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The aim of this book is to trace from the very earliest times the history of the people who have lived in and around Burnley and made the town what it is today. We know it as a busy centre supporting nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants, with streets, parks, churches, schools, coal mines, mills, shops and industries of every description. The town is situated in a valley which runs north-east to Skipton and North west to Blackburn, where it opens out into the Lancashire plain. On the northern side of the valley are the Pendle hills, on the south and west are the Hameldon hills and the Cliviger gorge, while on the east lie the Worsthorne moors and Boulsworth. The town itself ia built near the junction of the Brun and the Calder, The former river rises on the Worsthorne moors, receives the Don and Swinden Water and after flowing past Heasandford, almost encircles the Church; the latter rises above Holme, runs past Towneley and after being joined by the Brun in the heart of the town and by Pendle Water near Royle, flows through Padiham and Whalley to join the Ribble at Hacking.

If that were all that is important, then this introduction would be unnecessary. Burnley, however, owes its origin to those hills and rivers; its growth was determined by its lines of communication, climate and minerals; even in these modern times we are to a large extent dependent on the same controlling forces of nature. No apology is therefore needed for introducing a history of Burnley by giving a short outline of how its main physical features were created.

Unknown millions of years ago, the surface of Northern England was hard rock that had once been molten. tremendous earth movements had shaken and twisted the crust of the earth, the land sank and was covered by the sea. During long ages, the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian rocks were laid down, and afterwards began the Carboniferous series which is so well represented in Burnley. In this period of geological history, shells and skeletons of marine animals fell on the sea bed, and in course of time formed together with precipitation under pressure a limestone rock many feet thick. As ages passed, the limestone bed approached the surface, rivers carried the mud further out to sea and deposited on the shale the heavier sediments of grit and sand which, when compressed. formed the millstone grit rock found on all the hills around Burnley. During this long period of time, the regular rise and fall of the sea bed at long intervals, due to irregular cooling of the earth, prevented a continuous deposit of sand and grit: As may be seen from a geological diagram of the district, a stratum of millstone grit is followed by a thin marine band formed at the bottom of a shallow sea, then by shale, and then by sandstone. The cycle of marine band, shale, sandstone is very regular.

Finally the sea bed rose above the surface and for long ages remained a marshy delta, covered in course of time with forests and jungles. The trees and plants died and fell and later became under pressure a compact layer of decayed vegetation, which we know as a coal seam, in the same that characterised the millstone grit series, the coal seams are separated by strata of shale and sandstone, each layer denoting a long period of silent growth beneath the surface of the sea or at the bottom of a huge lake.

The progressive and regular building up of the earth's crust was later interrupted by subterranean forces which created vertical or nearly vertical fractures through the strata and forced all the series in one district higher or lower than the series in adjacent districts. These fractures are known as faults, and many occur, of which the largest in this district is the Cliviger Fault.

Geologically, this area is known as the Burnley Coal Basin, and covers an ellipse of which the long axis runs between Colne and Blackburn. This implies that subterranean forces acting along the western and eastern sides of the ellipse forced upwards all the layers, thus forming a kind of oval land dish with the Pendle ridges on the north and west and the Hameldon, Worsthorne and Boulsworth hills on the south and east,

The broken coal seams with their intervening layers of shale and sandstone therefore once formed the tops of the Pendle ridges and Hameldon hills, but have been denuded by the action of frost, rain and wind and carried away by streams, thus leaving the harder underlying millstone grit exposed. Further down the slopes of the hills, the coal measures appeared on the surface and have been mined in many places as outcrop workings. A seam of coal which was worked in 1600 on the site of Scott Park was identified in 1895 as the Dandy Seam. Another coal outcrop was worked on the Ridge in 1578, while on the Pendle side a “colle bedde ” in the Old Laund gave “fire bot ” for many years before 1580, Similarly the sandstones are quarried where the overlay is not too thick. The Dyneley Knott flags and the Old Laurenee Rock have been worked in the Deerplay area, the Dandy Mine Rock and the Tim Bobbin Rock are worked in Habergham, while the Gorpley Grit was used in the construction of Hurstwood Reservoir.

So far only the strata beneath the surface have been discussed, but probably the Burnley householder is more concerned about the nature of the soil in his garden. A Burnley garden has generally a short depth of turf and “made” soil overlying a heavy clay which is many feet in thickness, This clay is the result of glaciers which once spread over the northern parts of England to such depth that in our district only the tops of Pendle, Hameldon and Boulsworth were left uncovered by the ice. There appear to have been two glaciers which slowly advanced over this district at the same time; one came from the Lake District, and the other from the Ribble Valley. When at their maximm, the glaciers still continued to move forward, grinding shales, sandstones and softer rocks into mud and tearing great rocks from the hills as they slowly passed. At the most southerly points, the ice melted, mud and water in enormous quantities flowed away and the ice-borne rocks and boulders fell and lay where the glaciers melted. At first the water from the Burnley glaciers poured into the Cliviger valley. and the Shedden valley became a deep lake; then as the thawing of such enormous masses of ice continued, some of the water overflowed into the Rawtenstall valley to create a lake Irwell: Finally the ice cap completely disappeared from this area, but our district lay at the bottom of a great lake which stretched from Colne to Darwen. Sand, mud, stones mud clay were still being deposited into this lake by the waters which came pouring from the now more northerly glaciers. Thus was formed the all-too-familiar clay of Burnley gardens.

The Ribblesdale glacier brought a mud of a blue grey colour together with so much limestone that in the Thursden and Shedden valleys and in Hapton Park, lime kilns were built in the 17th and 18th centuries to burn the lime, The north-west glacier brought a mud of a reddish brown colour with many great blocks of stone. One of these may be seen in Towneley Park; another one from the Lake District still lies buried in the clay at the bottom of School Lane. Sometimes the glaciers brought sand which the waters swirled into pockets, such as may be found in many parts of the town. Sand and gravel mounds on Hameldon, Red Lees and Cliviger Laithe are due to deposits made in lakes formed by water which could not easily escape, The “hummocky” mounds in the neighbourhood of Walk Mill seem to indicate that at that point the glacier ceased to retreat for a considerable time due to a return of the extreme cold weather conditions.

For many centuries after the lakes had drained away, wide expanses of clay alone remained. Vegetation eventually spread from southern England, trees and grass began to grow on the high land, and with the arrival of wild animals, Burnley and district at last became the home of a man.

history_introduction.txt · Last modified: 2020/05/06 17:52 (external edit)