PEEK INTO PAST: Latest on the Pendle Witches’ ‘Malkin Tower’ discovery

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SOME time ago, for one edition, I changed the format of this column so I could keep readers informed about what is happening in the heritage and local history fields in Burnley.

For this week, I have reverted to that format. However, there will still be a local history image for those of you who enjoy studying them. I realised the changes made will allow me to introduce you to pictures about which I have little information but which are of interest all the same.

The first is a splendid photo of Burnley Fair in 1922. I find it difficult to say anything new about Burnley Fair but this picture is worth publishing, not because of the different attractions, but because of what is going on in the crowd at the fair. Burnley has a reputation, no worse than other towns, and clearly not as bad as London, for the damage crowds can inflict in the form of riots and civil conflict

What took place in the so-called Burnley Riots of a few years ago was nothing compared to incidents elsewhere in the country but Burnley has been unable to shake off its unwanted and unwarranted reputation. Here we have a huge crowd, representative of all classes of society, enjoying a visit by the fair of 90 years ago.

In those days Burnley Fair was held on the Cattle Market in Parker Lane. The site is now occupied by the police station and magistrates’ court. On the picture you can see the stone setts of the lane in the foreground and a splendid gas lamp can also be seen. It might interest you to know that, when Burnley got its first gas works (in 1823), Parker Lane was one of the first streets to get street lighting. This was because the gas works was at the rear of the Cattle Market and many of you will recall the main entrance to the site was just off the picture to the right.

Let us have a look at the fair. I am no expert on the attractions that can be seen. The only one that gives us any detail is what appears to be Gypsy Rachel’s stall on the right. The sign tells us the fortune teller was the “gifted daughter of Gypsy Rachel” and was a crystal gazer, a spiritualist and clairvoyant.

On the extreme left (bottom corner) notice the balloon seller and stall, just above, seems to be doing good business. However, for the most part, I cannot be sure what the other attractions might be. I will leave that up to you to decide though it would not be difficult to find out as the Express will have visited the fair in 1922 and will have given a detailed report of what was seen.

What interests me is the crowd present at the fair. As you can see, many of those present, as you might expect, are young but, if you look carefully, just about all ages can be found. Most of the men and boys are wearing caps, as was the fashion in those days. There are a few men wearing hats though there are very few straw boaters which were going out of fashion by 1922.

A number of women have their shawls. A good example is the elderly lady wearing a light-coloured shawl in the right-hand bottom corner of the picture but there are many more. Notice the pretty summer clothes of some of the little girls. One boy, foreground middle, knows a photographer is at work and, to his left, two smaller lads seem to be amazed by the transformation wrought on the boring old Cattle Market.

Have a look at this amazing scene. These are your ancestors enjoying a brief respite before going back to the mill or school room. We still have the annual Burnley Fair every July but, perhaps because of modern competition, it has lost some of its savour. Here we see what the fair once meant to the people of our town.

The Old Blacksmith’s.

IN edition 681 of Peek into the Past, a few weeks ago, I included a photo of a blacksmith’s shop which, according to my information, was situated in Burnley circa 1910. I could not reveal the name of the firm or its address as there were no details and few clues on the image.

One of the latter was that the street, on which the premises stood, was quite level. This was something of a rarity in Edwardian Burnley, more so than today as a number of our more hilly roads have witnessed the improving attentions of our civil engineers. I indicated that several streets were contenders for the site and mentioned Yorkshire Street as being a possibility.

A number of readers have contacted me and most agree the premises were indeed in Yorkshire Street and belonged to Halstead Halstead. Three of our most eminent local historians – Ken Spencer, Brian Hall and Jack Nadin – all agree and the first two included the picture in their “Burnley: A Pictorial History” (Hall & Spencer, 1993). Brian tells me Ken wrote this particular entry (number 113). It reads, “Halstead’s shoeing forge on Yorkshire Street, founded in 1830 and maintained successively by three generations of the family. The picture was taken in 1929 when the business was removing to new premises on Blakey Street”.

Readers will know Blakey Street is close to the Yorkshire Street site though I have to say I thought the firm moved to a site just off Eastham Place. It transpires Halstead’s used both street names in their business address and, for this, I refer readers to the 1937 edition of “Barrett’s Commercial Directory” where Halstead Halstead is described as a motor body, van and lorry builder, farrier and general blacksmith.

Mr Spencer adds the forge became a UCP tripe shop. Before that, the shop was run by Ralph Mason who was one of the independent tripe dressers who pooled their resources to form United Cattle Products (UCP). Many readers will remember the premises as Alf Mallet’s, the gents’ hairdresser.

The Discovery of Malkin Tower?

JUST before Christmas, newspapers, including our own, were full of the news Malkin Tower, home of the Pendle Witches of 1612, had been discovered at a lonely location not far from the village of Barley. Even I was swept up by the excitement and was interviewed by Dominic Collis for the Express website.

The event was presented as having a ring of truth about it as the scanty remains of a mummified cat were found. Four hundred years since the Witch Trial, the remains of a (black?) cat, the building in ruins: too good to be true, and it was!

A week or so ago Pendle Forest Heritage Group, which meets in the splendid Village Hall in Barley, arranged with Carl Sanders of United Utilities, who had made the discovery, to meet the archaeologist on site. I was fortunate enough to be present and thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday morning visit to Lower Black Moss reservoir where United Utilities had been doing maintenance work.

We met Frank Giecco from NP Archaeology who gave us a conducted tour which lasted for two hours. What we visited was the substantial remains of a stone-built 17th Century farmhouse. Only part of the ground floor survived but it revealed a lot about a farmhouse of that era – how it was built, the materials used, how the building was heated and how its residents prepared food. The latter was particularly interesting as a small kitchen range survived in what had been an inglenook fireplace and, better still, there was a double bread oven not unlike those which can be seen in operation at the Offshoots Permaculture Centre in the Walled Garden at Towneley Hall.

Of course, the range would not have been in use in the 17th Century. This one probably dated from the mid-19th Century but it bore no maker’s name. I know of four kitchen ranges still, surprisingly, in properties in Briercliffe and all of them in good condition – you can see one of them, made by Bulcock’s of Burnley, in the old dining room at the Roggerham Gate Inn.

The bread ovens were a surprise to me because, though I have seen a few of them in my time, this one was the best. I have, with the help of Phil Dewhurst, actually made bread in both the ovens at Offshoots and, if the ones at Barley had been in working order, I would have loved to have been able to make bread in them.

As I say, the morning spent in the shadow of Lower Black Moss was a real pleasure and I would like to thank everyone involved – the Heritage Group, Carl and Frank – for arranging a most memorable event. I am told a report is being prepared by NP Archaeology and when it is published I will let you know. I can’t wait!

ROGER FROST