The inspiration for J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the Ribble Valley is one of the loveliest and most historic areas of Lancashire. Statistically, it is also the county’s wealthiest parish, reflected in the large percentage of antique shops and stately homes. Wherever you go, the Ribble Valley is a treasure trove of antique cabinets, antique chests and works of art.
The Valley is Lancashire’s largest area, but the least populated, being dominated by the beautiful Forest of Bowland. A protected landscape, it was for centuries an important source of timber for the furniture-making industry, aided by abundant water power to drive the machinery. Several cabinetmaking firms still ply their trade there today.
Among the grand halls and country parks, Browsholme rates as one of the finest and most eclectic. Occupied over 14 generations by the same family, it features antique bookcases, Victorian dining chairs and antique dining tables by Lancashire firm Gillows, as well as suits of armour, mediaeval antique chests and part of a Zeppelin!
The Ribble Valley has over 44 villages, many of them little changed from the days when Arts & Crafts furniture was still being made here, and has been extensively used for TV and film work. At the village of Downham, owned by Lord Clitheroe, overhead power lines and excessive signage are forbidden. This made it the ideal setting for the BBC 1950s medical drama, Born and Bred. Downham was runner up in a Period Living Magazine to find Britain’s favourite village.
If you’re a fan of Gothic Revival Victorian dining chairs and antique chests, you should know Ribble Valley is also dominated by Pendle Hill, famous for its association with the Pendle Witches, who were tried and executed at Lancaster Castle. On a lighter note, Dunsop Bridge is the nearest village to the centre of the British Isles, marked by a 46-mile circular walk called, ‘Journey through the Centre of the Kingdom.’