Snapshot into everyday life of Burnley businessmen in the 1500s

IMPRESSIVE HOME An idealised representation of Danes House which is of the same period as the houses occupied by the Halsteads and the Pollardes (s)
IMPRESSIVE HOME An idealised representation of Danes House which is of the same period as the houses occupied by the Halsteads and the Pollardes (s)

Some weeks ago I was writing about the early textile industry in Burnley. I indicated the articles already published were the first in a series, which we have called “Burnley: Cotton Town”, but I would add articles until the series is completed.

That plan has had to be temporarily abandoned as I have to meet a deadline for my next book.

TEXTILE TRADE A drawing of an handloom of the type that was common in Burnley in the 17th Century. This one is based on a Scottish model. Burnley looms may have been a little smaller than this one. (s)

TEXTILE TRADE A drawing of an handloom of the type that was common in Burnley in the 17th Century. This one is based on a Scottish model. Burnley looms may have been a little smaller than this one. (s)

I have decided, therefore, to make use of some information that has fallen into my hands from the former WEA Local History Class which operated in Burnley. I have Ramon Collinge, former secretary of the group, to thank for the transcripts of several inquisitions post-mortem.

The two I am going to use relate to late 16th Century which is about the point I got to in the “Burnley: Cotton Town” series. They refer to John Pollarde of Habergham Eaves, who died in 1592, and Nicholas Halstead, who died in 1587, possibly in the same place.

There are a few points to clarify before we go further. Habergham Eaves is the name of the township between Burnley and Hapton. It was much larger (in area) than Burnley and, when the Borough of Burnley was created, in 1861, there were more people living in Habergham than Burnley.

Since the 19th Century quite a lot of Habergham has been subsumed into Burnley but the old boundary between the two was the River Calder. Everything to the west of the Calder was in Habergham. The land to the east was in Burnley. This means none of Towneley Park was actually in Burnley. This estate was largely in Habergham, though other parts of it were in Cliviger and the former Township of Brunshaw.

Another point which may interest you, is that Burnley’s present Town Hall, though it is in Burnley, is actually on the border of the two townships. In this respect Burnley is like Todmorden but, in the latter case, the magnificent Todmorden Town Hall occupies land in both Stansfield and Langfield, the two townships in that part of the world.

Often people do not know what an “inquisition post-mortem” might be. The clue is in the latter part of the phrase which means “after death”. An inquisition is an inquiry carried out by friends, or business acquaintances, of someone who is recently dead.

Such documents, the originals of which had to be preserved by the Church (in this case the local bishop) can tell us much about individuals who lived many years ago. However, not everyone was wealthy enough to warrant an inquisition being compiled and, in some circumstances, a Will was all that was needed.

In other words, if people were to go to the trouble of assessing the wealth of a deceased individual that person had to be of some means.

That said, I have seen inquisitions drawn up which contain only one or two items and can think of one where the only item of any value was a sack of limestone!

The inquisitions we are going to look at today tell us much more than that. I was thinking of reproducing them for you and letting you work out the sort of people they reveal. I decided against that in favour of using the inquisitions to assess the sort of people to whom the documents refer, but, before I do that, I ought to explain that we do not know which properties were occupied by either of these men.

This is certainly the case with Nicholas Halstead as there were Halsteads (or Halsteds) at a number of houses in the Burnley, Briercliffe, Worsthorne and Habergham areas. My guess is that Nicholas was a resident of the latter. It is known the Halsteads of Briercliffe and Worsthorne had connections with Habergham. A reference, in Nicholas’s inquisition to Hargher Clough does not prove anything in particular but it might be a clue to the identification of a residential property.

In the case of John Pollarde, the place where he lived is described as “Moysley in Habergham Eaves”. We now know that a Moseley, or Moseley Height, is located above the old Back Lane. At the time of the inquisition Moseley (sometimes Mozeley) was an area of scattered farms above Burnley Wood.

One or two of them were quite substantial, including Moseley itself, and another, Hollingreave, though it is some distance away, is also known. Howarth Fold might be included in this area.

As we cannot, at this stage, be sure of the actual properties occupied by the Halsteads and the Pollardes, I cannot illustrate this article with a building known to have been the property of either of the families. What I can do is give you an idea of the kind of house both the Halsteads and Pollardes are likely to have called home. For this purpose I have chosen Danes House which stood, not in Habergham, but in Burnley, close to the site of the present Prestige Park which is where Sainsbury’s is located.

This house dates from roughly the same period when the inquisitions were made. It was built of stone, with a flagged stone roof and I suspect that, what we are going to find in the homes of the Halsteads and Pollardes, might also have been found at Danes House. Mind you, I am not sure the properties occupied by our families would have had gardens as impressive as the one you see here!

So what do the inquisitions post-mortem reveal? The first thing to say is that the properties were similar in that they were representative of the same class. John Pollarde was described as “Clothier” and it is likely Nicholas Halstead would have been described in the same, though the word is missing from his inquisition.

A “Clothier” is simply someone who makes, or sells, cloth, often both. He, and at this time they were almost exclusively men, would have been a small capitalist employer attending the local cloth markets and possibly having connections to the great cloth market in London. Some clothiers were quite large businessman though, relatively speaking, the Burnley ones were quite small.

We know a little about a Burnley family, which, though they were in business just after this time, and were in a similar line of business, they did not describe themselves as clothiers. There was a Lawrence Towneley living at Windle House, Habergham, in 1623. He was the uncle of another Lawrence Towneley who was a mercer, a dealer in textiles and fine fabrics.

We know something about the latter Lawrence because, in 1881, when the market cross opposite St Peter’s Church was moved, to make way for the new tramline, a trade token (a form of coinage) was found lodged in its stones.

When the token was lost is not known but it was made of brass and bore, on one side, the arms of the Mercers’ Company and the words “Lawrence Towneley”. On the other side are the words “Of Burnley, 1669” and “His Halfpenny”. Tokens, like this one, were used in place of coin of the realm when the latter was in short supply which was often the case. Lawrence would have had to guarantee the value of all the tokens he issued.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the token though I do know a little about the Towneleys of Dutton. Their house, which was located near Ribchester, is still standing and very impressive, in the vernacular style of the area, it is too. The family, descending from the second Lawrence’s older brother, Henry, were later known as the Towneleys of Belfield, which is in the Rochdale area. One of them, Colonel Richard Towneley, was a pioneer of the movement to establish Sunday Schools.

It might be of interest to note that the Towneleys of Dutton and Belfield were related to both of Burnley’s Towneley families, the Towneleys of Towneley and the Townleys of Royle. Similarly, it is worth pointing out that a quite a number of the Towneleys of Dutton were engaged in the textile industry as either clothiers or mercers, indicating that the family thought that engagement in textiles was more profitable than running what we would call a country estate, though theirs was quite a small one.

However, we ought to get back to our Halsteads and Pollardes. They may have known the first Lawrence Towneley (the one that lived at Windle House in 1623). It is likely this house was not unlike the ones they lived in. We have a picture of it as it was in 1742 though, at that time, it was the home of a Henry Halstead who may, or may not, have been related to Nicholas.

The two inquisitions, only five years apart, confirm these households were similar. Both mention kitchen equipment and domestic furniture common in late Tudor houses but, in this respect, the Pollarde inquisition contains more detail. It refers to arks and chistes (wooden furniture used for storage), brasse pottes (brass pots, used for cooking), fryinge panes and the like.

Also detailed are the beds and bed linen. The Pollarde inquisition refers to sheets and “coverlettes” whereas the Halstead mentions “beddinge sheettes” and “Lyninne” (linen) together with “a bed of Clothes for his son, George”.

If we look further we find both men are farmers and are keeping animals and growing crops.

John Pollarde has 4s.4d (c22p) worth of hens and geese. He also has a horse and a mare and two “heffers” though I cannot find any reference to sheep. There were 20 sheep at the Halstead farm but he also had horses, cattle, gyese (geese) and hennes (hens) and both had a prodigious quantity of agricultural implements, though in Pollarde’s inquisition they are referred to “iron tools for husbandry”.

Some of the items grown and produced are mentioned, such as corne (corn, ie mixed grain crops) hay, meal and grotes (oatmeal), maulte (malt) and wheate. Nicholas Halstead’s inquisition mentions “corne upon the earth”. As the document is dated in early April, this will refer to grain crops growing on the land. These also had a value as would the seeds he had ready for planting. They, together with his oatmeal, grottes (oats), malt and duste, whatever that might be, had the not inconsiderable value of £4 2s 8d. (£4.13). Interestingly, butter and cheese are mentioned in the Pollarde inquisition. It is known Burnley farmers made their own butter and cheese.

No one could deny these men were farmers for at least part of their time but their work was not completed. We have seen John Pollarde was described as a clothier but the information on both men indicates they were involved in the making of cloth. Both have, though I will use the wording relating to Mr Pollarde, “twoe paire of loomes and all things belonginge to them”.

Other items relating to the textile industry are listed: a warping woghe and spolewhele, as listed in John Pollard’s inquisition.

That relating to Nicholas Halstead is more detailed and it includes a “spinninge whyele, cards, combs, and a combstocke” all used in textile production.

Then Nicholas Halstead’s inquisition enumerates: “fiftie and three stonne of wole” (wool); “five stone of rough wole” and then there are references to blewe clothe, raw cloth (unbleached cloth), yarn and warps. There is no doubt about it – he is in the cloth trade in a substantial way. It is more difficult to assess the extent of John Pollarde’s involvement but it is clear the description of him as a “Clothier” is accurate.

Nicholas Halstead and John Pollarde were real people. Some of you will be able to count them among your ancestors. They lived at a time when local wool was being exploited much more comprehensively than it had been in the past.

Burnley was becoming a notable textile town and these two inquisitions not only confirm that but indicate the Halsteads and Pollardes were among the leaders of a movement that was gathering pace.

When I get back to writing the series “Burnley: Cotton Town” you will see just how important inquisitions post-mortem (and to a lesser extent wills) can be. In the meantime, I hope this article has set the scene and those of you who like to know how people lived at different times in our history have read something of interest.