Whalley Earthworks

Standing above the village of Whalley is the Iron Age hillfort of Portfield. Excavations suggest settlement as early as 2000 B.C. and was used as a fort until the 7th Century.

By 1250 B.C. man had come down from his high homesteads on the surrounding hills and began the clearance of the valley floor for settlement and cultivation.

One dominant group colonized that rich area between Langho and Worston siting Whalley as their administrative centre.

When the first dwelling was erected in Whalley we do not know, in fact only the chance find of a stone axe-hammer testify to mans presence on the site (there is a copy in Blackburn Museum). The surmise can only be based on a later continuity of settlement and Whalley's importance during major events in pre-Conquest history.

First mention of Whalley can be found in Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 664. During that year Bishop Tuda visited these areas west of the Pennines to oversee the submission of the Celtic Church to Roman rites. While in Whalley he died of the outbreak of Bubonic Plague recorded for that year. Bede goes on to state that Whalley was the site of a monastery (Paegnalaech).

Clearly this was an important religious settlement, fit for a Bishop to base himself on, on a pastoral visit. All that remains today of that early religious institution is the 'Vallum Monasterii', an earthen banked ditch.

Between the years 1985 and 1988 an archaeological investigation was conducted by an individual and the Department of Geophysics at Lancaster University on the Earthworks and revealed a true site plan and method of construction. Fragments of 7th Century pottery along with other artifacts were found during the excavations at a depth of 3ft in the bottom section of the ditch.

Whalley is again mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 798 as the site of a battle in an internal conflict that had fraught the kingdom of Northumbria for over 20 years.

A hundred and fifty years later three high crosses were erected at Whalley.

The presence of an early monastic institution may go someway to explain the office of hereditary Deans at Whalley Church before the advent of Peter of Chester in 1235.

Whalley, in pre-Norman times, was the capital of Blackburnshire. It was divided into two component parts, represented by the medieval parishes of Whalley and Blackburn. Each component contained two royal vills - Pendleton and Huncoat, Walton-le-Dale and Blackburn respectively. They were all dependent on the royal capital at Whalley.

Whalley would be the site of not only the court of the local petty dynasty but of a minister. Founded by a nobleman on his estate, ruled by his relatives and staffed by his dependents - it would be a 'family monestary' with most of the functions of a Parish Church.

The founding of these royal ministers under royal licence was a way of diverting taxable resources due to the King of Northumbria, back to one's own family by grants of land, labour and capital to the Church.

The hereditary principle established within the framework of the family 'minister/Church' seems to have been held in practice at Whalley, possibly due to its Northumbrian 'remoteness', till the 13th Century.

Here is a list of the artifacts found during the excavations which took place in the 1960's, dating back to the late Bronze Age.

Plain Gold penannular bracelet.
A sheet of Gold ornament known as a 'Tress Ring'
Two socketed bronze axeheads
Half a socketed bronze gouge/chizel
Three fragments from one or more bronze blades
Small bronze stud

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