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Queen St map 1865

The census of 1861 is the first census that lists Queen Street, the census returns of 1841 and 1851 listing most of Lower Town as ‘Village’. Not only is it possible to see just who is living there using the census, but there is also a rate book for the town for 1864 which lists every rate payer and where they live. Comparing the two, and also the census of 1871 gives an indication of how the street was developing.
As the town grew and most people now worked outside the home, with neither time nor land to produce any of their own food, shops became necessary to provide food and other goods. It seems that at first most shops were located in Church Street and as late as the 1861 census only eight shops are listed on Queen Street:
Five butchers
A grocer
A grocer and photographer
A druggist and grocer.

The grocer and photographer mentioned above was the nephew of John Mercer, son of his half brother William Mercer. John Mercer himself was a pioneer in colour photography.
The rate book of 1864 lists nine shops, but the type of shop is not listed. By 1871 there are eighteen listings for occupations of the head of household which probably meant the home was also used as a shop


Harrison’s Tenement

The Walmesley Arms came into being sometime after 1866 when Daniel Thwaites took a lease on the building. It had formerly been the home of Robert Smith, cotton manufacturer who had lived there since 1848 when the previous tenant, a John Smith, died. John was a Roman Catholic and the family is difficult to trace in some records so the exact relationship, if any, of the two men is unknown.
Land in the lower town changed hands frequently; fields were taken from one farm and added to another and this can make tracing ownership of a farm in the lease registers and other records difficult. It does seem though, that what became the Walmsley, and the lands that were previously attached to it when it was a farm, was substantially the same farm named as Harrison’s in 1754 when it was recorded as being leased by another John Smith. This tenement was sold to Richard Cottam in 1775. A record of tithes due in 1818 shows that a John Smith held land valued at £21 16s 3d under Mr. Cottam; this would be the John Smith first mentioned above. The building bears a date stone with the inscription RC 1788 and this most probably records the initials of the then property owner Richard Cottam.
Randle Feilden of Blackburn, son of Henry Feilden of Great Harwood, made his will in 1719 in which he left to his son ‘Harrison’s and Cunliffe tenements’. Harrison’s in the 1754 lease included Cunliffe croft, Cunliffe meadow and Higher and Lower Cunliffe fields so this was almost certainly the same farm. Henry, father of Randle, was, as well as being a farmer, also an innkeeper and it is interesting to speculate whether the Walmesley Arms was not the first inn on the site.


These statistical records tell us who was living in Queen Street and what their occupations were, but they don’t tell us about the condition of the street at that time. A Nuisance Committee was formed in 1856 to deal with problems relating to public health and conditions in the town. Very soon after it was formed it was proposed to levy a rate for paving with set stones and pebbles ‘as great a portion of Queen Street as their means will allow’, showing that the street at that time was not paved. The committee kept a book of their proceedings and  in it all kinds of problems are recorded relating to matter thrown into the brook on Delph Road, and continuing problems with runoff from the urinals at both the Queen’s Head and Cross Axes public houses, which must have made the top of Queen Street very unpleasant. Problems in Queen Street that were recorded were: rubbish left for days in the street, overflow from privies, rubbish and slops thrown into the street and complaints about piggeries. In May 1858 David Brown had an open midden and open privy, the former being ‘a danger from its great depth and close proximity to the road and the latter disgraceful in appearance’. All in all this does not paint a pretty picture of life on Queen Street at the time.

Congregational Chapel

A souvenir booklet was published in 1912 to celebrate the centenary of the first Independent Chapel in Great Harwood. It includes a short history of the Chapel and says that it was founded by Roger Cunliffe and that the first meetings were held in an upper room of what is now a shop,38 Queen Street, on the corner of Queen Street and Joiner’s Alley. Published works since then also state this, but documents obtained from the Trappes-Lomax family and records held at the Lancashire Archive throw some doubt on this.

A history of Congreagational Chapel
Congreagational Chapel pre 1888
Congregational Chapel before the 1888 rebuild

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