History Of Coldwell

Coldwell History, Pendle and Lancashire

Coldwell History, Pendle and Lancashire

The History of Coldwell and the Activity Centre   

The first mention of Coldwell as a place name occurs in 1592 when Elizabeth I sent her surveyor, Sir Richard Shirebourne, to settle a land dispute over the boundary of the Royal Manor of Colne.

The first mention of Coldwell as a place name occurs in 1592 when Elizabeth I sent her surveyor, Sir Richard Shirebourne, to settle a land dispute over the boundary of the Royal Manor of Colne. One witness called said “the boundary goes up Walverden to Coldwell and thence to Deer Stones”. Deerstone Moor is across the fields from the car park behind Coldwell Inn.

As an item of local interest, a Robert Parker built a dwelling which he called New House on the Red Spa Moor, south-east of Coldwell Inn and visible from it. All but the doorway of this dwelling was demolished in the 1920s. Today twin columns of black masonry stand out against the backdrop of the moor. On the lintel across the columns is carved the legend: Robert Parker and Jane his wife, May 2nd 1672. Robert Parker was a relation of the Parkers of Browsholme Hall near Clitheroe. A track from the road to Thursden leads across the moor to the ruin.

The inhabitants of nearby Great Masden (near present Nelson) were indicted for not keeping in good repair the kings highway between Waterside, Colne and Coldwell. The kings Highway – the road passing Coldwell Inn now known as Back Lane – was part of a long distance north-south route from Scotland via Gisburn and Colne going back to prehistoric times. It was crossed at Coldwell by an east-west route running along the flanks of Boulsworth Hill. Today these ancient tracks are part of the Pendle Way. The well at Coldwell was probably a watering place for travellers along the two routes. In the middle ages it was certainly used by cattle crossing from the vaccary (cattle breeding station) established at neighbouring Beardsworth by the De Lacy family of Clitheroe Castle, Lords of the Manor.

The outbuildings occupied the land now covered by the car park. The farm had 33 acres. The farm house, now the Activity Centre, had a barn at the rear. The entrance to this can still be seen in the archway of stones in the wall above the rear main entrance. Up to 1867 a Cross Finial stood on the south end gable and was described in an issue of Cartwright Hall Museum (Bradford) Bulletin during 1967 as being “two stones half lap jointed into each other thus giving a cross like appearance from whatever point it is seen”. What happened to the cross is unknown. Two others only in the area are known to exist, one at Bradley near Skipton and the other at Silsden near Keighley.

As well as a farm, in 1841 the main building at Coldwell became an Inn – thereby giving it its name. The tenant farmer at Coldwell, one James Ormored, became the first landlord of the inn.

The Purpose of the Inn

The purpose of this was to serve travellers on the rout into Lancashire from Yorkshire especially the town of Halifax with its now famous Piece Hall to which pack horse trains went carrying cloth from the handloom weavers of Colne and district.

Sometime in 1852 the farmer/landlord, James Ormored, left Coldwell, transferring the tenancy to a James Higgin who was required to pay an annual rent on the 1st February to the estate owner, John Sagar. The Sagar family, of Great Marsden, were extensive landowners in the district and had been in possession of Coldwell since 1775.

The estate at Coldwell then passed from John Sagar to his spinster daughter, Ellen Sagar. The estate at the time was described as “the dwelling house known as the Coldwell Inn together with barn, stable, shippon, yard, outbuildings and 33 acres 2 poles 22 rods”.

During 1881 Ellen Sagar sold 2 rods 28 perches of her land at Coldwell to the local board at Nelson for 91 pounds 2 shillings and 6 pence for the purpose of a water works. The board reserved the right to buy further land at 160 pounds per statute acre. The estimated cost of the proposed waterworks (reservoir) was 1,500 pounds construction was to be by the civil engineers, Newton and Vawser of Manchester.

The Coldwell Reservoir

After a period of 13 years the waterworks – Coldwell lower reservoir, directly opposite the inn – was completed. Built to serve Nelson it had a capacity of 80,000,000 gallons. During construction, the line of the old road passing the inn was diverted from its original path, directly across the bed of the reservoir, to its present route between the high walls.

By 1903 the Coldwell Inn had begun to acquire a bad reputation as the chief gambling centre of the district, on the 3rd of March of that year over 300 men were seen by the police gambling on nearby land. About 20 were caught and find between 10 shillings and 1 pound.

By 1922 a Nelson magistrate was describing gambling at Coldwell as having become “a great blot not only on this town of Nelson but upon the social life of the whole district”. To counteract it a massive police operation took place at 3pm on Sunday, 22nd of October 1922 involving 96 sergeants and constables who converged on the district in 3 waggonettes following a tip off from PC Blackledge (Bolton diversion) who had temporarily lived Rutland street, Colne, and posed as a gambler. The gambling site on this occasion was a hollow between a rock outcrops on Deerstone road not far from the inn. Well paid lookouts were in position all around. Pies, peas, tobacco etc. were on sale. Gambling took the form of betting on the drop of a coin with full and half sovereigns in use. Warned by the lookout the gamblers, over 100 men from as far afield as Blackburn and Bradford, tried to scatter as the police moved in, but 52 were arrested on site or after a chase across the moor. Amongst them were professional people including doctors. Subsequent fines amounted to 1800.

Tragedy then struck the Coldwell Inn shortly after 11pm, on the 1st of November when Ada Frazer, wife of the then licensee, Ernest Frazer, was awakened by dense smoke. Escaping through her bedroom window down knotted sheets, she returned with a ladder and twice ascended to save her two children. Arriving home shortly afterwards her husband eventually managed to borrow a motorcycle from nearby Float Bridge farm to get to Nelson fire brigade. One motor fire had started at about 9pm in a chimney where a wooden beam had become ignited. Damage was estimated at 2300. Through the bravery of Ada Frazer the only casualty was the family dog.

Though much restricted by the major police operation of 1922, gambling was reported as sill continuing at the new restored Coldwell Inn. Activities ranging from coin tossing to betting on bowls and pitch and toss. Additionally, evidence was found of cockfighting behind the Inn.

After 6 years in the making a second reservoir, Coldwell Upper, was completed on land to the south-east of the Inn. Lined with boulder clay 55 feet thick and having a capacity of 45000000 gallons, it was intended to supply 161700 gallons a day to Nelson. Larch, fir and some beech were planted in the vicinity.

After serving travellers and locals for just 100 years, in 1941 the Inn at Coldwell closed and the building was abandoned as a dwelling. Eventually, in 1962, Massey’s Burnley Brewery withdrew the license for use at the new Hour Glass public house at Walton Lane, Nelson. Since 1924 the landlords at Coldwell are known to have been: Ernest Frazer, D. Crowther, William Clegg, John Cook, J. Hartley and Glen Smith.

For a time in the second world war the local Home Guard used the empty building as a base when, so the story goes, it was feared German glider troops were planning to attack the reservoirs and poison the water.

Derelict for Nearly 50 Years

During the 48 years from 1941 to 1989 the building at Coldwell stood uninhabited. As time passed it decayed into a ruin, almost sinister in appearance, such that on bright moonlit nights or when storm winds and driving rain swept the moors the loan traveller could be excused an irrational glance in his rear view mirror on passing close to the old building’s blackened walls, gaping windows and half open rotting door. Had he ventured round the back in daylight hours he would have found a bed of nettles surrounding the broken doors to a gloomy barn where sheep took shelter.

The Inn and surrounding land was then bought from Massey’s Brewery by the North Calder Water Board. Subsequently, in 1974, North West Water took possession, and still own the building today.

Driven by idea, in 1985 two local probation Officers, Elsie Marshall and Don Kitson, visited Coldwell ruin. They envisaged a new life for the old building: that of an Activity Centre for physically and mentally disabled, and for the constructive rehabilitation of selected young offenders. Subsequently, plans were made and the major task begun of finding the necessary support and the not inconsiderable finance in grant and donations, a story in itself.

In the February of that year, the Coldwell Inn Activities Centre Project became a registered charity. In the July, after 4 years of complex and often difficult preparation on all fronts, the Coldwell Inn opened its doors to a new life as an Activity Centre and Cafe.

Coldwell Activity Centre 2013

In these years of opening as Coldwell Activity Centre we have accommodated numerous groups including:

The Prince’s Trust Team Programme’s

Young Carer’s

The Football League Trust

Young People’s Services

Youth Clubs and Groups

Disability Groups

Football Teams

Cycling and Walking Groups

Schools and College Groups

Music and Choir Groups

Team Building/Corporate Groups

Behavioural Therapy Groups

Private Family Get-togethers and many more

The Centre has struggled financially in the last few years due to the Youth groups having their funding cut dramatically, nevertheless the Activity Centre has started to thrive again due to opening its doors to Family/ Private groups. Another reason for the Centre thriving is due to our Volunteers that work extremely hard and we could not achieve the current success without them.

In return we help the volunteers with Job searching and have been commented on how relaxed and friendly the Centre is and has given them a great stepping stone in gaining confidence and skills to go out into the working world again.


If you would like a free tour of the building please let a member of staff know by calling us on 01282 601819 or 619182 or contact us using this page – we’ll be happy to show you around.