The village of Slaidburn is a popular destination today for lovers of the countryside. There’s a wealth of history to be seen and, importantly for those that have driven from a distance, a large car park. The village is situated at the meeting point of the River Hodder and Croasdale Beck. Its architecture has changed little since the 1800s, as most of the buildings are owned by one family, the King-Wilkinsons.
The settlement’s roots lie deeper in the past. In Medieval times, Slaidburn was the administrative centre for the Royal Forest of Bowland. Tenants from the surrounding farms would trek to the village to pay their rents. More importantly for the area, it had a Halmote Court to arbitrate over local land disputes.
On this page the curiosities are discussed in a roughly chronological order, and at the bottom in the ‘Access’ section a short route is described so that you may see them all.
The Medieval Church Cross
One of the oldest curiosities in the village is the stone cross shaft which stands by the church tower. This dates from the 1300s, and would have originally been much taller. Its four sides bear different designs: three St Andrew crosses; an M with a crown (possibly Mary, mother of Jesus); IHC (the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek and which is interpreted ‘Jesus Saviour of men’); plus a fourth side that is too eroded to make out. It was discovered by the Reverend Lewes Jones, the local rector, in the bank of a stream close to Dunnow Lodge. Such disrespect and disregard was often meted out to crosses in the turbulent years of dispute within the Christian Church. (Other crosses similarly mistreated include those at Whalley and Doffcocker).
Nearby to the cross is a sundial dating from 1796, but the steps it stands on could well have been those of the Medieval market cross that once stood by the Hark to Bounty and Black Bull public houses.
The Halmote Court and Hark to Bounty Inn
In 1590, the Halmote Court was transferred from its previous location to where it still is located today, upstairs at the Hark to Bounty. It is accessed by the steps outside the inn, and the large courtroom is still preserved inside. It dealt with land transactions and disputes, and probably minor criminal misdemeanours. It continued to be used in a legal capacity until the mid 1930s.
The pub was originally called The Dog Inn. Local tradition states that it was renamed in 1875, when Reverend Wigglesworth sitting within heard his favourite hound outside with the hunting pack and remarked “Hark to Bounty!” (There are a number of Hark to… public houses, more in Lancashire than any other county – see the footnote below).
The Slaidburn Archive
The archive building dates from the 1600s and was originally a farmhouse. Over the years, it has been variously used as a joiner’s workshop, stable and coal store. The Slaidburn Archive is open to visitors. It maintains a huge amount about the local history of the area. See its very comprehensive website here.
Above the doorway of Brennand’s School is a plaque which states “This Grammar school erected and endowed by John Brennand late of Panehill in this Parish, Gentleman who died the 15th day of May in the year of our Lord 1717”. John lived nearby at Pain Hill Farm, and in his will he left “£200 of lawful money”. This paid for the construction of the boys’ grammar school, and for a priest and a deacon to run it.
Originally the building had a dormitory floor to accommodate boarders. The children paid pennies for their lessons and books, and this money went towards paying the teachers. By 1878, fifty children were on the register. Records show that everyday life got in the way of them all attending during certain times of year. There were recorded absences for gathering sticks of firewood, village spring-cleaning and sheep washing. In 1905 the numbers were swelled to eighty, with girls joining the school for the first time.
There are two impressive bridges in the village. The oldest one is over the Croasdale Brook, on a road known as the Skaithe (a Norse word for trackway). It has a wide arch that spans the brook, and a smaller arch perhaps once used for a footpath.
The other one is Slaidburn Bridge, over the River Hodder. This lies close to the village green and dates from the late 1700s, replacing an earlier one that was recorded as decayed in 1642. This bridge has been widened and sees a considerable amount of traffic today as it lies on the main route to Long Preston.
The Village Green
The green for many years would have had rabbit pelts laid out to dry on it. The fur from these were combined with wool from the local sheep to make felt. This industry thrived for many years, but was outcompeted when the mechanisation of the hat industry took off in the 1850s, in Stockport.
The popular café on the green was a joiner’s shop. The joiner would cater to local farmers, making farming tools and repairing carts. He would also construct the coffins.
William King-Wilkinson’s Additions
Since the late 1800s, the King-Wilkinson family have owned much of the property in Slaidburn, and have had a huge influence over village life. One of its most prominent members of the family was William King-Wilkinson and, as local squire, he was keen on improvements to the village. His initials can be seen on the Waterloo Building, the Reading Rooms that acted as a library and a place for men to play billiards, the well which was built to Commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, and on the Girls’ School.
Into the 20th Century
A fine War Memorial stands close by the Victorian well in the spot that was previously occupied by the old village lamp post. It commemorates the lives lost of men from Slaidburn, Newton and Dunsop Bridge.
Close to the well is another Jubilee commemoration, this time for Queen Elizabeth II, in the form of the Jubilee Gardens. In 1900, this area of land was used by the Turners’ clog making firm. Here they carved, stacked and seasoned their clog soles.
One of the most unusual curiosities in Slaidburn stands opposite the Hark To Bounty. It is a St John’s Ambulance box. This once stored rescue equipment including a stretcher. This presumably accounts for the tall, thin nature of the box. One local history leaflet states that the equipment was used to rescue injured fell walkers, and more enigmatically it adds “and wounded airmen”.
The Access section below gives a brief walking guide around the village to see the curiosities.
Footnote on the Hark to... name
The Hark to… name seems to be predominantly be found in Lancashire as opposed to elsewhere in the country. There is a Hark to Bellman in Clitheroe and a Hark to Towler in Heywood. The last two pubs are associated by some sources along with Hark to Bounty with the Georgian Cumberland huntsman John Peel, although why he should be in Lancashire is not made clear. A second Hark to Towler existed in Tottington, Bury until recently, and Bury also has a Hark to Dandler. Oldham has a Hark to Topper.
Sites visited by A. and S. Bowden 2020
Park at the large car park by the village green. There are public toilets and also an excellent café here. A simple route to see the above sites is as follows:
The route starts at Slaidburn Parish Church. To reach the church from the car park, head down to the Hodder River across the green. Keep the river on your left and look for a footpath that takes you up a slope and into fields. You can see the church in the near distance. Head for it and enter through the graveyard at the back of the church. After admiring the outside of the building (and possibly the inside if it is open), head around to the tower to see the Medieval cross. From here it is just a few paces to reach the sundial. Exit the churchyard by going down the unusual ‘riding steps’ where horseback riders could dismount and tie their horses up to the church wall.
Head up the street to view Brennand’s Endowed School and the Slaidburn Archive.
At the top of the street turn left to see the Hark to Bounty Inn and the St John Ambulance box outside the Waterloo Buildings. Go down the street to view the Reading Rooms. Then retrace your steps back to the Hark to Bounty. Continue past it to see the Girls’ School, Jubilee Gardens, war memorial and well.
Take a detour to the left to walk down the Skaithe to see the bridge over Croasdale Brook. Then retrace your steps back to the war memorial, turn left and head down to view the village green. Here you can see the joiner’s shop (now the café) and Slaidburn Bridge over the River Hodder.
Slaidburn: A Walk through the Village, Jenny Bradley (2011), Slaidburn Village Archive
Slaidburn Village Trail, unknown author (1999), Heritage Trust North West
Through all the Changing Scenes, Jenny and Don Bradley (2002), Nayler The Printer Ltd
Interpretation board outside Slaidburn Parish Church