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Printable Version Pendle Area - General History

A land of mystery, drama, country inns, moorland walks, mill towns & hamlets.


The district draws its name from the magnificent Pendle Hill, a place forever linked to the Pendle ‘Witches whose steps can be retraced on the Pendle ‘Witches’ Trail. But the hill, which has seen such turbulent times, is also famous for its Quaker and Methodist links. George Fox founded the Quaker movement after climbing Pendle Hill and Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, was also inspired by this dramatic Lancashire landscape.

Pendle Hill.JPG (14286 bytes)

[ Maps of Pendle 1909 ]

Its appeal remains as great today. Ours is an enduring landscape which welcomes walkers and countryside enthusiasts. Whether you seek longer distance walks such as the Pendle Way or prefer gentler strolls, Pendle is the ideal location.

A rich industrial heritage has helped shape our towns and villages. Many were built on textile wealth, from the 17th century through to the 20th century. A host of mill shops attract the dedicated bargain hunter today.

Above all, it is a land of contrasts. Within minutes you can be climbing heather-clad hills or cruising the Leeds-Liverpool canal, striding along country lanes or riding on ancient packhorse trails

You may prefer to explore village churches, take a motor tour or discover ancient Wycoller with its ruined hall, which was the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Alternatively, why not visit the town centres of Pendle. If you visit over the August Bank Holiday you can join the many fans heading to Colne for its internationally famous Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival.


Pendle has featured strongly in the minds of explorers for thousands of years. Popular as an early settlement, Pendle has been attracting newcomers from as early as the Middle Stone Age Period.

Pendle has a variety of archaeological sites, which give the observer a fascinating insight into past civilisations, each with their own interesting story to tell.

Mesolithic Man: The earliest signs of man in the area are the pigmy flints left by the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age man, who lived between 12,000 and 3,000 BC The Mesolithic man was a hunter and gatherer. Discoveries in the area include stone axe heads, a flint workshop on Boulsworth and a Mesolithic campsite dose to the foot of Boulsworth Moor. Further finds in Monkroyd, Wycoller and Catlow, of more refined tools and the like indicate that Neolithic man was around in Pend1e by about 3,000 BC.

Bronze Age: During the Bronze Age, Pend1e formed part of a trade route to transport Irish Bronzes across the Pennines to the Yorkshire Coast. Remains of Bronze Age burials can be found along this route together with artefacts from this period. Areas of the Borough associated with this era include Brink Ends, Trawden the site of Bronze Age burials and Blacko Hill where tools from the Early Bronze Age have been found.

Iron Age: It is thought that the Iron Age people arrived in the area in about 750 BC The occupants of this area were the Brigantes, a strong tribal group. One of the major finds from this Age is an Iron Age hill fort at Castercliffe dating to the 6th Century BC

The Romans: The Romans invaded Britain during the Iron Age. Evidence of a Roman presence in this area is confirmed by the Roman Road connecting a series of Roman Forts, from Ribchester to Ilkley and York. The actual road passed along Bragden Lane at Barnoldswick to the Roman camp at Elslack. However, there are suggestions that the Romans never completely occupied the area from reasons ranging from the strong battle put up by the Brigantes to their dislike of the weather!

The Romans left Britain in about 410 AD leaving the area open to attack from Germanic tribes from Europe. This area was predominantly settled by "Angles" who chose to dwell in the shelter of wooded areas such as Trawden and Marsden. The Roman road passes Barnoldswick on-route from Ribchester to York.

Walton Spire: Walton Spire built in Victorian times, is rumoured to be erected on an ancient battlestone dating back to the Battle of Brunanbraugh. Again it is thought that the battlestone is, in effect a gravestone marking a mass burial site for those that died in the battle.

The Norsemen: The Norsemen visited the Pendle area towards the end of the 9th Century Souvenirs of their visit include place names such as Earby and those containing ‘slack" and "gill’ Pendle came under Viking rule as part of the "Danelaw" left to the Vikings by Alfred of Wessex. Eventually, Alfred’s son and grandson recaptured the area after the Battle of Brunanbraugh, which is thought to have taken place in the Thursden Valley and Trawden. Following victory in this battle Alfred’s grandson Athelstan, crowned himself the first King of all England. Chronicles show that Athelstan established a Treaty of Peace at a place called "Emmot" today known as Emmott near Colne.

The Treaty of Peace didn’t see the end of the fighting. Yet again, towards the end of the 11th Century there were struggles with the Vikings, which saw the area becoming border territory under the direct rule of the King.

The Vaccary Walls: The Vaccary Walls provide an interesting archaeological site dating from the 13th Century From the French word Vacher" meaning a herd of cows, vaccaries ore stone slab walls, and were established with the advent of cattle farms and were used to keep cows enclosed The Forest of Trawden was the site of several vaccaries, remains of which can still be seen today in Trawden and Wycoller.

Industrial Heritage

From quaint weavers cottages to elaborate textile mills, these together with the Leeds & Liverpool Canal highlight a proud industrial heritage which is still evident today.

Weaver in Pendle.JPG (16819 bytes)

The Industrial Revolution had a profound effect on Pendle with the emergence of the textile industry, in particular, wool and cotton. Cotton was often woven in the large mill sheds where the damp atmosphere kept the fibre supple. Note the position of the mill sheds. Owing to the large number of people employed in the textile industry, the mill sheds were often surrounded by street upon street of neat terraced housing. Wool, on the other hand, was woven in the borough’s cottages. Today, industry is still a dominant force in the area, however, there has been a shift of emphasis towards the aerospace sector and its associated industries.

Leeds Liverpool Canal: The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is 127 miles long and over 200 years old. In its heyday, it was the most used freight canal in the country linking the ports of Liverpool and Hull via Leeds. Today, the canal is a recreational centre. Not only does it pass through scenery’ of great natural beauty and interesting relics of the industrial revolution, but it is also used by fishermen, walkers and cyclists alike.

The Mile Tunnel: One of the most interesting sections of the canal is the mile tunnel. The tunnel located in Foulridge took five years to complete and was the most expensive item on the canal costing £40,000. The work was completed by navies with equipment comprising of picks, shovels and horsedrawn carts. It was a hazardous job and many men died, but life was cheap and navies expendable. The fact that the tunnel is still in use today is a lasting memorial to the canal builders. Today, lights control the flow of traffic through the tunnel. From Foulridge the lights are on green from the hour until ten past the hour. From the Barrowford end the lights are on green from half past the hour until twenty to, allowing twenty minutes to travel the mile length. Just outside the tunnel is a Leggers Hut. The leggers that used to walk the barges through the tunnel would rest in the hut and wait for the next barge. It would take about two hours to leg a boat through. The legging was stopped in the 1800s when it was reported that a legger died of asphyxia.

Bancroft Mill Steam Engine: Visit the largest mill steam engine still in working order in Barnoldswick. Bancroft Mill Steam Engine features a textile mill engine powered by steam with the original rope drive and Cornish hand-fired boiler

Daisy The Cow: In 1912 a cow Buttercup, fell in the water and was able to survive the length of the mile tunnel and was later revived with alcohol! This event is remembered in pictures at the nearby Hole in the Wall public house in Foulridge.

Foulridge Wharf: Foulridge Wharf is the home of Foulridge Tea Rooms and Foulridge Canal Cruises. Cruise the canal and view Pendle‘s spectacular scenery aboard the Morton Emperor Tops are available throughout the year For further information contact Martin Cleaver on 01282 844033. Foulridge Tea Rooms is a licensed tea room for hot meals and snacks, a bakery specialising in home-made scones and a restaurant complete with theme nights and Victorian cuisine.

Greenberfield Locks: Located on the edge of Barnoldswick, and recently voted the best kept locks in the country, Greenberfield is the highest point on the Leeds & Liverpool canal and marks the beginning of the descent towards Leeds. The area is ideal for boaters, walkers and canoeists. It boasts a campsite, picnic area and canalside cafe.

Bargain Stone: The bargain stone was used to seal a deal, whereby the touch of a hand became as good as a receipt. The custom originated when farmers assembled around the stone to strike a deal for their products. When the price was agreed the deal was sealed by touching hands through the hole in the stone.

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 Added on:  29/03/2004
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 Posted by:  Doc
 Comments:  2 Comment(s)

  By: Heather on 06/04/2004
Lots of good info, but the article mentions that the Bancroft Mill Steam Engine is "the largest in working order in Colne". It's actually in Barnoldswick.

  By: Cathy on 12/01/2005
Excellent. I will come back and read this article often. Thanks.

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