Tourist guide to Burnley

LANDMARK: The oldest part of majestic Towneley Hall dates from the mid 14th century. The central block of the house and the north east wing were completed by the middle of the 15th century

HISTORIC: The Inn on the Wharf

Tourist guide to Burnley

KING COTTON: Queen Street Mill, Burnley, which celebrates a golden age

First published in What's On Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by

Burnley is set in a valley through which run the rivers Brun from which the town takes its name but the Don and Pendle Water also cut into the area.

All these once crystal clear streams plus the damp air of the Pennines proved to be ideal for the mass production of cotton.

Burnley does well to sell its industrial heritage and Queen Street Mill deserves to be regarded as a Mecca for students of cotton. Here is the last steam powered mill to be found anywhere in Europe. The mill closed in 1982 but was re-opened and is now recognised by national government as an outstanding museum (Tel 01282 412555).

No steam engine can work without coal to power it and in its day Burnley was a major mining area. Almost all the reminders of the coal industry have gone but the Miners Club shows how busy the workers were.

Here is the only working men’s club to have a restaurant open to the public. There is a concert area seating 200 people and in the five bars more Benedictine is consumed than anywhere else in Europe.

This dates back to the First World War when the East Lancashire Regiment was based in France. The soldiers learned to love ‘Bene and hot water’ and the tradition is carried on.

Coal powered mills could only function if there was a transport system to deal with imports and exports. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was vital in the 19th century and its history is described in the Weavers’ Triangle Visitors’ Centre (01282 452403).

This is housed in the former wharf master’s house and the toll office. The displays relate to the canal, cotton and housing with a typical weaver's house displayed to excellent effect. Students of the Lancashire Wakes Weeks should also visit the triangle and there is a model working display of Burnley Fair.

You can also get a more than decent brew and more at the Inn On The Wharf. Early in 2010 Prince Charles visited Burnley and wasted no time in expressing his appreciation of this terrific triangle.

Burnley market area has now been pedestrianised and although housed in modern buildings still has a traditional feel to it.

The market area itself is surrounded by a centre containing many well-known high street stores. Here then is a perfect blend between ancient and modern and a thriving balance between races and religions.

Burnley's market charter was first granted in 1293 and the market was based around the site now occupied by the old Grammar School and the parish church of St Peter.

The church had its own market granted by the Monks of Pontefract Priory in 1122.

A short walk up Manchester Road leads to the Mechanics Institute which is now the focus of art in the town. The Mechanics Institute offered a good education for working people and thankfully the Victorian building is still serving a useful function. Any visitor to the town needs to visit this building first.

The Burnley mills generated lots of brass and the civic pride of the town is celebrated in its Town Hall, completed in 1888.

The Burnley area has two wonderful old halls open to the public.

Burnley's early history can be celebrated by a visit to Towneley Art Gallery and Museum, which is open free of charge every day except Saturday.

The oldest part of Towneley Hall dates from the mid 14th century and there are two sweeping spiral staircases. The central block of the house and the north east wing were completed by the middle of the 15th century.

The house was built in a period of some conflict and this explains why the original walls are six feet thick.

In more peaceful times the family concentrated on pleasures rather than protection and this accounts for the splendour of the Minstrels' Gallery, the Long Gallery and other wonderful features.

Since 1903 Towneley has been a splendid museum and art gallery. Its Elizabethan long gallery is worth travelling many miles to see.

Displays include archaeology, glass, ceramics and militaries. The 2003 extension is now blending well into the original structure. The old brew house is a craft museum and the stable block is now a welcoming cafe.

On the outside of the hall are some 380 acres of walks and woodlands, aquarium, butterfly gardens, a nature centre and a craft museum adapted from the old brew house.

Set around the grounds there is a deer pond and an underground icehouse designed to ensure that the winter freeze-up povided the family with supplies at a time when nobody had refrigerators.

Inside is a library donated by the late Eric Halsall who for many years fronted the TV series One Man And His Dog.

The last member of the Towneley family to reside at the hall was Lady O'Hagan, who sold the house to the town council on very generous terms.

Lady O'Hagan is buried in the churchyard of St John's in Cliviger and nearby is the grave of General Scarlett who successfully led the Charge of the Heavy Brigade in 1854.

The ill-fated Light Brigade got the publicity but it was the Heavy Brigade's victory which kept the sea lanes open during the Crimean War.

General Scarlett was a friend of the Towneley family and his estate was at Bank Hall, which later became Burnley's maternity home and was close to a substantial coal mine.

The Towneleys were staunch Roman Catholics and they suffered greatly during the Civil War of the 1640s.

On the northern outskirts of the town at Harle Syke is the Queen Street Mill which has been restored to its industrial prime.

Some 300 looms are powered by a 500 horsepower steam engine called "Peace" which is a noisy machine to be so called.

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