ROGER FROST: The site of the Bull Hotel, Burnley

WHEN I talk to readers about the Peek into the Past column, many of you say you enjoy the articles accompanied by pictures that show how a particular location has changed over the years.

I tried to do this in my book “Burnley Through Time”, written by myself and Ian Thompson, a Burnley police officer, who took the modern photos in the book. I was responsible for the writing and choice of locations.

I have examined my postcard and photo collections and think I can produce a number of articles of the kind I have described. We start this week with three images of the site once occupied by the Bull Hotel which, in later years, was replaced by the Montague Burton store at the junction of Manchester Road and St James’s Street, Burnley.

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The first image is a crude representation of the Bull as it was before 1817 but it gives you some idea of what the building looked like in its earliest days. I think the Inn part, to the right, is the older with the more recent shippon, hay loft and barn to the left. If you look carefully you will see that, although the building seems to be of two floors, there is a substantial cellar below the part of the building used as the inn.

John Lowe, formerly of Burnley Council’s planning office, published a very informative series of drawings of the Bull for his book “Burnley” (p. 74-7) published in 1985. He shows the building as you see it here but, on his drawings, he has tidied up its lines considerably. John gives the Bull a stone slate roof but Walter Bennett, Burnley’s local historian, says the building was “a low thatched, whitewashed farmstead with the inn and house at one end of the building and shippon, and hay loft entered through large barn doors at the other end”.

Notice the windows. On the two floors, plus the basement, the larger windows are drawn rather crudely but John gives them attractive mullions, a feature which would date the building to the later 17th Century. The two smaller first floor windows are shown in John’s drawing as being without mullions but leaded. The one to the right is shown as having wooden shutters which were common in Burnley in the 18th and 19th Centuries. There is a central door to the inn, with the pub name over it, and there is another door, possibly access to the residential parts of the property, to the left.

The barn has an impressively rounded barn door with one of two round glassless windows above. These windows were to allow the passage of air into the hay loft. Notice the rounded door below the round window to the right. This is clearly shown in the image I publish but John has this simple door surrounded by stone making it look like the old disused door built into the wall near the main entrance to Towneley Hall.

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As you can see, the early building had formerly been a small farm. It was included in the sale of the Fulledge Estate by the Ingham family, which owned it, to Henry Blackmore, founder of Burnley’s coal industry, in 1721. The sale realised £2,200 and, in addition to the inn, there was some land at the Bull Croft and in other parts of the town centre as far away as Yorkshire Street and Plumbe Street.

Bull Croft stretched up Manchester Road to the river Calder and the name of Bull Street, home of the Express, derives from the inn and land it once farmed. The Bull Croft included the sites of the Town Hall and Mechanics Institute, which, in the early 19th Century were extensive fruit gardens. They were well-known for the gooseberry varieties developed there.

We know some of the names of the early inn keepers at the Bull: Giles Duerden, in 1698; William Thomas in 1714 and Ellis Nutter, from 1749 to 1760. It was at the Bull that James Brindley, the great canal engineer, stayed when he was undertaking work, as what we would call a consultant, for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company.

The Bull also had its own brew house which must have been behind the inn and, close to the building, in the Bull Croft, probably in what is now Bull Street, there was a small coal mine which gave its name to Coal Street which, as you will know, is nearby. This mine was operated by Mr Blackmore but eventually it became the property of the Rev. John Hargreaves who also owned the inn. The naming of Hargreaves Street comes from this connection.

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Mr Hargreaves decided to demolish the old buildings and replace them, in 1817/9, with the structure we see in the second image which is taken from a postcard, posted in Burnley in 1908, ironically by someone staying in the Turf Hotel. In Mr Hargreaves’s time, the old property consisted of the inn, a brew house, stables, shippon and garden with a bowling green, gardens and a farm. All this was leased to a number of tenants at different times. In addition, there was property at Limey Bank (the site of Mount Pleasant in Hammerton Street) and Mr Hargreaves also owned the coal mine and a nearby fulling mill which had been run by Gilbert Holden of the Hollins, Cliviger.

The building erected by Mr Hargreaves was planned on a large scale. It was, by some distance, the biggest hotel in Burnley. Some idea of the number of rooms can be determined by the chimney pots which you can see on the roof. Its main entrance was, as you can see, in Manchester Road and, from there, the visitor could get to the bars, the dining and meeting rooms. The building was of stone and it had, originally, a stone roof rather than a slate one.

The new building played several important roles in the history of Burnley. It was from the Bull that a number of coaches ran their services. More local transport was also administered from there with Richard Radcliffe Rothwell (d.1842) and Richard Rothwell (d.1864) being prominent. The Bull also provided facilities for meetings of the town’s Improvement Commission set up in 1819. The Commissioners carried out a lot of good work in the town, buying the private Burnley Water Company and Burnley Gas Company and building Burnley Cemetery but they had their rivals. The Select Vestry (later the Town Committee) met at the Swan, a few yards along St James’s Street!

The third picture shows the Burton’s outfitter’s store as it appeared in a Valentine’s postcard taken, I would suggest, not long after the store opened. The building was designed, in 1932, by Montague Burton’s architects and is properly known as Burton’s Buildings. The structure was erected between 1933 and 1939 and the story of its development can be traced by seeking out the four dedication plaques e seen close to the pavement on both the Manchester Road and St James’s Street elevations.

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There are not many buildings in Burnley which have ornate tiled frontages. The rear of the Town Hall has plain white tiles affixed to a part of the rear of the building. Their purpose was to improve light at this sunless location. The same was true of the Weaver’s Institute which stood in Whitham Street and Charlotte Street, Burnley. On the Burton building the tiles have long been painted over but, if you look at the picture, you will see how agreeable they are, and infinitely preferable to what exists at the moment. Should we start a campaign to get them restored?

I have chosen the three images I publish today as it is only a couple of weeks ago that Coun. Charles and Mrs Irene Bullas, Mayor and Mayoress of Burnley, unveiled the replacement for the merestone which once stood near the Bull in what is now St James’s Street. Mr Brian Hall, in his speech on the occasion, said the original stone might be under the pavement and we might be able to find out whether this is true when the council undertakes some work there, later this year.

If you re-examine the first image, notice there is something in front of the barn door. It was one of the sources of water for this part of Burnley in the days before it was piped to houses in the area. It was described as a well though it looks like a water pump to me. I wonder if anything is left of it?

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