Evidence such as flint arrow heads and scrapers show that man has lived close to Wycoller from the stone age. The Clam bridge is evidence of people using a route across the Dene over 1000 years ago and the Vaccary stone walls are believed to have been built by the De Lacy’s of Clitheroe Castle, who had beef farms in the area. Dating from around 1203 the large, grave like stones, (which still march up the hillsides around Wycoller) kept their cattle from straying.
In the mid 15th Century, the Hartley family built the first Hall, probably a single-storey yeoman’s house.
When Nicholas Cunliffe (from Hollins, Accrington), married Elizabeth Hartley (1611), the Hall passed to the Cunliffe family, and they held it for just over 200 years.
In 1896, Colne Corporation bought land around Wycoller in order to build a reservoir in the steep-sided valley to serve the needs of the mills developing in the Colne Area. Fortunately, a bore-hole was found which provided enough water to meet the needs and the reservoir was never built (the Pump house still exists).
By this time the majority of people had moved from the village and the village was virtually deserted. The water authority retained ownership of the land until 1972 and Wycoller, except for a few farming families, remained largely derelict and deserted.
In 1946, part of the remaining ruins of the Hall collapsed and this triggered librarian Evelyn Jowett to seek interest from various organisations including The Bronte Society (the hall is probably the model for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre), Friends of Wycoller, and the Wycoller Preservation Society. They were instrumental in getting an undertaking from the water board that the remaining ruins of the hall would be preserved.
The original Friends of Wycoller restored the fireplace, but then disbanded. (In July 2010 the inaugural meeting of a new “Friends” group took place.
In 1972, the Department of the Environment bought Wycoller which soon became a Country Park. Though a haven for a host of wildlife including Roe deer, Mallard ducks & the Kingfisher, it is still a farming environment.
This was gradually improved and extended until 1818 when the last of the direct Cunliffe line, Henry Owen Cunliffe, died with outstanding debts. He is believed to have tried to make the Hall & Estate fit to attract a wealthy wife. He installed the grand fireplace and the 3 storey living area. He also built cottages, bought local farms and modified the Aisled barn (see below). Although known as a gambler right up to his death (his cock-pit is still to be seen), his lack of business sense was his downfall.
After his death the Hall passed into the hands of his creditors. Circumstances such as the loss of cottage rents of around 450 residents, most having to move from Wycoller (which was a hand loom weaving community not able to compete with the new power looms) to serve the mills of Colne and Nelson, would have reduced income severely.
The Creditors sold off the roof, floor and much of the stone in the hall to help build the growing mills of the Colne area and recoup their debts. What remained of the Hall was left to dereliction.
Built around 1650 using timbers from an earlier Cruck barn, it has been restored and is now an Information and Events centre.
Used for storing hay, threshing corn, housing oxen and as a coach house by Henry Owen Cunliffe it’s current occupants are a colony of Natterer’s bats and a very inquisitive robin.
As well as the clam bridge, the most notable bridge is the possibly 15th century Packhorse bridge, showing the importance of Wycoller as a route over the Pennines.
The Clapper or Hall bridge is probably several hundred years old. Its clog-worn surface was chiselled flat after an unfortunate accident when a farmer’s daughter died after falling off it.
There are four other bridges cross the beck within a short distance, a very unusual sight, adding to the magic and picturesque beauty of Wycoller.
For more information click HERE to visit the Abandoned Communities website