People > Reminiscences and Family Stories > Recollections of Great Harwood 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4


From Preston Guardian, April 8 1876

Recollections of Great Harwood

Chapter 1

(By an East Lancashire Man)

The derivation of the name Great Harwood is from "The Great Hardwood", chiefly beech trees which are believed to be the hardest wood in creation. Originally the district was so woody as to resemble a forest of trees. For six or eight hundred years it has had a church, the name of whose patron saint has been changed several times-just according to the whim or caprice of the local nabobs. The chief seats in the local synagogue for hundreds of years were given to the first comers; but recently they have been reserved by some inexplicable contrivance to the use and enjoyment of those who give the most money to the offertory - decidedly ritualistic. Who are the authors of the sacrilegious innovation upon the rights acquired and enjoyed by the rude forefathers of the hamlet is a question that is always answered by exclamation of "Thou canst not say I did it". Allison the historian says that England had first slavery, then feudalism, and then civilisation dawned upon the land. In the region of the great wood many specimens of Gurth, the Saxon, once flourished, who wore wooden collars round their necks. They have, however joined the eternity of the place. It is within the last half century that the place has assumed the dimensions of the town. The Wesleyans have had their place of worship here for about 100 years. The Independents cannot reckon upon more than half a century. The Warrenites have had a local habitation and a name for about forty years. All the families in place are more or less related, and most warmly attached to the place of their birth, not believing that they can live anywhere but at Great Harwood. An old Roman road passed through the place, and had a juncture with another Roman road beyond Whalley. Formerly, most of the inhabitants of the district were dependant upon hand -loom weaving, the most recent and prominent being the late Mr. Lawrence Catterall. Since then cotton mills had been erected, which have just ebbed and flowed with the chequered progress of the Lancashire cotton trade. When the writer knew the place, about 40 years ago, it contained some choice spirits some modest and invaluable, others boisterous and turbulent. Some were resolved to smite the aristocrats of the land to the earth with pikes or pistols, or scythes affixed to long poles. Mr. Clayton practised medicine, and gained his right to do so by effluxion of time. The late Mr. Hargreaves, fifty years district coroner, often took his evidence in cases of life and death. He was a member of an ancient family, exemplary in his conduct, and one of the earlier founders of Methodism in the district. He made a lotion - colourless - that was called "Cooler", then it was fetched thirty, forty or fifty miles. He took the secret with him to his tomb. There was another character that made "Cooler" who was the very antipodes of Mr. Clayton - John Hindle, best known as "Joan-o'-Lets". He was dressed in a beaver hat, lapelled coat, bright buttons, fustian vest, and small clothes. His legs were adorned with brown hose, and he had on a pair of hob-nailed shoes. No one seemed to remember his clothes being new. He was an ardent reformer, and held the Jacobin notion that no reform could be carried out except by an invasion of the French. He could neither read nor write, and thus he was often imposed upon by an eloquent man named Moore, who used to go about the country to fairs selling ready-made shoes. But when the invasion panic was it its height, when Bonaparte was really expected, when preparations were made on the Lancashire coast to resist the landing of the French, who were expected to reach Preston in flat bottom boats, about the year 1812 - then the enthusiasm of John Hindle was boundless. A very ancient highway passed Cliffe where he lived, and it was frequently used by drivers of cattle, who could manage to drive their herds of fat cow from Scotland to London, through cross country roads, without coming in contact with a single toll bar. Cattle so driven had plates on their feet to prevent them becoming foot sore. Down the road, between three and four o'clock one morning, a crowd of black cattle were driven by their shouting drivers, and Joan hastily rose from his bed with the impression that he was about to bid welcome to an army of invading Frenchmen; bitter was his disappointment when he saw nothing but flesh for the butcher's whittle. He might be seen by each morning wending his way with a basket on his right arm, and a swing-can in his left hand, which contained "cooler". His basket held plasters and pills. Some mischievous wag would go behind a hedge and shout "Have the French landed yet?" Joan would turn around and call out "I will land this stick on thy back if thou will come near enough." He was a skilful man and reduced fractured joints and limbs. A stout young woman whose ankle he pulled in, in her passion hit him with her foot in the stomach knocking him over a chair, whereat he laughed boisterously and gave her a penny in copper, in token of her being "a plucked un". Whenever Joan laid his hands upon an ailing limb, he generally made the sufferer give mouth, but it made not the slightest difference to the operator whether the victim fainted or saluted him with an imprecation. Patients had their limbs so securely spelked and bandaged, that they were fain to keep quiet till their "hurts" were examined again. In the terrible times of 1819, Joan was past holding. The number and quality of devils prayers that he sent forth were alarming. A delegate meeting was held at Harwood and it was resolved to strike a blow for the liberties of the country, by exterminating some of the leading tyrants of the earth, nay, the eventful morning was fixed, and the men, well armed, repaired to John's house to claim him their leader, but he was gone. A neighbour had seen him enter a barn, which was now entered by the warriors, who found Joan on the hay mow. He said he had made plenty of plasters, and they must take all the wounded to him.


To be continued


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