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Nelson is a town and civil parish in the Borough of Pendle in Lancashire, England, with a population of 28,998 in 2001. It lies 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Burnley on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

It developed as a mill town during the Industrial Revolution, but has today lost much of its industry and is characterised by pockets of severe deprivation and some of the lowest house prices in the country.

The town was originally two villages, Little Marsden and Great Marsden. A small mill had been established by the Ecroyd family at Edge End as early as 1740, and there were two coal mines nearby, but it was the coming of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1796, followed by the East Lancashire Railway Line in 1849, that spurred its development as an industrial town, with an economy based mainly upon cotton weaving.

There was already a Marsden on the railway network in the neighbouring county of Yorkshire (West Riding), so the new railway station was called the Nelson Inn, Great Marsden, after the adjacent public house, the Lord Nelson Inn named after Admiral Lord Nelson, from which the town also in time derived its name.

Walverden Mill in Leeds Road was built in 1850, and was soon followed by others. The town became associated in the 20th century with the production of confectionery as well, including Jelly Babies and Victory V and was where the package holiday company Airtours (formerly Pendle Travel and now part of Thomas Cook) began life as an independent travel agent. The textile industry, in particular, has now sharply declined, leaving the town with high unemployment.

Nelson was granted its charter of incorporation as a municipal borough by Queen Victoria in 1890. Extreme left wing politics in the early 20th century led to it being labelled “Little Moscow” by both the local and national press; indeed, the Nelson Leader ran the headline “Moscow calling” during the lockout of 1928. There was significant Communist Party influence in the town between the wars. When the Labour Party came to power in the town, they responded to local political feeling by placing utilities such as gas and water under the control of the municipal council, anticipating by decades the nationalisation of such utilities after World War II. The council refused, moreover, to participate in celebrations for King George V’s silver jubilee in 1935, saying that they would rather spend public money on free dinners for school children and the jobless.

The town became, under the Local Government Act 1972, part of the non-metropolitan district of Pendle on 1 April 1974. It currently has three tiers of local government, Lancashire County Council, Pendle Borough Council and a town council, with 24 councillors, which was elected for the first time on 1 May 2008.

Nelson lies within the Pendle constituency, and the North West England European Parliament constituency, which elects eight MEPs by proportional representation.

Year Population
1911 39,479
1921 39,841
1931 38,304
1939 34,803
1951 34,384
1961 32,292
1971 31,286
2001 28,998

The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed a total resident population for Nelson of 28,998. The town forms part of the Burnley-Nelson urban area, which has an estimated population of 149,796.

The racial composition of the town is 67.79% White and 30.70% Asian or Asian British. The largest religious groups are Christian (52.07%) and Muslim (29.15%). The town 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.

59.02% of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 are classed as economically active and in work.

The town centre is home to a number of high street multiples, and a mix of other shops. The town’s shopping centre, originally called the Arndale Centre, was renamed the Admiral Shopping Centre in 1998, but it has since been renamed the Pendle Rise Shopping Centre.

The main road through the town, pedestrianized in the 1980s, was converted back to a road in 2011 to boost trade.

Nelson is served by Junction 13 of the M65 motorway, which runs west to Burnley, Accrington, Blackburn and Preston, and northeast to Colne. From the town centre, the A56 runs southwest to the M65 at Brierfield and northeast to Colne and beyond, while the A682 – Britain’s most dangerous road – heads north into the Yorkshire Dales.

In November 1969 a multi-storey car park with space for 350 cars was opened in Nelson.

In December 2008 the town’s new bus and rail interchange was opened at a site which used the existing railway station. The new interchange facility cost £4.5 million and included enhancements such as cycle stands, taxi & car drop off facilities, electronic information displays, a direct link to the railway station including a passenger lift and an enclosed passenger concourse with 10 bus stands.

Rail services to and from Nelson are provided by Northern Rail. The Interchange has an hourly stopping service west to Blackpool South via Blackburn and Preston, and east to Colne.

The town is home to Nelson F.C., who were Football League members from 1921 until 1931 and played in the lower semi-professional leagues until resigning from the North West Counties League in 2010, and to Nelson Cricket Club. Cricket was particularly popular in the town during the inter-war period, when the club enjoyed the services of Learie Constantine, the West Indian cricketer; when in 1969 Constantine became the first person of African descent to be given a life peerage, he chose to be gazetted as Baron Constantine, of Maraval in Trinidad and Tobago and of Nelson in the County Palatine of Lancaster.

Speedway racing was staged at Seedhill Stadium from 1967 to 1970. The Nelson Admirals were founder members of the British League Division Two.) The team later moved embloc to Odsal Stadium, Bradford. The track was also used for stock car racing.

The town also has two golf clubs, a municipal at Marsden Park and a private club in Kings Causeway known simply as Nelson Golf Club.

The town is home to several parks the most notable of which are Victoria Park and Marsden Park. The recently opened Arts, Culture and Enterprise Centre (The ACE Centre) provides the residents with a new multi-purpose venue and incorporates a cinema, theatre and bistro. The Heritage Trust for the North West have numerous campaigns and projects in the area. One of which has seen the restoration and conservation of a whole street of Victorian workers housing, a former primary school and cotton mill, as it was feared that the Industrial Heritage of the town was at risk. St Mary’s Church is also another major project in the town, which is planned to open as an exhibition centre in Summer 2012.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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