After a beautifully sunny morning I set out at lunch time to take Sophie and Poppie on a long circular walk from the Last Drop Village, stopping off to explore the grounds of Turton Tower en route. The first part of the walk was almost the same as the walk I did a month ago, leaving the Last Drop car park and following the path across the fields and through the golf course, but I hadn’t gone far when Sod’s Law decreed that several grey clouds would appear to intermittently block out the sun and turn many of my photos from bright to dull.
When I got to the pond halfway round the course I turned left this time instead of right and followed the meandering path past various greens to the boundary fence and a farm gate. Beyond the fence was open grazing land and half a dozen sheep were mooching about picking at the short grass; one of them looked up briefly as we walked past but the others ignored us and just continued mooching and munching.
Eventually I came to another fence and a gate and another choice of left or right; I knew that going left would take me miles out of my way so I went right and followed the lane down and over the castellated railway bridge to Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line through the grounds of Turton Tower ; James Kay, who owned the tower at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and this particular one incorporates a viewing tower.
Turton Tower itself is a country manor house, a Grade I listed building and ancient monument ; it was originally built in the early 15th century by William Orrell as a simple two-storey stone tower but it was later significantly altered and timber extensions added, and by the Tudor and early Stuart period it had been transformed from a defensive fortress into a comfortable family home. During the 16th century two cruck framed buildings were added and a later extension at the front of the house created the imposing entrance ; a third storey was added to the tower itself and the original windows were replaced with large mullioned and transomed windows. During the 17th century the cruck buildings were clad in stone and the place then remained unchanged until the 19th century.
After falling into decline during the Georgian era the tower was sold in 1835 to James Kay, the inventor who had developed a successful wet spinning process for flax in 1824. He and his family restored the tower, adding a mock Tudor extension and many Victorian renovations including a Dutch gable facade. In 1903 the tower was bought by Sir Lees Knowles, an MP, and after his death in 1929 his widow gave the house and grounds to what was then Turton Urban District Council to use for the benefit of the public – up until 1974 the place was used as council offices but since then it has been a museum.