A real claim to fame

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FOR the next week or so I am going to indulge myself! Don't get the wrong idea - all I intend to do is publish and comment on a few pictures of Harle Syke in the days when I was a boy living there.

FOR the next week or so I am going to indulge myself! Don't get the wrong idea - all I intend to do is publish and comment on a few pictures of Harle Syke in the days when I was a boy living there. The picture I publish today has only recently come into my possession and, for that, I must thank the officers of Burnley Borough Council's planning services. I think this one, which shows Burnley Road in the village, was taken about 1955, but I could be a year or two out.

We are at the boundary shared between Briercliffe (which includes Harle Syke) and Burnley. The sign indicates where Briercliffe begins but, if the photo had been taken in the other direction, I recall another sign which told those who were interested they were entering the County Borough of Burnley. The county borough ended in 1974 and a new borough was created in that year when civil parishes like Briercliffe-with-Extwistle (the proper name) merged with Burnley. It is now difficult to imagine those days when places like Briercliffe, Worsthorne and Hapton, for example, were not in Burnley.

However, that was the case when this picture was taken. Briercliffe had been part of the area administered by the Burnley Rural District Council which was run from what is now The Oaks Hotel, Reedley. Getting back to the picture - the first thing that should be pointed out is that you can see, in the middle distance, the two mill chimneys, now demolished, of Harle Syke Mill (left) and Briercliffe Mill (right). When I was a boy there were six such chimneys in the village. As these two have gone there are now only four and, as I write, one of these is under threat. It would be a pity to lose another mill chimney as the character of the village would change forever.

Not many of you will know that Harle Syke was once the most important weaving village in the whole of Lancashire. Harle Syke Mill, after which the village is named, was the cradle of a third of Burnley's loomage. Firms such as Emmott's, Altham's, Burrow's and Walton's, some of Burnley's largest weavers, all started there. I must say it annoys me when people call this building Oxford Mill, a name which derives from the fact a firm from an Oxford Mill in Accrington came to have looms there. The proper name is Harle Syke Mill, a name of which we 'Sykers should be proud. In the right foreground, the lady is examining the window of Madame Ogden's milliner's shop at 170a Burnley Road. Next door there is "Ethel's", ladies' hairdresser and, two doors away, Mrs Mary Hatherley's greengrocer's shop. These latter premises can be identified by the advert for Craven A seen under the Briercliffe sign. This row contained the offices of the Borough Building Society and Burnley Building Society at 162 and 148 respectively.

Also, there was the boot repairer's, Albert Fallowfield (number 154) which I remember as a very distinctive shop. On the other side of the road there were no shops in the first row but, as you can see, three ladies are enjoying a conversation as they make their way to Cop Row. The next row had a number of businesses, the first being Clifford Thornton's confectioner's shop, although I remember it better as Townson's. Next door was Ernest Sutcliffe's painters and decorator's shop which stands out in what appears to be bright white. Beyond that, the Harle Syke branch of Barclays Bank can be seen. These premises were to become locally famous because of the "pepper pot robbery". Mind you, it comes as no surprise to those who know the Sundance Kid, of American fame, had family connections with Harle Syke. For those of you interested in classic cars, I believe the one shown is an Austin A40 Dorset or Devon which was also made in van, pick-up and countryman versions. Production started in 1947 and ceased completely in 1956.