Ightenhill has changed so much over 60 years

The Woodbine estate, Burnley, July 1955
The Woodbine estate, Burnley, July 1955

This week’s Retro is about part of Burnley which is not featured that much in the local history columns. I ought to add this is not deliberate. It is due to the fact there are not all that many images of the Padiham Road, Woodbine and Gannow areas.

You can see Padiham Road running left to right in the top of the photo. The picture was taken in July, 1955 almost 60 years ago. In those years a lot has changed but one of the most noticeable is that much of the land to the east and west of Ightenhill Park Lane, which you can see, running north, in the top right hand corner of the image, is now built over.

Let us start there. The area to the west of Park Lane, as the road is known by locals, which contains a concentration of trees, somewhat more so than toady, is Ightenhill Park. The park dates from 1912 and is constructed on land formerly in the ownership of the Shuttleworth family of Gawthorpe Hall. On the eastern side of Ightenhill Park Lane the bowling green and tennis courts can be found. They are part of the park but, unlike other Burnley parks, are separated from the main area by an important highway.

In the past, Ightenhill Park Lane was part of a network of roads which linked Burnley to Clitheroe. The network stretched all the way to Pontefract in what was the West Riding of Yorkshire. These days we do not appreciate the number of connections the Burnley district once had with Pontefract. Both places were granted market charters as a result of a decision made by Edward I in 1294. This was because the last of the de Lacy Earls of Lincoln, Henry, wanted to develop his huge estate. Markets in both places were good for the respective local economies and, of course, his purse.

Pontefract and Clitheroe contained castles on the de Lacy estate. The former was much the larger and it was understood, in the Middle Ages, that it was impossible to control the north of England with possession of the castle. Clitheroe was important to us, here in Lancashire, but it did not have the significance of Pontefract. There had to be connections between the two and what is now Ightenhill Park Lane provided at least part of it.

Another connection between Burnley and Pontefract is that, in the 12th Century, St Peter’s, Burnley’s church, was subject to the Priory at Pontefract. This was before the founding of Whalley Abbey which, though it can trace its origins to the 12th Century abbey at Stanlaw, Cheshire, was not created until the late 13th Century. This was at about the same time as Burnley got its market and fulling mill and you will not be surprised to learn Earl Henry was responsible for this also.

If you look at Ightenhill Park you will be able to determine the fine houses of Southern Avenue. However, notice the Avenue is incomplete in that, though there are houses at the southern and northern ends, there are spaces in the middle which have since been filled in. Also worthy of note is the quarry which you might be able to determine in the top middle of the picture. This was worked by the founder of Burnley’s once well-known firm of sanitary-ware makers, Duckett’s whose works were in Blannel Street, off Accrington Road. I have often wondered if the material to make the bricks for Woodleigh, the large brick-built house in Manchester Road which was constructed by Mr Duckett, came from there.

Now we will cross the fields, since occupied by Lakeland Way and a number of residential properties that mostly have names derived from places in the Lake District. In the top left corner you can see the land has been disturbed and some of you might be wondering what the calamity might have been that had caused this. Calamity might not be the right word but this area was subjected to something which is still having a detrimental effect on the area.

I refer to the open cast mining that took place in Ightenhill in the 1950s. This was in the early days of the National Coal Board and there were several similar schemes in the Burnley area. Another took place in Extwistle, between Briercliffe and Worsthorne, and in it the old pillar and stall mine workings of the past were largely destroyed. The same happened in Ightenhill, not an area that is normally associated with the mining of coal.

However, in Ightenhill, the consequences for the area have been much more significant than they have been in Extwistle. In both areas old workings have been lost but at Ightenhill the open cast method has had a detrimental effect on the drainage of much of the Parish. The picture does not confirm these observations but all you have to do, to witness them for yourself, is continue down Ightenhill Park Lane almost to the river (the Calder) and you will see that gradually the land is slipping into the river and field and woodland paths are being disfigured and made unsafe.

Below the area which is being open cast you will be able to identify what appears to be a large field with the top right corner taken out of it. This is the area from which the housing estate took its name, Woodbine Gardens, though it should be said that earlier there was a Woodbine Farm just to the south east the site of which, in this picture, is occupied by council houses. The gardens were nurseries operated, just before the last war, by Baldwin Starkie though Charles Henry Holmes, who lived at 396 Padiham Road, was the proprietor by that time.

In 1937 there were five nurserymen and seeds men, as they were known, in Burnley, an occupation which is not usually associated with our town. The others were Joseph Barwise, of Towneley Nurseries; James Lyons also of Towneley; William Morcombe, of Cemetery Lane and Joseph Wakeford, whose business was also in the Ightenhill area on Cornfield Road, which is off Padiham Road.

The Woodbine housing estate is area to the east of the Gardens. The most distinguishing feature of the relatively small estate is Dugdale Road, the western part of a great “U” shape which contains Beatrice Avenue and Olivant Street. The other side of the “U” is made up by Barry Street which is not as prominent as Dugdale Road. Incidentally, the properties at the base of the “U” all have names associated with the World Wars and include Tedder Avenue, Alexander Grove and Cunningham Grove.

We now address the lower part of the photo which is dominated by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Almost in the middle of the bottom part of the picture is the bridge which carries Gannow Lane over the canal, with the Bridge Inn, as it was once called, adjacent to the bridge itself. On the other side of the canal is one of several sites in this area once occupied by Burnley’s largest industrial enterprise, Hargreaves Collieries. There was a coal staith by the canal and large coke ovens, with a chimney that you can see in the picture, along the access road which you can also make out on the image.

The large mill, bottom left corner, is Peel Mill, once the largest weaving shed in Burnley and, above it, on Gannow Lane, are Rosegrove Mills. Peel Mill was occupied by George Walmesley and Sons Ltd and Rosegrove Mills by Nuttall and Crook who were among the last of the Burnley firms which combined spinning and weaving.

The mill above the Gannow Bridge is Woodbine Mill which was operated by Thomas Walton and Son and, below it, the large building on the canal bank is Gannow Baths with Westway School between the baths and the road bridge. Just to orientate you, the road between the baths and Woodbine Mill is Sycamore Avenue.

Lastly, we should take a look at the bottom right hand corner of the photo and there you will see prominently, in a triangular piece of ground, St John’s Gannow, and on the other side of Gannow Lane and a row of its houses, one of the forgotten industrial sites of Burnley, Gannow Shed, once a cotton mill.