The former abattoir in Barrowford that's now a vegetarian deli
PUBLISHED: 13:01 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:01 09 November 2018
Barrowford is one of Lancashire's most stylish towns but it also has some quirky tales to tell
The people of Barrowford once had a reputation for standing idly on the towpath, just watching what was going on along the new-fangled Leeds Liverpool canal. They were called Gongoozlers but that was in the distant past.
Today, the locals have worked hard to ensure that their pretty village is one of the most fashionable in Lancashire, complete with picturesque cottages and a thriving, creative High Street that has apparently even attracted the likes of David Beckham.
That doesn’t mean the locals aren’t proud of their history and, to be fair, it comprised a lot more than just gongoozlering. When it was mooted, a few years ago, that what is now the Pendle Heritage Centre be demolished, they put their collective foot down and formed a trust to preserve it. As well as presenting the village’s industrial history, it is also a stop on the Pendle Witches’ trail – the visitors book shows comments from Switzerland to Australia.
‘Barrowford is full of history – it’s why we’re based here,’ says David Taylor, Chairman of the Friends of Pendle Heritage which has over 300 members, from teenagers to nonagenarians. Its patron is Lancashire antiques expert, Eric Knowles.
‘Everyone wants to know about the witches, so we make sure that the centre bookshop stocks one of the best collections of books and resources on them anywhere but we do more than that, you know. We are working to restore the 15th century cruck barn and we are involved other activities like gardening and archaeology. We even have a professional archaeologist,’ adds David, an archaeologist himself, who has helped the group to organise events such as Lancashire days, complete with scones eaten the way they like them in Barrowford – with cheese and pickle.
They also guide walks around the village, including Higherford Mill, a former spinning mill, which is now run as an artists’ collective and is where members of the public can watch artists, such as sculptor Richard Davies at work. Richard, whose studio is called StatorArt, exhibits all around the country and is stocked in some exclusive galleries.
He uses the parts of reclaimed electric motors combined with reclaimed and scavenged wood, including some tree roots. Other pieces still bear the original nails and pegs.
‘I like the contrast between the materials and, at a time when we all have concerns about the environment, it’s good to upcycle things so that they become something totally new,’ says Richard, who has found that his light fittings are snapped up by interior designers all over the country.
‘Lots of ladies visit, looking for something masculine to give as a gift to the man in their lives, although perhaps one thing that a lot of chaps would have liked was Kylie Minogue’s bra.
‘My family have been framers since 1878 and, when I was helping out, a bra that she had worn on one of her music videos was brought in for framing. I had to present it in a 3D way, so that it could be fully appreciated and today, it hangs in a company boardroom somewhere,’ laughs Richard, who is sworn to secrecy about its exact location.
Dianne Platt is presenting arts of a different kind. She has just opened Coffee and Crafts, a studio on the high street where everyone can come, have coffee and cake and indulge in a bit of messy crafting.
‘Well, crafts are messy aren’t they? That’s why they’re fun and suitable for everyone, including those with additional needs. People can just walk in but we also have groups for everyone from babies to adults and a party room which can be hired out for birthdays or hen parties.
‘Decoupage is pretty popular these days, although great things can be achieved with spaghetti and paint,’ says Dianne who, as the mother of six children, is never put off by a bit of mess or dismayed by a little one who has decided to paint themselves blue.
‘That’s what washable paints were invented for,’ laughs Dianne who diplomatically refuses to say if it is adults or children who are most in need of wet wipes before being released back onto Barrowford High Street.
Owned by Andrew Fairclough and partner, Karen Swainston-Thomas, Riverside Deli is another new business. Ironically housed in a former abattoir, it sells almost entirely vegan food – the rest is vegetarian.
‘It really is no longer niche. We often have queues for our soups, sandwiches and hot food and that wouldn’t be happening if it was good for you but tasted like cardboard, would it?
‘We’ve even been asked to deliver to local firms to help them beat the lunchtime rush,’ says Andrew who also stocks chilled, dry and frozen foods including the most delicious ice cream and cakes and who is happy to draw on his degrees in food science to advise customers.
Further along the High Street, Jessica Burton of Fleur Couture, works in an oasis of calm surrounded by flowers and pretty accessories. Jessica not only creates English Garden bouquets, she also lets her imagination run wild by producing bespoke pieces such as flower and herb chandeliers.
‘I love designing things with flowers. I’m often asked to visit houses before supper parties in order to create table arrangements. This time of year, autumnal colours are popular – orange roses, bronze chrysanthemums, oak leaves and fruit such as apples and berries’, says Jessica who has also developed a reputation as a Christmas Tree decorator, helped by her little elves, aka her dogs Claude and Herbie, who love it when she drives with her hazard lights on in order to make sure that delicate arrangements aren’t damaged in transit.
Jessica has been open for ten years but many Barrowford businesses have been there for decades. One of the oldest is Beech’s Butchers, open since 1959.
‘We’re a family firm and all our meat is locally sourced,’ says manager Craig Cole who puts himself down as a traditional pie and sausage man – both are made on the premises.
‘We know exactly where it comes from and most is from only a few miles away. We’ve moved with the times too, and we know that people have busy lives so we also produce ready meals like stir fries and curries that we make here on the premises.
‘We do pre-prepared veg too, so our customers can walk out with the entire meal ready to heat and serve and, if they want, pass off as their own.’
These days, the folks in Barrowford haven’t much time for simply gongoozling: they’re too busy welcoming visitors.
Bits from Barrowford
There’s a bit of Barrowford in Japan. A Japanese businessman took such a liking to the 1890 Methodist Chapel that he had it shipped, stone by stone, to Hachioji where it is now The Grand Victoria Chapel Hotel.
Roger Bannister, the first person to break the four-minute mile, once lived at what is now the Pendle Heritage Centre.
It has two rivers, Pendle water and Colne Water and it’s not uncommon to see trout and salmon, especially as a fish pass has been built to allow them easy access up river to spawn.
Mike Phelan, footballer and former assistant manager of Manchester United, was brought up in Barrowford.
The first Jelly Babies were made here. They were originally supposed to be Jelly Bears but the mould maker wasn’t quite on message. They looked more like babies and it proved easier to change the name than make a new mould.