How the collapse of Holgate's Bank changed the future of Burnley

THREE pictures this week and of an area of Burnley which the more mature reader will probably remember very well. I may not need to tell you we are in Gunsmith Lane, as it was before this part of town was redeveloped in the 1960s and '70s.

The first picture shows the huge Rishton Mill, once one of the town's largest cotton spinning mills. It was built by the Foulds (or Folds) family, probably in the 1840s, and run by the brothers Obadiah and James Foulds, who also ran Trafalgar Shed, in Trafalgar Street, as a weaving operation.

Rishton Mill was one of the industrial buildings associated with a significant period of commercial growth in Burnley.

It has been suggested early Victorian times in our town saw a sort of "second industrial revolution".

In truth Burnley's "first industrial revolution" had been somewhat muted in comparison with other towns.

Our area had not seen the systematic growth in large-scale industry which can be demonstrated in other centres of population – Blackburn, Bolton, Oldham, etc – in the classic period of the Industrial Revolution. This might have been because of the poorer transport links in the east of the county, although the coming of the canal in 1796, and its completion 20 years later, were certainly boosts to a local economy that was adapting to the new realities of the industrial age.

Another thing which doubtless prevented expansion on the scale of some other towns was the failure of the local bank, Holgate's, in 1824.

It has always been difficult to assess the importance of the failure, but it was not only the bank that collapsed. Many of the larger cotton firms also closed and, if things had been different, it is possible some of them would have grown into much larger firms by the middle of the century.

Indeed Burnley itself might have become a much bigger town had not Holgate's failed.

Although the large house in the middle of the picture is shown, Rishton Mill itself does not appear on the 1841 Merryweather map of Burnley.

The map indicates there were industrial buildings in this part of town at that time and it also confirms Burnley was ready for expansion.

Various plots of land are marked for development and it is these that, upon completion, made Burnley the great centre of industry it once was.

Notice the garden in front of the house. At one time Burnley had lots of town centre gardens. The remains of a few of them survive and are a reminder of the days when many of the better sort of properties had gardens, not for flowers but for fruit and root and leaf crops.

I have mentioned before that the site of the town hall was once used for fruit production and a number of varieties of gooseberry were developed there.

In the top right hand corner of the older picture you can see the site of Rishton Mill was used when the Odeon was built in 1937.

Many people lament the loss of the Odeon, which was the second largest cinema – after the Piccadilly in Manchester – built in the North-West.

I understand a similar Odeon in Doncaster is being demolished at the present time, which is a great pity as, at the current rate of disappearance, there will soon be no examples of the art deco Odeons, a name synonymous with luxury in entertainment.

Also to be seen in this picture is the Culvert Garage, the single storey building on the extreme right of both photos. It had been built as a livery stables and is shown on the 1841 map. The larger picture shows the Cleveland petrol pumps, but the smaller one tells us Shell and BP petrol was being sold and this is how I recall the building.

The two pictures we have discussed so far were combined for a Burnley Express calendar published in the mid 1950s.

I remember my father bringing one home and me being fascinated by the transformation each picture revealed. It may have been this that got me interested in local history (in other words, the Express is to blame so it is probably right I contribute to this newspaper!).

The third picture also comes from a calendar. It shows a view of the Odeon taken only 13 years after the cinema had been built and when a film called "12 O'clock High" starring Gregory Peck was being advertised.

However, the large ornate tower, not of the cinema, but of the industrial building in the background, left, surprised me.

I don't recall noticing this structure before, but it is easy to locate where it once stood, as the building in front of it is still with us. This we now know as the Continental Coffee Bar.

I remember it as a corner confectioner's shop occupying the end property in the row of shops along side the Police Bridge. The latter can just be made out in my copy of the picture.

The tower, substantial one, would have occupied the site of the present St Peter's Centre.

In the past there were two buildings which could have been there, a printing works and the great Malthouse which stretched from Bank Parade through to Church Street.

The former is the most likely and, if so, the building was occupied by one of Burnley's more interesting firms, that of Burghope, Strange & Anderson (later George Anderson Ltd).

They had well known retail premises at 50 St James's Street, but their works was known as Parsonage Mill which was situated, as the name would indicate, on (or near) the site of Burnley's old parsonage in Keighley Green.

I ought to add that I am not sure I am right about this tower.

Somewhere in the house I have a map which could resolve the problem, but I have not been able to find it. If you know please contact me.