Huncoat, Lancashire, England - bygone village life
BYGONE VILLAGE LIFE.
Extract from 'History and Associations of Altham and Huncoat.' by AINSWORTH. Richard
In the old Wardens' Book at St. James' Church, Accrington, is preserved an eighteenth century record of poor-law administration in relation to the apprenticeship of children. This refers to the binding of a pauper boy apprentice from Huncoat to John Eatough, of Accrington, for the term of six years, dated the 21st day of August, 1725. It is in the nature of a settlement attested by the overseers of both townships. This was done to prevent the township being over-burdened by the poor from other districts, as persons might become chargeable by apprenticeship or by taking service. Children bound to a master were commonly known as town apprentices. The custom was fairly common for both boys and girls to be sent to various farmers throughout the country. This was further intensified when the industrial system was introduced, and children from the workhouses were sent in batches to the early printworks and cotton mills. Scores of children were -disposed- of in this way by Poor Law authorities in other parts of the country and Lancashire received them into its new industrial areas. One of these town apprentices who came to Mist Farm as a little girl from some other district was a lady whose married name was Nellie Grime. Her husband was better known as "Owd Billy" Grime. They lived at Grime Row and owned two houses there.
The principal traffic of the district in olden times was by means of pack-horses, small hard, and mostly bred in Gallowayshire. The "gals," as they were termed, generally went in gangs from twelve to twenty, under the care of a driver. Owing to the wild and mountainous character of the country, these small packhorses formed the best means of communication between the different villages and farms, connected often only by steep and precipitous paths similar to that from Burnley Road to the farm at Rake Head. Browsing along the roadsides as they went leisurely on their journey, at night pasturing on the neighbouring moors, their cost of upkeep was a mere trifle. The leader of the---galswas bedecked with a leather collar on which was fastened a ring of bells as a guide to members of the gang and gave warning to any approaching team. The chief business of these teams was the carrying of lime from Clitheroe to moorland farms for breaking up the rough ground and coal on the return journey. Each sack weighed about two hundred and forty pounds. They were a familiar sight in Huncoat, and a memorial to an old driver is erected in Altharn Churchyard:---William. Hacking, of Huncoat, who died January 15th, 1800, aged 85 years:
"A faithful servant resteth here
Another mode of communication that came into being during the latter part of the eighteenth century and which just touches Huncoat is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The section between Burnley and Enfield was opened for traffic in May, 1796, the entire length by October, 1816. Packet boata were introduced and Houghton Barn Bridge became a packet station for passengers.
Bull-baiting, an old-time sport was indulged in at Huncoat in the eighteenth century in Town Gate. Bull-baiting, now regarded as a cruel and degrading sport, was not looked upon as such by people of those days to whom it appealed as an exciting spectacle and attracted a large number of spectators., It was under the sanction of the law for butchers were fined or "amerced" for selling beef which had not been previously baited. The bull was taken into Town Gate, secured to an iron ring and then the dogs were "set" on to it with disastrous results oftimes to many a dog. It was believed that the beef would be more tender for human food if the bull had been previously baited. Bull-baiting was not abolished by Parliament until 1835.
Cock-fighting was another cruel sport that prevailed on the hills around Huncoat. The cock pit was common.in connection with inns, a neighbouring field being used for the purpose. One such was behind the White Lion. Cock-fighting was a fascinating sport to the men folk, betting and gambling being the order of the day. The Lomaxes, Holdens and other gentry had their mains of cocks which figured in the cock pits of Manchester, Preston and other places. Dr. Whitaker, who on occasions visited Huncoat on #his way to and from Holme, records that while preaching in church he distinctly heard the infernal yells and oaths which issued from a neighbouring cock pit. Cock-fighting was prohibited by Act of Parliament in 1849.
Foot racing, tip-lad, or knur and spell, were popular sports in Huncoat and matches were played in the field belonging to Thomas Wilkinson of the White Lion Inn, previously used for cockfighting. People came from Burnley, Accrington and Padiham when some well-known exponents of the game were engaged.
Players have been known to drive the knur of "buck" 400 yards. Anthony Wright, of Huncoat, was passionately fond of this sport and was regarded in his younger days as a local champion
On occasions when the bounds and red-mated huntsmen appeared in the village the handloom weavers left off their work to follow on foot and enjoy the sport, then back to their looms and work late into the night to make up for lost time. Wrestling was often indulged in as a sport, many bouts being witnessed in Town Gate.
During the disturbed times following the close of the Napoleonic Wars, Huncoat suffered from depredations committed principally by discharged soldiers and persons rendered desperate by the conditions of the times. Cases of highway robbery were common and poaching was the order of the day among lawless men. On one occasion three poachers were surprised by gamekeepers and a struggle ensued, in the course of which one of the poachers had his gun wrested from his h ' and by one of the keepers. By this the man was identified, arrested, tried and transported to Tasmania. After his term of service he began farming and prospered, as did many others who have helped to build up the Australian Commonwealth. Castle Clough was the scene of the murder of a girl named Sellers, of Sellers' Fold.
Illicit stills were common in the cloughs and ravines of the wild moorlands of Hameldon slopes. Various devices were adopted to evade the revenue officers and many exciting adventures took place among these smugglers. Whisky was distributed by men who travelled the countryside and had regular customers. They carried the spirits in large tins specially made to fit capacious pockets in their coats. Each tin would hold one gallon. Many ingenious devices were adopted such as hiding places in walls, known only to distillers and their confederates. The receiving places, such as inns and farmhouses, were known as "bush' shops." There was adventure in the risks they undertook.
Marriages from Huncoat usually took place at Church Kirk, being within that parish, apart from civil marriages before the Registrar. The village wedding of a century ago was quite a charming feature of the place. Social events that lent gaiety and brightness to the routine of life. The wedding parties walked in couples all the way to Church Kirk and back, headed by the village fiddler, who enlivened the walk by playing lively tunes. A dozen couples were frequently seen in a wedding procession. When one of the daughters of the Wilkinsons of the White Lion Inn was married, 27 couples followed the bride, all bedecked in dresses and ribbons. Another daughter married Anthony Wright on another occasion and at both events feasting and merrymaking followed at the White Lion.
Thomas Wilkinson was host of the White Lion Inn for many years and his widow carried on the business later. Ann Wilkinson, in her younger days, possessed a good voice and was in general request at funerals. The custom then was for the mourners to gather outside the house of the deceased and Ring around the bier, prior to being carried to Altham. On these occasions she "led off- the singing of the mourners and neighbours. Brothers of the host of the White Lion were: John Wilkinson, farmer, overseer and village constable, who commenced a small dye works but eventually went to America; David. Wilkinson, a local naturalist well versed in botany who resided at Piper's Row (now demolished) near the Stocks. Anthony Wright was host, and kept the old Hall Farm for many years.'