History of Brindle
Brindle is a small and ancient village set in farmland and bordered by the towns of Preston, Chorley and Blackburn. In addition to privately owned farms, eight more are still actively working as part of the estate which until recent times was owned by the Cavendish (Dukes of Devonshire) family for almost 400 years.
At the heart of the village is the Parish Church of St. James, in pre-Reformation days known as St. Helen’s. Its first rector is recorded as Ughtred in 1190. The present church tower was constructed about 1500 and two of the original bells are still regularly rung. Some eight paces from the lych-gate is an old inn, the Cavendish Arms.
A short distance down Water Street, past a row of seventeenth century white cottages, is the village school established in 1623 as ‘Brindle Free Grammar School’. It was rebuilt from its place in the churchyard to its present location in 1828. There are twenty-four other buildings, made from the stone won from the local quarries, which are listed as being of architectural and historical significance.
The parish itself sprawls across a large acreage (the 1851 Census showed Brindle as being 10,388 acres) and contains a number of hamlets and folds. Close-by lies the fortified presence of Hoghton Tower and its equally ancient estate. The population remains relatively unchanged; in 1821 there were 1,574 residents, today there are around 1,800. Many of the surnames which can be found in the parish registers as far back as the sixteenth century are still present on farm gates and in the electoral register.
The name Brindle has its origin in the earlier Burnhul, the ‘hill by the stream’. There is no direct reference to the village in the Domesday Book but the heavily wooded area in which it was situated is mentioned. The name partly explains the village’s claim to be the site of the battle of Brunanburh, where in 937 King Athelstan “won undying glory with the edges of swords, against the Norsemen”. The possible validity of this location was reinforced by the discovery of the great Cuerdale treasure in the nineteenth century; it can be seen in the British Museum. The Cavendish Arms is in no doubt about the site and its stained glass windows vividly recapture the tale of battle and treasure – there are, of course, other pretenders to this claim!
Until 1572 the manor and estate of Brindle were held by the Gerards of Bryn. Sir Thomas Gerard unwisely supported the cause of Mary Queen of Scots and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He forfeited his lands to the Cavendish family, thus beginning their long relationship with Brindle.
Catholicism remained a significant factor in the story of Brindle. In 1613 there were “unlawful meetings of Papists in Brindle”. Mass houses such as Slack Farm were regularly used and there was a strong Jesuit presence. In 1628 Father Edmund Arrowsmith was pursued and captured in Brindle, later being executed at Lancaster. It is estimated that about 50% of the population remained true to the old faith and recusancy was regularly recorded. The establishing of a mission in 1677 by Benedictine monks led eventually to the building of St. Joseph’s Church in 1786 and the first Catholic school in the same year.
During the Civil War the village shared the hardship and fear endured for nearly ten years by many parts of Lancashire. Colonel Robert Lilburne with his cavalry regiment and foot-soldiers, a thousand strong, established himself in the village prior to the Battle of Wigan Lane and the final overthrow of the future Charles the Second at Worcester in 1651.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, village life reflected agricultural and industrial changes. Handloom weaving at many farm cottages, but particularly at the three-storey homes at Top o’th Lane, was a necessary supplement to the basic agricultural livelihood. It was not until the construction of the Bourne Cotton Mill in 1853 that local employment was placed on a surer footing; the opening of the Paper Mill at Withnell Fold also provided regular work.
Throughout this time the notorious Brindle Workhouse provided a bleak place under Hough Hill for the destitute of the Chorley Poor Law Union. Converted in 1734 from a Catholic chapel, it was used partly for “pauper lunatics” until 1816 and in 1857 it was stated to be “now capable of housing about 200 persons exclusive of children at the breast”.
Political change in the nineteenth century manifested itself by the Tithe Barn being “maliciously destroyed by fire” in 1821 and by a major meeting of the Chartists on Denham Hill in 1848. The first Parish Council was formed in 1894 under the chairmanship of the Rev. Kinton Jacques. The council minutes, most of them retained in their original longhand, provide a valuable insight into village life over the last hundred and twelve years.
Involvement in wars has always affected rural communities and Brindle is no exception. In 1513 Brindle bowmen marched north to Flodden to join the English in the defeat of the Scots and in 1642, at the beginning of the Civil War, local men joined a Royalist Regiment under Sir Gilbert Gerard at the battle Edge Hill. Brindle men also fought in the Crimean War and the Boer War. During World War One the village was comparatively fortunate to see only sixteen of its number pay the ultimate sacrifice; it is recorded that out of 150 men from the village who went to war 135 returned. One young officer lost his life leading a company of ‘Accrington Pals’ at the Battle of the Somme. Two brothers, who had emigrated to New Zealand in 1915, lost their lives in 1916 and 1918.
Most of the survivors from the area were instrumental in building the Brindle Parish Institute in 1923, as a suitable memorial to their fallen comrades. In the Second World War four men are recorded on the War Memorial; two losing their lives at sea, one on the notorious Burma – Siam Railway, the last in the desert of North Africa. Brindle itself was affected when a V1 flying bomb destroyed two houses, close to Gregson Lane, on Christmas Eve 1944. German bombers occasionally deposited bombs also on the surrounding countryside whilst searching out the Royal Ordnance factories at Chorley and Blackburn, and the Leyland Motors factories in Leyland.
In post-war years the village has reflected the many social and economic changes seen nationally. In 1965 a small development of forty five houses, in the centre of the village, ensured the continuation of the old school and added to the life of the community. Today, Brindle remains a small and friendly place with a new custom built Community Hall opened in April 2006. Fewer work on the farms, but their influence rightly remains greater than their number; most villagers work outside the area, some from home, many are retired.
The Shell Book of English Villages back in 1980 stated that… “The Brindle villagers have a great community spirit and hope that they will not be swallowed up by a new conurbation”. That remains the hope of many villagers in this new century.