Burnley's inns of the past

The Yorkshire Hotel seen from the south side of the Culvert

The Yorkshire Hotel seen from the south side of the Culvert

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I am often asked to write about Burnley’s public houses but I am aware that there a number of local people who know a lot more about them than I do, writes local historian ROGER FROST.

That said, I was travelling through Altham, the other day, and I was surprised to see that the Walton Arms is up for sale or perhaps to let. Whilst I hope that this village pub does not close, the big notice board advertising the situation at the Walton, gave me an idea for this week’s Retro column.

The Clock Face Inn was in the Tram Centre which later became the bus station in St James's Street

The Clock Face Inn was in the Tram Centre which later became the bus station in St James's Street

There was a time when it is supposed that Burnley had more pubs per head of population than anywhere in Britain. The figures include public houses, inns, hotels and beer houses but it is still quite a claim to make when Burnley was up against famous drinking places like Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiff.

The claim, however, might just have been correct because many places larger than Burnley had districts where pubs were “few and far between”, as one writer put it. You will have to think hard of a district in Burnley which, historically, had no pub. There is one, of course, Stoneyholme, but this was years ago when the largest landowner was teetotal. However, in the district we have a place which is the largest in England that has never had a pub of any description.

I refer to Harle Syke which, though there is a Social Club (formerly known as the Briercliffe Working Men’s Club) there is still no pub. The Hare and Hounds and the Sun Inn are at Haggate and the Commercial and the Craven Heifer, though they are now in Briercliffe, are not in Harle Syke. The village, ironically now has a brewery. Worsthorne beers are brewed, not in Worsthorne, but in Harle Syke! In fact, on certain days in the week the smell of beer being brewed, two hundred yards away in Harle Syke Mill, is quite tangible. It reminds me of the times when the whole of Burnley town centre enjoyed the bitter smell of Massey’s beer, or King’s Ale, being brewed.

The purpose of this article is not to address the issue of Burnley’s proud history of brewing. I have written and lectured about that before. Today, I want to remind you of some of the Burnley pubs which have passed into history. If you want to read more on this subject can I recommend Jack Nadin’s “Burnley Inns and Taverns” which is published by Tempus Publishing at £12.99 in their series “Images of England”. If you do not know the book, you have treat awaiting you.

The Thorn Hotel was in St James's Street in Burnley

The Thorn Hotel was in St James's Street in Burnley

In this article all I can do is remind you of some of the pubs which have closed. Often the building, or its successor, survives, but some instances the buildings were demolished some time ago and, for a few, not necessarily mentioned here, you will have to be a very senior citizen to remember them.

Whilst I have been ill I have been amusing myself trying to locate all of the public houses that have ever been within the current boundary. I have also wanted to know when they were built, and who built them, what brewery they were attached to and, if this is the case, when they closed. I also wanted to work out if the buildings, or any parts thereof, have survived and if so, if they are not public houses, what they are used for now.

I ought to add that this has not been too taxing. It has, in fact, been most enjoyable and I have “visited” parts of Burnley I have not thought about for years. I intend to use the information in a forthcoming book. Jack need not worry – my writings, on this subject, will not compete with his book. The information I have gleaned will form part of my history of brewing in Burnley. I thought that someone ought to do it so why should it not be me? In fact I wrote a short booklet for a Burnley brewer, some years ago, but he did not publish it, so I have extended it and I am still working on it.

I have only got room, in this article, to mention four pubs. I might, therefore, have look at some more in future columns. The first public house that I want to consider is the Old Sparrow Hawk Inn, a newer version of which still stands at the bottom of Ormerod Road, where it joins Church Street.

The Old Sparrow Hawk Inn was built in the late 16th Century in Burnley's old town centre.

The Old Sparrow Hawk Inn was built in the late 16th Century in Burnley's old town centre.

The building shown today is a previous incarnation of that building. This building was built in about 1590 and survived for 300 years until it was replaced by the current building though that building is a Hall of Residence for the UCFB which was founded at Turf Moor. I hear that the University is moving out of Burnley to a site in Manchester and another in North London.

You will notice that the word “Old” appears, in the photograph. It is on the sign above the door and it refers to the fact that there was another Sparrow Hawk on the other side of Church Street. This building was much later and so it was known as the New Sparrow Hawk. Also on the building there are two posters. You might be able to see the word “Furniture” on both of them. They refer to the auction which took place at the Old Sparrow Hawk just before the building was demolished.

When it was first founded the Old Sparrow Hawk was not known by that name. The inn was known by the name of the Towneley Arms and, by the main door, there was an inn sign adorned with the arms of the Towneley family. As you will know, the Towneley crest included a sparrow hawk and so it was that the inn became known as the Sparrow Hawk. The sign on this building is not of the alms of the Towneley family but you might be able to make out a sparrow hawk.

This inn was, at one time, the most important of the public houses in Burnley. The Towneley connection helped but the building also became the “Church Inn”, i.e. the inn to which meetings at St Peter’s retired for refreshments. The church was not only a place of worship. From the 16th Century, to the early 19th, the government of the town was carried out from St Peter’s and the officials of the Vestry, as it was called, were entitled to refreshments, usually alcoholic, at the Church Inn.

The three remaining inns are the Yorkshire Hotel, which stood on Yorkshire Street, roughly where the Keirby now stands; the Thorn Hotel was one of Burnley’s most well-known hostelries and it stood on St James’s Street, in the new town centre. Also on view today is the Clock Face Inn, which was also on St James’s Street, one of the buildings which flanked the Tram Centre.