A market town and Chapelry in that part of the parish of Whalley which is the higher division of the hundred of BLACKBURN, county palatine of LANCASTER, 25 miles (N.) from Manchester, 53 (E.N.E.) from Liverpool, and 210 (N.N.W.) from London, containing 6378 inhabitants. This place anciently Brunley, derives its name from the river Burn [Brun], on which it is situated, near the confluence of that stream with the river Calder; and, from the numerous coins, fragments of pottery, and urns containing ashes and burnt bones, that have been found in the neighborhood, is supposed to have been a Roman station. Several Saxon remains have also been discovered; and at a short distance to the east of the town is a place called Saxifield, said to have been the scene of a battle in the year 597.
About the same period Paulinus is stated to have visited Burnley, on a mission for converting the natives to Christianity; and the remains of an ancient cross, erected to commemorate his preaching, still exist near the town, where religious rites were usually performed prior to the erection of the chapel. The town is pleasantly situated on a tongue of land formed by the rivers Burn [Brun] and Calder; the greater part is of very recent erection, and the houses are neatly built of freestone found in the neighborhood.
The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas under an act of parliament obtained in 1819, for the general improvement of the town; and the inhabitants are abundantly supplied with water from two reservoirs, one to the north, and the other to the south of the town, under the management of a company. The barracks, standing in the adjoining township of Habergham-Eaves, were erected in 1819, at an expense of £5500, of which sum £2500 were subscribed by the inhabitants.
The trade was formerly confined to the manufacture of woollen cloth and worsted goods, but that of cotton has been introduced, for the spinning, weaving, and printing of which, large establishments have been erected: on the banks of the rivers are also several mills for grinding corn, etc., and for fulling cloth. Coal, flag stone, and slate are found in abundance within a short distance.
The Leeds and Liverpool canal, which winds nearly round the town, has contributed greatly to the promotion of its trade. The market, granted in the 22nd of Edward I. to Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, is on Monday and Saturday, the former being the principal; and on every alternate Monday there is a market for cattle, established in January 1819.
Fairs are held on March 6th, Easter-eve, May 9th, and 13th, July 10th, and October 11th, for horses, cloth, and pedlary; there is a wool fair on the second Thursday in July, and a horse fair on the third Thursday in October. Petty sessions for the division are held here.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester, endowed with various benefactions (among which is one of £400, to meet a similar donation from the commissioners of Queen Anne’s bounty), and in the patronage of Robert Townley Parker, Esq.
The chapel, dedicated to St. Peter, was erected soon after the Conquest; but having been partly rebuilt and enlarged at different times, it combines various styles of architecture: it is a spacious structure, and contains several monuments of the Townley family, among which is one to the memory of Charles Townley, Esq., a celebrated patron of the fine arts, whose collection of Grecian and Roman sculpture was the most select ever introduced into this country: the Townley marbles were purchased by the trustees of the British Museum for £20,000, which sum was granted by parliament for that purpose.
There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Roman Catholics.
The free grammar school was founded in the reign of Edward VI., and endowed in 1578, by Sir Robert Ingham; the endowment, originally small, has been considerably augmented by subsequent benefactions, and now produces about £140 per annum: the school has an interest in thirteen scholarships founded in Brasenose College, Oxford, by Dr. Nowell, Dean of St. Paul’s, London, in 1572: the management is vested in trustees, who appoint the master, and allow him a salary of £130 per annum, with the privilege of charging each boy £3.3. per annum for writing and arithmetic. The Rev. W. Whitaker, D.D., the learned master of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and the erudite historian of the “Original parish of Whalley,” received the rudiments of his education in this school.
An institution for the relief of poor married women in childbirth was established in 1819; there is also a Stranger’s Friend Society. The interest of £1244,15. three per cent, consols., given by Mrs. Elizabeth Peel in 1800, and of £500 by Mrs. Molly Thompson, is distributed in clothing to the poor of Burnley and Habergham-Eaves.
From: A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, Vol. 1, London, 1831, pp 310-311.