our district, we can have a lot more fun as we go about our daily lives. What exactly was The Big Mill in Earby? How did Salterforth get its name? Why is there water running through Valley Gardens? How can anyone lose a village at Bracewell? There are thousands of questions like these and they fascinate me.

We all know that Barlick and Earby were cotton towns. The young ones have heard their parents and grandparents talking about ‘The Mills’ and yet very few of the younger generation know what they were or why they disappeared. I’ve always thought that it’s one of the biggest insults you can give to someone when you tell them that their skills are no longer relevant to today’s world. Sack the lot and chuck all that work and experience on the scrapheap. I happen to think that those people were important, they laid the foundations of what we enjoy today and anything I can do to give them a voice must be a good thing.

There’s another aspect to all this. As you read the paper each week you will see story after story about vandalism, inappropriate behaviour and closure of vital parts of our communities. My view is that the more people know and respect the history, the less chance there is of them acting in a way that damages our heritage. One of the biggest dangers we face as a community nowadays is that there are powerful forces at work which inevitably damage our environment and society. This can be anything from the proposed closure of the Cravenside residential home to out of town shopping sucking the life out of our town centres. The more knowledge we have of the way our society was formed and how it works, the more watchful we can be to fight against these influences.

It won’t all be history. Every now and again I get a bee in my bonnet about something topical and use this column to let off steam. It’s a good thing sometimes to stand up on our hind legs and let everyone know that we are not happy bunnies! It might not always work but at least it lets the transgressors know that we are out there and watching!

So, I’ll settle in to my new slot in the Times and try to give you an interesting corner to read each week. If any of you ever want any information about local history you can always contact me on 813527. If you are on the Web, will get an instant response. Most of the old Barlick View articles are on I’m always pleased to hear from you. See you next week!

SCG/15 February 2002

Tuesday, March 05, 2002



I should think that there are many people in Barlick who have had the same experience as me as regards flying. I was familiar with flight from a very early age. A man called Herr Hitler used to send Dorniers over every night with specific instructions to ‘get Stanley’. As I huddled in the Anderson Shelter in the back garden at 38 Norris Avenue, Heaton Norris in Stockport listening to the bombs whistling down as they tried to get the large railway viaduct half a mile down the road, it never once occurred to me that I would ever fly. How times have changed! In the last three years I have flown round the world twice and when I was asked the other day what I thought about my second daughter migrating to Australia at the end of October I said, “Well, it’s only twenty four hours away.” I think that about sums it up, it’s not how many miles, it’s how many hours it takes you to get there.

This was really brought home to me about twenty years ago. I had flown back from New York, picked my car up at Heathrow and driven back to Barlick. As I was coming along Upper Lane I saw a friend of mine, Joyce Lawson, walking along the road and stopped to give her a lift. It turned out that she had been to London on a coach trip and had left for home about the same time as I boarded the plane in New York. It was as easy to fly the Atlantic as it was to go to London on the coach!

I wonder what percentage of people in Barlick have flown abroad for a foreign holiday. More than we would guess I should think. I’ve been talking over the last few weeks about transport opening up peoples lives and air travel has certainly done that. How many of those people, thirty years ago, would have imagined that foreign travel was to become so easy? I think it’s wonderful that we have this opportunity nowadays, alright, there’s the matter of the cost but as I’ve always said, if God didn’t intend us to fly he wouldn’t have given us credit cards. I’m sorry to say that in this matter, I’ve never let shortage of money get in my way.

I was talking about this to a friend the other day and told him about a lady I once met who used to be a stewardess on the first Pan-Am flying boat service across the Atlantic and he said I should write this down. So, for those of you who are interested in flying, here are a few interesting facts straight from the horse’s mouth.

Opal Hess was an old lady when I met her in New York in 1980. She was retired at that time but had been a stewardess on Pan-Am for over 35 years. She trained as a nurse but shortly after she qualified, saw an advertisement for ‘hostesses’ on a new service Pan-Am were going to operate. This was the first regular passenger service over the Atlantic and it was seen as such a serious matter that only qualified nurses need apply. She got the job and found herself one of a crew of eight (I’m writing this from memory of a conversation almost twenty five years ago so forgive me if I get any of the details wrong.), two pilots, an engineer, a navigator and four hostesses. They looked after twenty-two passengers and the flight took 26 hours so everyone got a bed! The planes were Boeing Flying Clipper sea planes, this was 1939 and the thinking was that if they ran out of petrol they could land on the water and wait for someone to bring fuel out to them. The flight was made in short hops, first to the Azores, then Lisbon and finally on to Marseilles. Opal said it was a wonderful job even though they had to cook all the food for the passengers and crew.

When the war started, the transatlantic flights stopped and she went on internal flights. She told me that the greatest advance in those years was the advent of the DC6. She said it was the first aeroplane built where you didn’t have to push the food trolley uphill towards the front! No small advantage this because the uniform included pencil skirts which, in effect, hobbled their legs.

She worked on the Boeing Stratocruisers which were called Skysleepers because, once again, the passengers had beds. In 1953 she moved into the jet age, again on the transatlantic service, with the introduction of the Boeing 707, Pan-Am’s first pure jet aircraft. Opal told me two things about this plane I didn’t know. She said that on the first 707s they had to cook all the food and had particular trouble with the baked beans because they used to explode. She also said that the first 707s had a fault that was never talked about and took a while to solve. Every now and again, as the plane was flying normally, it would suddenly go into a dive and fall about 20,000 feet. The crew were fairly accustomed to this but the passengers needed some reassuring! She said that on one occasion when this happened a passenger panicked and in trying to open the door, deployed the inflatable slide/life raft. This caused more panic than the dive and she had to borrow a pocket knife off one of the passengers and punch holes in it to let it down so that it could be stowed away.

Pan-Am flew the first 747 Jumbo service into Heathrow on 21st of January 1970 and Opal said this was the best plane she ever worked on. She told me that it had a hump for the cockpit because Boeing weren’t sure it could succeed as a passenger plane because of its size. They placed the cockpit high up so that if necessary, they could re-design it with a nose that opened so it could be used for freight.

I remember the first time I ever saw a 747. It was at Prestwick airport early in 1970 and British Airways had one there fully loaded up to transatlantic weight, that’s almost 400 tons. They were training pilots in take-off and landing and as I drove along the road in Richard Drinkall’s cattle wagon I saw this thing taxiing up to the end of the runway near the road. I stopped to watch it take off and a police car pulled in immediately and told me I couldn’t park there. I told him that this plane weighed 400 tons and obviously couldn’t fly so could we just watch it please? The bobby was as interested as I was and we watched this enormous plane waddle to the end of the runway and sit there. I can still see the tyres squidgeing over on the rims as it turned on to the runway.

We were right behind it so when the engines opened up it didn’t seem to move, it just got smaller. Suddenly it seemed to shoot straight into the air. We agreed it was a bloody miracle and went on our way. Little did I know that within eight years I’d be in one making my first flight! After that I was hooked.

Here’s a question for you. Which is the only commercial airline in the world that has never lost a passenger in an accident? Opal told me this and I have checked it out since, she was quite right. It’s the Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service. Never heard of it? Oh yes you have, it’s QUANTAS the Australian airline. They will never use this fact in advertising because they’d see it as tempting fate but the statement is true, they have never lost a passenger.

I’m glad I’ve got Opal’s stories down in writing, she is dead now and if nobody else has done it they would be lost to us. This bears out what I say to you about family history, it’s all valuable and you should preserve as much of it as possible.

So, sit and think about transport and Barlick. Could Ernie and Billy Brooks ever have believed in their youth that people would be flying to Australia for their annual holidays? You might as well have said the Moon! But here we are at the beginning of a new century with all these possibilities before us. What will our children and grandchildren see? All we can be sure of is that travel to far flung places will become easier and at the same time, travel near home will become harder! I haven’t quite worked that one out yet. When I do, be sure I’ll write an article about it for you.

SCG/19 August 2001

Sunday, March 03, 2002



In my last article I looked at the effect transport has had on Barlick in respect of goods transport and the growth of industry. Today we’ll consider the social effects of public passenger transport.

Barlick is a ‘walking distance’ town. It’s still quite possible to live at one end of the town and work at the other and use nothing but foot transport. The advantages of this aren’t apparent until you have to live in a larger town and realise what longer journey times and increased traffic do to your lives. I suppose the classic example is somewhere like London where it is quite possible to spend three hours at each end of the day getting to and from work. So, in terms of public transport in the town we have never had a problem.

Travelling for pleasure is a relatively recent concept. From the earliest times, right up to the mid-nineteenth century, it’s doubtful whether anyone apart from the wealthiest people ever went anywhere out of town to seek enjoyment, let alone take a holiday. Many people must have lived their whole lives without travelling out of the town. This changed in the mid 19th century when Billycock Bracewell and his partners formed the Barnoldswick Railway Company and built the line from Barlick to Sough where it joined the Midland Railway line.

By the time Barlick got its connection, the railway companies had realised that useful though railways were for freight, they were even more efficient at moving people and there was a profit in this. Apart from simply providing a service, they actively promoted travel and holiday opportunities and even built destination towns on the coast! Blackpool was a sleepy little village used by a few local tourists until the railway arrived. The Lake District was virtually inaccessible to tourists apart from the very wealthy until the branch line was built to Windermere. The prospect of an invasion by the masses so alarmed the locals that they fought a long battle against the intrusion led by the Lake District Poets. They lost of course and the Lakes became a playground for the masses.

Vital as the railway was to the annual holiday traffic, it did not neglect smaller opportunities. Ernie Roberts has told us of the cheap trips run from Barlick at weekend which included admission to the Winter Gardens at Blackpool. This was fairly advanced marketing for those days. Fred Norcross, who used to live and farm at Newsholme near Gisburn once told me that many an evening in haytime they would have some tea, a quick wash and change, pop out to the small halt on the railway on the bridge outside the front door of the farm and jump on a train for Blackpool. They would have a couple of pints and a dance or two at the Winter Gardens, a stroll on the pier, catch the last train and be back home before midnight. Incidentally, he said there were also two bus services passing their door, I think they were Laycock’s and Star, you didn’t need a car to live at Newsholme in those days.

The interesting thing to me is what effect this access to transport had on Barlickers. It seems quite obvious that it raised their quality of life because it gave them the opportunity to take healthy relaxation by the sea away from the cares of home and work. The question is, what did they have to give up in order to achieve this? One thing is certain, the mill owners didn’t raise the wage as soon as the railway arrived so as to allow their employees to travel. If we start from the assumption that most of the workers had no spare income and lived hand to mouth we can only surmise that they gave something up to save for the holidays. In some cases this would perhaps mean the man of the house having less to spend on beer, tobacco and gambling but this wouldn’t make up all the shortfall, men in those days were notorious for holding on to their ‘spending money’. We can still see this today. It never failed to amaze me when I was working how many women had no idea what their husbands earned. The men simply gave them ‘the housekeeping’ each week and pocketed the rest.

On the whole I think it possible that most of the money for the annual holiday came from whatever the woman of the house could get together by ‘scrimping and saving’. The only place they could cut back was on food and clothing so I tend to think that while the annual holiday improved the quality of life for a week a year, it might have actually damaged the standard of living at home for the other fifty-one weeks. Remember that there was no holiday pay as a right in those days. The nearest anyone got to a holiday payment was to pay so much a week into a holiday club at work and many people did this. This system was still operating at Bancroft Shed when I was there even though there was statutory holiday pay. Sidney Nutter ran the club and I asked him once whether he paid any interest on the savings. He was a bit cagey about his reply but the impression I got was that the organiser pocketed the interest as his fee for running the fund. The workers didn’t seem to mind this and saw it as a convenient discipline which ensured they had spending money for their holidays.

One thing that should be remarked on here is that poor people have always liked any system which meant that for regular payments they could have access to credit which enabled them to spend beyond their means. Tally men calling at the door, burial insurance, Provident cheques, hire purchase (the drip system) and even nowadays, catalogue shopping. Small regular payments don’t hurt as much as occasional large outlays and this thinking undoubtedly lay behind the popularity of the holiday club at the mill. Come to think, it’s how I run my credit card!

In contrast to the major advances in canal and rail transport, the roads saw virtually no improvement until after The Great War. True, there had been the appearance of steam traction engines and wagons at the end of the 19th century but these were almost all used for heavy haulage and the carriage of goods. Motor buses had been introduced in the large cities prior to the war but these never reached Barlick. The real impetus for improvements in roads and road transport came after the war when many ex-army lorries were sold off and snapped up by industry. Some of these were converted to ‘charabancs’ and small firms sprang up offering cheap motor transport of goods and also a daily bus service with weekend trips thrown in as well. I know that Star at Skipton and Laycock’s in Barlick were among the first in this field but I do not know any of the details. If any of you have any advice for me about this I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Wild Brothers in Barlick were one such firm and were in business until I think the early 1980s. They ran regular freight services to London and also had a fleet of very well appointed buses. The evening mystery tour became a standard feature of the service and was very popular. There was a firm ran wagons, I think out of Gotts Garage, called Stockbeck Haulage. They did a lot of work for Rolls Royce at one time. Hown transport which still runs out of the old gasworks yard was founded by Harry Smith who began his career driving for Wild Brothers.

I suppose the first cars in the town would appear during the 1920s and would be the preserve of the relatively well-off. The doctor, the lawyer and the manufacturer would be among the first. I can remember that when I worked at the Dairy at West Marton, Harriet, the Lady Nelson used to glide majestically through the village in a vintage Rolls that probably belonged to Sir Amos. The estate certainly used a motor wagon in the 20s because Percy Graham from Marton used to drive it. He once told me that his first prosecution for a motoring offence was for ‘driving at a furious pace’ through Earby. The bobby overtook him on his bicycle to stop him!

It wasn’t until after the Second World War that car ownership got down to the level of the workers and this is where the rot really set in as far as public transport was concerned. If you had a car, you used it and the consequence was that the numbers of passengers on the railways and public bus services started to fall. I’m writing this in America and haven’t access to my files so I’ll have to take a guess at when we lost our railway, I suppose it was in the early 60s. The bus services still survive after a fashion but I was amazed when my daughter informed me the other day that it had cost two of them £6 to travel from Skipton to Foulridge!

As for the present level of car ownership, I really don’t know what to say. I have a yellow shed myself and it’s indispensable so I realise that everyone else has a right to own one but when I drive through the residential streets early in the morning when everyone is at home, I wonder how near saturation we are, even in Barlick. Funnily enough, I don’t see this as a problem of the number of cars, there is a far higher level where I am now in America. The problem is where to put them at night. In Barlick, with terraced houses there is only one place to park the car, outside the front door in the street. Over here, even the poorest houses have a driveway and plenty of space so cars tend to be parked off the road. I don’t see any easy solution to this problem but I can well imagine that someone in government is studying this problem and will come up with an imaginative solution like taxing cars off the road. I suppose we shall have to wait and see.

I suppose what I have described is a complete revolution in transport for the masses. From zero to hero as you might say. Today, every car owner has the potential to go where they want whenever they want and this is not seen as a privilege but a right. I have no argument against this as it has opened up people’s lives beyond their wildest dreams. I regard access to transport as a human freedom and no matter what the constraints, I will never support any moves to curtail this right. Somehow we have got to find solutions to the problems of overcrowding and pollution that bedevil us today but in such a way that the ability to travel is enhanced, not curtailed.

I’ll bet you think this is it for Stanley and transport don’t you. Dream on kids, next week I want to tackle the biggest transport revolution of the lot, our ability to fly and see foreign places. See you then.

SCG/19 August 2001



I’ve talked about the joys of recording your own family history and told you about the chance win on the horses that led me to sitting down with my father and learning more about his life. I write so much about Barlick I wondered if you’d allow me to tell you something about my father so that you can compare his experience with life in Barlick at the same time. You’ll remember me talking about Billy Brooks who was born in 1882 I think. My dad was born in 1896 as near as we can make out so his story makes an interesting contrast with life in Barlick at that time.

The first thing to do is explain why we aren’t sure when father was born. At that time, in Australia, there was no formal process of registering a birth or getting a birth certificate. His home town was Dubbo, an agricultural and market town about 300 miles NW of Sydney in New South Wales but he wasn’t actually born there. His mother was on a visit to friends up country at a small settlement called Rocky Creek when father made his arrival. Because of the remote location there was no medical help and he almost drowned at birth. When they got a doctor to him he said there was nothing he could do and he thought the best thing was to get the baby home to Dubbo so that at least his father could see him.

While grandma was waiting on the railway station for the train to Dubbo she fell into conversation with a woman and the station master who happened to be the local lay preacher. The preacher suggested that as the baby was so poorly they had better christen it at once so he performed the service there and then on the station platform and the lady acted as godmother. The story ended happily because once back at home, he made a quick recovery.

At that time, my grandfather, Alexander MacDonald was manager of a large farm called Eumalga just outside Dubbo. The place was owned by a man called Brownlow and granddad must have been a fairly able bloke because he had full control of the running of the place. In case you’re wondering why my granddad was called MacDonald and I’m called Graham, it’s because when my dad deserted from the Australian Army after fighting right through the First World War, he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name to escape detection so I got called Graham!

Eumalga was named after an aborigine princess and at one time was owned by a Frenchman called Serisier who planted one of the first vineyards in New South Wales and made very good wine there. Father could remember the vineyard and the old wine cellars which they used for storage and keeping cream in until it was churned into butter. He said that a snake lived in there and fed off the cream. Grandfather never killed it because it wasn’t poisonous and kept the mice and flies out of the cellar. Because it very seldom came out and drank a lot of milk it was almost white and was regarded locally as a curiosity. It came to a sticky end when a stranger visiting the farm one day saw it and shot it! He couldn’t understand why granddad got so mad with him.

Father lived with his parents and seven brothers and sisters in the big old ranch house which looked out on the vineyard at the front and the wind powered water pump and paddocks at the back. He told me lots of stories about the games they played as kids chasing the wild life of the district and getting up to mischief like seeing whether dynamite would explode if you put a piece on the anvil and hit it with a hammer! In case you’re wondering, it does! Father tried it and blew the head off the hammer, he was blind for about 14 days and in later life had to have cataracts removed from his eyes which the surgeon said were almost certainly caused by this boyhood prank.

In case you’re wondering, things like dynamite and guns were an everyday part of life in the outback. The explosives were used for blowing tree stumps out and guns for hunting and protection. Father could remember one night when his parents were away and a servant girl called Mae Reel was looking after them. There was a gang of outlaws called the Governor Boys at large in the area and Mae, hearing a noise outside, gathered all the children in the main room and stood guard with a Winchester 44 rifle. Seeing a movement in the paddock she let fly and the following morning discovered that she had shot one of the pigs! Old Alex forgave her, he said that she was allowed a mistake as she’d been doing the right thing. Father reckoned that the Old Man was quietly impressed by the fact that Mae had hit the pig at 200 yards in the dark!

Another big difference was that the kids went to school on horseback, two to a horse. Father said there was always competition to get in the saddle instead of riding in front because the horses knew that if they dropped their neck far enough, one child slid off and the load was halved. The schoolmaster was very hard on them and occasionally the kids would rebel. Usually they would expect to get one beating from the schoolmaster and then one from their mother when she got to hear about their misdeeds but strangely enough this wasn’t always the case. After one particularly bad episode caused by the master’s sadistic behaviour, Old Alex went down and had a word with the master and they noted an improvement!

Because it was a large farm Alex had help to run it. One of these was a Chinese cook who had the reputation of being the best maker of puff pastry for miles. The funny thing was he would never let anyone see him making it but did it every Friday night in a locked cookhouse. This intrigued my dad and my uncle Stan and one Friday they decided to hide in the loft of the kitchen and watch the Chinaman make the pastry. They were able to do this because a standard feature of many buildings then was what was called Lysarght’s Colonial Ceiling, this was a perforated metal roofing which kept the flies out but gave ventilation.

Hidden away in the roof they watched as the cook made his preparations. He mixed up the dough as normal and then shook some sugar up with water in a bottle. He took the dough and rolled it out on the table top and then took a swig of the sugar water from the bottle and sprayed it out over the pastry with his mouth. Then he folded the dough over and rolled it out again. He repeated this process until evidently he thought he had enough layers and then carried on making the pastries with the dough. When he had finished, the two lads crept out of the loft and ran inside to tell Old Alex what they had seen.

They got the shock of their lives. Instead of being interested in what they had discovered, the Old Man immediately gave them both a good hiding and sent them to bed! Father said that granddad never ate any of the cook’s pastry again. Years later I told this story to a man who knew about these things and he said that the reason the pastry was so light was that the sugar in the water reacted with the enzymes in the saliva from the cook’s mouth and fermented between the layers of pastry. The carbon dioxide given off by this reaction separated the layers of pastry and made it fluffy and light.

This sort of rough and ready attitude to things seems to have been common. One day as father was ambling home from school on his horse he was passed by one of their neighbours driving a horse and buckboard. He was going so fast that a bag fell off the buckboard into the road. Father stopped and picked it up and realised it was full of sovereigns, he was holding a small fortune. He jumped on his horse and chased after the farmer, eventually catching up with him just as he was turning into his property. He stopped the man, explained what had happened and returned the bag. The bloke looked inside it and said, “Do you know what this is?” Father just nodded. The bloke counted out five sovereigns, a large amount in those days, handed them to father and said, “Here you are, take it, buy a gun and shoot yourself!” Father said he took it home, told his mother what had happened and gave her the money.

There’s lots more to tell and I’ll come back to Australia and tell you more at a later date. What struck me when father was telling me all this was how similar life was in Dubbo to all the western movies I had seen as a lad. It was a more egalitarian society than Barlick. True, there were poor people and rich people but there doesn’t seem to have been the same social gulf between them that Billy and Ernie describe in Barlick. Life was equally as hard but instead of swimming in a mill dam they had the river. They had plenty of food and of course, better weather. One of the comments made about the Commonwealth forces during the First World War was how big and strong they looked. I suppose the comparison was between young people reared in the fresh air and well-fed and the home grown variety, ground down by poverty and the factory system. No small wonder that this raised questions in people’s minds about the health of the country. By 1914 it was becoming widely realised that we might have had the best industry in the world but a terrible price had been paid in terms of the health of the workers. Remember what Ernie said, “None of Nutter’s children had rickets.” As usual, Ernie had put his finger right on it, wealth gave privilege and one of them was three square meals a day.

I was talking in a recent article about migration. Many of father’s contemporaries in Australia were of English and Scots descent. While we were taking in migrants from Europe we were also exporting people to Australia and there is little doubt that once they became acclimatised they fared better than we did at home. The sad thing is that this is still true. I have two daughters who have moved there with their families and there is no doubt in my mind that in terms of opportunity and an open society they are better off there than here. Some things don’t seem to change.

SCG/18 August 2001


One of the most important influences in the development of any society is the ability to travel. In the earliest times in Barlick people were restricted to the distance they could walk between dawn and dusk. A journey to Skipton would be a days work and only the most determined could walk there and back in a day. When we are thinking about distances of travel it is as well to remember that the Roman Legions, travelling on good roads only managed about fifteen miles a day and this with fit, disciplined and well-shod troops. We know this because this is the distance between forts and way-stations all over the empire. So, if we are thinking about a man or woman with a packhorse or carrying a load themselves, taking into account bad roads and inclement weather, it would surprise me if the eight miles to Skipton wasn’t regarded as a day’s work..

Even this estimate pre-supposes the need to travel. Many people in the first millennium would live and die in Barlick without ever going more than a couple of miles from their homes because they never needed to. The most common reason for travel would be trade, carrying cloth to say Colne and bringing yarn back. In the early days the weavers would do their own carrying but eventually the trade of carrier evolved, someone who made their living by travelling to a timetable with horse and cart to towns like Colne, Skipton and Clitheroe. We know this because there is evidence of their being several carters in Barlick engaged in this business.

With the advent of turnpike roads in the 18th century larger wagons were used and longer journeys undertaken. The well-known name of Pickfords the carriers emerges at this time and they are still in business as furniture removers. They would undertake to deliver quite considerable loads anywhere in the country, mention is made of wagons carrying over five tons although I suspect this was rare and only over hard roads in good weather.

When I was taught history at school we were informed that the Romans were good engineers and built wonderful roads but when they left Britain these were allowed to fall into ruin and it was not until the 18th century and the advent of turnpikes or toll roads that long distance transport improved. I was told stories of roads that had holes in them so large that horses fell into them. I have no doubt that most of this was true but I’ve always had a niggling suspicion that if the roads were so bad, perhaps it was because of the amount of traffic using them. I suspect that there was much more transport and on a larger scale than we imagine.

The end of the 18th century saw tremendous improvements in transport as far as Barlick was concerned as this was when the Leeds and Liverpool canal reached the town. We can hardly imagine what a culture shock this was for the district. Whole armies of workmen, the ‘navigators’ or ‘navvies’ descended on the landscape and tore it apart on a scale not seen since the Normans built their huge castles. Indeed, this activity spawned a new profession, that of Civil Engineer. Previously only the military had attempted works on any large scale for fortifications.

At a stroke, it was possible to transport a load of fifty tons using just one horse to pull the barge. Up to this point nobody in Barlick had ever had any need to transport this much weight at once but suddenly took full advantage of the opportunity, so what changed? The answer is that Barlick had a resource that Lancashire didn’t possess, to understand this we have to have a look at the geology of the area, the very bones of the earth that Barlick was built on.

If you look to the north and east of Barlick and take note of the stone used to build the field walls you’ll find that it is limestone. Go to the south and west and it is sandstone. The Craven Fault divides Barlick and on the Yorkshire side is limestone and towards Lancashire, sandstone. This was the nearest source of good quality limestone to Lancashire. Lime is an essential material for an industrial society, it is used for everything from mortar for building to flux in iron and steel making. The canal enabled the expansion of the limestone quarries in Barlick at Rainhall Rock, Gill Rock and Greenberfield Rock. These quarries have now all but disappeared, Rainhall and Gill were used for tipping refuse collected in the town and Greenberfield was filled in when the new road was built to Thornton. At the same time, the high quality sandstone on Upper Hill and at Salterforth found a market as well, Loose Games Quarry on Upper Hill supplied millions of stone setts for road-building in Lancashire and Salterforth Quarries supplied sawn stone cills, jambs and lintels. All these quarries provided building stone as well for Barlick, the crucial factor being that it was downhill all the way. Stone was never carried uphill unless there was a very pressing reason.

If you want good evidence of the fact that stone was never carried any further than necessary, take note of Coates hall the next time you pass by, it’s built of limestone because this was the nearest source of stone when the house was built.

Because of the thriving trade in stone into Lancashire, there was a succession of canal boats coming back into the town empty. It made sense to load them both ways and Lancashire had what Barlick lacked, coal. At this time, very little coal would be burned in the town. The only possible source near Barlick that would make any sense might be indicated by the name of the lane that runs from Weets down to Gisburn which is still known as Coal Pit Lane. I asked a geologist about this once and he said that it was possible that there was coal there but it would only be isolated deposits.

So why would coal be brought back to Barlick? There would be a small market for house coal but apart from that, a demand would have to be created. Remember that the first steam engine wasn’t installed in the town until 1820 at Mitchell’s Mill (later to become Clough Mill). The answer is that the coal brought back was used for burning limestone to produce quicklime. Some of this was used for building in the town and some for agricultural but most of it would be exported to Lancashire. It was a way of what accountants today call ‘adding value’. The lime had to be burned anyway and so more profit could be gained by doing it at the source. There used to be a wharf on the canal side opposite Bankfield Mill, in later years it was a council yard but I haven’t looked at it lately. There was a big lime kiln there and also others at Greenberfield and Cockshott Bridge where Lower Park Marina is now.

Once coal became easily available in the town this opened up the possibility of other uses and steam engines came to the town in 1820. Barlick became a mill town. Without the canal, it would never have developed beyond the water-powered industry and with increasing labour opportunities on the Lancashire side, the workers would have migrated and we would have ended up as a Bracewell or Horton. Look what happened to Stock Village. In 1800 it was a thriving hamlet, as late as 1850 it had two shops, now there is nothing, it is a ghost village.

As the town grew and developed with the advent of the steam mills, stocks of capital grew and people like the Bracewells of Earby moved into the town, the Bracewell Brothers, William and Christopher at Coates Mill (another limestone building) and Billycock Bracewell at Butts Mill and Wellhouse. It was Billycock who was the driving force behind the railway branch from Sough up to Barlick and this further improved transport into the town.

The advent of the railway not only facilitated the movement of goods but passengers as well. In the early days this was seized on by the management of the mills and it became common for one of the partners, or a trusted employee, to become what was known as ‘The Manchester Man’. Because of ease of transport it was easy for this man to travel to Manchester each day and stand on the Cotton Exchange to transact business on behalf of the firm. They literally ‘stood’ and on the notepaper of each company the location where their man conducted business was denoted by a pillar number. Each pillar in the great room at the exchange was marked and anyone who wanted say, the Nutter’s Manchester representative only had to go to pillar D17 to find him.

Because of the railway, postal services had improved and in those days the first post was delivered to the mills at seven in the morning. It was opened straight away and any orders for cloth were transmitted to the Manchester Man at the station where he was waiting for his train, usually the office boy would be sent down. So, as soon as the representative got on the ‘change at nine in the morning, he would have worked out what yarn was needed for the cloth and could order the yarn off the spinners. I have been told by Jim Pollard and Sidney Nutter that it was quite common for the yarn to be delivered at the mill the same day, before the Manchester Man got home in the evening.

This facility for speedy transactions made the industry very efficient. There was one other innovation which augmented the process. All yarn and cloth contracts were drawn up with coal and labour clauses in them. These allowed the total cost of the contract to be automatically varied if there was any fluctuation in either coal or labour costs during the period of manufacture. This took the guesswork out of estimating and meant that in this highly competitive trade, companies could work on very small profit margins. During the hey day of the industry this was a good thing for the trade but when demand shrank it aided the rapid decline of the industry as there was no cushion to support the mills as production fell.

There was to be another seismic effect on the town because of improvements in transport but this was nothing to do with trade. The advent of the railway made it easy to move large volumes of passengers very cheaply and this was to have a great affect on leisure. We’ll look at that in another article.

SCG/19 August 2001