History of Whalley

The village of Whalley is situated in North-East Lancashire, 8 miles from Burnley, 8 miles from Blackburn, 7 from Accrington and 4 from Clitheroe. It stands on the banks of the River Calder. It is overshadowed to the South by Whalley Nab, which is 607ft. high. The earlier name of this hill was Belsetenab in the 13th century. Its name is now taken from the village and to the North-East of Whalley is Pendle Hill. To the West are the rolling fells of Bowland and Longridge.

Surrounded by green fields Whalley is a very desirable place in which to live. There is a junior school for children upto the age of 11 years, but older children go to secondary schools in Billington, Clitheroe and other adjacent towns.

A point of interest is that Mother Demdike, an old woman who lived at Whalley, was accused of witchcraft, and tried at Lancaster, along with about 20 other women.

In 1971 Whalley By-Pass was opened.


Until the coming of the Romans little is known about Whalley. An ancient fort on Clerk Hill (near to Whalley Golf Club), was established before their coming, for bronze age jewellery and implements have been unearthed at recent excavations.

The name of Whalley means 'The Field of Wells', from 'Well Lea', for there were many wells in the village and its vicinity.

The existence of a roman camp where the village now stands can, however, be authenticated. Roman stones can be identified in the structure of St. Mary & All Saints Parish Church. Coins of the time have been unearthed in the churchyard and other parts of the village. A Roman road, from Ribchester to Ilkley, forms of the present boundaries of the Parish and it is probable that another road lead from here to the fort on Clerk Hill.

Following the departure of the Romans, there is a blank page in the history book. The names of Deans of the Parish are recorded, also references of an early church and notes in the Domesday Book.

Standing on a main route from the West to the East coasts, Whalley seems to have been a resting place for travellers and traders. A bridge is first recorded in 1317 when Adam de Huddlesden granted a quarry to the monks of the village.

It is rumoured that tunnels run under the Abbey into the village of Whalley although no-one has ever discovered them.

In 1827 the whole township of Whalley contained 1603 acres, mostly belonging to Solomon Longworth of Clerk Hill and John Hargreaves of 'Broad Oak' Printworks, Accrington, who resised at the Abbey. It is believed that Hargreaves had planted the two avenues of trees, one from the North West Gate along Abbey Road and the other, the 'Long Walk' to the East Gate, but it was Richard Assheton, the first domestic owner of the Abbey.

The probable number of domestic dwellings at that time, including Billington, would not be much in excess of 250, with maybe 20 commercial buildings, serving a population of around 850.


From the summit of Whalley Nab views of Stonyhurst College and Little Mitton can be seen.


Near to the summit of Whalley Nab the road begins to dip slightly down towards Great Harwood. On the left 100 yards from the road is an outcrop of rock of millstone grit and lying in the grass are two millstones ñ one completed and the other nearing completion. A craftsman made them on the site where they now lie. The age of these are unknown.


The first bridge was built in the early days of the Abbey. There are two recesses, which are reminders of the time when this was a packhorse bridge and some security had to be offered to pedestrians. The bridge has been widened three times so that traffic can pass safely.

In the days of the turnpikes, the bridge was gated and tolls collected here. Standing on the bridge and looking upstream, by The Margery, a broad weir can be seen. The weir was built by the Cistercian monks who founded the abbey and it provided a head of water to feed the mill race which turned the wheel of the Abbey Cornmill.

The construction of the weir deepened and widened the river at this point and by local tradition, witches where floated here in the 17th century. (A detailed account of this practice can be found in the historical novel 'The Lancashire Witches' by Harrison Ainsworth).

A few hundred years ago the River Calder was rich in trout and salmon but became heavily polluted during the Industrial Revolution. Approximately 60 years ago boating was carried on here but the unhealthy state of the waters brought the practice to an end. Today, efforts are being made to cleanse the river.

In days gone by the land on the Whalley side of the river was known as the "Coney Wyne" where they bred and kept rabbits.


Entering the village from Billington the first house on the right is of particular interest. It was here, in Bridge Cottage, that Harrison Ainsworth stayed and researched his famous novel 'The Lancashire Witches'.

The cottage is on the corner of Calder Vale. The original name of this street was Lord Johns Street.


Along here was a large reading room where you paid two shillings and six pence for your year's subscription of your membership. The upstairs room housed two full sized snooker tables whilst downstairs front room was used for table tennis, jumble sales and meetings. The adjoining room was used for reading and dominoes.


This is now the area where The Dog Inn, The Whalley Arms and The Swan Hotels are situated. In early times metal rings and hinges could be found on walls of adjacent buildings. These were used to tether cattle, sheep and horses, when weekly sales of the afore mentioned used to take place. This practice continued well into the early 20th century although the number of sales then decreased to 1 or 2 annually.

Here, at the Town Gate, a stream flowed down the village street spanned by a bridge - Cockshutt Bridge. This is clearly indicated on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1847.


This is the oldest street in the village.


Behind The De Lacy pub on the left in Church Lane, is a building originally known as the above. It was used as a vault in which to store corpses. It was later named as the Bier House and is the scene of a number of legends which eventually found their into local folk-lore.


An attractive cottage (Number 5) on the right, as you make your way along Church Lane towards The Square, was until the late 18th century another village inn. It was in its larger neighbouring house the congregation of the early Methodists gathered for their worship, when the movement first came to Whalley in the late 1800's. Over the ensuing years the congregation out grew this abode and in 1872 the present Methodist Church and School was built and opened on Good Friday of the same year. The total cost of the new building, including the organ, was £2500.00.


Number 6 Church Lane was originally two cottages made into one in 1806, when the upper rooms became the first Methodist Chapel in the village.


At the end of Church Lane are three Tudor period cottages. Their rears now face The Square. Originally, the lane continued past the front of these cottages and was the main road from the village to Ribchester, continuing along the river bank until it reached the ford (Potter Ford) where the Roman Road crossed the Calder en route for Ilkley.


This house is at the corner, at the beginning of The Square. It is of very ancient origins, but has been greatly altered through the centuries. Tradition has it, that it was here the fishing rods used by the monks were kept. During these times, there was a field immediately behind the house and it was here the monks constructed ponds for the conservation of fish.


One of the main wells of the village lay beneath The Square and was the water supply of the adjacent premises until the early 20th century. In 1894 when the Clitheroe Rural District Council was first established, the Medical Officer of Health reported organs of animals had been found in the water of the village well in Whalley. A member of the council indicated that no action would be taken to remove them!!! Seven wells are recorded as having been sunk in this vicinity.


Turning the corner by the village junior school, is now known as the above and was the site of a former ford, where furious fighting is recorded in Cromwellian days. A hundred yards further along and immediately before the West Gate of the Abbey, a row of late Tudor houses stand at right angles to the road known as Abbey Fold. These houses were probably built following the Dissolution of the Abbey and served as homes for employees of the Abbey estate of Sir Richard Assheton.

The house nearest to the river was called The Ale, one of the earliest village inns. (This is noted in the Diary of Nicholas Assheton, published by the Manchester Chetham Society). The earliest recorded inn in the village was here in 1345, when the Abbot of Selby stayed overnight.


An ordnance survey map dated 1844 shows the original Parish Church Vicarage to be at the bottom of Broad Lane situated directly opposite to the present Cross House Cottage. So we are left to believe that during the building of the railway between 1845 and June 1850 when it opened, it was demolished to make way for the arches and re-built on its existing site.

Since then a newer Vicarage has been built in the same grounds and so it is now referred to as the Old Vicarage.


This house is situated next to the Methodist Church on King Street. At one time it was the Dower House (dower meaning a house bought by a woman for her husband upon marriage), of the Forteís of Read Hall. The knocker on the door is reputedly from 11 Downing Street. Alterations at the rear of the house revealed a deep well.


Now a residential cul-de-sac this was originally allotments.

Green Park is named after the influential mill owner and local councillor James Green.


Most towns and villages held Peace Parades and Pageants at the end of World War One. To show their respect for the fallen, a temporary cenotaph was included in the Peace Parades, so that those brave people could be honoured and not forgotten. A joinery firm in Whalley (Langshaws) was given the task of constructing such a cenotaph to be placed near the Old Grammar School. When it was finished and erected on site, it was so impressive that it was noted that several deputations from the villages and towns came to see it with a view to copying the design. The cost was £39 and 19 shillings (old money).

At a Parish Council meeting held in Whalley in January 1919, Councillor Longworth suggested a War Memorial Committee be formed. This resulted in Mr. P. Worthington of Manchester, tendering a design for a permanent memorial based on an ancient cross in the village of Madley, near Hereford. This was accepted at a public meeting held in November of the same year, provided sufficient funds were subscribed.

In September 1921 the Whalley and District War Memorial was formally handed over to the Parish Council. The same month the memorial was officially unveiled by General Shouwbridge with two impressive ceremonies.

After the end of the Second World War in October 1948, the last name to be inscribed is that of Damien John Shackleton who was killed in Northern Ireland in August 1992.


At the junction of Clitheroe Road and Station Road is where the village stocks were sited. The large house immediately opposite being known as Stocks Hill House. The house has a well in the cellar and it is said to have been used by the village doctors of former years for the preparation of their medications. This house stands at the beginning of Brookes Lane.


This house stands at the end of Brookes Lane and is of Tudor origin. The house contained a magnificent inglenook fireplace and Beehive Oven. This house was the home of the Brookes family who later became famous bankers and developers. One son in the family, Samuel, was responsible for the building of Whalley Range in Manchester and the development of many of the early suburbs. He was an eccentric, with the nickname 'Owd stink O'Brass', and died a millionaire. His memory lives on with a window and tablet in St. Mary's & All Saints Church.


This house is situated at the junction with Wiswell Lane and Clitheroe Road. It was once the Dower House of the Braddyll family. The house was named by locals, however, the carving above the doorway is not a pig but a badger, the insignia of the Braddyll family, into whose hands the Abbey properties were entrusted following the Dissolution. The Braddyllís formerly lived at Brockhall and so the selection of a badger as their family insignia is easy to appreciate. (A Brock being a home for badgers)

In the early days of the 19th century, the cottage was the home of Adam Cottam, solicitor and engineer. He was one of the greatest benefactors of the village. Adam Cottam along with the vicar Dr. Whitaker, was active in the collection of subscriptions for the large window above the altar. Adam built, at his own expense, the South Porch of the Church, presented the organ and the Northcott painting Christ In The Garden, now hanging on the North Wall. He left land and money for the building of The Almshouses on Mitton Road and contributed generously to the enclosure of the Churchyard.

This mansion was built in 1882 by R. Thompson Esq. J.P, who was an owner of spinning mills in Burnley. The decor was of italian renaissance style.

This establishment will long be remembered by many mothers as being a maternity home.


Continuing along Clitheroe Road and taking the first turning on the left down a narrow lane, was a farmstead called Shayhouses, which was the premises in which the first Methodist meetings were held in the village. Shayhouses has recently been restored and is now a very attractive property.


Along here was a track that led upto a building that housed the County Highways Steam Roller. Along side, were some wooden buildings that had been brought from Calderstones Hospital and erected to be used as temporary dwellings for those returning from the war.

The lane continued beyond the houses as the service road to the old Brick Works. After its closure the Rural District's dustcarts continued to use the lane to fill the great hole left by the diggings.

At the corner of Riddings Lane was a large barn that was part of the Shaw House Co-Op Farm.

Directly opposite Riddings Lane there was a footpath that led to the village. It passed through an area that the locals called the 'Canals', because of the long wide ditch in which the Monks had kept their fish. Before the building of Abbey Road in 1933 by Arthur Procter, this footpath took you through a long avenue of trees from Station Road to the North Gateway of the Abbey. The trees had been planted many years earlier by the Abbey's early domestic residents and so Abbey Road was named.


The Cricket, Bowling & Tennis Club was founded in 1860.

Situated on Mitton Road, this was the venue of the first Lancashire V Yorkshire, 'Roses' cricket match.


Down The Sands just after the English Martyr's Church on the left hand side is Abbey Fold. There are several cottages here and the one nearest to the river was an inn over 300 years ago and called The Ale.