Wycoller is a small village a few miles from Colne in East Lancashire, very near to the Yorkshire border. Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon Wic-Air, meaning a dairy farm among the alder trees.
In the past, it was a sheep farming community, with a cluster of small stone houses where handloom weavers worked. My 4 x great-grandfather lived in Wycoller as a child in the late 18th century and became a weaver. The invention of the powerloom, however, led to the end of the cottage industry, and families moved to live nearer to the weaving mills. The next four generations of my family worked in the mills in Trawden and Winewall.
The village was virtually abandoned for almost a century but was brought back to life by a volunteer group, “The Friends of Wycoller”. The old stone houses have now been restored, and are highly sought after, and the area around the village has been developed into Wycoller Country Park, with trails and walks, and a wildlife trust.
The stream or ‘beck’ which runs through Wycoller has seven bridges, including an ancient packhorse bridge. There is also a Clapper Bridge which dates from the 18th century. This photo shows my great-grandfather (in the centre of the bridge) with his brother-in-law at Wycoller sometime during the first decade of the 20th century.
Here’s a modern photo of the two bridges nearest to the centre of the village.
Wycoller Hall, built by the Hartley family in the 16th century and passing by marriage to the Cunliffe family, is said to have been the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’. Haworth, the home of the Brontes, is not far from Wycoller and the Bronte sisters probably visited the village on their walks. By the late 1900’s, however, the hall was unoccupied and stones were removed to be used for other properties including some of the cotton mills in Trawden. Restoration work has been undertaken during the last 50 years by the Friends.
For those who like ghost stories, Wycoller Hall has several, including a phantom horseman. The story is that Simon Cunliffe, the squire, was pursuing a fox which ran upstairs and into his wife’s chamber. He followed on his horse and , on finding his terrified wife cowering in the corner, raised his whip as if to strike her. She dropped dead out of fright. The squire can still be seen returning to the hall. His horse’s hooves clatter over the bridge and into the hall, and these sounds are followed by a woman’s scream. The ghost then returns the way he has come. He’s supposed to appear once a year, after dark during stormy weather. The woman, wearing a long black dress, has also been ‘seen’ by several people.
This is the last of my Thursday Tour of NW England posts, as I've drawn a blank on X, Y and Z! for the rest of October, I shall be concentrating on posts for the Blogfest 2012 (and Six Sentence Sunday, too, of course). Many thanks to all who've joined me on this tour!