Stonyhurst Hall and College

Stonyhurst Hall and College

Richard Shireburn inherited the estate at Stonyhurst in 1537. He decided to do away with most of the medieval buildings to construct a bigger, grander hall. He held important posts in the county- at various times he was a magistrate, Member of Parliament, Master Forester of Bowland and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire. He’d also been knighted for his part in fighting the Scots at Leith when he was 21. Despite all these positions of authority he was not trusted by the government of Queen Elizabeth I as he was from a Catholic family. Richard Shireburn could be seen as a ‘church papist’- that is someone who was Catholic but attended Protestant Anglican services. His wife was a ‘recusant’ meaning that she refused to attend church and so could be prosecuted. It was strongly suspected that Richard gave shelter to Catholic priests who would say mass for his wife.

During her reign Elizabeth I introduced a whole raft of anti-Catholic legislation. No Catholic could hold public office or be a teacher, doctor or lawyer. All church services had to be Protestant Anglican, all clergy had to swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Church of England and anyone not attending church would be fined. Catholic priests were expelled from England and any found remaining would be killed, as could anyone giving them shelter.


As the decades passed the Shireburns continued to fall foul of authority because of their faith. The third Richard Shireburn had the County Commissioners insist that he take the Oath of Allegiance or they would confiscate two thirds of his estate. His monument in Mitton Church’s Shireburn Chapel states that he was an ‘eminent sufferer’ for his loyalty to King Charles during the Civil War. He was forced to provide shelter for Oliver Cromwell and his troops on their way to the final conflict of the war, the Battle of Preston (1648).

A fourth Richard Shireburn was imprisoned in Manchester gaol during the reign of King William of Orange, and died there. Better times began for the family when his son Nicholas married Catherine Charleton who brought with her a huge fortune to Stonyhurst. They used the money to further develop the house and gardens. Terraces, canals, fountains, lead statues and a yew wilderness were added, all in the latest Dutch style. However conflict re-emerged in 1715 when there was a Jacobite Rising to put James Stuart ‘the Old Pretender’ on the throne. Jacobite supporters from Preston went to Stonyhurst seeking Nicholas’s help. They left with guns, pistols and four horses for the second Battle of Preston.

DSCN7051When the Shireburns reached the end of their line the house and estate was passed by marriage to the Weld family. The Welds did not at live at Stonyhurst and for 40 years the house was left empty and began to become dilapidated. The owner Thomas Weld had three sons at the English Academy in France and decided to bring them back to England after the French Revolution. It was a turbulent time on the continent and the school had already moved first from St Omer, then to Bruges and was currently residing in Liege. The town authorities could no longer guarantee the safety of the boys and staff from the French Revolutionary troops, so Thomas invited the college to move to Stonyhurst. Many boys went home to see families in England first, but a small contingent of priests and pupils continued on to their new school. From this group the first boy to reach the hall was George Lambert Clifford.

Work began in earnest to convert the stately home into a functioning school. The Long Room and Duke’s Room were split up into partitions to make small cubicles for the priests and boys. The lead statues from the gardens were melted down to use the metal to repair the roof. The medieval Duchess’s Rooms were destroyed using dynamite and the Great Drawing room was demolished. Thomas Weld seemed to be fine with all this dramatic reconstruction, and continued to gift more of the surrounding estate to the school. He maintained close links throughout the rest of his life, dying from a stroke at a school banquet after singing his favourite song.

DSCN7035 (2)

There are quite a few famous literary associations with Stonyhurst. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest, taught there. When Arthur Conan Doyle was a pupil at the college there were two Moriarty brothers and a Sherlock in attendance. In his novel The Hound of the Baskervilles he is thought to have based the look of Baskerville Hall with its ‘central block and twin towers’ on the front of the college and the Dark Walk  in the gardens is the setting of Charles Baskervilles dramatic meeting with the hound.  During the second world war the English College in Rome was evacuated and came to Stonyhurst. JRR Tolkien’s son John was attending the college and so Tolkien often visited Stonyhurst to see him. While in Lancashire he wrote some of his Lord of the Rings. Like many authors he would have used names, ideas and places as inspirations in his fiction. Perhaps the local landscape and history inspired him- the nearby River Loud is reminiscent of the book’s Loudwater and the list of vicars at Ribchester Church may have given him ideas for hobbit names see here.

DSCN7043The college has always been at the forefront of innovation. In the early 1800s Stonyhurst had the first school physics and chemistry labs in England. In the 1830s it had added the old observatory and weather station. Anti-Catholic legislation meant that believers were not allowed to study at university even as late as the 1840s. Stonyhurst entered into an arrangement with the University of London which was able to grant degrees to external candidates. These older students were Stonyhurst’s ‘Gentlemen Philosophers’ and were the first Catholics to gain a degree since the time of  Elizabeth I.

In 1811 Samuel Clegg built a gas works on site which supplied gas for lighting, previous to this the school had relied on weak tallow candles. His lime purifier removed hydrogen sulphide gas from the mix which is harmful to health. Later Stonyhurst became involved with the setting up of the Preston Gas Light Company and Preston was one of first towns to be lit by gas.

Tradition is also a big part of the Stonyhurst heritage. Today the Lower Line girls wear exact copies of the tartan that Bonnie Prince Charlie (the Young Pretender) wore on his flight from Culloden. The college possesses one of three surviving fragments of the fabric. In 1997 one of the twin 300 year old stone eagles fell from its tower and smashed to pieces on the ground below. Copies were made of the original by John Schofield, master sculptor of Liverpool and the eagles were re-erected four years later. The gatehouse clock has also been restored and its chimes can be heard as far away as Hurst Green. The enigmatic handball walls are still in good condition and can be viewed in the college gardens (see picture above). Visitors taking the guided tour can see that although this is very much a working school, much of the oldest history has been preserved and is on show.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017

Access and Opening Times

It’s best to look at Stonyhurst College website here to see the opening times. See here

Currently it mostly seems to be catering for prebooked group tours. However there is an open weekend in August when you can just turn up and join a tour. See here


Stonyhurst T.E. Muir (2006) St Omers Press

A Stonyhurst Museum Guide Janet Graffius (undated publication, available from the College on open days) T. Snape & Co. Ltd, Preston









Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Historic Houses,, Stuart Lancashire, Tudor Lancashire, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Craggs Row Windmill, Preston

DSCN5918Tucked away on a side street just off Moor Lane near the centre of Preston is a Grade II listed windmill. Built out of red brick in 1760, it would capture the energy of the prevailing  wind blowing across from the Fylde. After the sails were removed in the 1880s and its flour grinding days were over it was put to a whole range of different uses. It has been an overflow prison, piano workshop, garage, cinema (during the second world war) and a merchant’s storage warehouse. (There are also claims it was used as a shot tower – molten lead being dropped from on high , forming spherical gun shot on the way down before hitting the water below. This claim is disputed though, with some commentators pointing out that it simply isn’t high enough for the process to work. The nearest definite shot tower we have in our region is to be found still standing in Chester.)

In the 1960s the building was under threat of demolition as the North Western Electricity Board was looking to develop the area. Fortunately, the value of the mill was recognized and it was saved and given a Grade II listing. In the early 2000s the plan was to turn the building into modern office space and make it a local landmark lit up by night, but this didn’t happen. The owner then decided to convert it into luxury flats, but that didn’t happen either. At the time of writing (2018) it is currently for sale.


If you pay a visit today you will find the windmill nestled amongst other buildings on the narrow street of Craggs Row. The first thing that strikes you is the very large three stage ‘slot’ that runs down the middle of the tower, facing into the street. At the top  of the slot is the remnants of a winch presumably to load up the sacks of grain, or haul out the bags of flour. The lowest door in the slot is a  modern metal security door, the middle one above is boarded up, but the top stage still has a proper two part wooden door. This has two metal handles fixed either side of the slot. Looking further up you can see three small square windows and the flat cap above them is a modern one.

At the side of the tower is a connected two story building with a pitched roof. It has a modern garage-style door (obviously a later addition- see the photograph below). This structure  could well have been the grain drying kiln, and a similar building can be seen at  the well preserved Marsh Mill windmill at Thornton on the Fylde.

DSCN5926Access The site is open access. Craggs Row is just off Moor Lane in Preston. There is parking on Moor Lane by the row of shops. Cross over Moor Lane and head up Craggs Row to see the windmill tower (no parking on this street- it’s all double yellow lines).

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018

Nearby, just a short distance away              St Walburge’s Church, the Lost Medieval Leper Hospital and the Lost Friary of Preston








Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Victorian Lancashire, Windmill | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Hob Cross, Lathom, West Lancashire


Hob Cross near Lathom

The site of Hob Cross  would have dated back to Medieval times, and even possibly before. Hob is a word to describe a type of supernatural being that lived in the more remote areas of the countryside. In Lancashire a similar term might be a boggart, and we see that name still in our present day places, for example Boggart Hole Clough in Blackley near Manchester. However, Westwood and Simpson in their huge book of English folklore  The Lore of the Land note that in the North of England and Midlands the preferred name seems to be hob, with the alternatives of hobthrusts, hobmen and hobbits (this last one they point out was in existence before Tolkien ever used it). These beings were not clearly distinguished from boggarts or brownies. They note that a hob was usually associated with a named location, be that a cave, a prehistoric burial mound or in this case, a wayside cross.

Aidan Turner-Bishop in his chapter on fairy and boggart sites in Lancashire’s Sacred Landscape notes that Simpson and Westwood list Lancashire, Northumberland and Derbyshire to have the most fairy sites of all the English counties (a fairy here being a catch all term for any supernatural human-like being). This may well be due to the remote moorland aspect of so much of these three counties.

When Henry Taylor conducted his epic survey in the early 1900s of all the crosses and holy wells in Lancashire, he noted that only the pedestal, or base of the Hob Cross remained. Record show that it was still in place in 1957 but is now long disappeared. This has been the fate of many of our wayside crosses in Lancashire, where all we have for evidence of what once was there is the marking on a map of ‘site of cross’. However, in 2011 local councilors gathered to see the newly reinstated Hob Cross, one of a pair, the other being Priory Cross at nearby Blythe Lane. Both are made from recycled stone gate posts and look built to last. The money came from the District Council and from an anonymous donor, with  the reinstatement being part of a scheme to highlight the historic aspects of Lathom. We cannot always preserve the past, as in this case where the original cross has disappeared, but we can make sure it is not forgotten by continuing to mark and honour the county’s ancient traditions. Crosses marked boundaries, procession routes, functioned as guide posts and meeting points. With so many in our landscape now gone, it’s heartening to see these two replacements.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018

Access Hob Cross is on Hobcross Lane, near the Ring of Bells, Lathom. There is no pull in point directly by the cross (although you can drive right next to it). You’ll need to look for a pull in space a little away from it, so do park carefully.

Nearby Newburgh Cross and a little further away Parbold’s Bottle Monument


The Lore of the Land: A guide to England’s Legends, J.Westwood and J.Simpson (2005) Penguin

Lancashire’s Sacred Landscape, edited by Linda Sever (2010) The History Press

Historic England Pastcape website entry on Hob Cross

Posted in Medieval Lancashire, Wayside Crosses | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Longridge Cluster Schools’ Armistice Project

DSCN5530As we move into the final year of centenary events for the 1914-1918 conflict, a group of schools in Longridge and its surrounding villages are engaging in a whole series of projects to remember World War 1. The work will culminate in a performance of the musical dance drama  “Armistice” at Preston Guild Hall.

The local community is also aiming to knit 19,240 poppies- the exact number of men killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  The children will be making silhouettes of the soldiers whose names are remembered on the war memorials in Longridge and its outlying villages. There is also going to be an archive of stories from relatives about those that served in the war. Some of these have already been posted on the Facebook page (see here ). In school the children will learn through their  curriculum subjects about the causes of the first world war, and about the reality that soldiers faced on the front.

The “Armistice” event on the 11th November 2018 is to involve 500 children and 100 adults giving two performances. To hire the Guild Hall, pay for transport of the children, props, costumes, instruments and for the use of museum services they are aiming to raise £50,000. If more money is made, it is to be passed on to the Royal British Legion charity. This well known charity was formed by World War 1 veterans and gives support to our Service men, women and present day veterans.

In a time of rising xenophobia and hostility between countries we are reminded that those who do not learn from history are in danger of repeating it. Commemorations and educational events like this help us to see why understanding our past history is so vital.

Thanks to John McHugh, Headteacher of St Wilfrid’s Primary School Longridge for bringing this worthwhile project to our attention.

To find out  more about the Longridge Schools Armistice Project, follow the links below.

Longridge Cluster Schools Armistice Project  Facebook page  here.

If you would like to donate towards funding to the “Armistice” performance at Preston Guild Hall then see the Just Giving website here.

The Royal British Legion  website is here


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Fred Dibnah Statue and Corliss Steam Engine, Bolton

Fred Dibnah Statue with Bolton’s Corliss Steam Engine behind him

In Bolton town centre stands a larger than life statue to the late, great steeplejack Fred Dibnah next to a Corliss Steam Engine. Fred always said that he was a man born in the wrong time, that he should have lived in the Victorian age. He was a tireless promoter of all things steam, and it is fitting that his statue has been placed next to this Bolton built steam engine.

Fred’s occupation as steeplejack involved repairing chimneys and church spires. He was the first to note the irony that although he had grown up wanting to preserve the great mill chimneys of Bolton, he ended being the man who was paid to demolish so many of them when they had come to the end of their useful life. His great skill in repairing church steeples and fitting them with new weather vanes means that we can still see his work in the Lancashire landscape around us today. His repairs to Bolton Parish Church gave him the publicity he needed to launch his steeplejack career in the 1970s.  This work carried on until the end of his life when he worked on the third tallest spire in the country, that of Preston’s St Walburge’s Church  (see our page on the iconic church here).

Following his death in 2004 it was decided to erect a statue in his honour, by public subscription. Thousands of individuals gave money, along with differing organisations and companies. In total more than £45,000 was raised by the Bolton Civic Trust.

His statue stands in Oxford Street and was created by Knutsford based figurative sculptor Jane Robbins. One of the four plaques at the base sums up his life as “Steeplejack and demolition expert, intuitive engineer, steam enthusiast, devotee of industrial heritage, raconteur and television celebrity, revered son of Bolton, 1938-2004”

When we viewed the statue on a busy Saturday in Bolton, we were pleased to see other passers by admiring it and photographing it too. One curious point jumped out at us: Fred’s waistcoat and jacket are buttoned on the “wrong” side, that is on the left. By convention men’s buttons are on the right, but Fred’s are clearly on his left. He is in good company here as the buttons on the Robert Peel’s statue in Bury are also on the left. The reason for this anomaly has been explained by the sculptor Jane Robbins. She had listened to Fred on one of his television programmes narrate the story of how a sculptor had killed himself after he realized that a statue he’d created had the buttons on the wrong side. (This is a well known historical myth, told about statues around the country). Jane purposely put the buttons on the left side and has been quoted as saying “… I thought it would be a sort of nod to the man- a kind of ‘in’ joke for Fred.”

Bolton Steam Engine on Oxford Street

Behind Fred’s statue stands the mighty Corliss Steam Engine. Built in Bolton in 1886 it was in use until 1969 in a silk spinning mill owned by Ford, Ayrton & Co in Bentham, North Yorkshire. It was donated to the people of Bolton by the manufacturers Hick Hargreaves & Co Ltd of Bolton. It represents a typical steam engine that would have powered so many of the mills throughout our region.

The original Corliss steam engine was invented in 1849 by George Henry Corliss of Rhode Island, America. He 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 factories no longer had to use water to turn their wheels, but could use a steam engine and so 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 is useful when dealing with being connected to machines for the spinning of delicate thread.

The Bolton engine was placed in its huge glass case by Bolton Corporation when Oxford and Newport Streets were pedestrianized in 1973. There are great views of the machine on all four sides of the case. In our youth we remember the engine’s large wheel turning on a Saturday, but have not seen it rotate in recent years. It is clearly being maintained though as an oil can rested on one side and an oily rag had been carefully stowed on the other.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018. Thanks to our Bolton correspondents Ste and Sue.

Access  The site is open access in Oxford Street, Bolton


The Bolton News 10th August 2007 and 17th April 2008

Posted in Lancashire Mills,, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Feniscowles Hall ruins, Blackburn

Feniscowles Hall Ruins, Blackburn

Feniscowles Hall stands as ruin today but was once the opulent home of the Fensicowles branch of the Feilden family. Their history in the area accounts for many of the buildings around Feniscowles, and there is still much to see on the ground today for those interested in a bit of history hunting…

Feniscowles Hall was built in 1808 by William Feilden as his family seat, on land he had bought ten years earlier from Thomas Ainsworth, lord of the manor of Pleasington. On the ground floor were the drawing, dining, music and billiard rooms as well as those for the house keeper and butler. It also had “nine principle and sundry chambers” including a Lady’s boudoir, dressing and servants’ rooms. It was decorated with a wealth of paintings both of the family and by leading artists, including a Van Dyke portrait of Charles I.

Feniscowles Hall as was (interpretation board at QEII Jubilee Site)

Outside were stables for 12 horses, a carriage house and harness room. The house itself was set within eight acres of meadow land with ornamental gardens, conservatory, vinery, melon pits, forcing houses and walled fruit trees in the kitchen garden. (For an explanation of some of these features, have a look at our post on the newly restored Worden’s Walled Garden here). A deer park was constructed in the wider grounds with herds of red and fallow deer. The main road between Blackburn and Preston cut right through the deer park, and there is still access to some of the park today (as will be discussed later). This was not the only grand house constructed by the Feildens in the Blackburn vicinity. William was the brother of Henry Feilden who built Witton House in what is now Witton Park (see our page here).

William was a  wealthy calico and cotton manufacturer. As a friend of Richard Arkwright he was also one of the  pioneers of the factory system. This saw workers living in close proximity to the mill, with shift work patterns to enable the machines to run throughout the day time and workers having specialist, repetitive jobs. He had spinning mills in Blackburn from 1818 onwards and they were  known as Feilden’s Factories on George Street West. An 1833  report on his weaving mill at the site shows that it employed 194 weavers all of whom were women and children- except for four men. The youngest employee  was an eleven and a half year old girl.

William was one of the first two MPs for Blackburn after the 1832 Reform Act which gave seats in Parliament to areas that had previously had none. (See our page on the Parbold Bottle Monument for why this was so important for the northern towns). He was a liberal MP from 1832-41 and then swapped sides to be a Conservative one from 1841-47. His philanthropic work included supporting the  Blackburn Strangers Friend Society which gave financial assistance to those in  extreme poverty. As well as his political, social and business interests he was very keen on the latest farming techniques winning prizes at agricultural shows, including best crop of mangle wurzles and turnips.

Immanuel Church Feniscowles

When he died in 1850 a memorial monument was set up for him nearby his house at Immanuel Church in Feniscowles. He had given money to have the church built and it still stands today, with his monument outside in its very small churchyard.

His eldest son William Henry Feilden succeeded him, and his second son Montague Joseph followed in his footsteps by becoming a Liberal MP. After his election in 1853 there were riots by people unhappy with the outcome, and soldiers were called to restore order. Montague was also a mill owner in Blackburn and as a progressive he supported  the Ten Hours Act which restricted the length of the working day to ten hours – which was seen as generous ! A colourful character, he got involved with smuggling brandy in Guernsey, home of his second wife Alice. After retiring from politics he had a change of mind and stood again in 1868, only to be beaten by his Conservative cousin Joseph of Witton Park.

His brother William Henry did not take part in public life, but was a Captain in 17th Lancers and then a Major in the 1st Lancashire Militia. He inherited Feniscowles Hall and estates from his father, but was not to have a happy time with the place. The River Darwen, which flows extremely close to the house had become very polluted, so much so that the smell from it was making it difficult to live there. On two occasions  he tried to rent the hall to tenants but with no success.

The River Darwen flows very close to the hall (the red pipe spans the river- click photo to enlarge)

In 1866 the River Darwen at Witton was described ‘black as ink and stinks abominably’ and that same year William Henry took legal action against Blackburn corporation over the River Blakewater to prevent sewage being dumped into it.  The Blakewater flows into the River Darwen (to the east of present day Witton Park), and clearly any pollution in it would end up flowing past Feniscowles Hall.  The legal action resulted in plans for a sewage treatment works at Wensley Fold, which would come to pass eventually. However, pollution was also added to the  Blakewater from mills, including ironically those owned by the Feilden family. These would remove water for condensing, but return it back both contaminated  and heated up. This combination of heat, industrial contamination and sewage would create anerobic conditons in the water, killing plants and animals that lived in it and creating the very bad smell.

Pleasington Lane Lodge House

In 1879 William Henry died and his son William Leyland Feilden succeeded him. The family had recently moved to Scarborough, presumably thinking the pollution problem would not be solved.  They named their new Yorkshire residence Feniscowles House, but by then had effectively cut their links with Blackburn for good.

For the next seven years the hall was rented out to a Reverend Father Quick who used it as a school to train Catholic boys for the priesthood. The new residents must have continued to suffer as in 1884 a dry spell exposed part of the river bed and the local newspaper the Blackburn Standard commented on the bad stench, connecting it to an outbreak of typhoid at the vicarage close by.

Preston Old Road Lodge House

In 1903 attempts were made to sell the hall, but no buyer was found. By 1911 the hall was described as dilapidated- an unheated building without an occupier or a use will soon start to deteriorate.

In 1921 the Feilden family sold nine acres of parkland to the parishes of Feniscowles and Pleasington for a minimal amount of money. The land was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the First World War. It was called the Feniscowles and Pleasington War Memorial Recreation Ground. A charitable trust was set up in 1963 to hold the land for the local people. In 1993 land lying adjacent to memorial ground was awarded Biological Heritage status by Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Wildlife Trust. In 2002 the trustees bought this land, some 10.4 acres being part of the original deer park estate and joined it together with the memorial land.  The whole area was renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Biological Heritage Site, with the aim to further preserve it for generations to come. It is well worth a visit.

Feilden Memorial Immanuel Church

Access and seeing the sites today- a mini tour: Park on the road called Enoch Brow just after Pleasington Golf Club. Head down the hill towards the bend in the road that leads towards church. On the bend is the first of the lodge houses, with gate posts (and a locked gate) and a  carriage way to the hall.  Cross the River Darwen at the bridge and head up Pleasington Lane towards Immanuel Church. In the small churchyard is the memorial to William Feilden. The Feilden coat of arms is over the door of the church.  (We visited on a Saturday  and the gentlemen tending the churchyard asked us if we wanted to have a look inside, which of course we did. The stained glass windows are well worth seeing and there is a small medieval stoop found on Pleasington Lane now serving as the font). At the busy junction of Pleasington Lane and Preston Old Road, turn left and go up to the old smithy (now an antiques shop). Across the road is the Feilden Arms pub (with a painted Feilden heraldic shield above the door).

Part of the Deer Park, now Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Biological Heritage Site with public access

Retrace your steps and head back down Preston Old Road, passing the Pleasington junction on your right. Note the exposed timbers on the side of Sun House. Keep on going downhill past the church hall. The main road cuts through the deer park and you can see the steep escarpment with a beech woodland on your left, and the grounds of Feniscowles Hall on your right. Through the trees you will start to spy the ruined hall, and as stated before the best time to see it is in winter when it is not obscured by leaves. The front part of the hall is the largest part  still standing, but if you compare the current view with the historical you can see that much of the side wing is now gone (see the top two photos above). Keep going until you reach the second lodge house, gate posts and carriageway. This is a more substantial building than the first and a glance over the wall will reveal what looks like lower stories and a slipway to the river.

Cross the road and head back up the hill to find the public footpath into the wooded area on your right. This is the other part of the deer park, and a modern path will take you on  a short loop up through the beech woods to an open area with excellent views of the countryide. (Good views of the hall are also afforded from the path). This is the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Biological Heritage Site.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018

Nearby, just a short drive away is another branch of the Feilden family at Witton House site, Witton Country Park


The Feildens of Witton Park (undated circa 1980-90s) R.D.S. Wilson, Borough of Blackburn, Department of Recreation, Parklands Divison

Cotton Town website specifically:

On site interpretation at Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Biological Heritage Site

Immanuel Church website




Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Historic Houses,, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Worden Park Walled Garden, Leyland

Worden Park Walled Garden

Worden Park’s Walled Garden was built in 1777 as the kitchen garden for Worden Hall. It was used to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers for the owners, the Farington family. Designed to be a show piece for visitors to the house, it is now a Grade II listed site. It contains many original Georgian and Victorian features such as the Vine and Fern Houses, a Melon Pit, extensive potting sheds and the Bothy House.

The unusual trapezoidal shape of the garden was designed to maximize the amount of sunlight reaching the plants each day. Stoves and flue pipes built into the perimeter brick work allowed some of the walls to be heated to encourage plant growth. These features meant that even exotic fruits like peaches and nectarines could be grown in our Lancashire climate.

Originally there were three potting sheds, but these have been much modified and extended over the years. An old Ordinance Survey map shows some may have been changed in Victorian times to have a glass roof and wall stove for a heated wall, suggesting they had been converted for growing plants. The original old sink for washing  plant pots is still present and the availability to  use hot water would have made this a much easier job.

The Vine House is south facing and had a tall, lean-to design to get the most  sunlight possible. Vines thrive best with their branches hot while their  roots are cool, and the spaces for the root-stock can still be seen in the brick work today. The oldest vine in the house is a Black Hamburg which is around 100 years old. It is thought to be a descendent from the original one at Hampton Court Palace.  There is a Hot House extension connected to the Vine House. The heat from the pipes in this  would be very dry, so to increase humidity there were open heated water tanks and water could also be thrown onto the hot pipes to produce steam. Currently the  Vine and Hot Houses are missing their windows and roof and  await further funds to be repaired in the future.

The Melon Pit with the Fern House in the background

The Victorian Melon Pit is a long low glazed structure again designed to maximize the amount of light and heat the plants needed. It  has a single sloped roof on a west to east axis. The glass and surrounding frame can be removed to allow access to the plants. Part of the structure is underground and steps lead down at the back of it to a narrow passage that runs along underneath. The external part of the Melon Pit has been restored but the inner part awaits further funds before melons can be grown here again.

The Fern House is a long greenhouse. There was a Victorian craze for ferns  but  while ferns grew well in dark Victorian drawing rooms they were sensitive to pollution, so couldn’t be easily grown outside as they might be now. Today this greenhouse is still used to grow plants for the garden and to sell to the public.

The Bothy at Worden Park

Connected to the outside of the walled garden is a small red brick house called  The Bothy. This provided accommodation for the apprentice and journeymen gardeners. Although there is only a single room  both downstairs and upstairs there would have been several people living there at any one time. Being onsite enabled the gardeners to tend to the boiler to keep it going during the night, to ensure the hot houses remained warm. The building was restored in 2013 and  is now open to the public so you can get a sense of what it was like for those living here. Original features such as the fire place, wooden ceiling beams and internal walls made from lath, hair and lime can be viewed.

Winter 2013

When the grounds of the Worden Estate were bought by the local council in the 1950s and opened up to the local people, the gates to the walled garden remained firmly closed. At first the council used the garden to grow display plants for the locality, but over time this use fell away and the garden became dilipidated. In 2006 the Brothers of Charity Service became involved with the South Ribble Partnership and began to restore the site. In 2012 they secured a grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust to begin repair of the buildings and full restoration of the garden. It has come a long way since then, as the picture on the left shows. Now it is open to all the public for free and is run as part of the Brothers of Charity Service Social Enterprises. To learn more about what they do see their website here.

Summer 2017 – Still more to be done- the Vine House (top right) is in need of full repair

As well as the repairs to the above mentioned buildings, a huge amount of planting has taken place. Four flower beds have been filled with the plants that were popular at different historical times. There is a pre 1700 bed, a 1700-1800, 1800-1900 and a post 1900 one. This was done with the collaboration of Myerscough College and the interpretative boards by the beds offer  a guide to the plant species.  The garden also features a 150 year old mulberry tree that still produces fruit. Apple trees of local Lancashire varieties have been planted against the perimeter walls-  for example Lord Suffield is a cooking apple raised by Thomas Thorpe, a  Victorian Middleton weaver. There are interesting plants to buy too and if no staff are on site, just use the honesty box.

In Lancashire there has been a real revival in the fortunes of our walled gardens. Recently work has been done at Astley Hall near Chorley and Cuerden Hall near Bamber Bridge to revive their walled gardens. These will be the subjects of future posts on

If you would like to know more about the history of Worden Hall and the Farington family, then see our post here.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2013 and 2017


Worden Park Walled Garden is free to visit and open every day of the week. See the website to check for times here. Parking at Worden Park is free- see the council website for it here.

Nearby, just a short walk away Worden Hall, and  Icehouse and folly arch.

A little further away, but within walking distance are Leyland’s Tudor Grammar School and  Leyland Cross and Town Well


On site interpretation: Most of the historical information for this post is taken from the on site interpretation boards provided by Brothers of Charity.




Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The hall at Lostock, St Catherine’s Park, Lostock Hall near Leyland

St Catherine’s – the hall at Lostock Hall

Residents and visitors to the area of Lostock Hall  may wonder where the hall that the township is named after is located. The original building stood on the site of the present day St Catherine’s Hospice, and the area has been recently opened up for those interested in history, nature or just in search of a good cup of tea. The medieval hall is long gone, but  a later substantial one still stands in newly created St Catherine’s Park.

The River Lostock still flows close by the hall today, and the earliest recorded family from the area were called ‘de Lostock’, taking their name from the river. The Edwardian publication  A History of the County of Lancaster tells us that a  James de Lostock is recorded as living here between 1332-1350. The area the hall stands on was once part of Cuerden Green and James’s daughter Margery  renamed this part as “Lostock Hall” during her tenure. (Part of Cuerden Green still exists- it is the area surrounding the end of the M65 motorway at Junction 1a. ). Margery married into the Banastre  family, who continued to live in the hall during the 1400s. Interestingly there is a building just off Nook Road by Junction 1a marked on the modern A-Z map as  ‘Banastres at Bank’. The Banastres were a wealthy Lancashire family. There were branches of them at nearby Cuerden Hall, Walton le Dale and Park Hill in Barrowford (now the excellent Pendle Heritage Centre). The Bannistre’s manorial seat was at Bank Hall at Bretherton (see our site visit here).  They continued to live at Lostock Hall until the mid 1500s after which the building was sold on.

There’s a gap in the historical record for a hundred years or so, but in 1662 Andrew Dandie (or Dandy) was recorded as  paying rent for lands there to the Lord of Clitheroe. A William Dandy paid tax on three hearths in 1676. This was a form of taxation for large householders, the more fireplaces you had the more tax you paid. Dandy Brook Park was the name of the area that borders onto the River Lostock, east and west of Todd Lane South (and has now been incorporated into St Catherine’s Park).

St Catherine’s Gate in the old kitchen garden wall

Sometime before the mid 1700s there was a fire that seriously damaged the hall. Some of the brickwork that was not affected by the blaze was used in the rebuild in 1764 by William Clayton, a Preston banker.  The Clayton family continued to  live at the hall until 1840 after which the house was occupied by a series of different families from the cotton manufacturing business.

The last owner was Harry Dewhurst who bought it in 1880. He was part of  the Dewhurst Cotton Company which developed the famous Sylko cotton thread. When he left in 1918 he donated the hall and the grounds of six and a half acres to Preston Royal Infirmary to be used as a ‘Continuation Hospital’. Following conversion the building opened four years later to admit convalescing women and children and remained  a hospital for 60 years.

In 1981 the hospital closed and St Catherine’s hospice bought the building and grounds from the NHS. In 1985 on the 29th April, the feast of St Catherine, it opened for its first day care patients and a few months later for inpatients. Over the next two decades it extended its services and patient capacity and has become a much respected institution within the South Ribble area.

The Mill at St Catherine’s Park

Most recently the hospice has created a public café and community hub building, called The Mill. It is a converted 1800s barn on the site that was once part of Lostock Fold Farm. The name ‘The Mill’ comes from the fact that the farm was built on the site of  a cotton mill and the barn could have been made of stone from that mill. Before its recent conversion  the ground floor of the barn was a shippon for 20 cows, along with a bull pen and threshing floor. The floor above held the hayloft. The Mill café is run as a social enterprise to help fund end of life care for the hospice patients and is well worth a visit.

South Ribble War Memorial

In 2015 St Catherine’s Park opened up access for the public into the gardens of St Catherine’s and the newly created Wetlands area. Visitors can pass through St Catherine’s Gate in the hall’s walled garden into the former Dandy Brook Park and walk by the side of the River Lostock. The path leads down to the First World War replica Inglis Bridge (see the page about this on our Lancashire at War website by clicking here). It continues down to the new South Ribble War Memorial and Peace Garden. The hospice, South Ribble Borough Council and the Rotary Clubs of Longridge, North Preston and Preston South are to be applauded in their creation of this green and historical space. To visit St Catherine’s Hospice website click here. To view the Mill’s website click here. For more about the war memorial click here.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017


There is parking for the Mill Café at St Catherine’s. There is also free parking for the Inglis Bridge, Memorial and Peace Garden at the new car park on Todd Lane South. You can park in either of the car parks and follow the sign posts to see all the historical and nature sites of the newly created St Catherine’s Park.


St Cathernine’s Park: A Trip Down Memory Lane (2017) published by St Catherine’s Hospice Care and The Mill (free booklet available from The Mill)

Townships: Walton-le-Dale in A History of the County of Lancaster Volume 6 edited by William Farrer and J Brownbill (London 1911) accessed from British History online

St Catherine’s Park : Central Parks leaflet by South Ribble and St Catherine’s Hospice (available from The Mill)

A Bannister Family History (2006) Heritage Trust for the North West

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Brindleheath and Old Jewish Cemeteries, Pendleton, Salford

Brindleheath Cemetery in Pendleton

Just off the busy four lane highway of the A6 in Salford lies the small Brindleheath cemetery. It was here that the chapel of St Thomas once stood. It’s gone now, but on the site many of the gravestones of the cemetery remain, not in their original position but laid out in a rectangle. Alongside lies the oldest Jewish Cemetery in the Greater Manchester area.


The chapel of St Thomas was  built in 1773 and lasted until 1829, when its congregation had out grown the building and moved to a new larger one. This new church was also dedicated to St Thomas and still stands on Broad Street in Pendleton today. The old chapel became dilapidated, but was pressed into service as an isolation hospital when the cholera epidemic of 1849 broke out. Two years later it was demolished but the old cemetery space still remains with many of the gravestones having been relaid.

Pendleton Jewish Cemetery

A small Jewish cemetery existed alongside this Christian one. Founded in 1794 it measured just 12 by 15 yards. Before this plot was established burial would have occurred in Liverpool. The land was leased from a silk dyer called Samuel Brierley at the cost of 43 pounds, 8 shillings and 9 pence, plus an additional annual peppercorn rent. It stayed in use as the only Jewish cemetery of the Manchester ‘Old’ Hebrew Congregation until its closure in 1840. Two new ones were then opened up, on Queens Road in Miles Platting and on Bury New Road in Prestwich.

The Pendleton cemetery had 29 Jewish burials and records of most of these have survived- although they are very brief.  Click the photo opposite to read them from the on site interpretation board. Today, five of the surviving gravestones are arranged radiating out from a central pentagon shape (again not in their original position). There is also a six pointed star of David patterned into the pavement just next to the plot.

Such green spaces as this one are a small oasis for wildlife in the city landscape. The following wildflowers have been recorded as growing at the site of these two cemeteries: wild iris, birds foot trefoil, tufted vetch and  self heal. Animals visiting it have included bats, hedgehogs and woodpeckers.

Our thanks to Jim, our Salford history correspondent on bringing this site to our attention.

Site visited by A. and J. Bowden 2017

Access The site is open access. Park on Brindle Heath Road.


On site interpretation boards, provided by Salford City Council


Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , , ,

Sandy Holme Aqueduct, Thompson Park, Burnley

Sandy Holme Aqueduct footpath arch

Two large horseshoe arches carry the Sandy Holme aqueduct over the River Brun as it flows into Thompson Park. Designed by engineer Robert Whitworth, it was constructed to carry the Leeds & Liverpool Canal over the river between 1790-6, long before the park was thought of. It takes its name from Sandy Holme farm, through whose land it passed. The blocks around the arches are made to look old or ‘rusticated’, with rough faces and holes punched into them. It’s an impressive piece of construction, but on passing under the footpath arch the visitor can see a whole range of intriguing designs, carved onto the blocks.  These are mason marks- each mason being paid for the number of stone blocks they produced. They would put their own design on every stone they shaped. There are stars, zigzags, arrows, hourglasses, ones that look like eyes…we have never seen so many in one place. There are reports that nearby Gannow tunnel also has them, and that will be the subject of a future blog post. The aqueduct is Grade II listed and sits at the north-east end of the park.

Leeds & Liverpool canal carried by Sandy Holme Aqueduct

The idea for a park in the area came from James Witham Thompson. He is said to have spied the spot from an open top tram and thought it would be a good place for a public park. On his death in 1920 he left £50,000 to the council to construct one. Formerly unemployed labourers did much of the work. They began in 1928 and two years later  the land had been converted from Sand Holme farm fields, allotments and a plantation into the brand new Thompson Park.

Mason mark on the ceiling of the tunnel

The River Brun runs through the park, passing under the aqueduct. Some of its water was diverted to make the boating lake, which is over three acres big. Boat hire was a popular pastime and has been revived in recent years. Many original features of the Edwardian park are still present and in good condition: The sunken Italian Garden, rose garden, the two art deco style buildings of the  pavilion and boathouse, children’s paddling pool and two ornamental bridges. In 1998 Burnley and Pendle Minature Railway Society first began their train trips here, and are going strong two decades later. See their website here.  A year later tree planting was carried out as part of  the Forest of Burnley project, where over a million trees have been planted within the Burnley area.

To visit the aqueduct and park: Park at Queen Victoria Road car park (free parking). Head down the slope towards the River Brun. On reaching the river, turn left and follow the path towards the Aqueduct. When you go under the arch that goes over the path, look up to see the many mason marks. To get a view of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, take the steps up to the top of the aqueduct. Return down the steps and carry on the riverside path and this will lead you in to Thompson Park by the boating lake.

For more on the Grade II listed park click here and for more on the Forest of Burnley click here

Site visited by A. and R. Bowden 2017


Park at Queen Victoria Road car park and follow the directions above

Nearby, just a short drive away Godley Lane Cross and Shorey Well




Posted in Canal Buildings, | Tagged , , | 1 Comment