The Town Gate clock was finished in 1903. It was dedicated to John Mercer, who came from Great Harwood, who invented the process of Mercerizing cotton, making it stronger and easier to dye.
The clock was built in the middle of Great Harwood's market square, a significant site for the town as it has been the site for the town's market since at least the 1300s. In 1338, the weekly market was on Thursday and the same charter which officially allowed the market gave annual permission for a week-long town fair to take place on St Lawrence's Day, on the same site. The Fair was mainly an agricultural sale, with farmers and shepherds travelling from Yorkshire, Westmoreland and even as far as Scotland with their sheep. Local people, and those further afield would come to the market square for the fair to sell their hand woven fabrics.
By 1858 the week had reduced to just 3 days, and the locals were now selling whatever people would buy, and the whole thing seemed to have become more like a party. And by 1895, the fair had shrunk to such an extent that it mostly took place in half a day.
The fair was always opened by the Town Crier, in a ceremony dating back to at least the 1870s, when the Crier pronounced:
OYEZ! OYEZ! OYEZ! JAMES LOMAX ESQ. LORD OF THE MANOR, STRICTLY COMMANDS ALL PEOPLE WHO WILL BE ASSEMBLED TOGETHER AT THIS FAIR WILL KEEP HER MAJESTY'S PEACE. IF ANY CONTROVERSIES ARISE BETWEEN THE BUYER AND THE SELLER LET THEM APPLY TO HIS AGENT, AND THEY WILL BE DEFINITELY WELL HEARD.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, THE BUYER AND THE SELLER AND ALL GRADELY DAYCENT SOART O'FOOAK BESIDE.
THE FAIR IS NOW OPEN
In those days, he would have stood near the centre of the market square where the clock was built, but the tradition still continues today, with the 2008 Town Crier being watchable on YouTube and we can see the Town Crier in traditional dress crying the fair with his updated wording from the mini-roundabout, meaning that the police have to close the roads whilst it's done.
In 2008, the weekly market day is Friday and it is very poorly attended by traders, having suffered the worst part of its decline since the 1990s. Nowadays, Town Gate is more known for weekend drunken revellers, who can be watched on a webcam. Hyndburn Council are trying to make the webcam owner remove it, as ex-pats who are now living all over the world repeatedly contact the council to inform them that the clock is wrong, or hasn't had the BST Hour added or removed on the correct day. In an attempt to stop people from making the complaints, they erected a parking restriction sign right outside the shop that the camera is based in, forcing the owner to reposition the camera.
Page by Liz Stephenson, as part of coursework for Web Design IT1706 Assignment 2, UCLAN (Burnley College)
image list: clockTower.jpg oldclock.jpg BirdsEye.JPG FromAbove.JPG BurnleyCollegeLogo.jog UCLANlogo.jpg