Tourist guide to Colne

Lancashire Telegraph: SIGHTS: Langroyd Hall SIGHTS: Langroyd Hall

Colne is the second largest town in Pendle, with a population of less than 18,000.

On a hill above the town is the Iron Age fort of Castercliffe which was probably taken over by the Romans when they vanquished the local Celtic tribes.

Following the conquest by William the Conqueror's Normans in 1066, Colne was one of seven Saxon manors which came under the control of one of William's friends Roger of Poictou.

Later the de Lacy family gained control of the honour of Clitheroe which included Colne.

The name Colne is of ancient origin. Some, but not all, historians think that the name is derived from the Latin "colinia", which meant a Roman settlement.

What is beyond dispute is that the Roman road from Ribchester to York passed close by.

Beneath this is a long main street on each side of which are reminders of its more recent history.

In 1861-62 a weavers’ strike brought stress to the local workers and was the subject of a novel called The Mills of Colne by Robert Neill.

This was previously called Song of Sunrise. His major novel was Mist Over Pendle but the ‘Mills’ is probably more important from an historical point of view.

The town has long earned the name of Bonnie Colne Upon the Hill and the oldest building is the parish church, set high on the main street through the town.

St Bartholomew's was built by Robert de Lacy in 1122 as a chapel governed from Whalley.

When Colne made money during the early days of the Industrial Revolution some of the profits were used to restore the church in 1815.

Some features of the old building were retained, including the lower section of the tower and three massive pillars in the nave.

Colne library is a fascinating mix between its traditional function and a museum of local life.

There is an exhibition of history and natural history including old gas lamps, corporation regalia and a set of stocks on wheels formerly kept in the church.

The very recent on-going development of the library complex will be a very welcome boost to the town.

Colne made one fortune from the wool trade, indicating its close proximity to Yorkshire, but it was Lancashire's cotton which brought an even greater fortune.

The market was moved from the churchyard to a purpose-built square nearby and the medieval grammar school was replaced in 1812 by a new structure which still stands.

John Tillotson was educated at Colne in the late 1640s and became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1691 until his death in 1694.

A town hall was built in 1894 but by that time Colne had been dominated by Nelson and modern historians give thanks for this because its character has not been modified by very much.

The town is virtually unspoiled and is known for excellent shopping on the main street and its indoor and outdoor markets.

Even more visitors are attracted to the Rhythm and Blues Festival, which takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend. This now attracts a worldwide audience.

Then there are two unrelated Hartleys. Firstly there is William Pickles Hartley who made a fortune not from pickle but from making jam.

With his profits he built a set of still functional almshouses which are seen to the left of the road out towards Laneshaw Bridge.

Recently the Hartley Hospital has been closed and converted into modern up-market flats and houses. Better this than demolition.

Then there is the unrelated Wallace Hartley who achieved fame by dying and is famous for his place in maritime history.

Wallace Hartley, whose memorial stands proudly on Albert Road, was the bandmaster on the Titanic.

His band played Nearer My God to Thee as the great ship sank in 1912.

Wallace's body was recovered from the sea and was given a hero's welcome, being interred in Colne cemetery.

Wallace was the brave bandmaster of the Titanic who continued to play as the ill-fated liner sank to the accompaniment of his tune Nearer My God To Thee.

A new pub in the town is named after this maritime man. In the old library grounds (now a chapel) there is a memorial to Wallace and also a few remnants of Colne’s Cloth Hall which is a reminder of the days in the 18th century when the town was an important textile centre.

Here came handloom weavers who worked in their own cottages and came to sell their 'pieces'. Each was of a fixed length and here we have the origins of the phrase 'piece work'.

In the town is the British in India Museum which includes material relating to the Raj.

It also attracts literary historians who wish to view clothes worn by the novelist EM Forster. He wore these items whilst researching his novel A Passage to India.

Colne market is a mix of ancient and modern with farming and fabrics, soap, spuds, leather, lingerie, jewellery, jostle and fun. Local produce is sold next to Asian spices, colourful clothes, local cheese and a farmers' market. No two market days are alike and this is the attraction of Colne.

Tourists will find local villages much to their liking and ramblers will find Foulridge and Wycoller irresistible.

From the 17th century Foulridge was famous for its hat making industry and then a century later textiles became important. All this came before the coming of the Leeds to Liverpool canal Look for the village green which is surrounded by old weavers' cottages especially around Town Gate.

Close to Town Gate is the canal wharf and the famous tunnel.

This was completed in 1796 following a five-year construction period and is 1,650 yards (1,500 metres) long.

By 1815 stables for the horses, warehouses and a wharf master’s house were in operation. Here is the base for a pleasure barge operation.

The Hole-in-the-Wall pub also provides good food and there is a photograph on the wall of a cow called Bluebell. This beast fell into the canal, swam through the tunnel and was revived by a good stiff tot of brandy. Two weeks after her ordeal Bluebell gave birth to a healthy calf.

Canals need water and as Foulridge is close to the highest point of the cut reservoirs were constructed to provide this water, Lake Burwains now has a circular walk around it. This is a perfect example of what has become a multipurpose lake.

Apart from its obvious appeal to strollers and naturalists there are plenty of opportunities for anglers and boaters.

It is overlooked by the impressive Langroyd Hall which dates to the 17th century and which has become popular in recent years because of its carvery. Within easy reach of Colne is Wycoller Country Park set around what was only a few years ago regarded as a deserted village. Although it has now been 'discovered' the atmosphere has not been destroyed. Above the old settlement once the home of handloom weavers is a substantial but well concealed car park.

Down in the little river valley is a shop and cafe and over the water is Wycoller Hall the ruined manor house used by Charlotte Brontë as a model for Ferndean Manor in her novel Jane Eyre. The Ferndean Trail is a footpath which now links Wycoller and Colne.

Beyond the manor house is an old barn now housing exhibits dealing with the history of the village.

The stream is spanned by three wonderful old bridges. The Clam Bridge is at least one thousand years old and some think that it may date back to the Bronze Age.

The Clapper Bridge opposite the hall is made up of slabs with stone supports.

When the population of the village included around 350 workers this bridge must have echoed to the sound of clogs.

These were made locally from alder trees which still grow alongside the river.

Most tourists, however, only concentrate on the packhorse bridge which probably dates back to the 14th century. It was, however, in full swing when the Brontë sisters walked from Haworth to Wycoller.

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