How did Gannow get its name?

A NUMBER of the photos used in this column are difficult to identify, some of them deliberately so.

This one does not pose that problem, although, as you will see, there are, let us say, uncertainties about some of the things that can be seen in the picture.

The street name – Gannow Lane – is easily read and the building in the picture, the Grey Mare Hotel (though now the name has been abbreviated to Grey Mare) is still very much with us.

It might not look the same because the building has been rendered – something which, under usual circumstances, should not be necessary.

If you look at the photo (actually a postcard) you will see the hotel is constructed out of local sandstone. The roof is made from stone slates, which almost certainly have come from one of our local quarries.

Even the windows on the upper floor are the same as the ones which can still be identified today and enough can be seen of one of the ground floor windows (the one to the right) to indicate with some degree of certainty that the stonework which surrounds them has not been changed very much.

All this is significant in that it helps us to date the building. Jack Nadin, in his recent "Burnley Inns and Taverns"(Sutton, 12.99), makes the point there is no datestone to help us with that problem.

He also reminds us the building is near the canal and this might have had something to do with the hotel's construction.

What we can say is the building was almost certainly built as a public house. The unaltered nature of the windows in the lower room would confirm this.

As for the date – that is more difficult. However, there were very few buildings in Burnley constructed with Welsh slate roofs before the first section of railways were completed in the town in the later 1840s.

This means the Grey Mare, with its stone roof, was constructed before that and, to confirm it, Mr Nadin tells us a Thomas Wilkinson was the landlord in 1848.

In 1872, the landlord was Thomas Moore, who thus started a 45-year family association with the public house, which, according to Jack Nadin, is something of a local record.

I have to advise that I am not qualified to make a statement of that nature, but I think I can agree with Jack's assertion that the building may have been destroyed, partly at least, as a result of the coming of the canal. The stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in this area was finally opened in 1801.

It included the building of the Burnley Embankment, the cutting at Whittlefield and, more importantly, the Gannow Tunnel.

The tunnel is the most well-known feature of the Gannow area of Burnley, itself not the least of the town's suburbs.

In recent years I have found it quite interesting to pick up what I can about the history and development of the Gannow area, but as I have written before, the name Gannow puzzles me.

The name could derive from a personal name and mean "Gan's Hill". If this is the case, Gannow could be Norse in origin and would, therefore, be dated to the 8th or 9th Century, but it is possible the name is transposed from the hill of that name in North Lancashire.

The problem is that there are no reliable references to Gannow until the 15th Century, although there was a road in the area before this time.

It was not, however, Gannow Lane and it is unlikely the area served by the present lane was occupied, except, perhaps, for the odd farm or cottage.

There is, according to Mr Bennett the historian of Burnley, a 15th Century account of a resident of what we understand to be Gannow who frequently found herself in conflict with the law.

Her husband was a shoemaker called Thomas Fletcher and they lived in a little cottage (paying about a shilling a year for it) somewhere in Gannow.

Thomas, like his wife, was forever in trouble with the authorities for his thieving activities and, at the Halmot Court, he was described as a "petty micher", a pilferer of items of little value.

The wife, whose name has not come down to us, was accused of milking her neighbours' cows without their permission and because she could not pay the fine imposed she was punished bodily. This probably means Mrs Fletcher was whipped!

The name Fletcher is interesting because Gannow House, once the Vicarage and very close to the hotel, was built by the canal company for the Fletcher family, who by the late 18th Century were key employees working on the canal. I have often wondered if they, Fletchers separated by over 300 years, were related?

By the time of the latter Fletchers, Gannow was becoming a significant part of the Burnley area. There were numerous handloom weavers', and later miners', cottages in this part of town and it is not surprising , at least to me, that in 1819 Gannow was the scene of "Burnley's Peterloo".

This might need some explanation, although there was a time when every schoolboy knew about Peterloo. This was a radical meeting held in Manchester in 1819; about 10 people were killed when the local Yeomanry tried to break up the event.

As it took place in what was then St Peter's Field (near Manchester Central Library), and was only four years after Waterloo, the name Peterloo was adopted.

"Burnley's Peterloo" took place on Gannow End Field (the site of a roundabout today). Fortunately no one was killed, although it was only by good luck that blood was not spilled. Many, of those who took part, and quite a crowd was present, would have come from the small cottages of Gannow, one or two of which survive today.

Back to the Grey Mare. I am saying nothing about the chara, as it is out of my area of knowledge, but you may have noticed that altchough Hyde's of Manchester have the public house these days the owners in the past were Grimshaw's of Burnley. You can see an advert on the gable wall.

Grimshaw's was founded in 1823 by John Keirby, who came to the town from Liverpool as a barm (yeast) dealer. It was not much of a step from barm to beer and he soon became a brewer, his daughter and heiress marrying a Mr Grimshaw.

The business was in the hands of the family for a numbers of generations until it merged with Massey's brewery at Burnley, and I expect many of our more senior readers will remember enjoying a pint of Massey's in this old public house.

It is nice to see the Grey Mare survives to this day. Let us hope this situation long continues.

Back to the top of the page