In the 18th and early 19th century the village developed from a farming community to a centre for handloom weaving. By 1820 its population had risen to around 350.
The introduction of power looms throughout the 19th century led to a decline in the village’s fortune. Its handloom weavers left to work in the factories of larger towns. By 1871 all the weavers had left the village. The economy had reverted to agriculture.
Towards the end of the 19th century the village looked set to disappear forever. There were plans to flood the Wycoller Valley and establish a reservoir to supply water to Colne. However, the scheme was abandoned as underground water was discovered. Water was taken from a borehole instead.
Throughout much of the 20th century the houses here were mostly uninhabited. In 1973 the village and surrounding land was purchased by Lancashire County Council. They established Wycoller Country Park. The cottages were renovated and are now desirable places to live.
The ruins of Wycoller Hall lie at the centre of the village. The building dates back to the late 16th century. It is be believed to be the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre, the novel by Charlotte Bronte.
The last occupant of the building was Henry Owen Cunliffe. Henry inherited the estate in 1772, aged just 21. He renovated the property with a view to attracting a wealthy wife. His plan bore fruit, and in 1775 he married Mary Oldham, the daughter of a prosperous hat manufacturer.
Henry was a prolific gambler. Gambling and the cost of the renovations sent him into debt. After his death in 1818, his heir was unable to repay the mortgage and the estate was split up.
Throughout the 19th century the hall fell into ruins. Stones were sold to build a cotton mill in Trawden and plundered to construct other buildings.
Wycoller Beck and the Bridges
Wycoller Beck flows through the village and park. It is crossed by seven historic bridges.
The Clam Bridge is the most primitive. It is a single stone slab. Holes indicate the former position of handrails. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and thought to be over 1,000 years old.
The Clapper Bridge is more complex; consisting of three stone slabs resting on two piers. It is also known as Hall Bridge, Druids’ Bridge, or Weavers’ Bridge. It is a Schedule Ancient Monument and is located near the ruins of Wycoller Hall.
Packhorse Bridge boasts two arches. The stone surface is worn and grooved; caused by years of use by clog-wearing workers. It also known as Sally’s Bridge and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The Packhorse Bridge features in The Railway Children; widely regarded as one of the best British films of all time. Roberta Waterbury (Jenny Agutter) is sitting on the bridge when she is met by Doctor Forrest (Peter Bromilow).
Aisled Barn Visitor Centre
The Aisled Barn was built around 1630 on the site of an earlier cruck barn. The roof and rafters are supported by huge oak pillars. The pillars stand on stone bases to stop the wood rotting.
In its lifetime it was used for a variety of purposes; as a shelter for cows and for storing crops. In 1774 it became a coach house for Wycoller Hall.
It opened in 2002 as a visitor centre following renovations. Displays offer information about the history of Wycoller hall, weaving, farming, the bridges, wildlife, and the area’s connection with the Bronte sisters.
The Atom is a fantastic work of public art and one of the four Lancashire Panopticons.
It enjoys a prominent location on a hill to the east of the village. The vantage point offers great views of the country park and sights such as Pendle Hill.
A considerably less arduous walk is our walk around Wycoller Country Park. Sights include Wycoller Hall, the bridges, Wycoller Beck, and The Atom.
Another sight on the our walk are the stone slab walls. These distinctive walls were built as cattle enclosures. Their age is not certain but they are commonly believed to be medieval. They give the area an ancient feel.
Dogs must be kept under control. Much of the park is a working farm.
The Old Dairy is a delightful cafe. It is housed in a former cowshed. It boasts a fantastic interior with stone walls, antique furniture, and a welcoming open fire.
They offer meals, pots of tea, and homemade cakes.
Recent years have seen a local artist place fairy doors in trees around the park. Children love finding the colourful little doors.
Wycoller Country Park is best reached by car. It lies around 3 miles east of Junction 14 of the M65 Motorway; the motorway linking Preston to Colne.
Parking in the village itself is for residents and disabled badge holders only. The absence of traffic adds to the serene, idyllic environment. There are car parks on the outskirts of the park; Trawden Road Car Park and Haworth Road Car Park. Parking charges apply.
The Trawden Road Car Park is closer to the village (Wycoller Hall, Visitor Centre etc.). The Howarth Road Car Park is adjacent to The Atom.
To find the Trawden Road Car Park with a satellite navigation system use the postcode BB8 8SY. The Haworth Road Car Park is off Lancashire Moor Road (postcode BB8 7EH).
The nearest train station is Colne; approximately 3 miles away.