Foulridge derives its name from two Anglo-Saxon words, fola (foal) and hyreg (ridge), suggesting that it was established by Angles, and took its name from the ridge where they grazed their foals – possibly at the modern day Pasture Head.
Foulridge was once a hat making community, and evidence can be seen of weaver’s cottages surrounding the Village Green. Foulridge is a delightful village, and a picturesque place to visit. Visitors arriving by canal can moor by the restored wharf and nearby lime kiln, whilst there is a large car park for visitors arriving by road.
There are a number of stories about Oliver Cromwell’s association with the village. One tradition claims that he gave the village its name by exclaiming “what a foul ridge”, though documented spellings of the village’s name go back to the early 13th century – 400 years before Cromwell. One legend which may have a basis in fact is that Cromwell Street takes its name from Cromwell’s Croft on which it was built, and it is quite likely that Cromwell’s troops were billeted in the croft. Foulridge, in common with most of the district, overwhelmingly supported Cromwell during the Civil War, and the village had its own resident Roundhead officer, Major William Barcroft of Noyna.
Foulridge Wharf and Warehouse were built in 1815, a year before the canal opened in its entirety. In the heyday of the canal, the wharf bustled with barges loading and unloading cargo. A now demolished bridge carried the Colne-Skipton railway line over the canal at the wharf. Apparently, the land was so marshy here, that the foundation piles had to be sunk to the same depth below ground as above. Through the bridge were stables – now demolished – with more stables at the wharf, both for canal horses. From 1880 to c.1920, steamers towed barges between Liverpool and Lancashire. Those continuing into Yorkshire would obtain the services of a “horse marine” and horse at Foulridge for the rest of their journey (a horse marine was a canal company employee who led the barges with a horse).
Today, Foulridge Canal Cruises operate the Marton Emperor from the old wharf, and Cafe Cargo occupies the recently restored warehouse. The wharf is bustling once more as people enjoy their leisure time, as opposed to work.
(Many thanks to Fay Oldland for allowing information from her Story of Foulridge book to be reproduced, and to Christine Bradley from Colne Library for providing archive and photographic information.)