This website provides information about Towneley in Lancashire and the family who lived there until 1902. The family, who took their name from the place, lived in the area for over 600 years until Burnley Corporation purchased their house and its pleasure grounds and opened the grounds as a public park. The house was opened as an art gallery and museum in 1903.
The Towneleys were a gentry family who remained resolutely Catholic subsequent to the English Reformation. The best known member of the family was Charles Townley (1737-1805), the celebrated collector of Roman antiquities, whose collection is now in the British Museum. The male line died out in 1878 and in 1885 the estate was divided among the daughters.
They put great store in the education of their children and the preservation of their heritage. Books owned by the family were sold at auction during the 19th century and are now scattered across many of the world's greatest libraries.
The remaining family heirlooms and the house together with adjoining land were allotted to Alice Towneley, Lady O'Hagan, the third daughter of Charles Towneley (1803-1876). After she sold the house to Burnley Corporation in November 1901, Lady O'Hagan removed almost all of the contents when she left in March 1902. Subsequently most of the heirlooms were sold at auction by her descendants throughout the 20th century. A small number were returned to Towneley and are now part of the permanent collection of Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum.