The Moore’s arrived in England as economic migrants, probably to escape Ireland’s Potato Famine, in the mid-19th century, crossing the grey Irish Sea to settle in Cockermouth in Cumberland and earn a living as thread reelers.
They eventually made their move 120 miles south, skirting the beauty of the Lake District, to use their reeling skills in Burnley’s cotton industry and their last two children, Sarah and Ernest, my maternal grandfather, were born there at the end of the century. Ernest on the 30th October 1897
A little earlier, some of the Wiseman’s had loaded their belongings onto carts and left their 18th century, lead mining, roots in Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales, heading 40 miles south west through Skipton to Burnley, some to find work in the mills, others, through family connections, to move into the tanning industry.
Some later returned to Kettlewell to their roots and their fading epitaphs are to be found on headstones in the quiet churchyard there. It’s to be hoped they had some life still left in them to enjoy after Burnley’s factories had taken their toll.
But in Burnley, in December 1898, the year after Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, one line of the family received the best Christmas present of all, a baby, born into a world of clogs and shawls and 100,000 looms who would become my maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Wiseman.
She would later change the date, December 21st, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it inhibited the number of presents she was likely to receive, as she would also announce in her eighties, between draws on one of her favorite cigars, that, “I’d prefer to be called “Kate. I’ve never liked Mary Ann.”
This was to confuse one of my uncles at her funeral when even the vicar announced her as “Kate”, not Mary Ann and he collared me after the ceremony to say that, “They’ve buried the wrong woman.”
That was my Uncle Ernie. He’ll come into the story, too.
The town into which Ernest and Mary had been born was a town of unremitting noise in factories and in streets that echoed to the sound of clogs on stone flagged pavements and of a thousand horse drawn carts rattling along granite sets. Huge carts pulled by teams of horses driven by carters in their leather aprons, smaller carts used by greengrocers, fishmongers, milkmen and coal men, railway and rag and bone men and carts pushed by hand.
A town to get away from if you could afford it, by booking a “Grand Day’s Excursion” at one of Abraham Altham’s grocery shops.
Perhaps a train journey on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway to Blackpool with a half price ticket thrown in which enabled you to walk on its North Pier, proclaimed to be, “The World’s Finest.”
You can no longer buy your tea at Altham’s but Burnley folk can still book holidays through Altham’s Travel Services.
It was a town that had growing civic and cultural aspirations, too.
The Burnley Advertiser, the town’s first newspaper appeared on the streets in 1852.
In 1855 the Mechanic’s Institute Building opened where up to 1000 local students and workers could attend classes in 70 or 80 subjects, including the arts, languages, science and technology. Suitably enough the Photographic Society at the Institute used electricity to illuminate a room there in 1886, the town’s first electric lighting.
Just over 30 years later Burnley had an imposing new Town Hall.
There would be a new Workhouse and you could find peace in Burnley’s first public cemetery in 1856 where, at one time, there were separate burial areas for Anglicans, Catholics and “Dissenters.”
One can’t help feeling that this might cause some dissension if the Last Trumpet finally sounds.
There was a publicly subscribed Reading Room.
A few years later in 1886 H R H Prince Albert Victor K.G., the Queen’s grandson, must have taken pride in announcing the opening of the “Victoria” Hospital from money also raised by public subscription.
Some of the funding was raised by a football competition for the Dr. Dean Charity Cup, now known as the “Hospital Cup” the oldest amateur trophy still played for in the world.
The hospital would have had to cope with the Great Flu Epidemic which lasted from 1889-92, Prince Albert himself becoming a victim of it when he died early in January 1892 a week after his 28th birthday. Shops in Burnley put up their shutters in respect.
Carrying on from Hugh de Lacys Chartered Market, the town proudly opened its first purpose built Corporation Market Hall on a cold January day in 1870, the frost thick on the awnings of the stalls that surrounded it. Stalls where you could buy a steamed black pudding to eat and coat it with mustard to try and stave off the cold.
The Market’s opening would have gone unreported in the present local newspaper, “The Burnley Express” because it didn’t publish its first edition until December 8th, 1877.
Eighty-one years later “The Express” would offer me a job.
They would have reported the opening of Central Baths the first Public Baths owned by the corporation ten years later.
The Baths were still going sixty years on when I was nervously trying to learn to swim in water so chlorinated that you could have walked across it.
The Corporation began to supply the town with electricity in 1893, lighting up the Town Hall clock two years later.
When the weather was good people could now listen to a band and take a stroll in two newly opened public parks, Queen’s and Scott’s where the numbers became so huge, signs had to be put up asking people dressed up in their Sunday best to keep to the paths.