Worsthorne - a village history

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WE have visited Worsthorne before in this series, but the recent inclusion of this postcard in the Briercliffe Society's collection gives us chance to do so again.

Unfortunately, the card, although used, is neither stamped nor dated, but it must have been produced after 1903/4 when the tower was added to St John's Church.

The nave dates from 1835, the chancel from 1894 and the cost of building the tower was defrayed by Sir John Ormerod Scarlett Thursby as a memorial to his father, Sir John Hardy Thursby.

Although less than 200 years old, Worsthorne St John's is one of Burnley's older churches. When it was founded the building did not have the status of a church. Until 1843 it was technically a chapel of the ancient parish of Whalley, being granted parochial status in that year, the same year in which St Peter's Church, Burnley, was similarly elevated.

Whalley Parish was, at one time, the largest in England. There were 15 subsidiary chapelries by the later 16th Century, St Peter's in Burnley being one of them.

For much of its ecclesiastical history Worsthorne was in the Chapelry of Burnley and the township, along with Hurstwood, was expected to contribute to the running of the Select Vestry. This was the consequence of largely Tudor legislation, which gave powers (to essentially church bodies) over some aspects of law and order, the care of the poor, maintenance of highways and the fabric of the local church or chapel.

Worsthorne had to elect officials – an overseer of the poor, a constable and surveyor of highways. These office holders reported to the Select Vestry, which was so called as it was not democratic (its members were selected by existing ones) and because it was supposed to meet in the vestry of St Peter's.

This was not the most popular of meeting places, so it is not surprising to find that, often, members met in one of Burnley's hostelries.

By the time St John's was built the powers of the Select Vestry were in decline, although it still met at the Swan Hotel, Burnley. The Poor Law (Amendment) Act of 1834 had recently changed the means by which the poor were relieved and there had been significant changes in the other aspects of local government which had been the responsibility of the Select Vestry.

This does not mean, however, that St John's was able to take on more powers. From 1834 it became a parochial church, taking into its parish the whole of Worsthorne-with-Hurstwood (together with Extwistle, which is geographically in Briercliffe), but St John's never played any official part in local government, as did St Peter's.

Have a detailed look at the photo we publish today. Worsthorne is unlike most of our local villages in a number of ways. Firstly, the village shares the name of the parish of which it is a part, which is not the case in Briercliffe and Cliviger.

The main difference is in the layout of the village itself. Worsthorne has its rows of terraced houses, and, in that way, it is partly a product of the industrial changes which made our area the most important cotton weaving district in the world, but the village has much in common with more traditional villages.

This photo shows a village square, something which is absent from all other villages in Burnley. Haggate once had such a feature, but it was built over in the middle Victorian period.

In Worsthorne, the church dominates the square and opposite are the Parish Rooms of 1874, another gift of the Thursby family. They were originally a reading rooms and library and were built by the wife of Worsthorne's first vicar, the Rev. William Thursby.

On the north side of the village square the school building still survives, although now it has been divided into attractive dwellings. The school was erected in 1873 at a cost of 1,900 and, originally, was run by St John's. It was a national school, but before 1914 it had come under the control of the county council.

The remaining side of the square has one of the village pubs (the Bay Horse) and the village store, the last of quite a number of shops in Worsthorne. To give you an idea of how many there were I have consulted the 1914 Commercial Directory, and in that year there were no less than 18 shops in the village. They included three greengrocers, two drapers, a butcher, cobbler, shoe shop, a number of businesses which were merely described as "shops" and the Worsthorne branch of the Burnley Co-op.

The one type of property which we have not mentioned is the purpose built house. A number of the charming small stone built cottages of the village can be seen in the photo.

These are mainly in Gorple Road and one of these buildings is now known as Jackson's Farm, although it is thought that either it, or an earlier building on the site may have been owned by the Cunliffe's of Wycoller and may have been known as Cunliffe Hall.

It is possible this name derives from the Cunliffe family's known appreciation of the sport of cock-fighting. Worsthorne's cock pit was situated almost opposite the house and nearby was the village stocks.

At the present time no trace of either of these villages institutions is visible, but Worsthorne is worthy of your attention. I have been looking at the history of Worsthorne Show.

The Briercliffe Society has an account of a visit to the show, which although like today's card is undated, must have taken place in the 1880s. If anyone has any photos of the show I would be pleased to hear from them.