As I write this, I am viewing a watercolour painted between 1900 and 1910.
It depicts the view across the site of the proposed Waddow View development looking towards the castle. Of course, the artist did not choose to paint this scene at random, it represents an ancient and historic aspect of Clitheroe.
In the field now owned by the Auction Mart, horses are grazing. This field was then used by what is now known as the Swan and Royal Hotel and the horses would belong to travellers staying at the hotel.
This picture is, however, just a snap shot in history of an area of much greater significance. For hundreds of years, traders, raiders, travellers and soldiers would follow the highway from Preston along the River Ribble and, when they turned right on seeing the castle, this would be their first view of the town of Clitheroe. The travellers and tradesmen would be reassured by the sight of the castle towering over the town that this would be a safe place to visit. Those intent on mischief would recognise that Clitheroe was equipped to deal with them. It is interesting to note that while there has been development fanning out from the base of the castle over the years, the view of the castle from the proposed site and of this site from the castle has not changed at all.
As years went by, the purpose of this ancient pathway slowly adapted to become one of the most important routes from the town to Clitheroe’s major entertainment area. A racecourse was established by the river where even a Derby winner was trained and raced with the crowds gathering on the natural Grandstand formed by the high banks set back from the river. Later boats were available for hire on the river, fairs were held on the adjacent field and, in winter, the area between the weir and Brungerley Bridge became a skating rink. As recently as 1963 a skating festival went on for weeks.
In modern times, the ancient pathway across this site has been further adapted. Now naturalists, fishermen, young courting couples and those not so young, families on picnics, dog walkers, school kids celebrating the end of term and those just seeking solace in the beauty of this open space between the town and the River Ribble, use this timeless route. The site of the proposed Waddow View development is not just part of our Historic Heritage but is also part of our Living Heritage.
It could be said that local government in Clitheroe is also part of our Ancient and Living Heritage. Of course, when the raiders and traders came up the river, local government probably depended on the strength of the garrison at the castle and the powers invested in the local Lords by the Charter of 1283 but by the time of the boats on the river and the fairs on the banks, the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 had established a form of local council. Now the present day embodiment of that council, part of our ancient but living heritage will determine the future of the ancient but living open space that is so much a part of Clitheroe’s history. Will YOUR councillors preserve this space or sacrifice it to the God of Concrete?
DR JOHN ROYLE,