The hall ruins we see today are from 1776 when John Hollinshead built a new house on the site. It had previously been home to a large farmhouse, dating from over hundred years earlier. This was mostly demolished, making way for the new hall and probably a well house too. After John’s death the property passed to his cousin William Brock, and the Brock-Hollinshead family continued to live here until early Victorian times. They were an old Lancashire family and the notice board at the site states they had many ‘parties and merry revels’ at the hall. The hall was sold in 1845 to Eccles Shorrock, a well known Blackburn mill owner, but by the early 1900s it had fallen into disrepair.
In the early 1900s Liverpool Corporation Waterworks bought the surrounding land to build new resevoirs , including the grounds of the hall. The buildings were knocked down and the stone used to build dry stone walls in the area, and also some of the cottages in nearby Belmont Village. However in 1905, the corporation restored the well house which still stands today, and is the most intriguing part of the site. The rest of the site was left for nature to reclaim and the buildings all but vanished. In 1983 the Central Lancashire Archaeology Unit investigated the grass covered mounds in the area, in search of the hall and attendant buildings. They uncovered the extensive ruins we see before us today, and the site was then stabilized and is now maintained by West Pennine Moors Countryside Service.
Our tour of the site starts in the cobbled courtyard by the West Pennine Moor interpretation board, which features a handy layout map of the farm, hall and gardens. With the notice board behind you, look to your left to see the extensive stable block. Just past the stable block is the farm house, which seems to have an underground cellar, now exposed. Turning our back on the farm house we can proceed up past where the cows were housed (in the shippon), through the two huge imposing gate posts, to the site of a large barn. From the north side of the barn, we can look directly across to the ruins of the hall. Young trees have colonized much of the hall, but again a cellar area can be made out. It interesting to note that the hall, farmhouse and barn all have a similar size foundation footprints.
Turning right we pass through two elegantly carved gateposts and onto the raised lawn area, which gives us our first clear view of the impressive well house. Walk across the raised lawn and look for the spring behind the well house where the water collects. The back of the well house is sunk into the slope, and you can look through the back opening to view its dark and cool interior. The well house is kept locked, but if you pass around to the front you can look through either of its large barred windows to view its contents.
Dominating the inside is a carved lion head spout which carries water in from the spring. Two small columns flank the lion and there are stone tanks beneath to catch the water. Looking up you can see a barrel vaulted roof and stone ball hanging from it. Alongside the well house on the right hand side is a large wall with a plaque on and a water spout. The onsite notice board states that these may well come from remains of an earlier hall, predating the one we see today, and have been reused in the building of this folly.
The spring was probably the first reason that people were attracted to the site. In the past many springs and wells were seen as magical, first by pagans and then later Christianized as ‘holy wells’. Folklore attached to this site states that people believed the water could cure eye complaints, a common belief for many sacred well sites. How far back into history visitors have come to use the waters is open to speculation, and even how old the well house itself is open to dispute. Most written sources claim it was built at the same time as Hollinshead Hall (in 1776). English Heritage ‘Pastscape’ website gives only a very vague date of some time between the 18th and 19th centuries, describing the building as a “grotto”, “made for people to take the waters”. After Liverpool Waterworks Cooperation saved and restored it in 1905, it was further restored in 1970s by conservation volunteers. Today it has the look and feel of a picturesque Georgian folly, built around an ancient spring and well.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2014
Opening Times: The site is open access, and is free to visit at any reasonable time.
Parking: Just off the A675 Belmont road is the Crookfield Road car park. Head a short distance up the road towards the woods (take care there is no footpath for a short section). Turn left at the footpath sign and style with “Hollinshead Hall” carved into it. Follow the path for a short distance by the side of the wood and you will reach the cobbled farmyard and notice board.
Alternatively park at Slipper Lowe car park and head south through the woods.
On site interpretation board, West Pennine Moors
Journeys Through Brigantia: Volume Eleven: Circular Walks in The East Lancashire Pennines, John Dixon & Jaana Jarvinen (2003), Aussteiger Publications
Walks on the West Pennine Moors, Gladys Sellers (1983), Cicerone Press
English Heritage Pastscape Website: http://www.pastscape.org.uk(accessed 26/5/2014)