Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection


Our Burnley Express newspaper cuttings envelopes contain articles cut from the Burnley Express from the 1920's up to 1965. Very often the cuttings cover many years and can tell an almost complete story. They sometimes contain actual photographs and other documents such as souvenir booklets. This was the case with envelope number 6876 entitled 'Nelson general' and the preceding envelope 6875.

Envelope 6876 contains five cuttings and three of them give much historical information about Nelson from before its incorporation as a borough in 1890 to its achievements over adversity up to 1961. Envelope 6875 contains a copy of the Jubilee Celebrations Souvenir Handbook of 1946. The three articles are transcribed in full below together with an assortment of images from the souvenir handbook.


Article 1 dated 3rd August 1946



Here is Nelson centre as it was 50 years ago (1896)


Celebrating the town's Jubilee week on August 18th to 24th, the people of Nelson will look back over 56 years of progress since the district was incorporated as a borough on July 21st 1890.
It is a history which, though short, is typical of the development of the Northern communities from the days of industrial reform to the atomic era; from the Victorian years which saw so much of the dawn of civic consciousness to the days of the present, when great conurbations are planned to swallow up whole towns in the new municipal design. The Jubilee celebrations should of course, have been held in 1940, but only now can the event properly be marked.

Nelson has its origins far back. In the reign of Henry III. Edmund de Lacy obtained a charter for 'free warren' in Little Marsden or Merclesden, and established his right to it in 1292. The population of the whole of Marsden was however only 2,322 in 1801 and Nelson as a place had no existence. In 1804 a yeoman, Matthew Pollard, purchased a part of Lower Bradley Farm, and at the corner of Four Lane Ends built an inn, which after the hero of the day, he named the Nelson Inn, later to be rebuilt and renamed the Lord Nelson Hotel. At that time there was no gas, no water laid to houses, no paving, no flagged footpaths. Walverden stream and Rigby Well supplied all the centre.

An old writer says "I well remember the sensation that was provided amongst the inhabitants when the first row of cottages was built with a convenience attached to each house. It was bad enough to have one at the end of a row and an ashmidden adjoining, but to build one in each backyard was shocking!"

The district had some of the finest stone quarries in England, and building went on apace. A railway was opened in 1849 and direct communication with Bradford and Manchester gave a big impetus to trade. In 1865 the population was 3,500 and the rateable value 5,747 pounds. As exemplifying the rapid growth, six years later the population was 5,580 and the rateable value 10,702 pounds. During the next decade these figures actually doubled, and in Nelson to-day we have a town of some 38,000 and a rateable value of 244,664 pounds.

Towards the end of the 19th century Nelson had grown to a flourishing township. The population had rapidly increased with the building of new cotton mills and the influx of people from surrounding districts, and to keep pace with this growth Coldwell Reservoir was constructed to provide an adequate water supply. The Nelson Gas Works had already been taken over by the local authority. Power was obtained to establish a market. In 1883 an order was made for the supply of electricity to Nelson and Barrowford, and in 1886 new streets, recreation grounds and a fire brigade were established.

By 1890 the population had grown to 29,000 and an agitation was commenced to secure borough status. This was achieved in that year, and the 'Charter' day was celebrated on August 30th. It is this event which will be commemorated this month.

When the new borough was formed it possessed gas and electricity undertakings and considerable water powers, and during the next 10 years the town grew with the flourishing cotton industry. In 1893 the Sewage Works were completed and a proper drainage system inaugurated, and in 1901 authority was obtained for the working of light railways, the old counterpart of the Joint Transport Committee services of to-day.

In later years new reservoirs were constructed and the Town Council, in its various departments, established the amenities of the modern community. Growing up side by side with this civic progress was a social awareness. The town, preserving the happy comradeship of its citizens from the earliest years, attained an orderliness and a dignity unknown to the hamlet from which it sprang.

To-day it has municipal facilities worthy of the labour, endurance and integrity which through the years has created and constantly improved them. It says much for Nelson that Burnley is often referred to by people in other parts of England as 'Burnley, near Nelson'! But at least the name of the town is known all over the world, and its emergence from the dark days of industrial slavery, witchcraft and squalor to the efficient borough of to-day is something which it is indeed fitting to celebrate.

Attractive events have been arranged for the week's celebration. A feature will be the throwing open of the Corporation departments for school children to be taken in parties to view the work of the municipality. On Sunday, August 18th, a concert at the Palace marks the opening. The Mayor (Councillor H. Haythornthwaite) will preside.

The other principal features are: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, in Marsden Park (Grammar School, if wet), performance by St. Mary's Dramatic Society of 'The Man's House'; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, performance in the same park by the Walverden Players, who will give 'George and Margaret'; Tuesday, education film on 'Cotton' for school children; Mothers Day at Carr Road Baptist School, where there is arranged an exhibition on infant welfare; Thursday, sports on the cricket field, and Lancashire County Police safety demonstration; Saturday, jubilee procession and pageant and presentation of the scroll of the Freedom of the Borough to Aldermen Smith and Winterbottom, final of the jubilee bowling handicap, Accrington Pipe Band in Victoria Park, big bonfire and fireworks displays on Carr Road recreation ground.


Article 2 dated 17th August 1946




Celebrating its 56th Jubilee next week, Nelson donned festoons of flags and streamers yesterday and workmen were busy early in the day bringing an appearance of carnival to the centre of the town.

Tonight the jubilee will be officially opened in the Palace Theatre, where a short address will be given by Alderman A. Smith J.P., C.C. and the Mayor (Councillor H. Haythornthwaite) will preside. A concert given by the various musical organisations in the town is to follow. Throughout the week a full and varied programme has been arranged.

The Mayor and Mayoress are entertaining the town's oldest residents - those of 85 and over - to tea at the Town Hall on Wednesday. So far as is known there are 30 such old folk, including Mrs. Farnell of 16 John Street who is 95; Mrs. Martha Holdsworth of 187 Barkerhouse Road (94); Mr. Robert Barwick of 145 Hibson Road (93); Mrs. Jane Penney of 18 Walton Lane (93). Mrs. Hannah Smith of 95 Vernon Street (92); Mr. John Clegg of 82 Barkerhouse Road (91); and Mrs. R. Pedley of 26 Lansbury Place (90).

All people of 65 and over are being made a gift of 2s. 6d., and they will be admitted to a performance of a local cinema during the week free of charge.

Two members of the Town Council, Alderman Smith and Alderman R, Winterbottom, are to be presented during the week with the scroll of Freedom of the borough.

Among the interesting visitors to the town will be Sir Theodore Rigg, from the city of Nelson, New Zealand. Sir Theodore is a native of the Settle district. A prominent Rotarian, he will address the Nelson Rotary Club.


Article 3 by G. M. Hulholland dated 30th December 1961



For The Old: Nelson Is famous for its work for old people. This is the Andrew Smith Hostel for the aged, opposite Marsden Park


In few places has the conscience of civic pride been stung to such dedicated purpose as among the 32,000 strong population of Nelson. Burdened with the threat of imminent death at each successive twinge of depression, and once described as 'dirty, hopeless and crumbling', the town has firmly refused to bow to either insult or adversity and it emerges to-day as one of the brightest spots on the map of progress.

With exceptional resilience this stormy petrel among Lancashire towns has bounced so successfully along the rough path of history that it has achieved national recognition - even from its many tormentors - as 'the town that refused to die.'

Scan any plans of endeavour, whether it be that of culture, industry, welfare, social amenity or sport, and the special qualities of the Nelson touch are immediately self-evident. In every branch of advancement it prefers the challenging role of pioneer. Its education is famous, its workers are among the cleverest in Lancashire and its capacity for optimism is second to none.

In the fields of culture and social amenity, for instance, it can match, and even surpass many neighbouring towns. Nelson has two male voice choirs which have both broadcast this year; it boasts the only qualified coach in the ancient sport of archery in the whole country; it has the only open-air swimming pool in the district; it has given civic backing to three choirs, a drama group and a brass band, and it offers an agricultural show, a music festival and a gala and carnival day. But this of course barely spans Nelson's catalogue of present realities and future dreams.


Welfare Fund

Past migration by young people (since 1931, the population has fallen by 6,000) has made Nelson an unusually 'old' town with an estimated 400-odd inhabitants of over the age of 80. This situation with its attendant need for some scheme to help those ageing souls whose physical state makes it increasingly difficult for them to help themselves, was quickly seized on by the younger generations. And so was born a welfare scheme which has been admired and copied by countless towns and villages in all parts of the country. It all began in the Mayor's parlour at Nelson Town Hall, with a simple filing system of contact with old people, religiously kept up to date. It increased its power to do good by creating a Mayor's Welfare Fund, which could employ more of the needed full-time workers. And then came the penny-a-week scheme which was supported by Nelson workers and employers alike - thus ensuring that the Mayor's fund was secure and that the staff of welfare workers could be increased

Nelson's claim to fame however, has been its relentless struggle for survival against depressions which have plagued the textile trade in this century. True the rest of Lancashire was also equally involved in the fight, but Nelson must hold pride of place for the sheer might of its fight against unemployment, and its demands on successive governments for assistance.


Work to Live

As in the grim, grey days of the 1930's the town's post-war crusade was based on the simple truth that the population must work to live. And the way in which they brought it so forcibly to the notice of the government is still a vivid memory.
1956: Coach loads of irate cotton operatives, local trade unionists and town councillors from Nelson, Burnley and district, invaded London, marched through the streets and then waited on MP's at the House of Commons.
1957: Councillor John Crabtree, of Barrowford, the then prospective Conservative Parliamentary candidate, met Mr. Macmillan in Yorkshire and asked him bluntly for 'some good news for the cotton industry.' And when he did not get it, he chose his party's annual conference as the platform from which to renew his demands.
1958: Alderman Mrs. Elizabeth Kay, first woman Mayor of the borough, led a deputation to meet Sir David Eccles, the then President of the Board of Trade, to demand 'a blood transfusion' for the county's staple industry.
1958: Nelson pioneered a monster petition to Parliament to demand first-aid action to save the textile industry, and was represented in the public gallery as its Member of Parliament, Mr. Sydney Silverman, confronted the Government with this unanimous appeal for help.

We are now all well aware of the action this accumulated pounding drew from the Government. The re-organisation scheme came into being shortly afterwards. And this made it necessary for the town to take up arms yet again in the cause of new industries to replace the redundant cotton mills.

This object, too, was achieved, but, this time, almost wholly through the efforts of the Town Council. The echo of dismantling among countless looms had hardly faded before local mills were a bustling hive or new industry.

The firm of Hygrade Corrugated Cases Ltd., remoulded and extended the Edward Street Mill and promptly announced vacancies for 160 workers. Extensions are still going on there, with the promise of more jobs - possibly as many as 120.

Then came the announcement that Keighley Paper Mills Ltd., had acquired the giant Malvern Mill (visited by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1953) and would have work available for 100 people.

And so it has continued during the past two years. Gibb Keg Breweries Ltd., bought the former Lancashire Clubs Brewery at Barrowford, revealed plans for a 100,000 pound extension and warned of the imminent need for 60 employees; Creighton Caravans Ltd., took over the former bus depot, in Charles Street, with the promise of an increased labour force, and Salon (Nelson) Ltd., bought Hollin Mill.

Other industries crept into Nelson, and many already there, notably Southalls (Birmingham) Ltd., at Lomeshaye Mill, announced expansion plans.


Second Phase

This sudden flood of prosperity had its problems, and the Town Council were quick to act on it. As Alderman Ronald Hoggarth, chairman of the Development Committee pointed out only last November:

We must now start thinking of the second phase of industrial development. We must start thinking of attracting back the old population, and the introduction of new, particularly in view of the fact that just over 32,000 ratepayers now have to pay the way of the town which 40,000 use to pay. (The general rate rose from 17s. 9d. in 1957 to 22s. 3d. in 1961 while in the same period, the rateable value of the borough rose from 350,660 pounds to 411,003 pounds) That is not good economics for the town. If we can introduce new population, then no avenue should be left unexplored in an effort to do it.

By the very nature of its history, Nelson has never had the time or the inclination for complacency, and its people would be the last to suggest that the town is - or ever could be - a 'seventh heaven'. It is a home for workers in some of the world's most grim industries, and, though it has virtually no slum property, it could, obviously never attain the label of 'a garden city.'


To Brighter Things

Nevertheless, the local authority have continually insisted that the population are entitled to homes to be proud of, and at the beginning of the year, they revealed details of a development plan which will, at least, put Nelson on the way to brighter things. The scheme includes the widening of the main road, the building of a new police station, ambulance hall, bus station and car parks, extensions to the G.P.O. and provisions for an ultra-modern shopping area.

And, entirely without the aid of man, the Pendle Forest area around Fence, Wheatley Lane, Barley and Barrowford has provided as a 'horizon' to all this, one of the finest 'natural parks' in the whole county.

Nelson 'at play' has been an equally fascinating story during the past half-century. In the realm of sport, achievements in the summer game take pride of place. Premier members of the Lancashire League, they have claimed more honours than any other club, while their ground - Seedhill - has had the distinction of staging a number of first class County games in its time.


Sporting Hopes

Even to-day the spirit of Constantine, McDonald and Lindwall still hovers over the ground. But there is nothing dream-like about current professional, Johnny Wardle who is expected to weave his spell at the expense of another 100 batsmen next summer.

But before the first batsman takes strike in April 1962, Nelson Football Club, whose ground is 'just over the wall' hope to announce that they have regained the Lancashire Combination Division I championship trophy for the first time for a decade. And with their match programme ever reminding players and spectators that 'Nelson expects ' the prospect may well become fact.
On the entertainment front, the town can claim to have amenities to suit all tastes. There are two cinemas, two ballrooms, a billiards hall and many clubs and pubs. And if the pastimes like golf, tennis, bowls, netball, badminton, rugby, judo, cycling and rambling are demanded they too are on the menu.



The buoyant spirit of Nelson in 1961 was summed up this week by the Mayor (Councillor Richard Stanworth) who told me 'We have little cause for complaint with the way our town is developing, and I have every hope that before my term of office is completed, even greater strides forward will have been made.'

Finally, it must not be forgotten that the Nelson influence prevails in fields of much greater responsibility than would ever be possible within the mere confines of the borough boundary. And the example which springs most readily to mind, of course, is Sir Andrew Smith, 80-year-old former chairman of the Lancashire County Council. He began his political career in the town more than 50 years ago, and became the first ever Socialist chairman of the County Council.

The pioneer spirit again. Such is the Nelson touch!




The 1890 celebratory procession started from the Town Hall, through a Triumphal Arch which was erected at Nelson Centre, via Manchester Road, Lomeshaye Road, Every Street, Carr Road, Clayton Street, Elizabeth Street, Fleet Street, Bradley Road, Leeds Road, Holme street, Sagar Street, Netherfield Road, Railway Street, Scotland Road, Every Street, Carr Road, Cross Street to the Town Hall.

The Charter was then read by the Charter Town Clerk, R. M. Prescott, Esq., in the Corporation Yard and was accepted on behalf of the new Borough on the motion of J. Wilkinson, Esq., seconded by Councillor Hartley, supported by Wm. Astley, Esq., and put by the Provisional Mayor.



Alderman Albert Smith, J.P., C.C.
Born at Keighley, Yorkshire. Took up residence in Nelson in 1889. Spent three years in Australia and New Zealand and returned to Nelson. First elected to Town Council on 22nd November1911 as Councillor for Whitefield Ward. Served for 12 months. Was again elected to the Council in 25th November 1914 and has since continuously been a member of the Council. Elected Alderman on 23rd November 1927. Was a member of the Board of Guardians for 14 years until their abolition in 1930. Elected a Member of the Lancashire County Council on 2nd March 1934 and has continuously represented the North Electoral Division Borough on the County Council since that date. Was Mayor of the Borough during the years 1927-28 and 1928-1929 and was made a Magistrate of the Borough in 1928 and a County Magistrate in 1942. Was the first Chairman of the Nelson Housing Committee, which was inaugurated in 1927. From 1932 until 1945 was Chairman of the Education Committee of the Borough of Nelson and since that time has been Chairman of the Education Divisional Executive for Area No. 9. Is Chairman of the Primary Education Sub-Committee and the Scholarship Sub-Committee of the Lancashire County Education Committee.

Alderman R. Winterbottom
Born at Wheatley Lane. Commenced residence in Nelson 1883. Elected unopposed as Councillor for Netherfield Ward on 1st November 1906. Continued to represent this Ward until 1918, when he resigned from the Council for business reasons. Re-elected as a Member for Southfield Ward on 23rd November 1927 and elected alderman on 9th November 1930. Mayor of Borough 1929-30 and 1930-31. One of the Council's representatives on the Joint Transport Committee since its inception in 1933. Chairman of the Electricity Committee since 1935. Co-opted Member of the Lancashire County Education Committee and the Lancashire Public Assistance Committee. One of the Representatives of the Non-County Boroughs of Lancashire on the Non-Trading Services Whitley Council.


Other People of Interest


Images of Places shown in the Handbook

St Paul's Church, Hibson road and surrounding buildings


Carr Road, about 1910, looking from the Victoria Park area to the tower of the old Market Hall


Some Advertisements Appearing in the Handbook


The Souvenir Handbook contains much more information about the history of Nelson, its Education, Public Health, Cleansing, Water, Gas, Electricity, Housing and other services. It is available for reference in the local study sections of Nelson, Colne and Burnley Libraries.