Burnley church’ Field Day’ from 1910

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Whenever I have published photos of Field Day Processions of local churches and chapels, I know many readers have enjoyed seeing them as you have contacted me to tell me so.

Imagine my delight, therefore, to find, at a recent Postcard Fair, the magnificent image of Claremont Field Day (Procession) June 18th, 1910, I publish today.

It cost me only £3 but I think it is a Richard Broughton postcard. He was a local photographer – initially amateur – but eventually a professional with studios in the Padiham Road area of Burnley. As you can see, the card is beautifully composed, typical of Broughton, but I like the little detail, to the right, where a little girl seems to be explaining something to her friend. What it might have been, we will never know but I think you will agree it adds something to the picture.

Richard Broughton was the subject of an article, by the late Peter Sewell, in the 2006 edition of “Retrospect”, the Journal of the Burnley and District Historical Society. Peter was collecting postcards of the area covered by the Settle to Carlisle railway and came across a number of cards which had certain similarities.

The most distinctive of these can be seen in the card I reproduce today. It was the neatness of the manually applied description of the location of the card. In this image the description reads “Claremont Field Day, June 18th 1910 No 2”. Notice, also, the first letter of each word is slightly larger than the succeeding letters. This is a characteristic of Broughton postcards.

There must have been at least one more card and I would not be surprised if a number of them were made to record the event. I have indicated, when writing about postcards, that many local photographers – amateur and professional – issued multiple numbers of cards of images in the hope those depicted would by more than one card. I suspect this will have happened here but I have not seen “Claremont Number 1” or “Claremont Number 3”, if there was one. If you have such images I would be pleased to hear from you.

Incidentally, Peter noted the short description on each card asthe wording was neatly executed by hand. No printing press was involved. The process was not easy because, all the letters had to be written back to front and applied to a negative (a glass plate) before the printing process could commence.

In many cards of this type the descriptions, often called “titles”, are very crude and certain letters stand out as being particularly badly formed. “S” is the telling letter but Broughton did not have to reproduce this letter for this card. The only really difficult shapes he had to deal with were not letters but numbers – numbers 2 and 8 in fact, and, in both examples, you will see the numbers are a little less well executed than they might be.

Richard Broughton was born in Burnley in 1867 and Peter Sewell has traced his Burnley addresses through the local electoral registers and Barrett’s Commercial Directories of the time. Without going into all the details, we know that, from 1910 to 1911, he lived at 352 Padiham Road and, in the latter year, is described as a photographer at that address.

Those of you who know Burnley will be aware the Richard Broughton card is of Padiham Road, which is one of Burnley’s most distinctive highways. The same people will also know very little has changed with regard to the buildings in this image. I think it can be safely said all the properties shown on this card remain standing today, though the stone setts, gas lamp and columns which carry the overhead cables for the electric trams have disappeared.

I have added a picture of the Tim Bobbin, the pub, which can be seen in the middle right of the postcard image. The terrace, left, and those on the right, beyond the Tim Bobbin, are all still very much in evidence and, together, constitute some of the best sandstone terraces you will see anywhere in the district.

There have been changes to almost all the properties. Perhaps the most obvious is that many of the chimney pots have been removed from the roofs of the houses. Of course, when they were built, these houses were heated by coal fires and the pots tell us how many hearths, or fires, were in each house. The majority appear to have four which is one up on most terraced houses in Burnley. Some, as you will know, had two and others only one.

Another thing that has changed can only just be seen. It is not as obvious as the first observation but if you look to the left, where there is a man on a bike (perhaps two men on two bikes), you will notice, that behind the man in front, the garden to this house is protected by iron railings. As you will know, iron was in short supply during the last war and most of these railings were removed for the War Effort and not restored once Hitler had been defeated.

I suppose we could all spend some time looking for things that have changed but I want to get to the Field Day Procession itself. First, we ought to see what we can find out about Claremont. There is a street off Padiham Road known as Claremont Street and, if you visit it, you will find the Claremont Schools and United Methodist Church. The latter is at the bottom of the street and it runs along Tabor Street.

On the other side of the street (the right from Padiham Road) there are some good terraced houses, a little smaller than those shown on the postcard. In the past the left side of the street, much as it is now, was dominated by Claremont School and Chapel but, in recent years, though Wright’s furniture store is located in what was the impressive chapel, the school buildings are not in good order and are partly demolished.

The chapel at Claremont was built in 1891 at a cost of £2,500. It was designed by Victor Dunkerley, a Burnley architect with offices in Bank Chambers, Hargreaves Street. It was built by the Burnley firm of Smith Brothers, of Eastham Place, off Yorkshire Street, who were responsible for a number of important Burnley buildings including the Palace Hippodrome in the town centre. The church closed as a place of worship in 1961.

I have referred to Claremont School was built as a Sunday School but before the chapel itself was constructed. It was in use as a school in 1889 though the status of this school is not clear. What is known is Claremont was a Board School (for the Burnley School Board) by 1893. By 1903 there were 1,095 children, mixed and infants, at the school and the headmaster was Alexander Stell.

It is likely Claremont was one of those schools that was used as both a day dchool, five days a week, and a Sunday School on the Sabbath. The photo shows the Sunday School children on one of the most important days in the calendar, the Field Day.

Everyone looked forward to the Field Day which took place annually in the summer months when there was the hope the weather might match the occasion. What happened was that there would be a procession in the morning, when everyone – children and members of the church – would dress up in all their finery and process through the town.

This was meant to be a statement not only prosperity of the chapel but also confirmation of the role of the chapel in the wider community. It was essential everyone was there as everyone had a role to play even if they were merely making up the numbers. After the procession almost everyone involved would make their way to a recreation ground of some kind where sports were enjoyed and there was lots to eat and drink.

I am not sure where the Claremont Sports Day was held. It was not held in Ightenhill Park in 1910 as that was not opened until 1912. However, Whittlefield Recreation Ground was accessed from Tabor Street, adjacent to the chapel.

Of course, being Methodists, alcohol was not apparent but the Field Day was a great institution and we get just a little of its significance in this magnificent image from Burnley in 1910. Innocent it may appear but everyone in the picture would have to face the horrors of the First World War in only four years time.