Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Jan 2011
The Band of Hope

The Band of Hope was the main Temperance organisation in the UK in 19th and 20th centuries. Its members were children. Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire are eager to talk to people who were members, or remember having friends or family who were members, as part of an oral history project. If you can help, please contact Susan Bailey on 01772 613530 or


Tue 11 Jan 2011
Boyd Harris - The Social History of Withnell Fold,
a Lancashire Village and Paper Mill (1843 to present)

As the industrial revolution of the 19th century expanded, more mills and workers were needed.
Sites for these mills were largely dependent on a water supply and transport systems to bring raw materials in and produce out.
Some mills were too far from centres of population so 'colony' villages had to be built nearby to house the workers.
And so Withnell Fold village and Paper Mill were built on a green-field site in 1843. The owner and builder was Thomas Blinkhorn Parke (1823-1885), the son of Robert Park, a local Cotton Mill owner. It is interesting to note the variation of the spelling of Park(e). Up to the 1850s T.B.Parke did not have and ‘e’ on the end. After that the family name had changed to Parke. The houses in Withnell Fold Village were way ahead if their time. Each house had its own garden and outside toilet. Though no ‘flush’ toilets were available in those days.

Thomas Blinkhorn Parke (1823-1885)

T.B.Parke (centre back) with some of his workers.
Joseph Blackburn, Peter Brindle (Long Peter), T.B.Parke (standing),
Richard Cranshaw (sitting), John Eccles, John Hilston. c1875

From starting building in March 1843, to being in production by Jan 1844 he took just 10 months to build a mill and village. And when he started building work he was just 19 years old!
The village now bears the name of the adjacent Farm but that wasn’t always the case. The early maps and census records refer to the village as ‘Spring Vale’. The name comes from an area in Darwen where papermaking was one of the main industries. In the 1840s one of the mills burnt down and the workers were out of a job. And so T.B. Parke took the opportunity to recruit a skilled and ready made workforce for his new mill.

Herbert Thomas Parke (1859-1917)

When T.B.Parke died in 1885 his son Herbert took over. In 1890 he built a 'Reading Room' for his mill workers and their families. It was equipped with a billiard table, reading room with current periodicals, and upstairs a stage and concert hall with a ‘sprung’ dance floor.
Mr H.T.Parke wanted the building to: “help young men gain general knowledge and help introduce less indifference to social questions.”
He was a local benefactor and two of his best known achievements were to fund the first Public Library in Chorley in 1899 and also build Brinscall Baths (the first Public Baths in the area) in 1911.

Many dances and function were held in the Reading Room and people would come from miles around. In the 1930s a pianist used to travel from Blackburn to provide music for various concerts. She was Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953) and was a frequent visitor to Withnell Fold. In 1935 she married Bert Wilson who lived in the village and moved away. She entered a singing competition in Carlisle and won. Singing soon took over from the piano and during the 1940s and early 50s she went on to become a world famous contralto singer. She died of cancer in 1953 at the age of 41.

Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953)

Withnell Fold Mill Ladies Running Team 1938

The first mill 'lodge' or reservoir was converted to a garden area in 1958. It was known as the ‘Garden of Remembrance’ to commemorate the war dead of 1914-18 and 1939-45. 83 men from the mill joined up for the First World War and 14 were killed. 65 men and one woman joined the forces for the Second World War of which 5 were killed. A sundial and plinth can been seen in the centre and the base shows the name of those who died.

One name of note is that of Private James Miller VC. He worked at the mill and enlisted in the 7th Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in September 1914. He was posted overseas in July 1915 and saw action at Lens and Loos before moving to the Somme in April 1916. In July 1916 he was carrying an urgent message across the lines when he was hit in the back. The official account said he was hit by a bullet, but a ‘pals’ account at the time said it was shrapnel. After delivering the message and insisting that he returning with the reply he fell and died almost immediately on his return. His Victoria Cross was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace. The VC is now on display in the Regimental Museum in Lancaster.

Dad's Army. WW2 Withnell Fold Home Guard.

There has been an active social and sporting tradition in the village since the early days. The first recorded activity was 31 July 1860 when a meeting was held to ‘establish a Withnell Fold Cricket Club’. It was many years before a custom made cricket field was available. It was 2nd June 1904 when the cricket field was opened by H.T.Parke. The first match was Withnell Fold versus the Gentlemen of the District.
Adjacent to the existing cricket ground is 'Withnell Fold Sports and Social Club'. An active social calendar still exists to this day.