Tourist guide to Great Harwood

Tourist guide to Great Harwood

Great Harwood market place

Mercer Hall

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

Great Harwood is a mill town which made a massive impact on the textile industry.

IN the 11th century, Harwode Magna was an important settlement situated close to Hyndburn Brook and its junction with the River Calder.

From 1338 until 1933 there was celebrated the custom of Crying the Fair. This announced the start of a huge market and fair.

Since then some effort has been made to salute the start of the fair at 9am on August 21 but alas the event itself is not longer celebrated.

At one time in the late 19th century there were 21 cotton mills at work in the town, along with row upon row of terraced houses for the employees.

Most of the cloth produced was exported to India.

The vibrant little town of Great Harwood itself is overlooked by the parish church of St Bartholomew which has a strong 15th century battlemented tower and a delicate and beautiful 17th century nave roof.

There is a holy water stoup in the porch obviously dating back to the days before 1540 when the church was Catholic.

In front of the 19th century town hall is the Mercer Memorial Clock, built in 1921 to celebrate the work of John Mercer.

He was a chemist who treated strands of cotton with caustic soda to produce an almost translucent sheen on the textile.

The process was then known as mercerising and was patented in 1850. Some historians also credit Mercer with inventing red ink.

The life of this inventor is also commemorated in the splendidly proportioned Mercer Hall which was built in 1821.

A footpath follows the line of the old railway line towards Read. There is a ten-arched viaduct over the river Calder built in 1877 and beneath this is the privately owned Martholme Hall. Sadly the viaduct is not safe to be walked on but its impressive bulk should not be missed.

Thomas Hesketh built a great hall and gatehouse in 1577. Here courts and markezts were held until the Heskeths moved their power base to Rufford in the 17th century.

Now restored Martholme should be regarded as a slice of Lancashire's lost history, but the privacy of the owner should be respected.

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