By 1500, the population of Burnley had grown to over 1,000. As agricultural land became scarce more people began to turn to the manufacture of woollen cloth. After 1553 the Manor Court was held in St. Peter’s Church and the Manor House at Ightenhill became derelict. Burnley continued to grow and develop throughout the 16th and 17th centuries as trade and the woollen industry became more important.
By the early 16th century the church had become dilapidated. In 1532-3 the nave and north aisle were rebuilt. The pillars and part of the panelled roof of the present nave were part of this building. During the Reformation, the Protestant Church replaced Roman Catholicism. In 1552 the vestments, plate and bells were removed from the church. The chantries were dissolved and the closure of the chantry school led to the foundation of Burnley Grammar School in 1559.
This was installed in the church in 1533. Most of it was destroyed in the fire of 1991. A small remaining part is on display in the heritage centre.
The Market Place
In 1617 the market was growing and a new market cross replaced the Medieval one. This cross and a building that served as a market house can be seen in this picture. It was drawn in the 1830s by the Rev. S.J. Allen
In 1644, Charles Towneley was killed fighting for King Charles I at Marston Moor. His body was never found, but he is commemorated on the monument of his son, Richard, in the Towneley Chapel. Earlier in the year several men, killed in a skirmish at Haggate, were buried at the church.
The Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School was founded in 1559. It was probably held in the master’s house until a school was built in the churchyard in 1602. This drawing shows a replacement building opened in 1693. It stood on Bank Parade.