Book review: Whalley & Around Through Time by Roger Frost and Ian Thompson

Nestling in the heart of Lancashire’s Ribble Valley lies Whalley, a fascinating rural town which has seen an abundance of change over the last 100 years.

Thursday, 22nd March 2012, 6:00 am

Sheltered by the wooded hillside of Whalley Nab and lying on the banks of the scenic River Calder, the original Whalley village dates way back to the early 600s.

The valleys of the three local rivers, the Calder, the Ribble and the Hodder, contain some of the most beautiful countryside and some of the most historic villages in England.

Their unique charms are not widely recognised but now Lancashire authors Roger Frost and Ian Thompson are putting the rest of the country ‘in the picture’ with a new book of photographs which provides a full-colour visual tour of the area, past and present.

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Through old and new photographs and postcards, readers can enjoy seeing the town as it used to be as well as witnessing the impact of modernisation and building during the 20th century.

With its ancient parish church and Cistercian abbey, Whalley was once the ecclesiastical capital of the area. St Mary and All Saints, founded at the end of the sixth century, was not only the parish church to the village but also parish church to a huge area of north east Lancashire including Burnley, Accrington, Nelson and Colne.

In fact, the parish of Whalley was the largest in England, predating the abbey by almost 700 years. The abbey arrived from the Wirral in 1296 but was dissolved by Henry VIII because of its involvement in the dangerous rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.

In the 17th century, Whalley and the surrounding area became involved in the English Civil War and it was a battle in the village, and another in nearby Read, which determined Lancashire’s support for the Parliamentarian forces.

Some of the biggest changes took place in the 18th century with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. With improved transport, markets expanded and industries that had once been local found that they had regional, national and even international demand.

Men, women and children, who had previously worked at home, found themselves increasingly employed in a new factory or a large mine. Places like Burnley and Colne transformed from insignificant villages to industrial powerhouses, changing the landscape forever.

Whalley & Around visits the villages and communities of this historic area and shows us how they appeared 100 years ago.

There are pictures of the three amazing Anglo Saxon crosses in Whalley parish church graveyard. Said to date back to the 10th and 11th centuries, the crosses were no longer venerated by the 17th century when a mob overturned them and threw them into a ditch.

We see the weir in the Calder built by the abbey’s monks to provide water to drive their corn mill and Whalley’s eye-catching Manor House, home originally to the Brooks family who became bankers after first keeping a safe which the locals used for a small fee.

There are engaging photographs of the abbey and its grounds and the former Calderstones mental hospital building which once dominated Whalley. Land attached to the hospital has now been released for various purposes including housing.

With 180 photographs of Whalley and the surrounding area, this book is a treasure trove of facts, nostalgia, hidden gems to surprise those who know the area and a journey of discovery for any newcomers.

(Amberley, paperback, £14.99)