Old PhotoIt is possible that Rockwood was originally named Rookwood because of a colony of rooks that lived in the trees around the house. If and why the name changed is hard to say. William Witham, who lived for most of his life at Rockwood, and his brother Francis owned a spinning mill on Finsley Gate, now the property of Lambert Howarth, and a weaving shed on Plumbe Street.

William, who was known locally as ‘Smiler Witham”, was a bachelor and, by all accounts, a delightful man to know. As a diabetic he was the first man in Burnley to benefit from insulin. He was a member of the Mechanics Institute for over fifty years, part of this time being spent as a director. He represented Burnley Wood ward as a conservative and became a Justice of the Peace in 1903. He and his brother donated money for an operating theatre at Burnley General Hospital. He was also a member of the Burnley Literary and Scientific Club and, through his love of the countryside, bought a farm at a place called Bridgefield. It was here he was knocked down by a motorcyclist and died shortly after at Rockwood on 5th November 1930 aged 80. In his obituary in the Burnley Express he was described as, “...one of the best known men in the town.”

In his will he left his house to his brother, Francis, who lived at Fir Grove. He gave Rockwood to one of his daughters, Edith, who moved into the house after her marriage to M. J.S. Wilson, a poultry farmer. Here their only child, a daughter named Jean, was born on 5th May, 1932.

The family lived at Rockwood until 1947. For most of this time they employed a gardener and three maids. The maids “lived in”, sleeping in the attic or the small upstairs room at the back of the house to the right of the stairs. These rooms had easy access to the back stairs which ran down under the attic stairs emerging in the dining room where there is now a cupboard.

The other three upstairs rooms were all bedrooms and the small room over the porch (Sensory Room) was Mr. Wilson’s dressing room, with a door leading from it into one of the front bedrooms. What is now the staff toilet was a bathroom, and the Parents' Room next door to it, Jean Wilson’s bedroom. The stairs boasted a red carpet and the banister provided excitement for the children who enjoyed sliding down.

Downstairs there was a kitchen (Owl Room, where the pidgeon holes are), a dining room (Owl Room), a drawing room and a family living room, the latter two being made into one big room (Squirrel Room) when the house was turned into a nursery school. The drawing room, which overlooked the front garden, was used only for children’s parties and for drinks after church on Sundays.

In the grounds around the house were stables, a boiler house by the back wall and a wash house (where the Hedgehog building and Sensory Yard is now). There was a small cottage adjoining the side of the house next door. All these buildings were demolished and the stones used to build the toilet block of the nursery.

In the back yard wall was a gateway, near to where the Hedgehog building is now situated. This led to stone steps, that can still be seen, which, in turn, led to the area of land behind the nursery which was part of Rockwood’s garden. Here, as well as lawns and flower beds, there was a tennis court.

Following the family's move in the 1940's the building was bought by Burnley Council and converted into a nursery school.  It was then passed to Lancashire County Council control some years later.

You can read more about our history in a booklet written in the 1990s