Oaks Hotel Stained Glass Window – Burnley, England - Atlas Obscura

Oaks Hotel Stained Glass Window

Oaks Hotel
Burnley, England

This window celebrates the role of tea, coffee, cocoa, and cotton in creating the fortune of the man who commissioned it.  

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This window illuminates the magnificent grand staircase in the Oaks Hotel in Burnley. Unfortunately, the man who commissioned the magnificent window died just before its completion.

In his early twenties, Abraham Altham worked as a stonemason in his uncle’s quarry when he saw an opportunity in the growing tea trade. Altham is said to have pushed a handcart to Liverpool to buy a chest of tea and on his return, split it into packages for sale.

The tea sold very well and became an established business for Altham, one that would soon become an empire. Eventually, he began to sell coffee and cocoa. Soon, his retail chain would encompass some 60 stores, a Walmart of sort of its day. In 1874, Altham started a travel agency business that is still operating north England.

In 1884, he commissioned the construction of a building that would later become the Oaks Hotel, including this magnificent window. However, before his new home was finished, Altham fell ill and never recovered.

The house served as a private residence to a number of local dignitaries and was known as Tea-Pot Hall because of the teapot that formed part of the window. When the Burnley Rural District Council (RDC) took over the building as its offices in 1941, the panel with the teapot was replaced with a panel containing the council’s crest.

The images on the window speak for themselves. There are scenes depicting tea and cotton processing, as well as others that contain botanical images of the four plants Altham used to build his business. The building was closed and desolate for some time. It was converted to a hotel in 1984.

The hotel retains much of its Victorian features, particularly on the ground floor and is certainly well worth a visit.

Know Before You Go

If you decide to take lunch in the bar they do not start serving hot food until 2 p.m.

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Dr Alan P Newman
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