News article created on 6 August 2021

Heritage open day at Finsley Gate

The recent £2.9 million restoration of Burnley’s historic Finsley Gate canal wharf goes on show to the public on Saturday 28 August with a special Heritage Open Day.

View of a boat yard next to a canal Finsley Gate in the early seventies.

We're inviting visitors to step back in time to enjoy canal boat trips, a working forge, free willow weaving and guided tours around the impressive, restored stone buildings, once the heart of a thriving boating and trading centre on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the longest single manmade waterway in England.

What's on

Adults and children will be able to drop into the new education room to try willow weaving craft workshops, see a professional blacksmith at work on the restored forge in the old stable block and learn more about the fascinating heritage on a guided tour led by the centre’s sawmill worker.

The main warehouse has now been converted into the Finsley Gate Restaurant and the Sawmill café bar, and both will be open, serving lunches and light refreshments.

Boat trips will be available along Burnley’s famous Straight Mile embankment, one of the seven wonders of the waterways, followed by a cream tea. Tickets cost £12.50 each and need to be booked in advance. Only 32 places are available.

Reinventing the hub

Sarah De Nurtcheylo, our Finsley Gate community engagement officer, said: “For the last 18 months, the Grade II Listed stone buildings have undergone a miraculous transformation into a new community heritage and learning hub, café bar, restaurant, function room, guest house and garden.

“Two hundred years ago, this wharf helped to put Burnley on the map as a major trading hub for the cotton industry. Now the fascinating historic centre has been reinvented for the 21st century as a wonderful community hub. We would love people to come down to the beautiful canalside location, enjoy the wellbeing benefits of being by water and try out some of the new activities available.”

The Finsley Gate Wharf Heritage Day will be open 10am to 4pm.  For more information and to book trips, please check our Eventbrite page.

History of Finsley Gate Wharf, Burnley

Opened in 1801, Finsley Gate was an important regional boating centre in the 19th century, fuelling the Industrial Revolution. Known locally as Mile Wharf, it is located on a sharp bend next to Burnley’s famous one-mile-long embankment across the Calder Valley.

Funded by grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, and supported by Burnley Borough Council and the new site management company Finsley Gate Wharf Ltd, the restored complex is set to bring major economic and cultural benefits to the town, just as the arrival of the canal did over 200 years ago. The complex includes a working forge which will be firing up for regular demonstrations, thanks to two local blacksmiths, plus a wide variety of activities from yoga, paddleboarding and canoeing sessions to craft classes, school visits, heritage tours, light refreshments and fine dining.

A canal boat laden with goods navigating the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Leeds & Liverpool Canal workboat Othello loaded with goods at Finsley Gate.

In the 1880s, Burnley was the largest cotton-producing town in the world and by the turn of the century it boasted more than 100,000 looms, with 90% of the town’s population employed in the industry. This thriving economy was supported by the canal which brought cotton from America, coal from the nearby pits, water to power the steam engines and a route to world trade.

By the mid-20th Century, the majority of the cotton mills had closed and commercial traffic on the canal had declined. The Finsley Gate site continued to be used as an operational office and yard for the canal, but it closed in 1995 and remained empty until this recent spectacular renovation.