Nelson (England)

Nelson is a dismally rain-soaked town in Lancashire that makes nearby Burnley look exciting.

Nelson is undoubtedly a modern town. Fifty years ago it was entirely unknown, and no mention of it appears in any books dealing with the ancient history of the County. Preston Guardian, 12 Feb 1881

Nelson is comparatively rare in England in being a community which came into existence from virtually nothing in Victorian times. The area was previously described as “a peat covered and rain sodden wilderness”.


Nelson's a typical gritty, Lancastrian industrial town built on the cotton weaving industry and in terminal decline for more than thirty years.

In the 1820s, between the towns of Burnley and Colne there was a coaching inn called the "Lord Nelson". Just off the road was a tiny village called Marsden. As the Lancashire cotton industry grew, a town started to grow around the inn and the nearby station on the new East Lancashire Railway, and it took its name from the inn. Nelson grew at a very fast rate, and soon swallowed up both the villages of Marsden and Lomershaye. Consequently, Nelson is probably the only town of any size in the entire British Isles that's named after a pub!

Nelson's peak population of 39,841 in 1921 has now dwindled to less than 29,000 and it has lost most of its industry. The town had a heavily redeveloped and fully pedestrianised centre, but the main road through the town was converted back to a road in June 2011 to try and boost trade.

There's ample parking in the centre, including a multi storey car park with a covered walkway connecting it to the shopping precinct. Both the railway station and bus station are overdue for renovation.

Not inappropriately, one of the main remaining employers in this area of high long term unemployment is Silentnight.

Every Street, Nelson

However, it's not all doom and gloom. Radical left wing politics in the early 20th century led to Nelson being labelled "Little Moscow" by both the local and national press and fully 13.8% of the population described themselves as Pakistani at the last census, so it's a great place for a political debate over a curry and, possibly as a result of so much social deprivation, it does have some of the lowest house prices in England.

According to Wikipedia, the " is strikingly segregated: the Marsden ward, which in 2006 elected the borough's first British National Party councillor, is 96.58% White, while the Whitefield ward is 68.72% Asian or Asian British."


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 6 7 9 11 14 17 19 19 17 14 9 7
Nightly lows (°C) -1 0 2 3 7 10 11 11 9 7 3 1
Precipitation (mm) 69 50 61 51 61 67 65 79 74 77 78 78

BBC 5 day weather forecast for Nelson, Lancashire

The damp East Lancashire climate was ideal for production of cotton goods but in Nelson, unlike the larger surrounding towns, the emphasis was on weaving rather than spinning. Nelson no longer has its own meteorological station.

As you can see from the blue sky in the thumbnail images below, it doesn't rain all the time in Nelson, Lancashire !

Get in

Disused cinema on Leeds Road, Nelson

It's less than an hour from Manchester to the South.

"Britain's most dangerous road", the A682, leads south into Nelson from the Yorkshire Dales to the North.

By boat

From Leeds to the North West or Liverpool to the South East by narrowboat on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Get around

By bike

Be careful. Cobbles and potholes (the size of tank traps) are challenging.

By bus

Report problems such as hazardous smashed glass at bus shelters.

By tram

The tracks were torn up years ago.


Queen Street Mill is just a few hundred yards south of Nelson's municipal boundary


Former Public Baths in Bradley Road that were closed more than thirty years ago when the Pendle Wavelengths pool was opened nearby. It's one of Nelson's most distinctive buildings but is now unused.

There's a swimming pool called Pendle Wavelengths in the town centre at Leeds Road, BB9 9TD with a "Black Hole" feature. ☎ +44 1282 661717


Nelson has a "re-invigorated" (marketing jargon for barely resuscitated and still on life-support after the government's austerity cuts) indoor shopping centre with both indoor and outdoor markets open Mo-Sa 09:00-17:15. Look out for special events throughout the year, including continental markets. ☎ +44 1282 661240.

A Tesco Metro closed in 2010, as did Ethel Austin, Bonmarche, B & M, Iceland, Poundstretcher, Woolworth's and Argos in July 2011.

Nelson's Tesco superstore, which only opened in February 2008, closed at the end of August 2010 when Pendle MP, Andrew Stephenson, said: “It’s terrible news for the workers, and for the regeneration of Nelson town centre. I have never heard of a Tesco closing like this before. You usually expect them to open stores." Apart from a Tesco Express in Colne, the nearest Tesco store is now in Burnley.


Many small businesses have made a special effort to smarten up their exteriors but the constant through traffic coats awnings in traffic filth


Station Hotel, Hibson Rd is no longer a hotel - just Nelson's largest pub

There are plenty of pubs where you can endeavour to forget you're still in Nelson, so only the largest pub (and of architectural merit) is listed:

As recently as 12 May 2013, campaigners have called for action to be taken over dilapidated former Nelson pubs such as The Hour Glass, in Walton Lane. This has been empty for around three years and is boarded up but it presents a bad impression to people travelling between Nelson and Colne: “The building looks awful... It is an eyesore building in a prominent location.


The Lord Nelson pub, 2 Manchester Road BB9 7EG after which Nelson was named; and no, you can't sleep here either!

Few tourists come to Nelson and even fewer want to sleep in Nelson. This is just as well because there are no hotels actually in Nelson.


The closest hotel is in the next-door and larger town of Burnley:

Bed and Breakfast

A682 in the village of Barrowford, just north of Nelson town

There is one B&B in Nelson and one in a village about 2 km to the north.

Stay safe

Backstreet off Edward Street

There are some rough areas so get local advice before going somewhere unfamiliar but, if you exercise discretion and stay in the main shopping area, you should encounter no problems other than boredom and dog dirt.

Nelson folk are generally friendly and welcoming.

Areas to be careful with include the streets around the Golden Ball Inn and backstreets near Back Commercial Street and Edward Street, which have had problems with anti-social behaviour in the past.

Terraced houses in Appleby Street boarded up and awaiting demolition; often the power is cut from the street lighting, too.

It is generally safe at night in the town centre but stay in the better lit parts. The few bars and clubs in the "centre" are on main streets or near to other pubs so if it feels quiet you've gone the wrong way. Most people are very friendly and approachable but a few are intent on trouble. A likely cause of being attacked would be giving too much attention to a woman that is already spoken for. Heavy drinking and drug use is fairly common in Nelson so reasoning with the male that you were just "having a chat with her" (regardless of your intentions) may not work. The police are necessarily tough and no-nonsense here. Not very GLBT friendly.


Many buildings used for worship have been demolished or their usage changed


View looking south of the remains of the former Roman Catholic Presbytery in Nelson

Many buildings used for worship have been demolished or their usage changed but there are still active Christian, Hindu and Muslim congregations.


Local radio: 2BR, BBC Radio Lancashire and Pendle Community Radio (local Asian community station).

Local newspapers: the Nelson Leader, published on Fridays, and the daily Lancashire Telegraph, which publishes a local edition for Burnley and Pendle.


There are no Internet cafés but all 5 national mobile phone networks provide a strong and reliable local signal. It would be a bad idea to flash your latest £500 smartphone on the streets here.


Somewhat paradoxically, although a quarter of East Lancashire's post offices have closed in recent years, the only Crown Post Office closure in Nelson was the one at 75 Barker House Road.


Try not to get injured or seriously sick at the weekend, since there's a local "death spike" then according to a recently published (July 2013) National Health Service (NHS) report that made sweeping criticisms of the local Burnley General NHS hospitals.

Go next

Daily flights are available with Singapore Airlines from nearby Manchester Airport via Munich, Singapore and Christchurch and take approximately 33 hours from Nelson (England) to Nelson (New Zealand).

Nelson, Lancashire's not exactly a tourist hotspot, but it does have a lot of attractions on its doorstep including Townley Hall and Park at Burnley, Gawthorpe Hall at Padiham and Wycollar at Colne. The Pennine Way also runs close to the town and the historic town of Clitheroe is nearby.  

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.