PEEK INTO THE PAST: Can you follow the old street lamp clues?

Image 1
Image 1

IF you do not mind me saying, I think it is time you did some work. A few months ago a former employee of the council gave me some images taken over 40 years ago when the former Lighting Department was replacing a number of the old gas lamps.

In some of the photos the old gas lamp is shown, usually in the process of being removed from its site, while a more modern electric lamp is installed. The best of these were taken in the Brougham Street area and, in a future article, I will publish and comment on these pictures.

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Image 2

Today, I publish four of these images in the hope you can work out where the pictures were taken. I will give you the answer at the end of the article but, hopefully, some clues may help you to come to your own conclusions about where these old lamps might have been.

A bit of advice might be of use before we start. I am not saying that to undertake this exercise you will need to be my age (mid 60s) but it will surely help. Burnley has changed considerably in the years since these photos were taken and it will be useful if you have a good memory of the landscape of the town as it was in those days. In addition, I will add some clues which are not on the picture but will help in identifying the location.

The first picture shows a gas lamp in an almost town centre location. The visual clue is a considerable one because, although now demolished, the building in the background had a very distinctive history. It dated from about 1780 in the days when Burnley was a centre for the production not of cotton cloth but of woollens. The man who constructed the building, which was added to over the years, was Jeremiah Wilkinson who was a wool merchant. He employed spinners, initially in their own homes but later in this building, and gave out yarn for handloom weavers to work into cloth.

The building served as a small spinning mill, a wool warehouse and a carding shop. The latter is an early process in the wool industry whereby fibres of wool are brought together so the spinners can commence their work. Jeremiah found that, as the years went by, he was using more and more machines which needed water power. He was fortunate in that his premises were astride the river Calder and he was able to take water from the river to drive a small water wheel. Later, the same water was used in a steam boiler, one of several at the works.

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Image3

However, Jeremiah had a problem with the machines in his workshops. He found that keeping them in repair was a major difficulty and because of this he decided to set up an engineering section which was so successful it outgrew his wool business. Mr Wilkinson found himself a textile engineer, the owner of one of Burnley’s most successful engineering companies. In 1872 the firm changed its name to Butterworth & Dickinson but the premises shown in the picture were still in the ownership of the firm though other buildings were used in Trafalgar Street and later Liverpool Road.

The premises you can see in the picture later became a club for the drivers and conductors of Ribble buses but, ironically, the building was next door to Burnley’s main Temperance Hall! Another clue is that the building in the picture was almost opposite Burnley’s gas offices. So where was this building? All I need is the street name.

The second picture shows a tiled arch which housed a gentleman’s loo and, as you can see, there is a gas street light fixed to the wall in the front of the structure. I realise I indicated that I would be writing about street lamps in this article and, though it might surprise you, this image is of a gas street lamp.

Where might it be? There can not have been many lights like this one on Burnley, you will have thought and you would have been right. The main clue is in the arch above. An arch is expensive to construct and if one is not needed an arch is not actually built. So there must have been a pre-existing arch somewhere in town thought suitable for conversion into a gentleman’s loo.

Image 4

Image 4

In the past there were lots of public conveniences in Burnley (more for men than women) but this one, so far as I know, was unique. Loos often had white tiles on the inside, hidden from public view, but this one flaunted its tiles. Again there must have been a reason and this might have been that the facility was not only near a significant former shopping district, where there were also a number of pubs, but also the arches were associated with the railway.

The third picture, I admit, took some time for me to work out but there are numerous clues. What I am looking for here is the name of a street which is in a residential area of Burnley. What you can’t see is that just off the right of the picture is a row of quite good terraced houses. To the left of the street this land was not built on and, behind the wicket fence, there was once the Reedley Hallows Brick Works.

This will give you a clue as to what part of town the picture depicts but I ought to add that, technically, the picture is not taken in Reedley Hallows! The land formerly occupied by the brick works became a sports field and, latterly, home of Burnley’s Sixth Form College.

Another clue can be seen in the houses running across the middle of the picture and in the mill chimney’s on the skyline. Originally there were six of them but now there are only two. So what is the name of this street?

For the last picture I could have chosen something a little easier but I decided to see if you could help me. As you can see, the image is of a quite ornate bracket which is holding an old fashioned gas lamp. The building to which the lamp is attached is of stone construction as is the building opposite. The latter structure is pretty distinctive in that it has been built on an irregular plot of land.

There were lots of places where these conditions might have applied but there was one, in the town centre, which seems to me to fit the bill but I have to admit I am not entirely convinced. The site is off the street which contains the town’s main post office though nothing of the site remains today – and that is all I am prepared to say! Where do you think that we are for this picture?

The answers:

(1) This image is of a gas lamp in Parker Lane with Saunder Bank Iron Works in the background.

(2). The tiled gents’ loo was under the railway bridge in Curzon Street.

(3) The lone gas lamp here is in Francis Street, off Abel Street, Burnley. The houses running across the middle of the picture are in Barden Lane and the distant mill chimneys are in Harle Syke.

(4). Perhaps I should not have chosen this image but I think this bracket lamp was in an unnamed court off Hargreaves Street near the old Wesley Chapel. If you do not agree, let me know.