Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection
The River Calder leads a double life-one moment it is wandering lazily through beautiful countryside the next being channeled under and around decaying industrial buildings.

This 1978 article by Richard Catlow follows the course of this fascinating river looking at some of the interesting places it passes on this journey towards the sea, at some of the historic and amusing events which are taking place along its banks.

Some new photographs have been added to this article-in the absence of the original negatives or prints.

Calder is town's real river - it swallows Brun


Haymaking in the lush fields behind the Ram at Cliviger, where the Calder receives its major tributary from Dodbottom Clough


It looks like the Lake District. Infact it is one of the little known Calderhead pools, near where the river has its source.

Burnley gets its name from the River Brun, flowing from the Hills around Hurstwood to what were once the meadows about St Peter's Church.

But Burnleys real river is the Calder which swallows up the Brun at Caldervale and along whose banks industrial Burnley grew up.

The Calder rises in the Cliviger Gorge East of Holme chapel just a few yards away from another River Calder.

This Yorkshire Calder Close and finally reaches the sea via the Humber at Hull. Our Calder flows west winding through industrial Burnley and Padiham as well as some surprisingly unspoiled countryside.

The name Calder which is a common river name in the north of England is a Celtic word probably meaning rapid River, perhaps a reference to the way the levels can rise swiftly when there is heavy rain on the surrounding moors.

The gorge in which the River he's one of the best in the country a huge trench lined with drop faces boulders slitting the Pennine chain in half.

Around Holme Chapel it is at its prettiest thanks in large part to the efforts of one particular man-Dr Thomas Dunham Whitaker, writer of the History of Whalley more than a century and a half ago. He planted half a million trees and bushes on the hillside near the Holme and is efforts on him the gold medallion of the Royal Geographical Society and the thanks generations of the country lovers.

There has been a house on the site of the Holme since at least the 14th century but the present fine building dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Its years as a private house now seem to be coming to an end and its future could be as a country club.

Next door to the Holme is the attractive St John's Church where Burnleys most illustrious war hero Sir James Yorke Scarlett is buried. He led the charge of the heavy Brigade-a successful sequel to the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean war. But he it was less successful when he returned home to stand as Conservative parliamentary candidate for Burnley being beaten by Liberal Richard Shaw.

The Ram Inn has a highly decorative inn sign and a flight of mounting steps to aid the mounted trade. From the side of the inn an old lane leads down across the Calder and under the railway line too secretive Dodbottom Wood. This tree lined ravine with the waterfalls, Banks of rhododendrons and remains of all pathways built for the more staid walkers of the Victorian period crumbling away beneath the undergrowth.

Only one thing mars the view and that is the bright orange colour of the water in the stream-staying by the iron compounds seeping out from the old coal workings upstream. From this point where it means this stream the Calder is polluted for the remainder of its journey until it joins the Ribble near Whalley. The water authority is carrying out an experimental scheme to try and clean the water.


On the left - Local riders gather outside the Ram Inn-where its mounting block can be seen. And on the right Barcroft Hall is seen from a distance across the valley.

The Holme

The Holme -former residence of Dr Whitaker- - The Church at Holme-St Johns

The old coal pit at Walk Mill viewed in the early part of the century

It looks like being a long time before the iron and other pollutants which affect the river are dealt with and people can once again catch salmon in Burnley.

From here it flows by the site of the former colliery and underneath the main road at Walk Mill. In the fields on the right stands Barcroft Hall one of the most magnificent small manor houses in the area, dating from 1641 and steeped in history and legend.

Soon the river is flowing through Towneley Park past one of the finest stately homes in Lancashire. The grounds of Towneley Hall, once a secluded deer park, are now the place where Burnleyites take their exercise at golf, Pitch and putt, football or cricket.

At Towneley School the River says farewell to the countryside and enters a new life, Hidden away behind and beneath buildings, running in a cobbled channel-as though people were ashamed of it.


Left: behind St James St. shops from Cow Lane Bridge and Right: Brun joins the Calder amid a scene of squalor

This channel was it built to increase the speed of water flow in the days when the Calder was a sewer, for effluent to be washed away more swiftly and healthfully. Constrained it in its bed of masonry the river looks so tame it is hard to believe the folk of Burnley Wood had a great trouble in crossing it, for as fast as they could build flimsy bridges across the river it swept them away. It travels underground again to appear behind the Town hall, and flows past the once Victoria Mill Dye works.
Behind the old cooperative buildings in Hammerton Street and shops and theatre on St James Street the Calder goes on its way noticed by the crowds of shoppers nearby and under the main road it enters Calder Vale name which conjures up a picture of Green Meadows on the riverside-but is now in place some of the towns oldest mills can still be seen.
Here the River Brun pours over a weir to mingle its waters with the larger Calder and the United Rivers continue with renewed vigour under the giant railway viaduct.

The viaduct is one of Burnleys most spectacular engineering achievements.

This is probably the towns most forgotten area, a tight knit district where old mills now serve different purposes, where faded names on windows tell of the past glories of cotton and indistinct signs on doorways speak of other uses. It is a sad area now. The sadness that always seems to come over a place when its great days are gone and it seems to have no new role play.

Past Burnley paperworks and the bottom end of Stoneyholme - the name referring to the stony island in the river that once existed-the Calder travels onwards now flowing through fine countryside of woodland hedges and fields contrasting with the tightly packed streets of the urban landscape it has just left.

On the banks here stood until the Second World War Royle Hall a Tudor built home which was one of the finest in the district. It was for centuries the home of the Townley family who later married with the Parker family of Extwistle and Cuerdale to become the Townley Parkers. Canon Arthur Townley Parker became the first rector of Burnley in 1855-a post he held until 1901. The Calder more than doubles in size when it meets Pendle Water at the Wood End sewerage works. This is a quiet spot and herons flapping lazily up from the waters edge are by no means an uncommon sight. The River which began as a trickle at Cliviger is now an impressive body of water drawing water from the hills on every side and flowing proudly on towards its eventual goal the sea.

Royle Hall - Home of the Townley-Parkers, but demolished after 2nd WW


From Wood End the Calder comes to the footbridge inviting walkers down from Ightenhill Park Lane and on into Pendleside. Formerly there were steppingstones here but it took local inhabitants quite a fight to keep them. The residents put the stones in place but the landowner Col Starkie sent his men under cover of night to destroy them fearing the trespassing of townsfolk upon his lands. After protest meetings and angry scenes the colonel finally agreed to restore the stones. Now the metal footbridge makes walking easier if less adventurous.


Stepping stones crossing the Calder-A busy place on holiday time and Sundays

On the Pendle bank of the stream stands Pendle Hall Farm it's name recalling the ancient Pendle Hall which stood here. In the farm and its outbuildings can still be seen some of the carved masonry from the old building. Nearby a ruined building is known as Witches Cottage leading some to think this might have been the place where Chattox, the great rival of Demdike once lived. On the left bank of the river is it mysterious Hagg Wood, on its other side lies attractive Brookfoot Farm, next to the curiously named Mona Bents Plantation.

Rising proudly from the trees beyond can be seen on the turrets of Gawthorpe Hall. This fine building which is now under the care of the National Trust was originally a pele tower offering protection against marauding bands of Scots. Last century in 1899 the hall was given a massive facelift by the architect Sir Charles Barry, later to collect a knighthood for designing the Houses of Parliament.

For centuries the hall was the home of the Shuttleworth family and Sir James Kay Shuttleworth who lived there in Victorian times was a noted educational pioneer. The Hon. Rachel Kay Shuttleworth built up a marvellous collection of needlework and today people from all parts of the world, to see it. But even for those without the slightest interest in sewing a visit to the hall is well worth while, both for its beautiful Jacobean rooms and the mature parkland which surrounds it. Part of the grounds are now used by Burnley Football Club which has developed here some of the leading training facilities in the country


The Britannia Mill stone work moved but restored on the site of a supermarket

Beyond the training grounds the Calder enters Padiham beneath the Bendwood footbridge. On the right Britannia Mill has an ornate date stone mounted high on its walls. Padihams name indicates it was founded by the Anglo-Saxons. A chief named Padda evidently is set up his encampment on the little hill overlooking the Calder. After the Norman Conquest the Calder at Padiham was used to power a corn mill, which was the property of the Towneleys. Ancient court records survive detailing disputes this family had with rival mill owners.

The Padiham we see today dates largely from the early Industrial Revolution period, but it's winding cobbled streets and alleyways give it plenty of charm.

The stretch of the Calder from the town hall to the footbridge from the memorial gardens to Padiham Pool is one of the finest stretches of river in North East Lancashire marred only by the pollution. The river sweeps over a weir under overhanging willows and by a great bank swathed in woodland.

It was on this stretch of river that the renowned Professor Unsinque claimed last century he would walk across the river without getting wet. Big crowds turned up to see this feat which had been widely advertised but it turned out to be a hoax and suspicion fell on local innkeepers and traders who had done lively business that day.

Altham Church- a view over the River Calder

The Calder flows under the railway viaduct through green meadows to Padiham powerstation and Mullards factory. Ducking under the main road it rounds ancient Altham Church, which must have one of the most crowded and graveyards in the country judging by the concentration of memorials. The church was was the seat of Rev Thomas Jollie a puritan divine who flourished under Cromwells rule but made enemies along the local gentry.

With the Restoration he was convicted and led a life of secretive preaching and hiding with friends. He was imprisoned for breaking the law that dissenting ministers like himself should not return to their old parishes.
Eventually he settled at Wymondhouses on bleak Pendleside founding there the first Congregational Church in this part of the country.

From Altham, an Anglo-Saxon name which means the hamlet of swans, the Calder winds through rich grassland and past attractively named Gooseleach Wood.

Martholme Viaduct


At Martholme there is an imposing but disused Railway viaduct and the remains of a mediaeval building. There is also the massive new sewerage works which will deal with much of Burnleys effluent.

The Calder flows under Cock Bridge, past Moreton Park and the bank of fine woodland.

Here at Surey there is a young man who pretended to be harbouring a devil, to the horror of local people. His act of being possessed won him great fame and took in the Rev Jollie and other leading clergy of the day.

On the left bank of the river a great mound is said to be the place Abbot Paslew, the last abbot of Whalley Abbey was hanged for his part in an abortive rising against King Henry VIII.

Moreton Hall -on a high vantage point over the Calder-sadly demolished after 2ndWW


The Calder now enters Whalley itself past the house where Harrison Ainsworth wrote his Lancashire Witches book and the substantial remains of Whalley Abbey, the historic parish church and the even older Celtic preaching crosses.

The giant red brick viaduct is an imposing site from a time much nearer our own and the Calder has now only a few short but picturesque miles to run past the Woods of Calderstones Hospital until it merges its waters the Ribble under the gaze of Hacking Hall one of the finest houses in the district.

Photos of Whalley- left-The Marjorie on the banks of the Calder. middle-View down King Street to the river. right-View towards the Parish Church with one of the ancient crosses

Hacking Hall- at the confluence of Calder and Ribble