A potted history of Haggate

EVERY community has its important buildings – the church or chapel, the "big house", the inn, the village hall and perhaps, the school.

Haggate, a little stone built village clustered round its ancient crossroads, still has all of these. However, I wonder how many of the people who live there, or pass through this community on their way to work, realise just how significant a history this place has?

Spencer T. Hall was something of a medical practitioner and writer in 19th Century Burnley. He was not a local man by birth and came in for a lot of criticism, and not a little ridicule, for his views, but I have long since thought he got it just about right when he referred to Haggate as "Far seen and far seeing". Sitting on the top of its own 800ft. hill Haggate can still be seen from miles around and the views from that same hill can be spectacular in all directions.

It is not the same now the famous Haggate Chapel has gone and some would argue the new row of houses in Nelson Road have done little for the village, but Haggate still has remarkable history. I have been working with Dr Duncan Bythell, another Briercliffe lad, on a forthcoming book to be published by the Briercliffe Society. The subject of the book is a mill in Harle Syke but the first firm to run it was called the Haggate Joint Stock Commercial Company, perhaps the most important cotton firm ever to operate in the Burnley area.

I will substantiate this claim later but, first, a few words about Haggate. The village is not an ancient one; the first buildings date from the later 16th Century when the Hare and Hounds was built. Though there have been many changes at the Inn, parts of the present building are believed to date from that time. For over 200 years the Hare and Hounds brewed its own ale and, on the site of the relatively new Heath Restaurant, there was a small brewery. This building survived into photographic times and a picture can be inspected which shows the old Haggate Brass Band practising in the sunshine with the brewery in the background.

There are doubtless scores of Inns called the Hare and Hounds, but this one is appropriately named. In 1235, the time of Edmund de Lacy, the Lordship of Briercliffe, which was in his possession, was granted Charter of Freewarden. This means Briercliffe, which in those days included Worsthorne and Cliviger, became an area for hunting. Those who were allowed to follow the hounds were not after deer but small animals like the hare, rabbit, fox and other vermin. We have a long tradition of hunting in these parts and even have our very own Extwistle Hunting Song which I have reconstructed from surviving fragments. It would be interesting to hear it sung again.

Haggate is first mentioned in documents of the early 17th Century and, from these, we are not able to work out what the name of the village means. It has nothing to do with an explanation I was given when I was a boy. The name (it was suggested) coming from the collective memory of an old hag (an old woman) who spent her time watching the world go by while sitting on a five-barred gate in the village. The name's more likely meaning and derivation comes from two words, Hack, the original spelling of the first syllable, which is a reference to a hawthorne, a tree which is very common in this area, and gaeta, the ancient word for path or route, as in Sandygate in Burnley. The name probably means, therefore, "the path by the hawthorn trees".

It is worth mentioning that Haggate, in 1644, was the scene of a Civil War skirmish in which five locals, probably Roundhead supporters, were killed by troops loyal to King Charles I. By the 18th Century Haggate's people worked the land as farmers and were hand spinners and weavers of wool. There was still a coal mine, the Hill End Colliery, in the village. Its remains can still be seen as, last century, it was re-opened to supply coal for the mills in Harle Syke.

What is not generally realised is that, in the 1850s, men from Haggate, most of them handloom weavers who realised there was no future for their craft, set up their own cotton mill in Harle Syke. The building is still standing, though it is erroneously known as the Oxford Mill these days, and is the subject of the forthcoming book as referred to above. From the outside there appears to be little remarkable about this building but it can be said, and with justification, that many of Burnley's great cotton firms, of the days when cotton was king, were found within its walls.

The building in today's picture is Haggate School which dates from 1882 when it was built as the Sunday School for Haggate Baptist Chapel. Later it was rented by the Briercliffe and Extwistle School Board as the village school and, later still, the County Council used the building, in the day time, as Haggate School while, in the evening, the building was opened by tutors working for Burnley's College of Further Education.

The picture shows the building in the early years of the 20th Century when the great chimneys associated with what became the Infants' Department were still standing. On the right you can see the old entrance to the school which was damaged, and rebuilt differently, in the fire of 1962. I wonder, though, how many of the boys who attended Haggate School realised the site was once the village cricket ground and some of Lancashire's cricketing pioneers played here at the invitation of the cricket-loving Smith family of Haggate Hill End.