Getting Started

So now it was the big day. Sitting on the bus in Todmorden Bus Station, watching the market traders setting up their stalls, I scanned the ominous black clouds rolling up the valley. A bus inspector was talking to one of the stallholders.... 'Looks like we're in for a bit of a storm', he said. 'Charming', I thought. As the bus finally pulled out of Todmorden and proceeded up the gorge towards Lancashire, his forecast began to prove all too correct. By the time we had got to Holme Chapel there was thunder, lightning and torrential rain! I hustled the dog off the bus at Towneley Side and immediately sought shelter under a hedge! For a while I considered that I might have to abandon the expedition, but when the rain had abated slightly I resolved that I might as well get to Towneley Hall before deciding further. By the time I reached the side of the castellated old mansion the rain had eased quite a bit. It was time to take a bite to eat and ponder, so I found myself a seat at one of the iron tables on the verandah outside the closed cafe.

Towneley Hall is a beautiful House. It is normally open to the public, and, unlike a lot of todays' attractions admission is FREE. In one wing is a beautiful Tudor Long Gallery, and parts of the fabric are mediaeval. The chapel in the south western corner of the house dates from 1601 and contains a beautifully carved early 16th century Flemish altarpiece. The Towneleys, who lived here in the sixteenth century, were ardent Catholics, and John Towneley, (whose picture in the hall depicts him with his wife and twelve children) suffered much for his faith. He was imprisoned and heavily fined on more than one occasion for being a 'Popish Recusant'. Towneley Hall in those days was one of the most important Mass centres in the county, and, being so close to wild and lonely moors,offered a safe haven for Catholic Priests and Jesuits. There were reputed to have been some eight hiding places in the hall and at least two of them survive still. There is said to be a secret passage leading from the hall, but this is unlikely. It is not too hard to imagine the dangerous game of 'hide and seek' which must have taken place here in those intolerant and turbulent times, discovery leading to torture and death. We should be thankful for the liberty of conscience we take for granted today.

The rain had now stopped, but the skies were still frowning. It was a moment for decision. It was 8.50 am.- this would be my only shot at the walk this year- the nights were closing in, and I would not get a second chance. I decided I would risk the weather, even though I realised that once I got up into the moors there would be no easy way off. So at 9am we (the dog and I) passed through the front gates of Towneley Hall and set off on the long trail to Bingley.


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Copyright JIM JARRATT 2002