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Looking Back


First published in the Horwich Heritage magazine October 1987. From a story recounted by Thomas Hampson in his 'History of Horwich' 1887, which his Grandfather had told him. Parson Johnson was the Reverend Samuel Johnson M.A. who was the curate of Horwich Chapel (the Parish Church). He succeeded the Rev. John Norcross who died in 1788. Samuel died in 1826 aged 74 years.

Horwich Chapel (drawn by Jack Rawlinson)


Ghosts weren't hard to find in Parson Johnson's days,
And a ghost there was, so our historian says;
Just what kind of ghost is not at all made clear,
Or where it was, The Moorgate Inn? Or somewhere near?

The Moorgate Inn (now the Blundell Arms)


There were no lighted streets, just dark lanes lined with trees,
Waving, fearful things at night, sighing and moaning in the breeze,
And for the superstitious, the very place to chance upon a minion of the devil,
In some unholy dance.

Aye! A ghost there was, and all were sore afraid;
Afraid to venture out at night, but in their homes they stayed,
And the children silent sat, in the shelter of the ingle-nook,
And all the games and laughter of a normal winter's eve forsook.
All knew well, that only he with the title M.A. blessed,
Had the knowledge and the power, to lay a ghost to rest;
And was not their curate titled M.A.?
But he was then away from home, so they had to wait and pray.

How glad they were to tell their plight, upon his safe return,
How intently did he listen; he did not scoff or spurn,
But, at break o' day, (in daylight mind, not in the night)
On fleetest horse, went in chase of that eerie sprite.

Here and there, and everywhere, the gallant parson rode,
Through bog and mud, cross brook and bank his horse bestrode.
Then he chanced to meet a tardy traveller, owd Adam Hay,
Who quite forgetting the parson's quest bade him the time o' day.

Thou dunderhead! Thou stupid fool, the angry parson cried.
I've half a mind to whip thee like a dog, owd Adam could have died;
"Thou knowest well to speak to me was but to ruin my day,
All my work has come to naught", and he homeward made his way.

But once again, at morning's light, horse and parson renewed the quest,
and for all to see he chased with vim and zest,
Now madly riding up and down, now standing still to sniff the spirit out;
And everyone warned to keep well clear, including owd Adam, no doubt.

And at the base of Rivington Pike that ghost was laid to rest,
And should you pass that spot, which he in wisdom has blessed,
Beware! Lest you undo his work; for have we so wise a sage,
As Samuel Johnson, curate of a former age.

Horwich Chemists By George Melling

There are few towns in Lancashire, if any, that can claim 2 out of 3 of its remaining pharmacies have been serving townsfolk for over a century from the SAME premises. Horwich can proudly claim this unique record. Dyson's Chemist shop at 53 Lee Lane (now owned by Malcolm Suss) was first opened in 1895 by John Peacock Dyson and later run by his son Noel until 1958.

Hooton's Chemist at 182 Lee Lane is even older having been opened 111 years ago in 1887 by William Varley. 5 years later he bought the property with a successful bid of £750 at an auction in the Crown Hotel, following the death of its owner Andrew Peak. After Mr Varley's death in 1922 it was continued in the family, managed by his son Edgar, still within living memory of some older Horwich folk.

Edgar Varley, Chemist (1948) with two of his Grandchildren, Anne Vickers (left) and Christine Fearnley. (Thanks to Barbara Woodhams for the photo)

Edgar Varley, Chemist (1948) with two of his Grandchildren, Anne Vickers (left) and Christine Fearnley. (Thanks to Barbara Woodhams for the photo)

Both pharmacies have had only 3 owners during the span of the 20th century. There were 11 shops selling medicines in the town in 1900. This had fallen to 7 (including Boots and the Co-op) by 1950 and now only 3 remain.

The 1880s saw the greatest changes in the town's history with the purchase in 1884 of 736 acres of land sold for £36,000 to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company for the building of the Locomotive Works. The population grew nearly fourfold during that decade from 3700 to over 12000. In 1887 when Mr Varley came to Horwich, the Mechanics Institute, Victoria Methodist Church and the Board School, had still to be built, and the Loco Works had only just started production.

Aspirin had not yet been invented in Germany and it was only one year earlier had GPs in England been compelled to pass an examination, before registration by the General Medical Board as fit to practice as doctors. This was the age of self-medication when few working class families could afford to pay the doctor his fee, as it was to be sixty years before the setting up of the National Health Service. Flowers of sulphur, Epsom salts and bicarbonate of soda were consumed in vast quantities as were many herbal remedies. These were sold in penny-worth's, along with cannabis and opium in a variety of disgusting forms - the obsession of the Victorians then was for blood purifiers, laxatives and 'female' pills.

It was into this setting that William Mason Varley, aged about forty, moved from Southport to Horwich to open his chemist's shop. He had passed the chemist's and druggists qualifying examination as a young man in 1869, the first year this had become compulsory. He was married and had a clever aspiring son named Edgar, who was to follow him into the business. He was later to marry into the wealthy and influential 'Anderton' family and become one of the town's 'elite' himself. He boasted he was able to trace his ancestry back to 1066 and William the Conqueror. A license to sell ammunition was also taken out for the shop, since the upper class sport of shooting was still a pastime in Rivington. It is very likely that Lord Leverhulme would have obtained his supplies here. This license was still operative when Reg Brown took over the shop in 1899 and its wine and spirit license is still in use 100 years later.

This pharmacy has seen most of the changes that have taken place with the passing years. The discovery of thyroid extract and insulin, the discovery of M&B products, antibiotics and the powerful sedative medicines in use today. It has seen typhoid and scarlet fever, diphtheria and tuberculosis almost eradicated, no longer to be the dreadful scourges they once were.

What of the future? What will the next century bring? Well, they now have an 'in-store' pharmacy at Tesco in Lostock. The giant superstores have taken trade from so many small businesses in recent years, leaving the town centres with numerous empty shops and drained of their life blood. Small sub-post offices, threatened with closure, recently mounted a rearguard campaign using the slogan 'Use it or Lose it'. This applies more urgently than ever to the good, efficient shops remaining. We receive an excellent, helpful personal service from these independent retailers which the national giants cannot match. Would you care to be forced to travel to Middlebrook to obtain your medicines or to have your prescription dispensed? This unnerving situation could face us all if we don't endeavour to support the remaining shops in Horwich which once served ourselves and even our great grandparents for a century of more.

(George Melling and his father, Kingsley, owned a pharmacy on Chorley New Road for 64 years until retirement in the 1990's.)

First published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Autumn 1999

Bertha Riley - George Melling celebrates a life dedicated to teaching the children of Horwich

Bertha Riley has been remembered locally with deep affection by countless junior school children who were taught by her. For over 40 years this dedicated and enthusiastic teacher drummed into our heads the importance of learning. Although she and her husband, Wilfred, had no children of their own, it was the pupils in her class who became her adopted family.

I vividly remember my family moving to live in Cedar Avenue at Claypool in 1959. Betha and Wilfred had recently retired there, so we were close neighbours. She was still in touch with scores of her former pupils, being very interested in how their lives had developed in the intervening years. At school she was a firm disciplinarian using teaching methods that had the backing of most of the parents. As children, our feet were firmly placed on the first rung of the ladder by Mrs "Ratty" Riley. Thousands of us feel that our success in adulthood is owed in part to the gift she had of stimulating us into learning.

Bertha Bell was born in 1896 at Brampton near Carlisle, but moved with her parents to Horwich at the age of eight. Her ability was soon noticed gaining her a place at Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School (as it was known in those days), where she stayed for four years. At 16 years old she knew that she wanted a career in teaching, having enjoyed working with children in her local Methodist Sunday School. So, when she won a bursary of 20 pounds a year to buy books for her studies, the decision was sealed. In 1917 after 4 years of study, she was awarded her teaching certificate, leading to her first teaching post at the newly-built Fourgates County Council School in Westhoughton. She stayed there until 1924, walking daily from the Beehive Hotel to Fourgates, winter and summer. The school hall there had an open coal fire that gave a warm welcome on many a cold and frosty morning.

The fathers of many of the children she taught worked in the local coal pits and, to their credit, most of them kept their offspring well fed and clothed. The children spoke with a broad accent, which she failed to eradicate, herself being keen to teach the 'King's English'. They were tough children, so strict discipline had to be maintained, a policy that she observed throughout her teaching career. Using the cane was an option open to her, but her proud boast was that never once did she have to resort to it.

In those days, as during WWII, resources were very limited; text books were in short supply and were backed with strong paper by the children to make them last longer. All equipment had to be shared. In local schools children were taught how to make their own exercise books using double thread to stich them together. The boys, under the headmaster's guidance, grew vegetables and strawberries in the extensive school garden whilst the female staff taught sewing to the girls.

Her next teaching position was at Lee Lane Congregational School in Horwich, commonly known as the British School. At this school lessons were held in a large room where a curtain was used to divide up the classes. Boys and girls were taught separately, the children sitting 6 to a desk, with ink wells that had to be topped up by the 'ink monitor'. The scholars were provided with pens, but the nibs had to be checked before a new nib was given, probably to avoid waste. When the British School closed in 1936, to be replaced by 2 new schools (one for girls and one for boys), Bertha elected to transfer to Chorley New Road Junior School, where once more she was back in co-educational teaching. Here the headmaster was very strict, keeping the staff on their toes. They had no such things as free periods, all lesson preparation and marking had to be done at home in their own time. At assembly hymns and prayers were said, after which the children went to stand behind their desks until the teacher entered the classroom with "Good morning children". Only then did they sit in their seats. Next came shoe inspection and woe betide anyone with dirty footwear who did not return after lunch with shoes duly polished! After marking the register there followed religious instruction, which dared not be missed. The memory work consisted of learning well-known passages from the scriptures, all children being encouraged to bring their own bible to school. Arithmetic followed scripture while the children were fresh and alert, which took the class up to playtime. "It was at this school that I first knew of the Punishment Book" she once recalled. "It was kept under lock and key and only the headmaster had access. Whenever corporal punishment was administered, usually by means of the cane, the name of the pupil and the nature of the misdemeanour were entered into it".

During the 1940s, Lancashire County Council began to appoint First Assistants and Deputy Heads. Mrs Riley was promoted to both these posts in succession. Being the headmaster's choice as deputy head she was pleased to accept this position of responsibility which she held until her retirement.

During the Second World War many of the fathers of the pupils were conscripted into the armed forces causing discipline at home to suffer. At this time many mothers began to go out to work to supplement the family income, a soldiers pay being meagre. Many worked in munition factories or in cotton mills. Evacuees also came to live in Horwich from cities at risk from bombing and this caused tensions and gang rivalry in the playground. It was during this time that the daily 'third of a pint' of milk scheme was introduced. The children each brought their two and a half pence per week, but poor children were given the milk free. The staff saw this as a great benefit as were school dinners, which came later in the decade.

There was little truancy, since the school was blessed with an excellent attendance officer who came in twice a week to chase up the list of absentees. One enterprising young lad once hid inside a dustbin outside his own home on seeing the officer coming up the street. Needless to say the boy was pulled out and brought back to school.

Bertha Riley finally retired from teaching after 40 years in December 1957, after a long and happy career. "It was hard work, but very rewarding to see former pupils doing well for themselves in their chosen careers. Now I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labours, knowing that I worked to the full extent of my ability". This she certainly did, having more than 30 years of happy retirement until her passing at the age of 96 in July 1992. Long may she be remembered.

This article was first published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine in 2005

The Making Of The Winter Hill TV Mast By William Kay

The television station on Winter Hill in Lancashire was built for the Independent Television Authority (later the Independent Broadcasting Authority) which had been set up by Parliament to broadcast and control the Commercial TV services then coming into being. The Winter Hill Station was built during 1956-57 with broadcasting of Granada programmes commencing in September 1957. The transmitting aerials for the service were mounted at the top of a 450 ft steel tower which resembled a large electricity pylon.

The Original Mast - Horwich Journal, December 1955

The services at that time the 405 line VHF system, but with the proposed introduction of 625 lines plus a requirement that BBC 1 & 2 should also transmit from Winter Hill, it became obvious that the 450 ft tower would be inadequate for the job. The ITA therefore decided to erect a new mast and to this end commissioned a 1000 ft structure of novel design from British Insulated Callender Construction (BICC). This mast was to be of cylindrical construction and to be held up by stay lines (thick guy wires).

Work commenced on the new structure in 1964 with the digging of an enormous hole for the foundations, which were to consist of a large concrete raft with four corner legs rather like a table. Interestingly, three of the four shafts, dug to accommodate these legs unexpectedly intercepted old coal mine shafts which had to be backfilled and strengthened before the foundation could be started. A reinforced concrete base was built in the centre on top of the raft onto which the tubular mast was bolted. This was a break with convention as guyed masts are usually supported on a single large ball- bearing to accommodate all the swaying and twisting movements that occur in these structures.

The tubular mast body was erected by the process of bolting half cylindrical sections of galvanised steel (each 10 ft high and 9 ft in diameter) to each other. Work progressing at the rate of 10 ft per 2 lifts of steel with the early lifts being possible using a transportable crane. To go higher, an ingenious device was brought into play consisting of a long steel tube with a jib crane head fixed to its end. This was mounted vertically inside the mast cylinder and used to lift the sections. As these were added, the jib crane was jacked up and relocated into the next section and so was always in position for the next lift. As the mast grew, temporary stay lines were attached to it to steady the structure until the anchor points for the permanent stays were installed and those final stays fitted.

The construction of the mast was completed in 1965. As much of the work was took place in the depths of winter, one must admire the courage, fitness and tenacity of the rigging staff who carried out this work in often freezing conditions. It should be noted that the mast isn't quite what it seems, in fact the 9 ft steel cylinder only goes up to 600 ft after which it changes into a lattice mast for the remaining 400 ft. The TV aerials for all the TV services are mounted in this section which is covered by a cylinder of about 11 ft diameter made of fibreglass. This acts as a weather shield whilst allowing the transmission waves to pass through. For ease of access to the aerials, a passenger lift going to 600 ft was installed during the original construction.

Two further masts of this type were built, both 1250 ft tall, at Emley Moor near Huddersfield and in Lincolnshire, providing ITV and BBC services to those regions. Then, 'horror of horrors', in March 1969, during severe icing up and adverse weather conditions, the Emley Moor mast collapsed. Anxious eyes (particularly my own, as I was on duty under the Winter Hill one at the time) were directed to the Winter Hill Mast and its sister structure in Lincolnshire, both of which were heavily iced up. Luckily they survived, but both of them were subjected to intense investigations and to a programme of modification and strengthening over the years. Now it is probably true to say that they are as safe as any mast in Europe.

The collapsed mast on Emley Moor 1969

Over in Yorkshire, where the TV services were restored within four days using temporary structures, the fallen mast had damaged some property and closed a road. The Local District Council were reluctant to allow erection of another permanent mast, but eventually a compromise was reached and the present concrete tower was built to carry the broadcast services. The Emley Moor incident make it unlikely that any further cylindrical masts of the Winter Hill type and height will ever be erected. As terrestrial Digital TV and satellite services progress, the need for these structures will also decline.

The mast in the bleak mid-winter 2021)

Footnote: When the 1000 ft mast came into operation, the original 450 ft tower at Winter Hill was dismantled and rebuilt in Scotland where it continues to give sterling service.

First published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2000

Horwich Pianist's Attempt at Non-Stop Music Record

Horwich Journal & Guardian May 1928

He will commence the attempt on Monday next at 7.30 p.m. To beat the world record by half an hour he will have to play until one o'clock on Friday morning. Abie finished his training yesterday and has gone to the seaside to rest quietly for three days. The picture and variety programmes will be as usual next week, but Abie will play continuously throughout each performance. The theatre will be open to the public night and day, and everybody is invited to see him playing at any hour of the day or night.

But it wasn't to be...

After playing the piano in the Princes Theatre for 34 and a half hours non-stop, beating his own record, Mr Platt collapsed at 5.45 on the Wednesday morning and had to be carried to a nearby dressing room. He was taken home in a taxi and put to bed. Abie started to get discomfort in his right wrist after only a few hours and, despite continual massage, the pain became gradually worse. Eventually, his wrist would not function properly and was intensely painful making it impossible for him to continue.

However, the Journal account sets out what must have been an eventful few days in the famous Horwich Theatre...

Abie started at 7.30 p.m on Monday the 14th May 1928 and received a great send-off from a large audience. Counc. R. Taylor J.P., Chairman of the Horwich Urban District Council, gave Platt the signal to begin and wished him every success. Wearing light trousers, a cricket shirt and blazer, Abie took his usual seat at the piano with the orchestra and started with 'Tipperary'. He was full of high spirits and sang several choruses with 'gusto'. When the picture and variety show ended at 10.30 p.m, large numbers of the audience remained in their seats and, to Mr Platt's accompaniment, joined in singing popular songs, including 'Abie, My Boy'. The theatre manager, Mr Marsden, and a friend even executed a step dance on the stage. To comply with regulations, the audience left the hall at 11 o'clock and the doors were closed and immediately reopened. Large numbers trooped back in to watch Abie at work, including loco engine drivers, bus-men and tram-men, who had just finished work, filling the balcony and ground floor. A local dance band artist and the orchestra violinist played to Abie's accompaniment. A similar sequence of events occurred on the Tuesday evening.

Throughout the record attempt, Mr Platt alternately stood and sat down to play while wearing a head rest onto his chest. Mr Prince McBride, the holder of the record, sent a telegram offering support and on the Wednesday morning visited Abie to offer advice and encouragement. Abie explained that he couldn't remember how he was taken to the dressing room. He was, however, able to correct the Horwich rumour that his trainer, Mr Marsden, fainted and knocked Abie from his piano chair thus ending the record attempt, Platt explained that apparently Mr Marsden jumped forward in an attempt to stop him hitting the floor as he collapsed. After a rest, Abie was said to be feeling fine saying that he would have another shot at the record having learnt so much from this attempt.

As there is no further report, we don't know whether Abie made a second attempt at the continuous piano playing record. The current world record (2021) is held by Mrityunjay Sharma, who managed a non-stop piano playing session of 127 hours, 8 minutes and 38 seconds in India during 2015.

Well Done Abie Platt... a valiant attempt!

THE LEVER AGE By Audrey Makin

On Sunday 4th August 2002, celebrations took place to acknowledge the centenary of the gift of Lever Park to the people of Horwich and Bolton by Lord Leverhulme. As many of you will know, Leverhulme was a well-known Bolton-born philanthropist who, amongst other things, restored Hall i'th wood, built Blackburn Road Congregational Church, paid for the building of Bolton School and donated the land for Leverhulme Park. The 2002 celebrations included a march from the Black Bull in Horwich led by a brass band followed by a short service in Lever Park. There then followed a guided walk around the boundary of land he gifted, with a drama group from the Junior Octagon performing at the castle and later in Riving ton School Church Hall. Here there was music and refreshments with Horwich Heritage providing a backdrop of pictures and artefacts about Lord Leverhulme.

Most people who wander through the ruins of what is now known as the 'Terraced Gardens' at Rivington would be amazed at the history of the area and the genius of the man who designed and paid for this unique garden. During the year 1898, Mr J.W. Crompton of Rivington Hall put his estate on the market. It was generally expected that Liverpool Corporation would be the purchaser as they owned the Rivington reservoirs and would be keen to protect their catchment area, but it was bought by Mr W.H. Lever, the successful soap manufacturer. He obtained the Hall and Manor of Rivington together with the Manorial rights for £60,000 and the purchase was completed in January, 1900.

Rivington Hall

William Lever decided to build a residence on the ridge above Hall Wood, Rivington, about a third of a mile from Rivington Pike. A large wooden bungalow was erected which he called Roynton Cottage, Roynton being one of the old forms of the name of Rivington. Four Lodges were built at the entrances to the bungalow and extensive landscaped gardens were laid out. The water supply came from a spring on Winter Hill, and the main access roads came from Horwich, Rivington and Belmont. Work began in 1901 and to celebrate Mr Lever invited his Rivington and Horwich tenants (about 80 people) to dinner and entertainment at the Black-a-Moor's Head hotel in Rivington. Later that year he expressed his intentions of opening a large portion of his estate to the public, 'for free and uninterrupted enjoyment'.

Liverpool Corporation, who had previously been uninterested in the estate, then decided to pursued an Act of Parliament to enforce the acquisition of all the Rivington Watershed. A bitter legal battle ensued and, at arbitration, it was announced that Liverpool Corporation would have to pay WH Lever the sum of £138,449 together with costs estimated at £10,000 to purchase the land. The sale was completed in 1905.

One of the entrances to the Japanese Garden

Work started on the new 'public park' in June 1902. Existing roads were improved, the Hall renovated and a museum opened containing works of art and historical artefacts. Two large Saxon barns were restored and enclosures and shelters built for a collection of animals and birds in the form of an open air zoo. The park was opened to the public on 18th May 1904, although work continued after that date. A replica of the ruins of Liverpool Castle was erected on the eastern side of the Lower Rivington Reservoir. The small lake in front of Rivington Hall was divided into two, with black swans from Western Australia on one section and white swans on the other half. Among the other species in the park were fallow deer, Sambar deer and sacred cattle from India, zebra, llamas from South America, emus, wallabies from Australia, Shetland ponies, Mouflon sheep, peacocks and cranes.

9 years later, the work on the Hall, Barns and Park was nearing completion and a celebratory luncheon and dance was organised at Rivington Hall on 10th October 1911.

The Upper Barn

The 7 Arch Lever Bridge

I think we all owe a great deal to this generous man who gave us the freedom to roam around the Rivington area - which we take for granted today. But even in his wildest dreams, Lord Leverhulme could never have imagined how popular his gift would become, epitomised by the fact that the cycling events of the Commonwealth Games would be held in this area one hundred years after it was donated for 'free public enjoyment' .

First Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2002


First Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2003

The late 19th and early 20th Century saw a spate of inventions which were to transform the lives of ordinary citizens of the country in ways hitherto undreamed of. By 1903, the telephone, radio, electricity and motor car were all beginning to have an impact on everyday life. The first mass produced motor car, The Model T Ford, went into production during this year and on 17th December the Wright Brothers made their first historic manned flight.

By 1903 some 30 people were registered on the Horwich Telephone Exchange at 97, Lee Lane, with a mixture of well known companies like the L&Y Railway, T. Ridgway and Co, Cooke & Nuttall, J Crankshaw & Sons, Adam Mason & Son, T.M. Hesketh & Sons (Albert Mill), Crompton Ainscow (Beehive Mill)and private individuals like C.F. and W. Ainsworth, A.P. Patterson (Dentist), G.H. Whittaker (Physician) and the famous W.H. Lever, who was one of the first car owners in the town. Most people still travelled locally by horse drawn carriage or cart or on foot, but public transport to Bolton and beyond was already developed, courtesy of the Chorley New Road Tram (Route N) which at this time also had a branch along Lee Lane, Church Street and Victoria Road, and the National rail networks had stations in all the near-by towns and villages including Horwich.

Lee Lane Horwich with the single tram track early C20th

Horwich was expanding rapidly as a result of the arrival of the L&Y Loco works in 1884. In 10 years the population had more than tripled from 4,000 to almost 13,000 causing much social upheaval with so many 'newcomers' arriving so quickly. New houses, shops, businesses, churches, schools, pubs, clubs and public buildings were springing up everywhere with areas in the vicinity of the Loco Works and the town centre being particular 'hives of activity'. Horwich Station on Church Street was the focus of much of this new social and economic activity.

Horwich Loco Works Erecting Shop

Almost 20 years after the first foundations were laid, the Loco Works was in full production, moving quickly towards the 1000th loco to be built there. At this time 3500 men and boys were employed, including someone from almost every local family. Much of the town's social life revolved around the Works and the RMI clubs and societies had regular functions at the Mechanics Institute. These close connections were to greatly influence the social and economic structure of the town for the next 80 years. The Chief Mechanical Engineer was Henry Hoy who succeeded the 'founding father' of the Works, Sir John Aspinall, in 1899. In 1904 Hoy was succeeded by George Hughes who remained in Horwich till 1922 when the L&Y merged with the L&NWR. It was at this time that the Mechanics Institute became known as the 'University of Railway Engineering' due to a very high standard of teaching which produced such famous 'graduates' as AV Roe, Sir Nigel Gresley and Sir Henry Fowler.

Winter Hey Lane early C20th

Elsewhere on the hillside above Horwich, W.H. Lever, founder of the soap empire, had acquired the Manor of Rivington in 1900 and proceeded to build a timber bungalow with exotic Japanese Gardens, which he continued to develop. The bungalow was burned down by suffragette Edith Rigby in 1913 but he rebuilt it in stone. One of his beneficial acts was to dedicate Lever Park as a public facility to be enjoyed in perpetuity by the people of Horwich & Bolton. This he did by an Act of Parliament in 1902 with the official opening on the 18th May 1904 at Rivington Barn.

Another important ceremony celebrated the start of work on Fall Birch Hospital, built by a Horwich Committee representing Horwich, Blackrod and Westhoughton, to combat the spread of infectious diseases. The foundation stone was laid on 23rd April 1903 by Mr J. Unsworth with the formal opening on the 9th March 1905. In Rivington, the Unitarian Chapel celebrated its bi-centenary on the 10th June 1903 with a service led by Rev. C. J. Street of Bank Street Chapel, Bolton. It is pleasing to note it will celebrate its tri-centenary this year (2003).

Horwich Holidaymakers at Horwich Station

It is only a 100 years ago but life was very different in Horwich in 1903. For local people the world was a much smaller place and Horwich was very self-contained with few people travelling far, other than for annual holidays (by train). Life was tough, work was hard labour at the Loco Works, textile and paper mills, bleaching, brick and clay works, down the mines or on farms.

Back Lee Lane

The shops sold everything to meet daily needs but technology has moved on so much that we would not recognise many of those items today. With change happening at an ever increasing rate, one wonders what Horwichers in 2103 will make of life today..?


Mike Ince investigates a terrible storm over Horwich

In these days of much talk about climate change, of torrential rains and flooded roads, our newspapers seem increasingly keen to fasten onto any instances of freak weather as proof positive that we're all doomed and that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Extreme weather events are, fortunately, not that common, but you don't have to dig very far into the archives to find examples which make the occasional heavy shower pale into insignificance, and which remind us all that the sometimes destructive power is in itself quite natural, and unavoidable, that there will be times when we are powerless in the face of it.

One of the most remarkable events on record was an electrical storm that broke over Bolton in the middle of the nineteenth century. The storm then spread north west, focusing its destructive power in the area between Horwich and Wigan, causing several fatalities, widespread damage to property and the loss of livestock. Judging by the contemporary accounts, nothing like it has been seen since, and it is to be hoped it never will again.

The storm took place on the 16th July 1850. For most of that day the weather had been fine and settled, as it had been in the days proceeding, with no hint of the terrible events that were about to take place. There was a little light cloud, but by the afternoon this had begun to thicken and grow darker, eventually breaking into a thunderstorm over Bolton around 4:00 pm, with heavy rain and large hailstones. Over the next two hours, the storm gathered strength, spreading north towards Preston and west towards Wigan. Meanwhile another storm had been forming over Wigan and this now joined forces with the first, the result being that by about 6:00 pm the rain had more the appearance of a waterfall, with terrific displays of lightening.

Writing in the September 1850 edition of the Journal of Science, Peter Clare F.R.A.S. said of the storm:-

"In the district below the Rivington Hills the water advanced so unexpectedly, so rapidly, and with such impetuosity, as to remove whole bales of cotton from the mills, and also pieces of cloth from the print works, to a considerable distance. Other casualties also occurred, comprising the following, some of which are of a melancholy character.

At Horwich the flood rose to such a height, that the water burst through the windows of the cotton mill of William Bennett at Wilderswood, doing damage to the amount of several hundred pounds; other mills in the same neighbourhood also sustained considerable damage from the flood. At Adlington, a colt belonging to Ralph Shaw was drowned by the flood. At Blackrod, Joseph France, aged forty years, was engaged with another man in sinking a shaft at a colliery, when the water rushed so suddenly into that he could not get out and was drowned.

At Adlington, the electrical fluid entered a house where a women and her five children were sitting, and after breaking a looking-glass that hung over her head and destroying the chimney ornaments it left the house without injuring any of the inmates.

At Horwich, the electrical fluid entered the house of Mr Welsh, broke a large mirror and sundry other articles, and struck a boy twelve years of age, who afterwards lay in a precarious state for some time. At Daubhill, to the west of Bolton, a cow belonging to Peter Boardman was killed in a field by lightening. At Lostock, Ralph Shaw had a foal killed in a field from the same cause. James Lathem, also at Lostock, had a three year old colt and a horse both killed by the lightening. At Belmont, a cow belonging to Benjamin Helme was killed by the lightening on the road near to the church. At Hindley, a valuable cow belonging to John Battersby, of Castle Hill, was killed whilst grazing in a field with nine others.

At Horrocks Fold Farm, two girls, named Alice Makinson of Preston, and Ellen Longworth of Horwich, were sitting in the kitchen with four other persons, when the electrical fluid came down the outside of the chimney, through the roof and the floor, and struck Alice Makinson dead on the spot; the fluid hit her on the shoulder, and passing down her body tore the sole from one of her clogs in its resistless progress. There were no appearances on the body of the other girl, Ellen Longworth, of having been struck by lightning, but she was taken out of the kitchen in a state of insensibility; and though she revived a little, and was restored to consciousness, she only lingered until five o'clock the next morning, when she died".

The deadly effects by the storm were not confined to the Horwich area. Quoting Peter Clare again:

"At St. Helens, which is six or eight miles to the South West of Wigan, John Rigby, a coal miner, aged forty-six years, was looking out of an upstairs window of his house during the thunder-storm, about seven o'clock in the evening, when he was struck by the electric fluid and killed on the spot; there was a mark on his breast, and the shoe on his right foot was torn to pieces. Several persons in the same house were knocked down, but all of them recovered.

Evan Rimmer, a farm servant, aged eighteen year, was taking shelter with four others in a stable or shed adjoining William Wright's farm in Moss Lane, North Meols, when the building was struck by the electric fluid and they were all knocked down. Rimmer was killed; the others were put to bed and recovered".

The storm was still raging at nine o'clock, some five hours after it had begun. It was unusual not only in its ferocity, but also in the nature of the lightning displayed, and as evening came on, observers at Bolton and Manchester reported seeing atmospheric phenomena never before witnessed, according to one:-

"I was at Bolton on the 16th July, and witnessed an awful storm of thunder and lightning... There was a large black cloud in the South-West; behind it the heavens appeared to open, throwing forth sometimes showers of brilliant sparks or of balls of fire, sometimes circles of flame, sometimes, fiery serpents, and at others forked lightening of unusual breadth, the clouds always edged with beautiful sheet lightning"

A full account of this remarkable event, written by Peter Clare can be found in the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosphical Magazine and Journal of Science - recently digitised and available on the internet free, through Google books. Search for Horwich Storm, 1850.

First Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Autumn 2011

Knoll Bleachworks, a water- powered mill in Tigers Clough, was a victim of the flood which resulted from the storm of 1850. It is said to have wrecked the wheel and damaged the walls. The remains of the wall of the Mill can be seen in the background on the photo. The Mill owned by a Bolton man was never repaired and the main building cleared by Liverpool Corporation in 1869.

A photo of the same scene in the early 20th Century with the remains of the water chase and fall. This was the location of the main mill and water wheel.


By Stuart Whittle

The history of pubs & clubs in Britain goes back not hundreds but thousands of years to the days of brewing mead and fermenting wine whether in people's homes, monasteries or "ale" houses. The Vikings are credited with introducing mead (fermented honey) into Britain where it soon became and established drink. Medieval Monks turned it into a thriving business serving pilgrims until the dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. The arrival of the Romans led to the establishment of a road network and with it the creation of road side 'taverns'. Ale (fermented malt, barley + yeast) gradually eclipsed mead as the most popular drink and with the addition of hops produced the beer we have today. Beer, wine and (in the C18th) gin, became popular, not just because of their alcoholic properties but because the quality of drinking water was so poor, unreliable and often polluted. Drinking together in groups and village communities also became an important social pastime and was a pre-requisite for men preparing themselves for battle.

In such a small place as Horwich, brewing would have been a 'cottage' industry in the middle ages supplying just local needs. The best example we have of how such a facility operated using the water supply from the surrounding moorland is to be found at 'Tigers Clough' on the border of Horwich and Rivington. Pub names like the Squirrel, Greenwood and Beehive also indicate that there would have been local 'ale houses' on these sites in the days when Horwich was covered by the Royal Hunting Forrest (Norman times). However, as communications started to improve and people started to move around more, roadside 'inns' started to appear and by the C18th, as stage coach travel became commonplace, a whole network of overnight 'coaching inns' began to emerge. These were given a real boost when, thanks to the Turnpike Acts, much better roads were constructed and travel became more comfortable.

A stagecoach outside the Bee Hive on Chorley New Road c.1890

In Horwich, the arrival of the Ridgways and their building the Wallsuches Bleachworks in 1777 and the opening of the Bolton-Nightingale (Chorley) Turnpike Road in the 1780s transformed the fortunes of the town. 3 'stage coach' inns particularly benefitted from this: the Moorgate (now the Blundell Arms), the Black Bull (now Il Torro) and the Crown Hotel. In 1829, a second Turnpike Route was opened up along what is now Chorley New Road. This was a much flatter and faster route than the original one along Chorley Old Road and produced a flurry of coaching inn development around the Crown Bar (Toll Gate) where the two routes came together. At its peak, there were 4 inns at the junction: the Crown Hotel, Kings Arms. Queens Head and Toll Bar - only 2 of which survive today and the Toll Bar has recently changed its name to Beeley's. Unfortunately no stable blocks survive but the Saddle still has its original barn at the rear.

Frank Stubbs' sketch of the Crown Toll Bar c. 1800

The Moorgate Inn and the Black Bull have particular places in Horwich History. The former was where the inquest into the murder of George Henderson (the Scotsman killed on the Horwich Moor) was held in 1838 and from where James Whittle was sent for trial at Liverpool Assizes. The latter was where Joseph Ridgway, said to be the 'Father of the present day Horwich', met with his officials to 'administer local affairs' in the mid C19th, before the days of local government.

The Blundell Arms (formerly Moorgate Inn) c.1870


Although Turnpike Roads effected some improvements, they were eclipsed by the rapid development of the railways. In Horwich, the combination of the opening of Horwich Station in 1865 and the building of the Loco Works in the 1880s saw a rapid development of the town which was matched by the building (or re-building) of dozens of pubs and clubs - most of which still exist. The establishments which were re-built at this time include the Crown Hotel, Bridge Hotel, Beehive Hotel and the Greenwood Hotel. The Old Original Bay Horse (Long Pull) on Lee Lane is originally believed to have been a weaver's dwelling/mill. The size of these re-built premises as well as the newly built Greyhound (Black Dog) on the corner of Chorley New Road/Winter Hey Lane, the Craven Heifer and Saddle, both on Lee Lane, gives an indication of the number of overnight visitors they were expecting to cater for at the end of C19th/beginning of C20th. With changing drinking habits and the changing fortunes of the town over the past 100 years or more, it is pleasing to note that so many have survived.

The Black Bull (now Il Toro)- a former stage coach inn dating back to the C18th


Crown Hotel Conservative Club (Closed 2020)
Queens Head (now private houses) Bridge Hotel
Kings Arms (demolished) Black Bull (now Il Toro)
Bowling Green Horseshoe (now private House)
Old Original Bay Horse Brown Cow (now the Ale House)
Bay Horse (now White Tiger) Sawyers Arms (now a private house)
Albert Arms (now Victoria & Albert)  
Craven Heifer (now Sam's Bar/Cafe/Shops/Offices) Tigers Head (demolished)
Horwich Central Club (now empty) Jolly Crofters
Liberal Reform Club Plumpton's (now a private house)
British Legion (now Thai Boxing Club) Mason's Arms (now a private house)
  Blundell Arms (formerly the Moorgate Inn)
Toll Bar (now Beeley's Bar)  
St Mary's Social Club (demolished)  
Labour Club (now a fish and chip restaurant)  
Greyhound/Black Dog (now apartments)  
Horwich RMI Club (formerly the BRSA)  
The Cat (Still an Off License)  
The Railway Mechanics Institute (demolished now Aspinall Court)  
L&Y Arms (demolished now shops)  
Victoria Hotel (now a shop)  
Greenwood Hotel (demolished, now shops)  
Beehive Hotel  


By Derek Cartwright

Frank Hart has iconic status within the town of Horwich and rightly so. Frank served his time as an apprentice fitter on the Horwich Loco works before working at Leyland Motors for a number of years, cycling to and from Leyland every day from Horwich, around 25 miles. Always interested in cycling and the competitive side of the sport, Frank, throughout the late 1920s and early 30s, was known as a leading rider in the area in time trials and as a hill climber with many cycling victories under his belt. Frank was a founder member of the Horwich Cycling Club in 1934 and he became its first president, a post he held until 1965.

Horwich Cycling Club, outside the Arcade shop ready for a run one Sunday morning (early 1960s)

Franks first shop was located in tiny premises on Wright Street, Horwich, at the bottom of the 'coffin entry'. After this, he moved into the Arcade and opened two others shops, one at No 246 Chorley New Road, Horwich and the other at 58 Market Street, Westhoughton. Frank had a 'reserved' occupation during WWII as many people depended on bicycles to get to work e.g. the Police, Post Services, Midwives, as well as 'ordinary' workers. Many of us will remember Frank Hart Cycles in its final premises opposite Andrew Leach's at No.89 Lee Lane Horwich (with the blue door). This was the location used until Frank's retirement in 1978. During the 1930s Frank married Kathleen and they would be together until Frank's death in 1982 and that included working together in the shop for around 40 years. Kathleen remarried after Frank's death to Les Wilkinson in 1983 but sadly passed away in 1995.

Much more could be written about Frank's contribution to the4 town of Horwich, and not just about his cycling exploits. He had many cycling victories but he also established the first Cycling Proficiency Programmme (safe cycling training for children in Horwich) and his war time and post-war civil defence activity led to him being awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queens Honours List in 1967. However that part of his life should be looked at on another occasion. This areticle looks at my time working with Frank and his wife Kathleen at the shop on Lee Lane in the late 1970 up to their retirement in 1978. I hope the reader will learn a little more about Frank and Kathleen, the shop routine and the hard work they put in but also the great feeling of energy and fun that existed in Frank Hart Cycles, which made it so successful, standing the test of time for around five decades.

My time working with Frank and Kathleen started in early summer of 1977 aged 15. Phil Worthington, Frank's previous helper gave me a great introduction to the job. The workshop at the back of the shop had a bench with two engineer's vices with all the smaller and special bike tools mounted in front of the vices on wall boards with the shape of the tools marked out onto the board - all very organised. A grind stone was mounted to the far right of the bench. Frank used the left hand bench and the helper (me) the right hand bench. There I worked side by side with Frank after school, at weekends and during school holidays until Frank and Kathleen retired... happy days. Also in the workshop was the all-important bike stand which held the bikes allowing them to be repaired at a working height, and which could be adjusted for use with any bike and to hold the bike in any required position. Frank always pressed for tidiness in the workshop, keeping safe and taking care for the tools. At the end of each day's work' all the tools were cleaned and put in their places on the wall boards and all the bikes in for repair brought inside and secured.

Kathleen looked after the front of the shop, serving customers, sorting and receiving the orders, dressing the windows and keeping Frank and I in check. When the shop got busy, Frank and I would down tools and join in serving the customers, oily hands and all, whoever made the largest sale of the day was said to be the 'king of the till'. During quieter times, Kathleen had a habit of standing on one leg while leaning against the front door of the shop watching Horwich go by - Frank often commented on Kathleen standing like a stalk. All sorts of Horwich gossip came into the shop courtesy of Kathleen's doorway routine. Kathleen had most Saturday afternoons off when the shop was left to Frank and me to run.

Frank, Kathleen and me, April 1978

A complicated piece of antique telephony sat on a shelf in the middle room of the shop. As would be expected, the phone would be answered there when people telephoned the shop. However the dark wood wall-mounted device could be switched through to Frank and Kathleen's home in Longworth Road and then it wouldn't ring in the shop. We could also we could ring through to Frank's home by throwing a switch and winding a small handle, this made the bell ring and Kathleen would answer. The faster the handle was wound the quicker the bell would ring - all good fun and plenty opportunity for mischief for a fifteen year old boy. Four large batteries (with wiring exposed) sat on the shelf and provided the power for the conversation to take place between shop and home. Phil, my predecessor, spent more time than he should trying to teach me the idiosyncrasies of this machinery and, when left to my own devices, many an error was made with people being cut off, the switch being thrown ensuring the phone didn't ring at all and with the little handle being wound so fast that the bell nearly jumped off the wall in Longworth Road.

The kettle was boiled on a gas ring in the workshop area which would be disconnected if we needed to use the gas for the blow torch. We had endless cups of tea to keep us going, always loose tea sieved and made in a pot, never tea bags. We often resorted to tea if things weren't going well in the workshop. Frank would announce "brew time" and one of us would brew up. Frank also had something of a sweet tooth and I would be sent, always still wearing my boiler suit, to get ice creams from the 'big dog shop' further along Lee Lane (Bostock's sweet shop, I think). They used to have a large dog in the shop which, although it never caused a problem, put the fear of God into me. I was also sent to Case's pie shop for Eccles cakes. Interestingly, I seem to remember most of these expeditions for sweet things happening when Kathleen had gone for the day or on Saturday afternoons. Kathleen used to bring in her home-made biscuits which were absolutely delightful, biscuits the like of which I have never had since. After Frank and Kathleen retired, the biscuits would come out whenever I went around to see them both in Longworth Road.

As well as teaching me the skills of a bike mechanic, including the almost sacred art of wheel building and truing, Frank taught me about the business side of things; making profit on second hand stock, bulk ordering, retail versus wholesale costs etc. Frank was also very aware that some people would struggle to have cash available to pay for large repairs on bikes they might need to get to work or for new purchases, and he was always able to come to an 'arrangement' so that they could get what they needed. He not only knew about people, he was also a good and very fair business man.

Frank with my predecessors in the workshop

A good working relationship between a long-haired 15 year old working side by side with a man in his seventies might seem like an impossibility. Not a bit of it, Frank and Kathleen had a zest for life that bridged any age difference. I can't recall ever thinking that they were old fashioned in any way. There was always plenty visitors, noise, good chat, stories to tell about all sorts including their cycling adventures and lots of laughter. A cheeky, cocky 15 year old with limited patience however caught the wrath of Frank fairly often but always with good spirits. On one occasion Frank caught me lighting the coal fire (first job everyday) with penetrating oil from the workshop - expensive stuff. He chased me out of the shop and up Lee Lane and, when I crept back to the shop some time later, he'd locked the shop door and turned all the lights off making me knock to get in. Frank was in there laughing saying "I'll get you next time".

I remember another time while in the workshop at our benches with Frank telling me about his epic Lands End to Jon O'Groats cycle ride he undertook with Roy Giles in the early 1950's, I said "You went from Lands End uphill?" He asked if I thought it was downhill from Scotland and I said "That's how it looks on a map". Frank's reply was "Yeh, all the silly buggers think that" at which point words were exchanged which resulted in me getting chased out of the back of the shop and up the back street with Frank in hot pursuit throwing stones at me. I remember us laughing for the rest of the day as the stones he threw went all over the place, hitting other people's property, which made us both return rather rapidly to the shop forgetting the argument altogether.

Frank used to say that people should ride bikes and not go in cars or on the bus. He used to shout from the shop to me in the workshop "Derek, another overcrowded bus has just gone past". I'd shout back "How many on board?". Franks would say "Two!!" Again laughter would follow. On Saturdays we always had a chippy dinner and it was free for me. I was dispatched to McDonagh's chip shop (near the Bowling Green pub) in my boiler suit for the chips and we would all sit, sometimes with visitors, in the middle room of the shop around the coal fire with a brew and fish and chips... heaven... getting up of course to serve customers in between things. Customers came first. Something I observed and learnt from both Frank and Kathleen is that they would stop all conversation between themselves when customers were in the shop. They made comment and didn't like it when they went into other shops where the shop assistants talked amongst themselves while serving with little regard or reference to the customer (a common trait today). They were professionals. I've often wondered what they would have made of the de-personalised, massive supermarkets of today or even on-line shopping - progress doesn't always change things for the better.

In the shop were Frank's cycling medals in a framed glass case of about 18 x 15 inches with the medals mounted on green felt. He never made a big thing about his cycling triumphs or the medals he earned, but was able to tell me when I asked about each medal and the battle to get it in great detail - a great, yet humble man. Also in the shop was a Dursley Pedersen bike: a Dutch-made antique two-speed bicycle which I had the pleasure of riding occasionally up and down Lee Lane. After Frank and Kathleen's retirement I think this remarkable bike went to Rivington Hall Barn, but I can't be sure. Frank still rode his Harry Quinn bike right up to and for a while after retiring, he couldn't stay off two wheels.

Both born in Horwich, Frank and Kathleen were a great couple to know and work for, I wish I could have worked with them and known them for longer. They worked hard all their lives, contributed massively to the town of Horwich and all the time thoroughly enjoying life itself. Frank was deservedly voted 'Person of the Century' by Horwich Heritage in the year 2000. Both Frank and Kathleen would have been very proud.

My time with Frank and Kathleen gave me an outstanding start in the world of work, which at the time I couldn't have known. Over the years, however, I've become more and more grateful to the couple for their friendship and teaching. I'll always be proud to have worked with Frank and Kathleen and will always look back on that time at Frank Hart's Cycles in that shop with the blue door at No 89 Lee Lane with the fondest of memories.

Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2019


From the Horwich & Westhoughton Journal and Guardian December 14th 1928

The business of 'knocking-up' once indispensable in these parts, is now gradually disappearing owing to the popularity of the alarm clock. Horwich now has only one remaining exponent of this once flourishing occupation, in the person of Mr George Kipling, who lives in Cuteis Street.

Mr Kipling, who is 71 years of age, has been a 'knocker-up' for a quarter of a century and although the discontinuance of the early start in the workshops and mills had some effect on his practice, he still boasts over a hundred clients. He has never been known to fail them and, despite his increasing years, is still remarkably active, proceeding on his round like a young man. George wakes instinctively at the unearthly hour of 2.45am and makes his first call at 3.30am. He is then busy until the Loco Works 'hooter' sounds at 7 o'clock and he does this every day, 6 days a week.

Until January of this year, Mr Kipling was also employed as a bricklayer's labourer at the Loco Works and, although the work entailed strenuous physical effort, he was a remarkably good time keeper. On many occasions when he had finished his early morning 'knocking up' and was still soaking wet, he would have to rush to work without a change of clothes or breakfast. "I've tramped the streets of Horwich in all sorts of weather whilst other people were in bed" said George "and I've often come a cropper on dark wintery mornings". He uses a 15ft. long bamboo pole, mounted with two wire prongs to raise people. 'Knocking-up' is a trying job, and for one not hardened to the weather, it would be unbearable. Some people can be difficult to rouse, which means returning to rattle on the window several times. A few can be abusive when disturbed from slumber, especially if they have been on the 'spree' the night before. "But when people acknowledged my knock, I am satisfied and any signs of ill-temper are ignored", said Mr Kipling, with a twinkle in his eye. He has that same twinkle when he claims kinship with Rudyard Kipling, the famous poet and author, whom he states is his cousin. He is said to bear a facial resemblance to his famous namesake. Mr Kipling's activities following his retirement from the Loco Works include poultry farming and gardening. According to his wife, he is miserable now he has no 'regular' work to do but, in order to rise early in the morning, George still goes to bed directly after tea.


Ken Fields recalls the hard-won battle for access to our local moors (additional photos and material by Derek Cartwright)

Horwich is most fortunate in having some of Lancashire's most splendid unspoilt moorland on its doorstep. The summits of Rivington Pike, Two Lads Hill and Winter Hill form a marvellous backcloth that many other towns envy. But there had been concern in 1989 that existing public access rights to our moors and mountains were under threat. This led to a large local outdoor meeting of walkers and climbers, known as the "Rivington Rally," to discuss the problem. It attracted such well known supporters as Sir Chris Bonington, MP Ann Taylor, and the great character the late Benny Rothman, who had been fighting for countryside access since the early thirties. As a result of such prominent and widespread support, the Government in 2000 eventually passed The Countryside and Rights of Way Act which, for the first time, gave the public the right to roam on foot over large parts of our wild, open countryside.

Although the Kinder Scout mass trespass of 1932 is often quoted as being the start of the campaign that led to the act being passed. It is interesting to note that the battle for access to Winter Hill began much earlier, in 1896. At this time, the summit of the hill was of course devoid of all the communication masts that are so familiar today. But in other places the moor was a hive of industrial activity, with several small mines and quarries being worked together with a tile works and a number of occupied cottages that have now long since disappeared. These included the isolated Five Houses, which figured so prominently in the well-documented murder of the packman, George Henderson that took place in 1838.

In earlier times, the paths and tracks that still criss-cross the moor today had been the main links between local villages and towns. They were used by the gentry on their horses, the working class on foot, and the strings of pack-horses loaded with cotton goods. However, this came to an end when the wider, better maintained turnpike roads began to be built in the valleys in the mid-18th century. What is now Chorley Old Road was opened as a turnpike in 1764 followed by Chorley New Road in 1829. Then came the railway revolution that made cheap travel over long distances possible for everyone - so these moorland highways became used less and less.

The hills then became more widely enjoyed for recreational purposes, spearheaded by the Romantic Movement that is often associated with the Lakeland Poets. This brought with it a culture of enjoying 'wild places' and walking for pleasure. It then led, in Victorian times, to the widespread formation of rambling clubs, often belonging to religious and political groups such as the socialist movement. However, large area of the most wild and inviting countryside were at this time in private ownership and, although in many cases rights-of-way had existed for centuries, disputes arose.

One of the popular routes for walkers from Bolton who wished to explore the moorland around Winter Hill led from the town up Halliwell Road and Smithills Dean Road, crossing directly over Scout Road, to join a track known as Coal Pit Road. This was an access road to several farms and cottages and continued onto the moor. But in August 1896 Colonel Richard Ainsworth, a wealthy bleach-works owner and landowner who owned Smithills Hall and estate, decided to stop public access to the moor by closing part of Coal Pit Road, leaving the moor undisturbed for his grouse shooting parties. He then had a gate erected across the track leading to Winter Hill, claiming that it was a private road that he owned. His later words: "we have heard too much talk and space devoted to the 'people's rights' and too little consideration being shown to the landowner" helped to inflame the situation. Soon local opposition to the closure grew to fever pitch; this led to local journalist Solomon Partington and shoemaker Joseph Shufflebotham arranging a public demonstration.

A Victorian painting of a shooting party with a shooting butt in the background (left) This would have been typical of many scenes on Winter Hill& Smithills Moor in the late C19th.

Red grouse placed on the moors by Colonel Ainsworth for his shooting parties

Clay pipe pieces and broken pottery. These items were found after the 2018 fires in a very small area in the middle of the moor on what would have been Colonel Ainsworth land in the late C19th. This was probably the site of a shooting butt where refreshments might be taken before the grouse were driven in the shooters' direction. The brown ink bottle dates the finds as c.1885.

On 6th September 1896 about 1000 people met at the bottom of Halliwell Road, but their numbers had increased to 10,000 when the offending gate was reached. The small group of gamekeepers and police on guard were greatly outnumbered leading to the gate being quickly broken down. The crown then marched on to the moor, and continued along the track to the Scotchman's Stump, ending their demonstration in Belmont.

The event became the talk of Bolton during the following week and writer Allan Clark wrote a sketch about it and a song was composed:

"Will Yo come O Sunday Mornin,
Fo a walk O'er Winter Hill
Ten Thousand went last Sunday
But there's room for thousands still..."

More demonstrations followed over the next three weeks, but those who worked for or were tenants of Colonel Ainsworth became reluctant to attend. In March 1897, ten men appeared in court in Manchester charged with trespass. These had injunctions placed on them restraining them from entering Colonel Ainsworth's land and two had costs awarded against them of £600 (which were paid by the other protesters).

It appeared that the landowner had won the battle but he eventually lost the war. Over the following years, Solomon Partington continued the struggle by writing and publishing a number of pamphlets on the 'Winter Hill Right of Way' arguing that Coal Pit Road was part of an ancient public route known as the Houghton Causeway. And in the 1920s Bolton Corporation finally bought the land, which led in 1996 to the Coal Pit Road being designated a public right of way.

The mass trespass was commemorated in 1982 when 2000 people marched over Winter Hill. Paul Salveson wrote an excellent book that detailed the battle and a street theatre acted out a play by Les Smith that dramatically portrayed the struggle. A similar anniversary event took place in 1996 and a memorial stone was erected close to the disputed gate.

First published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2009

Postscript 2021

This Year marks the 125th anniversary of the Winter Hill trespass. Paul Salveson has again been very active in ensuring this key 'Freedom to Roam' event is commemorated. A Facebook group has been formed to promote the celebration which will take place in September 2021. If you wish to know more, please sign up on Facebook to 'Winter Hill 125'. The event will include a commemorative march over the original trespass route to Belmont on Sunday September 5th 2021. The march is expected to start at 10 am from the bottom of Halliwell Road (original starting point). The Woodland Trust is organising a gala at Walker Fold, free transport is also planned from Belmont back to Bolton. More will be published about the anniversary activities over the coming weeks. Please support the events in September if you can as we shouldn't ever take our right to roam for granted.


By Rev. Brian Harris

George Hughes was born in 1865 in Benwick on the Cambridgeshire fens, the son of a farmer & miller. He was educated at County School at Elham in Norfolk and died in Stamford after spending much of his retirement in Cromer. In 1882 he became a premium apprentice at Crewe Loco Works under FW Webb and in 1887 moved to the new LYR Works at Horwich as a fitter & erector.

In 1888 he took charge of the Testing Shop and by 1894 he was in charge of the gas works and lighting system. In the following year he became Chief Assistant in the Carriage & Wagon Dept. at Newton Heath before returning to Horwich in 1899 as Works Manager & Principal Assistant to the CME, HA Hoy, who he succeeded in 1904. Under his direction, Horwich established a reputation for progressive locomotive engineering, particularly in the development of superheating.

As a result of a series of railway amalgamations in 1922 and 1923, George Hughes became first of all the CME of the LNWR then CME of the LMS, all the time retaining his HQ at Horwich. The most famous locomotive built during his time in charge was the 'Crab' 2-6-0 (Hughes Crab).

The difficulties of working under the conditions of the new grouping led to Hughes' retirement in 1925 just before his 60th birthday. He returned to Cromer where his wife, Ann died in 1928. However, he re-married in 1929 and moved to Stamford where he died in 1945 age 80. His obituary noted that 'he was a lovable, cheerful man who did valuable work without any display or pushiness' and perhaps for that reason he did not receive the recognition he deserved. George Hughes is remembered in Horwich with the naming of Hughes Avenue.

George Hughes

In recent years I have set out to discover his grave in the village of Benwick. The land in the vicinity of the graveyard has suffered from subsidence over the years so much so that the Anglican Church which stood there was demolished in the 1980s because it became unsafe. Despite the headstones & memorials being at 'sixes & sevens', I found an abundance of Hughes graves including the family memorial to George Hughes' family. It consists of a large granite stone cross mounted on a triple granite stone base and gives the details of George's parents, brothers & sisters, his first wife, Ann and himself.

A Hughes Crab in Horwich Loco for repair 1934

The family story is a sad one with his parents dying whilst the 5 children were still quite young. They were then brought up by different relatives in the Norfolk area. George was the only one of his family to have a 'full life span'. George Hughes made provision in his will for the family grave to be maintained which the present Rector of Benwick is endeavouring to do. However, my inspection of the grave revealed that the plaque at the foot of the memorial relating to George had become cracked and was suffering from the ravages of the weather. Concerned for its future preservation, I enquired whether it might be removed to a 'safer place'. The vicar agreed, and as a result, I have travelled up to Horwich to present it to the Horwich Heritage Society where I am sure it will be well looked after. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows:

BORN 1865 DIED 1945

George Hughes' grave at Benwick

Memorial stone now at the Horwich Heritage Centre

Article first published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2017


By Cynthia Pearcy, Stuart Whittle & Derek Cartwright

My mum had a friend called Gladys Holland and she lived in Wigan. Every year, on Good Friday, Gladys came to Horwich on the bus with her husband, Bert, and their daughter, Mildred and son, Dennis. They got off the bus in Marsh Street, then walked down Chorley New Road to our house near St Mary's Church. Then off we set, up the Pike. That was 1958 and it was the second time up the Pike for me and my brother, as the churches in Horwich used to organise a service at the top of the Pike at 8am on Good Friday. We always went to that, then back to Lee Lane Congregational Sunday School for a breakfast of boiled egg and cocoa. Going up the Pike is still a tradition on Good Friday, but things are a bit different now, and in those days not a mobile phone in sight!

In addition to the religious gathering on the Pike, there is also the Fair (now a pale shadow of its former self) the origin of which goes back several centuries. In its hey-day, it attracted large numbers of people from the surrounding towns and villages but during the 1830s 'drunken and riotous' behaviour brought a clamp down from the authorities. The arrival of the railway with stations at Horwich and Blackrod in the mid 1800s brought more visitors until the lure of rail excursions to the seaside caused a decline in its popularity which has continued steadily ever since.

In addition to the Fair, a wide variety of events have been held on or around the Pike over the years.

In the early C20th, car and motorcycle races were held on the roads up to the Pike and it was possible to ride a motor bike up to the top of the Pike until the late C20th century when the owners (United Utilities) finally decide that too much damage and erosion was taking place. There is no stopping the Annual Rivington Pike Fell Race however, which originated in 1892 and is still going strong and, with the on-going restoration of the Terraced Gardens, we are likely to witness a lot more events there in the coming years.

At 1,191 ft (363m), Rivington Pike is a prominent feature in the south Lancashire landscape, being visible from as far away as Cheshire and the Lancashire coast. From it, on a clear day, you can see Blackpool Tower, the Lake District Mountains, the Welsh Mountains and the Isle of Man. So, not surprisingly it is a landmark which has considerable historical importance. The name comes from the Old English hreofing meaning rugged hill/pointed eminence. It was then recorded as Rovyng in 1325 and Rivenpike in 1540. Although, there are pre-historical sites nearby, Rivington Pike is a natural feature, though there is evidence of it being shaped by artificial means. The summit has never been the subject of an archeological survey.

The Pike may have been a site of pre-historic ceremony or pilgrimage but we have no evidence of this. There is evidence, however, of it being used as one of a series of 'beacons' spanning the whole of England which were part of an early warning system. This system was put in place around 1139 following a Scottish raid and its most famous use was to warn of the coming of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Rivington Pike beacon has been lit in recent years for the Coronation of George V in 1910, the end of the Great War in 1918 and to celebrate the Silver and Diamond Jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977 and 2012. Horwich Heritage also lit a beacon in 1995 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. Most recently, Horwich & Chorley Councils have joined forces to illuminate the Pike to commemorate 100 years since the end of WWI in November 2018.

The Tower on top of the Pike was built by John Andrew, Squire of Rivington, as a hunting lodge in 1733. Lord Leverhulme included it in his gift of Lever Park to the people of Bolton in 1904 but the tower narrowly escaped demolition in the 1960s after it fell into disrepair under the ownership of Liverpool Corporation. After much public protest and legal action, the land was transferred to Lancashire County Council and Chorley RDC who restored the building in 1973. It is now a grade II* listed building and thankfully continues to 'watch over' the people of Horwich.


Ten thousand steps, or so it feels
Lead up to Rivington Pike
Yet day after day, come rain or shine
It plays host to those out for a hike

The effort's all worth it, when you reach the top
With views and vistas abundant
But the toil takes it toll on the odd one or two
Finding them panting, and somewhat recumbent

But once recovered from all that hard slog
Take time to drink in the sights
Many a county can be clearly seen
Each yielding their visual delights

Firstly North East, where the view is obscured
By the mighty Winter Hill
But without that mast, perched high on its top
Our TV wouldn't be much of a thrill

Now pan to the North, across Anglezarke Moor
Great Hill on the near horizon
And gaze beyond to the farthest land visible
And the Lake District you may just set your eyes on

A little North West is Morecambe Bay
With its imposing nuclear reactor
Where shrimps are caught, and cockles are picked
Hauled ashore by a sea-weathered tractor

Now peer beyond the Blackpool Tower
Far across the sea, and scan
Those on the Pike on a perfect day
May well spot the Isle of Man

Westwards we go, across the Lancashire Plain
Flatlands and fertile expanse
Picking out estuaries, mill towns and villages
A scene for the mind to entrance

South West we now turn, to the great Liverpool Bay
With its port and docks and cranes
And just further on, the Clwyddian Hills
With prominent peaks and terrains

Jodrell Bank can be seen, as we move round a little more
As long as it's in an upright position
Listening for aliens, far out into space
Or partaking in some Top Secret mission!

And finally South East, is Manchester town
High-rises and chimneys abound
Bustling streets and industrial sites
With more than one football ground!

After all this banter, of what can be seen
A useful fact that you may wish to log
That on many a day, throughout the year
The Pike is enshrouded by fog!




By David Griffiths (updated to 2021 by Derek Cartwright)

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.

Final resting place of the aircraft. The fuselage and other wreckage can be seen the foreground

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 Bolton Royal Infirmary. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Victoria Road, now replaced with houses, became a temporary 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. Howard Callow, an active Isle of Man Rotarian visited Horwich on the 60th anniversary in 2018, and 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 then gathered 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 in 2008 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the crash. Their film also included footage and interviews conducted by ITV at around the same time. At the 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.

More than 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.

Commemorative Plaque at the Horwich Heritage Centre


The early postal service in Horwich was conducted from five Post Houses, one of these being the Crown Hotel which was useful in providing refreshments and fresh horses for the next stage of deliveries. Letters were addressed by name and village and usually had to be collected. In 1814 the Ridgways agitated for a penny post from Bolton to Horwich and the establishment of a post office in Horwich. This request received the approval of the GPO in London and in 1815 "Misses Campbell" who ran the Bolton Post Office received instructions that all letters sent from Horwich, Heaton, Rivington and Blackrod to Bolton were to be placed in a bag made up in Bolton.

William Sumner was the Post Master at the new Horwich Post Office in 1824, and letters arrived by 'foot post' from Bolton at 8.0 am and were despatched at 1.30 pm.

Thomas Fell became Post Master in 1851 and he had previously been employed as a toll collector at the Crown 'Toll Bar'. There was no local postman for the deliveries, a man came from Bolton each morning and walked back in the evening. He didn't leave the main road, but on request would leave letters at any place named along his route.

Most mail was simply left at the post office, the second one being a cottage near the Crown Inn. In the 1860's Horwich Post Office became located in Church Street next door but one to the 'Brown Cow', as this was where a large section of the community lived at that time. A William Rawstham held the job as post master as this time and his business included the granting and paying of money orders.

Gradually the Post Office in Church Street became inadequate to serve the needs of the people in other areas of Horwich, so in 1876 permission was granted to install a wall letter box in Lee Lane, known as 'The Crown Post Office'.

Early letter boxes in Church Street, Victoria Road & Hodgkinson Fold

In 1890 a Post Office was opened at 85 Winter Hey Lane in premises previously used as a news agency. Then in the 1920's the business transferred to the well-known location in Winter Hey Lane. Many alterations and improvements were made including an automatic stamp machine.

In 1990, the Post Office moved directly across the road, and is today a place where you can do your banking and purchase lottery tickets, travellers cheques and foreign currency - a far cry from simply posting a letter.

First published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine January 1996

Decimal 'D' Day February 15th 1971 By Derek Cartwright

The 15th of February 2021 marks fifty years since the UK and Ireland went 'decimal'. Not many of those born after 1961/62 will remember much about the old currency... I know I don't. So let's have a look at the currency change fifty years ago and find out about the old system that had its origins two-thousand years before.


Whilst Britain and our nearest neighbour Ireland did not convert to decimalisation until 1971, this was not the first time Britain had considered decimalisation. As far back as 1824 Parliament had considered decimalising the British currency. In 1841, the Decimal Association was founded in support of both decimalisation and use of the SI metric system, the international standard for physical measurements which had been adopted by France in the 1790s, and has since been widely introduced across the world. However despite the introduction of the two shilling silver florin in 1849, worth one-tenth of a pound, and the double florin (a four-shilling piece) in 1887, there was little further development towards decimalisation in Britain for nearly a century. It was not until 1961, in the wake of South Africa's successful move to decimalisation, that the British Government introduced the Committee of Inquiry into Decimal Currency, whose 1963 report resulted in the final agreement to adopt decimalisation on 1st March 1966, with the approval of the Decimal Currency Act in May 1969.

The old currency

Prior to the 15th February 1971, there were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. There were guineas, half crowns, threepenny bits, sixpences and florins. This old system of currency, known as pounds, shillings and pence or LSD, dated back to Roman times when a pound of silver was divided into 240 pence, or denarius, which is where the D in LSD comes from (LSD: librum, solidus, denarius).


To prepare the nation for the changeover in currency systems, the Decimal Currency Board (DCB) was set up, running a public information campaign in the 2 years prior to the switchover on Monday 15th February 1971, also known as Decimal 'D' Day. 3 years before changeover, new 5p and 10p coins were introduced; these were the same size and worth the same amount as the one and two shilling coins. In 1969 a new 50p coin was introduced to replace the old 10 bob (shilling) note.

Posters of the time referred to the 'D-Day' change.

By Decimal Day, the Royal Mint had struck 2,000 million coins and these had been distributed in advance to banks across the whole of the UK and then to every shop so that they could give change in the new decimal currency.

Original Decimal Coin presentation set 1971

Schools, including those in Horwich, put on sessions and opened their doors in the evening to help the elderly prepare for Decimal Day. Banks were closed from 3:30 pm Wednesday 10th February 1971 to 10:00 am Monday 15th February, to enable all outstanding cheques and credits in the clearing system to be processed and customers' accounts be converted from £sd to decimal. Decimal Day ran without a hitch. Although the older generation found it more difficult to adapt to decimalisation, in general the population readily embraced the new currency and the oft-used phrase of the 1970's "How much is that in old money?" is now more commonly used in to refer to metric measurements than to the currency. currency related. For a short time the old and new currencies operated in unison, whereby people could pay in pounds, shillings and pence and receive new money as change. It was originally intended that the old money would be phased out of circulation over 18 months but, as it turned out, the old penny, halfpenny and threepenny bit coins were officially taken out of circulation as early as August 1971. To distinguish it from the old money, the new unit of currency was going to be referred to as 'new pence' but this was quickly adapted to the abbreviation 'p', which we still use today.

Upset Over Decimal Rises

Not surprisingly there were local difficulties adjusting to the new currency, as the H&WJ reported at the time:

But of course everything settled down in the end!

Conversion Table

Pre-decimal   Decimal
Coin Amount Equivalent
Halfpenny ½d. 5⁄24p ≈ 0.208p
Penny 1d. 5⁄12p ≈ 0.417p
Threepence 3d. 1¼p
Sixpence 6d. 2½p
Shilling 1/- 5p
Florin 2/- 10p
Half crown 2/6 12½p
Crown 5/- 25p

A 'Pearson's Horwich Journal Advert showing both pre and post decimalisation prices


It was in 1878 that the present beautiful building which adorns Lee Lane was erected by Mr Peter Martin at his own cost. At its opening it was described as follows: 'The Hall covers an area of 32 superficial yards, and the offices, stables and outbuildings a further space of 136 yards. The Bowling Green is 52 yards by 36.

The general style of the building is Gothic, Elizabethan type. The front is extremely attractive, being dressed brick, relieved by terracotta tracery with an apex of Yorkshire stone. The interior of the building is in keeping with its outward aspect, containing a handsome staircase of polished pitch-pine together with the other appointments being most harmonious. On the ground floor is a billiard room, reading rooms, chess, draughts and coffee rooms over which is a large assembly room of 1,505 square feet. The most striking feature of the building is the turret surmounted by a weather vane from which projects the points of the compass."

On Wednesday evening 2nd April, 1879, the hall was duly opened by its generous donor Mr Peter Martin JP of Heath Charnock. In the course of his remarks, Mr Martin said after many years of experience as a J.P. that 90% of the cases brought before the bench arose from intemperance. He had erected the Public Hall in the hope that the people of Horwich would find ample means for spending an alternative pleasant evening.

Peter Martin only survived the opening ceremony by a few months and in 1883 the Hall passed formally into the hands of the Local Board, Mr Henry Taylor being appointed Hall Keeper.

So when you next visit the Public Hall, I hope you'll appreciate its Victorian elegance and be reminded how fortunate we are to have such a fine building in the centre of our town, created solely for benefit of the people of Horwich.

Article first published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Autumn 2001.


Friday October 7th 1887 was the first meeting of the Horwich Free Library. Mr Longworth was appointed Chairman and Mr A Mason was appointed Treasurer and it was agreed that the positions of librarian and secretary be advertised in the three Bolton Newspapers.

The hours of opening were agreed as 5pm-9pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. Mr A Mason proposed, Mr T Mason seconded that the L&Y Loco Works Manager be invited to join the esteemed committee.

On October 21st 1887, the Chairman read nine applications for the office of librarian and, after due consideration, Mr James Valentine was appointed. It was proposed and agreed that fines for overdue books be 2d a week, and book catalogues be available at 4d each.

On March 4th 1887 it was proposed by Mr Crankshaw and seconded by Mr T Mason that the library should open on November 14th and 500 handbills be printed and distributed in the village. Invitations to be sent to members of all denominations to be present on the platform on the evening of the opening.

November 14th 1887 (Monday) saw the opening of the library in the Public Hall. it being a 'Jubilee' gift (to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee) to the townsfolk. The library was set up in the large room formerly used for billiards, cards etc. Which had been handsomely embellished and refurbished and already contained 1,400 volumes "all of which are neatly bound, catalogued and arranged in the large cabinet provided for the purpose".

There was a fairly large attendance for the opening, including:

Rev H.S. Pigot MA, Vicar
Rev S.F. Maynard BA, Curate of Horwich
Rev W Ritson MA, Vicar of Rivington
Rev N.J. Houlgate, Pastor Lee Congregational Chapel
Rev. JJ Williams Pastor, New Chapel
Father N Hampson, our Lady of the Rosary
Col C. F. Ainsworth JP
Messrs R. Shaw, JB Greenhalgh, Thomas Mason, John Evans, J. Beddows, J. Stone, J. Ainscow, J. Crankshaw, J. Mansfield, J. Howarth, W.E. Mason, Henry Taylor, J. Clark, F.S. Foley and J Valentine (the Librarian). There were also a number of ladies in attendance.

Articles collated and photos added by Derek Cartwright January 2021

Horwich's Wild West Days

Ken Fields looks at what life was really like in Horwich when the Railway Works first came to town.

I suppose that we all have our own fond memories of 'old' Horwich, which have been largely formed by the period when we grew up. For me, it is the Horwich of the 1940s that still remain most vivid in my mind. Like many Horwichites, as I walk around town, I can still picture the details of many buildings that are now long-gone and of the green fields, once covered with wild flowers, that are now covered with new houses.

Among the buildings that I most miss are Horwich's three cinemas, which all played a large part in my formative years. Of these only the former Picture House remains, but now has been put to other use. The Princes Theatre, always known as 'Jonnie's', stood above the dismal atmosphere of the dark Arcade giving any visit a hint of mystery. While the Palace, situated at the bottom of Church Street, was a simple building that appeared to be built largely of wood. When the heavy rain came down the noise of it hitting the tin roof often drowned out the voices of the actors, but this just added to the enjoyment of the kids. The Picture House on Chorley New Road was the 'posh' one that even boasted a uniformed commissionaire at weekends. However, on Saturday afternoons a more relaxed atmosphere prevailed when it opened its doors to the roar of the children, showing a selection of westerns, cartoons and early outer-space adventures, long before man had landed on the moon. To the groans of the kids these often ended at the most exciting point followed by the message "to be continued at this cinema next week"- thus ensuring a continual full house for a smiling Mr Rimmer, the Manager.

The passing of the Mechanics Institute I also mourn for, following in the steps of many Horwichites, it was in this much loved Victorian building that I received my early education. And the 'Klondike' Pipe Works, although something of an eyesore set amongst the rising hillside, was seen as an attractive place by the handful of children who lived nearby. The small trucks bringing coal and clay from deep within Winter Hill always seemed an exciting sight and its half- hidden water lodge provided hours of enjoyment as we fished for perch. The piercing siren that signalled the start and end of work became one of the well-known sounds of Horwich.

However, I always feel that my own nostalgic memories of the town must pale into insignificance when compared to that generation who were born here in the late 1800s. For, as they later looked back to their childhood, they would remember how they saw their former village of small cottages with a prominent hillside church, transformed, at an amazing rate, into the town we largely see today. For the decision made by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company to build their 'state-of-the-art' workshop at Horwich was destined to see a population explosion greater than any other town in England.

The works itself was built on a large area of agricultural land that contained Sharrock's Farm and Old Hart's Farm bordering onto Red Moss. This was a massive enterprise in itself, but the real impact came with the need to house a large workforce who were being attracted from all parts of Britain. Horwich at this time must have resembled the building of a 'Wild-West' town for, with typical Victorian vigour, scores of new streets were laid out and row upon row of terraced houses began to appear on what had been for centuries open countryside. This building programme must have taken a small army of workers to complete, the local brickworks no doubt working from dawn till dusk, and with horse-drawn delivery carts and steam lorries everywhere.

As well as housing accommodation, the social needs of the new 'Horwichites' had also to be met. This meant the building of shops, churches of different denominations, pubs, a police station, schools and the Mechanics Institute. So, in just a few years, what is now the familiar skyline of the town was created.

At this time the railways lay at the forefront of technology, employing highly-skilled engineers and craftsmen, but also needing many unskilled labourers. The latter came from the declining agricultural areas of England, freeing them from their tied-cottages and very low wages. So a colourful cosmopolitan population began to take root in the town, bringing with it a rich mixture of regional accents. My own relatives, who came to Horwich at this period, brought with them the accents of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Dublin and rural Ireland.

The making of locomotives was no business for 'wimps', as it involved the heavy work of forging and casting red-hot metal and fitting hundreds of components, all accompanied by the ear-splitting sound of riveting! The hours were long and were often in a working atmosphere that varied from being almost unbearable hot and smoky to being freezing cold. This created what now would be seen as a 'macho' working environment of tough, often heavy-drinking men, who took great pride in their work, treasured comradeship and enjoyed a joke. The elite of these were the Boer-war veterans, who in later years were seen as a race-apart, being noted for their toughness and stamina.

Horwich Town Centre 1892 (25 inch:1 mile). Derek Cartwright collection

On Saturday evenings, after five and half days hard work and with their wages in their pockets, the workers let their hair down. My father, who grew up in Edwardian Horwich, told me how Lee Lane and Winter Hey Lane transformed into a colourful and vigorous hive of crowded activity. The shops remained open until after midnight, so shopping for the Sunday roast was combined with drinking in the many pubs, dancing and attending concerts or watching silent films. But the high alcoholic content of the beer at this time brought many casualties. Unconscious 'drunks', who often lay on the pavement, were taken away on a handcart by burly policemen, to spend a night in the cells.

Sunday, in complete contrast, was a quiet day of rest for those often recovering from the activities of the previous night. Churchgoers, in their best-clothes attended religious services and, on summer days, crowds paraded in formal dress in the country lanes of Rivington. The young people used this activity to go 'courting' and if they were successful they were said to have 'clicked'.

The Loco Works and Horwich East 1892 (25 inch:1 mile.) Derek Cartwright collection

But in spite of the employment stability given by the Loco Works and many other smaller employers in the town, life for most families was a struggle with poverty never far away. Best suits and pocket-watches displayed with pride on Sundays, often found their way into the Pawn Broker's hands on Mondays. Those who could no longer pay their rent piled their few belongings onto a hand cart to escape from their landlord during the night, in what was known as a 'midnight flit'. And those who we would now call 'neighbours from hell' were often forced out of their homes by the collective effort of the more respectable members of the community. They were seen off by women from nearby houses who would stand at their doorways banging frying-pans loudly, 'panning out' what they saw as being disreputable characters. And for the very old, who could no longer work, there was the ever present worry of ending up in the 'workhouse'.

Petty illegal activities thrived. Every part of the town had its own 'Bookies' Runners' who took bets from punters and then passed them on to the town's well-known 'undercover' Betting Shops. And those in the know could always secure a cheap lamb chop from the local poacher, who had a fresh supply stolen at the dead of night from Rivington. Disputes and violence also flared up, particularly during the construction of the Works when arguments arose between Irish and English workmen. And in 1909, during a strike, children were paid to throw stones through the windows of the 'bosses' homes in Victoria Road.

However, August 1914 and the beginning of the First World War, marked the end of Horwich's 'Wild-West' days. Those local men who were fortunate enough to survive the carnage of the trenches, returned to find the beginning of a different world in which the mighty Steam Loco would no longer rule supreme. Its decline, which took over half a century, was slow but inevitable, as rival transport systems began to take centre stage. Sadly, the works, which had transformed Horwich from a village into a town, bringing it a colourful array of talented people, finally closed its doors in 1983. Originally published in Autumn 2005.

The Grey Lady Of Anderton

Ken Fields looks at some Ghostly goings on in Anderton with a short postscript from Derek Cartwright.

The small parish of Anderton, which lies to the North West of Horwich, is a quiet rural area of farms and secluded cottages. The main highway in the parish is the familiar A673 road to Chorley, which skirts the lower Rivington Reservoir along the embankment. At Grimeford Village, close to the Millstone Inn, it is crossed by Grimeford Lane which links Blackrod to Rivington. Nearby is the ancient Headless Cross; an upright figure said to be carved with the figure of St Anthony and named headless because the upper portion has at sometime in the past been broken away (the upper part is now held in the Preston Museum). A flat stone has been added to convert the structure into a crudely carved signpost and alongside lie the village stocks.

What makes the area interesting is the mysterious sightings of ghosts which have occurred frequently over the years. However, in recent times these events have taken a more sinister role for some people believe this apparition, the grey lady, may in some way be responsible for a spate of unexplained car accidents which have occurred along the embankment. This led to Mrs Hill of Anderton to contact Horwich Heritage (during 1992) to explain her concerns about the events.

Mrs Hill's husband, Colin, related how he first encountered the Ghostly Grey Lady almost thirty years ago. He was walking home to Anderton from Horwich late at night, when he was surprised to see a woman walking along towards him. As she came closer he stepped off the pavement, both to let her pass and to put her at ease as it was such a lonely spot. He turned to say "Good Night" and she just disappeared before of his eyes. The experience shocked him so much that he felt quite ill for three days and it was many years before he could talk freely about the incident. He finally decided to relate the tale in his local pub but was interrupted by a friend who said "I know what you are going to say". He then described an almost identical incident that had happened to him.

Mrs Hill then told me (the author) of the many unexplained car accidents that have happened along the same part of the embankment. On an apparently straightforward stretch of the road a broken wall has been demolished and rebuilt repeatedly due to being hit by out-of-control cars. An assortment of broken glass, light fittings and parts of bumper bars which litter the area, testify to the accidents. She explained that recently a taxi had ended up in a ditch at the same spot following a rare double tyre blowout. Fortunately, no one was badly hurt but, when the taxi driver tried to use the radio to get help, it wouldn't work. Sadly not all the people involved in the accidents have walked away uninjuredand there have been a number of deaths. Mrs Hill feels that the sightings of the Grey Lady and the many mysterious car accidents are somehow linked together. She told me how, very recently, a young walked from his wrecked car to see the Grey Lady approaching him, then as in previous sightings she disappeared before his eyes.

The sightings of apparitions in various places around Anderton have been reported for many years. Jack Prescott of Horwich remembers a friend telling him how he saw a ghostly figure of a Cavalier over sixty years ago, on the lane near the Headless Cross. Also in 1982 the Bolton Evening News carried a feature regarding the Anderton Grey Lady (see below).

The two halves of the Headless Cross together (by John S Stanley 1979). The upper portion is believed to be held in Preston Museum

Here is an account by a young lady in 1976. This happened on a lovely May evening on Grimeford Lane near the humpback bridge. The family were travelling by car when the young lady spotted the Grey Lady standing as if waiting to cross the road and again, as in many other cases, she suddenly disappeared. The young lady said that the figure was tall, seemed old and her dress was so long that "I thought she'd been to a party". However, she later identified from old drawings the Grey Lady's headwear as being a biretta, which is a four cornered cap worn by some priests. In 1982, after seeing a TV picture of the Pope's visit to Britain, she said the apparition was wearing identical clothes except they were coloured grey.

So perhaps the Ghostly Grey Lady is not a lady at all but a priest in long flowing robes. This would bear out the story told by George Birtill (local Historian and Writer) in his book the Enchanted Hills. He tells how Anderton was a strong Catholic area and it is believed that it had its own Monastery of St Anthony which also served as a hospital. The broken headless cross probably came from there and it may have been deliberately shattered during the closing of the religious houses by King Henry VIII. It is recorded that a Chapel did exist at Anderton in 1360 and in 1548 it contained six Priests. It was in this period of religious persecution that a priest, Father Bennett, tried to remove the sacred Catholic Vessels of the Chapel to a place of safety. He was using a tunnel which is said to come out near the site of the Monastery at Grimeford. Sadly, the strain proved too much and he died. The facts are meagre, but they may suggest that the apparition that is seen so frequently at Anderton could be that of Father Bennett whose soul is unable to rest...

First Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Autumn 1992

Post Script: Other sightings are documented from New Year's Eve 1946 and a 'seance' took place with a spiritual medium during 1951 in Rivington to investigate this sighting (this is covered in greater detail in the Horwich Heritage publication 'The Headless Cross Ghost' by David Owen). Several similar ghostly occurrences including sightings were reported at the nearby Millstone Inn and presented in an article by Brian Smith in the Bolton Evening News (1982). In it links were drawn with Father Bennet and the area around the Headless Cross, but that's for another day... If anyone has any ghostly tales to tell from anywhere in our area (Horwich, Anderton, Rivington etc) then please get in touch with Horwich Heritage.

A. V. Roe - Aviation Pioneer

By Ken Fields with photographic additions by Derek Cartwright

Those attending the Horwich Technical School in the 1950's/60's will be very familiar with the name of A. V. Roe. For he was proclaimed as being our most successful former pupil. Surprisingly it was not his engineering genius that was admired at the time, but more his athletic and acrobatic skill. For it was boasted that when he lived in Horwich he astonished his friends by riding his bike up the steps of both the Mechanics Institute and Bolton Town Hall!

The Mechanics Institute early 20th Century, the technical training and place of educational for Railway Employees in Horwich for decades. AV Roe is said to have ridden is bike up and down the steps.

Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe (AVR) was born on the 26th April 1877 at Patricroft, Manchester, the fourth child of a local doctor. Obstinate and inventive by nature he refused to follow his fathers profession but instead was drawn towards engineering. When he was fourteen a position was found for him to train as a civil engineer in Canada, but downturn in business that followed forced him to return home.

So it was about 1893 that he started a five-year apprenticeship at Horwich Loco Works, which at the time provided some of the best training in the country. He began his first year on a wage of five-shillings (25p) a week, working from 6.00 am to 5.30 pm. But he did not shine in his engineering studies, preferring more adventurous sporting and social activities.

He ran for the Horwich Harriers, took part in amateur dramatics and gained a reputation for being a fast madcap racing cyclist. He could easily beat most of his competitors around the perimeter of the old Horwich Racecourse, which is now covered by Old Lords Crescent, Fearnhead Avenue and Green Lane areas.

When his apprenticeship was completed he applied for a job with Bolton Electric Tramways, but the poor reference given by the Works manager, Mr Hoy, meant that he lost this opportunity. The manager said he seemed to be more interested in cycle racing than engineering! But he did find a position in marine engineering at Portsmouth Dockyard and then after studying at Kings Collage he applied to enter the Royal Navy, but he was again turned down. With the dogged determination that would be the hallmark of his life, he then applied to the African Royal Mail Company and finally became the fifth-engineer on one of their ships.

However as the Edwardian age dawned enthusiastic engineers like AVR were becoming excited with the new ere of the motor-car and the possibilities of powered-flight. This attracted him to enter the motor-car industry as a draughtsman, while is his spare time he began to study the theory of flight. Then after the historic first flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903 he began to correspond with them exchanging technical theories.

In 1906 AVR was at last able to begin to satisfy his thirst for aviation when he became a draughtman on a project to build a flying machine known as a gyrocopter. Sponsored by Armstrong Whitworth the machine was built by GLO Davidson in the USA. But with the continued success of aeroplanes enthusiasm for the project waned so he once more returned home. He was then able to successfully patent his design for the worlds first control column for an aeroplane, which was a major breakthrough at the time.

In April 1907 he took the first prize of £75, offered by the Daily Mail for a sustained flight by a model aeroplane. And his success spurned him on to build a full size version that could carry a man. This biplane he completed in September 1907, but due to it being under powered, it was at first unsuccessful. Then in June 1908, after fitting a 25 HP engine he took to the air, completing a flight of 75 feet. He had become the first Englishman to fly, but as no officials were present this was not recognised and the honour was later given to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon.

A.V. Roe Biplane 1908

Overcoming many financial obstacles in September 1908 he joined in his first partnership with J.A. Prestwich to form the JAP Avroplane Company, to build a triplane. But after some differences it was dissolved the following year. And after his failure to maintain any sustained length of flight led him to be nicknamed by his rivals as Roe-the-Hopper. But his brother Humphrey had more confidence in his skill and determination, which led them to form a family partnership. Known as A.V. Roe Company, it became the worlds first registered aeroplane manufacturer in January 1910. Their first premises being in Brownsfield Mill, Ancoats, Manchester.

So the first aeroplanes were manufactured in Manchester. They were then transported in parts by horse and cart to London Road Railway Station to be sent south by train to Brooklands, where an aerodrome had been built. Roe's innovative new triplane, the Mercury, was guaranteed to fly five miles and was proving to be a great success. In 1910 he finally found time to pass his flying examination receiving aviation certificate number 18.

In spite of his initial success the company was still experiencing financial difficulties, as there were few orders for new aeroplanes. However many pioneers were trying their hand at building their own flying machines. So this led AVR to decide to supply aero parts, advertising as the aviator's Storehouse. This venture proved to be a life saver; his patented Avro Wire-strainer that changed the tension on the planes bracing wires, became a best seller.

As well as establishing a flying school at Brooklands to train pilots and producing several new designs of aeroplane the company continued to suffer from lack of finance. But a far-reaching event took place when AVR made a talented young designer named Roy Chadwick his personal assistant. A drawing office was opened at Brownsfield Mill and it was here that the small team rapidly produced many new designs including monoplanes and hydro-biplanes. Aviation engineering was now proceeding at an astonishing rate and the company received its first order from the War Office. In 1913 it became a limited Company and moved into larger premises in Miles Platting.

With the onset of WWI AVR's company assumed great importance with orders for new aircrafts rolling in. The AVRO 504 was used in raids against Zeppelin sheds and it became the first British plane to be shot down by the Germans. Roy Chadwick now became Avro's chief designer and was later regarded as being the best in the world.

At the end of the war in 1918 the modest AVR was awarded the OBE for his services to aviation. But Avro's large new factory that had been built at Newton Heath needed more work. However the beginning of a new market opened when Avro established Britain's first scheduled domestic air-service between Manchester, Southport and Blackpool.

In 1924 AVR desperately needed a new airfield near Manchester from which he could test and deliver aircraft. This was found near New Hall Farm near Bramhall, which lies 15-miles from Newton Heath. The site became known as the now famous Woodford; the name being taken from the nearby village.

During the twenties the company continued to flourish, but far from sitting back to enjoy his wealth AVR had a desire to seek new horizons. So it was a shocked workforce who learnt in 1928 that he had resigned from the company he had founded. He had decided to join Samuel Saunders in a new company known as Saunders-Roe that designed and built flying boats. And in the following year his pioneering work in aviation was recognised when he was given a Knighthood.

The AVRO company's achievements are now legendary. In 1938 a large new manufacturing plant was built at Chadderton, near Oldham. And it produced such famous aircraft as the Anson, The Lancaster, The Lincoln, The Shackleton and the Vulcan. In 1963 came a major reorganisation of the British aircraft Industry that resulted in the famous name disappearing as the firm became part of Hawker Siddeley Group and later British Aerospace.

On 4th January 1958 Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe died in his eighty-first year. This remarkable man, who learned much of his engineering skills on Horwich Loco Works, and had raced around Horwich Racecourse on his bike, helped to create our modern transport system. Perhaps it would now be appropriate if his achievements were remembered in Horwich by a blue Plaque?

First published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Autumn 2004. Thanks to the late Ken Fields for this wonderful account of a great Engineer with Horwich connections. The Woodford site is now the AVRO Heritage Museum and well worth a visit.

The AVRO Lancaster Bomber, a significant British aircraft of World War II and beyond.

The Rivington Reservoirs

Kenneth Fields looks at a great Victorian achievement that lies on our doorstep with a postscript added by Derek Cartwright

Those of us who love to wander in the countryside around Rivington tend to take the "lakes" for granted, for as far as we are concerned they have always been there. Stretching for four miles from Horwich to Anglezarke these large man-made reservoirs now enhance the landscape with a splash of blue. The still waters reflect the outline of the rising hills and their reed-fringed banks provide a haven for a great variety of water birds. Yet behind this rural tranquillity lies the story of a magnificent civil engineering achievement. It resulted from the genius of one man together with the endeavour of an army of workers and it saved the people of Liverpool from the misery of decades of disease.

During the first part of the 19th century many villages in England rapidly grew into towns, and many towns into cities, resulting from the effects of the Industrial Revolution and the decline of agriculture. This brough numerous problems, not least the threat of disease as huge numbers of workers lived side by side in "crowded courts and filthy alleys". This was a great problem in Liverpool, where in the 1840's in just three months over 8,000 people became victims of cholera.

It was the shortage of water, both for drinking and for sewage disposal, which lay at the centre of the problem. So in 1846 Liverpool Corporation asked three prominent civil engineers to urgently propose a scheme to provide clean water to the city. Among these was an adventurous plan submitted by Thomas Hawksley that involved building a series of reservoirs below Rivington Pike, and the Corporation eventually chose this scheme.

Thomas Hawksley had been born at Arnold near Nottingham in 1807. At the age of 15 he had become articled to a firm of architects who also carried out water-related projects. Here it was quickly discovered that he had a natural talent for such work and in 1831 he gained national recognition when he designed the Trench Bridge Waterworks. This involved "Britain's first high pressure constant supply, which prevented contamination entering the supply of clean water mains". The prestige he gained from this project led to him being regarded as the man best suited to solve Liverpool's water problem.

The very ambitious scheme that he proposed at Rivington was the largest in the world at that time. It involved the construction of three large reservoirs (Lower Rivington Reservoir, the Upper Rivington Reservoir and Anglezarke Reservoir) extending from Horwich to Anglezarke. These were then linked by a new open channel known as the Goit, to the Rake Reservoir that was to be built at Abbey Village and the new Roddlesworth Reservoir at Tockholes. He also proposed the construction of six filter beds and two open filter tanks at Horwich, which were revolutionary at the time.

When this proposed scheme was made public it naturally gained a lot of local opposition, as it was revealed what an enormous impact it would have on the landscape. Those who opposed became known as 'Anti-Pikeists; a name derived from Rivington Pike. But in spite of this resistance the scheme was eventually approved by Parliament and construction work began in 1847.

This involved the employment of hundreds of workmen, many of these being Irish navvies, who were housed in temporary wooden huts close to the construction sites. Tales were told of their unlicensed drinking dens, elicit stills for making whisky and drunken fights between these hard working and hard drinking men.

They were required to carry out an incredible amount of hard manual labour, for the project involved the building of huge embankments and the diversion of both roads and rivers. It also resulted in the loss of several buildings, including the ancient Black-a-Moor's Head Inn, which was sited under what is now the Upper Rivington Reservoir.

The Rivington and Anglezarke Reserviors

On the 13th January 1857 it was reported in The Times that "The long expected supply of water from the Rivington Hills, 26 miles from Liverpool, has within the past few days reached the town". At first the water was discoloured but this later cleared and the people of Liverpool quickly began to enjoy its purity.

In 1856 the small Higher Bullough Reservoir, that existed at Anglezarke and supplied water to Chorley, had become the responsibility of Liverpool Waterworks. But still more water was needed for thirsty Liverpool, which led in 1860 to another reservoir being constructed at Roddlesworth and in 1868 the large Yarrow Reservoir at Anglezarke, which was not completed until 1877.

So for twenty years the residents of Horwich and Rivington had endured a huge "building site" on their doorstep and had seen large areas of their countryside transformed. And just a few years later were to follow yet another massive change with the building of Horwich Loco works.

Thomas Hawksley, with his success at Rivington, had consolidated his reputation as one of Britain's leading civil engineers. This led to him moving from Nottingham to London in 1852 where he established his own engineering practice. During his long lifetime he was responsible for the construction of more than 150 waterworks throughout Britain together with numerous gas-works and sewage disposal systems.

He became the first president of the Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers and in 1871 he was elected President of the Institute of Civil Engineers and a fellow of the Royal Society. He died in Kensington, London in 1893 at the age of 86 and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.

In 2007 a granite memorial was placed on his unmarked grave, while locally he is remembered by "Hawksley Street" and of course his great legacy of the Rivington Reservoirs.

This article was first published in the Horwich Heritage Special 25th Anniversary Magazine Edition 2010

Postscript from Derek Cartwright

Evidence of the hundreds of men that built the reservoirs can still occasionally be found. These clay pipes were found on the eastern bank of the Yarrow Reservoir at low water during 1985 by Rangers Garry Rhodes and Ian Harper. The pipes are thought to have been dropped/discarded by the men building the reservoir in the 1870's. Note the harp and other markings suggesting Irish origin. The clay pipe pieces (below) were donated to the Heritage Centre after being found in recent years and displayed at the Horwich Heritage West Pennine Moor Exhibition July 2019.

A modern day complete clay pipe donated by Ian Harper to Horwich Heritage for the exhibition July 2019. The stem is approximately 200 mm in length.

Horwich Races - Keith Downham looks at an almost-forgotten local sporting event

Wednesday 2nd August 1843: This is our fourth meeting at this course. The weather this morning was awful, but now at two in the afternoon, it is great. The sun is out and people are looking forward to the races. Several improvements have been made to the course this year and a covered portion for the ladies has been set out near the Grand Stand. Mr. Fisher's Band has been hired, and given a place in the enclosure in front of the Grand Stand. All the stands are filled well there must be around four thousand people about the course. Hundreds of people being conveyed to Horwich by special trains. There are numerous huts around the course with names such as Golden Lion, Hen and Chickens, and Millstone, all being visited frequently by the crowd to quench their thirst.

The Tradesman's Golden Cup is the first race, with a 1st prize of 60 sovereigns, followed by the Willoughby Stakes. The last race of the day is The Hunter's Stakes of 10 sovereigns each with 20 sovereigns added.

Thursday 3rd August 1843: Heavy rain again in the morning, moderating a bit in the afternoon. The first race is just called 'A Cup'. Before the start of the race the cup, which was a gift from Mr. W.S. Standish Esq. Of Duxbury Park, was exhibited on a platform in front of the Grand Stand. Its value was said to be £50, but in reality it cost 100 Guineas.

The Ladies Purse of 15 sovereigns, added to a sweepstake of 3 sovereigns each, was followed by the last race of the meeting The Hurdle Sweepstake of 10 sovereigns each, with 30 sovereigns added.

As this race was about to commence the people in the front row of the Grand Stand were pressed forward by those behind, against the railings, which broke. And between forty and fifty people were thrown over into the enclosure below. Several were slightly injured with cuts and bruises and a dislocated shoulder was suffered by one.

A good meeting was had by all!

Published in The Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2013

Below is the Horwich Race Course taken from the map of 1848. The race course lay around the Fernhead avenue area and crossed where Lever Park Avenue now runs.

To the left of the course, Grut is the site of a farm which is across the road from the present day Rivington & Blackrod High School tennis courts. Old Wills Lane (Side of R&B HS) can be seen running top to bottom on the left also. Note the Grandstand top right of the Race Course.

State of Siege - Horwich 1886

People today are familiar with the excuse "the building work is held up due to the bad weather", but in 1886 Horwich's new Loco Works was held up for a more colourful reason. Much of the work was being carried out by Irish navvies and there were often lively incidents involving these high spirited men. An interesting account was related in The Chronical of the time:

"Horwich has for the past few weeks been garrisoned by Police constables. Its streets patrolled by members of the force who walked in couples, and a reserve company was held at the Public Hall.

The state of siege was made necessary as a result of the English and Irish navvies employed at the new railway works having got to fighting and in terrible earnest. The ill feeling has been brewing for some time culminating in a free fight extending over a large area and in which bricks, pokers, and other weapons were freely used".

The fight seems to have started at the Craven Heifer when a one armed Englishman was set upon by the Irish and badly beaten. A gang of English took revenge with the aid of belts and 40 or 50 men involved. The reported takes up the story:

"Subsequently, small fights were common along Lee Lane and at 8.0 pm a proper set-to took place at the top of Winter Hey Lane. By this time the streets were thronged with people out to see the fun, but it was not until 10.30 pm that there was a real organised fight.

At that time the Irish had concentrated on Summer Street, yelling at the tops of their voices. The English made a dash at them with belts. The Police were powerless. Bricks were thrown and several windows broken. The Irishman with a scythe was soon put out of action with a well-aimed brick. The conflict raged fiercely, each party having the better of it until the Police eventually got between the parties, and, by a little tact, got the Englishmen to go away."

The fun continued all week, with Blackrod colliers declaring their intention to take part in the battle on the side of the English. Whether that is anything to do with it is not known, but a few days later peace returned to Horwich and some of those who had taken part were sent to jail without the option of a fine.

The Chronical said ill-feeling between the parties was intensified through the Irish working for 1/2d per hour less than the English.

From the 'Changing Face of Horwich' by Christine Southern. First published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2002.

Sir John Aspinall's Legacy

What do Sir Nigel Gresley, Sir Henry Fowler and R E L Maunsell have in common? Answer: they were all apprentices at Horwich Loco Works who went on to become Chief Mechanical Engineers (CMEs) of Britain's major Railway Companies.

What does this tell you about Sir John Aspinall and his time spent as CME of Horwich Works during its formative years from 1886-89. Let me quote from F A S Brown the biographer of Sir Nigel Gresley, probably this country's most famous locomotive engineer who designed both the Flying Scotsman & Mallard (which still holds the record for the fastest steam loco at 126mph) "Whilst Gresley's pupillage at Crewe taught him much on both the practical and theoretical sides of locomotive engineering, it is not surprising that he should have sought drawing office training elsewhere". And for an ambitious young man at that time there was only one place to go - the newly-opened Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Works at Horwich. "In charge there was one of the greatest of British locomotive engineers, J A F, later Sir John Aspinall. A pupil of Aspinall's trained at Horwich just before Gresley went there was Henry Fowler, subsequently Sir Henry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LMS, and R E L Maunsell, later CME of the Southern Railway, had gained valuable experience at Horwich on his way to the top of his profession. Thus three of the four British Chief Mechanical Engineers of the years 1925-30 were former Horwich men." And if you include George Hughes who worked under Aspinall at Horwich and eventually became CME of the L&YR and then, on amalgamation in 1923, CME of the LMS then that makes four! There can be no greater tribute to the inspirational leadership of Sir John Aspinall than this testimonial! And there's more..." Another pupil of Aspinall's at Horwich Locomotive Works was destined to pioneer a new form of transport. He was A V Roe, subsequently Sir Alliott Verdon Roe, creator of the 'AVRO' aeroplanes, which were notable for the soundness of their detailed design at a time when much early aircraft construction tended to be amateurish. Even on the last steam locomotives designed for service in this country the Horwich School has left its mark in the Britannia & Clan Pacifics."

We should be rightly proud of Sir John in so many ways. Although he didn't design the Loco Works complex (that was down to John Ramsbottom & Barton Wright), it was he who saw it through to completion and made many important changes along the way. It was also Sir John who secured the construction of the Railway Mechanics Institute (later known as the 'University of Railway Engineering') and devised the 'premium' apprenticeship scheme (which attracted such top quality pupils such as those listed above). Like so many of his generation of engineers, he was first and foremost a designer, although he went on to become General Manager of the L&YR. He designed a series of successful locomotives all built at Horwich Works the very first of which, No.1008, is preserved at the National Railway Museum in York. And not surprisingly, during his era, Horwich Works and its drawing office (under Chief Draughtsman, Zachariah Tetlow) attracted much admiration. Aspinall's biographer, H A V Bulleid, put it this way "It was this general air of achievement in locomotive building and design, progress in manufacturing technology and the will to experiment in the areas of uncertainty that earned Horwich its tremendous reputation and this in turn attracted better pupils."

As we reflect on the sad state of the Loco Works buildings today, we realise that nothing lasts for ever and before too long much of the site will have disappeared as part of the new Rivington Chase development. However, bricks and mortar may disappear but reputations last forever and those formative years under Sir John Aspinall helped to secure Horwich's legacy as a railway works of national and international importance. As well as being knighted in 1917 for his services to the British railway industry and his war effort, Sir John was also the first recipient of the highest award the Institute of Mechanical Engineers can give, the James Watt International Medal, which he received just before he died in 1937 aged 85. Having done so much for the development of the town, maybe he deserves to be remembered as more than just a name on a street sign and a residential home!

Stuart Whittle

Horwich Street Names (By Ken Fields)

It is often said that "familiarity breeds contempt" and in the case of local street names this is probably true, for we often take them for granted without questioning how they originated. Although some date back to the 18th century it was when the great expansion of the town took place in the 1880's due to the building of the Loco Works, that scores of new streets needed naming. So many of the interesting names that remain today reflect the culture of this period when Britain led the world.

Victoria Road and Albert Street appropriately commemorate Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and her consort Prince Albert, who also both pubs and mills in the town named after them. Most of the streets built close to the works were named after famous engineers of the 19th century who at the time were held in great esteem. John Ramsbottom (1814-1897) (Ramsbottom Road) was the son of a cotton spinner who owned a small mill in Todmorden. He rose to become one of the great railway engineers of the period, a director of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and responsible for the design and construction of Horwich Loco works. His pupil, John Audley Fredrick Aspinall (1851-1937) (Aspinall Street, Aspinall Court, Aspinall Way) became the Chief Mechanical Engineer at the works.

Sir John Hawkshaw (1811-1891) (Hawkshaw Street) was a Leeds born civil engineer who was responsible for the building of bridges and tunnels on many projects including those for the L&Y Railway. Sir William Fairburn (1789-1874) (Fairburn Street) was a Scot who had a distinguished engineering career based in Manchester. Among his many achievements was the introduction of a riveting machine for the manufacture of boilers.

Some of the more well known engineers commemorated include: James Brindley (1716-1722) (Brindley Street) who was known as the father of canal building in Britain. Thomas Telford (1757-1834) (Telford Street), a brilliant architect and bridge builder who became the engineer for the Elsmere Canal Company. George Stephenson (1781-1848) (Stephenson Street), who was barely literate but became one of our greatest locomotive pioneers and the first President of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) (Brunel Street), who built the London to Bristol railway and was also an outstanding navel architect who designed the celebrated Great Britain, Great Eastern and Great Western ships. James Watt (1736-1848) (Watt Street), a Scottish scientist and engineer who developed the steam engine and Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803-1887) (Whitworth Street), a Stockport born machine tool engineer who standardised the screw thread.

Paradoxically the main roads leading out of Horwich, Chorley Old Road and its later counterpart, Chorley New Road do not lead form Horwich to Chorley, but instead lead to Bolton. While Bolton Road, which is a continuation of Scholes Bank along the embankment, actually leads from Horwich to Chorley. Presumably this odd situation arose because the former Turnpike Road was named from Bolton and the later part named from Chorley, and Horwich lies in the middle.

This old pack-horse from Bolton to Adlington that passes through Horwich, was upgraded to become the Bolton to Nightingale Trust in 1763. Part of this passed through animal grazing land known as Urmstone's Lee, which resulted in the now familiar Lee Lane. While a small track off Lee Lane that led across a field in 1620 was called Horrocks Winter Hey, became Winter Hey Lane. And a small section of Chorley New Road that lay in the centre of Horwich (built 1829) was originally called Crown Street.

Captain D'Arley Wright of Mottram Hall in Cheshire once owned much of the land in the centre of Horwich. So when new streets were built on this land he became immortalised by Captain Street, Darley Street, Wright Street and Mottram Street. Likewise his wife, Julia Catherine Wright gave her name to Julia Street and Catherine Street, and their Daughter, Mary Wright gave us Mary Street. And even the name of their land agent is remembered by Brady Street.

Crown Lane is named after the Crown Hotel, an ancient hostelry that was in existence in 1786 but was rebuilt in 1886. However this was formerly known as Bar Lane, taking its name from the Bar that marked the entrance to the turnpike road, now remembered by the name of the Toll Bar Inn.

Many of the houses built in Crown Lane were built by a man named Marsh who is remembered by Marsh Street. Likewise Harrison Street is named after a Mr Harrison who built two houses known as Railway View, Walsh Street was named after John Walsh a local tradesman, and Longworth Road after William Longworth who was a prominent local Bleacher.

A former licensee of the Old Original Bay Horse and local councillor, Dick Hampson is remembered by Hampson Street. And Mason Street is named after Herbert Mason, another local councillor and son of Adam Mason who owned Mason's works and Montcliffe Mine.

Green Lane was originally an unmade road known as Sandy Lane. It led alongside the old Horwich Race Course on which Horwich Football Club once played their games. Fearnhead Avenue was named after William Fearnhead who was the Chairman of Horwich Council in 1924 and 1931. While nearby Ormston Avenue takes its name from ancient Ormstan's Farm which overlooks it from the rising hillside.

Baron Willoughby of Parham married into a local family in the 17th century, living at Shaw Place at Heath Charnock. His descendants owned property at Horwich leading to the names of Old Lord's Farm, Old Lords Crescent and probably, Lord Street.

Mr Peter Martin, a wealthy businessman who lived at "The Street" in heath Charnock, paid for the building of Horwich Public Hall, which was opened in 1879. His generosity is remembered by nearby Peter Martin Street; the only occasion when the full name or a person has been given to a local street.

William Lever, the first Lord Leverhulme, who was the great benefactor of Rivington gave his name to Lever Park Avenue. Close to its junction with Scholes Bank (formally Scolles Bank), on the site of the Garden of Remembrance, once stood Scholes Bank Farm. A century ago it was farmed by Bob Swithemby who is remembered by nearby Swithemby Street and Bob's Brow.

The late Jack Prescott told me (the author) that prior to the First World War Scholes Bank and the road from Horwich to Adlington had fallen into disrepair. So when a group of German POW's were brought to the area were employed in rebuilding this road using cobble stones. This they did with great skill, but they were allowed to lay out the cobbles using their own German pattern. So today, buried beneath that tarmac, lies a little-known piece of local history.

Many other street names exist in Horwich that have interesting historical links and in recent times the naming of Dehavilland Way highlighted the towns association with the famous aircrafts company, continues this tradition. However the humble "Street" seems to have gone out of favour when new property is built. It has been replaced by "Close", "Gardens", Court, "Approach", "Grove" and "Drive" and their names are chosen more for their commercial appeal rather than local heritage associations!

First Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Autumn 2007. Researched and written by Kenneth Fields. Ken passed away in October 2020, he was a massive contributor to Horwich Heritage and will be solely missed. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Fire at Gaskell's Mill, Lee Lane, Horwich. Monday 4th December 1882

The scene of the disastrous fire in December 1882 was Pearl/Purl Brook Mill an old stone structure on the corner of Lee Lane and Winter Hey Lane, Horwich. The mill was built around 1822 and was known in the town as "Gaskell's Mill" originally belonging to a Peter Gaskell and Co. From 1870 the Mill was owned by Clarke and Collier of Manchester.

The main building consisted of five stories and an attic. The Engine, Boiler house and store were separate from the main building and off Lee Lane. The mill was used for fine spinning and contained 12000 spindles on double decked and single mules. Much of the machinery in the mill was modern with the mill employing around eighty people, both adult and children.

Map of central Horwich 1850 Showing the Pearl/Purl Brooke Mill (Gaskells Mill). Note the Mill lodge on what we call Lee Lane opposite where the Saddle PH now stands and to the left of the mill.

At about 2.45 pm on the afternoon of the 4th December 1882 villagers noticed the fire in the attic at the Winter Hey Lane end of the building. A little girl employed in the card room spotted the fire and informed the mill manager Mr John Ahlstedt. By this time the fire was already in the roof of the building. Buckets of water and fire extinguishers being used. Staff broke steam pipes with hammers to use the steam to quell the flames but to no avail.

The manual Fire appliance from Wallsuches (Ridgeways) was dispatched to the scene with water drawn from the mill lodge (Lee Lane). Soon after 3 pm a message was telegraphed to the Bolton Fire Engine depot which dispatched the "Albert Steamer" pulled by three horses. Evan with all the valiant firefighting efforts the mill was lost with floor after floor collapsing in and both side walls falling. The gable end wall on Winter Hey Lane remained standing but was in a dangerous state.

Thanks to Ivan and Christine Snape who collated this piece from the Bolton Chronical December of 1882.

Eye witness Sara Ann Rawlinson (nee Hart) told of the fire, her account was passed on by her daughter Winnie Ratcliffe.

Gaskell Mill was opposite my father butchers shop (Sara's father) on Lee Lane, the Mill stretched from the corner of Winter Hey Lane half way to Brownlow Road. Mother (Sara) was 12-years old at the time and at the Church School (Parish Church). Her teachers said that a fire had broken out at the Mill and she can go home to help her parents.

Mother (Sara) ran down Church Street and could see the flames leaping high into the sky. She helped move things from the rooms of her house facing the mill, the heat of the fire was cracking the windows.

All the workers were out of the mill when one man shouted my watch (he had left inside), he ran back into the burning building, he retrieved his watch and was rushing out when the top floor fell, the worker fell to his death. His fellow workers saw this happen but could do nothing to help him. A tragedy.

The fire and loss of the mill caused a lot of poverty at the time when the dole/social security didn't exist. Railings were put around the mill ruins but they blew down and it looked terrible.

Then the railways came to town, the land was sold and shops built along Lee Lane and on Winter Hey Lane. The little cottages next to Grandfathers shop (Sara's Father) had long gardens so the fire didn't damage them. These cottages were pulled down and shops were built where they stood.

(Harts Butchers stood on the corner where the Maypole once was, it's now a coffee shop).

Thanks to Tony Ratcliffe grandson of Sara Ann Rawlinson (nee Hart) and son of Winnie Ratcliffe..

This piece has been summarised from two articles published in the Horwich Heritage Magazines of Autumn 2003 and Spring 2004. Thanks to all concerned. Horwich Heritage Archive.

Pte John Harrison WWI

Jack Harrison remembers the heroic exploits of his father during the First World War

My father, John Gould Harrison, was born in 1897 at the Parsonage Nurseries, Horwich, the younger child of James and Elizabeth Harrison. After leaving Chorley New Road Junior School (the board school), at thirteen years old, he went to work with his father at the Parsonage Nurseries to learn what was the love of his life, Horticulture.

When War came in 1914, then a seventeen year old, he went off to Chorley to enlist; no doubt the shilling bounty was an inducment. He was "badged" into the North Lancashire Regiment, starting his training firstly at Blackpool and then at Gobowen, near Oswestry.

In 1915 he was in France with the Loyals, and was wounded in the thigh, sent back to Blighty and was hospitaised near Marske-on-Sea, Redcar. Returning to France early 1916. He was transferred to the 11th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (the Accrington Pals). Later, many years later, they became the subject of a play, "The Accrington Pals." The battalion had just done a stint in the Middle East, and then it went straight to France.

They then started training for the "big push," the first battle of the Somme, July 1st 1916. This was, in military parlance, a monumental cock-up. After the first day, out of 1000 men only 400 were left, the rest being either dead or wounded. Of the 400, only 125 fighting troops were left, the other 275 being support staff.

However, he was lucky and survived. In the re-organisation that followed, he transferred to the 1st/5th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, and served with them until hospitalised in November 1918.

In August 1918, the East Lancs were fighting near Miramount. On the 24th August he and his buddy were both awarded the D.C.M., the second highest rating to O.R's at that time. The citation read as follows:-

No 29730 Pte J Harrison 1/5th Bn. East Lancs Regiment Awarded D.C.M. For bravery near Miramount on August 24th 1918.
He was No 3 of a Lewis Gun section, which proceeded in advance of the platoon. This section effectively silenced 4 enemy machine guns, taking the teams prisoner. On the final objective with another man he rushed a dugout, killed the sentry and took 1 officer prisoner and 16 O.R.'s prisoner.
A. Solly-Flood. Major-General, commanding 42nd Division

All went well for him until early November 1918 when he was badly wounded in his back, losing his left lung and ribs etc. He was hospitalised until 1920, mostly spent in Nottingham, where he made many friends.

Eventually, he returned to his former life and the plants he loved. He married and had three children, of which I'm the youngest. He smoked all his life and never let these things bother him. He died tragically of a perforated ulcer in 1968. Modern X-rays at the time showed he still carried 28 pieces of shrapnel and one bullet.

"Lest we forget"

Published in the Horwich Heritage Magazine Spring 2010

Looking Back


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