The Georgian parkland of Cuerden Hall was once owned and jealously guarded by the the rich and powerful Townley-Parker family. Today it is owned and run by Cuerden Valley Trust and open to all. It is free to visit and has a wealth of historical detail and abundant wildlife. There are pages on Cuerden Hall and the historic American gardens and pinetum already on this website. On this page we turn our attention to the surrounding historical features in the wider parkland. These include the gate lodge houses, the intriguing Cinder Path route, the planted woodlands, ponds and reservoir. Using portions of a map from 1909 (see below) and a little detective work, a huge amount can be uncovered that is lost to the casual observer.
Stag Lodge sits on the very edge of the parkland and was the main gateway for visitors into Cuerden Hall. After passing the lodge, a visitor’s carriage would sweep up the long driveway towards the hall through an open area of grand mature trees, which still remain today.
Stag Lodge is now a private residence, but glimpses of it can be seen from the pavement outside. It is a single-storey building with a flat roof and large chimney. It sits on the junction of Wigan Road and Lostock Lane. Most of its grounds are hidden behind huge walls, but on approaching the site there are clues to its presence in the form of large stone balls atop pillars, emerging from surrounding foliage. The lodge is dwarfed by the huge gate piers (very large gate posts) in front of it.
The two gate piers each supported statues. On the left are the remains of a stag and on the right the remains of a hawk. Constructed from moulded stucco (a mixture of cement, sand and water), time and weather have taken their toll and just the bottom parts of the statues now remain. (A stag and hawk are also carved either side of the coat of arms on Cuerden Hall above the entrance way). The lodge and piers were designed by famous architect Lewis Wyatt in 1819.
Stag Lodge lies outside the modern site of Cuerden Valley Park. It is on the edge of a large area less visited than the rest of the park. This region is still owned by the trust, but was cut off during the building of the motorways. It is worth visiting though, with large mature trees and extensive grassland where orchids grow in the summer. There are footpaths into it from Wigan Road.
Wigan Lodge and Chain Lodge
Wigan Lodge and Chain Lodge were demolished when the M6 motorway was built through the top end of the Cuerden estate. However, there are clues to where the lodges were located if you know where to look.
Wigan Lodge was located to the south of Stag Lodge on Wigan Road. It offered a shorter, less grand drive into Cuerden Hall and was probably used by tradespeople coming to service the hall. The lodge is marked on the old map and its gateposts and carriageway still remain.
Chain Lodge is even more enigmatic and nothing remains of it all. The huge gateway that is shown on an antique postcard here has completely vanished. It may have stood at the end of Berkeley Drive.
Another lodge may have existed on the opposite side of Wigan Road. It seems to have been the entranceway to land owned by the family to the west of their main estate, cut through by the Wigan Road. The photograph below shows the site today. On the left hand side is a public footpath that leads to two routes (both open to the public). Rhododendrons grow by the side of one path, a sure sign of a stately home management system. The right-hand side gateway is private and leads to the probable site of the lodge. One of the public footpaths curves around the back of the site.
On the other side of the motorway bridge there does appear to be part of the original estate wall running up to the bridge. The blocks of the motorway wall that supports the bridge are a little more interesting than those in normal bridge walls, and were possibly constructed sympathetically to the estate wall (if one can sympathetically put a motorway through such a landscape).
Wigan Lodge is named on the map below. Chain Lodge does not appear, but its carriageway can be seen. Note the relatively short route in from Wigan Road to Cuerden Hall, and the longer route appearing at the top of the picture (near Round Wood) which is the carriageway in from Stag Lodge. The map also depicts the very straight route of Cinder Path and its tunnel, more on which below.
Cinder Path Walls
Robert Townley-Parker lined the rights of way onto his estates with high stone walls, creating narrow paths so that the walker could not see into his grounds easily, or be seen by guests at the hall. The Cinder Path is a relic of this and much of its route can still be followed. It is now cut in half by the M6 motorway, but both parts can be still be located. One section is incorporated into the modern path network, while the other has become very overgrown.
At the Wigan Road car park is the old entrance to the Cinder Path. This section is not very easy to move along. It is boggy and overgrown, and there has been rubbish tipped into it just by the car park. You can follow its route by walking alongside it quite a way as it runs up towards the Dragonfly Pond. Beyond this point, the Cinder Path is cut off by the M6 motorway. With a little careful traversing you will be able to find a fallen arch near the end of it, just before a wooden fence.
The second section of the Cinder Path lies south of the motorway. It can be accessed by crossing over the motorway footbridge and then taking an immediate right turn into the woodlands. There is a very short section that is blocked off, hidden under the trees. Just a little way beyond this is an much longer section in excellent condition. Here you can get a sense of how high the walls were and how a person traversing the path was isolated from the surrounding landscape. This section terminates in a tunnel (which is still present, but boarded up). The Cinder Path originally went through the tunnel and carried on for some way further south (see the map above). The tunnel went underneath the private road that led from Wigan Lodge up to Cuerden Hall. There are concerns that the new owner of Cuerden Hall is seeking to limit access to Cinder Path. For the full story, see the Lancashire Evening Post article here. If you have been a user of the path, local Rambler groups are encouraging you to get in touch with them. The hope is that the route that thousands have freely enjoyed for many years can be made into an official Public Footpath – click here.
Some sources claim that the alignment of the path formed part of a Roman road. However, when the M65 motorway was constructed, no trace of a Roman road was found in the section excavated. The Roman road must run nearby though as the A49 road is the modern version of the route from Wigan Roman Fort to the Walton-le-Dale Roman Military Site.
The Reservoir and Ponds
The Victorian Reservoir was constructed by Thomas Townley-Parker in the 1880s and provided water for Cuerden Hall and the estate buildings. In 1906, three hydraulic ram pumps were constructed on the north side of the reservoir (see the map below). This was part of the then owner Reginald Arthur Tatton’s water supply improvement scheme. The fall of water from the dam drove the pumps, enabling them to send water from a nearby spring to three tanks. One tank was positioned at the top of the hall in the Belvedere tower, another in the stable block and a third underground.
The reservoir is now home to Canada Geese, Grey Herons and Great Crested Grebe. Eels have also been spotted crossing the grass from the lake to the nearby River Lostock. The edge of the dam can still be seen and there is a footpath along the top of it. Nearby are the foundations of the old boathouse, complete with railings extending out into the water.
Round Wood Pond was created out of an old clay pit. Clay was probably dug from this location to make bricks. The pond now supports a range of wildlife, including Emperor dragonflies and Blue-banded damselflies. When the M6 motorway was cut through the park a number of ponds were created to partially compensate for habitat loss. The Dragonfly Pond is located near Wigan Road car park, and there is also a large pond close to Town Brow car park. Both are also good places to observe dragonflies and damselflies.
Names of Woodlands
The names of the woodlands in Cuerden Valley Park give a clue to the uses the landscape was put to over time. The two large woodlands that many visitors are familiar with are Dog Kennel Wood and Gravel Hole Wood. Dog Kennel Wood was presumably where the pack of hunting hounds were kept. It is a common name on estates, for example there is a Dog Kennel Wood at the nearby site of Walton Hall. There is also one at Waddow Hall in Clitheroe. Gravel Hole Wood was used for gravel extraction, hence its unimaginative name.
Lady Hoghton’s Plantation is named after Robert Townley-Parker’s mother, Susannah Brooke of Astley Hall. After her first husband died she married Sir Phillip de Hoghton of Hoghton Tower, becoming Lady de Hoghton.
Today, wildlife thrives in the valley. Now that there are no longer gamekeepers, otters have returned to the River Lostock and buzzards soar overhead. Cuerden Valley Trust employees and volunteers do an excellent job of running the 650 acre site. There are four car parks which charge a small fee that goes towards the running of the valley, and regular public events.
To see the historical sites listed on this page, view the access details below.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2020
Stag Lodge: This is located outside Cuerden Valley Park on the junction of Lostock Lane and Wigan Road. Park at the Wigan Road car park and head out onto Wigan Road. Turn right and head north for a few minutes on foot to see the lodge.
The open grassland behind Stag Lodge can be accessed through various public footpaths. The easiest one is in Stag Lodge car park. Please note this car park is no longer open to cars. It seems to be permanently locked.
Cinder Path: The overgrown end of this begins in Wigan Road car park and runs up towards Dragonfly Pond. To walk along the accessible section turn right into the woodland after the pedestrian motorway bridge.
Wigan Lodge and Chain Lodge: The site of these are either side of the M6 motorway bridge that carries the motorway traffic over Wigan Road. Park in Wigan Road car park and head out to the main road and turn left. Alternatively, navigate your way there using the 1909 map.
Round Wood Pond and Dragonfly Pond: These lie at the northerly end of the parklands. Park at Wigan Road car park.
The Reservoir: This is in the central part of Cuerden Valley close to the bridge and ford over the River Lostock.
Gravel Hole Wood and Dog Kennel Wood: These are the large woodlands that are close to Town Head car park.
To view the map excerpts used on this page in full, see the National Museum of Scotland site here.
On the same site
Nearby, just a walk or drive away
Cuerden’s Historic Gardens: Discovery Trail 2 leaflet (out of print, approximate date 2009) Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Secret’s in the Landscape: Discovery Trail 1 leaflet(out of print, approximate date 2009) , Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Cuerden’s Natural World: Discovery Trail 3 leaflet,(out of print, approximate date 2009), Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Cuerden Valley Park: Visitor Information & Map leaflet, Cuerden Valley Park Trust. Current leaflet
Archaeological Evaluation Report: Cuerden Strategic Site, South Ribble, Lancashire (2018) O.E. Cook and A.S. Radford, Available online as a pdf document.
Map excerpts reproduced using Creative Commons Licence: Map of Lancashire LXIX NW 1909, published 1912. National Library of Scotland.