Christ Church School, Colne, 1895

Christ Church 1895

This amazing picture of Christ Church School, Colne, was most likely taken in 1895 after the extension at the front was completed. This housed new classrooms and new entrances – one for boys one for girls – from the playground, which was also divided along gender lines by a wall running down its centre. Perhaps of most interest is the partial view of the original school – to the right – which opened in January 1841.

Extension to Christ Church School, 1895

Extension to Christ Church School, 1895

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the building of Christ Church School #2


We have already heard about the arrival of Reverend William Hodgson at Christ Church and his determination to build a school.

For some reason, just over a year passed before Hodgson pushed on with his scheme. He submitted an application to the National Society for money to build a school.


He wrote to Reverend Joseph Wigram MA, secretary to the Society again in September 1839:

19 Sep 1838

Dear Sir,

Since I wrote to you about a year ago a District has been assigned to my Church, the population of which amounts to 6,500. In this District there are very few that are at all wealthy, and almost all the operatives are handloom weavers of cotton. This statement, I trust, will convince that we have done what we can.

A Schoolroom is very much needed, and with all deference I would earnestly request you to use you influence on our behalf. Mr Haslegrove, Incumbent of of St Peter’s Islington, is well acquainted with the circumstances of the people, and would be likely to confirm my statement. When I opened the case to you we had about 200 children so that the increase of the year is 150, and I doubt not be we shall continue to increase in number.

We have no room except the Church nor is there any that we could occupy.

Leaving our cause in the hands of him who has the hearts of all men in his rule and governance

In Dec 1838 Hodgson wrote to the Bishop of Chester; Colne was a poor, troubled and rather godless place – how was he supposed to raise money there ?

I have just received a letter from Mr Wigram insisting on the necessity of some further efforts in raising local contributions for the School, and am sorry to say that under present circumstances I have not hope of more being done. One of our Esquires whom I expected would be a principle subscriber refused to help me because I endeavoured to make the children church people; and all his friends followed his example so far as to refuse. At all events circumstances render it necessary to discontinue teaching in the Church. The Church Sabbath School is a most beneficial institution, but in this case its evils are a counterpoise. I think that a letter from your Lordship would be a full counterpoise for our own local deficiency. The people of this neighbourhood are politically the most disaffected in the Kingdom; and how can we so successfully counteract the evils as by giving the youth a sound and scriptural education ? As to the want of this in this part you already know enough. Though I may herein be too troublesome, your Lordship’s past kindness makes me fully confer in your interest for the future.

Subsequently, Hodgson sent an impassioned response to Wigram’s suggestion he raise more money locally:

The Church was only opened in 1836, and with the exception of the donor of land the congregation have nothing to spare. Those who have wealth go to their pews in the parish Church, it being nearer to their residence than mine, and for some very unjustifiable reasons, in which I have not been concerned, are prejudiced against the place. My labours however have been blessed to the gathering of a large congregation from amongst a people who either lived altogether in the neglect of the Sabbath or were augmenting the ranks of political dissenters. Church principles have almost been lost in this place, which I have been cautiously endeavouring to revive. One of my efforts to do so has been catechising in the Church, which so offended one of our country Esquires – who calls himself a Church Man, and whom when I had reason to expect would be a principle subscriber – that he told me he would not give me aught because I tried to make the children Church people. Besides his independent wealth, he is one of our principle manufacturers. If I fail in my application, it will be in a consciousness of having done what I could. There is however only one alternative;- if you cannot assist me, the children must be dismissed, and that will be to my mind a most painful task, so painful that I must endeavour to avoid its endurance by seeking for myself another situation. We cannot go on in the Church, the pews are so narrow that we cannot efficiently carry the national system into operation, and the children having to come a considerable distance have to eat their dinners in the Church, which aught not to be the case. There is, moreover, scarcely a Sunday but complaints are made of the children taking dirt into the pews, and the generality of the people are holding back from taking pews on that very account. So that I shall never be locally supported until the Church is freed from their annoyance. I have laboured hard for a congregation;- besides my pastoral visits I am preaching five times a week, going over on extent of country about 5 miles square. Few perhaps in doing this would find time for the Sunday School, but I nearly always superintend it myself. Hence you may judge how painful it will be should I be necessitated to dismiss them. I have on my list 70 zealous and youthful teachers, whom to some extent I have instructed in the national system and there is not another school in the neighbourhood that even professes to have adopted it. Should I be able to keep these and the children they will add very naturally to the stability of the congregation. But, should they be sent away, they will at the best only swell the stream of dissent. In all this extent of country there is no other Church Sunday or Daily School whereas besides it four other are very much needed, and had I the means in these four I could muster 1000 Sunday School children and a considerable number on weekdays. I owe my pious impressions to a Church Sunday School, and for that reason the Sundays of my pious life have been spent therein. Even during the three years of my ministry and having to gp through three services I have on no single Sunday been absent from the School, except when absent from home.

My dear Sir help us if you can. Since your honourable Committee have heard enough of the poverty of Colne and its Chapelry! If your Society cannot help me efficiently, I will thank you to inform me whether I might meet with help from any other. If it cannot be done on the present scale, could it be done on a smaller ? – a small room will be better than none, though a smaller would be too small for our present number, viz 350. To what sudden transitions from hope to fear the human mind is subject!

Sources: the image of Christ Church – Lancashire Archives reference PR 3173/2; Hodgson’s letters to The National Society are at the Church of England Record Centre, reference NS 7/1/3365

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Colne’s industrial heritage


Mike Rothwell’s new book – Industrial Heritage A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Colne, Trawden and Foulridge – is excellent. Exhaustively researched, this comprehensive survey of the our industrial past is well structured – with useful introductory sections – and well illustrated. Ever walked past an old mill, warehouse, cottage or other industrial building in the area and wondered about it’s history ? Well, you’ll find an explanation here.

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Central Hall…first cinema in Colne, the UK or the world?


It has been argued that Central Hall on Colne Lane was not just the UK’s but the world’s first purpose built cinema. Quite a claim for such an inauspicious looking building. That it opened before the other UK contenders for the title is not in doubt. The counter argument surrounds the question of whether it was purpose built. Was it deliberately intended as a cinema, or just a hall in which film shows could be put on as part of a wider range of activities.

“The first building in the world specially designed as a cinema was opened in Colne, Lancashire, in 1907”. So say, Christopher Harvie and Colin Matthew of Central Hall in their Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press). It is a claim that is repeated in other places too as is the lesser one that give the hall the UK-only first place; just perform a few google searches and see. It was even recognised in the Guinness Book of Records.

The case against Colne’s claim is put by John Burrows in ‘The First Purpose Built Cinema: The Case Against Colne’ (Picture House, issue 30). His detailed argument is, unfortunately, quite convincing. He explains that the claims for Central Hall are based on what Josuhua Duckworth, the hall’s owner, said in Kinematogaph and Lantern Weekly (a British film industry trade paper) in July 1908:

The experience [in the film business], together with the good fortune to possess a site for a suitable hall in the centre of a population of some 30 to 40000 led to my present undertaking. I built what is known as  the Central Hall at a cost of over £2000. It is suitably furnished, installed with electric light, and heated with hot water….The apparatus for projecting is Gaumont’s Professional Chrono driven by electric motor, and this  has now run  every now for 2 years.

It is this last sentence upon which the Hall’s claims rest. If true, it takes it’s opening as a cinema back to mid 1906, one which predates other contenders. The problem is that there is no evidence to back up Duckworth’s statement – there is none to confirm when the Hall actually opened for instance – and the evidence that does exist suggests that, whilst it may have opened as early as 1905, it was more of a multi-purpose building. The building’s design certainly doesn’t have the appearance of a cinema – the five windows along each side for instance – and the plans submitted to the local council in 1905 for approval refer to it as a “public room”. These do not show a projection room, screen or seating but do specify an orchestra enclosure.

Central Hall2

Central Hall

From the building control plans submitted by Duckworth to the council (Lancashire Archives reference MBCO 27/1581)

Financial accounts seem to show that it was not in constant use in the first couple of years either – perhaps being used as storage space for Duckworth’s neighbouring print works – with little evidence of what use it was being put to (and certainly no evidence of film shows).

All that said, there might be evidence out there that does confirm what Joshua Duckworth said in 1908. We need to know precisely when the hall opened, when the first film show was and how often films were shown. Even in the absence of this information no one could deny that Joshua was a cinema pioneer and that Central Hall, if not the first purpose-built cinema, certainly has an important place in the early history of UK cinema.

Inside the hall today




Sources: Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, Christopher Harvie and Colin Matthew; ‘The First Purpose Built Cinema: The Case Against Colne’ in Picture House 30 – Jon Burrows, 2005; Building control plans (Lancashire Archives reference MBCO 27/1581); business and personal accounts of Joshua Duckworth (Lancashire Archives reference DDX 752/8/3)

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Market Street, Colne, c1880s (and now)

high res market street c1880.tif

A view down Market Street, c1880s. W Croasdale, Bookseller, Stationer and General ? is the shop on the far left. I suspect that’s Mr Croasdale in front of the shop, short white apron and arms folded; there’s another adult and a young girl stood in the doorway of the shop which is now long gone. In it’s place we have Clifford Smith and Buchanan, solicitors and estate agents, with its wonderful neo-classical columns and balustraded roof.






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Market Street, Colne, 1960s

Market Street 2

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the building of Christ Church School #1

The earliest known image of Christ Church School and Church from a letterhead of 1845

January 2016 will see the 175th anniversary of the opening of Colne Christ Church School.

With a strong determination to bring the word of god and a basic general education to the children of the poor in that part of the town, along with lots of arm-twisting and some measure of emotional blackmail, the second incumbent of the church, Reverend William Hodgson, succeeded in raising the funds necessary for a schoolroom. Money, or lack of it, was the constant challenge for Hodgson, and though January 1841 saw the school open, he found himself without the money for a teacher. Undeterred, Hodgson taught the classes himself and spent the next few years drumming up support for his new school and trying to secure the funds for a full time teacher. During this early period, the future of the school was far from certain.

William Hodgson had arrived from Haworth a few years earlier. There, on 25 Dec 1835, he had performed his first duty, a burial, as curate to Patrick Bronte in Haworth.

By temperament he [Hodgson] was a fiery and somewhat tactless young man who proved to be a voluble advocate of the Established Church and a vigorous opponent of Dissenters both in the pulpit and in print.” (Barker, The Brontes, p280)

He was Patrick’s right hand man until May 1837 when he signed the registers as curate for the last time and crossed the moors to become Vicar of Christ Church. Within a few months of arriving in Colne, Hodgson, tired of teaching children in the church, wrote to Reverend Joseph Wigram MA, secretary to The National Society about the poverty of the area, his ambition to build a school and with a request for money.

2 Aug 1837

Reverend Sir,

I find myself under the necessity of making an application to the National Society of pecuniary assistance in the erection of a Church Sunday and Daily-School Room; for the obtaining of which I respectfully request you interest and instructions.

We have already collected about 200 children, but having no School-room, we are obliged to teach them in the Church, which on many accounts is very inconvenient, especially because in our narrow pews I find it impossible to put the National System of Teaching, of which I highly approve, and to which I have long been accustomed, into operation.

The Church, to which I have but lately come, and of which I expect, under the blessing of God, soon to be Incumbent, has been only twelve months open for Divine Service since its erection; and is in a Chapelry of 20,000 souls.

There are but three Church Sunday School in the whole Chapelry. The children of the first are taught in the Grammar School, of the second in a room provided by your Society for that purpose [Colne National School]; and my children (the third) are taught in the Church. The number of children in these three schools will not amount to 600; leaving the remaining thousands to grow up in the wilds of ignorance, or to stray and be led in the paths of schism.

Judging from the local situation of the Church, and other circumstances, it is probable that, had we a convenient room for a good system of teaching, we might have not fewer than 500 children; however, of a certainty, we should be justifiable in providing for 400.

James Wilson, Esq. Who gave ground for the Church, offers land from the same estate for the School. But as the wealthier inhabitants had to subscribe for the erection of the Church, and are daily called upon to contribute towards the maintenance of unemployed operatives, I have no hope at present of pecuniary assistance from them.

From an estimate which I have obtained, it appears that about £300 would be required, a grant of which from your honourable Society would confer upon us a lasting obligation and an inestimable benefit.

Sources: the image of Christ Church – Lancashire Archives reference PR 3173/2; Hodgson’s letters to The National Society are at the Church of England Record Centre, reference NS 7/1/3365

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