Key buildings in the history of Briercliffe

This column is achieving something very different with today’s selection of postcard images.

Monday, 28th April 2014, 5:04 pm

You will notice, immediately, they are all of Briercliffe which might not be surprising to you considering almost all the postcards and photos that appear on these pages come from the collections of the Briercliffe Society.

What is different is that all the images come from a Briercliffe photographer, Mr Thomas Taylor, who, early in the 20th Century, lived at 3 Burnley Road, Harle Syke.

For those of you who know the village, the house is the one immediately below the entrance to Briercliffe Memorial Bowling Green. The splendid Muir Memorial is only a few yards away. The house was occupied and extended by Dr William Muir. The extension, on the east of the property, was to provide extra space for his medical practice which was run from the building. The house remains one of the most attractive Victorian homes in Briercliffe.

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Little is known about Mr Taylor but rather than tell you the meagre facts I do know, I will undertake some research and find out a little more before I introduce him to you. However, the publication of this article reminds me I have resolved to publish a number of articles which feature photos from particular collections. The society has a number of such collections – most of them of Briercliffe, of course – but there are a couple which relate to Burnley which also merit publication.

I have chosen images from several parts of Briercliffe. Some of them you will have seen before but others, I think, will be new to you. All the cards are in splendid condition and are all black and white or sepia photos. None have been posted and are, therefore, not dated but were taken over a number of years at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The first two photos are of one of Briercliffe’s oldest and finest houses, Burwains, which has recently seen a number of changes. They include the opening of a car repair business in the splendid barn and the construction of a very 21st Century wind turbine nearby.

We then move on to “Hill”, the proper name of the building which gave its name to Hill Lane, originally Halifax Road. If you ever wondered why Hill Lane Baptist Church gets its name, there is your answer.

Higher House

The first picture is of the farmhouse and farm cottage. The latter is currently on the market for over £200,000. I wonder what the Smiths of Hill would have said on hearing that? Incidentally, the Smith family, who lived at Hill, were founders of a cotton manufacturing company in Nelson and a famous ironmongers (latterly builders merchants) in Burnley. Many of you will remember the firm as Cowgill and Smith.

The second picture at the Hill shows the barn and the card is entitled “Milking Time, Hill Farm”. The barn is on the other side of Halifax Road, and, in effect, the road goes through what would have been the farmyard. The barn is now a very pleasant house.

There are then three images of Haggate, the oldest of the villages in Briercliffe. The first shows the property which was built illegally on Haggate Green. It includes Haggate Provision Stores, on the left, the Reading Rooms (now Corrin House) of 1877, in the middle, and, on the extreme right, the front of the village slaughterhouse where there was many a pig killing in the past.

The next picture, a view of Haggate crossroads, is one of my favourites. I will describe it in more detail when we look at the photo but many of the elements that make this hill-top village so memorable are present. These include Haggate’s two hostelries, both still open and hopefully doing good trade. They are the Sun Inn, formerly a beer house, on the left, and the Hare and Hounds, an inn founded in the 16th Century, just off the middle of the picture.

Haggate School

Of course there are other factors which make this picture interesting but this image, and another like it, were the inspiration for me to write my book, “A Lancashire Township: The History of Briercliffe-with-Extwistle”.

Initially, I was going to limit the study to Haggate, largely because I lived there. In fact I had a title, “Far Seen and Far Seeing: The Village of Haggate”, which was taken from another book I had the pleasure to edit for a new edition a number of years ago. I took my time, at my father’s suggestion and, almost 20 years later, the book some of you will know was published, something I still regard as my crowning achievement, if you see what I mean.

The last of the three pictures is of the school I did not go to though, when I was a boy, most of my friends did. As the card indicates, this is Haggate School which was built, in 1882, as a Sunday School for Haggate Scotch Baptists, the chapel of which was one of the most important places of Non-conformist worship in the area. The church still survives holding its services in the building you see in the picture.

The last three photos are images of some of Briercliffe’s often delightful farm buildings, all of which are still standing. Higher House is situated in Nelson Road, the old name of which was Higher House Lane. The locals used to pronounce it “Th’ Hicker ‘Airse Loin” but the name was changed to the more respectable Nelson Road at the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Those same locals opposed the name change but the county council got its way and few remember the old, slightly risqué dialect version of the name name. Should we re-introduce it? I wonder what modern residents would say?


“Jackwell House, Briercliffe”, as most of you will not have seen it. This is the front of the building which was constructed overlooking its green acres which spread in the direction of the river Don, England’s shortest river, with the bulk of Extwistle Hill in the distance. Now its near-neighbours are Briercliffe’s splendid allotment gardens and allotment pens and, in the middle distance, is the George VI Recreation Ground with some wonderful woodland all of which is owned by the parish council which did a great day’s work when all this land was bought from the Tatton Estate.

The last image is of Holden Farm in Extwistle, another delightful building in a lovely spot. It is located off Todmorden Road, near the Roggerham Gate Inn. Mind you, the site is haunted. Not the farmhouse, or its barns which are now tastefully converted into two dwellings, but the land itself is famous in certain circles for its Black Dog Story.

So come with me on a tour of Briercliffe as it was about 100 years ago, a journey that is made possible by the late Thomas Taylor.

Reading Rooms
Hill Farm
Holden farm
Jackwell House