Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Friday, September 26, 2003


When the Romans withdrew from the Isles in the 5th century the Anglo Saxon invasions began. By 600 the Roman town of Eboracum built on the junction of the Ouse and the Foss had been taken over by Edwin, king of Northumbria and was renamed Eoferwic. In 866 the Danes took over the town and renamed it yet again as Jorvik. They used it as an administrative centre for what later became the county of York. The southern boundaries of this kingdom were based on the old boundaries of Northumbria which in turn derived from the ancient manorial and parish boundaries.

The important thing to recognise about these was that they were practical and based on the landscape. South of Barlick it was the watershed between the Eastern rivers and those to the west. The old kingdom of Eoferwic became Yorkshire, the name derives from York and the Old English word ‘scir’ which originally meant ‘office’ in the sense of domain or responsibility. So Yorkshire was the domain of Eoferwic or York.

When the Normans invaded in 1066 their first priority was to subdue the country but once they had done this, they had to divide it up and administer it. In 1086 the result of this was the Domesday Book, a description of every village in the kingdom based on the former Anglo-Saxon boundaries. So, in effect, the old boundaries, dating from pre-historic times became a modern administrative tool for the whole kingdom.

There were still no maps and if a boundary had to be delineated a variant of the old custom of beating the bounds was used, this was the perambulation, literally, the walking of the boundary. We are fortunate in that we have first hand evidence of the boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire as it was also the boundary of the manor of Barnoldswick.

In 1147 Henry de Lacy was a great landowner in the North of England due to grants to his family by the king after the Norman Conquest. In this year he granted Barnoldswick to Abbot Alexander of Fountains Abbey to enable his monks to build a monastery there. Warner quotes the account of the perambulation of the boundaries by Henry and his men before granting the charter of 1147 and noted that Admergill was part of Barnoldswick. This ancient boundary ran along the line of the modern Rural District boundary as marked on the 1914 edition of the OS 6” map for the area. From Pasture Head it goes straight forward to Blacko Tower departing from the line of the modern Barnoldswick UD boundary where it crosses Black Dyke. From Blacko Tower it heads straight forward, along Wheathead Lane and then follows Ox Gill which we know nowadays as Claude’s Clough and Jackson Slack to the top of Burn Moor which Warner says was known then as ‘Alainsete’ (Alan’s Seat). This name probably derives from Alan de Percy who owned the Percy Fee in Craven by grant from Henry the First as it would be where he rested during a perambulation of his boundaries. Henry was the youngest son of William the Conqueror and reigned from 1100 to 1135 so this would fit the fact that the name was in use in 1147. From the summit of Burn Moor the boundary turned east and headed up towards the top of Weets where it followed the line of Coal Pit Lane almost to Gisburn before turning east again.

I have converted the names used in the original charter to modern names but we would do well to look at the names Henry de Lacy used. “By the stream called Blackbroc up the moor to Gailmers and so directly to Ellesagh, across Blacko Hill to Oxgill and up Oxgill to the pikelaw called Alainsete and thence to the ancient ditch between Middop and Coverdale”. Looking at the 1580 map of Whitemoor and following Henry’s course the first thing we come across that coincides with the old names is the Moss in the corner of what is now Whitemoor reservoir. It is noted on the map as ‘Gail Mose’ by the plaintiff and ‘Fail Mire’ by the defendant. Gail Mire or Moss is too close a coincidence to ignore as the location for Gailmers. Further up towards Lister Well, there is a note ‘Elshay’ by the plaintiff. Surely this has got to be Ellesagh. We have no problems with Oxgill from Wheathead up to Burn Moor top. What interests me is the reference to the ‘ancient ditch between Coverdale and Middop’ which is the line of what we now know as Coal Pit Lane. I have never walked this but it is high on the agenda from now on!

The only thing wrong with this account is that Henry made a mistake. He assumed that Admergill was part of the manor of Barnoldswick. It wasn’t, it belonged to the king and was part of the forest of Blackburnshire, the resulting dispute dragged on for over 250 years! You thought the courts were slow today?

So, the ancient, practical and thoroughly sensible boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire was firmly established and can rightly be said to be as much part of our heritage as any part of our history. But hang on a minute. In 1972 the Local Government Act dragged us kicking and screaming into the newly created Pendle District. 4,000 years of history was ignored to suit purely political considerations. The bureaucratic mind thought it looked tidier this way. Who asked them anyway!

Well, I think I’ve nailed my flag to the mast pretty firmly. I support a change back to the original boundaries simply because it is our heritage they are messing around with. I don’t think for one minute it will make any difference to the quality of service we get or our political future.

My picture this week is very simple. It’s the mere stone at Standing Stone Gate that marks the original Barlick and county boundary at this point. Behind it is a surviving piece of the old medieval road. We can’t possibly guess the date of it, it could well be pre-Conquest.

SCG/30 August 2003
1,030 words.


It’s very easy to buy into current notions that all people do nowadays is watch TV, shop and ignore their neighbours. The sultans of spin have definitely swallowed this one, they seem to think that we are incapable of thinking for ourselves. I have news for them, they couldn’t be further from the truth!

I’ve had a couple of pieces of evidence lately that confirm this belief. The first is the number of people that have contacted me over the last two weeks when they heard that my youngest daughter’s husband had been killed in a light plane crash. Thanks to all of you, your messages are helping all of us through a terrible experience and they have been reported back to Janet.

The second piece of news, and the one that concerns me this week, is the report in last week’s Times that the old issue of the county boundary has raised its head again. My immediate reaction is to reinforce this initiative with a bit of solid fact so bear with me whilst I look at boundaries in terms of history.

The most primitive cultures we know today such as the Australian aborigines recognise tribal boundaries. These are always natural features, a coastline, a watercourse or an impassable feature in the landscape. In pre-historic times, this was the situation here, it wasn’t until after the advent of agriculture which led to settlement in about 4000BC that local boundaries became important. Ditches were dug round fields, walls and hedges followed and the concept of ownership of a piece of land grew and demanded definition in the form of boundaries. As communities grew and developed into villages, boundaries between adjoining settlements became more important as they tended to avoid disputes, good fences led to good neighbours.

In days when there were no written records or maps it became necessary to embed the knowledge of these boundaries in successive generations. A very simple method was adopted, traces of which can be found in every society worldwide, the elders took the young people around the boundary and taught them where the markers were that delineated it. These could be trees, watercourses or other natural features. Where this wasn’t convenient, a stake driven into the ground or better still, a standing stone marked the spot. This necessary ritual became an annual event and an integral part of the fabric of society.

As tribal allegiances grew, wider boundaries were set by custom and conquest with the result that before the Romans ever came to these Isles formal boundaries were recorded and observed. You might wonder how efficient this marking was bearing in mind that we are dealing with a largely illiterate population right up to probably 500AD. I have a piece of evidence for you.

In the days when my beard was black I found I had to study linguistics. I can assure you that I found this a deeply boring and depressing experience. However, I learned one incredibly impressive fact. Linguists like to go out and study the way language changes from one place to another. They do this by asking what the local names are for everyday things like animals and objects. Where they find a variation they mark this on the map and then join the marks up to make ‘isoglosses’, rather like isobars on a weather map. The wonderful thing about this is that if you construct such a map based on language change for England the isoglosses mark out the boundaries of the ancient kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex! In other words, despite 4,000 years of change and mobility, the folk memory has preserved the record of these boundaries. Can we doubt that at the local level folk memory was quite capable of commemorating a community boundary?

Those of you with long memories will perhaps remember that on 17th June 601 Pope Gregory wrote to the Abbot Mellitus who he was sending to join Augustine at Canterbury. In the letter Gregory gives clear instructions as to how existing pagan temples should be dealt with. They were not to be destroyed, the idols should be removed, altars erected and the whole edifice sprinkled with Holy Water. The slaughter of animals for sacrifice should be allowed but only as celebrations connected with the festivals of the church or saints days. The intention was to make as few changes as possible so that the Pagans would accept the new religion. There can be little doubt that the existing pagan boundaries were left as they were and in effect became parish boundaries.

Fast forward now to the 1970s. English Heritage was given the task of computerising the records of all the Scheduled Monuments in England. One of their first decisions was to identify the most rational method of dividing the country up so that this structure could be used in the database. After much research and consultation they reached the conclusion that the most rational boundaries to use were parish boundaries. I was told this by a man called Peter White who was in charge of the exercise. He thought it was wonderful that the best and most practical division was the oldest.

We are going to have to continue this next week, there is far more to tell you. However, what I have set down so far is good evidence that the ancient boundaries were practical tools based on the topography, local economy and spheres of religious and community interest. Next week we’ll have a look at how they became important in other ways.

I find I’m in a bit of a quandary now. I always like to give you a picture relating to the subject we’ve been looking at but I can’t for the life of me think of one so I’ll put one in that was drawn to my attention by Roger Birtwistle after my mention of Jim Marsh the clogger a couple of weeks ago. The picture is from the Barnoldswick History Society’s excellent publication ‘Barnoldswick. A century of change’ It’s still available if you seek it out. It shows Jim Marsh on the extreme left outside his shop at Dam Head. I’m beginning to wonder now what the little shop under Dam Side cottages was selling. If anyone has any clues I’d love to hear from you. The number is 813527.

SCG/30 August 2003
1060 words.


For the last eight years I’ve spent my summers in Northfield, Minnesota, in America’s Mid West. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying being here and will not go away again. One interesting facet of my experiences over there at the top of ‘Tornado Alley’ is the comparison with our weather this summer.

A tornado starts as a massive thunderhead caused by masses of cold air hitting a warm front. These clouds can be a hundred miles across and ten miles high and under certain conditions can start to rotate. This eventually builds up to tremendous speed and if the vortex touches down on the ground it can cause immense damage. If you are in Northfield and the tornado siren sounds, you get in the cellar immediately. Being a total idiot, I ignored the siren last year and watched a three hour thunderstorm that shook the ground and dropped six inches of rain on the town.

I went out in the back street on Sunday at about eight o’clock and had a look at the weather. It was dark enough to trigger the street lights and there was a blustery wind shaking the trees and blowing rubbish up into the air where it swirled around. There was a big black cloud on the Weets and what struck me was that this must have been what it was like on the morning of the 11th of July 1932 when a storm broke in full force on the moor and dropped hailstones two inches in diameter and an enormous amount of water. This came so suddenly the ground couldn’t soak it up and Barlick had its worst flood in living memory. Lynmouth had exactly the same experience in August 1952 when a cloudburst on Exmoor washed the town away.

Luckily this didn’t happen on Sunday, the rain was dispersed enough to give the streets a good swill and that was about it. The thought that ran through my mind was how close to a severe event were we? I see that action is being taken to improve some of the watercourses in the town. This is sensible and could avoid trouble in the future. There is little doubt now that global warming is happening and one of the most damaging aspects of it will be an increase in localised severe weather so get digging lads!

As for the heat….. The bottom line is that we aren’t used to proper summer weather. A temperature of 85 degrees and 70 percent humidity with a light breeze would be regarded as a beautiful day in Northfield but in Barlick it triggers complaints from many people. All I can say is cheer up kids! We don’t have tornados and mosquitoes, look on the bright side! Get rid of as many clothes as you can, drink plenty of water take comfort from the fact that you aren’t burning any gas for heating.

Mind you, it can be serious if you are working inside. I remember that in the summer of 1976 the engine house at Bancroft regularly reached 120F and the weaving shed was hotter than it had ever been since it was built. I know that for a fact because the overhead shafting expanded so much that I had to cut two inches off the ends of some of the shafts because they were digging into the wall! It shrank the timbers holding the cast iron skylight frame over the ladies toilet and I had to do some emergency repairs during the day while the weavers were using them. I can tell you, my education advanced apace that week! It must have been uncomfortable this week in some factories in the town but these could be alleviated by better ventilation and air conditioning.

It must have been pretty hot in 1958. David Harper, who used to own Harry Tinner’s old shop on Church Street gave me two pics of ‘Costa Greenberfield’. The man in the cloth cap smoking a pipe to the left of the lad diving in the canal was a road sweeper in the town but beyond that I can’t tell you much. One wonders what British Waterways would do if this happened nowadays. I suspect they would blow a fuse and call the police in! Luckily these happy sunbathers didn’t know about pollution and microbes so they just went and enjoyed themselves. Who knows, it might have done wonders for their immune systems and levels of antibodies!

So my message is that of course the climate is changing and there could be occasional dangers because of severe weather events. We don’t need to start panicking yet, we aren’t going to get tornados and hailstones big enough to trash the car, both common events in Northfield. These only happen when you are on a land mass as big as North America. All we need to do is be sensible. Cleaning watercourses out, improving ventilation at home and at work and perhaps even thinking about air-conditioning could make all the difference. Get yourself a straw hat with a wide brim, lose the long trousers and think about your wardrobe not as beach wear but everyday hot weather gear.

One final whinge, the weather forecasters have never forgotten the saga of Michael Fish and the botched forecast of the hurricane in the South. The funny thing is that a few weeks before that event an even stronger wind blew in Scotland and was hardly reported. Sunday’s thunderstorm in Barlick was described as ‘torrential rain’ and every day during the warm weather we have been told it is going to be uncomfortable and dangerous. Could they please get real and celebrate good weather instead of exaggerating it!

Having said all this I realise that I’m lucky, I can tolerate hot and cold weather. There are people who aren’t so lucky, especially the elderly. If it’s within your power, help them to get better equipped, something as simple as a fan could make a lot of difference. Perhaps it’s time Garlick’s started selling small air conditioners, there could be a market out there!

SCG/11 August 2003
1027 words.