Tue 11 Jan
Boyd Harris - The Social History of
a Lancashire Village and Paper Mill (1843 to present)
industrial revolution of the 19th century expanded, more mills
and workers were needed.
Sites for these mills were largely dependent on a water supply
and transport systems to bring raw materials in and produce out.
Some mills were too far from centres of population so 'colony'
villages had to be built nearby to house the workers.
And so Withnell Fold village and Paper Mill were built on a
green-field site in 1843. The owner and builder was Thomas
Blinkhorn Parke (1823-1885), the son of Robert Park, a local
Cotton Mill owner. It is interesting to note the variation of
the spelling of Park(e). Up to the 1850s T.B.Parke did not have
and ‘e’ on the end. After that the family name had changed to
Parke. The houses in Withnell Fold Village were way ahead if
their time. Each house had its own garden and outside toilet.
Though no ‘flush’ toilets were available in those days.
Thomas Blinkhorn Parke (1823-1885)
T.B.Parke (centre back) with some
of his workers.
Joseph Blackburn, Peter Brindle (Long Peter), T.B.Parke
Richard Cranshaw (sitting), John Eccles, John Hilston. c1875
building in March 1843, to being in production by Jan 1844 he
took just 10 months to build a mill and village. And when he
started building work he was just 19 years old!
The village now bears the name of the adjacent Farm but that
wasn’t always the case. The early maps and census records refer
to the village as ‘Spring Vale’. The name comes from an area in
Darwen where papermaking was one of the main industries. In the
1840s one of the mills burnt down and the workers were out of a
job. And so T.B. Parke took the opportunity to recruit a skilled
and ready made workforce for his new mill.
Herbert Thomas Parke (1859-1917)
died in 1885 his son Herbert took over. In 1890 he built a
'Reading Room' for his mill workers and their families. It was
equipped with a billiard table, reading room with current
periodicals, and upstairs a stage and concert hall with a
‘sprung’ dance floor.
Mr H.T.Parke wanted the building to: “help young men gain
general knowledge and help introduce less indifference to social
He was a local benefactor and two of his best known achievements
were to fund the first Public Library in Chorley in 1899 and
also build Brinscall Baths (the first Public Baths in the area)
Many dances and
function were held in the Reading Room and people would come
from miles around. In the 1930s a pianist used to travel from
Blackburn to provide music for various concerts. She was
Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953) and was a frequent visitor to
Withnell Fold. In 1935 she married Bert Wilson who lived in the
village and moved away. She entered a singing competition in
Carlisle and won. Singing soon took over from the piano and
during the 1940s and early 50s she went on to become a world
famous contralto singer. She died of cancer in 1953 at the age
Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953)
Withnell Fold Mill Ladies Running Team 1938
The first mill
'lodge' or reservoir was converted to a garden area in 1958. It
was known as the ‘Garden of Remembrance’ to commemorate the war
dead of 1914-18 and 1939-45. 83 men from the mill joined up for
the First World War and 14 were killed. 65 men and one woman
joined the forces for the Second World War of which 5 were
killed. A sundial and plinth can been seen in the centre and the
base shows the name of those who died.
One name of
note is that of Private James Miller VC. He worked at the mill
and enlisted in the 7th Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster
Regiment in September 1914. He was posted overseas in July 1915
and saw action at Lens and Loos before moving to the Somme in
April 1916. In July 1916 he was carrying an urgent message
across the lines when he was hit in the back. The official
account said he was hit by a bullet, but a ‘pals’ account at the
time said it was shrapnel. After delivering the message and
insisting that he returning with the reply he fell and died
almost immediately on his return. His Victoria Cross was
presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace.
The VC is now on display in the Regimental Museum in Lancaster.
Dad's Army. WW2 Withnell Fold Home Guard.
has been an active social and sporting tradition in the village
since the early days. The first recorded activity was 31 July
1860 when a meeting was held to ‘establish a Withnell Fold
Cricket Club’. It was many years before a custom made cricket
field was available. It was 2nd June 1904 when the cricket field
was opened by H.T.Parke. The first match was Withnell Fold
versus the Gentlemen of the District.
Adjacent to the existing cricket ground is 'Withnell Fold Sports
and Social Club'. An active social calendar still exists to this