Tourist guide to Barrowford

THREAD OF TIME: Barrowford is the place to start exploring the history of the Pendleside villages

THREAD OF TIME: Barrowford is the place to start exploring the history of the Pendleside villages

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

ANYONE who believes the village of Barrowford is a case of "industrial sprawl" is making a serious mistake.

Those who do not stop and look round do not know what they are missing. Set just off Junction 13 of the M65, it has some wonderful and historic buildings, one of the most attractive packhorse bridges in England and the haunt of Thimblethung Thistlethwaite!

Set back from the main road and now known as the Lamb Working Men's Club is a building dating to 1696.

Around the mullioned windows are carved faces which are ugly enough to serve their intended use, which was to scare off witches.

The Lamb has a typical Lancashire "tongue-in-cheek" tale to tell.

On May Day during Victorian times The Lamb was the starting point for a walk up and over Pendle organised by a man known as American Tom, who wished to celebrate a return to his native haunts after a spell in the States.

His followers first had to eat a pudding made from nettles, eggs, dripping and meat but nobody was allowed to drink alcohol until they had recited the following rhyme without any hesitation: "Thimblethung Thistlethwaite who thinking to thrive through thick and thin, though throwing three thimbles hither and thither was thwarted and thwacked by thirty three thousands thick thorns."

You really would have to be sober to cope with that.

Following American Tom's route along the Gisburn road and then upstream along the banks of Pendle Water and then turning left at the modern bridge at Higherford, you reach what has been called the Roman Bridge.

Actually this span is of medieval origin and possibly dates to the 14th century.

It has been restored recently and during the 18th century was a vital crossing point.

Stand on the Packhorse Bridge and think back to 1744 when the span was a vital crossing point. John Wesley stood on the bridge and preached to a hostile crowd.

There is nothing hostile about Barrowford today. It is one of Lancashire's hidden gems.

Barrowford was an important textile centre, with mills powered by water.

Before this, handloom weavers beavered away and some of their cottages are thankfully still a feature of the present village.

All this history is graphically explained at the Pendle Heritage Centre, which also has a shop and a super little cafe which is open throughout the year.

From the 15th century, Park Hill, now the Heritage Centre was owned by the Bannister family, one of whom achieved worldwide fame in recent years.

Roger Bannister, the first four-minute mile runner, can trace his ancestry back to Barrowford.

The present building dates to 17th century and at the rear is an attractive walled garden growing organic fruit and vegetables plus an assortment of medicinal herbs.

Also on site is a 15th century cruck barn which was brought to this site from a derelict farm in the Cliviger area.

On a wall of the Heritage Centre look out for "Pigeon Holes" which are just what the name implies.

In the days before deep freezers there was always a shortage of fresh meat.

Because pigeons breed all the year round there was always a supply of young birds which were (and still are) called squabs.

The Heritage Centre has been extended and now has an information centre and art gallery whilst the main house displays the history of Pendle. This obviously includes great details of the 1612 trial of the Lancashire Witches. This is the place to set history in context, get the right books and buy souvenirs.

Across the bridge from the Heritage Centre is a beautifully restored toll house, which dates to 1803.

Toll houses were built to a shape which enabled the keeper to see vehicles travelling along roads leading in several directions.

This ensured that nobody could pass along the road without paying the required fee.

Barrowford has no shortage of old buildings and one of the finest is the White Bear pub.

This dates to 1607 when it was the home of the Hargreaves family.

At that time the modern road obviously did not exist and the extensive grounds went down to Pendle Water and across this to what is now an excellent little park.

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