The treasures of Hurst Green - there's more than history in this pretty Ribble Valley village

PUBLISHED: 10:51 12 October 2011 | UPDATED: 21:38 20 February 2013

The treasures of Hurst Green - there's more than history in this pretty Ribble Valley village

The treasures of Hurst Green - there's more than history in this pretty Ribble Valley village

This pretty Lancashire village is much more than a museum piece, as Emma Mayoh discovered PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

You dont have to be an historian to know Hurst Green is a village with plenty of stories to tell. From notorious highwayman Ned King who spent time at the Punchbowl Inn to the ghosts believed to haunt the 17th century Shireburn Arms Hotel to the 400-year-old Stonyhurst College building, it would be easy to think of the village as a charming rural museum piece.

Much of the villages success and popularity is rooted in that rich vein of history. But does todays Hurst Green have plenty to offer for the future? Ask around and you will find a redounding yes.

Take Stonyhurst College, with a rich tapestry of eminent past pupils and teachers including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar-winning actor Charles Laughton, and possibly its most famous old boy, the author JRR Tolkien, who is said to have written part of his Lord of the Rings trilogy in one of Stonyhursts classrooms. Parts may hark back 500 years but plans are being made with an eye to its future.

At the end of this month, a 1 million restoration project at the 19th century St Peters Church, paid for the Jesuits, will be completed. This included delicate repairs that were done to stained glass windows as well as a new floor, roof renovations and the ceiling being redecorated.

There are also plans being formulated to establish a museum in the grounds of the college. It is hoped that disused mill buildings will be the ideal location to display valuable archives and collections, which contain valuable religious relics and natural history items including a hat that belonged to Sir Thomas More and the mummy of a five-year-old Egyptian child dating back 2,500 years.

A thorn claimed to be from Jesus crown, once owned by Mary Queen of Scots, is part of the schools collection and has recently been on loan to the British Museum. It is hoped the new facility at Stonyhurst will be open to the public, who currently have limited access to the school during the summer holidays.

Andrew Johnson, headmaster, said: Stonyhurst is a place of great history. We have great tradition and we are very very proud of that. But we are also forward-looking.

We have to keep our eye on the future for the pupils but also for the colleges role in Hurst Green. The collection we have here is quite remarkable and it would be fantastic to be able to share more of it in a dedicated museum.

Stonyhurst is has a strong connection with the local community, in fact much of the village was once part of the original estate. As well as being a major employer, it also supports village events.

Alongside its many celebrated past pupils, there is also a modern sporting star on its staff. Andrew Gordon-Brown only decided to become a teacher eight years ago after spending several years working as an investment banker. But previously the 44-year-old, who grew up in Johannesburg, represented the South African Olympic team in rowing.

He said: It was a very exciting time for me. I had been rowing for a short while and had got my national colours within two years. Then there was great excitement in 1991. Nelson Mandela had been let out of jail in 1990 and a year later the International Olympic Committee announced South Africa was going to be invited into the Barcelona Olympics.

This was incredible news after many years in isolation as a pariah nation because of apartheid. We trained very hard for the next year in time for the games in 1992 and we had an incredible Games. We came eighth which was an terrific achievement for us and Im proud to have done it. I am going to be involved with an Olympic relay of events organised by the Salford Diocese, of which the school is a part of, and Im looking forward to sharing in the excitement of London 2012.

There is, of course, more to Hurst Green than the school. There is an active community with various social groups in the village, with many events held at St John the Evangelist Church. The Bayley Arms, a pub in Avenue Road, also acts as a meeting place for locals.

It has been owned and run by Steve Alcock for the past five years. Steve, who also ran The Shireburn Arms Hotels for 18 years before he recently sold it, takes his village responsibilities seriously. As well as supporting local business, including food producers that feature on the pubs menu, he also contributes and helps with local events.

Steve, who is now looking forward to concentrating his efforts on the pub as well as getting back in the kitchen, said: We do have a role to play and we need to be at the hub of the local community. It would not make sense for us not to be involved in village life.

The Bayley is the 19th hole of the local golf club and a lot of people use it as a meeting place. We also support events and activities in the village. Hurst Green is a fantastic place in one of the most beautiful areas you could wish for. Im proud to be able to be involved.

Where is it? Hurst Green is located in the Ribble Valley between Clitheroe and Longridge. Type BB7 9QJ in your sat nav to get you there.
Where can I park? There is on-street parking available around the village.

What can I do? Take a look at the quaint Shireburns Almshouses. They were first built on Longridge Fell in 1906 but were moved and rebuilt in Hurst Green in 1946 and named Shireburn Cottages. You could also walk The Tolkien Trail, a five mile route that takes in all of the sights and sounds that inspired the Lord of the Rings author. You could also take in the sights at Stonyhurst College Gardens, looked after by a dedicated team from the school.

Are there refreshments? Yes, there are a handful of pubs in the village including the 17th century Shireburn Arms Hotel, The Bayley Arms and The Eagle and Child, all located in the centre of the village.

The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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