Secrets of Hapton Tower buried for ever if wind turbines built?

SECRETS buried at one of Burnley’s most important and mysterious heritage sites could be lost forever – claims a local historian and councillor

By The Newsroom
Friday, 28th January 2011, 3:58 pm

Giant wind turbines are set to be built next to the remains of the 500-year-old Hapton Tower – once the majestic home of the Towneley family.

But Coun. Roger Frost said if the plans are not changed a vital part of the town’s history could be destroyed.

The heritage champion hopes one of the three new 350ft-high turbines could be moved to protect the Medieval site on Hameldon Hill which has yet to be excavated by archaeologists.

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“We want them to respect the importance of this location,” said Coun. Frost. “It is one of the most important archaeological sites in the borough.

“At one stage the Towneleys preferred to live in the tower over Towneley Hall which is a very attractive house. This was when Burnley was the national capital of hunting.

“There is a real danger if they disturb the site by building on it or drive machinery over it. That is why we want to protect it.”

Hapton Tower was built by Sir John Towneley in 1510 on Hameldon Hill as a fortified manor and vantage point to keep a wary eye out for marauding Scots on the land below.

The tower was enclosed by a 1,100 acre private hunting park, second only in size in the county to Knowsley Park. Set against a backdrop of views over the Calder, Ribble and Hodder valleys and the Pennine Hills, the Towneley family would hunt deer on the land

Sir John, then Sheriff of Lancashire, died at the tower in 1541 and just under 100 years later the tower became empty after the death of Lady Jane Towneley who lived there with her son Christopher.

The building was divided up into tenements until the 18th Century when it was broken up to re-build the family’s farmhouses at Hapton. All that remains today are some of the walls and several ornate carved stones now at Dyneley Hall.

However, the riddle of exactly what the tower looked like has long puzzled historians as no accurate picture exists.

“There is a real mystery about this building. The theory is this was a very attractive building and much more substantial than people think it was.

“At one stage it was the Towneleys’ preferred home.”

An insight into the potential grandeur of the tower is given in the 1634 will of Lady Towneley, which lists 24 rooms including the great hall, the little hall, the brewhouse, stables and servants’ quarters.

However, experts say to paint a true picture of how the building was, a full archaeological survey is needed.

“No-one has ever been able to work out the dimensions of the building – that’s why we need an archaeological dig there.

“We just don’t know what is up there - it could have been walled, which would be really interesting because there are so few of them in England.”

Coun. Frost said he would like to see a dig to unlock the enduring mysteries of the site, but he said the priority for the moment was preserving it.

He confirmed there would be a meeting between himself, Burnley Council planning department, Lancashire County Council’s archaeology department and the developers to see if amendments could be made to the approved plans for the three wind turbines.