Old gate stoops on Tagglesmire, on the edges of West Bradford and Grindleton Fells. Pendle Hill is in the distance. SD729483.

Tagglesmire [more...]

Upper Black Moss reservoir with Pendle Hill in the distance. SD830416.

Upper Black Moss reservoir [more...]

Stocks reservoir from the Causeway. The Dalehead valley was flooded in 1933 to provide water for the Fylde. The village of Stocks in Bowland is below the waters. The adjoining Gisburn Forest is a popular mountain biking and walking area. SD737560.

Stocks reservoir [more...]

Forest of Bowland photographs

Some historical aspects...

The Pennine region was not well populated by early man and there is little artifactual evidence of the early presence in Bowland, but the landscape we see today bears testament to his activity - the clearance of trees. The felling of trees to provide wood and clearance of the ground for agriculture started in the Bronze Age (c. 2000 BC) but they lacked the tools for widespread clearance. The deterioration of the climate and the continued clearance by Celtic peoples - continuing into the colonisation by the Angles in the sixth century - formed the foundation for the landscape we see today. The native Celts and the Angles formed settlements, cleared ground and set hedges. They gave us words such as Hodder (Celts) and clough (Angles).

Hammerton Hall
Hammerton Hall near Slaidburn; an Elizabethan mansion.
The Hammertons owned large tracts of land in Yorkshire
and were a long established Bowland family, possibly
pre-Norman. Their involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace
in 1536 - the worst uprising of Henry VIII's reign, against
the dissolution of monasteries - led to the hanging and
beheading of Sir Stephen Hammerton, and his lands were
forfeited to the Crown. The family suffered other
tragedies over the ensuing two years.

Angles, Norse and Normans

In the early tenth century, Norse colonisation occurred, principally from their settlements in Ireland. They inhabited small isolated farms in high terrain. Many of the farm names (such as Beatrix near Dunsop Bridge) and topographical features reflect the Norse occupation: fell (hill), moss (bog), laithe (barn), beck (stream) are from Old Norse.

In the 11th century, the Norman invader made his mark. Clitheroe keep was constructed around 1100. Feudal estates flourished and Royal Forests were constituted in the 12th century.

The Forests were not necessarily wooded - they were hunting areas for the local lords (or monarch) in which the browse for deer was protected and the activities of the inhabitants were constrained by Forest Laws (see my New Forest website for more information on Royal Forests).

The Forest of Bowland extended north to Bolland Knotts and the Cross of Greet. There were also Forests at Bleasdale, Quernmore, Wyresdale and Pendle. Deer parks were developed to satisfy the desire for the meat. The landscape in the southern part of the AONB still has a park-like quality in places. The forest courts at Whitewell were abandoned in the early 18th century and the halmote (manorial) court at Slaidburn disbanded following the abolition of copyhold (land owned by the manor) in 1922. Forest Law was formally revoked nationally by the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act 1971.


Vaccaries were large open areas to graze livestock and were created by feudal landowners to make economic returns on their "wastes", beyond the bounds of the deer parks. Boundaries were constructed and a herdsman may have had around 100 cattle to tend, which were provided by the lord. The tenancies were held by the same families for many years. Vaccaries were used principally in the 13th to 15th centuries. They were then broken up into smaller holdings for rent. Sykes Farm on the Trough road was a vaccary (it is mentioned in a document of 1323 as "Trogh" [Trough] under the tenancy of Adam de Whitlidale). Curiously, there is little mention of sheep in these early documents. The 18th and 19th centuries brought about the more widespread enclosure of the holdings and of common land with drystone walls, some of which climb to the top of the fells.

War memorial, Slaidburn
Slaidburn War Memorial, erected in 1923.


The Industrial Revolution had little impact on Bowland, unlike much of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Devoid of coal reserves, and away from the valleys with fast-flowing streams to power the industrialisation of the wool and cotton industries, it was largely ignored by the builders of turnpike roads, canals and railways.

The provision of limestone for farming and building use in many parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire was an important industry and the pack-horse "galls" (Galloway ponies) loaded with limestone crossed Pendle Hill until the latter years of the 19th century. The commercial extraction of limestone is still a notable industry in the Ribble Valley.


There are some fine houses and estates in Bowland and the Ribble Valley occupied by long-standing families, such as the Parkers at Browsholme (since about 1507), and the Asshetons at Downham (since 1545). Stonyhurst College is probably the most remarkable building in the Ribble Valley. The Roman Catholic college was originally founded in France in 1593 to provide a Catholic education for English families unable to educate children in England. In 1794 it came to the Stonyhurst estate, gifted by a former pupil.

The old pattern of rural life has been maintained, overseen by a small number of landowners, the principal being the Duke of Westminster, the Duchy of Lancaster and United Utilities (for water catchment).

“I go into Lancashire tomorrow, that part of the country lying beyond the mountains towards the western ocean. I go with a kind of dread, and trust in Divine providence.”
William Camden - "Britannia"; 16th/17th century.

For a more authoritative account of the history of Bowland, go to the Wikipedia page on the Forest of Bowland.