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Nelson is a town and civil parish in the Borough of Pendlemarker in Lancashiremarker, England, with a population of 28,998 in 2001. It lies 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Burnleymarker on the Leeds and Liverpool Canalmarker.

It developed as a mill town during the Industrial Revolution, but has today lost much of its industry and is characterised by pockets of severe deprivation and some of the lowest house prices in the country.


The town was originally two villages, Little Marsden and Great Marsden.A small mill had been established by the Ecroyd family at Edge End as early as 1740, and there were two coal mines nearby, but it was the coming of the Leeds and Liverpool Canalmarker in 1796, followed by the East Lancashire Railwaymarker in 1849, that spurred its development as an industrial town, with an economy based mainly upon cotton weaving. Walverden Mill in Leedsmarker Road was built in 1850, and was soon followed by others. The town became associated in the 20th century with the production of confectionery as well, including Jelly Babies and Victory Vs, and was where the package holiday company Airtours(formerly Pendle Travel and now part of Thomas Cook) began life as an independent travel agent. The textile industry, in particular, has now sharply declined, leaving the town with high unemployment.


Nelson was granted its charter of incorporation as a municipal borough by Queen Victoria in 1890. Extreme left wing politics in the early 20th century led to it being labelled "little Moscow" by both the local and national press; indeed, the Nelson Leader ran the headline "Moscowmarker calling" during the lockout of 1928. There was significant Communist Party influence in the town both pre-World War Iand between the wars, and when the Labour Party came to power in the town, they responded to local political feeling by placing utilities such as gas and water under the control of the municipal council, anticipating by decades the nationalisation of such utilities after World War II. The council refused, moreover, to participate in celebrations for King George V's silver jubilee in 1935, saying that they would rather spend public money on free dinners for school children and the jobless.

The town became, under the Local Government Act 1972, part of the non-metropolitan district of Pendlemarker on 1 April, 1974. It currently has two tiers of local government, Pendle Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, while also being represented in Westminstermarker and the European Parliamentmarker. A town council, with 24 councillors, was elected for the first time on 1 May, 2008.


Pendle Borough Council has been governed since 2004 by the Liberal Democrats, led by Alan Davies (Liberal Democrat). The mayor – a ceremonial post, which rotates annually – is currently Alan Buck (Liberal Democrat). The borough comprises sixteen wards in total, six of which – Bradley, Clover Hill, Marsden, Southfield, Walverden and Whitefield – represent the town.

Lancashire County Council has been governed since 1994 by Labour. The town is represented on the council in three divisions: Brierfield & Nelson North, Nelson South, and Pendle Central.


The Member of Parliament for Pendlemarker, the constituency into which the town falls, is the backbencher Gordon Prentice (Labour), who was first elected in 1992.


Nelson lies within the North West England European Parliament constituency, which elects nine MEP by proportional representation - currently three Conservative, three Labour, two Liberal Democrat and one United Kingdom Independence Party.


Year Population
1911 39,479
1921 39,841
1931 38,304
1939 34,803
1951 34,384
1961 32,292
1971 31,286
2001 28,998
Council houses in Bradley ward
The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed a total resident population for Nelson of 28,998. The town forms part of 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 town is 67.79% White and 30.70% Asian or Asian British. The largest religious groups are Christian (52.07%) and Muslim (29.15%). The town is strikingly segregated: the Marsden ward, which in 2006 elected the borough's first British National Party councillor, is 96.58% White, while the Whitefield ward is 68.72% Asian or Asian British.

59.02% of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 are classed as economically active and in work.



Nelson is served by Junction 13 of the M65 motorway, which runs west to Burnleymarker, Accringtonmarker, Blackburnmarker and Prestonmarker, and northeast to Colnemarker. From the town centre, the A56 runs southwest to the M65 at Brierfieldmarker and northeast to Colne and beyond, while the A682 – Britain's most dangerous road – heads north into the Yorkshire Dalesmarker.

In November 1969 a multi-storey car park with space for 350 cars was opened in Nelson.

Bus & Rail Interchange

In December 2008 the town's new Bus & Rail Interchange was opened at a site which used the existing train station station. The new interchange facility cost £4.5 million and included enhancements such as cycle stands, taxi & car drop off facilities, electronic information displays, a direct link to the train station including a passenger lift and an enclosed passenger concourse with 10 bus stands.


Rail services to and from Nelson are provided by Northern Rail. The Interchange has an hourly stopping service west to Blackpool Southmarker via Blackburn and Preston, and east to Colnemarker. One service each day runs to and from Manchester Victoriamarker.

Bus and coach

The main bus operator in Nelson is Burnley & Pendle, although Northern Blue and Tyrer Bus operate some services. Other services are provided by Pennine (215 to Skiptonmarker). National Express operates one coach service to Londonmarker each day, from the Interchange.

The town has good bus links into Manchestermarker, compensating for the lack of a frequent rail link: the X43/X44 Witch Way service (operated by Burnley & Pendle) runs via Burnley and Rawtenstallmarker to Manchester city centremarker, using a fleet of specially-branded double-decker buses with leather seats. The fastest journeys take 1 hour and 22 minutes.


The town is home to Nelson F.C.marker, who were Football League members from 1921 until 1931 and since then have played in the lower semi-professional leagues, and to Nelson Cricket Club. Cricket was particularly popular in the town during the inter-war period, when the club enjoyed the services of Learie Constantine, the West Indianmarker cricketer; when in 1969 Constantine became the first person of African descent to be given a life peerage, he chose to be gazetted as Baron Constantine, of Maravalmarker in Trinidad and Tobagomarker and of Nelson in the County Palatine of Lancaster.

Speedway racing was staged at Seedhill Stadium from 1967 to 1970. The Nelson Admirals were founder members of the British League Division Two.) The team later moved enbloc to Odsal Stadium, Bradford. The track was also used for stock car racing.


The town is home to several parks the most notable of which are Victoria Park and Marsden Park. The recently opened Arts, Culture and Enterprise Centre (The ACE Centre) [84382] provides the residents with a new multi-purpose venue and incorporates a cinema, theatre and bistro.


Local radio for Nelson is currently provided by 2BR and BBC Radio Lancashiremarker, and – since September 2007 – by community radio service Pendle Community Radio, aimed primarily at the local Asian community. There are two local newspapers: the Nelson Leader, published on Fridays, and the daily Lancashire Telegraph, which publishes a local edition for Burnley and Pendle.

Notable people

Footballer and manager Jimmy Hogan, footballer Mike Phelan and actor John Simm were brought up in the town.

C. L. R. James, author, intellectual and writer on cricket, lived in Nelson before moving to Londonmarker.




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