The Tottington Dungeon is an early Victorian town lock up. It was built in 1835 next the original Dungeon Inn, (the current one is now located further up the road.) The dungeon is thought to have been originally managed by the publican to temporarily incarcerate uncooperative drunks. Later it was taken over by the local constable, perhaps acting as a temporary holding cell. It had capacity to accomodate six people. Prisoners would wear arm and leg shackles while seated on the stone bench and you can see a picture of one of the ring shackles on the Greater Manchester Museum Group website here.
The building was last used as a lock up in 1884. Today it is in good condition and well worth a look. The formidable iron entrance door consists of six open panels with bars behind, a substantial mortice lock and lion’s head door knocker. The dungeon walls are built from large stone blocks. These are carved to look like weathered rock and have had regular lines of punched holes banged into them. This ‘rusticated style’ is similar to the canal viaduct in Thompson Park, Burnley (see here). The stone work also has intriguing carvings – there are eight skull like faces, a key by the entrance door and a ring with a dot inside. The person responsible for constructing the building is not known, and the reason for the carvings is also unclear.
In 1964 there was a plan to move the dungeon to Lark Hill Place (Salford Museum’s Victorian street), but this was resisted by Tottington residents. More recently Tottington District Civic Society have obtained a key for it and it is opened up on special occasions (see their website address on our Lancashire Links page here). Even when locked, it’s well worth a visit as most of the features can be seen from the street.
Interestingly there is a nearby folly that has a similar style of construction to the dungeon on Brandlesholme Road in Greenmount. The building is a summerhouse called ‘The Images’ and is in the private garden of Nabbs House. Keith Warrander in his recent book Manchester Oddities states that it was built in 1835, the same year as the Tottington Dungeon. The then owner of the house was John Turner, a local industrialist, and the images are supposedly of local people that he did not like. Although the site is private, in winter you can see a little of the features from the main road without disturbing anyone, both carvings and the distinctive blocks (click on the pictures above and below to enlarge them). Could both buildings have been commissioned by the same man, or built by the same builder?
In 1976 Ken Howarth, then of Bury Museum, visited and wrote a description of the garden. Among the features he lists are a grotto built under a massive amount of rock, a long underground passage and a substantial summerhouse decorated with gargoyles and carvings. He states that inside the building are the remains of two fireplaces and an anteroom. Not much can be seen from the road, but the reader is recommended to have a look at Keith Warrender’s Manchester Oddities book which contains four pages of colour photos of this intriguing garden and its structures (the book is still in print and available to buy online- just type the title and author into your search engine).
Below we outline a walk that can take you between the two sites:
From the Tottington Dungeon on Harwood Road, turn back and walk to the main road through Tottington (Tottington Road). Turn right, past the Co-op, until you reach the Hark To Towler pub. Then turn left down Kirklees Street. At the crossroads with Royds Street, bear right into a short wooded footpath. This takes you to “The Lines” – the old Railway track from Bury to Holcombe Brook. Turn left onto it and keep going, over the viaduct, all the way to Greenmount Village (just over half a mile). When “The Lines” finishes you will be at the junction with Brandlesholme Road – opposite a new cafe. Turn right along Brandlesholme Road for about 400 yards and the Images summerhouse folly is on your left, marked by a public footpath sign.
Sites visited by A. and R. Bowden 2017 and 2018
Tottington Dungeon is located on Harwood Road in Tottington, Bury. The site is open access. The Images summerhouse on Brandlesholme Road in Greenmount is private, though a part of it can be seen from the main road when there are no leaves on the trees.
Manchester Oddities, Keith Warrender (2011) Willow Publishing
Nab’s Lane Garden, Greenmount, Holcombe Brook, Bury 25th Nov 1976- From the diary entry of Ken Howarth, then at Bury Museum.