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Tales of Characters and Their Places

Tales of Characters and Their Places

Cannon Ball Trick Through The door

Burnley Express and News


In the fourth article of our absorbing feature of life in Harle Syke in the past, Mr Rowland Kippax - better known to many as "Th 'Owd Syker" - today looks at some of the village's more interesting buildings and the characters who have been associated with them. Once again the story is illustrated by two old pictures, in which some readers may recognise themselves, relatives or friends.

I ended my last article by telling about the purchase price of Hill End Mill.
I will continue in the same trend by telling you about the formation of both Walshaw Mill and Queen Street Mill.

Walshaw was built in 1905. There were 1,092 looms. The share capital was 12,000 in one-pound shares.
Queen Street Mill was built in 1894. The share capital was 20,000 and there were 4,000 shares issued at 5 each. The number of looms was, I think, 1,138. They also had approximately 360 looms in Primrose Mill on room and power.

Let me go back now to Hill Lane Baptist Chapel. This was opened in 1846, and was further improved in 1877. There are others who are more capable of writing on the religious matters of the village, so I am only going to add that the Rev. A. Gray, who is also on the photograph of the handing over of the monument to the memory of Dr Muir, was also a minister at this church.

Coming through Lane Bottom and climbing the hill to Haggate we come to three houses that are better known in the village as "Th'Hicker Biggins." There were seven back-to-back houses when they were built around 1777, but they have since been converted into three houses. Just past these, a small road turns off to the right to Hill End House and Farm. This originally belonged to the Smith family, but it was bought from them by Nelson Co-operative Society.

The only memory of William Smith that I have is of seeing him with a shotgun over his shoulder. I remember his sisters, because they often came to Haggate School, when presentations of the Dr Muir medals took place. I remember them also coming to St James's Church. I have only been in that church twice in my life: once when it was the funeral service for the late King Edward VII, and the other occasion to a wedding.

Not Very Popular

The parson I remember is the Rev. C. B. Knox (I think the C. B. were for Charles Beresford). I remember him speaking at a recruiting meeting on the old recreation ground during the early days of the first world war. His words I remember to this day. They were, "If I had a son and he had not joined the forces by now, I should certainly want to know why."

It didn't make him very popular at the time with a lot of the men, because his children were four girls. The other speaker at that meeting was a Canadian officer. At that time there was a voluntary unit in the area which used to parade and train at nights on the bowling green, and go route marches on the Saturdays. This unit was known as the Voluntary Training Corps, and they were trained under the instructions of Mr James Ewart Leaver, of Cockden.

Back to Hill End House. The Nelson Co-op, who had bought it from the Smiths, loaned it out for meetings, whist drives, etc., but mainly to weekend schools and lectures under the auspices of the Co-op, and more especially the Labour Party. Lord Feather met his wife at one of these schools or courses.

Incidentally, my great-grandfather Thornton was at one time the coachman to the Smith family.
While on the subject of Labour Party activities in the locality, I remember Philip Snowden, later Lord Snowden, addressing a large I.L.P. audience at a quarry behind the I.L.P. Cottage at Roggerham. If you are going into Roggerham from Worsthorne, and you look alongside the headquarters of Herbert Sutcliffe Antiques, you can see an old cottage with the letters I.L.P. just discernible on the roof.

My grandmother Brierley (nee Stanworth) was born at this cottage and commenced work as a winder at the Roggerham Mill, which has been pulled down.

Mentioning Roggerham, one must draw attention of course to Mr Tattersall Wilkinson (Owd Tatty). any Old Sykers will remember him making his way to and fro through Harle Syke, wearing his fez hat, especially on Mondays when he visited Burnley Market. The Tattersall, I believe, came from relationship to the well-known racecourse auctioneers who owned Tattersall sale rings. It was said that he was provided with tickets for Doncaster races in St Leger week.

Jackets Were Goalposts

The next place we visit at Haggate is the reading room. This was composed of three main rooms. Upstairs was the billiards room. On the ground floor was the room occupied by mainly old men, and opposite to it was another room that was used on Fridays by the Yorkshire Penny Bank under the control of Mr Fred Leaver, headmaster of Haggate School.

Returning to the billiards room, there was a middle-aged man who used to perform a trick on the table. He would open the door, then he would play a cannon off the red. The white would jump off the table, go through the door, roll down the stone steps and through the door into the road. He was warned that he would be expelled for doing it, so it was stopped. The same man was reported to have saved threepenny silver pieces until he had enough to fill one of those stone bottles that would hold a gallon of sarsaparilla.

To the rear of the reading room was a small building that Mr Tom Thornton used for an abbatoir, and he often killed pigs and sheep there. I remember that on many occasions he came to our rescue and provided us with a pig's bladder which we would blow up and use for a football until it burst.

Footballs as palyed with today were a scarcity, and a sixpenny ball was a luxury. I remember as a lad of about 12, a team of boys walked down to Fulledge rec to play a match against a team from there. Few of us had strips or football shoes. When we got there, there was only a small ball, and the goalposts were our jackets. Later on we entered a team of 15-year-olds in the Burnley Amateur League to play on the old rec. We walked nearly to Towneley Station to buy the goalposts just to save two and sixpence.

The old school, or the National School, as it was then known, was no longer in use as a school, but it was used on occsasions as a dance hall, generally for St James's benefit. It was also used for the fur and feather annual show. This was a very good show, and entries came from a wide area. There were also times when it was used a an annual pot fair. when the pot fair was on they would hold a "go-as-you-please" competition for local entertainers.

I remember the late Billy Layfield winning it by singing "Billy Muggings."

On one occasion at the pot fair there was a phrenologist, a mna who reads the bumps on your head andpredicts the future for you. His name was Professor Mills. I don't know if he was successful with anyone else, but he was miles off the mark with me. The charge was 2. 6d. - my dad paid. He never gambled but I told him many a time he'd have had a better run if he'd put the half crown on a horse.
Across the road was a row of back-to-back houses, at the end of which was a Burnley Co-op grocer's shop. Between the shop and the Hare and Hounds pub was a narrow road, which led to the houses at the back.

The first landlord I remember there was Bill Brown. Another was Tom Ward who, besides running the pub, was also the carter for Harle Syke Mill for a time. Behind the pub was the bowling green, no longer used. When I was about 12 ors so, there used to be matches played on this green for a lot of money. One match, probably for the most money every played for there, was between a local and a panel bowler named Balfour. This green was renowned for being very fast, and, late at night, on the evening before the match was to be played, the locals watered one side of the green. Knowing of this the local bowler used it to his advantage and won the match. Call it gamesmanship if you wish, but the panel bowler didn't like it.

We often went round the back and sat on the wall watching the matches. the pub also had a team in the local Licensed Victuallers League. there also used to be a bowling green at the Roggerham Gate Inn. Both these greens are no longer in use.

Not Hawking Fish

The Sun Inn, at the corner of Burnley Road and Nelson Road, which towards Nelson becomes Halifax Road, was once tenanted by a Mr Campbell, and another tenant was a Mr Layfield, the father of Billy Layfield, the once well-known club comedian I mentioned before.

In my younger days Nelson Road was much better known as "Th'Hickerairse Loin," a dialect derivation from Higher House, which is the name of a farm a little further on the road towards Nelson. The only farmer I can remember farming there was a Mr Fred Greenwood.

When about 15, along with some others of the same age like Willie Leaver, Horace and Leslie Pickles, Harold and Ronnie Sutcliffe, I was invited to join the Haggate Chior. Apart from me, the others would do about 50 years in the choir. I did three weeks, for two reasons - one, I couldn't read music, and, secondly, and more important, I couldn't sing, at least not choral music, but I mustn't have been bad as a comic singer.

I was made a corner man in the school's concert party, and at least three times was deputed to song "Soloman Levi" as a solo.
Just to show the quality of my voice...on one occasion we were practising a glee called "The Parting Kiss," when Bob Foster, the conductor, stopped us and said to me, "We are singing 'Oh gentle loving girl' not hawking fish." I don't think that I lasted much longer after that.

While we are on music, I enclose a photo of the Briercliffe Glee Union. This photo was taken in the grounds of Mr Abraham Leaver's residence at Cockden. Mr Shepherd was the conductor at this time. Mr Alfred Kippax, a founder conductor of the choir, had just previously retired because of ill health.

Places of Worship

A little higher up the lane from Cockden House was The Mount, the residence of Mr George Mason ("Dawdy") and Mrs Mason, and the one next door was their daughter's (Mrs Holroyd and her husband). Just a little lower down was the farm which Mr Mason had bought and which became better known as Dawdy's farm. At one time Mr Mason had a stud of pedigree cattle which were looked after by a farmer and his family named Gregory, who came from somewhere near Penrith I think.

One of my memories of my early days at Haggate Chapel was the energy and strength of the voices of some of the preachers who came to the chapel...
There were one praicher
who coom to their chapel,
Who wer soor enthusiastic for ther job,
That he nair seemed ter know when ter finish,
An they christened him
Everlasting Bob.

Politics in the village have changed very little. It has always been a strongly Liberal parish council. For many years there would be five Liberals, one Conservative and one Socialist. Mr. William Dent (sen.) and his son, William, carried the Conservative flag for many years. Mr. Bannister Kippax, his son Herbert, and Jim Goodall, carried the Socialist flag for many years also. Herbert and Stanley, both sons of Bannister Kippax, both received OBE's for their service to agriculture.

Religion: There were six places of worship in the locality - Haggate, Hil Lane and Tennyson Street were all representing the Baptist faith; St James's was C of E, and Canaan at Haggate and the Wesleyans, facing the Commercial, were Wesleyans. I do not wish to be drawn into any argument about this, but I believe that at one time there was only one family of Catholics in the village. I mentioned this to one of this family at an OAP gathering at St Cuthbert's a few months ago, and she agreed with me.

Briercliffe Glee Union, pictured at Cockden.

Briercliffe Glee Union >>

The Dr Muir Memorial. The inscription reads: "Erected by public subscription to the memory of the late Dr Muir in recognition for his many public services to the parish of Briercliffe."

Dr Muir Memorial >>
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