Taking a look at Burnley’s historic pubs

Last year the Briercliffe Society gave Burnley printing firm Calder Print permission to use some of the images from its postcard collection in their 2014 Calendar.

The theme of the publication was Burnley’s pubs and I chose 12 cards all of which showed town centre inns, not in isolation, as is often the case, but surrounded by buildings in the neighbourhood of which they were a part.

I say “were a part” as a number of these inns have gone, demolished in successive town centre redevelopments.

Such buildings include a number of the inns, hotels and pubs I have chosen for this article, the Bull Hotel and Thorn Hotel are two, but some of the others have survived.

If you look carefully at today’s images you will not find one that is obviously of the Thorn as the Briercliffe Society has no postcard images of this hostelry.

We do have photographic images of the famous front of the building but I have decided that, for this article, I would use only postcards. I have written about the part of town where the Thorn Hotel was located. Burnley had lots of pubs in the past and, inevitably, they were often near neighbours. In this instance, there were two pubs close to the Thorn.

It is my intention to remind you of areas of the town centre where there were pubs and to tell you how these premises related to each other, but I have started with a very rare image of one of Burnley’s forgotten pubs, the Weavers Arms.

When I acquired the postcard, I knew little, if anything, about the Weavers. It certainly did not exist at the time I came into possession of the image and I did not know where it had been. However, that it was in Burnley, given the prominent reference on the card to Massey’s, Burnley’s most well-known brewery of the past, it was more than likely the Weavers Arms had served the people of our town.

The easiest way to identify the location of a historic building is to consult an appropriate Commercial Directory so I attempted to look up the Weavers Arms in the volume I considered might reveal where the pub was located. The one I chose was the magnificent 1914 Directory which is almost encyclopaedic in its detail relating to Burnley.

Unfortunately, the Weavers Arms was not included in the 1914 list of 87 “Hotels, Inns and Taverns” and, similarly, it fails to find a place in the extensive list of 73 “Beerhouses”. This made me think. The image looked to be from the early 20th Century, very late 19th Century at the earliest, and this was confirmed by the clothes worn by the man and woman in the picture and the actual name of the brewery as shown over the door of the building.

With regard to the latter, the name of a commercial concern was subject to change. If the firm was a partnership and one of the partners retired, the trading name of the business might change. In the case of Massey’s, they became a limited company towards the end of the Victorian Era (1892, I think, but this is merely from memory).

The point is that the picture must have been taken after that date but before the 1914 Commercial Directory was published. I now know, thanks to Jack Nadin, and his book “Burnley Inns and Taverns”, that the Weavers Arms closed in 1909. He tells us it was located at 126 St James’s Street, on the long row of shops between Cow Lane and the Cross Keys Hotel.

Jack also makes the point that the building still survives so, with this information, I set off in search of it, finding that, at the time, it was part of the building which once contained the offices of Burnley’s Citizens Advice Bureau. I went in and told them about what I was doing and a very helpful lady invited me to take a look at the cellars which, she said remained, so far as she knew, unaltered in 100 years. She was right. The cellar even contained a little kitchen range which had been used for heating small quantities of water.

This was how the problem of the Weavers Arms was resolved. I found myself thinking that, though this building was very suitable to carry such an important name, given the industrial history of our town, a sign bearing the “Weavers Arms” might have adorned a more prestigious structure. As we all know, Burnley is not that kind of place and I will proffer the opinion that whoever (poor weaver or businessman) went into the Weavers Arms, when it was a pub, would be treated just the same.

I finish the selection with another postcard image of a single pub which no longer exists.

The photo is of the Clock Face Inn, which also found a home in St James’s Street. The Clock Face, sometimes known as the “Old Clock Face”, occupied a site almost at the other end of St James’s Street, near the former Tram Centre.

You will be able to see this building is much older than the one occupied by the Weavers Arms. In fact, this version of the Clock Face (there were several) pre-dates the location of the town centre in St James’s Street. When it was built, the Clock Face was a small farm with land behind the building which, at this time, was more used to milking cattle than pulling pints.

Let us look then at the images I have selected of town centre pubs. There is much to say about each of them and, at some point in future, I will return to this theme and introduce you to another selection of images of Burnley’s pubs showing them within the context of their surroundings.