The nine acres of grounds around Turton Tower contain a whole host of historical features mostly from its Victorian era, although the tower itself stretches back to Tudor and Medieval times. The grounds and tea rooms are open all year around, with the tower itself open April through to October.
Outside the tower we can see the Kay family’s garden, designed in the semi-formal style of the late 1880s and featuring yew trees and rhododendrons. There is a ruined Gothic folly chantry wall attached to the laundry room, which acts as a screen dividing the formal garden lawn from the woods. Close by, in front of the house, lies the date stone from Timberbottom Farm, the original home of the two skulls that now reside within the tower. The full story of the skulls and the strange goings on said to be connected with their presence is discussed at length here.
Just a little way from the tower is a small cube shaped building which has been called variously a lodge or icehouse but is actually the pump house. This brought water from the reservoir over the railway track to supply both the farm and tower.
Close by this building is a large barn which was originally built in the 1600s. It served as a cow barn with a cow shed, a hay loft and servant accommodation. The present building was much restored by the Kays and differing stonework shows varying periods of restoration and repairs. It was used as stables up until 1928 when the last owner, Sir Lees Knowles, died. In 2015, a grant was given by the Heritage Lottery Fund to survey this building and look at ways to bring it back into use. However, it remains in an unrestored state at the moment.
Near to the stables is one of two castellated railway bridges. When the Blackburn to Bolton railway line was put through the estate in 1848, the bridges were designed to be in keeping with the feel of the tower. The one near the stables is the larger of the two and has steps you can climb up to a turret. This gives you good views of the track, and indeed you can see the other bridge just a quarter of a mile away further up the line. The smaller one allowed cattle to cross the railway, and is the one that many walkers will have used on their way up to see the ruined stone circle on the moor at Chetham Close.
By the tea rooms is the tower’s restored walled garden. There has been a trend in the last decade to resurrect many of the walled gardens in Lancashire’s historic houses. A good example is the one at Worden Hall, which you can see our page on here. The garden now grows fruit, vegetables and flowers.
At the time of writing (2023) there is an appeal on to raise £10,000 to restore the garden bothy. A bothy is a small hut where a gardener could have rather cramped living accommodation. This one dates from the 1800s and is a rarity in that it has two storeys. The money will also go towards creating a wildlife garden area and pond. If you would like to donate, visit the Just Giving page here.
Close by on private land is a two-storey building with gabled roof, and there are good views of it from near the walled garden. There is some disagreement about what this building is. A two-storey structure was erected on this site by James Chetham in 1671. Some sources state that this was a banqueting house. Banqueting houses were a venue where, after the guests had eaten their main dinner in the hall, they would then wander through the gardens, to have dessert in a purpose-built folly. However, the present structure, restored in 1840 by James Kay, has been called a gazebo, a summer house and a dove cote. How much of the original building exists in this current one is unclear. It does resemble the vanished second smaller Pigeon Tower that existed at Lord Leverhulme’s home at Rivington (the larger Pigeon Tower still remains, and has a similar roof). The lost Pigeon Tower at Rivington had holes for the doves or pigeons to roost in on the gable faces. However, this one had no obvious holes in the exterior for the pigeons or doves to roost in. It is now labelled ‘dovecote’ on the Turton Tower interpretation map.
If you follow the path away from both the walled garden and tower you will reach the second of the two railway bridges, with its path up onto the moor. Just a little further away from this on the same path is a mid-1800s lodge gatehouse, now a private residence.
The tea rooms overlook the tennis courts. These were added in the time of John Charles Kay, brother of the last James Kay to own the tower. He won the All England Mixed Doubles competition in 1889 with Lottie Dodd and two years later with Helen Jackson.
Turton claims the oldest football pitch in the world and it can be found on Tower Street in Chapeltown, dating back perhaps to 1856. The original form of the game was known as ‘hacking’ and had hardly any rules. John Charles Kay together with W.T. Dixon, a local schoolteacher, founded Turton Football club in 1871. By 1874, they had adopted London Football Association rules. In those early days they played Preston North End, Bolton Wanderers, Everton and Sheffield Wednesday and could hold their own. Turton only began to lose out as the popularity of the sport increased and these larger towns could recruit from a much bigger pool of local talent.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018 and 2023.
Turton Grounds and tea rooms are open all year around, and the hall is open April to October
Nearby Turton Tower– obviously!
Turton’s Wayside Cross and Medieval Stocks
Pack Horse Bridge, Turton Bottoms
There is a very well preserved Pillbox at Turton. For more on this see our page on Lancashire at War here
Turton Tower: A Guide, Martin Robinson Dowland (1991), Lancashire County Museums- available in the gift shop at Turton Tower
A Guide to Walking the Grounds of Turton Tower (undated leaflet, currently available from the gift shop 2018 )
Turton Tower and Its Owners, W.G Sharples revised edition (2014), Friends of Turton Tower- available in the gift shop at Turton Tower
On site interpretation at Turton Tower – paddle information boards and large display boards within the rooms
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