PEEK INTO THE PAST:

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Those of you who have known Burnley for some time will have no difficulty in identifying the part of town we find ourselves in this week. This is Market Street taken on an unusually quiet day not far short of 50 years ago.

Thanks to Mr Paul G. Halstead of the Burnley firm of solicitors, Smith Sutcliffe of Manchester Road, I have come into possession of a number of photos commissioned from the Burnley photographer H.L. Millard.

The pictures were taken at the time when Burnley Corporation was acquiring property to become the site of Burnley’s present shopping centre.

I understand Smith Sutcliffe (or Smith & Smith as they were then) represented a number of the businesses in the town centre and it was decided a photographic record of some of the buildings should be made.

The result is that we now have quite a number of images of streets in this part of the town centre. In fact, seeing these pictures has put a thought into my mind: have other local legal firms got images they no longer need of our town that should be kept for future generations? If they have, I would be pleased to arrange for Burnley Library to be informed.

The picture we publish today is one of a number of excellent pictures taken by Mr Millard. The photos are of the Market Street, Standish Street and Howe Street area.

They are unlike the majority of the postcard views often published in this column in that buildings themselves were more important than a lively shopping scene. A publisher of postcards would not have been interested in these pictures, good as they are, as they do not give the impression of an active commercial scene.

I suspect Mr Millard took this photo on a somewhat overcast Sunday morning when most people had better things to do than be out walking in Market Street. Of course, I remember this street as being particularly busy – especially on market days. However, when I was at school, I most often saw it on Tuesdays when we had to make our way from St Mary’s, in Yorkshire Street, to the old St James’s School in Bethesda Street, which had been set up as a specialist facility for teaching woodwork.

It has been suggested the picture could have been taken on a Tuesday afternoon, when most shops would have been closed, but I recall this part of town as being quite busy even then.

There is, in fact, just one person (somewhat out of focus) in the picture. You might be able to make her out, an elderly lady I think, in the bottom right hand corner of the photo, just beyond a one-way street sign.

Another thing worth pointing out is that, on the extreme right, the almost skeletal remains of some market stalls can be seen. As many of you will recall, Market Street ran along the eastern end of the Market Place.

The street had a junction with St James’s Street and, just beyond Altham’s, it turned to the left, gave access to Garden Street (a good name in the area of a market) and had another junction but, this time, with Curzon Street.

It is difficult to be precise about exactly where Market Street would have been when compared to the present Charter Walk, the name of which derives from the Burnley Market Charter of 1294. There is, though, a clue in the photo and this is the site of the New Market Hotel.

This building was built in the late 18th Century by Henry Crook, the owner of King’s Corn Mill, as a private house which he called Swallow Hall. If you look very carefully at the photo you might be able to make out that the New Market Hotel is actually two buildings.

The older part is to the right – the section which sports the Massey’s Ales & Stout advert – and which, as you can see from the roof alignment, looked south. It was a substantial building, as is evidenced by the number of chimney pots (six can be seen) and, though you can’t see it in this picture, the property was built on the left bank of the Brun, the same river which powered Mr Crook’s mill.

King’s Mill was on the opposite bank of the river as was the Old Brewery which was also, in partnership with another local family (the Tattersalls), in the hands of the Crook family. I mention this as it is quite easy to work out where these latter buildings were. They stood on the other side of Bridge Street, a small part of which survives to the east of Charter Walk, and opposite the Bridge Inn, still in business as the Bridge Bierhuis.

Had the natural route of the Brun survived, and had the river not been covered over by the shopping centre it would not have been difficult to locate the site of the New Market Hotel but you can sense, even though you can’t see all of it, that it was a good building. Similarly, the buildings to the left and right of the hotel were impressive to say the least.

Some time ago I looked into the date of the buildings of which Altham’s was a part, and who designed them, but I can’t remember where I have put the research. They are impressively large properties of four floors though I suspect the Victorian Society might not have been as enthusiastic about them as I am.

Remember that the whole of the property in the picture was in its twilight years. One of the photos in the Smith Sutcliffe collection shows what might be early preparations for the demolition of Sutcliffe’s shop which you can see on the right of the image.

The buildings were black, and a little tired looking, but imagine them stone cleaned and repainted. They would look pretty splendid, wouldn’t they?

In the 1953 Directory, the Market Street premises of Altham’s was listed as a travel agents and this can be see to the right of the main shop. The latter I recall as a sort of hardware, kitchen, better quality gift shop and this is born out by what can be seen in the four windows.

Notice, that the building was known as “Altham’s Walk Round Store”. I thought of it as a small department store, not as big as Webster’s in Bridge Street, which I knew better, but interesting all the same.

The Frosts were supporters of Webster’s largely, I think, because my father once worked there and he was friendly with many of the staff, especially Bert Heap, who was always nice to me – and what he didn’t know about retailing was not worth knowing!

In a future article on Market Street, and using another of Mr Millard’s great photos, I will mention the shops to the right of the New Market Hotel. We will also have a peep up Standish Street and we will visit a part of Howe Street that I feel many of you will have forgotten. Lastly, I would be remiss not to thank Smith Sutcliffe, Mr Paul Halstead and Mr Lynn Millard.