History of Towneley Park

To follow our 12 history information boards, pick up a WALKS LEAFLET from the Hall foyer or the Rotunda at Riverside, and follow the 6 km History Trail around the Park. Each board identifies a particuar aspect of Towneley Park’s history, to show how the Towneley family first put their mark on this land, and then how Burnley Council has adapted the Park in more recent times.

Alternatively, take home our leaflet, TOWNELEY PARK , THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE, available in the Hall foyer or at the Rotunda, to discover, in more detail, how each generation of the Towneley family contributed to this demesne from 1397 to 1901. Read how the 62 acres of land, bought, along with the Hall, by Burnley Corporation, was opened to the public in 1902 and was developed and increased over the years. See how the Friends of Towneley Park have contributued to this in more recent years, in collaboration with Burnley Council.

A Brief History of Towneley Park

Towneley was the home of the Towneley family for over 500 hundred years until Towneley Hall, with gardens and woodland, was purchased by Burnley Corporation in November 1901. The family sold more of the surrounding farm land later and Towneley Park as we see it today, was developed in several stages, the latest stage being completed in 2011.

Towneley was opened as a public park in June 1902 and the Hall opened as an art gallery and museum in the following year. Priorities for Burnley Corporation was provision of refreshments, toilets and park benches. In 1903, a bowling green was built in the kitchen garden.

Opening of Towneley Park – June 28th 1902

This map shows all the 62 acres of land included in the first purchase, outlined in green. Most of the footpaths seen within the park are still in use today. Around 80% of the park was woodlands and gardens. High Royd, since mediaeval times a pasture for cattle, was made available for Sunday school picnics. Now it is a popular pitch and putt course.

Postcard with five views of Towneley Park

This postcard dates from around 1914.

New Tennis Courts at Towneley 1924

In 1923, tennis courts and another bowling green were built at Causeway End. In August 1927, another 174 acres of land, mostly farming land on Towneley Holmes, was purchased. The Corporation used much of this land for a golf course and playing fields but one important part of the purchase was Thanet Lee Wood. This was opened to the public as part of the Towneley pleasure grounds in 1930.

Aerial 271: aerial view of Towneley Park

This aerial view shows Thanet Lee Wood, sports pitches and golf course in 1971.

In 1908, that part of Towneley north of the Calder, including the Deer Pond and Lodge Farm, was compulsory purchased by Burnley Corporation for smallholdings. In 1973, that land was appropriated by the Burnley Council’s Development Committee with a change of use to public open space and residential purposes. Today it contains the Deer Pond Local Nature Reserve, a 9 hole golf course, Smallholdings Wood and the Riverside Car Park.

Barwise car park and picnic area was created in the late 1970s to provide additional car parking on the south west side of the Park. It is named after Joseph Barwise, who ran a dahlia nursery there for over 50 years from 1910.

In 1927, the land on Towneley Holmes not purchased by Burnley Corporation became a greyhound stadium. It closed in 1935, allowing schools and playing fields to be built and the golf course was extended to 18 holes. Towneley High School, now known as Unity College, was moved north of the Calder in 2010 and the former site of Unity College restored to parkland as Woodgrove in 2011.

For a more detailed history of the park download A brief history of Towneley Park from maps , written by Tony Kitto for an exhibition The story of Towneley Park in maps 1661-2007 that ran from April 6th to June 30th 2007.