Solving the mystery of a forgotten piece of Burnley history

THE BARDEN MYSTERY: Dean's Farm, Byerden Lane, Burnley. (S)
THE BARDEN MYSTERY: Dean's Farm, Byerden Lane, Burnley. (S)
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You will remember that, recently I asked for readers’ help with the location of Dean’s Farm which I knew was in Barden Lane, Burnley. However, its exact location was something of a mystery and I asked for your help.

I would like to thank everyone who contacted me with suggestions about where the farm might have been. These phone calls, emails and letters constituted a number of suggestions. The two potential locations I mentioned, Pendle Bridge and Holme End, both had supporters, but I had searched the maps in my collection and had not found buildings in the alignment shown in the photo I published which is reproduced again for you here.

Clearly, the site of these buildings must have been somewhere else and, thanks to Mr Ken Spencer, MA MSc. I now know where Dean’s Farm was. It came as a surprise but I thought that, if the site was not in either of the places I suggested, it must have disappeared when Barden Lane was developed. This is, indeed, what happened. Let me explain.

Many of you will know Barden Lane, Burnley. It has changed almost out of all recognition in the last 130 years or so. In 1890, Ordnance Survey published a very detailed map of the area and, though the lane is marked very clearly, there are few sites you would recognise today. However, there is one, and coincidentally, a decision I made, when acting as Burnley Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, had the effect of changing this part of town again, and adding, with reference to today’s problem, a little confusion.

As with a number of problems, like this one, I recommend you visit the site. You will find the area is not the most attractive part of town but is not without interest. To get there, find the junction of Barden Lane and New Hall Street. The terrace property, which once stood on the left side of the latter, as you look towards Danehouse and Stoneyholme, has been demolished, and Gleason’s, the house builders, are getting round, after a long delay, to constructing modern houses on the site. This development has been called Barden Clough, a name which we will come across again in this article.

On the right side of New Hall Street, two rows of the original terrace property still survive. They have been stone cleaned and now look quite attractive. The properties occupy land up to the old junction with North Street where the former Council Baths were once located, though the Baths were further along North Street where there was an old Spiritualist church. I know a little about this latter building as my mother was a member of an athletic group that used to meet there and I have photo of her taken in the building before the last war.

Behind these two rows there is an unmade back street and, beyond that, Burnley Boys and Girls’ Club, which I recall visiting as Mayor of Burnley. This building is quite large and has an all-weather pitch directly behind it. Beyond that, there is a children’s play area, maintained by the council, and then comes Burnley Sixth Form College which is named after one of Burnley’s VCs, Thomas Whitham, who, although he came from Worsthorne, lived in Barden Lane.

On the other side of Barden Lane, almost opposite New Hall Street, is Waterbarn Street which runs, parallel to Colne Road, all the way up to Pratt Street. I always thought Waterbarn Street was a name to conjure with and I was, until the age of 11, a frequent user of it as it was on the route to North Street Baths from St John’s Ivy Street where I was at school.

The junction of Barden Lane, New Hall Street and Waterbarn Street also interested me. On one side, there was York(e) House, which had a stone, over the door, bearing its name and the date, 1894. Two of the other elevations had commercial buildings on them: one, in my day, was a joiners shop, and the other I knew (or thought I knew) to have been Smith and Thomas’s, manufacturers, as they put it themselves “of high class mineral waters and Ye Olde Fashioned Ginger Beer, Hop Ale and Herb Beer”. Their actual address, according to an advert in the 1893 Directory, was 25 and 27 Barden Lane.

None of the properties I have mentioned – York(e) House, and the two commercial buildings, were standing in 1890 but, three years later, Barden Lane is mentioned in the 1893 Commercial Directory. However, I almost missed it because Barrett’s, the compilers, used the old spelling of Byerden Lane. This is something of which you have to very aware when looking into the history of this part of town.

The 1893 entry is a short one but includes Smith and Thomas on the odd side of the street (ie at the bottom of Waterbarn Street) but, confusingly, they appear on the even side, at number 32, in the 1914 Directory which was also published by Barrett’s. I will have to do some more work on this. It is a bit of a problem when using Directories as they do not always get things right. There is a reference to number 32, in the 1893 edition, when it was occupied by a confectioner, but there is no reference to that building in 1899. Number 32 reappears after that.

I suppose I ought to say what I can about Dean’s Farm. It is shown on the 1890 map. Unfortunately, I cannot reproduce the map but you can see the buildings in today’s photo. The building I take to be the farmhouse, is actually in Barden Lane itself, with the small barn-like structure, shown on the right in the photo, behind. It should be pointed out that the first photo is taken from what were then fields close to the lane and, if you look carefully, you can see the route of Barden Clough, one of Burnley’s charming streams now lost to development.

The Deans, who ran the premises, were not farmers, as we would understand the term, but market gardeners, a Burnley industry which has long since interested me. In fact, it was because the Deans appeared to be market gardeners that I wanted to know where the property was located. Unfortunately (and this is something of a disappointment) the 1890 map does not give a name for the buildings you see in the picture.

Another slight disappointment is that the information with which we are provided, on the map, does not tell us exactly what the Deans grew but it does give us more useful information. The barn-like structure, on the right, appears to have some extensions, which, as you can see, include a short chimney and there are clearly beds, for the growing of plants, on the left of the photo. Four people, perhaps members of the Dean family, can be seen standing on the cultivated soil, left.

If we now turn to the 1890 OS map, the market garden activities are confirmed. The extensions to the barn are clearly marked and, beyond them, just out of the photo there are two large green houses. However, on the other side of Barden Lane, there a lot more greenhouses. Some of them are quite large buildings and occupy land now in the Newman Street, Redvers Street and Bright Street area.

On the railway bridge side of Bright Street there used to be a timber yard and the Coliseum Skating Rink. These are shown on the OS map of 1912 and I think the timber yard was operated by Joseph Hartley, who, in 1893, described himself as “a timber dealer, of Waterbarn Street, and fruiterer and poultry dealer”. He was, therefore, in trades linked to the business activities of the Deans.

The 1893 Directory reveals there were 12 market gardeners in Burnley. One of them is John Dean of Barden Lane but that is all that is revealed about him. The others include firms at Spring Gardens, Hollin Hill, Springfield Road, Moseley Road and, intriguingly, a John Frost (no relation to me) who was a landscape gardener of 8 Dane Street.

From what I have written, you will have been able to work out where Dean’s Farm, Barden (or Byerden) Lane used to be. The buildings in the picture were on the left of Barden Lane just below its junction with New Hall Street. If I had to say, exactly, where they were, I would suggest they were where the all-weather pitch close to the Burnley Boys and Girls Club is now and, perhaps, a bit of the children’s play area, adjacent, may have been included in the site.

There is, though, one further thing to tell you. Those of you who know this area will be aware that, 60 or so years ago, this area was once a grassy athletics track and cricket field. I spent some of my time there, when I was a boy, supposedly playing cricket. However, my attention was often distracted by what I could find in the thin grass of Barden Sports Field, as it was called. I unearthed bits of indeterminate metal, tiny scraps of cloth, little springs, nails and screws.

The plot of land had been a landfill site and, before that, home of Reedley Hallows Brick Works. These works included kilns, for making bricks, and quarries for getting clay. They stretched, in a north westerly direction, as far as the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, beyond Cameron Mill, to the railway line at Reedley Colliery, the site of which is still used for industrial purposes.

The colliery was situated in a loop of the canal between railway bridge (132A) and Heald Bridge, but the brick works was massive. It was run by Burnley Brick and Lime Co. Ltd and, though they also had premises at Heasandford, where it worked the famous quarry (now the site of the Youth Theatre) the firm was based at Reedley Hallows.

We are very fortunate to have a photo of Burnley Brick and Lime Co’s kilns on the canal bank as they were in 1914. The picture does not reveal it but there was a short mineral railway on the site which contained good quality clay for making bricks. The 1912 map shows the extent of the workings which, incidentally, were very close to Abel Street Elementary and Infant Schools which had been opened in 1891.

I have also included an image of the Reedley Colliery site which was ideally located on the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

You can see that, at this point, the canal is much wider than is usually the case. Obviously this was necessary as the wider than average barges were used to carry coal into Burnley.

One little inquiry about a charming farm house and barn has resulted in this article.

I have learned a lot from Ken Spencer and have enjoyed putting this together.

I hope you, too, have enjoyed learning about the (almost) forgotten history of this bit of old Barden.