Belthorn is a small village in Lancashire, with stunning views over the moors to the Ribble estuary and Fylde Coast to the west, and Pendle Hill to the east. It was originally a small, traditional coal mining and hand weaving community of approximately 220 houses, and it is situated on the edge of the West Pennine moors in Pennine Lancashire between Blackburn and Haslingden.
Belthorn is located about 3 miles (5km) southeast of Blackburn, just off the B6232, close to Junction 5 of the M65. The nearest main line rail station is at Blackburn, with a regular bus service from Blackburn, Haslingden and Rawtenstall. For details of public transport links, telephone Lancashire County Council’s TravelWise Information Line on 0870 608 2608.
Belthorn is one of the highest villages in Lancashire, rising from 275m above sea level in the north-west of the village to 300m in the south-east. The village acquired its name from the 1701 house named ‘The Bell in the Thorn’ where a bell placed in a thorn bush would be rung to summon a fresh horse to replace a tired one bringing a load up the hill. Most of the cottages are typical of weavers’ cottages built in the 19th century.
Situated on the edge of an escarpment, the weather and views can be dramatic ranging from hurricane force winds to still clear evenings with views to the southern Lake District and Isle of Man some 90 miles away. Living here requires a degree of pioneering spirit! The village was bypassed in the last century by the B6232 which winds up over the moors following a scenic route into Haslingden. Regrettably in recent years the use of this road has increased dramatically as many now use it as a short cut to the new M65 motorway. The increase in traffic has led to a spate of tragic accidents.
The origins of Belthorn are vague. Almost certainly there were small prehistoric settlements here but any traces have long since been erased by later activities. In recent history the village was a staging post for pack horse trains. In this era there was a thriving handloom industry evident by the style of the older cottages in the village. With the industrial revolution the main industry became coal and fire clay mining with many small drift mines being established at the foot of the escarpment and later, much larger and deeper shaft workings linking mines as far away as Oswaldtwistle. Despite this grim sounding industrial heritage there is little to see with most of the mine surface workings now leveled and returned to a natural state, grazed by sheep and cattle.
There is little industry in Belthorn now. In contrast to a hundred or so years ago most of the inhabitants commute to jobs as far away as Leeds and Manchester.
Syke Mill at the foot of the village was turned to carpet production, then furniture manufacture, and is now occupied by two companies involved in the fabrication of insulation materials. Unfortunately, the local Post Office and village store closed down in 2008 as part of a programme of Post Office closures. The commercial centre of the village now comprises of a Pub (The Dog Inn), and rather bizarrely a Drum Shop!
There is a small book containing photographs and information about the origins of Belthorn, which was written by the former Headmaster of Belthorn School, Mike Rothwell. The book can be bought from the Dog Inn, for the princely sum of £4!