Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Thursday, August 14, 2003


Emma was only 11 months old when her family moved into 4 Forester’s Buildings in June 1896 and though she didn’t know it at the time she was to live their for ten very happy years. The row was bigger in those days than it is now, two houses were demolished on the end nearest to what is now the main road and two cottages at the back went as well when the sidings were done away with about 1960. When Emma lived there they had a busy railway siding on that side and a blacksmith’s shop at the back.

The building which is now the vets office and used to be the Misses Ormerod’s pot shop was three cottages. There was dressmaker’s shop on the end of the Buildings in Skipton Road run by Sarah Bowker. Emma says she was sister to Elizabeth Bowker who had a dressmaker’s shop on Rainhall Road. I think this was on the corner of York Street. Emma says that she thinks the Hargreaves sisters were seamstresses for Elizabeth Bowker and they lived over Harry Tinner’s (Hargreaves) ironmongers shop in Church Street until they retired when they moved into a house in Montrose Terrace.

There was nothing below Forester’s Buildings at this time, the only buildings down the road to Bracewell were the cottages at Dam Head and Henhouse Farm. Albert Road was all houses except for the Post Office on the end nearest Newtown. This is now Nutter’s paper shop and before that was Sneath’s barbers shop. She thought that Thomas Wilans decorators next to the Post Office was the first house to be turned into a shop. The area which is now the Town Square, where the Co-op building used to be was a field until 1907. The only houses on what is now Park Road were the cottages opposite the Greyhound Hotel. There was nothing on Barnoldswick Lane above the Dog apart from Hill Top Farm. She told me that there was no market down the Butts, the site was used when the fair came and what is now Post Office Corner was used by travelling theatres. The main Co-op shop was at the bottom of Manchester Road and there was a cloggers and a greengrocers in Co-operative Street.

So we have a picture of a very small town, just over 4,000 people lived here, with a compact town centre. However, what we have to remember is that in the ten years leading up to 1900 two shed companies were formed, Long Ing and Calf Hall. The result was two new sheds, Long Ing in 1888 and Calf Hall in 1889 and the re-opening of Butts and Wellhouse Mills after the collapse of the Bracewell interests in the late 1880’s. Jim Greenwood had chosen exactly the right time to make the move to Barlick, there was plenty of work and the town was about to take-off.

Emma was happy in her childhood but I wonder how our children would react to the conditions she lived in. The house at number four was comfortable by the day’s standards. It had stone floors downstairs, two cast iron fire ranges, one in the kitchen and one in the parlour. Both had an oven and a side boiler and were fired with coal. This meant carrying coal in and ashes out. There was gas lighting downstairs but none in the bedrooms or the attic. In 1888 the gas company records show that there were 681 consumers and 156 gas stoves in the town. There was no electricity, the public supply didn’t arrive in Barlick until 1932.

The outside toilet was simply a bucket under a wooden plank with a hole in it to sit on. It was emptied once a week as was the ash pit. The scavenging was done by William and Thomas Bracewell of Calf Hall who did the whole town for £132 a year. There were constant complaints about the nuisance caused by them spreading the sewage from the toilets on their land.

The children had to make their own entertainment in the back garden. They played battledore and shuttlecock, rounders, tag and all sorts of ball games. If the weather was hot they played in the beck at Dam Head paddling, building dams and trying to catch small fish. Their idea of excitement was to watch their dad fit a new gas mantle in the parlour. The mantles often broke, usually because a moth flew into them. The new mantle was soft and silky and had to be tied on to the jet, the gas was lit and the mantle turned black and flared up and then the miracle happened, the mantle suddenly changed shape and burned with a brilliant white light. Eighty years later, Emma could still remember the sense of wonder she experienced as she watched this happen. I wonder what it would take to have the same effect on our kids today?

Emma’s mother did all the cooking and everyone ate the same thing. There was never any discussion about what the children wanted to eat. Their mother cooked and they sat down and ate it. I have to admit that one of the things today that really jars on me is the concept of children being asked what they want for their tea. I was in a house the other day and everyone was eating something different. There was a lot to be said for being made to eat what was put in front of you. If you left it you went hungry and food fads were virtually unknown.

My picture this week is the old Co-operative building in Co-operative Street. The cloggers and the greengrocers were at the end nearest to us. The far end is the Co-op Hall and this wasn’t built until 1900. The large Co-operative building on Albert Road wasn’t built until 1907 and extended in 1922. It looks as though the Co-op directors were expecting the town to develop eastwards but hadn’t realised what a barrier the railway was going to be. Eventually they realised this fact and concentrated in the existing town centre. Co-operative Street was always a white elephant.

SCG/15 June 2003
1,041 words.


I spent a long time thinking about a title for the story I’m going to tell you over the next few weeks and have to say I had a bit of difficulty. There wasn’t anything that stood out enough to suggest a snappy headline. Having said that, it’s definitely a tale worth telling and I realised that the thing that makes it important is that it was ordinary, a quiet life, and nothing wrong with that.

Of course, every life is unique, it’s wrong really to describe it as ordinary, but its value is that it’s a record of life in Barlick from 1896 onwards that touches on the middling sorts of people in the town, the manufacturers and the business people and sheds some light on where they came from and the lives they led.

Emma Jane Clark lived in the houses on the hill on the other side of the road from Hey Farm and for twenty years was part of the landscape of our lives. She was a widow and took a keen interest in our daughters and their growing up. I got to know her quite well and in 1978 sat down with her and got her to tell me her life story. It was a rewarding experience and over the next few weeks I’ll try to pass on what she taught me about the town and life in the first half of the 20th century.

As usual I shall start on an entirely different subject. We have to have a bit of the history to give ourselves a perspective. In 1890 Barlick was a much smaller place than we see today. Apart from a few isolated folds and farmsteads the town was bounded by Townhead, Forester’s Buildings and Wellhouse Square on the east side, over the railway line. From 1890 until 1914 the place exploded and virtually everything else was built. Apart from an isolated new build, there was no further housing built in the town until after the Second World War. Emma’s story covers that period and gives us an insight into how it all came about.

An expanding town needs immigrants and families flocked in from all around to help fuel the prosperity. One of the nice things about Emma is that she fits this category nicely and so to start the tale we have to go across to the small village of Weir on the road down from Deerplay into Bacup.

In 1890 the four Greenwood brothers were running the family farm in Weir. Their father was Thomas Greenwood and in keeping with the custom of the day they were known as Jim o’Tom’s [Mrs Clark’s father], Joe o’Tom’s, Jess o'Tom’s and Tom o’Tom’s. They all attended the Baptist Chapel, Jim was the choir master and organist, Joe was the treasurer, Jess was a deacon and Tom was the secretary.

The farm wasn’t big enough to support all of them and so they all looked for work to supplement their income. Jim went round the countryside selling drapery, Joe learned dentistry in Colne and eventually taught Emma’s eldest sister’s husband and took him into partnership. They founded the practice of Greenwood and Petty. Jess had a farm of his own and Tom had a painting and decorating business. Jim married first and had two daughters but his wife died so he re-married to a Weir lass and this was Emma’s mother.

Emma was born in Weir on the 26th of July 1895 and in June 1896 Jim Greenwood made a big decision, he gave up his drapery business, moved across to Barlick with his wife and six children and got a job at Dugdale and Dewhurst in Wellhouse Mill where he learned how to weave. They rented a house off his boss Johnson Dugdale and lived next to him in 4 Forester’s Buildings.

Let’s just pause here and ask ourselves what the attraction was in Barlick. Quite simple really, Jim could find work not only for himself but for his children as well. As soon as he came here his two eldest daughters by his first marriage went into Wellhouse with him and so in a very short space of time they had three wages coming into the house. The average wage then for a weaver was 25/- so they had £3-15-0 a week coming in. The average wage for a weaver now is about £250 a week and so this was equivalent to at least £700 a week in today’s currency. The hard times were over, as long as the children were living at home and tipping up their wage they were well off.

It’s very hard to grasp this situation nowadays but this was the period in Barlick when people with above average incomes, say a tackler with two or three children working in the mill, could afford to not only build a house for themselves but two or three more or a whole row to let out for further income. If they built a shop on the end of the row they were even better off. I have commented before on the number of rows of houses in Barlick where there is a better house at one end for the owner and a shop at the other end for income. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see them all over the place.

Remember also that it was a lot easier to save in those days. Children’s expectations were that they would contribute to the family income for at least eight years until they were 21. Pocket money was limited, a penny in the shilling if you were lucky. Living expenses were cheap and there wasn’t the constant pressure of advertising raising people’s expectations and tempting them to spend. I asked Emma if she ever felt deprived under this regime and she was most emphatic that she didn’t. She said that her childhood was lovely and she couldn’t remember any unhappiness. Even allowing for the ‘rose coloured spectacle’ effect of time, I have no doubt she told the truth. By modern standards their standard of living was low but their quality of life was at least as high as ours.

SCG/14 June 2003
1,040 words


Regular Readers will immediately recognise that this is a goofing-off week. The pattern is that I make you endure a series on one subject and then the pressure of the odds and sods builds up and I have to indulge myself. I enjoy writing for you at all times but these occasional columns are even better and good therapy for me.

So, who are the angels? They are easily recognised, they wear a modest uniform, usually carry a small bag and visit regularly with a very old lady who lives on her own. They are of course Care Workers. Whenever I see them I always try to say something nice to them and they invariably give me a smile. When you think about it they are dealing many a time with quite distressing circumstances but they all seem to enjoy their work. I asked one of them what she earned the other day and the answer was £5.60 an hour and no overtime for weekend working.

What does this say about the society we live in? Here we have people doing the jobs which we would all rather not face and how do we reward them? About a pound an hour above minimum wage. All I will allow myself to say about this is that if this is a measure of our commitment as a society to the old, the infirm and the disadvantaged we are in serious trouble. Remember, we are supposed to be the fifth richest economy in the world.

As I write this we are in the middle of the debate as to whether the government told us the truth when setting out the reasons for going into Iraq. The evidence seems to point to the fact that anyone who relies on clever manipulation of facts and news, using evidence that has varying degrees of veracity, must be very careful. It can turn round and bite you. When the reckoning comes you may lose credibility and public confidence.

I was reminded of this when reading the Times this week and saw an item about the old Craven Water Board building on the Croft. Quite rightly the Liberal Councillors are drawing attention to the fact that it is an eyesore and something should be done about it. All very laudable as long as this is not simply attention grabbing. I seem to remember an election leaflet in May that screamed out at me that Rainhall Road School had been saved and that an announcement was imminent. Since then, not a word.

This is not an attack directed at the Liberals, it is a gentle warning that anyone who seeks attention by reliance on premature or badly founded evidence should be careful. It can lead to disillusionment. Rainhall Road School has stood empty now for two years, a mute reproach to the County Council and local councillors and a blot on our townscape. It should be reserved immediately for Community Purposes, the outside tidied up and a process of fund-raising pursued.

The town has no guarantee that I am aware of that it will not be demolished and replaced by something totally out of keeping with the other buildings around it. The Council should list it as a protected building straight away and force the County Council to clean up the yard. I did write to the people in charge at Preston asking that we be given the same care as the outside of County Hall but I didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply.

It was a bad week for me last week. My old friend Eigg, the Jack Russell bitch who has lived with me for over sixteen years reached the point where she was not enjoying life and I had to take her to the vet’s for a lethal injection. I’m sure many of you will understand what a hard thing this is to do. I am amazed how a small heart can leave such a massive hole in my life. Messages came in from the Eigg fan club all over the world and I am gradually adjusting to life without her.

The process of recovery from this sad event has been quite surprising. I know it will take five years to get rid of all the dog hairs but anyone who has ever kept a white Jack Russell in a house with plain maroon carpets will recognise the scale of the problem. My daughter caught me on my hands and knees the other day wearing Marigolds! She immediately informed my other daughters in Australia that Stanley was suffering some form of reaction!

I suppose she’s right. I am quite enjoying having a clean house again and am even considering some light dusting. A friend told me that as a general rule, men clean cars but not houses. If this is true, the feminine side of my nature must be better developed than I thought. However, none of this detracts from the fact that I have lost a friend who gave me sixteen years of unconditional love. This is a rare thing and if anyone ever asks you companion humans out there why you live with a pet, ask them who is giving them the same quality of affection.

I called in at Bancrofts yesterday to see the Simpsons. Alwyn was power washing the byres and scrubbing them until you could eat your dinner off the floor. Allan was getting the hanging baskets ready to go on the corner of the loose boxes and Johnny and I sat and had a good crack and a cup of tea. There is something very reassuring about the fact that the bedrock of old Barlick is alive and well, long may it continue. The County Council should go up and have a look at Bancrofts just to remind themselves of what tidy means. The Simpson’s gateway to Barlick gets full marks, the County Council at Rainhall Road get a big, fat ‘Nul Point’!

SCG/30 May 2003
1,010 words.