Abandoned Communities ..... Wycoller
Around 1820 the population of Wycoller was about 350. By that date, however, textile manufacturing was becoming concentrated in mills that had the resources to invest in steam power and more efficient machinery. Near Wycoller there were mills in the villages of Trawden and Winewall, and several large ones in Colne. The weavers of Wycoller were unable to compete, and their numbers fell rapidly. Most young people left the village. By 1871 the census information indicates that the only surviving handloom weavers were Henry Hindle, his son Hartley, and his daughter Elizabeth. At that time only 107 people lived in Wycoller. Recorded occupations were mainly farmer and farm labourer, but farming too would have been much more difficult by that date.

Three men who would have seen the decline in the fortunes of the village died in Wycoller in 1877 and 1878. They were Richard Edmundson aged 65, William Varley aged 90, and John Varley aged 64.

Life for any remaining farmers was made more challenging in the 1890s when the Colne Corporation needed extra water supplies. A survey of the Wycoller valley confirmed that it would be a suitable place for a reservoir, and plans were drawn up for a dam wall about 200 metres south of Wycoller Hall. No dwellings would have been submerged but some of the best land for pasture and meadows would have been taken. In addition local farms would have been affected by the construction of the reservoir and associated aqueducts. Eventually the Colne Corporation acquired several farms and 162 acres of land in 1897.

As it happens various underground sources of water were discovered before work began on the reservoir, and it was never constructed. However, Colne Corporation showed no interest in preserving the village or attracting new residents, and most of the houses became derelict.

Wycoller has been described as a deserted village. Barbara Dawson, for example, has a chapter in her dissertation with the title Wycoller as a Modern Deserted Village. In the early part of the twentieth century the population fell to about 20, but I have not been able to establish whether it fell any further. I have seen reports that at one time only one house was occupied, but the Register of Electors reveals that in 1937 there were people living at Laithe Hills Cottage, Laithe Hills Farm, Wycoller Farm, and Wycoller House.

Several houses in the village were removed, including a cottage in front of Wycoller House and a row of houses next to Pepper Hill Barn that had been built to accommodate weaving families. But in 1948 the Friends of Wycoller were formed with the aim of conserving the ruins of Wycoller Hall. The Friends organised the clearance of earth and rubble, and the laying of new flagstones on the floor. The large fireplace in the main room of the Hall was restored. The Friends also began the task of making the village as a whole more attractive to visitors.

Not much more happened at Wycoller until 1973. In that year the Lancashire County Council, prompted by the Town and Country Planning Act of 1967, decided to acquire the land owned by the North Calder Water Board and turn it into a country park. Further conservation work was done on Wycoller Hall, the aisled barn was converted into a visitor centre, and a building in the centre of the village was designated as a place for a craft centre and café.

Wycoller today attracts large numbers of visitors. In addition it has once again become a desirable place to live in.

An excellent video with a short guided tour around Wycoller can be found on the Waterstink website.

Visitors are not allowed to take their car into the village itself. You can either park at the Trawden Road car park and walk down the road into Wycoller, or else use the car park on the east side of the village opposite Height Laithe Farm on the road towards Haworth. The second option will mean you can admire the route of the old coach road as you walk down into Wycoller and stop to look at the vaccary walling.
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The coach road leading down from Height Laithe Farm to Wycoller