HISTORY OF BURNLEY
MAIN PERIODS OF PREHISTORY-
1. Eolithic Age or Dawn of the Stone Age.
2. Paleolithic Age or Old Stone Age began about 500,000 B.C.
3. Mesolithic Age or Middle Stone Age began about 10,000 B.C.
4. Neolithic Age or New Stone Age began about 2,500 B.C.
5. Bronze Age began about 1,800 B.C.
( a ) Early.
( b ) Middle.
( c ) Late.
6. Early Iron Age began about 500 B.C.
The first chapter in this book, which will deal with the long story of Burnley, and the conditions that influenced the lives of its inhabitants, is given to a description of those people who, thousands of years ago, lived and hunted in this area.
The table given above shows the various periods into which the whole of Prehistory has been divided. It should be noted, however, that one age overlaps the next age, so that really there are no distinct breaks at definite points of time. The main divisions depend largely on the material (stone, bronze or iron) which was used for making implements and weapons. The period of time during which stone wás used was a very long one and therefore, as knowledge of Prehistory developed and more man-made weapons were discovered and classified, it became necessary to sub-divide the Age of Stone into Eolithic (Dawn of Stone Age), about which experts themselves do not always agree, Palæolithic (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), and Neolithic (New Stone Age). These divisions depend largely on the technique shown in fashioning stone weapons and the particular type of weapon that was used.
As far as Burnley is concerned, we can omit the first two divisions, for it is generally agreed that there is no reliable evidence of man's existence in the North of Englaind before the Mesolithic Period. We must therefore begin our story with the people who hunted in this locality some ten or twelve thousand years ago. It is, of course, impossible to give an exact date for their arrival in this district, but in any case, a thousand years one way or another makes very little difference in Prebistoric times.
The Mesolithic Period lasted for possibly eight thousand years, and during that long space of time the climate underwent great changes which brought about the corresponding alterations in the types of forest. The glaciers had long disappeared and vegetation had covered the great desolate areas of clay, but at the beginning of the period, the climate was still cold and wet and the forest were made up principally of alders, birches and pines, though oaks and limes were fairly common. In course of time, the climate became drier with warm summers and cold winters: at the close of the period, the weather was warm and damp so that oaks, elms and alders flourished. The wild animals which roamed the district included wolves, foxes, deer, boar brown bears and giant elks. Probably most of the low-lying districts were marshy, and therefore hunting was mostly confined to the moors that surround the valley.
The people of the Mesolithic period are the first recognised pioneers and explorers in this area, and it is almost certain that they came as wandering hunters, tracking animals which were the main source of food. Prehistorians have distinguished several peoples who lived during this period, but we in Burnley are concerned with only two of them, the Azilians, named after Mas d'Azil in southern France, and the Tardenoisians, named after Tardenois in northern France. In each of these two French localities were found weapons made in Mesolithic times, which showed very different characteristics. Azilians eame from France to Southern England and thence spread northward to the Pennines, while the Tardenoisians entered England by the north-east coast, occupied the high moorland areas and eventually reached the Pennines. From the Pennines there was a gradual expansion to all suitable places in the north. We thus find Azilian and Tardenoisian implements on Burnley moors, and from the position in which they are found today it seems probable that the two peoples hunted and lived together.
The weapons were made of flint: so that either the hunters brought them ready made from areas where flint stone is common, or they imported the flint stone and fashioned the weapons during a temporary stay on their hunting grounds. (Flint is not found in Burnley except for a very limited quantity which was carried here by glaciers: chert, used in later Prehistoric times, is fairly common on Burnley moors.) The flint weapons used by the Azilians and the Tardenoisians were so small that they are called “Pygmy flints” or “microliths” (little stones): the largest are rarely more than 1in. long, while the smallest are about 0.5in. long. Some of the flints are regularly shaped into very small triangles, four-sided figures, or semi-circles: some are shaped like little blades: others have a blunted “point. The scraper usually associated with the Mesolithie peoples is called a “thumb scraper” the size of a man's thumb nail. We do not know exactly the uses of certain flints, but doubtless some were harpoon barbs and others were arrow heads and dart points. In Fig. I, types of mesolithic flints found at Cant Clough are illustrated. Unfortunately nothing of the Mesolithic Age has come dowm to us except the flint weapons, so that we cannot be certain of any customs that may have prevailed in this area. Mesolithie peoples used pebbles on which simple designs had been painted. In Bavaria; two pits were found in which skulls had been arranged in circles and facing west; coronets of shells and stags' teeth had been placed on some of the heads. This ceremonial burial seems to imply a belief in a future existence.
About 2,500 B.C. the Neolithic people entered England, bringing with them a higher culture. In countries bordering on the Mediterranean, where they had established themselves many centuries before, they had reached a comparatively high state of civilisation and so were able to introduce into this country the knowledge and practice of agriculture, pottery making, domestication of animals and a new technique in making stone weapons. The men were of medium height and the women were. short and slightly built. They lived in huts, built camps, made weapons of every description (including saws and sickles), erected huge stones singly, in circles or in rows, and buried their dead chieftains in long barrows or egg-shaped mounds of earth and stone which sometimes exceeded a hundred yards in length, All this we know from what has been discovered in the south and east of England, but neither in Burnley nor in Lancashire can we find such direct evidence of the Neolithic period.
We have therefore to admit that it is very difficult to prove the existence of Neolithic people in this district. There are no “standing stones” and no long barrows which would offer reliable proof. A statement(1) in the Victoria County History of Lancashire that “possibly some mounds on the moors which lie towards Extwistle may be assigned to this period ” is very disappointing for no such mounds have been located though a wide search has been made on many occasions. Much more serious consideration must be given to a group of mounds in Everage Clough.(2) Originally there were eight of them, but four have been levelled at some unknown date during agricultural operations. The remaining four vary in length from 27 feet to 17 feet, in breadth from 8 feet to 5 feet, and in height from 4 feet to 2 feet. According to tradition, the mounds cover the graves of soldiers of Cromwell who were slain whilst fighting in the vicinity, but there is no evidence to support the truth of that story. The whole group is scheduled as “Ancient Monuments” and no excavations can be undertaken without the permission of H.M. Ministry of Works. It should be noted that all the burial sites as given on the map on page 143 are so protected. (Probably the long barrow nearest to Burnley exists on Kildwick Moor. It measures about 20 yards in length, 8 yards in width and 5 or 6 feet in height. When the mound was excavated, there was found a well-built cist made of flat boulder stones with an upper and a lower compartment: the skeleton lay in the bottom compartment.)
1. V.C.H. 1 211.
2. Barnley Express and Advertiser, Aug. 6h, 1927,
The Neolithic people adopted a new method of fashioning their larger stone weapons. In the Palæolithic and Mesolithic periods, flint implements were shaped by flaking and chipping, a method which continued into the succeeding ages, but Neolithic man made the discovery that very hard stones such as granite and greenstone could be made into a required shape by grinding or rubbing with a very hard sandstone. The new method gave a very smooth and polished surface to the finished article. one time it was thought that all “polished” stone implements were of Neolithic origin, but it is now known that later peoples used the same technique so that we cannot say definitely that the “polished” stone axes found locally belong to the Neolithic Age. (Fig. 1 and Appendix.)
Perhaps the best evidence that Neolithic peoples did visit this district is the occurrence of flint arrow-heads, which are triangular, triangular hollow-based, or leaf shaped, for these were the shapes adopted by Neolithic man: many arrowheads of these types have been found on the moors, and in one or two examples there are signs that the flints had been “rubbed” after the preliminary chipping. Other implements which may have a Neolithic origin are round scrapers, gouges and saws. (Fig. 1 and Appendix.)
Possibly, therefore, all that we can claim for Burnley in the Neolithic Age is that it was a hunting ground for the people of that period. On the other hand, if the Everage Clough mounds, when excavated, should prove to be Neolithic long barrows, then there would be good reason for regarding the Burnley district not only as a hunting ground but also as the site of a Neolithic settlement.
By far the most important Prehistoric people to live in the Burnley district were those of the Bronze Age. This period in England began about 1,800 B.C., when invaders from the Continent introduced a knowledge of how to make bronze and fashion bronze weapons. With bronze axes and knifes, many things were possible; trees could be cut down, trimmed and shaped, and even stone could be chiselled. In the same period agricultural methods were improved, and consequently in many parts of the country the people were able to adopt a settled life, though no doubt hunting still played a huge part in providing food. In addition, the arts of pottery making and cloth weaving reached a high standard.
During the Bronze Age the climate in this area Was generally warm and dry, so that the growth of forests would be checked and the lowlands would offer a better chance of penetration, and in some cases, of settlement. The people lived in huts which were of two varieties: one type Was circular and above ground with walls of wattle and clay and roof of thatch: a second type was a shallow pit with flat roof end a sloping passage of approach. There are no remmns of these dwellings to be seen in the Burnley district, but there is plenty of other evidence that Bronze age man settled here. of the men were tall and strong, with sloping foreheads and prominent eyebrow ridges, while others were sturdy, with round heads. high foreheads and slight eyebrow ridges.
Though the period is known as the Bronze Age, the metal was so scarce and valuable that the people relied on flint for many necessary articles, such as arrowheads, which ware very easily lost. It was only in the latter part of the Bronze Age and in the more favourably situated settlements that the metal became commoner and was used to make buckets. razors, etc. The only bronze articles so far found in this area are axes, spear heads and a dagger.
As may be seen from the table given at the head of this chapter. the Bronze Age is divided into three periods, early, middle and late, each period representing an advance in civilisation or a change in customs or perhaps the arrival of a new body of immigrants with new ideas. The Burnley area is fortunate in having a record of all the three periods.
( a ) EARLY.
The people of the Early Bronze Age are called Beaker Folk ” because they introduced an earthenware vessel shaped like a drinking cup. Only one fragment of Beaker Ware has ever been found in Lancashire, but another piece was found just across the county boundary on Extwistle Moor.(3) Again, the only two large flint implements associated with this period which have been found in Lancashire, were found locally. One is a dngger, 6in. long, found on Worsthorne Moor; the other is a knife or spear head. 4in. long and 2in. broad, found near Hurstwood reservoir. Both are now in Towneley Museum. Relics of the Early Bronze Age are fairly common in the eastern counties, and it seems likely that the people spread into this district from Yorkshire, but did not penetrate very far into Lancashire.
The smaller flint implements used by Early Bronze Age people may still be found on Burnley Moors, and include arrow heads with tang and barbs, gouges, borers, scrapers, knives and spindle-whorls. The last mentioned article implies a knowledge of cloth making. The bronze weapons of this period which have been found locally are important. A spear head, which is now in the Towneley Museum, is four inches long, flat, undecorated and has been hammered into shape. Three axe heads have been found at Read, and one of them is now in the British Museum.(4) It is eight inches long and has side margins or flanges which have been made by hammering the long edges; the faces of the axe head are ornamented with shallow chevrons and straight lines, and the flanges with diagonal lines.(4) (See Fig. 2.)
The burial mounds associated with the Early Bronze Period were made of earth and stones, round in shape and about 30 feet in diameter, and often surrounded by a ring of stones. Inside the mound was a cist made of large, flat stones in the shape of a large oblong box, which contained a skeleton usually in a crouching posture: within or near the cist, flints are found, accompanied occasionally with an urn which may have contained food. Two such mounds or “round barrows” may have been found locally. One at Lawhouse, Mereclough, (5) was accidentally opened in 1763 by workmen who were digging a field drain; it contained a cist, in which there was a skeleton and “a rude earthenware vase and bones.” The second mound, 30 feet in diameter and about four feet high, was situated on Hameldon Hill, (6) Worsthorne, and was excavated in 1887. “The centre was occupied by stones arranged like a long sarcophagus” “about nine feet long” “with two large stones as cover”; flint flakes and arrowheads have been found but there was no skeleton: the excavators suggested that there had been a previous but unrecorded opening of the mound.
3. Jackson-Prehis. Arch, Lanes, 77.
4. Ibid. 82; V.C.H. I 230.
5. Booth-Grave Mounds on Pennines.
( b ) MIDDLE.
As time went on, Bronze Age man began to find ways and means of overcoming certain difficulties in the technique of metal working, and had progressed so far that in the Middle Bronze period he was able to mould the metal. Such knowledge made possible an improvement in all his implements. For example, since a heavy blow with a plain, flat axe head of sharpened bronze, such as was used in the early period, always tended to split the wooden shaft to which the head was secured, the smith of the Middle Bronze Age found a method of moulding a bronze axe head with flanges on the long edges and a “stop ridge” on either face so that the head of the wooden shaft was not liable to split when the axe was used. A similar difficulty was experienced with the early bronze spear head“ in this case the difficulty was overcome by making a bronze collar to fit the shaft and driving a bronze nail through the collar and the tang of the spear head.
Two bronze implements of this period have been found in the Burnley area: one is an axe head with flanges and stop ridge, found in 1884 at Cant Clough, (7) and the other is a bronze dagger, nine inches long with a rounded midrib and a three inch tang pierced with a hole for a rivet. The dagger was found near Catlow in 1842;(8) it may be that the collar which fitted on to the shaft was lost.
In the Middle Bronze Age it was the custom in this area to cremate the bodies of the dead, though probably the full rites of cremation and urn burial were reserved for chieftains. Apparently, after the funeral pyre had died out, the ashes were collected (and at times wrapped in a piece of cloth, which was fastened with a bronze or bone pin) and then placed in an urn which was buried just below the surface. Sometimes an urn was protected by stones, but in many cases there was no such protection. Occasionally a food vessel was also buried with the cinerary urn. In many parts of England it was usual to raise a considerable mound of earth and stones over the site of the urn, but in the Burnley district it was the custom to surround the burial with a circle of stones, generally seven in number, or a low, circular rampart of earth: the circle was generally about seven yards in diameter. Many such burials have been found locally, and a brief description is given in the Appendix of the recorded excavations made at Catlow, Cliviger Laithe, Hameldon Hill, Twist Hill. Beadle Hill and Delph Hill.
The site of the burial in Ell Clough. marked on the map (page 142 and fig. 5) is the best preserved, Notes and an accompanying plan made in 1927 by Mr. G. A Wood M.A., of Burnley showed that the stones marked 1, 3, 4, 7 were then standing as originally placed at the time of the burial, but that the others were out of alignment. A raised centre mound was disturbed, but there were signs of a slight fosse or ditch surrounding it. This particular burial place was excavated by Mr. T. Wilkinson in 1886, (9) and in a cist of unhewn stone 18 inches square was found a plain, unglazed urn, which contained the burnt bones of two persons and a bronze pin four inches long. With the urn were found burnt animal bones and “just inside the circle” charcole, the remains of the funeral pyre. As will be seen from the illustration (fig. 5). the urn is tripartite, that is, it has three distinet zones; in Towneley Museum may be seen a bipartite urn, which looks like a food vessel; however, as it contains bones, it must be regarded as a cinerary urn and may belong to the Late Bronze Age. Some of the urns contained the burnt bones of nore than one individual, as in the case of the Cliviger Laithe urn, whiclh is said to contain the remains of five persons:(10) in the Cliviger Laithe urn there were found among the bones a large number of crystals of galena or lead ore.
Occasionally, inside an urn there is found a smaller urn, which has been called “an incense cup.' This small urn is not more than three inches high, with large regularly made holes in the side and even in the lid with which the urn is sometimes fitted. The purpose of the incense cup is not known for certain: at first, as its name implies, it was thought to have been used for the burning of incense or some other herb. but one modern theory is that it is the burial urn of a small child, placed in the urn of its parent. The holes in the side of the incense cup would allow the child to keep in close contact with the parent in the spirit world.
A pottery vessel of an unusual type, now in the Manchester University Museum, is 1in, high and 3 3/16in, in diameter. and was found in 1905 in an earth circle near Burnley, (11) (Figure 4.)
( c ) LATE.
The Late Bronze Age showed a still higher skill in the technique of metal working, and by this time the axe head had been so far developed that it was moulded with a socket into which the haft was fitted: the spear head showed a like development. A socketed axe head with loop, now in Townelev Museum, measures 2 1/4in. in length and was found near Pendle.
9. Mem. of Hurstwond, 6-7.
10. Booth -Grave Mounds on Pennines: Abercrombie Bronze Age Pottery.
11. Jackson–Prehis. Arch. Lancs. 108.
Cremation was still practised, but some authorities suggest that during this period the urns were buried in an urnfield or cemetery which could be used for many years. The cemetery or “disk barrow” was situated in an open, level space on high moorland surrounded by a circular earth mound with a ditch on the inside: in the east, the ditch was filled up to form a passage into the sacred enclosure. Near this eastern entrance the funeral pyres were made. Such a burial ground. 50 yards in diameter, exists on the moors overlooking Thursden Valley: it is scheduled as an “Ancient Monument” and it is one of the very few undisturbed prehistoric relies left in the district.
Associated with the Bronze Age are the stone hammer heads and stone mallets, which are well represented in the district, though all the recorded finds have been made on the Pendle side of Burnley Valley. A list is given In the appendix.
The Bronze Age as a whole was a very remarkable one. Its peoples were highly skilled in the making of stone and flint weapons: they knew the secret of making the hardest bronze and moulding it into weapons and articles of many types; they hunted and they farmed; they made good pottery; they had learned how to spin and weave cloth; they loved ornaments and they appreciated an artistic design; they probably worshipped the sun, and their burial rites imply a belief in a future life.
The main occupation of the Bronze Age settlers in this district must have been hunting, for the moors were inhospitable and agriculture would be very difficult. There was no copper and no tin which could attract them, nor is it likely that they used the loonl deposits of galena, although the inclusion of galena crystals in the Cliviger Laithe urn may suggest that they knew the value of lead. Bronze Age smiths did use lead when making patterns for moulds.
A PREHISTORIC TRACK.
During the Bronze Age there was a certain amount of trade carried on between Ireland and the Continent, and it has been suggested that the route lay between the Lancashire and Yorkshire coasts via the Ribble-Aire Gap. There is a distinct possibility, however, that an alternative and shorter route lay between the Calder (tributary of the Ribble) and the Yorkshire Calder; in this case the track would probably lie through what is now Old Read, Higham, Stepping Stones, Gannow Top, Towneley, Mereclough and the Long Causeway to Heptonstall. By taking this route, the traveller would follow, for most of his way, a hillside road on a firm, high and open land, would avoid many deep cloughs, cross a dangerous valley at a fairly narrow point, and above all, reach his destination on the Yorkshire coast by possibly the shortest route.
Near both the Lancashire and Yorkshire ends of the Long Causeway, Bronze Age settlements existed: burial sites are numerous, and both bronze and flint implements have been found on or very near to the suggested route. Even if it is disputed that the Long Causeway was originally a main track between the west and the east of Northern England, at any rate it served to connect the Worsthorne and Todmorden groups of Bronze Age settlers.
EARLY IRON AGE
The people of the early Iron Age are known as Celts and are the same people whom in our schooldays we called “the Ancient Britons” Most unfortunately there is nothing to show that they ever lived in Lancashire. Experts tell us that during this period the climate was wet, so that the low-lying lands were almost impassable and the uplands were covered with bogs: In these conditions life in this district would be almost intolerable. In the limestone districts round Settle and Grassington, however, many Celtic villages have been discovered, and in the shallow pits which formed the huts, pottery and ornaments have been found
While it may be true that this district was not a coentre of population in Celtic times, there were almost certainly some inhabitants of the district. We still have the old Celtic names, Pendle, Calder, Colne, Ightenhill, rossendale, and these names would surely not exist if the Britons had never lived here.
It was during the Iron Age that the Romans conquered Britain. A Roman writer tells us that the people of the North of England were called Brigantes, and that the Setantii occupied what is now Lancashire.