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A brief history of Briercliffe

Briercliffe is 3 miles to the north east of Burnley.

The area is in very popular walking country with the Pennine Way, which originally was intended to pass through Briercliffe, only a short distance away in West Yorkshire. The Burnley Way, the Bronte Way and the Shuttle Way all have routes through the parish and the Briercliffe Society has established a popular short walk in the west of Briercliffe.

Until recently Briercliffe’s main claim to historic fame has been the concentration of prehistoric remains which can be found on the higher land in the east of the parish. These were excavated in the nineteenth century and some of the finds can be seen at Towneley Hall in Burnley.

Extwistle Hall

Briercliffe also contains a large number of interesting sixteenth and seventeenth century houses and of these the ruined Extwistle Hall is the most important.

There is plenty to see for the industrial archaeologist – the remains of a medieval corn mill, a textile mill from the early years of the industrial revolution and a bobbin mill from the same era, though this is now converted into a house.
Briercliffe also has some of the finest handloom weaver’s cottages in the Pennines. The best of these is Hill End House which overlooks the village of Lane Bottom – itself a collection of late eighteenth century domestic dwellings and nineteenth century mill workers houses.


The oldest village, Haggate, is seventeenth century in origin. An author, in the nineteenth century, called it “far seen and far seeing” – a description, considering its hill-top position, that is as apt today as it was when the words were first written.
Haggate was the scene of the Civil war skirmish that was a prelude to the Battle of Marston Moor which took place in 1644. In the skirmish a detachment of the Royalist army under Sir Edward Lucy came into contact with a group of local Parliamentarians. Five were killed and buried at St Peters in Burnley.

Chartist Riots

Political violence is no stranger to the village. It was a centre of “Physical Force” Chartism in the 1830’s and 1840’s and the leader of this movement, Feargus O’Connor, criticised a local clergyman for building a church so close to the village when he should have been feeding he poverty stricken people.

Harle Syke

Today, those who visit Briercliffe come to see the Victorian village of Harle Syke. Almost all the old core of the village is from that era. The church is dedicated to St James the Great – the one criticised by O’Connor – and dates from 1841.
The village is laid out in grid-iron pattern, the houses overshadowed by the mills which made “t’ Syke” the most important cotton weaving village in Lancashire.

Queen Street Mill

Queen Street Mill now houses the Museum of the Lancashire Textile industry - the only place where one can see an authentic steam driven cotton weaving shed in the country.
Part of the mill has been divided into units and “East Lancashire into Employment” has a Gallery there called “Not the Run of the Mill”. It is an ideal place for that special present as is the Antiques Centre just around the corner. In fact there are several mill outlets for those interested in a bargain.

With its combination of fine moorland countryside, its interesting walks, its prehistoric remains, its wealth of industrial archaeology and its museum at Queen Street Mill – Briercliffe is certainly worth a visit.

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