Liverpool Castle Replica, Rivington near Horwich

Lord Leverhulme commissioned a replica of Liverpool Castle to be built on his Rivington estate of Lever Park, near Horwich. He had read a work about the original castle by E.W. Cox written in 1892. The description of the Liverpool castle site struck him as being similar to the promontory of Coblowe within his estate. Coblowe is a rocky area that overlooks the Lower Rivington Reservoir. He concluded that this would be an ideal place to resurrect the lost Liverpool stronghold.

DSCN9128 (2)

Liverpool Castle Replica, Rivington near Horwich

Work began in 1912 using  locally quarried gritstone. The construction proceeded very slowly with only a few stone masons and labourers being employed on the project. It was never completed as work stopped after Leverhulme’s death in 1925.

However, the replica castle was always meant to look like a ruin, being based not on what Liverpool Castle looked like at the height of its defensive power, but in its damaged state after the Civil War. Now as plants colonise its walls we are left with a ruin that reproduces faithfully many of the buildings and features of the original.

Liverpool google

Liverpool Castle Replica, from a satellite photo on Google Maps. Courtesy of Google.

Nothing remains of the original Liverpool Castle, although you can still visit the site of the structure. Today the Queen Victoria Monument stands in Derby Square, Liverpool and a plaque marks the fact that the castle used to be located there. See our full page on the castle and its history here.

CastlePlan (6)_LI

Layout of the original Liverpool Castle, orientated to be the same way up as the satellite photograph above. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia. (LancashirePast has added the key based on the original). Key: G- Barbican; F- Gatehouse; E- Square tower; N- North West or Great Tower; T- Kitchen; R- porch; Q- Great Hall; P- South West Tower;  O- Chapel;               J- South East or New Tower

A visit to the replica castle at Rivington gives you a good sense of how it would have appeared. Although various sources claim this is a scale model, we have been unable to find out which scale has been used, and how much larger the rooms in real castle would have been.

Guide to the Replica Castle

Note: The interior of the buildings can be muddy and large puddles form after heavy rain, so wear your boots !

Enter through the Barbican area (G) that would have sat just in front of the Gatehouse (F). If you turn left you can go into one of the Square Towers (E) of the Gatehouse and see a large fireplace. In the actual castle the Gatehouse was one of the most intact parts in its later days, and tenants lodged within and had to be evicted before final demolition could take place.

DSCN9133 (2)

The Gatehouse, from inside the castle

For the rest of the tour, keep right as we head around the rooms off the Bailey courtyard in an anticlockwise direction.

Head right to the North West or Great Tower (N).  Note the steps that have been taken off the inner wall- probably for safety reasons to stop people climbing up to the next level. Once inside the Great Tower you can look up to see replica slit windows and a fireplace on the first floor.

DSCN9086 (2)

North West or Great Tower

Go back to the central courtyard and now enter the kitchens area (T)- in the real Liverpool Castle this probably had a bakehouse and brewhouse attached.

Once again go back to the courtyard and go through the couple of arches that enter and exit the porch leading to the Great Hall. In the real castle a chaplain’s room existed above the porch.


The Great Hall

Standing in the Great Hall you can see lines of recessed arched windows. There would have also been private apartments above the hall in the real castle- this hall area forming the main part of the ‘Keep’. When you leave the hall look out for the narrow passage way that runs into the South West tower.

The next easily identifiable room is the chapel, with its curved semi-circular wall. Leave the chapel and follow the curtain wall to the very low remains of the South East or New Tower. This gives views out towards the reservoir.

It’s well worth looking at the outside of the castle walls and towers. Leave through the Gatehouse and do a complete circuit and you’ll see just how large and impressive the Great Tower and the Keep Tower are. The ivy covered parts really give the place the look of a picturesque ruin from the outside, which is presumably the landscape feature the Leverhulme was trying to achieve.


The ivy covered South West Tower

A Good Site is Always a Good Site

Coblowe as a rocky outcrop had caught Leverhulme’s eye. We strongly suspect that this was once a Bronze Age burial mound, overlooking the valley below. The word ‘Lowe’ often means burial mound- many of the Lowe names in the Peak District have provided the archaeology to prove this when they are dug. Unfortunately in Lancashire, the high demands of agriculture to feed the population of the first industrial county in the world means that most of ours have been destroyed.

The valley has been flooded to form the lower Resevoir, which would have had a river flowing through it in the past. A common feature of the Bronze Age is to have a burial mound on a high point, overlooking a natural boundary such as a river. Interestingly Coblowe looks  out onto another Lowe site on the opposite bank- this is Roscoe Lowe. Travelling north on the M61 this appears on your right. The rising ground coupled with the name hints that this too was a Bronze Age burial mound. Nothing probably remains of it now, as it  seems to have an access point to an underground reservoir on top of it.

If you want to know more about the history of the real Liverpool Castle, do have a look at our page on it here.

For more on Rivington and its role during World War 2, have a look at this page on our Lancashire at War website here

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018


There are two possible parking spots to see the castle, and both car parks are free.

Park at Rivington Reservoir Car Park, just off Rivington Lane. Head in a North Westerly direction on the path to reach a tree lined avenue that takes you to the castle.

Alternatively, for a longer walk park at the Great House Barn, go into the woods past Go Ape and head for the lower reservoir. Keep the reservoir on your right and the path will lead you to the castle.


Leverhulme’s Rivington, M.D. Smith (1998) Wyre Publishing

The Changing Face of Liverpool 1207-1727 : Archaeological Survey of Merseyside.  Edited by Susan Nicholson (1981) University of Liverpool, Merseyside County Council/Merseyside County Museum

Liverpool a Landscape History, Martin Greave (2013) The History Press

The History of Rivington : The Castle, West Pennine Moors Area Management Committee, undated leaflet available from Rivington Great House Information Centre


Posted in Castles & Fortified Towers, Medieval Lancashire | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Liverpool’s Lost Castle

The site of Liverpool Castle is clearly marked by a plaque on the Queen Victoria Monument in present day Derby Square. There are no standing remains of this medieval fortress. However, it had a rich and interesting history and if you are prepared to travel away from Liverpool, there is a way you can still see what the castle looked like- but more on this later…


Derby Square – the site of Liverpool Castle

King John wanted a port town that he could use as an alternative to Chester. Chester was held by a wealthy Earl who kept most of the revenue it generated. John had the idea that he could set up an alternative trading city and port both of which would generate taxes that he could collect. More importantly to him, he could build a staging post to be used to launch attacks on Ireland. The Mersey had an inlet called ‘the Pool’ which would be a safe harbor for trading and war vessels. In 1207 he issued a charter creating the borough of Liverpool and the trading town was born.

Above the Pool was a rocky promontory which was an ideal foundation for a castle. This was built not by the king, but by William de Ferreres in 1235. Set out as a square it had large circular towers at three of its corners. On the fourth corner was an imposing gatehouse. A strong surrounding wall connected the towers, protecting the buildings inside the castle. Within the walls were a hall, chapel, brewhouse, bakehouse and covered well. A causeway from the gatehouse ran over the moat and into Castle Street.


Museum of Liverpool Life has a small model of the Castle. This view shows the fortified gatehouse and three round towers on each of the remaining corners. On the right hand side is the hall (just behind the round tower).

The wealthy Molyneux family became the owners of the castle and would hold it for many years, along with the title of ‘Hereditary Constable’. The powerful Stanley family lived in a fortified house close by on Water Street called The Tower.  The two families would exert an enormous control over the lives of the inhabitants of Liverpool.

The castle did not have a standing army, but it could hold a garrison if the need arose. In 1323 the castle’s financial accounts stated that it could hold a garrison with  ‘186 pallet beds, 107 spears, 39 lances, 15 catapults and other engines of war’. Just four years later the Constable of the castle was ordered not to receive an army, but refugees fleeing from the Scottish and Irish wars.

Just over two hundred years later a Royal Commission stated that Liverpool Castle was in a poor state. The three round towers and gatehouse did not have full roofs left and the walls needed repairing. When the work was completed the West Derby Wapentake Court was to be held there, and its records stored on site. This was all duly done.

Civil War

During the Civil War, Liverpool was a divided town. Most of its  citizens were Protestant and sided with Parliament, while the Catholic Molyneux and Stanley families sided with the King Charles I. The Stanley’s Lord Strange seized and held the town magazine ammunition store for the Royalists and a Royalist garrison was placed in the town.

The next year Liverpool was captured by Parliamentarians. They set up huge mud wall barricades, strengthened the town gates and put cannons around the castle and on ships in the harbour. All this did not prevent the king’s nephew Prince Rupert from attacking and wining the town back for the crown. He then had elaborate plans to  drawn up by the defence architect Bernard de Gomme to upgrade the defences of the castle. These designs were never realized and the next year Parliamentary forces once again captured the town.

Conflict between the Aldermen and the Landed Gentry

Because Liverpool was set up as a trading town, there was always a tension between the established rich families of the Molyneuxs and Stanleys and the town’s aldermen (representing merchants and traders) over rights, taxes and governance. The Molyneux’s castle and the Stanley’s tower were seen as their very visible power bases.

in 1632 the First Viscount Molyneux, Earl of Sefton, bought rights from the king to enable him to act as Lord of the Manor for Liverpool. This aristocratic grab allowed him to have rights over the common, waste (rough grazing ground), river and tolls. This increase in his power made the aldermen of the town’s corporation very unhappy.  In 1668 Caryll Molyneux wanted to lay out a new road and bridge across the Pool from his orchard next to the castle, but was opposed by the merchants and aldermen. After some delay he did get this built, but in doing so was forced to sell his rights for the next thousand year for thirty pounds.

DSCN3024 (3)

By 1700 the aldermen of the corporation had purchased the annual lease on the castle and within twenty years had managed to get the full rights to the site, including the right to demolish it. The castle was now in ruins, its moat had been filled in and a new market was set up within its vicinity. However, Lord Molyneux contested the corporation’s rights, claiming his own as Hereditary Constable of the castle. This led to years of wrangling in the courts, which he eventually lost. In 1726 the last of the remains were pulled down so that a new church dedicated to St George could be built. From the time of its completion a few years later, the town’s aldermen would parade every Sunday from the town hall, down Castle Street to the church. They had vanquished the Molyneux’s powerbase for ever.

A similar fate awaited the Stanley’s tower. The corporation first managed to get the lease on it in 1739. It functioned as the town’s gaol with the some of the upper rooms used for meetings and entertainments (there are echoes of this strange duel function in the later Victorian St George’s Hall, see our page on this amazing building here). The tower finally closed in 1811 when a new gaol opened, and was demolished eight years later when Water Street was being widened.

It’s a pity that nothing now remains of Liverpool Castle. However, there is still a way to get a sense of what it would have looked like in its later ruined days. Lord Leverhulme built a Liverpool Castle Replica on his estate at Rivington, and it can still be visited today, for free. We’ve written a page on it here.

Site visited by A. and R. Bowden 2018


The site of the castle is marked on the Queen Victoria Monument in Derby Square.

To see artefacts from the castle visit the Museum of Liverpool Life at Albert Dock

A link to our page on Lord Leverhulme’s Replica Castle will be placed here shortly

Nearby, just a short walk away St George’s Hall

If you’re interested in another stronghold of a much later date, have a look at our page on Lancashire at War on the underground control centre Western Approaches here


The Changing Face of Liverpool 1207-1727 : Archaeological Survey of Merseyside.  Edited by Susan Nicholson (1981) University of Liverpool, Merseyside County Council/Merseyside County Museum

Liverpool a Landscape History, Martin Greave (2013) The History Press

The History of Rivington : The Castle, West Pennine Moors Area Management Committee, undated leaflet available from Rivington Great House Information Centre




Posted in Castles & Fortified Towers, Medieval Lancashire, Stuart Lancashire, Tudor Lancashire | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Formby Lifeboat Station – A World First

The lifeboat station at Formby was the first in the world. Built in the early  1770s the boat house and life boat were there to save lives on the often treacherous Formby coast. Visitors today can still see the foundations and parts of the slipway on the beach.


Formby Lifeboat Station – A World First

The idea for the lifeboat station was the brainchild of  William Hutchinson, a Liverpool Dock Master. He led an interesting life – formerly a privateer (pirate), he went on to invent the parabolic mirror for lighthouses and author a book called the Treatise on Practical Seamanship. He knew the Formby coast could be a deadly place for shipwreck with its shifting sandbanks, constantly changing water channels and often fierce gales.

The boat house was a large shed in which to shelter the lifeboat and stood about 100 yards inland above the high tide line, to protect it from the sea. This meant that the lifeboat had to be dragged down the beach to be launched.

Richard Scarisbrick of Formby, a sailor, was appointed to take care of the boat and boathouse. He was paid two guineas a year salary, with an extra guinea for each life saved by the boat- this presumably shared amongst the rescue crew. The early boat was a Mersey Gig. This had two or three masts, with a crew of three or four men and could be both rowed and sailed.

The lifeboat was sited on the Reverend Richard Formby’s land, the local lord of the manor. In 1798 he was given the Freedom of the Borough and Town of Liverpool in recognition of ‘his unwearied and compassionate attention in a variety  of instances to the unfortunate who have suffered shipwreck on the coast near Formby, both with regard their person and property’.


Part of the slipway

To further aid ships in the area, a 120 foot landmark tower at the mouth of the River Alt was converted into a lighthouse in 1834. The tower, known as Nicholas Blundell’s Diurnal,  was originally put there in 1719 to act as a landmark to navigate by, but the addition of a light to it would obviously increase its usefulness in bad weather and at night. Joseph Walker became its first lighthouse keeper and was also made responsible for the supervision of the lifeboat.

Just two years later Walker and his lifeboat crew were all killed as they attempted to save the schooner Bryades. The Liverpool Dock Company paid two shillings a week pension to their widows, one of whom continued to draw it for the next 42 years.

In the 1860s alone the crew were called out 32 times, and on one night in 1863 they ventured out six times into the sea. It’s estimated that since its inception hundreds, if not thousands of lives were saved. Generations of families could be involved. The Aindow family had at various times the grandfather, father and son all manning positions on the vessel.

In 1894 the RNLI took over the station and it continued in use until 1918. There’s footage of the the last lifeboat to be launched (as well information about other Formby archaeological sites) on the Channel 4’s Britain at Low Tide programme here, and some still images from that same footage here. The building continued in use as a café, finally closing in 1935.


The later days when it had been converted into a café

The station was finally demolished in 1970. In recent years there have been a number of surveys revealing that the visible remains of the red sandstone blocks were the foundations of the walls. These blocks are still held together by metal clamps. Part of the slipway, made of hand fired bricks, is also on view. Much more of the structure still lies under the beach and below the encroaching dunes.

Excavation and a magnetic resonance survey has revealed that the boathouse would have been about 32 feet long. The boat would have rested on a wagon and been drawn out by a team of six to eight horses, along the brick slipway and into the sea. Today the area is popular with day trippers, sitting on the sand and playing on the beach. The days when it was such dangerous coast seem very far away.  If you visit the remains, perhaps take a moment and think about all those who were saved, and those that risked and gave their lives in the act of saving.

Site visited by A. and R. Bowden 2018


Park at Lifeboat Road National Trust car park, Formby. There is a charge of 4.50.

Head into the dunes via the path to the beach. The foundations and slipways are just as you emerge from the dunes. The sand is still shifting, covering and uncovering the archaeological remains.

Nearby, just a drive away is the  Roundabout Sculpture for Southport’s Early Transatlantic Flights


Liverpool History Society Newsletter No.20, Winter 2007-08

Geophysical Survey of Formby Lightboat House for BIG Heritage C.I.C. on behalf of Sefton Coastal Landscape Partnership September 2015





Posted in Georgian Lancashire | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Early Transatlantic Flights,via Southport

Many people must have driven around the Shore Road roundabout near Ainsdale and wondered why there is a sculpture of an airplane flying away from the New York skyline. Perhaps they dismiss it as some random, innocuous piece of public art. However, it is far more important than that. It actually commemorates two double transatlantic flights in the early days of aviation undertaken by the pilot Dick Merrill, via Southport.


Dick Merrill’s Transatlantic Flights, from Southport

The Lady Peace ‘Ping Pong’ Flight

In 1936, Dick Merrill was looking to do a double transatlantic flight. The object was to fly from New York to England and then back again. He teamed up with a famous broadway entertainer called Harry Richman. Richman not only owned a plane capable of doing this feat, but was prepared to finance the journey to the tune of $360,000, a huge sum in those days. His aircraft was a specially modified monoplane Vultee V-1A, which he named the Lady Peace. However, part of its modifications involved the installation of 41,000 table tennis balls in the wings and tail which supposedly would help with buoyancy if the plane landed in water. This led the press to dub it the ‘Ping Pong Flight’.

After making it successfully from New York to Wales, the plane then flew on to London. But the return trip was to prove a problem – they needed a really long runway in order to take off, as they would be carrying a lot of fuel. The largest runway in the country at the time was at Liverpool’s Speke airport, but this was deemed too short.  The solution lay relatively nearby though; the stretch of beach from Ainsdale to Birkdale was deemed ideal. At 3am on the 14th September 1936, on a makeshift runway lit by flares, the plane ran along nearly a mile of beach before successfully taking off. Bad winds and an accidental loss of fuel on the way over the Atlantic meant that they were forced to land 100 miles north of St John, Newfoundland. A week later they finished their trip and arrived in  New York.

The Coronation Flight

Just eight months later, Dick Merrill was hired to do the same double Atlantic trip again. The abdication of Edward VIII meant there would be a coronation of a new king, George VI, on May 10th 1937. The American press baron, William Randolph Hearst, wanted pictures in his papers before his competitors got them, and this led two Wall Street brokers, knowing of Merrill’s previous flight, to engage him to deliver the goods.


Merrill had to find a suitable plane and spoke with Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator. She suggested a modified twin engine Lockheed Electra, and taking her advice the Wall Street brokers paid $40,000 for one. The modifications cost another $6000 and this included six large tanks in the fuselage to carry 1,270 gallons of fuel. This would give the plane a range of 4,300 miles, more than enough if all went well.

Merrill left New York on 9th May. This time his co pilot was Jack Lambie and they set a new world record for the crossing, landing in London after just 20 hours and 59 minutes. The trip back on 13th May was once again from Southport. After a 5.30am breakfast of kippers and haddock at the Prince of Wales hotel, hosted by the mayor of Southport, they were ready to take off. As well as the photographs of the royal ceremony, it had been planned that they would take newsreel film, but this did not arrive in time. Ten thousand people turned out to watch the plane take off as it rolled down the Ainsdale and Birkdale beach in the direction of Southport pier.

Their non-stop flight of 24 hours and 23 minutes ended with them landing at Quincy, Massachusetts. They then flew on to New York to deliver the photographs of the coronation and Hearst’s newspapers were the first to print them, all as planned.

The sculptured plane at the Ainsdale roundabout represents the one used in the second of the two flights, but the information board gives details of both historic crossings. See the access section below for more details.

Site visited by A. Bowden 2018


The monument can be viewed at the Ainsdale roundabout where Coastal Road meets Shore Road. To read the interpretation board, park on Chatsworth Road and walk down (as there’s quite a lot of double yellow lines around the roundabout and the roads to and from it). There are historic pictures of the pilots and planes on the board, as well as a summary of both journeys. For more information on these remarkable flights, have a look at the websites listed below.

Nearby, just a drive away are the remains of Formby Lifeboat Station – A World First


On site interpretation boards at the Ainsdale Shore Road roundabout

Posted in Monuments | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Broughton Tower, Broughton near Preston

Broughton Tower itself no longer stands, but surprisingly much of its moat remains at the site of this once fortified place. We’ll say a little more about how to see it (and it is quite extensive), but first a little history…


Broughton Tower site and moat

The tower was built as part of a fortified manor house by the Singleton family. No pictures or plans of it remain, but it was probably a Pele tower. Two of the best known examples of these in Lancashire are the huge ruin of Radcliffe Tower (see our page here) and the very well preserved Turton Tower (see our page here). It was described as a ‘strong, heavy structure of stone, capable of being fortified with its surrounding moat’. Such buildings afforded protection from local feuds and from Scottish invaders.

Armed disputes with neighbours were not uncommon in Lancashire in the Medieval and Tudor periods. Theobald Walter seized Broughton manor from Richard Singleton and it was only restored to his grandson William Singleton decades later after three separate inquisitions ruled that it had been illegally and forcibly taken.

We don’t know the exact date the tower was built, but it’s thought that by the time Gilbert de Singelton held the manor, he had built some kind of structure on the site by 1325. The first definite recording of the moat is in 1516, which means the tower must have come into existence sometime between these two dates. To have such a high status building indicates the wealth of the Singleton family. In 1501, at the time of Robert Singleton’s death he was holding lands in Broughton, Sharoe, Durton and Fernyhalgh.


Broughton Cottage sits on the site of the tower. The moat can be seen in the foreground

In 1515, the tower was lived in by Arthur Standish, who was renting it from the Singletons. It seems that he decided that he had a claim on the property and had sent his men to destroy hedges on the Singleton family’s land. John Singleton of nearby Chingle Hall led a group of armed men to the tower and took it by force. They broke into surrounding buildings and removed corn and cattle from them.  Then they set about setting up defences: trees were felled to form protective barriers and in the chapel they placed “gownnys, crossbowys and other artillery of wer ” (guns, crossbows and other artillery of war). When the sheriff came to the scene to declare the occupation illegal they “caused a bagpipe to play and in great deryson daunced“. Both sides were bound over to keep the peace and the dispute was not resolved until the following year.

The Langton family take possession

As a Catholic family the Singletons had to pay fines for recusancy, that is the refusal to worship at a Protestant Church. The constant charges may have led the Singletons to finally have to sell the property in 1615 to the Langton family. The Langton family would remain there for over a hundred years.

The Langtons and Singletons had been allied together against the Hoghton family just a few years before the hand over of the property. Thomas Langton had the widow Thomazine Singleton under his protection and she complained to him that the Hoghton family had stolen her cattle and impounded them at one of their properties, Lea Hall. Thomas Langton took 80 men to recapture the cattle, but the Hoghtons were armed and waiting. In the ensuing battle Thomas Hoghton was killed.  Langton was arrested as he lay recuperating from his wounds in his bed at Broughton Tower and taken to Lancaster Castle. Rather than face trial, he settled out of court by giving Walton manor (at Walton le Dale) to the Hoghton family in payment for the death.


Here the moat takes a right angle turn

In 1632, Edward Bamber, an Englishman who had trained as a priest in Spain, returned to England under the assumed name of Reading. He was acting as chaplain at Standish Hall and was also giving mass clandestinely elsewhere in the area. Saying of mass was outlawed at the time and he was arrested and sent for trial at Lancaster Castle. On the way his captors lodged at Church Inn or as we now know it Church Cottage in Broughton (see our page on it here). He was locked upstairs, wearing just his night shirt, while his captors got drunk below. He made his escape and was found wandering by one of the Singleton family and taken to safety at Broughton Tower. However, Edward Bamber was recaptured and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for three years. He was executed there with two other Catholic priests, Thomas Whitaker and John Woodcock. In 1987 they were all beatified as martyrs by Pope John Paul II.

Battle of Preston

In the last battle of the Civil War, the 1648 Battle of Preston, Broughton Tower became part of the action. Just 350 metres north east of the site is a mound that acted as a dam for the moat system. It is now called Cromwell’s Mound and is thought to have been used as a convenient earthwork for artillery and as a viewing platform to survey the upcoming battle field. Tradition has it that Broughton Tower was stormed by Cromwell’s New Model Army and the Historic England website notes that many musket balls have been found between the tower and the mound. (We will do a future blog post on Cromwell’s Mound).


The author standing in the moat

In 1732, William Langton bequeathed Broughton Tower to his sister Jane. At the age of 70 she married into the Rawstorne family of Penwortham, bringing the property to their family for the next seventy years. In 1800, the tower was demolished and ten years later the land was split between James Rothwell of Hoole and the trustees of Kirkham Grammar School.

Today, Broughton Cottage (a rather large one) sits on the site of the tower and 100 yards to the north of it is Broughton Tower Farmhouse. In the early 1900s, there were reports that the farmhouse garden had carved stones from the tower, bearing the Langton Arms shield (a pattern of three distinctive chevrons which can still be seen on display at Broughton Parish Church).

In the 1930s, some of the moat was filled in when water works were carried out. A Mr. Rogerson of Broughton Tower Farm reported seeing large foundation stones and oak posts during the excavation work. As late as 1977, the farmer was still paying £20 in tithes to Broughton church.

broughton tower moat

Broughton Tower moat aerial view courtesy of Google Earth and Google Maps

When visiting the site today, you will see that the moat extends either side of Tower Lane. Although the moat does not have water in it, it is still sizeable and must still get wet at certain times of year as it features plants that grow in damp conditions. The nearby brook that once fed the moat still flows nearby. You can walk freely around the moat on both sides of the lane, it is all open access. Facing north, on the left hand side there is a sign stating that this was the site of the tower and if you head left into the field  you can see the moat very clearly and walk around its course back out to Tower Lane. To get in to the right hand field there is a an opening further back down Tower Lane to the south. On this side you can see the moat and where it meets up with the brook. The brook used to be called Sharoe Brook in this area, but maps now refer to it as Moss Leach Brook. There are footpaths all around the site which you can wander on, and despite a modern housing estate to the north many of the old oak trees have been preserved.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018


Park either at the top or bottom of Tower Lane, but don’t park on it. Much of the lane is unadopted, and although it can be driven along in part we would not advise this as there are no passing places. Either park to the north of it on the modern housing estate, or south of it on the 1970s housing estate. The site of the tower is marked on the A-Z map as ‘Broughton Twr’, grid reference 541 336.

Nearby, just a short drive away Church Cottage Museum


A History of St John Baptist Church Broughton, Brendan Hurley (2012) Fast Print Publishing. Available from Broughton Church

A History of Broughton-in-Amounderness Church of England Primary School 1527-2007, Brendan Hurley (2008) . This book is available from Church Cottage Museum

Transactions of Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society Volume XIX 1901 The Old Castles of Lancashire P.75. Accessed via the  Internet Archive

British History Online: Townships:Broughton

Excerpt from Northwards by Anthony Hewitson book from via way Internet Archive Wayback Machine :


Posted in Castles & Fortified Towers, Medieval Lancashire, Tudor Lancashire | Tagged , , ,

Clitheroe’s Town Wells

Clitheroe has three old town wells and they are all worth a visit. Each of them is enclosed by walls and has a flagged floor that would have held a pool of water. They were the town’s only water supply until the mid 1850s. We’ll look at each of them in turn.

St Mary’s Well on Well Terrace


St Mary’s Well, Well Terrace, Clitheroe

The name ‘St Mary’s’ suggests this was a Holy Well, and Historic England’s Pastscape website lists it as possibly dating from medieval times.  Today, it stands by a bus shelter on a busy road. There are two stepped entrances opposite each other down into the well. A stone gangway splits the well into two unequal halves. In the central part of the larger pool area stands a very worn cube shaped stone. This looks like it was used for washing clothes. The top stones on the wall by the entrances are also very worn, presumably from generations of people steadying themselves on entering and exiting the well.

Heild Well on Wellgate


Heild Well or The Town’s Well, Wellgate, Clitheroe

Heild Well is found on Wellgate by the Dog Inn, and is also called The Town’s Well. The unusual term Heild is thought to derive from the fact that it once had a roof on top. It is the largest of the three wells and was first recorded in 1634. Some of the big stone slabs that make up parts of the walls are held together with metal staples. As well as the steps going down into the pool area, at one entrance there are two sets of steps going ‘up’. These resemble horse mounting blocks, but whether they are or not is unclear – perhaps they are connected with the pub which dates from the 1700s and which used to be called The Dog and Partridge.

Both St Mary’s and Heild Wells bear a metal plaque on them which states “This well was one of the three public wells which formed the water supply of the borough until the establishment of the waterworks on Grindleton Fell under the Water Works act of 1854. Soroptimist International 1992″. The Soroptimists are a world wide charity that campaign for the rights of girls and women, and you can see their website by clicking here.

Stock Well off Parsons Lane


Stock Well, just off Parsons Lane, Clitheroe

Stock Well is just off Parsons Lane, but the easiest way to find it is to approach it through Clitheroe Castle  grounds. It gets its name from the town stocks, which are built into it. These were probably put here after their removal from the market square. The nearby plaque states “The smallest of the three borough wells used until water was supplied in 1856. It is first recorded in 1645. The well was sealed in 1880 after two children narrowly escaped drowning. The adjoining field was Stock Well Meadow”. This well only has one entrance (where the stocks are located) and does not have the the big tall and thick retaining walls of the two other wells, nor does it have steps down to a flagged area.

There was a cholera outbreak in 1849 in Clitheroe, which led the Local Board of Health to become increasingly worried about providing a clean and plentiful water supply to the town. Following a report of a Mr. B.H. Babbage, the Clitheroe Water Works company was set up. This created a reservoir in West Bradford to bring water to newly installed town pumps. After this, the three wells were largely abandoned. This kind of pioneering work by the Victorians was replicated in town after town as the populations boomed – have a look at the work done in Darwen on our page about Holker House here.

Today no water flows into the wells, but they are in good condition, if looking a little neglected. Clitheroe Civic Society has approached Ribble Valley Borough Council with a view to further conserving them. In these days of clean piped water into every home, it’s easy to take water supply for granted. Next time you are in Clitheroe, why not go and have a look at these once essential resources.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018


All open access. St Mary’s Well is on Well Terrace in between bus stops, Heild Well is on Wellgate in front of the Dog Inn and Stock Well is off Parson Lane, but best approached through the Castle Grounds. Take an A-Z with you to find the streets, or just download a town map on your phone.

Nearby just a short walk away Clitheroe Castle

Just a short drive away Edisford Bridge


Henry Taylor : The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire: A Revised Version: Volume III: Blackburn Hundred, Volume editor A.J.Noble General Editor J.A.Hilton, North West Catholic History Soceity, Wigan 2004 well&rational=q&recordsperpage=10 well&rational=q&recordsperpage=10 well&rational=q&recordsperpage=10


Posted in Ancient Wells,, Medieval Lancashire, Stuart Lancashire | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Church Cottage Museum, Broughton near Preston

Today a small Tudor cottage stands next to Broughton Church and Primary School. It has had a long and varied history, but now functions as a museum and is open every Sunday afternoon.


Church Cottage Museum, Broughton near Preston

It was originally built in 1590 as a Fylde Three Bay Longhouse using the cruick construction technique (one of the supporting frames can still be seen inside today). The original three rooms would have consisted of a buttery with a stairway up to a sleeping loft at one end, a main house room in the middle and a workshop (or possibly a shippon) at the far end. The house part was used as a school room. Two of the three rooms still exist and a two story extension was added at the south end in 1630, which also survives today.

Income for the school was generated from land donated by the wealthy, along with money in the form of grants. The school existed to teach boys between the ages of seven to fourteen, and in the early days the total number of pupils was probably never more than twelve. Latin, Greek and literature were on the curriculum and the first generations of teachers working there would have been curates from Broughton Parish Church.

Church Cottage also doubled as an inn during much of its life, providing accommodation as well as ale.  Local author Brendan Hurley relates the tale of one reluctant occupant. This was Edward Bamber, Catholic priest and chaplain at Standish Hall in the 1600s. Anti-Catholic laws made this a treasonous activity, leading him to be arrested and sent for trial at Lancaster Castle. It’s thought that on the way to Lancaster his captors locked him in the upper room of the cottage. During the night he managed to escape and found his way to nearby Broughton Tower and took refuge there. (Broughton Tower will be the subject of a future page on this site).


Life within the school was not without controversy. Schoolmaster William Woods was sacked in 1678 because of his secret marriage, but managed to get his job back five years later. Even so, the vicar of Preston is recorded as refusing to pay his stipend of four pounds in 1698. The same vicar also queried his successor Richard Withnell’s appointment, suspecting that he had Catholic or Jacobite sympathies. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Compton Census that had taken place in 1676 showed that of the 636 people in Broughton and Barton, almost a third were thought to be recusants, that is Catholics that refused to go to Protestant church services.

Teaching continued in the building until 1784, formally ending when a new wooden school house was constructed close by.  However, it was often the case that the school master also had a secondary role as the innkeeper at Church Cottage. James Tuson acted as teacher and landlord  from 1807 until 1843. Licensed to sell beer and tobacco, he also would provide food and  hospitality for travellers on the road from Preston to Lancaster. Records show that on one occasion in 1823 bell ringers from the church next door sat down to drink 20 pints of his home brewed beer and ate 12 dinners. The next year his license was extended so that he could sell spirits as well.

Tuson seemed to be a man of many skills which he utilised during his time as school master. He was involved in digging  ‘marl’ (used to improve the local soils), shutting the school early on at least one occasion to fulfill this role. He also acted as a property agent for renting houses in Liverpool, collected debts owed to the parish and auctioned pew seats within the church – places sold to the highest bidder! When he retired in 1843 the school had grown to 70 pupils.

The inn was closed in 1862 and eight years later it is recorded that the cottage was the home of the sexton (essentially a church caretaker), Mr. Applebury. Records show that he was a bell ringer, grave digger, read responses in church and looked after the Sunday school children as well as having skills as a clothes maker and duck fattener! Although a new stone school was built in 1874, lessons in laundry, cookery and woodwork seem to have carried on within the cottage up until 1913.


The last people to live at Church Cottage were the Jolleys family. From the 1930s onwards Mr. and Mrs. Jolleys rented it for three shillings a week. This was doubled to six shillings when a flush toilet was installed, but amazingly stayed at this rate until the 1980s. Mr. Jolleys was a road roller driver and captain of the bell ringers in church. Mrs. Jolleys was a trained confectioner and ran a tuck shop for the school. The cottage had been extended over the years and these newer parts were demolished in 1966, leaving the original Tudor and Stuart sections that we see today. The following year Mr. Jolleys died, but Mrs. Jolleys lived on at Church Cottage until 1986. Even in the later days, there was just one electrical socket in the whole house (located in the kitchen), no hot running water or television.

After Mrs. Jolleys’ death the school governors asked the local education authority to make Church Cottage into school accommodation, but this was refused. Within a few years the building had become derelict, but the fact that it was listed saved it from demolition. Various ideas were put forward including use as offices by the church,  a study base for the school or even conversion into a museum. This final idea won the day and a fund was set up by the school governors in 1993 to restore it. Work began the next year and in 1995 it was opened as Church Cottage Museum by HRH Princess Alexandra.

The layout today reflects its different functions over the years: the sexton’s Victorian living room, a small inn, a Tudor ‘hovel’ and a wash house comprise the lower floor. Upstairs is the loft sleeping area and Victorian school room full of finds from school pupils’ recent archaeological digs. The roof thatch is in excellent condition and is worthy of close inspection. Visitors today can be guided around the house by the friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. They are also working to build a collection of historical agricultural implements in the cart shed, and provide care for the cottage garden.

Much of the information for this page is sourced from Brendan Hurley’s two excellent books – see the reference section below.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018

Opening Times

Open every Sunday 2.00-5.00 pm. There is a small charge for adults and accompanied children are free.

The website is here or paste the link below into your browser:


A History of Broughton-in-Amounderness Church of England Primary School 1527-2007, Brendan Hurley (2008) . This book is available from Church Cottage Museum

A History of St John Baptist Church Broughton, Brendan Hurley (2012) Fast Print Publishing. Available from Broughton Church.

Church Cottage Museum leaflet, available from Church Cottage Museum



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

Rufford Old Hall, West Lancashire

The Heskeths received their estate and manor at Rufford by marrying into the Fitton family. Maud Fitton brought the land and title in the late 1200 and early 1300s. This was to be the Hesketh’s main powerbase, although they had better quality land at Great Harwood. Back in medieval times Rufford was very marshy, with nearby Martin Mere and River Douglas making it an isolated place.


The Tudor Great Hall at Rufford

When Thomas Hesketh died in 1523, he left three daughters with the right to inherit. However, his illegitimate son Robert pressed his claim as heir. He had the support of his father-in-law Sir John Towneley (of Towneley Hall), Sir Thomas Southworth of Samlesbury and the powerful Stanley family. His bid was successful and he received the manor and land.

In 1530, to consolidate his claim, Robert built Rufford Hall, probably using the same craftsmen that had worked at Samlesbury Hall  (see our page on it here). The impressive wooden Tudor hall with its rare hammerbeam roof is still there today.

When Robert died, in 1541, the house had not properly been completed, but was finished off by his son Thomas. Thomas rotated his time between his three properties of Rufford, Great Harwood and nearby Holmeswood Hall which overlooked Martin Mere. He had William Shakespeare in his company of actors, taking him on from Alexander Hoghton (of Lea Hall and Hoghton Tower) after Hoghton died.

In 1662, John Molyneux of Teversal, Nottinghamshire was acting as guardian to the young Hesketh heir. He had the huge three story brick wing built and this too still exists at Rufford. This was for family and servants, and consisted of a large new kitchen, service rooms and sleeping quarters.


The 1662 Brick Wing

In 1720, a later Thomas Hesketh did a major rebuild by taking a large part of Holmeswood Hall and re-using it at Rufford. The existing east wing was taken down and a six bay, two storey part of Holmeswood was erected in its place to create the four bay dining hall (the one we see today) and two bay ante-room and first floor drawing room (also on view today).

By the mid 1760s, the Heskeths wanted a more modern home, and so had a brand new neo-classical mansion built nearby called Rufford New Hall (now converted into houses). The old hall was leased to Thomas Lowe, a gardener. With the family no longer in residence it was probably very easy for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company to put a canal right next to the hall. Its function was to link the canal at Burscough with the River Douglas near Tarleton.

In the early 1800s, the Tudor Great Hall was used as the village schoolroom. The Heskeths employed a schoolmaster at 52 pounds 10 shillings a year. In 1825, a new school opened in the village and parents that could afford it paid fees for their children to attend. There was a clothing fund which poorer parents contributed to (instead of fees) and which poaching fines also paid into.

With the school out of Rufford Old Hall, Thomas Henry Hesketh was able to refurbish it to his late Georgian tastes. He employed local architect John Foster to add a mock Tudor look. Foster took the 1720 Holmeswood Hall wing, enlarged it , and added brick and plaster on the outside in an effort to make it look like timber framing. The main entrance was relocated into the 1662 brick wing, entering into what would have been the kitchen. This had a Tudor style gothic entrance door put in place to make it look more grand. The Great Hall had a lantern roof added to act as a skylight for the billiard table!


This picture of Rufford Old Hall shows the original Tudor Hall on the left (in brown and white), the 1720 additions from Holmeswood Hall in the middle (black and white) and the 1800s brick extension on the right

The hall was ready for reoccupation in 1826 and Hesketh and his wife Annette collected carved oak traditional Lancashire furniture to fill it (much of it still on show today). They also added stained glass and a collection of mostly German and Italian armour and weapons in the Great Hall, a craze at the time amongst the gentry.

Forty years later, the Heskeths inherited an estate in Northamptonshire and decided to relocate there permanently. In 1872 their land agent occupied the hall, and began to sell off their many Lancashire estates. The old hall was briefly reoccupied by Thomas Fermor Hesketh and his wife Florence, but in 1936 he decided to give the house to the National Trust, who have run it ever since.

For the visitor today there is much of interest. The original high status wooden Tudor Great Hall with its hammer beam roof, mass of carvings and original unique moveable screen are all in superb condition. The impressive 1662 wing with its converted kitchen is still the main entrance hall. The surviving parts of Holmeswood Hall live on in the ante, drawing and dining rooms.

The estate yard features Philip Ashcroft’s museum of local life. Concerned that local rural customs and practices were slipping away, in 1936 he started a collection of everyday objects for work, home and play which the National Trust later took over. The Victorian five acre garden features a variety of rhododendrons, a woodland and an orchard with old northern varieties of apples.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2017. This text written 2018

Opening Times

There is an entrance charge and it is in line with most large National Trust properties (i.e on the more expensive side. However, it is well worth it).

Open most days (but NOT Thursdays and Fridays in most months) – best to check their website here

Nearby, just a short drive away Lydiate Hall ruins and Lydiate Abbey


Rufford Old Hall, Richard Dean (2007), National Trust

Rufford Old Hall Lancashire, (1998) National Trust

Lancashire’s Historic Halls,  David Brazendale (1994) Carnegie Publishing

Posted in Georgian Lancashire, Historic Houses,, Stuart Lancashire, Tudor Lancashire, Victorian Lancashire | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Park Hill House : Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford

Sometime around 1450 John Bannister built a wooden hall at Park Hill. The Bannister family had two major divisions in Lancashire, one branch at Darwen and the other at Bretherton with their manor house of Bank Hall (see our webpage on it here). John was part of the latter group, referred to as the ‘Bannisters of Bank’. He chose the Barrowford site for its proximity to the river and for the good farming soil.


Park Hill : Pendle Heritage Centre

The wooden hall would have been a cruick frame construction. An oak timber from a single large tree was split in half to form two curved mirror images that could carry the weight of the roof, meaning the wattle and daub walls didn’t have to give much support. The roof was made of heather thatch which sat on top of a straw base and these were bonded together with mud. There would be a vent to allow smoke out from the central hearth where the cooking would take place. Separate food storage and preparation rooms were at one end, and a parlour at the other. Although the wooden hall is now gone, the cruick construction style can be seen clearly inside the medieval barn which is on site above the garden at the  Pendle Heritage Centre.

By 1492, his descendant Robert Bannister owned 200 acres of meadow, 46 acres of pasture, 10 acres of woodland and a vaccary (cattle farm) at Over Barrowford rented from the king. The Bannisters were very well off, but were still ‘only’ tenants. In 1507, Henry VII abolished the royal forests in the area and converted them to land that was to be rented out. The new tenants of this land were called copyholders. This gave them a fixed rent and rights for grazing, peat cutting, stone quarrying and coal mining. In return the Bannisters, as copyholders, had to act as jurors at Colne Manor Court, supply evidence in legal disputes and help the local baliff in giving out punishments to offenders.

A hundred years later, in 1590, a stone wing (which still exists, as do all the later stone extensions) was added to the existing wooden hall. This had walls up to three feet thick made from local gritstone. The windows had the luxury of glass  and a new parlour with a large hearth was constructed around an imposing chimney stack. This parlour became the dining and entertaining room. The stone wing also had two service rooms and a buttery (or bottle store). For the first time there were proper upstairs bedrooms. This was all a big step up in grandeur, but within a hundred years the stone of this building would be whitewashed to hide its imperfections and to improve its waterproof properties.

The family’s fortunes continued to improve and by 1616, at the time of the second Robert Bannister, records show he had both a corn mill and fulling mill at Park Hill, as well as a part share in the manor of Foulridge and its corn mill. Another stone wing was added in 1650 (on the right hand side of the front view we see today) and  by this stage the family was one of the wealthiest in Pendle – but this would be the high water mark of their fortunes.


On the right hand side is an older part of Park Hill with a large chimney stack, then a newer part added on in the middle, and finally on the left the porch extension added by the Bannisters just before they left

In 1680, a stone hall was added to the second stone wing (the middle bit of the above view) but the whole property was also split into two parts by Henry and his son John. John lived in the older part, which now was referred to as Lower Park Hill and his father lived in the newer section with the new wing, simply referred to as Park Hill (much of what we see in the picture above). Henry got the new hall extension, old buttery and three chambers. John kept the Great Parlour, kitchen, milk house and two chambers. The garden and orchard were also split, each property having half. The family started to struggle financially and over 20 years their fortune fell by 80%.

John continued to have money trouble when he came into full possession of the estate after his father’s death. He leased Lower Park Hill out consecutively to three individuals, the last one of which, John Swinglehurst, lent him £500. A few years later when John was unable to repay the loan, Swinglehurst took possession of Lower Park Hill. The Bannisters continued to live in the newer Park Hill house. Just a few years later John declared himself bankrupt and was forced to renounce Park Hill and its estates, which all went to the Swinglehursts. The Swinglehursts even managed to take the Bannisters’ private chapel in Colne church, much the Bannisters’ dismay. Despite losing the property and manor, the Bannisters were able to  stay on as tenants for 40 years and even added a porch to the Park Hill front of the house in 1750. Just two years later though, they left.


The Georgian house added by the Swinglehurst family (with the older parts of the building in the background)

In 1780, the Swinglehursts rebuilt Lower Park Hill. They also added the Georgian house that butts up against the properties and now looks out over the river, and this is the familiar front we see today facing into the park. The Swinglehursts continued to live at the property,  passing it down their family line and into the related family of the Holts, who stayed there until 1920.

In 1977, the Heritage Trust for the North West took over Park Hill, converting it into the Pendle Heritage Centre. This building preservation trust does essential work on promoting traditional building skills and supporting some of Lancashire’s most iconic places (see their website here). Today, Park Hill thrives as the Pendle Heritage Centre, well known for its excellent café, book and gift shop, as well as its restored walled garden. The museum is housed within the house and for a small charge visitors can learn all about the history of Park Hill, Bank Hall, Whalley and Sawley Abbey (the latter has carved stones on display). Also featured are the royal forests of Lancashire, religious diversity and conflict within the county and of course, the history of the Lancashire Witches.

Opening Times

10am-4pm Every Day, April through to September

See Pendle Heritage Website here


A Bannister Family History (2006) Heritage Trust for North West available from Pendle Heritage Centre

On site interpretation at Pendle Heritage Centre, in the Museum


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

Kirkham’s Lost Roman Fort

Kirkham Roman Fort stood on top of Carr Hill, just a little way from Kirkham’s town centre today. It was the final one in a succession of Roman structures built there. Before its construction the site was used three times as a temporary Roman marching camp, the first one in around 70 AD when the Romans entered Lancashire and the last one at the end of the 90s AD. It was also used as a signal station, where fires would be lit to warn of incoming danger. The evidence for the station comes from a small round structure which has large post holes probably for a tower, surrounded by a big ‘V’ shaped ditch and a smaller palisade trench. Finally in 120 AD a permanent fort was built of local red sandstone and this would last for the next thirty to forty years.


Looking down Carr Road from the top of Carr Hill where the fort once stood

On this page we’ll take a look at the history of the fort, and at the end give a description so that you can go and stand exactly where it was, and look out at the views the Romans once saw.

Why Kirkham?

The fort was sited to protect an important sea route inland to Ribchester by road and Walton le Dale by river, and also linked up with the enigmatic Portus Setantiorum in the Fleetwood area.

The Roman road from Kirkham to Ribchester travelled eastwards and passed through present day Preston. The route is still marked on the modern map as Watling Street. There are two straight sections that lie directly over the original Roman one. The first goes through the Fulwood and Sharoe Green area. The modern road then briefly curves around Fulwood Barracks (the Roman road would go straight through) and then rejoins the second straight section immediately after. This heads through Brookfield and then on out to Ribchester.

The westward Roman road left Kirkham and travelled for around three miles before veering north-west towards present day Fleetwood. On the coast near Fleetwood or Rossall Point it has long been speculated that a Roman port, Portus Setantiorum, was located. It was named after the local part of the Brigantian tribe called the Setantii (the Dwellers by the Water).

The fort would have overlooked the River Ribble or Belisama Fluvius (Beautiful River) as the Romans called it. This lead directly to the Roman Military industrial site and supply depot at Walton le Dale (see our page on it here)

Kirkham was larger than normal auxiliary forts, covering almost 7 acres, and we show its outline in black on the satellite picture below. Excavations have shown it had a cobbled area around the outer defences, perhaps an exclusion zone that the local population could not enter. It’s not clear whether it held a thousand infantry men, or five hundred cavalry, but probably it was the latter. Evidence for this is that a Reiter (or rider) Tombstone was found in Kirkham Parish Church in 1844 when renovations were taking place. These type of monuments feature a Roman cavalryman riding down a local ‘barbarian’. Similar ones have been found at Lancaster and Chester but they are very rare nationally with only 22 found in the whole country. Unfortunately the Kirkham one does not survive as soon after its discovery it was broken up to make hardcore for the church path! The other clue that the fort was for cavalry is that horse bedding and straw have been discovered outside the stronghold giving an indication of large scale stabling.

Kirkham fort upload

Kirkham Roman Fort overlaid on the modern street plan. The black rectangle shows where the fort was, the red line marks the eastern gate. The brown V is the vicus area. The blue circle marks the bath house and the yellow C marks the cemetery. The approximate locations of the sites are based on an Oxford Archaeology North report and a W. Thompson Watkins book – see reference section. Satellite image courtesy of Google Earth / Google Maps

The Roman Baths

The Roman Bath House was located in the present day St Michael’s Road area, now covered with houses. It’s marked by a blue circle in the above satellite picture.  The baths were just 70 metres north-east of the fort. The site was selected as it was close to the bank of Carr Brook and the baths would need a large amount of water to function. Some recent limited excavation led to the discovery of a curved heated room. It’s not known if the curve is part of a circular room, or is just a semi-circular apse of a larger room. The room was definitely heated by a hypocaust, as part of the pilae that support such a floor were found. It could either have been a laconium (hot dry room) or caldarium (hot steam room). There is a circular laconium at nearby Ribchester Roman Baths (see our page on them here).

The Vicus

The vicus extended out from the east gate of the fort into the present day Myrtle Drive area, south of the St Michael’s Road bath site. It’s marked by a brown V in the above satellite picture. Over the years there have been plenty of finds of roman brick, pottery including samian (a fine reddish-brown ware) , mortaria (coarse kitchen ware), amphora (large storage jars) and a roman pottery lamp. Leather shoes, leather waste, iron nails and coins have also been dug up. The most famous find is a shield boss near Carr / Dow Brook, more on which later. There was also possibly an industrial area to the south of the fort.

The Life of the Fort

The relatively short lifespan of the fort would have witnessed some dramatic events. In 118 AD there was a Brigantian revolt which led to a large scale loss of Roman soldiers in the north. A second revolt occurred in 154 AD and there was further trouble throughout the 160s AD. The fort was abandoned sometime around the mid second century, 150-160 AD. This was normal policy in Roman times to move troops to a new fort in a new area, once the area they had garrisoned had been sufficiently brought ‘under control’. So despite the intermittent trouble, the Romans must have felt relatively secure by the end of the fort’s lifetime to make the decision to close it. However we know that Roman activity continued in the area as there was a coin hoard buried around 240 AD in Poulton Street (now in the Harris Museum at Preston) which had coins from 114-238 AD. A second hoard was found at Treales, less than a mile from the fort. It was buried around 270 AD and is thought to be associated with a Romano-British settlement there.

Antiquarians start to notice the fort

During the 1700s a large quantity of Roman stone was dug up and removed from the site. In 1800 a Mr.Willacy, a local school teacher, found a shield boss (the central metal part of a shield – also called an umbo) in the stream close to where the bathhouse once stood. This was a find of major historical importance and it came into possession of Charles Towneley (of the well known Burnley family of  Towneley Hall ) and he passed it on to the British Museum, where it is still held. Click the link here to see the actual object, and more impressively the sketch of the elaborate carvings on it. It shows the Roman god Mars flanked by two naked warriors holding spears, and is further adorned with eagles, winged victories and battle trophies.

Mr. Willacy also witnessed some drainage excavations that revealed the foundations of the fort described as “massy chiseled red sandstone.” This was where the modern main road called Dowbridge now cuts through the fort. Another local report described what was probably an excavation of the bathhouse recording a “pavement of thick, rude, red brick tiles, and twice over with the officers of the Ordnance Survey, threw out a surprising quantity of broken tiles, paterae, burnt bones etc. Here too the drainage of the encampment had its outlet into the Dow, where Mr. Loxham picked up a bone needle and Mr. Willacy two coins of Hadrian.”

The Roman cemetery was located on the opposite side of Carr Brook (then called Dow Brook) just a little way away from the site of the bathhouse, somewhere near the present day Brook Farm. A Mr. Loxham found an urn containing bones and an iron amulet in 1840. Nine years later near the same spot he discovered around a dozen more, filled with ashes and burnt bone as well as a small unguent bottle and an iron axe. There are also reports of urns being found in the area near Carr Hill School.

Many of the finds used to be on show at Kirkham Museum, which has sadly now closed. However, an excellent webpage on the history of  St Michael’s Church shows pictures of the finds in photographs taken within the museum. The pictures are of good quality and if you enlarge the webpage you can inspect them in detail and read the small interpretation signs that accompany them. See the page by clicking here.

Visiting the site of the fort today


North-West Corner of the Kirkham fort

Although there are no surface structures surviving, you can still see it had commanding views at the north-western corner of the fort, which is probably why the site was chosen, along with its proximity to the brook for water. Much of the other views are obscured by housing. You can also see Kirkham Windmill, now converted into a house.

Start in the centre of Kirkham – there’s lots of parking and some of it is free. Head up the main road of Poulton Street / Preston Street, which continues as a street called Dowbridge. Just before you reach Carr Street to your left, stop: here you are at the north-west corner of the Roman fort. There are good views down Carr Street to the fields beyond, and you will have noted from your walk you are on a second hill (the first hill is in Kirkham centre). This was a good vantage point for the fort with steep slopes leading up to its ramparts and it was protected on one side by the stream of Carr Brook (or Dow Brook) on its north-easterly side. Continue down Dowbridge and you are passing through the heart of the fort, where the Roman foundation ruins were seen in the description above. When you reach the road labelled Roman Way on your right, stop. This is more or less where the eastern gate of the fort was and we’ve marked it with a red line in the above satellite picture. Beyond it in the Myrtle Drive area was the vicus, and many finds have been dug up in this region. If you cross over the main road leading into Roman Way you would be heading to the south-east corner of the fort. See the fort laid out on the Google map above this text and you can see where it would have been in the modern street plan.


The Eastern Gate would be about here (note the Roman Way street sign)

For photos of a recent garden excavation in Myrtle Drive see Fylde Archaeology website here. The Roman baths were in the area of St Michael’s Road, and a full report of some recent limited excavation can seen at the Oxford Archaeology North website, where you can download the pdf report (see here.)


St Michaels Road Kirkham Archaeological Watching Brief, Oxford Archaeology North (2010) available at

South Ribble Primary Schools Local History Project : The Romans in Central Lancashire, Dr David Hunt

Roman Lancashire, W. Thompson Watkin (1883) republished 2007 Azorabooks

Disaster at Kirkham Fort, D. Savage and the children of Year 5 St. Michael’s CE School (undated book published by the school) ISBN 0954067908

Walking Roman Roads in the Fylde and the Ribble Valley, Philip Graystone (1996) Centre for North-West Regional Studies University of Lancaster

Triumphant Rider: The Lancaster Roman Cavalry Tombstone, Stephen Bull (2007), Lancashire Museums

University of Lancaster Centre for North West Regional Studies Archaeology Conference 4th March (1995) Recent Excavations at Kirkham, Lancashire presented by Katharine Buxton- (summary sheet of above talk)

Posted in Roman Bath Houses,, Roman Forts,, Roman Lancashire | Tagged , , | 1 Comment