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What the locals really think of Slaidburn

12:10 12 October 2016

View toward the village from the bridge over the River Hodder

View toward the village from the bridge over the River Hodder


The Bowland village of Slaidburn is full of quirky charm and busy individuals. Mairead Mahon met some of them and Kirsty Thompson took the picture.

Professor John Sharp (dame) with Isobel BristowProfessor John Sharp (dame) with Isobel Bristow

IF you ever see someone stomping around dressed as a brightly coloured parrot, the chances are they’ve been to Slaidburn.

It’s not that this picture postcard Bowland village produces a particularly eccentric breed of individual but the local drama group has a reputation for the quality of its costumes and they are available for hire. The parrot suit is quite popular, apparently.

Slaidburn Drama Group’s panto brings them in from miles around and that must have something to do with the chairman, John Sharp. By day, he is a sober, highly-respected professor but come the panto season he turns into a remarkably vibrant dame – although he draws the line at wearing high heels.

Isobel Bristow is the group’s wardrobe mistress, although she is keen to point out that any malfunctions on the part of the dame’s apparel are of his own making. She looks after more than 1,000 costumes, most of them made by villagers. Another fascinating fact about Slaidburn is that this wardrobe includes what must be Lancashire’s biggest collection of kilts.

Slaidburn WI Craft Group; Betty Bainbridge, Jan Weisters, Val Sharp (President), Hazel Waddington, Mary Cowking, Susan Farrand and Ann SwindlehurstSlaidburn WI Craft Group; Betty Bainbridge, Jan Weisters, Val Sharp (President), Hazel Waddington, Mary Cowking, Susan Farrand and Ann Swindlehurst

Slaidburn really is a box of delights, full of quirky facts and fascinating history with a look that makes you think the clocks stopped sometime around 1950.

One of the noteable buildings in the village is The Poor’sland Barn, with its sign proudly declaring it was bequeathed in 1621 for the use of the ‘industrious poor’. We don’t know how industrious they were back then but the present day villagers are pretty busy making sure this community thrives.

The barn is owned by Poor’sland Trust and it still vets the occupants as Jane Dickinson found out when she applied to open a hairdressing business there in 2004. This has turned into a flourishing business. At times, Jane’s shop can resemble a scene from the film ‘Steel Magnolias’ with people just dropping by for a gossip and a coffee.

‘That gave me the idea of raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support and, so far, I’ve raised £134,000 through coffee mornings,’ she says. It has to be said that her cakes are quite a draw; hardly surprising as she won Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine With Me’. They don’t really come much more industrious than Jane – she is also Rainbow pack leader, Brown Owl and another keen member of the Drama Group.

Linda Blakeman at Slaidburn ArchiveLinda Blakeman at Slaidburn Archive

The village has two craft groups. One of them is run by the WI and led Hazel Waddington, who should know a thing or two about the subject as she is a former fashion lecturer. They certainly seem to clear the board when it comes to winning prizes, having just achieved a rare cup double in a local craft competition.

They meet in the fabulous village hall. No draughty dimly lit rooms here; it is a state of the art facility, partially maintained by villagers undertaking fundraising activities. Another industrious group.

Slaidburn is not a village made up solely of retired people or those who own second homes. In spite its chocolate box prettiness, it is a real village and home to many young families and working people. That is reflected in the many different groups using the hall.

That, in part, might be down to the fact that much of it is owned by the squire, Anthea Hodson. Regular readers of Lancashire Life will know that Mrs Hodson broke a tradition going back centuries as the first woman to hold the historic title of the Squire of Slaidburn, an inherited role that comes with the ownership of almost every house and 1,600 acres of land. She is keen to keep the village vibrant with a good number of young people in residence. It also has a junior school, Brennand’s Endowed Primary.

Members of Slaidburn Silver Band; Richard Horn, Alison Cowking, John Smithson, John Cowking, Elizabeth Bowness, Catherine Hilton and Gareth JonesMembers of Slaidburn Silver Band; Richard Horn, Alison Cowking, John Smithson, John Cowking, Elizabeth Bowness, Catherine Hilton and Gareth Jones

The village is proud of its history and has a dedicated archive. It is based in an ancient building and was started by Jenny Bradley. It is run by volunteers, including Linda Blakeman, who coincidentally was brought up in a house which once used part of the same building as a coal store!

It is stuffed with treasures, including parish records which date back to about 1800. There are maps, photographs, house histories and the odd quirky thing such as a history of post boxes and a survey of gravestones. No wonder it won a Vibrant Community Award. It is a sure fire bet that almost every month, someone from abroad will make their way here to research family history.

One came from New Zealand recently to trace his Slaidburn ancestors. He, like many others, stayed in the Youth Hostel. It must be the only one in the UK to have an original wheelwright’s stone. In the 17th century it was a pub and the bar is still visible. Today, it is run by volunteers like Pat Grey, who says that her annual Slaidburn assignment is the tops.

There is still a pub in the village, The Hark to Bounty, thought to have been named after a particularly noisy dog. What makes this ancient pub so rare is that upstairs is an old courtroom, which operated until the 1930s. Now, it is one of the venues used by the famous Slaidburn Silver Band.

Over 100 years old and known the world over, their signature tune, ‘Slaidburn’ is played everywhere but no-one plays it as well as them. They have even played for Her Majesty and, yes, she wanted to hear ‘Slaidburn’. Their gifted conductor, John Cowking, was given the British Empire Medal. They play outside every summer and people plan trips so that they can hear ‘Slaidburn’ being played. With the ages of band members ranging from 18 to 80, they call themselves a, ‘happy band’ and that’s just what they are.

The village is home to a quaint and busy shop and post office, run by Odel Hodgson and Nina Grainger with help from Bella their dog. Most weeks, they see most villagers – who they know by name – looking for everything from stamps to hot water bottles. Autumn evenings can be chilly up here.

No self-respecting village can be without its tea shop and Slaidburn’s is run by ex-lawyer Bernard Horne – the pictures of wigged barristers dotted around give it away. Bernard was walking his dog one day, saw the café was for sale, bought it and gave up his career to make, among other delicacies, strawberry Victoria sponge. It’s criminally good and all made from local ingredients.

The fragrant and colourful village flower shop is called, From the Heart; an apt name which could easily be the motto of Slaidburners who make sure that community is at the heart of this idyllic village.

Where is it?

Slaidburn in deep into Bowland and was part of Yorkshire prior to the boundary changes in the 1970s. It’s approximately nine miles north west of Clitheroe. Tap BB7 3ER into your satnav and you should be in the village centre. There is a carpark close to the cafe.

Things to do

* Pick up a copy of A walk through the Village and enjoy a self-guided tour.

* Try a spot of fishing at nearby Stocks Reservoir, the largest fly fishery in the North West.

* Enjoy star gazing - the area around Slaidburn is a Dark Sky Discovery Site.

* Go mountain biking in Gisburn Forest


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