WITH its market charter dating to 1147, Clitheroe is the second oldest town in Lancashire.
Clitheroe is a clean-looking town, obviously because it is cared for but also because there is an element of luck in that it is built on limestone, which is pale in colour and well drained.
In medieval times Clitheroe was famous for its "Three Ls" Latin, Law and Limestone.
The Royal Grammar School dates back to Tudor times and educated a number of classical scholars and lawyers while the hard working men quarried limestone and all these proud traditions continue to
the present day.
Clitheroe is often regarded as the capital of Ribble Valley because here set below the Norman Castle is the railway station and via the interchange links with buses to the villages set in the
foothills of the western slopes of Pendle Hill.
The castle has undergone a massive and expensive facelift and is now seen at its best, complete with museum, shop and information centre.
The museum is the perfect place to discover the history of the mid-Ribble Valley and the steep climb up to the Keep battlements should not be missed.
The views are, to say the least, panoramic and are dominated by Pendle in one direction and Longridge Fell in another.
Below, the ribbon of the Ribble meanders its majestic way through idyllic farmland.
The Keep of the castle which dates to the 11th century is said to be the smallest in England. This is not a sign of weakness because the architect placed the castle on all the available space on a
solid block of limestone.
The walls of the Keep are 11 feet (three metres) thick and Cromwell had a lot of trouble with the Royal Garrison during the Civil Wars of the 1640s.
Even when he was victorious and decided to knock down the castle, a lot remained standing and defiant.
In 1918, following the First World War, the castle and grounds came into the control of the local authority and the grounds and the museum are the results of their continued efforts.
Near the museum is the invaluable North West Archive which contains thousands of recordings of people but also of bird song relating to the county.
Clitheroe’s shops are a fascinating mix of tradition and innovation and on market day local produce and humour are to the fore.
Byrnes is a wine merchants worth travelling miles to sample and ranks among the best in Britain.
It featured in the television series Vintners’ Tales’ but this is far from a one-off experience.
Another award winner is Cowman's the butchers which specialises in a bewildering and mouth-watering variety of sausages.
The area also has a wide variety of places to eat. If you fancy a good dose of culture then Clitheroe and district will not disappoint.
Visit on a Wednesday or a Saturday when the market is in full swing and enjoy the cafes and pubs doing a roaring trade.
The modern open air market is an amalgam of aromas and colours and is overlooked by the church set atop one limestone knoll and the castle dominating another.
Since it opened in 1994 the Platform Gallery has been a roaring success.
There is a shop, an education room, craft workshops and local artists are given the chance to exhibit their work.
The Platform Gallery is unique as it still feels like an updated railway waiting room, which is exactly what it once was.
The Swan and Royal was an important coaching inn but in 1940 a meeting was held.
This resulted in the setting up of a factory to build the jet engine.
Rolls-Royce is still a force to be reasoned with in the local economy.
The town has its share of relatively modern residents who achieved fame.
One such was entertainer Jimmy Clitheroe, who was born in the town in 1922.
Fame came to the Clitheroe Kid because of his long-running radio series.
The entertainer's life is celebrated in photographs in the cafe in the market which is named after him.
The church of St Mary Magdalene has a 15th century tower and chancel but there was a major rebuilding in 1823 and a spire which eventually twisted was completed in 1846.
Inside there are some fine 17th century panels on an altar in the south aisle and the bells are dated 1658.
On the south wall there is a memorial to the life and work of John Webster.
In the 17th century he served as vicar and headmaster but he was also a renowned astrologer and metallurgist but he is best remembered for his work on witchcraft.
Transport to and from Clitheroe has a long and distinguished history.
In the 1850s the railway came to the town and eventually replaced the coach and horses.
This remains the case today, with a direct link to Blackburn and Manchester.
The Interchange railway and bus station has won several prizes.
According to Ekwall, the Oxford historian, Clitheroe was once Cliderhough, Kliodra coming from the old Scandinavian word meaning a song thrush. Hough is old Norse and means a hill.
This bird still sings on the hills around the town.
At nearby Edisford Bridge in the 12th century was a lepers hospital and nearby in 1137 a battle was fought when the invading Scots butchered a force of local farmers.
In the mid 19th century Clitheroe almost, but not quite, became an important spa town.
Its waters were said to contain iron and other salts, but the town failed to compete against such places as Harrogate, Ilkley and Buxton.
Near Grindleton the Old Hydro building still stands.