What the locals really think of Barrowford

Gisburn Road

Gisburn Road - Credit: Archant

With history, heritage and home-grown businesses, the village of Barrowford may be small but it packs a punch. Words by Rebekka O’Grady

Peter Aldred (head gardener) in the walled garden at Pendle Heritage Centre

Peter Aldred (head gardener) in the walled garden at Pendle Heritage Centre - Credit: Archant

Did you know that the Red Rose of Lancaster is actually pink? That’s what Peter Aldred, head gardener at the Pendle Heritage Centre, tells me. In fact, I saw it with my own eyes when Peter took me for a tour around the centre’s beautiful restored 18th century walled garden – our county emblem a pretty fuchsia colour.

If you don’t believe me, then I suggest you take a visit to the centre which is located in the village of Barrowford. Here the helpful and knowledgeable staff such as Peter will be more than happy to tell you about the history of the garden, building and the area of Pendle.

‘I’ve been at the Pendle Heritage Centre for 19 years, in various roles before becoming head gardener,’ said Peter, who prior to finding his love of gardening had been in odd jobs. ‘When the trust took the building over, the garden was just a wilderness. We found plans from 1780 along with the original seed and planting list. With this we went to a special agency to buy and plant these historic plant varieties to exactly how it was back then.’

The result is a pretty walled garden, full of changing colours and scents, including sweet rocket in the spring moving on to roses in the summer, physic beds (a herb garden with medicinal plants) and quince, apple and pear trees. ‘The judges from Barrowford in Bloom have recently visited, so we’re now awaiting the results from that,’ added Peter. ‘There’s also a house built up high on the village, where for some reason the garden mirrors this one. A young couple have recently moved in and decided to take the building back to the late 1700s with a modern twist.’

Jane Holden and Michelle Berkins at michelle b

Jane Holden and Michelle Berkins at michelle b - Credit: Archant

The residents of Barrowford seem to have an affinity with the history of the area. A perfect example of this passion is Pendle Heritage Centre’s tourist information guide and museum curator, Bob Anderson. A former primary school teacher, Bob grew up in Barrowford and used to regularly visit the centre with his wife.

‘I’ve been here for four years now. It has such a lovely atmosphere,’ he said. ‘I have a real interest in local history, walking etc, so to work in tourist information is great,’ said Bob. ‘The hardest thing though is when it’s a lovely day and I’m telling visitors where is good to go and what to do, when I want to go and do it myself!’

Despite being a bustling place for knowledge with its fascinating museum (which tells the story of the Pendle Witches) a pretty garden and delicious café, the Heritage Centre may not have even come to be without the voice of the people of Barrowford. ‘The house itself was so close to not being here,’ explained Bob. ‘When the last of the Armistead family moved out in 1968, there wasn’t anyone else to take over.

It’s always been such a huge part of the village, so when the council acquired it there was a chance of it being demolished. The people of Barrowford chased that idea away and allowed the trust to be set up and take over the preservation of the building. Since the mid-1990’s it’s just developed from there.’

It’s not only the Heritage Centre that’s a familiar sight in Barrowford. Luxury clothing retailer, michelle b, has this year celebrated their tenth anniversary. The fashion destination on Gisburn Road is owned by Michelle Berkins, who said she never expected growth to be so fast. ‘It’s just evolved, but I think that is down to the amazing customer service we offer. People then return again and again.’

The businesses celebrated its first decade with a black tie party at the Fence Gate Inn, Burnley, complete with a fashion show with models wearing items from the summer collection with a taste of what is to come in the winter.

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‘There’s lots of layering this year, causal with a smart edge and unstructured dresses,’ said Michelle. ‘Details to spot for winter will be fur, crystal and sequin trims and edges. There’s no point competing with the high street brands, when you come here you purchase something individual.’

Despite her success, Michelle says she would never expand to another store and just wants to continue to grow and introduce more brands into the Barrowford store. ‘If you come into a store, shop assistants don’t always recognise you. Where as at michelle b there are always familiar faces. My name is above the store, so customers expect to me to be here.’

Floral fancies

A failing florist business seven years ago has blossomed into something fantastic on Barrowford’s high street. ‘When we took over, it was trying to be really modern with all black walls,’ said Jessica Hudson, who owns Fleur Couture. ‘It just didn’t work so we took it back to fit in with the building and softened the style. It was when Cath Kidston and the kitsch cottage style were becoming really popular.’

A family orientated shop, Jessica is helped out by her mum Sandra, who works part-time, and her dog Claude who is known to pop along on the many deliveries in the Fleur Couture van. ‘We do a lot of weddings around the Pendle and Ribble Valley area, as well as catering for other special occasions and every day bouquets and flowers.’

‘As we like to work with seasonal flowers, I recommend you look out for dahlias in September. They’re lovely at this time of year.’