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However, the resumption of trade led to a quick recovery and, by 1866, the town was the largest producer of cotton cloth in the world.The Burnley Electric Lighting Order was granted in 1890, giving Burnley Corporation (which already controlled the supply of water and the making and sale of gas) a monopoly in the generation and sale of electricity in the town.
Following the Roman period, the area became part of the kingdom of Rheged, and then the kingdom of Northumbria.In 1122 a charter granted the church of Burnley to the monks of Pontefract Abbey. At this point, it was within the manor of Ightenhill, one of five that made up the Honor of Clitheroe, then a far more significant settlement, and consisted of no more than 50 families.Little survives of early Burnley apart from the Market Cross, erected in 1295, which now stands in the grounds of the old grammar school, which is now an annexe of Burnley College.Dozens of new mills were constructed, along with many foundries and ironworks that supplied the cotton mills and coal mines with machinery and cast and wrought iron for construction.The town became renowned for its mill-engines, and the Burnley Loom was recognised as one of the best in the world.Local place names Padiham and Habergham show the influence of the Angles, suggesting that some had settled in the area by the early 7th century; some time later the land became part of the hundred of Blackburnshire.
There is no definitive record of a settlement until after the Norman conquest of England.
It is 21 miles (34 km) north of Manchester and 20 miles (32 km) east of Preston, at the confluence of the River Calder and River Brun.
The town is partially surrounded by countryside to the south and east, with the smaller towns of Padiham and Nelson to the west and north respectively.
Over the next three centuries, Burnley grew in size to about 1200 inhabitants by 1550, still centred around the church, St Peter's, in what is now known as "Top o' th' Town".
Prosperous residents built larger houses, including Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham and Towneley Hall. Burnley's grammar school was founded in 1559, and moved into its own schoolhouse next to the church in 1602.
It has a reputation as a regional centre of excellence for the manufacturing and aerospace industries.