The town of Colne and St Bartholomew's church itself have a long and interesting history, dating back nearly 2000 and 1000 years, respectively. Here you can discover their origins, important dates and events of the past.

Colne is built upon a small hill in East Lancashire and has ancient origins, predating many of the other towns in the local area. People are thought to have first settled here in AD 79 following the defeat of the County of Lancaster by the Roman general Gnaeus Julius Agricola. The name of the town possibly derives from the Latin term "colonia" meaning "a settlement". Despite its antiquity Colne was not mentioned in the Domesday Book (compiled 1084-86), though this is probably because at that time it formed part of the Parish of Whalley, not forging its own identity until 1865.

In 1610, a map of the County of Lancaster drawn by John Speede showed Colne to be one of its 15 largest towns. During the Industrial Revolution Colne established itself as a centre for cotton manufacture. Other industries of the time included quarrying, mining, hat making, and leather manufacturing. Today Colne forms part of the Borough of Pendle, an area renowned for its natural beauty and infamous witches.

click for larger image Bonnie Colne
St Bartholomew's is the oldest building still standing in Colne, its foundations harbouring nearly 1000 years of history. The exact date of its construction is uncertain but its founder is thought to be Robert de Lacy, second Baron of Pontefract (son of Ilbert de Lacy, subordinate to William the Conqueror). It is known that the church was not built before the Norman Conquest. One possible date for its origin is 1122 when De Lacy requested a grant to the Priory of Pontefract. Up until the Reformation, the church was run by Cistercian monks of Whalley Abbey as part of the Parish of Whalley.

The original site chosen for St Bartholomew's was Church Clough (SD892392) overlooking Waterside, half a mile to the south of its present location. However, according to local folklore, when the masons began laying the foundations and building the church here, during the night "unseen hands" moved the stones and re-laid them perfectly at their current site. After a while the builders took this as an omen and continued to construct the church where it still stands today.

The axis of the church does not lie directly east-west but is offset so that the eastern window faces sunrise on St Bartholomew's Day. The church has a nave, three side aisles, a chancel, two chantries, a porch, and of course a tower. Three massive cylindrical pillars on its northern side are Norman in origin and thus thought to be part of the original building. The small windows and buttresses in the body of the church date back to the Tudor period, and the east and west windows are of the same era being examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture.

In 1515 a great deal of restoration took place, the upper section of the tower was built and the roof of the church raised. A flat plaster ceiling was made in 1765, and in 1815 the nave pillars were restored (at this time many people thought the building should be pulled down and completely reconstructed, plans were even drawn up for a new church). Further restorations were carried out in 1857, 1889, 1920, and 1937 when electric lighting was fitted. In 1936 an electric clock was fitted to the tower (the third timepiece other than the old sundial to grace St Bartholomew's) courtesy of Miss Christina Hartley, as a memorial to the Coronation of King George VI (this has since been removed).

You can read all about the tradition of bellringing at Colne on the Ringing History page.

click for larger image St Bartholomew's
click for larger image The sooted-up
church in the '30s
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