The Whittakers and the Holme at Cliviger
Report of talk given by Roger Frost on 10 October 2018

Roger Frost, former teacher and a writer on local history, spoke to Hebden Bridge Local History Society about the area of Cliviger near Burnley, and specifically about the Holme, residence of the Whittaker family.


Roger pointed out that the geology of Cliviger, with its layers of limestone erratics, contributed to its wealth, as lime was a valuable commodity in agriculture and construction. The Holme itself was a grand Elizabethan period house, though its origins were much earlier. Roger described how it was badly damaged by fire in 2003 and has recently been sympathetically restored and turned into private housing. Its most illustrious owner was Dr Thomas Dunham Whittaker who, as Vicar of the extensive parish of Whalley, wrote a definitive history of Whalley and Clitheroe.

Born in Norfolk in 1759, after his ordination Dr Whitaker was granted the perpetual curacy of Holme and achieved his ambition to be Vicar of Whalley in 1809. His elite family background gave him access to the family records of the major landowners of the area, such as the Towneleys, when he was writing his history of the parish. He had an impact on the life of the parish, building a classical style chapel in Holme, at his own expense. He also opened a school which had geology on the curriculum and sponsored the study of the geology of the area. He became a prolific planter of trees on his estate, estimating that the need to bolster the defences of the nation would make timber a valuable commodity.

Some of the photographs Roger showed gave a glimpse into the life of the area, with Sunday School processions and images of the mills and coal mines that provided work in the area. As people gained a little more leisure time, the landscape of the Cliviger area, with its unusual rock formations, glens and waterfalls, became an attraction for people looking for a good day out.

Dr Whittaker's contributions to geology and natural history led to him being appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society and awarded a gold medal. Before he died in 1821, he chose a tree that he had himself planted to be cut down to make his coffin. His tree planting was more recently the inspiration for the millenium project to plant a forest of Burnley. For Roger Frost, Dr Thomas Whitaker is best remembered as the founder of the study of local history.

The next meeting of Hebden Bridge Local History Society at Hebden Bridge Methodist Church will be on Wednesday 24th October, when following a short AGM, Sheila Graham and Barbara Hall will talk about what the wills and inventories of the late 17th century can reveal about the inhabitants of Halifax – 'People all full of business'. This is the Alan Petford Memorial Lecture. All welcome.

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Details of all the Society’s activities can be found on this website and you can also follow them on their Facebook page.

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