Towneley Hall was the home of the Towneley family for hundreds of years before being sold to Burnley Council in 1901. Today the building houses the town’s museum and art gallery while the surrounding estate serves as a popular park.
A multi-million pound restoration project has recently been completed. The work, financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, provided new visitor facilities and improvements to historic features.
Visitors are welcome to explore the historic rooms of Towneley Hall, home to beautiful paintings, sculptures, and interesting collections and exhibitions.
Exhibits of note include:
- Whalley Abbey Vestments – These ornate 15th century garments were worn by Catholic priests at Whalley Abbey during mass. These were rescued by the Towneley family at the time of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Without this intervention they probably would have been destroyed.
- General Scarlett’s Sword – The Crimean War is best remembered for the Charge of the Light Brigade, a disastrous British cavalry charge during the Battle of Balaclava in October 1864 that resulted in the death or wounding of many of those involved. Earlier in the same battle, General James Yorke Scarlett defied all wisdom with the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, an uphill cavalry charge against the Russians that was surprisingly successful. His ceremonial sword is displayed in the museum. Following his retirement he stood for the Conservatives in Burnley at the 1868 general election but was defeated.
- Charles Towneley and Friends in his Library – This painting of Charles Towneley (1737 – 1805) shows him in his London house, surrounded by an imaginary arrangement of his sculptures. It was painted by German artist Johann Zoffany in 1782.
- Marble bust of Charles Towneley – Created in 1807, two years after the death of the subject by Joseph Nollekens, widely acknowledged as the finest British sculptor of his time. In 2008 Yale University tried to purchase the bust for its gallery of British art. While under a temporary export ban, Burnley Council managed to find the £300,000 need to purchase it.
- 2 Victoria Crosses – The UK’s highest award for bravery. Less than 1,400 have been awarded since the Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856.
This large park surrounds the hall and boasts an extensive array of features:
Museum of Local History
Burnley’s local history museum is housed in the old brew house. It is home to a fascinating range of exhibits early TVs and home appliances, antique beer bottles, old tools, and more.
The Old Stables
The former stables are now a restaurant serving hot meals, snacks and drinks. The outdoor seating area is particularly pleasant during summer.
The park boasts 3 golf courses; 18-hole, 9-hole par 3, and an 18-hole pitch and putt.
Towneley Sculpture Trail
The 1 mile walk through Thanet Lee Woods reveals carvings of wildlife at every turn. Sculptures include a badger, snake, beetle, butterfly, acorn, grasshopper, hedgehog, and crocodile.
Towneley Garden Centre
Towneley Garden Centre stocks a wide range of plants, garden furniture, fish and pets, gardening tools and more. If also offers an excellent café.
Wayside Arts Trail
This circular walk connects Towneley Hall with Burnley’s Panopticon; the Singing Ringing Tree sculpture on the moors at Crown Point.
The Offshoots permaculture project is housed in the old walled garden.
Other features include a children’s play area, picnic area, numerous football and sports pitches, bowling greens, and bird reserve.
Towneley Hall hosts a packed programme of events including a classic car show, craft fairs, photography exhibitions, brass bands, operas, Christmas fair, Christmas carol concerts, and more.
Towneley Live, Burnley’s biggest music festival, will be held here in August 2011. Acts schedule to appear include N-Dubz, The Saturdays, and McFly. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend.
Towneley Hall is open from noon to 5 pm, Saturday to Thursday.
Entrance to the hall is free for children, students and residents of Burnley. The fee for adults not living outside the town is £3.70.
Towneley Hall is the perfect venue for a dream wedding. The Regency Room is licensed for civil wedding ceremonies and can seat up to 100 guests.
Various wedding packages are available. Interested couples should contact Towneley Hall for more information.
Towneley Hall lies just south east of Burnley Town centre and is well-signposted from the M65 and major roads in the area. Satellite navigation owners should use the postcode BB11 3RQ.
There are several car parks serving the attraction. Parking charges were introduced several years ago.
Towneley Hall was the home of the Towneley family from the 13th century until 1902.
After the death of Charles Towneley in 1876 the estate, comprising not just Towneley Hall but also land in Yorkshire and County Durham, passed to his brother John Towneley. John died in 1878 and had no male heir as his only son had died the previous year.
The estate was therefore divided between two surviving daughter of Charles (Alice and Emily) and the four daughters of John (Theresa, Lucy, Mary, and Mabel).
Alice (Lady O’Hagan) inherited Towneley Hall but found it difficult to maintain with her limited income. In 1895 she offered to sell the hall and 62 acres of land to Burnley Corporation. The transaction was completed in 1901 at a price of £17,500. Alice left the following year.
Burnley Corporation opened the park to the public in June 1902 and the following year the hall held its first exhibition.
Over the next three decades, the council purchased additional parcels of land, bringing the park to its present size.