Photographs provided by Whittle Photo Archive
Whittle has a brilliant past— stone quarries that were most likely first started in the Roman Days. Whittle Hills would be the first high ground that they would see if they came up the Ribble Estuary. Lots of Roman coins were found when they dug out the canal. The quarries were well known for the millstones they created that were sent to countries all over the World. We once had two canals running through the village. First the Lancaster Canal opened in 1803, then the Leeds and Liverpool. Its final length through Whittle was opened in 1816.
There were lots of coaching houses along Chorley Old Road too—it was once the main coach road from London to Preston and the last coach went through in 1853. About fourteen beer houses were in existence at the beginning of the twentieth century— now we have six.
We even had a spa, Whittle Springs, which opened in 1823. They used water that came from a borehole which bubbled up when they were drilling for coal. It was supposed to have special alkaline properties. Lots of people visited it over a number of years, up to 10,000 over one bank holiday period. This later became Whittle Springs Brewery until it closed in about 1920.
Factories—we had two weaving factories and three printing and dying factories, four large chimneys once sent out black smoke. Along with all the cottages, it really does make you wonder how people got their washing clean.
Shops— our main ones were the Co-op’s of which we had three main stores, a butcher dept. and a lingerie dept. We had lime kilns, coal yards, a cloggers, a barbers, a tanning yard, and lots of wells for people to get their water.There were dozens of small shops selling a vast variety of goods, lots of them just in peoples’ front rooms. Whittle pictures played a huge part in people’s lives 60yrs ago. The films changed three times per week and it cost from three old pence to one shilling in the best seats. We had our stately homes at Shaw Hill, the Crosse family, and at Crook Hall the Claytons.
Farms were all over the village—some only 20 to 30 acres. These farms employed so many people, especially at harvest times, hay making, and potato picking. Now we only have a couple, a lot of the fields have been built on and the others sold out to larger outfits. There were once five farms in Town Lane. A lot of the original stone cottages got demolished to build council houses, especially around Mount Pleasant.
People tell me that we have ruined the village because of all the houses that have been built over the last twenty years. But I disagree— as long as I can walk from my house into the countryside in a matter of two minutes (which all of us can), then all we have done is to change Whittle-le-Woods...not ruin it.
This is still a lovely place to live.
By Eric Bell