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It was on Thursday 27th February 1958 when one of the worst air disasters in the region's history happened. Many lost loved ones when the Bristol 170 Wayfarer, which was ferrying passengers on a visit to Manchester from the Isle of Man, careered into Winter Hill in atrocious weather conditions. Seven people survived.

The tragedy claimed the lives of 35 representatives from the Manx motor trade, mechanics, engineers and motor traders, who were on their way to visit the Exide Battery factory in Greater Manchester. 39 members of the Island's Motor Trade had set off from Ronaldsway on a charter flight to Manchester Ringway due to arrive at 10am. The Pilot was Captain Michael Cairns, the First Officer was William Howarth with Jennifer Curtis as Stewardess.

People of Horwich still remember 9.45am on that terrible snowy and foggy day when the aircraft struck the side of Winter Hill. The badly cut first officer was able to free himself and crawl through thick mist and deep snow to the television mast to raise the alarm. It has become part of our local history. One of those involved was John Sanderson, a licensee of the Jolly Crofters, and a member of Horwich Rotary Club. With Jack Speight, sub-postmaster, and John Shawcross, he drove up George's Lane to join a party of men from the quarry to dig through the snowdrifts to enable rescue vehicles to get to the site.

When they reached the wreckage, it presented a scene of devastation and there was little that could be done for many of the passengers. Those still alive were given morphine injections and carried down the hillside on stretchers to waiting ambulances to be taken to the Royal Bolton Infirmary. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Victoria Road, now replaced with houses, became a mortuary.

Captain Cairns and First Officer Howarth both survived as did Stewardess Curtis who was found still strapped into her seat.

Fortunately something good did come out of the disaster, the bringing together in friendship of the Rotary Club of Horwich and the Rotary Club of Douglas with the motto of 'service above self as a basis of worthy enterprise' and the four-way test of truth, fairness, goodwill and friendship, benefit for all concerned. Members of the Rotary Clubs have made exchange visits over the years. This year on the 60th anniversary, Tuesday 27th February 2018, people will come from the Isle of Man to share in a short Remembrance Service at the mast including Howard Callow, an active Rotarian, who said:

"I was only four when I lost my father. This date will forever be important to so many in the Isle of Man."

Members of Rotary from Douglas and Horwich and some guests will then gather at the Horwich Heritage Centre to see the plaque and other exhibits and to watch the films that were made to cover the events of that fateful day and the 50th anniversary Memorial Services in Douglas and Horwich in 2008.

Stuart Whittle and Ted Wisedale were responsible for putting together the Horwich Heritage film commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the crash. Their film also included footage and interviews conducted by ITV at around the same time. Stuart and Ted were able to contact and interview quite a few people who remembered the events of 27th February 1958 and helped with the rescue. These included Ken Whittaker, Neil Weaver and Jim Stutchbury, some of the quarrymen who helped to dig a way through to the crash site, Gordon Burton, who as a young police officer was one of the first on the scene, Peter Tonge, a Bolton Evening News journalist who had to immediately report back on the devastation that he witnessed first hand, Dr Sheila McKinley, who attended to the injured and Kath Pyle, who helped out at the Jolly Crofters pub, which became the press HQ.

Ten years on, these interviews and the footage taken have become even more poignant as some of those involved are no longer with us. Fortunately their memories will continue to live on for the benefit of future generations and the Horwich Heritage exhibition '60 Years since the Winter Hill Air Crash' will continue to run until the beginning of May.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the circumstances of the crash and the heroic rescue attempts by the people of Horwich and the emergency services should read 'The Devil Casts His Net' by Steve Morrin.


As part of our Commemoration of 100 years since the End of World War I in November 1918, we are looking to collect and record as many family memories of Horwich men & women who served in the Great War as we can, and to find out what happened to those who survived.

If you can help, please contact:

Stuart Whittle on 01204 847797

Pauline Lord on 01204 692173



Welcome To Horwich Heritage Centre

Horwich Heritage was formed in 1985 following a series of public meetings aimed at re-establishing a sense of local pride in the wake of the closure of Horwich Locomotive Works the previous year.

The Society first began holding its meetings in the Public Hall, moving to Horwich Resource Centre in 1990 where its monthly meetings still take place. It opened its first Heritage Centre within the Resource Centre in 1995 and moved into its current premises in 2006. It gratefully acknowledges the support given by Horwich Town Council, Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council and the Resource Centre in the development of its activities.

Membership currently numbers around 200 and the Society not only runs its own Heritage Centre and meetings but produces its own books and DVDs on subjects of local interest.

The groups aims are:

  • To stimulate public interest in and appreciation of our area.
  • To provide suitable premises for the display of social and industrial history.
  • To secure the preservation, conservation and improvement of features of general or historic interest.
  • To promote tourism and encourage use of the surrounding countryside as part of a heritage framework.
  • To encourage research into the history of Horwich and Rivington and to publish the results.
  • To provide a social and educational service, giving advice and information and to act as a coordinating body to cooperate with local services.
  • To raise funds to enable the pursuit of our objectives.

On this website you will find details of how to become a member Horwich Heritage, dates of forthcoming meetings and events, a list of publications available frm the society and information about the exhibitions and archives at the Heritage Centre.

As the Society approaches its 31st year, we look forward to further developing our activites based on our much-admired Heritage Centre where we have the opportunity to do justice to the rich and varied history of Horwich and all the people who have helped to make us so proud of the town today.

We hope you find that Horwich Heritage has something to offer and welcome your interest, suggestions and support.

Stuart Whittle, Chairman



Download Our 2018 Programme

Our 2018 programme has now been finalised, featuring our popular Open Days, Monthly Meetings and Joining Information.

You can download your own PDF copy by clicking here: Horwich Heritage - Events Programme 2018



Val Leese's Family History Course: 2017

Do YOU have many 'Crysm' children in your family tree? Have any of YOUR ancestors been awadred a 'Virgin's Crown'?

Find out at the Horwich heritage Family History 10 Weeks Course, which begins in the Heritage Centre room on Monday 6th February at 10.30am and at 7pm.

The costs is £25 for the whole course payable to Carol Walker (treasurer) or Val Leese

The 10 Golden Rules

  1. How To Start YOUR Family Tree
  2. Civil Registration
  3. Census (1911 - 1881)
  4. Earlier Church Census and (1871 - 1841)
  5. Sources Of Information (e.g. Electoral Registers etc.)
  6. Individual Research
  7. Parish Registers
  8. Burial Records
  9. Wills 7 probate
  10. Visit to Bolton Family History Room - Julie Lamara's Talk

FREE Family History Magazines, Family History Society Booklets, Tea / Coffee & Biscuits and Chances To Win 2 Prizes

Conatct Val Leese on 0778 473 7660 or


SATURDAYS 10am - 1pm

April 14th 2018
Family History

May 19th 2018
80 Years Of Aerospace at Lostock

July 21st 2018
Horwich: Past, Present & Future

September 8th 2018
Family History / Heritage Weekend

November 10th 2018
100 Years Since The End Of World War I

All 'Open Days' Admission - FREE



March 13th 2018
Paul Hindle - Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal

April 24th 2018
Bill Naughton's Bolton Life

May 8th 2018
David Lloyd - A Tour Of Bolton in Old Photos

June 12th 2018
AGM PLUS On The Go Theatre Co & Heritage Quiz

more what's on >

Latest News



This year's programme is turning out to be another good one and the leaflet with the list of speakers & Open Days for the second half of 2016 is now available from the Heritage Centre. Please renew your membership now. If you are not a member why not join? Only £10 for 11 talks.

HORWICH HERITAGE CENTRE is open every weekday 2- 4pm & Saturdays 10 - 12.30pm. It has a shop, shows and sells films about Horwich and has a range of professional exhibitions and displays to delight all the family. Help is also available for family history and other research. ADMISSION IS FREE!

The monthly OPEN DAYS provide additional exhibitions on topics of local interest. Special EXHIBITIONS currently running include: Horwich Loco Works, A Victorian Kitchen, The Way We Were, World War II, Winter Hill Mines & the Turnpike Roads. School Parties and other groups welcome. Contact 847797.


Happy New Year to all our members & friends - I hope it is a good one for us all!

The New Year kicks off in style with our first meeting on 10th January. Unfortunately Jonathan Ali is unwell so he can't give his WWI talk but we are pleased to welcome a more than adequate substitute in Roy Davies who will be talking about 'On the Bench' - with lots of interesting tales about his time as a Magistrate.

Our event planning starts right away with meetings of the Craft & Gift Fair & 'Lost Businesses of Horwich' Sub Committees this week and we hope to have the long-awaited Ted Brownlow book out in time for our February meeting. We are already looking for articles for the Spring magazine and are planning new ventures to do with further heritage walks and plaques around Horwich as well as presenting our new programme of speakers & Open Days/Exhibitions (see elsewhere on the web site).

So please join us as we embark on another exciting year at Horwich Heritage.

Best wishes, Stuart Whittle (Chairman)

Dear Members, I was just finishing my report on what has been another busy & successful 6 months of speakers, Open Days/Exhibitions & events when I received the sad news that our dear friend and founder member, Geoff Waine, had died.

Suddenly the images of what we have achieved as a Society over the past 31 years with Geoff as our 'elder stateman' flashed before me - and I felt so very proud to have shared all that with Geoff along the way. No doubt there will be many tributes from other organisations in the town who have benefitted from Geoff's guidance & expertise, but we at Horwich Heritage will always remember his special contribution to our Society. His dream was always to have our own Heritage Centre and thankfully he saw that happen.

Thanks Geoff. Rest in Peace. - Stuart Whittle

'The Founding Fathers of Horwich Heritage' - taken at one of our many appearances in 'period dress' at Horwich Carnival.

At the 30th Anniversary celebrations of Horwich Heritage