Accrington is a town in East Lancashire - the name probably means "acorns" from the oak woods that once carpeted these valleys. It grew during the industrial revolution, when the streams racing down from the Pennines powered its textile mills. It has a population of 70,000, many being Bangladeshis who came to work the mills in the 1950s. The town also produced Accrington Brick or NORI ("Iron" backwards), an exceptionally hard and acid-resistant brick, valuable for lining furnaces, chimneys and the like. The brickworks closed in 2008, were re-opened to political fanfare in 2015, and quietly closed again in 2016. The northern suburb of Ewbank gave its name to the carpet-sweeper manufacturer.
The town's main visitor attraction is the Tiffany glass collection in its art gallery, and the stark natural beauty of the Pennine moors all around. It's also notorious for its football team Accrington Stanley, which until 2019 was unfairly regarded as a joke and byword for failure. But not any more.
The small towns of Baxenden, Oswaldtwistle (say ozzle-twizzle) and Clayton-le-Moors are nearby, and Blackburn is five miles west.
Lots of towns have had football (soccer) teams that collapsed. But this place is unique, at least in Britain, in the way the collapse of Accrington Stanley hung like a pall over the name of the town for decades, in spite of the team's resurgence.
One reason is that they collapsed in the 1960s, in an era when that was difficult to accomplish. Players' wages and transfer fees were low, bank credit was available at low interest rates, and the Inland Revenue were not as diligent in pursuing outstanding tax as they are today. Above all, England's Football League was a closed shop. There was promotion and relegation between its four divisions, but seldom between its fourth division and the minor leagues below. Instead, the bottom clubs had to "apply for re-election", the electorate being the other League clubs, who would reckon "there but for the grace of God go we, so let's put another credit in the favour bank." So long as your club manager and chairman got on passably well with their opposites, and glad-handed them with boardroom whisky when their team visited, you should secure enough votes to see off any bid from an up-and-coming minor league team. "Why vote against a fixture we enjoy playing, and usually win?"
From 1960 Accrington Stanley were near bankrupt, and fell like a stone through the League placings. By March 1962 their debts were unsustainable, they simply couldn't afford to put on games, and they had to resign from the League. This was during the 61/62 season so it was a traumatic disorderly exit, with all their results being expunged. In the following seasons they played in the Lancashire Combination Leagues, there was a flicker of sporting and financial revival, but then they dissolved in 1966.
An entirely separate, new Accrington Stanley was formed in 1968, and for the next 30 years plodded away in the minor leagues. From 1989 to 1995 they were the butt of a TV advert by the Milk Marketing Board. One young football fan has been warned that if he doesn't drink milk, he'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley. His friend asks "Accrington Stanley, who are they?" and the first replies "Exactly." Town and club took a perverse pride in this recognition, but it didn't move the narrative on. By this stage clubs were folding all over Europe - in Britain Glasgow Rangers was the highest profile example. But then Glasgow had other attractions for the visitor, and other stories to tell.
In 2002 the club suddenly came into money from a transfer fee and began a steady rise up the rankings. In 2006 they were promoted back into League Two, equivalent to the old Fourth. (Oxford United, who'd replaced them in the League in 1962, were now the team cast out as "The Stanley" bounced back in.) In 2018 they were promoted to League One. So far, so middling good; it wouldn't entirely banish the jokes. But in Jan 2019 in the FA Cup Third Round they pulled off a shock, beating Ipswich Town from the Championship (the tier above), and watched by a young Korean who'd travelled 5500 miles to support them. They progressed to the Fourth Round to lose narrowly to Derby County, another Championship team. The town of Accrington needs to develop other industries and attractions besides its football - but now, when it is remembered for that, it will be for the right reasons.
Manchester Airport is 27 miles (43 km) south, with excellent flight connections across the UK, Europe and beyond. Leeds Bradford Airport is 30 miles (48 km) east of Accrington but has fewer flights and less onward transport.
Accrington is on the East Lancashire Line. There is an hourly train (daily) from Preston via Blackburn to Accrington, continuing to Burnley, Halifax, Bradford, Leeds and York.
There's also an hourly train (daily) from Blackburn via Accrington to Manchester Victoria. (Change at Victoria for Manchester Piccadilly and Airport.) This train meanders on west via Salford and Wigan to Southport.
1 Accrington Railway Station is east side of town centre, with the main entrance on Eagle St next to Tesco.
The town is on the M65 motorway which traverses East Lancashire, and is just off the A56/M66 from Manchester.
By bus: Red Express X41 runs between Manchester, Prestwich and Accrington, taking 1 hr 50 min. It runs M-Sat every 30-40 mins, on Sunday hourly.
There are two direct daytime National Express coaches and one overnight from London Victoria taking 7-8 hours (NX 540 & 422 to Accrington & Burnley). Megabus doesn't serve the town.
By bike: The town is on National Cycle Route 6 which runs from London to the Lake District.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal runs by Accrington. It's navigable coast to coast, and its towpath is a good long-distance walking & cycling route.
Lancashire Buses 6 & 7 ply between Accrington and Blackburn, taking 30 mins. They run M-Sat every 8 mins or so (Sundays every 20 mins) 05:30-22:00, also serving Rishton, Great Harwood, Clayton-le-Moors, Oswaldtwistle and Intack.
Burnley Bus 9 runs between Accrington and Burnley via Lowerhouse, taking 30 mins. It runs M-F every 30 mins 06:00-18:00 and Sat hourly 09:00-16:00; no Sunday service.
Burnley Bus M3 runs further up the valley, from Accrington via Padiham, Burnley, Nelson and Colne to Trawden. It runs hourly M-Sat 07:30-22:30 and Sun 09:00-20:30.
Taxis within the town should only cost between £3 and £5.
- 1 Haworth Art Gallery, Manchester Rd BB5 2JS (One mile south of town on A680). W-F 12:00-16:45, Sa Su 12:00-16:15. Has an outstanding collection of Tiffany glassware presented by Joseph Briggs, an Accrington man who joined Tiffany’s in the late 19th C and became art director and assistant manager. The Art Nouveau vases are considered to be the most important such group in Europe. One of the most striking items is a glass mosaic exhibition piece, designed by Briggs himself and entitled "Sulphur Crested Cockatoos". The gallery also tells the story of the Accrington Pals, a locally-recruited band of servicemen - more correctly the 11th East Lancs Regiment, composed of four 250-strong companies from Accrington, Burnley, Blackburn and Chorley. They first saw action on 1 July 1916, at the "Big Push" on the Somme. Half an hour later 235 were dead and 350 were injured. Free.
- Stone railway viaduct. This seems to have inspired Accringtonian composer Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus, which is structured around a similar 17-arch viaduct.
- 2 Gawthorpe Hall is a 17th C mansion, home of the Shuttleworth family, two miles north of Burnley. It was visited by Charlotte Brontë and is the most westerly site associated with the Bronte Country.
- Visit the grand Victorian Accrington Market, refurbished in 2010. It's open M-Sat 08:30-17:00, Wed to 13:30. Enter via Blackburn Rd, Peel St, or Broadway. Jeanette Winterson grew up in Accrington and her novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is set here and around town, where the heroine is adopted by batty evangelists.
- Watch football, i.e. soccer, at 1 Accrington Stanley FC. They play in League One, the third tier of English football. Their home ground is at Livingstone Rd BB5 5BX, one mile north of town centre on A680. From M56 use Exit 7. The Accrington-Blackburn Bus 6 / 7 passes the ground every few minutes.
- One mile east of town off A679 is Peel Park and The Coppice, a pleasant strolling area. The parallel ditches were WWII defences against enemy glider landings.
- Vue Cinema is off King Street just below the railway viaduct.
The market is an excellent place to buy Lancashire speciality foods like Lancashire cheese, black pudding, pies, oatcakes, pikelets, tripe and cowheel.
There's the usual collection of fast food outlets, and reasonable Bangladeshi restaurants. The best eateries otherwise are the hotels.
There are plenty of pubs (some rather dingy) serving good cheap beer. Always ask for cask beer rather than the mass-produced brands; there are many excellent beers available from small local micro-breweries.
- The Commercial Hotel, 1 Church St, ☏ .
- 1 Mercure Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa, Blackburn Road Clayton Le Moors BB5 5JP (off M65 jcn 7 north of Accrington, handy for motorists), ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 4-star hotel set in 17 acres of parkland. The building dates back to 12th C but was mostly Tudor, extensively re-built in 19th C. Has 175 bedrooms. Restaurant open daily 18:30-21:30. B&B double from £75.
- 2 Sparth House Hotel, Whalley Rd, Clayton-le-Moors BB5 5RP (On A680 two miles north of Accrington). 3-star in Georgian house set in its own wooded grounds, popular for weddings. B&B double from £60.
This is commuterland for Manchester, so 4G / Wifi mobile signal is good.
A few miles north of Accrington, the River Ribble flows west out of scenic dales and hills. The closest area is Pendle Hill, brooding above Clitheroe.
Blackpool: get a glimpse of the traditional British seaside holiday. How did it take so long to discover the Med?
Manchester is Northern England's hub city, vibrant with nightlife and architecture, and with many cultural attractions.
|Routes through Accrington|
|Preston ← Blackburn ←||W E||→ Burnley → Bradford|