Rishton has developed in the Blackburn – Burnley syncline, in the uplands that mask the northernmost extent of urban Lancashire. The river Calder to the East and the river Darwen to the West form this corridor. The Northern boundary is the southwest extension of Pendle hill, whilst the Rossendale fells form that to the South.
In this part of Lancashire, it is an exception if the town is not confined to the river valley. This is because of the original need for waterpower for the cotton mills and the difficulty of upland communications.
Rishton itself can be divided into three relief areas;
The ridge to the North and North West of Rishton,
the lower land on which Rishton is built,
and the Hyndburn Valley.
The ridge to the North and North West is known as Top O’ Th’ Heights and rises quite steeply to a height of 750 feet above sea level. Faulting has occurred and millstone gait has been exposed. Two narrow valleys have been cut into this ridge and interlocking spurs are well in evidence, especially on the stream just east of Cunliffe quarries. Several disused quarries are to be found, where extensive gullying has taken place.
The millstone grit is porous and rainwater seeps into the rock and re-emerges as springs at approximately 400 feet, where the millstone girt meets the boulder clay. The farmers make use of these springs for water supply. Drainage on the boulder clay is poor and necessitates ditching and dyking by the farmers.
The town of Rishton has been built on the lower land, the centre of the town is within the 450 feet contour and the land is relatively flat. To the South of the town, the land rises gently to a height of 600 ft to form Cowhill. Between the millstone grit escapement and Cowhill, drainage is poor and the land is marshy. A reservoir has also been constructed here to replenish the Leeds and Liverpool canal
The Hyndburn valley is wide and flat floored, exhibiting the characteristics of a mature valley. The river is very slow flowing and dark brown in colour. It is frequently used for effluence and detergent bubbles in large quantities could be seen floating downstream. The river Hyndburn is mature and the incised meanders are wide with associated erosion and deposition. There is little evidence of river terraces above the present level of the flood plain because the west bank has been used as a tip in previous years.
The Ribble and Mersey rivers drain the main area of South Lancashire except for the village of Foulridge. The river Ribble has many tributaries which include the river Darwen and the Lancashire river Calder systems. The Calder drains Accrington, Burnley, Nelson, and Colne district. An important tributary of the Lancashire Calder is the Hyndburn that forms part of Rishton’s parish boundary.
A North east Lancashire Town by Marian Sleigh