Another local canal walk – Meccano Bridge to Giant’s Seat

After walking along the upper section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal three weeks ago the continuing good weather prompted me to take a walk along part of the lower section just one week later. Parking on a residential lane close to the upper canal at Little Lever my walk started at the Meccano Bridge where a wide path took me downhill past what had once been the six staircase locks which joined the two sections of canal. The lower three locks had been filled in sometime in the 1950s but the upper three had still just about been visible and in 2015/16 the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society completely excavated the whole flight of six, although nature is now starting to take over again at the lower end.
DSCF6640 - Copy
Staircase locks from the Meccano Bridge
At the bottom of the locks was the lower canal basin which narrowed into the 185ft long Prestolee Aqueduct crossing over the River Irwell below. The canal was clear for quite a distance before becoming overgrown with reeds for a couple of hundred yards, then as it started to become clear again I spotted a moorhen having what looked like a very enjoyable bathing session.
DSCF6603 - CopyDSCF6605 - CopyDSCF6602 - Copy
DSCF6606 - Copy
Prestolee Aqueduct crossing the River Irwell
DSCF6607 - CopyDSCF6609 - CopyDSCF6610 - CopyDSCF6613 - CopyDSCF6615 - Copy
The canal ended at what was once Ringley Old Lock, and having been infilled many years ago there’s now little evidence of a lock ever being there. A short distance downhill through woodland the canal would have passed under the main road through Stoneclough and Ringley villages; the path continued across the far side but the stone steps down from the road were too steep and narrow to tackle with two dogs on leads so I took a diversion along very pleasant minor road instead.
DSCF6616 - Copy
The road took me to Ringley Old Bridge which crosses the River Irwell and links Ringley with Stoneclough. Grade ll* listed in 1986 it was built in 1677 at a cost of £500, replacing a wooden bridge which was swept away during a flood in 1673. By the end of the bridge was La Roma, formerly the Lord Nelson pub but now an Italian restaurant, and a very attractive grassed area with a couple of benches overlooking the river, plus a flowery installation with a large picture frame placed strategically to frame a view of the bridge.
DSCF6617 - CopyDSCF6618 - CopyDSCF6619 - CopyDSCF6621 - CopyDSCF6622 - CopyDSCF6630 - Copy
At the far end of the bridge, protected by metal railings, was the old village stocks and across the lane St. Saviour’s Church with its free-standing tower. The original church, known as Ringley Chapel, was endowed by Nathan Walworth who was born at Ringley Fold but spent much of his life in Wiltshire where he became steward to the Earl of Pembroke. Built in 1625 as a chapel of ease it was dedicated to St. Saviour on its consecration in 1635 by the Bishop of Chester.
In 1826 the chapel was rebuilt with the architect being Charles Barry who later designed the current Houses of Parliament and went on to receive a knighthood. The chapel was consecrated in 1827 but proved to be too small for a growing congregation and after a relatively short life of around twenty years it was eventually demolished although the tower was left intact. The present church, designed in Gothic Revival style by Lancaster architects Sharpe and Paley, was built between 1850 and 1854 and sited further back from the road, leaving the tower in an isolated position close to the churchyard entrance. An altar from the original 17th century chapel is situated at the east end of the north aisle and the stained glass windows on the north side of the chancel also date from the 17th century, while Nathan Walworth is remembered in inscriptions and a portrait.
The tower itself features a date stone from the original chapel with the carved inscription ”Nathan Walworth builded mee  Anno : Do 1625” with a later inscription underneath referring to the addition of a vestry in 1720 and the 1826 rebuilt church. Below that, and difficult to read as it was partially in shade, an inscription refers to the tower itself – ”This tower was repaired, raised two feet and a new clock erected in commemoration of the Jubilee of the New Church built 1854. Reopened July 1907”. Unfortunately the church wasn’t open to visitors but I did have a quick look round the grounds which contain the war graves of six soldiers of the First World War and two airmen, a soldier, and a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officer of the Second World War.
DSCF6624 - CopyDSCF6625 - CopyDSCF6626 - CopyDSCF6627 - CopyDSCF6628 - CopyDSCF6958 - CopyDSCF6959 - Copy
Almost next door to the church was The Horseshoe pub dating back around 300 years. One of the oldest pubs in the area it was known as a scheduled stop for all Manchester-bound packet boats on the canal and landlords would serve ale to thirsty passengers before they continued their journey. The canal and its towpath ran directly behind the pub but nature has reclaimed so much over the years that the only way I could tell there had once been a canal there was by the existence of the large coping stones visible in various places along one edge of the path.
DSCF6629 - CopyDSCF6632 - Copy
Past the back of the United Utilities waste water treatment plant the path took a right-angled turn at what was once Giant’s Seat Lock, bringing me down onto the road which followed the original line of the canal past Giant’s Seat Garden Centre, established in 1964. I made that my turn around point and as there had been nothing of much interest along the path itself I headed back to Ringley Old Bridge by the road.
DSCF6960 - CopyDSCF6961 - Copy
The water treatment plant was built in the 1930s, updated in the 1970s and again in 2008, and though I expected the place to be issuing some rather obnoxious smells the only aroma I detected was quite a pleasant one similar to perfumed soap. Past the plant I came to an attractive village green on a corner then a couple of rows of garden-fronted terraced houses and the small Emmanuel Mission Church before arriving back at Ringley Old Bridge.
DSCF6964 - CopyDSCF6965 - CopyDSCF6967 - Copy
Back across the main road I picked up the canal path again and retraced my steps past open grazing land belonging to a nearby smallholding, along to the basin at the bottom of the staircase locks and my walk ended where it began, at the Meccano Bridge.
DSCF6633 - CopyDSCF6634 - CopyDSCF6635 - CopyDSCF6638 - Copy
I hadn’t been round the Giant’s Seat area since the late 1990s – the last time on a cycle ride – so it was interesting to see it as it is now, especially as so much of the canal has been obliterated by nature, and as I only had vague recollections of the area around the old bridge it had been nice to spend a while wandering round there. Altogether it was a good canal walk and I’m now looking forward to the next one.

Bolton & Bury Canal – Little Lever to Radcliffe

Some glorious weather last Saturday prompted me to finish the household chores early and take a walk along the upper section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal, a walk which I haven’t done for just over six years. The Bolton arm of the canal originally ran right into the town itself and ended near the Parish Church but the demolition of a couple of aqueducts, in 1950 and 1965 respectively, plus the late 1960s construction of the three-and-a-half-mile long dual carriageway section of the A666, almost entirely destroyed a significant section of it, meaning that the last (or first) section of canal still in water is now just off the main road through Little Lever, which is where I started my walk.
In its heyday most of the traffic along the canal transported coal from the many collieries which existed along its length at the time, and what was once a boatyard and coal depot is now an attractive backwater used for fishing and it’s that which I came to first.
DSCF6418 - CopyDSCF6419 - CopyDSCF6420 - Copy Further along is an attractive row of three canalside cottages and a bungalow then the Meccano Bridge which took me over the long-disused but now excavated top flight of staircase locks which lead down to the lower canal. The Meccano Bridge was commissioned by the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society and constructed in 2012 to replace the old wooden footbridge which had collapsed many years previously. Designed by a Manchester artist with a love of Meccano and manufactured by two Bolton companies all the 400 parts and 700 nuts and bolts were made in the same style as a toy Meccano set but scaled up to be ten times larger, ten times thicker and a thousand times heavier. The bridge was assembled on site using the old but refurbished bridge supports and after construction the threads on all the bolts were purposely damaged to prevent it from being dismantled. It was painted in the same colours as toy Meccano and has two matching picnic benches situated nearby.
DSCF6421 - CopyDSCF6422 - CopyDSCF6423 - CopyDSCF6372 - CopyDSCF6411 - Copy
Beyond the bridge quite a long section of the canal is filled in and nature has taken over, filling the area with shrubs and bushes. Throughout its working life the canal suffered several breaches along its 15-mile length into Manchester but the most serious one occurred here in July 1936. When the canal burst its banks a gap about 100 yards long opened up and millions of gallons of water cascaded 300 feet down into the River Irwell below, taking hundreds of tons of earth and stones with it. Bricks and iron reinforcements from the side of the canal were torn away and carried down into the river and coal barges were smashed up as they too were swept down the hillside. The river rapidly became blocked on the Bury side and with nowhere to go the banked-up water flooded the surrounding land and part of a nearby paper mill.
Although the river was soon cleared of all the mess the breach itself was never repaired; a dam was created further along near Ladyshore Colliery and though the canal saw continued use between there and Bury it eventually closed for good in 1961, with the colliery being demolished some time after 1968. Today a purpose-made path leads from the towpath, across the dry bed of the canal and round the edge of the fenced off tree-filled breach to rejoin the towpath on the far side of it.
DSCF6376 - CopyDSCF6379 - CopyDSCF6381 - Copy
The next feature along the canal is the Mount Sion steam crane constructed by Thomas Smith & Sons of Rodley near Leeds, sometime between 1875 and 1884, and bearing the number 3184. It’s thought to be one of the earliest surviving steam cranes in the country and is one of only a small number which survive in-situ; it’s also the only example in England which still remains in an original canalside location. Grade ll listed in 2011 it was formerly used to unload coal from canal barges into the yard of the Mount Sion Bleach Works situated down below the canal bank, though it’s not known when it went out of use. Although in a derelict condition its component parts remain remarkably complete and give a reasonably clear understanding of how the crane operated.
Opposite the steam crane is the attractive area known as Dingle Reservoir. Although at one time it may well have been an enclosed body of water there’s now only a line of reeds separating it from the canal, making it look more like a large canal basin rather than an actual reservoir.
DSCF6383 - CopyDSCF6385 - CopyDSCF6388 - CopyDSCF6405 - CopyDSCF6389 - CopyDSCF6403 - Copy
A distance along from there I came to a paddock where several ponies were grazing peacefully, then a row of six semi-detached cottages and a bungalow with their rear gardens bordering the towpath. Eventually I could see signs of civilisation up ahead – I was now on the outskirts of Radcliffe and close to where several not very attractive industrial premises bordered the canal heading into the town so I knew it would soon be time to turn round and retrace my steps.

DSCF6390 - CopyDSCF6394 - CopyDSCF6396 - CopyDSCF6395 - CopyDSCF6406 - Copy

Not far back past the paddock with the ponies I heard some rustling in the trees close to a nearby bridge and at the far side of the canal were three deer staring at me from the undergrowth. Standing completely still I lifted the camera slowly and just got the photo before a fourth deer ran through the trees, spooked the first three and they were off before I had the chance to get a second photo.

DSCF6407 - CopyDSCF6408 - Copy

Back across the Meccano Bridge and I was on the last part of the walk along what I consider to be the most attractive section of the canal, and my last photo was of some adorably cute little swan babies. There were nine altogether but they wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get them all in one photo and I didn’t want to annoy mother swan.

DSCF6424 - CopyDSCF6425 - CopyDSCF6415 - CopyDSCF6416 - CopyDSCF6417 - Copy

This part of the canal from Little Lever into Radcliffe may not be as pretty as the further section from Radcliffe to Elton Reservoir but it does have some interesting history attached to it, and with the sun shining, the perfume from the hawthorn trees, the sounds of nature and very few people around it made a very enjoyable Saturday afternoon walk.

The last tram pole in town

Now I’m not one for walking, cycling or driving round with my eyes metaphorically closed but just recently I became aware of something which I must have passed hundreds, if not thousands, of times during my life without knowing what it is – the town’s only remaining tram pole.
Prior to 1900 Bolton had a fleet of horse-drawn trams which had operated from 1880, owned by E Holden & Co and serving several of the town’s suburban areas, with a town centre depot housing 48 trams and 350 horses. In 1899 Holden’s sold out to Bolton Corporation and the local authority immediately began a major modernisation programme with a total of 70 electric tramcars being ordered from a company in Preston. It was the largest single order for tramcars ever made in Britain and in less than a year Bolton’s tram network was revolutionised.
Photo from Bolton News archives
The last horse-drawn tram service operated on January 2nd 1900 and on the same date electric trams began running to seven of the town’s suburbs, while a circular network was developed within the town centre itself. One feature of the new tram system was the use of letters to denote the route, among them ‘H’ for the Halliwell area, ‘R’ for Rumworth and ‘G’ for Great Lever. Within a few short years the tram network was extended to three other outlying areas and in 1908 a parcel delivery service began to operate around the borough, while a contract was signed with Tillotson’s, owners of the Bolton Evening News, for bundles of newspapers to be picked up from their town centre offices and delivered by early morning tram to various newsagents shops.
Town centre tram shed – photo from Bolton News archives
The Corporation’s Tramways Committee had adopted a policy of keeping fares low and this policy continued despite inflation during the years of the First World War.  After the war the number of passengers carried increased steadily from 32 million to 56 million and in 1928 nearly 60 million passengers were carried on the 150-strong tram fleet. Sadly though, the advent of the Second World War signalled the beginning of the end for the town’s tram network.
Track maintenance and much-needed repairs were put on hold during the war years and by the end of the war some parts of the network were in need of major investment. The Tramways Committee had already decided in the 1930s that the future of the town’s transport system lay with motor buses as these were more flexible and required less infrastructure than trams, so several tram routes had actually been abandoned before the war.
During the war years more routes were closed, one of these being the route from the town centre heading south past the local football ground – it was officially closed in November 1944 but the track and overhead wiring remained in place, with the route occasionally used by Football Specials on Saturdays. It was on such an occasion in September 1946 that a tram driver was forced to stop his tram about half a mile from the football ground when the track suddenly disappeared – the Highways Department had apparently failed to notify the Tramways Department of their intention to lift a section of what they regarded as redundant track.
Photo from Bolton News archives
By the end of 1946 all but one of the town’s tram routes had been closed and abandoned. The last route to survive was the ‘T’ service to the north east suburb of Tonge Moor and Tram No. 440 was picked to operate the final there-and-back service on March 29th 1947. It was suitably decorated for the occasion and driven by the Mayor of Bolton, and for the only time in the town’s tramway history smoking was permitted on board.
Fast forward to the early 1960s and Alan Ralphs and Derek Shepherd, two tram enthusiasts who had met at school and helped out at the town centre Tram Shed as teenagers, decided to rescue the shell of an old Bolton tramcar and restore it to its former glory. Most cars had been scrapped or sold off for other uses after the tram service ended in 1947 but the bottom deck of Tram No. 66 was located on a local moorland farm where it was being used as a chicken coop. After it was transported to a barn at Derek’s house a growing band of fellow enthusiasts dedicated their Monday evenings to its repair and restoration and the Bolton 66 Tramcar Trust was born.
Tram No. 66 bottom deck – photo from Bolton 66 Tramcar Trust
By 1978 work was progressing well but the tram still needed a top deck – being of wooden construction none of the original top decks had survived in good enough condition after the tram fleet was scrapped so a replica had to be built from scratch. After a very generous donation from one of its members the restoration group was able to commission a custom-made top deck produced in kit form by a local cabinet maker and once this had been assembled, sealed, canvassed and glazed the interior fittings were added.
In June 1981 the now complete tram, painted in its period maroon and cream livery, was moved to Blackpool. After successfully undergoing its initial test runs it was put into service on the promenade and the restoration group had the satisfaction of seeing 18 years of their work transformed into a working tramcar carrying fare-paying passengers for the first time since the 1940s – and 41 years later it’s still providing a traditional British tram ride for visitors and enthusiasts.
Tram 66 2Tram 66 3
Bolton’s Tram No. 66 – above three photos from the Blackpool Tram Blog
The extensive network of tram routes in and around Bolton needed around 3,000 support poles for the overhead electric system and the majority of these were a standard three-section weldless type, embedded six feet into the ground and almost 27 feet high from pavement level to the ball and spike finials at the top. All the older poles had fluted cast iron bases embossed with the town’s coat-of arms and from the 1920s onwards were painted dark green with red bases and finials, though the finials weren’t just ornamental – they also prevented rain from running down the inside of the poles as well as dissuading birds from perching on the tops and making a mess.
In the years following the closure of the town’s tram network some of the poles enjoyed a second life as lamp standards but gradually they were all removed until only this one remained in situ, although I have no idea why this particular one has been allowed to stay. Dating from 1901 it stands close to the junction of the A666 and A6099 about a mile from the town centre and in 1997 the Bolton 66 Tramcar Trust renovated it to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tramway’s closure. Twenty five years on and for the 75th anniversary just a few months ago the pole was given a fresh coat of paint by Bolton Council – the work was funded by the Trust and a plaque was fixed to the pole to give it a bit of history.
DSCF5238 - Copy (2)DSCF5239 - Copy (2)DSCF5239 - Copytram pole base - CopyDSCF5241 - Copy
Bolton’s tram system and its trams had disappeared long before I was born so I was quite surprised when I recently found out about the last tram pole. This in turn sent me down the rabbit hole of researching the town’s tram history which has proved to be extremely interesting, and though I’ll probably never get to ride on Tram No. 66 at Blackpool it’s great to see what has been achieved by the efforts of a small group of people so I hope the tram – and the pole – stay around for many more years to come.

Black Rock Water Wheel and Packhorse Bridge

Situated by the side of a country road on the outskirts of a local village just over five miles from home is the Black Rock water wheel. Although not that far from home I wasn’t previously aware of it as I wouldn’t normally travel along that road but on the way back from a recent visit to Bleakholt animal sanctuary I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to vary my route home and that’s when I came across the wheel.
Dating back to the mid 19th century the wheel was originally situated on the site of a late 17th century corn mill and water wheel in the hamlet of Turton Bottoms, a mile down the road from its current location. The corn mill had been built to replace a much earlier mill and it operated until 1831 before being converted to a cotton spinning mill, then in 1853 the owner at the time, William Rostron, replaced the original wooden water wheel with this cast iron one measuring 6ft wide and almost 14ft in diameter. The mill subsequently changed hands and was run by Henry Leigh until 1859 when it was taken over by John Lord and Henry Hamer who saw it safely through the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861-65.

DSCF5124 - Copy

Alongside the cotton mill was a printworks, bleachworks and an iron foundry and in 1890 the whole of the site was converted to a bleaching and dyeing operation under the direction of Frederick Whowell who renamed the place Black Rock Works. In 1901 James Hardcastle and Co Ltd took charge of the site and the cast iron water wheel stayed in use until it was retired in 1917, though it was left in place in its wheel pit. The Bleachers’ Association, which had been formed in 1900, eventually took over the Black Rock mill complex and it was last operated in the 1950s as a bleach and print works.
DSCF5114 - Copy
In 1963 the Bleachers’ Association was reformed as Whitecroft Industrial Holdings then twelve years later demolition started on the mill complex in readiness for redevelopment of the land. The nearby lodge which had originally fed the wheel had dried out over time with the area becoming colonised by trees, and after the Turton Local History Society gained permission from Whitecroft Ltd to salvage the wheel they found it still in its pit but covered in silt, rubble and vegetation up to 18 inches from its top.
DSCF5119 - Copy
In 1975 the group began the arduous task of extricating the wheel and found that all forty iron buckets were still bolted onto it. They also found several clues to the site’s history, including kiln tiles from when the place had been a corn mill. During the wheel’s excavation the remaining parts of Black Rock Works were demolished and when the mill chimney was finally felled local people came to collect bricks as souvenirs.
DSCF5118 - Copy
The water wheel was eventually lifted and moved less than a mile away to the grounds of Turton Tower where it was painstakingly restored then moved to a specially prepared on-site wheel pit next to an old barn – six years of hard work to excavate and restore it were finally over. It was hoped that it would become an exhibit in a new rural and industrial museum at the Tower but as the years passed the dream of a new museum faded and sadly the wheel began to deteriorate.
Water wheel - Copy
The water wheel at Turton Tower – original photo from the internet edited by me
Thirty years after the wheel was sited at Turton Tower the Turton Local History Society came to the rescue a second time, deciding to have it restored again and moved to an entirely new location where it would be more easily seen. A £700 grant from the West Pennine Moor Community Initiative enabled the large amount of rust to be scraped off and weatherproof paint was applied by the Lancashire Wildlife Environmental Task Force team.
DSCF5121 - Copy
In 2011 the wheel was moved to its current site, the relocation paid for as part of a British Trust for Conservation Volunteers grant which was also used to improve the footpaths and toilets at Turton Tower. The move was expensive, costing around £13,000, and it was done at 6 o’clock in the morning to minimise any disruption to traffic. Today the wheel stands by the side of the road on the approach to Edgworth village, a proud memorial to the rural area’s industrial past, though to be honest it looks like parts of it are now needing a bit more attention.
DSCF5115 - CopyDSCF5116 - Copy
Close to where Black Rock Works once stood is the packhorse bridge built in 1691 to provide access across Bradshaw Brook to the corn mill. Previous to the bridge being built the only way to cross the brook was by a ford across a reasonably shallow section but there would have been many days when it would be impossible for a horse to cross safely while carrying the weight of a rider and sacks of corn so building a bridge was a necessity. The Turton Manor Court records for 1740 gave the name of the bridge as New Mill Bridge as it had been built specifically for the new corn mill.
Sometime between 1798 and 1808 a new road and bridge were built about 200 yards higher up the brook with the bridge being given the name Higher New Mill Bridge. The packhorse bridge was still used however as it was deemed to be important and by 1844 it was going by the name of Pack Saddle Bridge. The Manor Court records for that year stated that ”the Pack Saddle Bridge, repairable by the County, is in a ruinous and dangerous state and direct proceedings are to be commenced against the parties liable to repair the same.”
The bridge was consequently restored by the local Council and over the years may very well have been repaired more than once, including the addition of metal railings to stop anyone falling over the low parapet into the brook below. In September 1984 it became Grade ll listed and in August 2016 the most recent repairs were carried out at a cost of £15,000.
DSCF5126 - CopyDSCF5132 - Copy
At the far side of the bridge is Black Rock Community Orchard, and while it might be named after the old bleach and dyeworks it’s a fairly recent addition to the area. The land in question had been earmarked for a housing development but a successful campaign by local people brought it into public ownership for the benefit of the community. In 2008, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers worked with local children to plant a variety of more than 40 fruit trees covering a range of cooking and eating apples, plums, greengages and damsons, all of which grow well in North West England. Paths and seating areas were installed by BTCV with grant funding from the Sita Trust and the orchard is maintained by the local Parish Council.
DSCF5127 - CopyDSCF5129 - CopyDSCF5131 - Copy
The packhorse bridge is popular with ramblers and is used as part of the Warper’s Trail, an 8.5 mile circular walk which itself is part of the Witton Weaver’s Way, a long distance walk of 32 miles, and standing with my feet almost in the water in an effort to get the final couple of shots I wondered just how many walkers crossing the bridge knew of its interesting industrial heritage.

An autumn walk round Rivington Gardens

After all the grey, damp and drizzly weather we had locally during October and early this month we recently had a couple of really nice sunny days so one morning I took the dogs for a walk round Rivington Terraced Gardens, somewhere I hadn’t been to for quite a while.
In 1899 local soap magnate William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme), founder of Lever Brothers (now Unilever) and one of Bolton’s most famous and generous benefactors, bought a large parcel of land below Rivington Pike on the western slopes of Winter Hill with ideas on how it might be developed, and in 1901 a single storey prefabricated timber bungalow supplied by a firm in Manchester was erected on a level section of the hillside. Named Roynton Cottage it was designed by Lever’s old school friend Jonathan Simpson and was intended for weekend visits and shooting parties.
Four years later Lever met landscape architect Thomas Mawson and the two collaborated in the design of the terraced gardens though Lever himself influenced the actual layout and also designed Lever Bridge which crossed the main lane through the gardens. With one large arch crossed by six smaller ones it was based on a bridge Lever had seen during a trip to Nigeria and is now known locally as Seven Arch Bridge. Work on the gardens spanned a 16-year period from 1906 and in 1921 the landscape and architectural firm of James Pulham & Son were responsible for the creation of a steep rocky ravine with waterfalls and a Japanese-style garden with three pagodas, inspired by a visit Lever had made to Japan several years earlier.
In 1913 the bungalow was destroyed in an arson attack by suffragette Edith Rigby. The stone-built replacement was on a much grander scale and was a place for entertaining; along with a dining room, morning room, lounge, library, study, kitchen and servants’ quarters it also incorporated a music gallery, a circular ballroom, glass-roofed pergola and a winter garden. Following Lever’s death in 1925 the house and gardens were purchased by Bolton brewer John Magee then after his death in 1939 the site was acquired by Liverpool Corporation; in 1948 the bungalow and its entrance lodges were demolished and the gardens were opened up to the public. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 the site passed to the North West Water Authority and along with much of the surrounding land is now owned by United Utilities.
After decades of nature being allowed to take its course the gardens gradually became overgrown in many places and in 2014 the site was named by the BBC Countryfile programme as one of Britain’s Best Lost Gardens. In early 2016 the Rivington Heritage Trust secured £3.4million from the Heritage Lottery fund to improve, revitalise and maintain the gardens and their features and a huge repair and conservation project was soon undertaken. With non-native shrubs and self-seeded trees being cleared away, remaining stone buildings being made safe and accessible, and several original paths and stone stairways being uncovered the gardens eventually began to look how they once might have been. When I last went up there three years ago conservation work was very much ongoing, now it seems to have finished and as I walked round the gardens it was a delight to discover features I hadn’t known existed or which had previously been inaccessible.
From the car park to the gardens
View from the path
View along the Seven Arch Bridge
DSCF1144 - CopyDSCF1146 - Copy
A recently uncovered stone stairway and arches
Overlooking the Italian Lake
Originally called the Dovecote Tower, the Grade II listed Pigeon Tower as it’s now known was built in 1910 by R Atkinson to a design by Thomas Mawson, commissioned by Lever as a gift to his wife, Elizabeth Ellen. A 4-storey building with a basement entrance, each storey was just one single room with the floors linked by a solid stone spiral staircase running up the spine of the building. The first and second floors housed ornamental doves and pigeons while the top floor was Lady Lever’s sewing room/music room. Above the ornate fireplace was the family motto and a circular emblem with the letters spelling out ‘WHEEL’, the initials of William Hesketh and Elizabeth Ellen Lever.
As part of the recent conservation project the Pigeon Tower has been sympathetically restored and with a new roof and windows, repairs to the stonework, new flooring and an aesthetically-pleasing security door with oak wood surround the building is now completely safe and open to visitors during special events and Open Days, although any doves and pigeons have long since disappeared. Situated on the highest level of the terraced gardens the nearby lane has far reaching views westwards across the Lancashire Plains to the coast and northwards to the hills of the south Lake District, while North Wales can be seen from the top of the tower itself.
The Pigeon Tower
DSCF1159 - CopyDSCF1160 - CopyDSCF1161 - CopyDSCF1162 - CopyDSCF1163 - CopyDSCF1164 - Copy
The site of the bungalow
DSCF1172 - Copy
The tennis lawn and summer house
Overlooking the Japanese Lake
DSCF1179 - CopyDSCF1180 - CopyDSCF1181 - CopyDSCF1183 - Copy
It was just after I’d walked round the Japanese Lake that an unfortunate incident occurred. Steps took me down a steep bank from one end of the lake to the path below and as I walked up the path, and right out of the blue, a big dog came running down the bank, fell off the retaining wall, picked itself up and immediately attacked Snowy and Poppie. I’m not sure if it had seen my two from the bank and decided to attack or if it was just running along the bank and went too fast to stop before it fell off the wall but it landed almost at the side of me and so suddenly I had no time to react.
Poppie ran behind me but Snowy had a go back though it was much bigger than her and things almost developed into a full-on fight; although it wasn’t actually a pit bull it looked very much like that type of dog and I really thought Snowy was going to get hurt. There was no sign of the owners but they couldn’t have been far away so I just yelled as loud as I could for someone to call the dog then I heard a man’s voice calling it from the other side of the bank and telling someone to put it on the lead. Fortunately it ran back up the bank and I didn’t see it again, or its owners whoever they were. The whole incident only lasted a minute or two but to be attacked so suddenly like that really shook me up – thankfully Snowy was okay but it won’t have helped her dislike of other dogs.
DSCF1190 - CopyDSCF1193 - Copy After the dog incident the rest of the walk was fine and as I headed down the long path back towards the car park I was happy to see a squirrel running along some nearby tree branches and a robin which landed in the grass not too far away. It seemed happy to stay put while I took a couple of photos then it flew up onto a nearby fence post and posed for another quick shot before flying off into the trees.
DSCF1194 - CopyDSCF1195 - CopyDSCF1196 - CopyDSCF1197 - CopyDSCF1198 - CopyDSCF1199 - CopyDSCF1200 - CopyDSCF1203 - CopyApart from the incident with the dog it was a very enjoyable walk and it had been good to discover parts of the terraced gardens which I hadn’t previously seen or known about. It’s a very extensive place and I know there are other paths which I haven’t yet explored so maybe next spring, once the trees get their new leaves, the three of us will go back to see what else we can find.

A discovery walk and some local history

My Monday walk this week is another local one which I did just two days ago after coming across some local history on the internet which led me to following a path I’d never taken before, which in turn prompted me to research more of the history of the place I’d just been to. Back in the early-to-mid 1990s a secluded private housing development was built on land which had once contained a 17th century grand manor house and a bleach works built in the early 19th century, and though I’ve passed the entrance to the development many times I’ve never known the history of the land until now.
In the 1600s Bradshaw Hall was built in the rural Bradshaw area of Bolton by John Bradshaw, replacing an earlier building which had existed on the same site, but by the later part of that century the estate wasn’t generating the amount of income he needed, especially as he had a large family to take care of. After mortgaging his estate he took out a substantial loan from the Chethams of Turton Tower but circumstances eventually forced him to sell up and move on, with the estate being bought by Henry Bradshaw, a distant relative from Marple in Cheshire.
The Marple Bradshaws owned the estate for more than two hundred years but as none of the family ever lived at the Hall it was occupied by a succession of tenants. Originally a three-storey house about 60ft long the Hall had a central porch with bay windows at each side but successive alterations were carried out over the years by various tenants.
Bradshaw Hall, date unknown – photo from Lost Heritage
Bradshaw Hall 1
Bradshaw Hall, date unknown – photo from the Bolton News archives
In the 1780s the Lomax family, who were tenants of the Hall at that time, started a small bleaching business where they would lay out cloth in the meadows behind the Hall to bleach naturally in the sun. This often attracted various people who would steal the cloth to make money so to combat this watchmen would put out man-traps and loaded guns fired by a trip wire. Anyone ‘lucky’ enough to get caught by a watchman would either be deported to the colonies or executed. One particular local man, James Holland, was unfortunate enough to be executed for stealing cloth so to make sure everyone got the message the entire workforce was made to watch the hanging.
Eventually bleaching cloth in the sun became obsolete when the proximity of Bradshaw Brook, which provided a large and steady source of water, led to the establishment of a more industrial process, then in 1834 the Bradshaw family sold 60 acres of land to Thomas Hardcastle who already owned a bleaching and dyeing operation elsewhere. He moved into Bradshaw Hall as the new tenant and would later spend a large amount of money restoring it as well as building a new bleach and dye works.
The Hardcastle family came to have a major influence in the Bradshaw area and over the years they funded the building of a new church, constructed a mission hall, built a new school and opened the town’s first bank; they also built several rows of terraced workers’ houses, some of which still exist today. After buying up small local bleaching businesses and with a new printworks producing 2,400 different patterns which were engraved onto copper printing rollers the site at Bradshaw Hall grew to be the largest bleach and dyeworks in Bolton.
A list of workers’ rules printed in 1875 said that all workspaces, including windows and machinery, were to be kept clean, and fines were imposed for being absent without permission, bringing in people who didn’t work there, smoking, drinking, and being in any part of the site where one wasn’t employed to be, with all the fine money going into a club fund for any sick employees.
In 1900 the bleachworks and the Hall were taken over by the Bleachworkers Association though the Hardcastle family continued to live there, with Colonel Henry M Hardcastle being the fourth and last generation. A keen historian, he took a great interest in local historical matters including the sale of Smithills Hall in 1931, and Bradshaw Hall was filled with antiques, old masters, furniture from the 1600s and several suits of armour. The Colonel died in 1948 and some of his possessions were transferred to Turton Tower where they are still on display today. In 1949 the Hall was subjected to an extensive building survey; it was found to have a large amount of dry rot and some parts of the stonework were unsafe so the Bleachworkers Association claimed they would be unable to sell it, meaning that demolition was the only option though it was decided that the central porch would be saved.
Before World War 2 the bleach, dye and print works had employed around 700 people; the business continued in existence after the Hall was demolished but by 1955 employee numbers were down to 300. However with further investment new buildings started to be constructed in 1960 but three years later, and just weeks after they were opened, the whole site was closed down permanently. For the next twenty-odd years a succession of different businesses occupied the buildings but they were gradually showing their age and becoming unsuitable for use; one by one the businesses moved out and by the late 1980s the buildings were derelict. The land was sold for housing though it was hoped that a couple of the three-storey buildings could be saved and converted to apartments, however they were in such a bad state of repair that along with the rest of the works demolition was inevitable. Unfortunately during the demolition process one of the works chimneys fell the wrong way and severely damaged the preserved Bradshaw Hall porch but this was rebuilt in the early 1990s and stands in situ where it can be seen today.
The historical remains of Bradshaw Hall, its gardens and waterways all lie within the Upper Bradshaw Valley Local Nature Reserve and the path along the riverside is part of the Kingfisher Trail, a linear route running 14 miles southwards from the Jumbles Reservoir on the north eastern outskirts of Bolton to Philips Park Nature Reserve just north of Manchester. My walk started at the Jumbles car park at the south end of the reservoir and went downhill to the bottom of the dam, though instead of crossing the bridge over Bradshaw Brook I took the path to the left. This was a route which was new to me and in spite of there being no leaves on the trees I was quite surprised at how attractive it looked.
DSCF7324 - CopyDSCF7325 - CopyDSCF7327 - CopyDSCF7328 - CopyDSCF7329 - Copy
A few minutes walking got me to a gate leading to Bradshaw Hall Fisheries, a series of nine fishing lakes and ponds, the largest of which were once part of the Bradshaw Hall estate. Although there’s an on-site cafe which is accessible to the public the fishing lakes unfortunately aren’t, so as I couldn’t take my own photos I’ve pinched one from the internet. A bit farther on the path crossed a narrow water channel leading from one of the fishing lakes down to the river; very much an overflow channel it would once have been part of Bradshaw Hall’s water management system.
Bradshaw Hall Fisheries – photo from Fishing Fiend
DSCF7334 - CopyDSCF7331 - CopyDSCF7332 - Copy
Eventually I came to a fork in the path and taking the left side I came out onto the Bradshaw Hall housing development. With a nod to the last residents of the Hall the road was called Hardcastle Gardens and just on my right was a three-story block of apartments built in the style of one of the old printworks buildings which had been demolished. Heading towards the main road I came to the Hall’s old timber-framed barn now converted to housing; blocked up archways set at right angles to each other at one end would probably have led to a stable and a cart shed while windows now fill the space where the very large barn doors would have been.
DSCF7335 - CopyDSCF7345 - Copy
Across the road and through a gate I came to the remains of the Hall’s gardens and the preserved central porch dating from the original part of the 17th century house. The Bradshaw crest sits just above the arched entrance and looking into the porch’s interior shows a stone bench set against each of the side walls.
DSCF7336 - CopyDSCF7339 - CopyDSCF7338 - CopyDSCF7341 - Copy
Some of the original garden paths still exist and these wind their way through mature trees and rhododendron bushes, crossing a small brook and leading to the Hall’s original entrance driveway flanked by two large stone gateposts with iron gates and half a dozen wide stone steps leading up to the main road. It seemed strange to have steps across the Hall’s driveway but presumably they had originally been part of the bleachworks and had been saved and relocated during or after demolition.
DSCF7344 - CopyDSCF7343 - CopyDSCF7349 - Copy
Although it was only just gone 3pm the sun was already quite low in the sky as I set off back to the Jumbles car park. It was quite a distance up the road to the turn-off for the Jumbles but with the low sun casting a golden glow over the fields it was a pleasant walk and I managed to snap a few decent shots before I got back to the van.
DSCF7363 - CopyDSCF7367 - CopyDSCF7369 - CopyDSCF7364 - CopyDSCF7365 - Copy
Before I left home to do this walk I decided not to take the dogs as I suspected that it could be muddy in places and I was right, it was – very – so I was glad I was wearing my wellies, but unlike the previous walk which didn’t seem as good as usual I did enjoy this one. It had been good to discover somewhere new and it’s definitely a walk I can look forward to doing with Snowy and Poppie sometime next year when it’s much drier underfoot.

All Souls Church Bolton – the old and the new

Back in the 19th century two local brothers, Nathaniel and Thomas Greenhalgh who had made a large fortune in the cotton spinning industry, were determined that some of their wealth should go towards improving the spiritual and moral welfare of the people living and working in the industrial sprawl on the outskirts of Bolton. Being fervent members of the evangelical wing of the Church of England they decided to build a school and a church on land they owned off the main road running north from the town centre, and though Nathaniel died in 1877 at the age of 60 Thomas decided to proceed with the scheme in his memory and work started on the school that same year.
In 1878 the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster were appointed to design the church, with Thomas Greenhalgh’s remit being that the building should be without interior obstructions so that everyone could see and hear the sermon, and there should be no uncomfortable draughts for people to catch colds. Work on the Gothic Revival-style church started that same year though it was entirely without ceremony as Greenhalgh didn’t want the pomp of laying an official foundation stone; the contractors were Cordingley & Stopford of Manchester and the total cost of the build was £20,000, the equivalent of almost £2.4 million at today’s prices. The new church was consecrated by Bishop Fraser of Manchester on June 30th 1881 and the first vicar was the Reverend William Popplewell.
Built of locally made red brick with Longridge stone being used for the external dressings and Stourton stone inside, the church has a north porch and a west door, a small octagonal turret on the north side and a west tower 26ft square. The roofs were covered in Westmorland slate and at one time the tower had a weather vane bearing the date 1881 but unfortunately this was blown off during a storm in 1952 and was never replaced.
DSCF6578 - CopyDSCF6586 - CopyDSCF6580 - CopyDSCF6582 - Copy
Thomas Greenhalgh’s remit that the church interior should be without obstructions produced a large nave 52ft wide and 86ft long with just one central aisle, and a chancel measuring 40ft x 25ft. The high vaulted roof and the panelling of the nave walls were made of pitch pine, as were the original pews which could seat 800 people. The pulpit, lectern, reading desk, choir stalls, altar and communion rails were all designed by Paley and Austin and made of oak.
DSCF6436 - Copy
The church was originally lit by twelve gas pendants then in 1929 electric lighting was introduced, with electric blowers being added to the organ at the same time. The organ itself was built by Abbott of Leeds in 1880 from a specification prepared by S W Pilling of Bolton, with extensive overhauls being carried out in 1959 and again in the 1970s by Peter Wood of Huddersfield. The case, again designed by Paley and Austin, was made of Danzig oak.
DSCF6381 - CopyDSCF6382 - Copy
The chancel floor is made up of white marble with inlays of Dent black marble, which isn’t true marble but a black crinoidal limestone found in certain areas of Dentdale and quarried during the late 18th century. With its amazing quantity of embedded fossil remains it became known as Dent Marble and was, at one time, very much sought after.
DSCF6435 - Copy
The reredos was designed by John Roddis of Birmingham, sculpted from Mansfield stone and made up of a series of panels containing the Apostles’ Creed, the Decalogue and the Lord’s Prayer, while the large font near the west door was also designed by John Roddis and sculpted from Mansfield stone. In later years an oak font cover was added which was paid for by public subscription in 1930 and dedicated to William Popplewell, the church’s first vicar. The inscription on the plaque reads “To the glory of God and in loving memory of the Rev’d William Popplewell, first vicar of this parish 1879 – 1923”
DSCF6392 - CopyDSCF6450 - Copy
The eastern windows of the chancel were all made by Clayton & Bell of London and date from the building of the church. Clayton & Bell was one of the most prolific and proficient English stained glass workshops during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, well known for their use of exceptionally bright primary colours. The company was founded in 1855 and continued until 1993 with their windows being found throughout the UK and in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The windows in All Souls were given in memory of Nathaniel Greenhalgh and show scenes from the New Testament including several from The Acts of the Apostles, all with the relevant quotation below them.
DSCF6383 - Copy - CopyDSCF6389 - Copy (2) - CopyDSCF6383 - Copy (2) - CopyDSCF6389 - Copy - CopyDSCF6388 - Copy (2) - CopyDSCF6388 - Copy - Copy
Fast forward through the years and what had once been a large congregation gradually dwindled over time and by the time the church celebrated its centenary in 1981 it was becoming obvious that the building had major problems. From the 1940s there had been several outbreaks of dry rot and in later years vandalism was rife – in 1970 the stained glass windows in the tower were removed after being badly damaged. They had been made by Shrigley and Hunt and had depicted the six days of the Creation but they were replaced with plain glass containing a cross in the upper part of the central light.
In 1986 it was stated that over 80% of the area’s population were of Asian origin with most being Muslims and with the small congregation unable to meet the parish’s financial commitments closure of the church was inevitable; the last service was held there on December 28th that same year. To avoid All Souls suffering the same fate as its sister church, which had been in another area of the town and was demolished in 1975, in June 1987 the church was vested in the Redundant Churches Fund, now known as the Churches Conservation Trust. Since then the Trust has undertaken several major repairs to the fabric of the building including eradicating the dry rot and pointing the brickwork.
In 2007 a local resident, Inayat Omarji, who had lived in the area all his life, recognised the church’s potential to be a community, events and business centre and after gathering support and financial backing for its regeneration a rescue plan was developed in partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust. Renovation and restoration work began in September 2013 and was completed in November 2014, with the doors finally reopening to the public on December 6th that year.
Because the inside of the church had been originally designed without pillars or aisles it was very adaptable to its new purpose as an events and community space. The philosophy of the restoration was to preserve the original beauty of the church while incorporating the very best of contemporary design and the interior now features two connected 3-storey ‘pods’ which are independent of the main building and touch neither the sides nor the roof of it. The newly designed interior provides an events space in the main body of the church for heritage and community activity, a ground floor coffee shop, a history wall, office space and five meeting rooms, while the chancel and all its original features remain intact. The building is still consecrated as a church and weddings can still be held there with the permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In spite of All Souls being only a mile from home I’d never actually been in there, either in the past or in more recent years, however I visited a couple of weeks ago on one of the Heritage Open Days – and I have to say that what you see on the inside is definitely not  what you would expect to see from the outside.
The church as it was – photo from the internet
DSCF6405 - Copy
As it is now – looking down the nave
DSCF6398 - Copy
DSCF6399 - Copy
View from the chancel
DSCF6439 - CopyDSCF6448 - CopyDSCF6400 - CopyDSCF6401 - Copy
After spending some time wandering round taking photos and reading various bits of information on the history wall I sat down to listen to a very interesting talk on the history of the church given by Suzanne, one of the community workers, then I had the opportunity to climb the tower steps up onto the roof, stopping a couple of times on the way up to look down into the main body of the church.
The tower is 117ft high with a narrow spiral stone staircase of 180 steps and a ring of eight bells cast in 1880 by J Taylor & Co. of Loughborough. The tenor bell alone weighs over 23cwt (1160kg) with the whole ring of eight weighing a total of 90cwt (4570kg). Going up  the staircase was certainly a test of heart and lung capacity, though with no handrail or rope to hold onto coming back down was more a test of nerve and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
DSCF6421 - Copy
Looking down from the first balcony
DSCF6415 - Copy
The ringing room
DSCF6416 - Copy
From the ringing room balcony
DSCF6419 - Copy
Up in the main roof
DSCF6420 - Copy
From the third balcony
DSCF6422 - Copy
The strenuous climb up the tower steps was certainly worth it as I was rewarded with 360 degree views and I could see for miles in all directions; the weather was glorious and I got several good shots looking over the immediate area and beyond, with the high-rises of Manchester city centre on the horizon.
DSCF6423 - CopyDSCF6424 - CopyDSCF6425 - CopyDSCF6426 - CopyDSCF6427 - CopyDSCF6428 - CopyDSCF6429 - CopyDSCF6430 - CopyDSCF6431 - CopyDSCF6432 - Copy
Back at ground level I had another wander round to catch up on anything I’d previously missed – and I still didn’t manage to see or read everything – then it was time to go as it was almost closing time. I’d been there for over two hours and it was certainly time well spent – I’d learnt something of the history of All Souls and it had been interesting to see the modern ‘building within a building’. The church is open every weekday so who knows, I may very well be tempted to pop in sometime when I’m passing to sample their coffee and cake.

Bolton’s street art…

What little there is of it anyway.
My Monday walk this week is a relatively short one across the town centre from north to south, starting at the 1st Edition tattoo parlour just on the north edge of town. It’s round the corner from one of the places where I work so I pass it regularly ; the mural on the side wall has been done by a Hungarian-born Preston tattoo artist with over ten years experience working as a graphic designer, illustrator and street artist.
DSCF3871 - Copy
Artist – Andrew Senph
Down into the town centre itself now, and the Greyhound pub on Deansgate. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find out any history of the pub other than for some strange reason it’s referred to locally as the Kicking Donkey ; on its side wall is one of several murals done by an artist going by the name of Kaser.
Artist – Kaser
A few minutes walk from the Greyhound and past the open market took me to the Griffin pub on Great Moor Street and a Kaser mural on the corner wall, though again I can find no history of the pub itself.
Artist – Kaser
Another few minutes walk and I came to the Sweet Green Tavern on Crook Street, and more murals by Kaser. Yet again I’ve been unable to find out much history of the pub though the very friendly young lady behind the bar did tell me that the building used to be three separate premises. The window on the far left was once a doorway and that and the two windows on its right were the original pub which was just one room. The existing doorway and the two windows to its right belonged to a bakery and the other three windows were the doorway and windows of a house.
DSCF3897 - Copy
Stretching along the pub’s rear wall, and bordering the main road, is a large mural which pays tribute to the photos of Humphrey Spender and the Mass Observation of 1937/38. Seen close up it’s just a jumble of black and grey shapes but from across the road (or in my case the middle of the road!) it makes more sense.
Artist – Kaser


On the end wall of the pub is another mural by Kaser, taken from a photo of the 1918 Crook Street train crash. On March 16th that year a coal train with an engine weighing 70 tons pulling wagons carrying over 400 tons of coal ran out of control going down the incline approaching Bolton Terminal Station. It was diverted into the Crook Street goods yard but ran through the yard, smashed through the buffers and the boundary wall, crossed the road diagonally and smashed into two small houses. The guard jumped from the brake van but the driver and fireman stayed on the footplate ; fortunately none of the men suffered more than minor injuries but eight people living in the houses were injured, though not seriously. In addition to the damage to the engine and the houses five coal wagons were completely wrecked and seven others were damaged.
Artist – Kaser
DSCF3896 - Copy
Framed article in the pub, taken from the local paper in 1998
Going through the pub and out into the outside smoking area I found a plethora of murals by Kaser. Unfortunately some of the canopy supports prevented me from getting completely uninterrupted photos of some of the murals but the shots I got were good enough. My favourite was the hummingbird on the end wall, and even though it was looking a bit worse for wear it was still quite pretty.

DSCF3893 - CopyDSCF3892 - Copy

DSCF3879 - CopyDSCF3880 - CopyDSCF3881 - CopyDSCF3894 - Copy
DSCF3884 - Copy
This has no connection to the artist Banksy – the landlord’s name is Banks
DSCF3885 - CopyDSCF3886 - CopyDSCF3887 - CopyDSCF3888 - CopyDSCF3889 - CopyDSCF3890 - CopyDSCF3891 - Copy
As far as I’m aware these murals are the only examples of street art in my town ; I can think of several places which could be brightened up with a mural or two so it’s a shame that most of these are hidden behind the outside wall of a pub’s beer garden. I’m glad I found out about them though, and at least I’ve added a few more photos to my street art collection.


Town centre heritage trail – some local history and photos

The industrial past of my home town, Bolton, lives on today in many ways, including the work and inventions of several famous locals who helped to forge and shape the industrial revolution. The Industrial Heritage Town Centre Walking Trail has 12 sites of interest including historic buildings and statues, and my Monday walk this week starts at the first one, the Town Hall in Victoria Square.
In the mid 19th century the town’s mayor at the time, J R Wolfenden, promoted the idea for a town hall and a competition for the design was held by Bolton Corporation. It was won by architect William Hill of Leeds in partnership with Bolton’s George Woodhouse and building began in 1866. A quarter-chiming clock by Potts of Leeds was installed in the baroque-style clock tower in 1871 and the completed Town Hall was opened by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1873. In later years the design was re-used by William Hill as the template to build Portsmouth’s Civic Town Hall in 1890, which is a near-identical twin, though it was renamed Portsmouth Guildhall in 1926 when the town was elevated to city status.
In the early 1930s the rear of the town hall was extended to the designs of local architects Bradshaw, Gass & Hope and which matched the original building, with a crescent of civic buildings providing office space built to the rear on a new street. Inside the town hall was the Albert Hall, a central hall used for concerts and official functions, which was surrounded on three sides by a wide corridor and an outer ring of offices. In 1978 local steeplejack Fred Dibnah made repairs to the clock tower and its 16 stone pillars and gilded the sphere at the top. On November 14th 1981 the Albert Hall was unfortunately gutted by a devastating fire but the rest of the building was saved, with the hall itself being rebuilt as two public halls, the new Albert Hall and the Festival Hall.[1]
To the right of the town hall is the statue of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Benjamin Alfred Dobson. Although born on the Isle of Man he was a descendant of the founder of Bolton company Dobson & Barlow, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of textile machinery. He studied as a civil engineer and entered the family firm in 1871, eventually becoming Chairman ; he also wrote books about the spinning industry and held several engineering patents. As a Conservative MP Dobson represented North Ward for six years from 1874 and was a magistrate from 1880.
In March 1879 Dobson opened the lattice girder ‘Dobson Bridge’ in Queen’s Park and in June 1884 he opened the Chadwick Museum in the same park. In 1894 he became Mayor of Bolton, with his wife Coralie being the first Mayoress to wear the Mayoress’s Chain and Badge ; he was knighted in July 1897 and died in March 1898 while still in office. The statue of Dobson, modelled by Manchester sculptor John Cassidy, was purchased by public subscription and was unveiled in February 1900. In much later years his great grandson, Christopher Brian Spencer Dobson, who was a lawyer, politician, comedian and actor, co-wrote the screenplay for Nicholas Roeg’s 1973 film ”Don’t Look Now” (starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) under the name Chris Bryant.
About 50 yards away from the Dobson statue, in a huge reinforced glass case, is the Corliss Steam Engine built in Bolton by Hick Hargreaves & Co Ltd in 1886. The original Corliss steam engine was invented in 1849 in Rhode Island, America, by George Henry Corliss who managed to create an engine that was 30% more efficient than conventional ones. This was an important breakthrough as it meant that for the first time steam power became more economical than water power. This in turn meant that as factories no longer needed to use water to turn their wheels but could use a steam engine instead they could be built anywhere, not just next to a suitable river. The Corliss engine was ideal for textile mills as it had adjustable speed and power, which was useful when connected to machines for the spinning of delicate thread.
The Bolton engine was in use until 1969 in a silk spinning mill owned by Ford, Ayrton & Co in Bentham, North Yorkshire, and when it came to the end of its working life it was donated to the people of Bolton. Representing a typical steam engine which would have powered so many mills throughout the region, it was erected and placed in its huge glass case by Bolton Corporation when Oxford Street and Newport Street were pedestrianised in 1973. At one time the large wheel could be seen going round on Saturdays but it hasn’t turned for many years now.
The Bank of Bolton on Deansgate was a joint stock bank established in 1836 with a capital of £300,000. In 1896 it was acquired by Manchester & County Bank Ltd which eventually became part of the National Westminster Bank. The Coat of Arms still exists on the outside of the building and also in some of the interior stained glass, though of course for security reasons I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside.
Along Deansgate and past the junction with Bradshawgate is Churchgate and Booth’s Music Shop which occupies the site of Arkwright’s Barbers Shop established in the early 1760s. Born in Preston, Lancashire, in 1732 Richard Arkwright was apprenticed to a barber in nearby Kirkham and began his adult working life as a barber and wig maker, setting up his shop in Bolton’s Churchgate. It was here that he invented a waterproof dye for use on the fashionable periwigs of the time, the income from which later funded his prototype cotton machinery.
After the death of his first wife Arkwright became interested in the development of carding and spinning machinery to replace hand labour in the conversion of raw cotton to thread for weaving, and in 1768 he returned to Preston with John Kay, a clock maker, where they rented rooms in a house on Stoneygate, now called Arkwright House. There they worked on developing a spinning machine and in 1769 Arkwright patented the spinning frame which produced twisted threads using wooden and metal cylinders rather than human fingers. This machine, initially powered by horses, greatly reduced the cost of cotton-spinning and would lead to major changes in the textile industry. The original building where Arkwright had his barbers shop was demolished in the early 1920s, being replaced by the existing building, though there is a plaque commemorating him on the wall above the music shop windows.
At the far end of Churchgate is the large St. Peter’s Church, commonly known as Bolton Parish Church. The fourth church to be built on that site, it was designed by Lancaster architect E G Paley. Paid for by Peter Ormrod, a local cotton spinner of Halliwell Hall whose father founded the Bank of Bolton, it was built between 1867 and 1871 in the Gothic Revival style. Its tower, at 180ft high, is the tallest in the historic county of Lancashire and has spectacular 360-degree views across the area. The spacious and beautiful interior contains many items of interest including fine stained glass windows, carved woodwork, a museum corner and an organ with beautifully decorated case and pipes. Guided tours of the church can be pre-booked, and having been in there myself a couple of years ago it’s a church well worth seeing.
In the grounds of the Parish Church is Samuel Crompton’s tomb. Building on the work of James Hargreaves and Richard Arkwright Crompton invented the spinning mule, a machine which greatly revolutionised the cotton spinning industry. Unfortunately his invention was never patented, which allowed others to copy his idea, and in 1827 he died a poor man at his house in King Street in the town centre. It’s said that a large number of people attended his funeral, including some of Bolton’s factory owners ; his original gravestone was very simple but in 1861 the existing granite monument, paid for by the workers of Dobson & Barlow Ltd, was placed over the grave.


Not far from the Parish Church is Wood Street, a short cobbled street of Georgian terraced houses, most of which are now offices, and No. 16 is the birthplace of William Hesketh Lever, industrialist, politician, landowner and major Bolton benefactor. Lever started work at his father’s grocery business in Bolton but as a businessman he is noted for founding the soap and cleaning product firm, Lever Brothers with his younger brother James in 1885, and at Port Sunlight on the Wirral he built his works and a model village to house its employees. Lord Leverhulme was asked to become Mayor of Bolton in 1918 and for some time worked with town planners on a grand architectural revival for Bolton.
Along the road from Wood Street is Nelson Square and the Samuel Crompton statue. In honour of his contribution towards revolutionising the cotton spinning industry a statue paid for by public subscription was unveiled on 24th September 1862 and still stands proud today.
Heading back towards the town hall and on one corner of Victoria Square is No. 1 Newport Street, the Exchange Building. Built in 1826 by the Bolton Exchange Company it was originally a trading exchange inside which was a private reading room. This developed into a private library which later became Bolton’s first public library. Later still it became Bolton Council Reference Library and remained as such until 1938 when the library services were transferred to the new civic buildings behind the town hall. By 1956 the building was being used by the Inland Revenue Valuation Office, in the years since then it has been a building society and is now currently a Coral’s betting shop.
Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Central Library are all housed together at one end of the Civic Centre buildings designed by local architects Bradshaw, Gass & Hope in the 1930s. The museum collections include natural history, Egyptology, archaeology, art and local history, and one of Britain’s oldest public aquariums, opened in 1941, is housed in the basement.
In 2003, after consulting experts at the British Museum and Christies, Bolton Museum bought the small sculpture Armana Princess  for £439,767 from a local man who claimed it was from his grandfather’s forgotten collection. The sculpture remained on display until 2006 when it was exposed as a fake ; after an investigation the forger was found to be the local man who, over a period of several years, had produced many forged works of art in his garden shed, including what was said to be an original Lowry painting – he was eventually sentenced to 4 years 8 months in prison. In recent years the museum received £3.8 million in grant funding to update and improve its collections and displays and after a refurbishment programme lasting almost two years it re-opened in September 2018, with the Armana Princess  back on display in a special section for fakes and forgeries.
The museum and art gallery concluded my circular walking trail round the town centre but there was one more place on the list – Queen’s Park. Although not actually in the town centre one part of the park was right on the edge and was included in the trail because of its heritage connections. Originally opened in 1866 as Bolton Park it was renamed by the Town Council in 1897 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The park is the original site of the Chadwick Museum, which eventually became the Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, and it also has the Dobson Bridge, erected in 1878 to link the original park to a later extension and officially opened by B A Dobson who was Chairman of the Park Committee at the time.
Copy of Local area 2019 302
Dobson Bridge, Queen’s Park, on a much nicer day
Unfortunately when I did this walk two days ago the weather wasn’t exactly brilliant, it was so dull and grey that I’ve had to seriously enhance these photos to properly show some of the sites of interest, but hopefully I’ll have time to do the walk again on a much nicer day and I’ll be able to replace these shots with some better ones.

Bury Parish Church – some history and photos

This week’s Monday walk, if you can call it that, features a wander round a church about seven miles from home in the next town. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated right on the edge of Bury town centre, just a couple of minutes walk from the interchange and the main shopping centre and not far from the well known open market. Church records suggest that the first church on the site was a wood and thatch structure which was replaced in the late 16th century by a building in the Gothic style ; between 1773 and 1780 the main body of this church was demolished and rebuilt although the spire wasn’t touched.
The spire itself was replaced in 1842 but by 1870 the timbers in the rest of the church had rotted and another new building was needed. The current church was designed on a much grander scale by architect J S Crowther and was built leaving the 1842 spire in place ; construction took five years and the church was finally consecrated on February 2nd 1876. The interior features hammerbeam and tie-beam roof trusses, decorative mosaic flooring by Minton and stained glass windows by Clayton & Bell and Hardman & Company, while the tower houses eight bells, six of which date from 1722.
DSCF3218 - CopyDSCF3144 - Copy
The nave is 84ft 6ins long, 30ft wide and 76ft 6ins high, with the windows on the north wall depicting Old Testament figures while those on the south wall depict those from the New Testament. Unfortunately most of the windows were so high up that I would have needed to use an exceptionally long step ladder to get good clear shots of them. The west wall rises in four stages to the great rose window and was inspired by Westminster Abbey, while the pulpit was given in memory of Reverend Roger Kay who re-founded Bury Grammar School in 1726 ; it’s believed that he is actually buried beneath the pulpit.
DSCF3145 - Copy
The nave and sanctuary
DSCF3206 - Copy
The ornate sanctuary screen
DSCF3161 - Copy
DSCF3151 - Copy
DSCF3150 - Copy
DSCF3167 - Copy
Looking down the nave from the sanctuary
The organ was at one time situated above the west door but it was relocated to its current position when the church was rebuilt in 1876. Originally a tracker action organ electrics were eventually installed and the console was moved to the south side of the chancel where it faced east. The organ was rebuilt in 2007, keeping some of the original pipework and giving it a French sound, and the console was turned to face south.
DSCF3191 - Copy
DSCF3173 - Copy
DSCF3190 - Copy
DSCF3180 - Copy
Flooring in the South Chapel
DSCF3181 - Copy
DSCF3184 - Copy
South Chapel reredos – Mary and child flanked by patron saints of Britain
DSCF3174 - CopyDSCF3175 - CopyDSCF3176 - CopyDSCF3189 - Copy
DSCF3205 - Copy
Looking down the nave to the west wall
The church is also the garrison church of the Lancashire Fusiliers. On April 25th 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in taking West Beach at Gallipoli, for which the regiment won six VCs, and each year a service is held on the nearest Sunday to that date to commemorate those who took part in Gallipoli and subsequent battles. For anyone interested in regimental history the church has a number of colours hung on display along with memorial tablets, record books and other artefacts, with a dedicated museum in the old Fusiliers building round the corner.
DSCF3219 - Copy
The Fusilier Museum
I hadn’t originally intended going into the church as I was in Bury for an entirely different reason, but when I saw the ‘church open’ sign on the outside railings I thought I may as well pop in for a quick look and I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely place with many interesting features, more than I realised at the time, so it would be worth making a return visit the next time I go to Bury – and with a nice little café just across the road I can treat myself to coffee and cake as well.