20th Century Burnley

By the first decade of the century, the population of Burnley had reached over 100,000. World War I and the depression of the 1920s and 30s led to a decline in the textile industry. As a result the population fell and new industries had to be introduced. After World War II Burnley’s cotton industry all but disappeared.

In 1901, as a result of the Burnley Rectory Act of 1890, the first Suffragan Bishop of Burnley was appointed. From then until 1977 St. Peter’s was the only parish in the country whose Rector was also a Bishop.

St Peter’s in the early 20th century

The porch had been added in 1889. The clergy vestry was built in 1903-4.

Inside the church the south and west galleries were removed in 1903-4. Finally the north gallery was taken down in 1957.

Burnley from Clock Tower Mill

It was only during Burnley Fair holiday that the hills could be seen. The rest of the time the town was covered with a pall of smoke.

St. James’s Street c.1910

Electric trams had been introduced in 1901. There had been steam trams in Burnley since 1881 but they had been very unreliable

Opening of Towneley Park, June 1902

Towneley Hall and parkland was purchased from Lady O’Hagan for £ 17,000. The Hall was opened as a museum and art gallery in May 1903.

Burnley Technical Institute

The building on Ormerod Road was designed by G.H. Pickles, the Borough Surveyor, and opened in 1909. It had textile, mining, engineering, science and commercial departments. It also housed the School of Art and Burnley Girls’ High School.

Burnley F.C. win the Cup, 1914

The Burnley team returned after beating Liverpool 1 – 0 at Crystal Palace. For that year only the F.A. Cup was known as the English Cup. It was presented for the first time by a reigning monarch – George V.

In 1923 special services and events were held to mark the 800th anniversary of the church. These included the dedication of the memorial tablet and Towneley Chapel altar.

St. Peter’s War Memorial, dedicated in 1920, commemorates 115 men from the church who lost their lives in World War I. Their names are recorded on a tablet next to the Towneley Chapel which was refurnished as a memorial. In total almost 4000 Burnley men were killed during the war.

In 1923 the church bells were found to be unsafe. They were re-cast and dedicated in 1925. The photograph shows Bishop Henn in procession at the dedication service.

Road widening outside St. Peter’s, 1928

As the use of the motorcar increased, improvements to many roads became necessary. Here the bridge over the River Brun near to the church is being widened.

Burnley’s first corporation bus, 1924

The first routes served parts of the town that did not have trams. The buses were designed by the Tramways Department with seats running lengthways as in trams. Gradually trams were replaced by buses and finally ended in 1935.

Burnley Central Library

The library was opened by Lord Elgin in July 1930. The Carnegie U.K. Trust gave £16,000 towards the total cost of £37.000. There had previously been free municipal libraries at Trafalgar Street and Colne Road.

Education in the Borough

Following the Education Act of 1902, School Boards were abolished and the Borough Council became responsible for education in the town. This chart illustrates the educational opportunities available in Burnley in the 1920s.

Thompson Park

The park was opened in July 1930 and was paid for from a legacy by J.W. Thompson. At a time of high unemployment, its construction provided work for 50 men at a weekly wage of £2 15s.

Platers and Stampers 1937

This factory was built by the Borough Council although this was beyond their powers at the time. It was an attempt to attract new firms to the town to replace the declining textile industry. The façade is now a listed building and is part of the Prestige Retail Park.

Bank Hall Colliery

Burnley’s largest pit closed in 1971. In 1982 Hapton Valley Pit – scene of the towns worst mining disaster in 1962 – closed, bringing an end to coal-mining in the town.

Local Government Reorganisation

In 1974, Burnley lost its status as a County Borough. Lancashire County Council took over some of the most important services – education, libraries, the police etc. At the same time Padiham Urban District and Burnley Rural District were added to the Borough. This is reflected in the new coat-of-arms.

The M65

The motorway cut a vast swath through the town. Its opening in 1981 brought a long-awaited improvement to the area’s road network. It was not until 1998 that it was linked to the M6 and M61.

Habergham High School, 1981

The amalgamation of the Grammar School and Girls High School to form Habergham High School and Sixth Form Centre completed the change to comprehensive education in Burnley.

St. James’s Street, 1990

In the 1960s the Victorian market hall had been demolished and a new shopping centre built. By 1990 the first phase of the pedestrianisation of the town’s main street had been carried out.

Church Restoration, 1989-1992

Problems with the foundations led to an extensive programme of restoration. As it was being completed, the tower and part of the roof were gutted by fire in September 1991. The church did not reopen until December 1992.

Market Charter Celebrations

In 1994, the town celebrated the 700th anniversary of the granting of the market charter by Edward I. The events included the reading of the charter and a civic service at St. Peter’s.

Dedication of Two New Bells

In 2003, two new bells were installed in the tower to mark the 200th anniversary of the peal of 1803. The present peal of ten bells is one of 250 world-wide and is regarded as amongst the best in Britain.

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