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Burnley is a large market town in the borough of Burnleymarker in Lancashiremarker, England, with a population of around 73,500. It lies east of Blackburnmarker and east of Prestonmarker, at the confluence of the River Calder and River Brunmarker.It began life in the early medieval period as a small market town, but its main period of expansion came during the Industrial Revolution, when it became one of the world's largest producers of cotton cloth. Today, Burnley has lost much of its industry, and is increasingly a dormitory town for Manchestermarker, Leedsmarker and the M65 corridor. The public sector is now the town's largest employer .



Queen Street Mill Textile Museum

Burnley's origins are prehistoric, as shown by Stone Age flint tools and weapons that found on the moors around the town. Local place names Padihammarker and Habergham show the influence of the Angles, suggesting that some had settled in the area by the early 7th century, but there is no definitive record of settlement until 1122, when a charter granted the church of Burnley to the monks of Pontefract Abbeymarker. In its early days, Burnley was a small farming community, gaining a corn mill in 1290 , a market in 1294, and a fulling mill in 1296. At this point, it was within the manor of Ightenhillmarker, one of five that made up the Honour of Clitheroemarker, then a far more significant settlement, and consisted of no more than 50 families. Little survives of early Burnley – the name means ‘meadow by the River Brun’ – apart from the Market Cross, erected in 1295, which now stands in the grounds of an annexe of Burnley Collegemarker.Over the next three centuries, Burnley grew in size to about 1,200 inhabitants by 1550, still centred around the church, St Peter’s, in what is now known as "Top o’ th’ Town". Prosperous residents built larger houses, including Gawthorpe Hallmarker in Padiham and Towneley Hallmarker, and in 1532 St Peter's Church was largely rebuilt. Burnley’s grammar school was founded in 1559, and moved into its own schoolhouse next to the church in 1602 . Burnley began to develop in this period into a small market town. It is known that weaving was established in the town by the middle of the 17th century and in 1617 a new Market House was built. The town continued to be centred on St Peter’s Church until the market was moved to the bottom of what is today Manchestermarker Road at the end of the 18th century.

Industrial Revolution and after

In the second half of the 18th century, the manufacture of cotton began to replace that of wool. Burnley’s earliest known factories – dating from the mid-century – stood on the banks of the River Calder close to where it is joined by the River Brunmarker, and relied on water power to drive the spinning machines, but by 1830 there were 32 steam engines in cotton mills throughout the rapidly expanding town. By 1866, the town was the largest producer of cotton cloth in the world. The 18th century also saw the rapid development of coal mining: the drift mines and shallow bell-pits of earlier centuries were replaced by deeper shafts meeting industrial as well as domestic demand locally, and by 1800 there were over a dozen pits in the centre of the town alone. The first turnpike road through Burnley was begun in 1754, linking the town to Blackburnmarker and Colnemarker, and by the early 19th century there were daily stagecoach journeys to Blackburnmarker, Skiptonmarker and Manchestermarker, the last taking just over two hours.. For the transportation of goods in bulk, the Leeds and Liverpool Canalmarker arrived in 1796, and in 1848 the East Lancashire Railway Company’s extension from Accringtonmarker linked the town to the nation’s nascent railway network for the first time. By 1851, the town’s population had reached almost 21,000.

Burnley became incorporated as a municipal borough in 1861, and became, under the Local Government Act 1888, a county borough outside the administrative county of Lancashire. But from a population of over 100,000 in 1911, the town's population has declined to today's figure, mirroring the decline in its traditional industries of textiles, mining and engineering. The Queen paid an official visit to the town in summer 1961, marking the 100th anniversary of Burnley's borough status. Under the Local Government Act 1972 Burnley's county borough status was abolished, and it was incorporated with neighbouring areas into the non-metropolitan district of Burnleymarker.

In June 2001, the town received national attention following a series of violent disturbances arising from racial tension between elements of its white and immigrant communities.


Burnley has three tiers of government, Burnley Borough Councilmarker and Lancashire County Council ("local"), the United Kingdom parliamentmarker ("national") and the European Parliamentmarker ("Europe"). While the town itself is unparished, the rest of the borough has one further, bottom tier of government, the parish or town council.


Composition of Burnley Borough Council (as of May 2008)
Party Group Leader Seats Change (on 2007)
Gordon Birtwistle 23 +5
Julie Cooper 12 -5
Peter Doyle 6 0
British National Party Sharon Wilkinson 4 0
Total Seats 45

Burnley Borough Council has been governed since 2008 by the Liberal Democrats, led by Gordon Birtwistle. The mayor – a ceremonial post, which rotates annually – is currently Ida Carmichael (Conservative). The borough comprises 15 wards, 12 of which – Bank Hall, Briercliffe, Brunshaw, Coal Clough with Deerplay, Daneshouse with Stoneyholme, Gannow, Lanehead, Queensgate, Rosegrove with Lowerhouse, Rosehill with Burnley Wood, Trinity, and Whittlefield with Ightenhill – fall within the town itself.

Lancashire County Council was controlled by Labour from 1981 until the Conservative Party won control in the local council elections in June 2009.. The borough is represented on the council in 6 divisions: Burnley Central East, Burnley Central West, Burnley North East, Burnley Rural, Burnley South West, and Padiham & Burnley West. In 2009 Liberal Democrats won five of the six county seats and the British National Party has a single councillor. The election of BNP candidate Sharon Wilkinson to the council seat of Padiham and Burnley West made her the BNP's first County Councillor.


All but one of the seven MPs elected by Burnleymarker since the first World War have been from the Labour party. The Member of Parliament for the town since the election in 2005 has been Kitty Ussher (Labour).


Burnley lies within the North West England European Parliament constituency, which elects 9 MEPs by proportional representation - currently 3 Conservative, 2 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat, 1 UKIP and 1 BNP.


The town lies in a natural three-forked valley at the confluence of the River Brunmarker and the River Calder, surrounded by open fields which evolve into wild moorland at higher altitudes. There are several large parks in the town, including Towneley Parkmarker, once the deer park for the 15th century Towneley Hallmarker and three winners of the Green Flag Award, including Queens Park, which hosts a summer season of brass band concerts each year, and Thompson Park, which has a boating lake and miniature railway. The landmark RIBA-award winning Panopticon Singing Ringing Treemarker, overlooking the town from the hills at Crown Point, was installed in 2006.

To the west of Burnley lie the towns of Padihammarker, Accringtonmarker and Blackburnmarker, with Nelsonmarker and Colnemarker to the north. To the north west of the town lies the imposing and visually dramatic Pendle Hillmarker, home of the Pendle Witches, whose summit stands 1,827 feet (557 m) above sea level. To the east of the town lie the hills of the South Penninesmarker, and to the south, the Forest of Rossendale.

The Pennine Waymarker passes six miles east of Burnley; the Mary Towneley Loopmarker, part of the Pennine Bridleway, and the Burnley Waymarker offer riders and walkers clearly-signed routes through the countryside immediately surrounding the town.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canalmarker passes through the town on a 60 foot high embankment known as the 'Straight Mile', built between 1796 and 1801 to avoid the need for locks and is today regarded as one of the seven wonders of the Britishmarker waterways.


The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed a total resident population for Burnley of 73,021. The town is the main population centre in the Burnley-Nelson urban area, which has an estimated population of 149,796; for comparison purposes, this is about the same size as Huddersfieldmarker, Oxfordmarker or Poolemarker.

The racial composition of the borough is 91.77% White and 7.16% South Asian or South Asian / British, predominantly from Pakistanmarker. The largest religious groups are Christian (74.46%) and Muslim (6.58%). 59.02% of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 are classed as economically active and in work.
Year Population
1911 106,322
1921 103,157
1931 98,258
1939 85,400
1951 84,987
1961 80,559
1971 76,489
2001 73,021



Burnley is served by Junctions 9, 10 and 11 of the M65 motorway, which runs west to Accringtonmarker, Blackburnmarker and Prestonmarker, and northeast to Nelsonmarker and Colnemarker. From the town centre, the A646 runs to Todmordenmarker, the A679 to Accringtonmarker, the A671 to Clitheroemarker, and the A682 – Britain's most dangerous road – south to Rawtenstallmarker and northeast to Nelsonmarker and the Yorkshire Dalesmarker.


Rail services to and from Burnley are provided by Northern Rail. The town has three railway stations, Burnley Manchester Roadmarker, Burnley Centralmarker and, on the western outskirts of the town centre, Burnley Barracksmarker (A fourth station, Rose Grovemarker, serves the Rose Grove district west of Burnley). Manchester Road station has an hourly semi-fast service west to Prestonmarker and Blackpool Northmarker and east to Leedsmarker and Yorkmarker, whilst the Central and Barracks stations provide an hourly stopping service west to Blackpool Southmarker and Preston, and east to Nelsonmarker and Colnemarker.

Bus and coach

Burnley Bus Station
The main bus operator in Burnley is Transdev Burnley & Pendle, although Transdev Northern Blue operate some local and coastal services and Tyrer Bus operate some tendered town services. Other services are provided by Coastlinks Express (X27 to Southportmarker), First (589 to Rochdalemarker, 592 to Halifaxmarker), Transdev Lancashire United (152 to Prestonmarker), Pennine (215 to Skiptonmarker), and Rossendale Transport (483 to Burymarker). National Express operates three coach services to Londonmarker each day, and one to Birminghammarker.

The town has good bus links into Manchestermarker, compensating for the lack of a direct rail link: the X43/X44 Witch Way service (operated by Burnley & Pendle) runs from Nelsonmarker to Manchester, via Burnley and Rawtenstallmarker, using a fleet of specially-branded double-decker buses with leather seats. The fastest journeys take 59 minutes.

The town's futuristic bus stationmarker, designed by Manchester-based SBS Architects, won the UK Bus Award for Infrastructure in 2003.

Economy and industry

Burnley's traditional employment base has been in decline for several decades. The last deep coal mine, Hapton Valley Colliery, closed in February 1981 and the last steam-powered mill, Queen Street Mill, in 1982. Over the next two decades, Burnley's two largest manufacturers both closed their factories: Prestige in July 1997 and Michelin in April 2002. The town has struggled to recover: its employment growth between 1995 and 2004 placed it 55th of England's 56 largest towns and cities, and as of 2007 it was the 21st most deprived local authority (out of 354) in the United Kingdom. 13% of its working age population currently claims incapacity benefit (national average 7%).

The largest employment sector in the town is now public administration, education and health (31.2%), followed by manufacturing (21.9%). Key manufacturing employers today are in highly specialised fields: Gardner Aerospace, Safran Aircelle and TRW Automotive (automotive components). In 2004, the Lancashire Digital Technology Centre was established on land formerly occupied by the now-closed Michelin factory to provide support and incubation space for start-up technology companies.

The town's main shopping street is St James Street, onto which Charter Walk Shopping Centre opens. The town centre is home to a good number of major high street multiples, including Marks and Spencer, Next and W H Smith, and a healthy mix of other shops, including specialist food shops, independent record shops and an independent bookshop. A large council-run market is open six days a week. On the edge of the town centre, three retail parks house big box stores, including Currys, Homebase and PC World; there are also a number of mill shops. A second town centre shopping centre, 'The Oval', housing 32 further units, is scheduled for construction in 2008-2010, but has yet to secure the anchor tenant needed for the project to proceed.


Burnley has good sporting facilities for a town of its size. The new £29m St Peter's Centre offers swimming, squash courts and a fitness suite, while the nearby Spirit of Sport complex includes a large sports hall, and several indoor courts and synthetic pitches. There is an outdoor athletics track at Barden Lane, where the Burnley Athletic Club meets. For golfers, there are both 9 hole and 18 hole municipal golf courses at Towneley Parkmarker, along with an 18-hole pitch and putt course. (The private Burnley Golf Club also welcomes visiting players.) There are tennis courts at Towneley Park, as well as at the Burnley Lawn Tennis Club, eleven bowling greens around the town, and a £235,000 skate park at Queens Park, which opened in 2003. There are also basketball, caving and judo clubs in the town.

The town's sporting scene is dominated by Burnley Football Club, which was founded in 1882, and has played its home matches at Turf Moormarker since 1883, where attendance currently averages 20,000. The club was one of the 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888. Nicknamed the Clarets, they will play the 2009/10 season in the Premier League, 33 years since they last played in the top flight of English football and are one of the few English league clubs to have been champions of all four professional league divisions.

There are two members of the Lancashire Cricket League in the town. Burnley Cricket Club play their home matches at Turf Moor, their ground being adjacent to the football ground, while Lowerhouse Cricket Club play at Liverpoolmarker Road.

Culture and nightlife

Burnley is well-served for a town of its size. There is a modern 24 lane Ten pin bowling centre on Finsley Gate, operated by AMF Bowling. A 9-screen multiplex cinema in the town centre, operated by Apollo Cinemas, and a theatre named for the building's former use as the Mechanics Institute, which plays host to touring comedians and musical acts, as well as staging amateur dramatics. A second performance space, the purpose-built £1.5m Burnley Youth Theatre, opened nearby in 2005. For art lovers, there is a small contemporary visual arts gallery, the Mid-Pennine Gallery, and - on the outskirts of Burnley - larger galleries in the town's two stately homes, Towneley Hallmarker, which was bought by Burnley Corporation in 1901, and Gawthorpe Hallmarker, bequeathed to the National Trust in 1970. There are also two local museums: the Weavers' Triangle Trust operates the Visitor Centre and Museum of Local History in the historic surroundings of the Weavers' Triangle, while the Queen Street Mill Textile Museum celebrates Burnley's weaving past.

Once a year, Burnley hosts the two-day Burnley National Blues Festival, one of the largest Blues festivals in the country, drawing fans from all over Britain to venues spread across the town. In the 1970s, it was also an important venue for Northern Soul; several local pubs still hold regular Northern Soul nights. In recent years, the town has also hosted an annual balloon festival in the setting of Towneley Parkmarker.

Burnley has a lively nightlife, drawing clubbers from all over the north-west. The town is dominated by the club Lava Ignite; other major bars and nightclubs include Barcode, Calamity Jane's (cowboy-themed), Fusion (electro, retro, ghetto, house and techno), Koko's, The Mix, Pharaoh's, Posh, Red Room, Sanctuary Rock Bar and Smackwater Jacks. Burnley has a small gay scene, centred on the Guys as Dolls bar in St James Street . There are also chain-owned bars, such as Wetherspoons and Walkabout.

The local brewery, Moorhouse'smarker, was founded in 1865, produces a range of award winning beers - including the very popular Pride of Pendle and Blond Witch - and currently operates six pubs in the area, while more Bénédictine is drunk in one local working men's club, the Burnley Miners' Club, than anywhere else in the world, after a local regiment stationed in Normandy during World War I brought back a taste for the drink.


Local radio for Burnley and its surrounding area is currently provided by 2BR and BBC Radio Lancashiremarker.

There are two local newspapers: the Burnley Express, published on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the daily Lancashire Telegraph, which publishes a local edition for Burnley and Pendlemarker. There are also two free advertisement supported newspapers called The Citizen and The Reporter, both of which are posted to homes throughout the town.

Burnley was one of seven sites chosen to be part of Channel 4's The Big Art project in which a group of 15 young people from all over the entire town commissioned artist Greyworld to create a piece of public art in the town. The artwork , named "Invisible" is a series of UV paintings placed all around the town centre displaying "public heroes". The bright spectacles are best seen at the night time.


Parts of the film Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and the television series All Quiet on the Preston Front and Juliet Bravo were filmed in the town. (For example, Burnley Fire Station was the location of Social Services in the first series of Juliet Bravo, and Burnley Public Library was used for exterior shots of the magistrates' court in the same series.)


A boys' grammar school was first founded in St Peter's Church in 1559, its first headmaster a former chantry priest, Gilbert Fairbank. In 1602, one of the governors, John Towneley, paid for a new schoolhouse to be built in the churchyard; the school moved again in 1876 to a new building on Bank Parade, which can still be seen today.The equivalent school for girls, Burnley Girls' High School, was established in 1909 on a site in Ormerod Road, and moved on Kiddrow Lane in the 1960s.

The borough moved to comprehensive education in 1981, and today has five 11-16 secondary schools:

These opened in September 2006 as part of the first wave of a nationwide 10-15 year programme of capital investment funded by the Department for Education and Skills called Building Schools for the Future. Shuttleworth College moved into new buildings in September 2008; the remaining schools, which currently occupy the buildings of five former secondary schools in the town, are to be completely rebuilt over the next three years. Thomas Whitham Sixth Formmarker, which forms a sixth element of the BSF programme, offers sixth form provision on a newly-built campus on Barden Lane.

Burnley Collegemarker is the borough's main tertiary education provider, offering vocational and professional training, adult education, and a small number of degree courses, as well as some GCSE courses and a full range of A levels. It is scheduled to move to a new £70million campus off Princess Way in September 2009.


The town's educational attainment is significantly below the national average at all levels. In 2007, 72% of children at the end of Key Stage 2 achieved at least Level 4 in English (national average 80%), and 70% in Mathematics (national average 77%). At the end of Key Stage 3, the figures achieving at least Level 5 were 66% in English (national average 74%), and 66% in Mathematics (national average 76%). 41.1% of students at the end of Key Stage 4 achieved at least 5 A*-C grades at GCSE (national average 62.0%). Three of the town's five secondary schools are currently in the bottom 5% nationally for adding value between the end of Key Stage 2 and the end of Key Stage 4; two of the five schools are currently in special measures.

Twin towns

Burnley is twinned with:



Probably the best-known Burnley figure in the field of entertainment is actor and gay rights activist Sir Ian McKellen, who was born in the town in 1939. Other actors born in the town include Julia Haworth (Coronation Streetmarker), Richard Moore and Lisa Riley (Emmerdalemarker), Alice Barry and Jody Latham (Shameless), Hannah Hobley (Benidorm) and film actor Lee Ingleby. Paul Abbott, creator of Shameless, is another native of the town. Television producer and executive Peter Salmon was also born in Burnley.

Musicians born in the town include Danbert Nobacon, Alice Nutter, Lou Watts and Boff Whalley (Chumbawamba), as well as classical composer John Pickard.

The 19th century author and clergyman Silas Hocking wrote his most famous work, Her Benny (1879), while living in Burnley. Crime writer Stephen Booth is another native of the town.

Politics and the church

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat MP for Harrogate & Knaresboroughmarker, and Sir Vincent Fean, HM ambassador to Libyamarker, were born in Burnley, as were James Yorke Scarlett, commander of the Heavy Brigade at the Battle of Balaclavamarker, and the 16th century Catholic martyr Robert Nutter. Suffragette Ada Nield Chew died in Burnley in 1945.

Burnley and the Royal Family

Charles, Prince of Wales occasionally visits the milltown to undertake inspections on the youth programme that the prince's trust has in place there to help 350 disadvantaged 14–25 year olds get their lives back on track in the borough. And Prince Charles has set Burnley at the top of his priority list for his popular charity. The prince has focused his regeneration efforts on deprived parts of the country since a bid to improve Halifax in the 1980s. Prince Charles’ interest in Burnley stems from a visit in 2005, when he saw first-hand the work being done to regenerate the town. At the time he described Burnley as a “remarkable town” and added: “Recent years have not been at all kind to Burnley and all sorts of difficulties and challenges are placed in its way.

“But I hope my charities can make what small contribution they can, in partnership with the borough council and the NWDA, in this really crucial project to give, I hope, Burnley the future it deserves.

Science and industry

Engineer Sir Willis Jackson wa s born and educated in the town.


Burnley's sporting figures include England and Lancashire cricketer James Anderson, England and Everton Women's goalkeeper Rachel Brown, Pakistanmarker and Tranmere Rovers midfielder Adnan Ahmed, Ex-Bury FC manager Chris Casper, Commonwealth Games Gold Medal-winning gymnast Craig Heap, and Neil Hodgson, 2003 World Superbike champion. Ron Greenwood, former manager of the England football team, was born in nearby Worsthornemarker.



  • Mike Barratt, Ian McKellen: An Unofficial Biography, Virgin Books, 2006 ISBN 0-7535-1074-X
  • Steve Chapples, General Scarlett: The Burnley Hero of Balaclava, Arncliffe Press, 2006
  • Brian Hall, Burnley: A Short History, Burnley Historical Society, 2002
  • Brian Hall & Ken Spencer, Burnley: A Pictorial History, Phillimore, 1993 ISBN 0-85033-866-2
  • Guy Rickards, 'Icarus Soaring: The Music of John Pickard' in Tempo, n.s., 201 (July 1997), pp. 2–5
  • Kev Roberts, Northern Soul Top 500, Goldmine Publications, 2000 ISBN 0-9539-2910-8

Further reading

  • Walter Bennett, The History of Burnley, 4 vols., Burnley Corporation, 1946-1951
  • Ken Bolton & Roger Frost, Burnley, Francis Frith, 2006 ISBN 1-84589-131-7
  • Mike Townend, Burnley, Tempus Publishing, 2004 ISBN 0-7524-1566-2
  • Mike Townend, Burnley Revisited, Tempus Publishing, 2006 ISBN 0-7524-3996-0

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