In the Woodhill and Ainsworth areas of Bury stand two rare sign posts. They are substantial stone features, with directions to nearby towns carved into them. Both feature ‘hands’ motioning in the direction to take, but interestingly neither show a mileage for any of the destinations.

The Woodhill post stands in front of what was the Dusty Miller pub. This is now no longer a public house, but the name remains displayed on the front of the building. The post has three carved faces and the spellings of some of the destinations are different to the modern ones of today.

Woodhill Sign Post

On the left face, a hand gestures towards the Tottington road and below is written: ‘To Tottington & Edgworth’. Underneath is a second hand, which motions: ‘To Bury’. On the middle face, a hand points towards the Walshaw road and beneath is written: ‘To Walshaw & Afettside’ (spelling as the original). Beneath this the date of construction, 1834, and a bench mark. The bench mark is a chiselled arrow pointing upwards to a line. This line could be used for a stable ‘bench’ to be put against it, upon which a ‘stave’ was then rested, from which to take a measurement. If needed, local surveyors could use a benchmark from a local feature such as this to work out the height of a nearby site they were working at. Each benchmark was part of a network, which ultimately was related back to sea level – the lowest possible height.

The right hand side face states: ‘To Holcome, Ramsbottom, Eadenfield, Haslingdon, Blackburn'(spelling all as original) Confusingly to those not familiar with local routes, there is a hand at the top, and one at the bottom, each gesturing in a different direction. The top hand is pointing to the road to Brandlesholme, which will lead to the first four destinations, and perhaps also to Blackburn as well. However, the hand underneath pointing in the opposite direction seems to have no destination. Close examination shows that the faces at some time have been re-carved, The faint letters of parts of the original carving can be seen underneath the paint in some parts, in a slightly different alignment on the faces. Perhaps the hand was motioning towards Bury, but the words have been eroded and painted out over time.

The former Dusty Miller pub, undergoing some renovation at the time the photograph was taken. It has been subsequently used as a solicitors office. The sign post can be seen in the centre of the picture, on what is still a very busy junction.

The Ainsworth sign post is almost hidden away next to a tall hawthorn hedge. It has two faces, and sadly in recent years it has suffered damage, most likely from frost shatter. The hands on this are much more crudely carved in comparison to the Woodhill post. On the left face, a hand motions: ‘Radcliffe TO Manchester’, and beneath one points in the opposite direction: ‘TO Blackburn’. On the right face is written: ‘TO (B)ury’ (and perhaps a hand has been lost here), while below a hand points right: ‘to Harwood and Bolton’.

Ainsworth Sign Post

The post stands across the road from the Rose and Crown pub. Like the Woodhill junction, this is still the intersection of busy roads. With no date on it, it is difficult to tell if this post is younger or older than the Ainsworth one. The hands are more crudely carved, but all the spellings are correct by today’s standards.

Both posts are rare remnants of an era when maps would be scarce. The fact that they have both survived being deliberately damaged during the Second World War is interesting. At this time, many posts with directions or mileages displayed had the words and numbers chipped out (see our page for examples of this on our companion site Lancashire at War here). The idea behind this was to slow down the navigation of an invading German army. This means that the Woodhill and Ainsworth direction posts must have been deliberately covered up and hidden in some way during the war years, to survive intact into modern times.

While old mile posts remain a familiar feature throughout Lancashire, these two direction posts are rare survivors of what once must have been a common sight.

Site visited by A. Bowden 2023


There is pavement access to both of the direction posts.

For the Woodhill direction post, park on Wike Street and head up Crostons Road street to the Dusty Miller. This is a busy junction, but there are pedestrian crossings.

For the Ainsworth direction post, park on Ashington Drive street and head down Lowercroft Road. There are traffic lights and crossing points on the roads. The sign post stands on the curved part of Starling Road, by the hawthorn hedge.

Looking out from the Ainsworth sign post towards the Rose and Crown on the left and the Black Bull on the right

Nearby to Woodhill Sign Post

Higher Woodhill Mill

Burrs Mill

Castlesteades Iron Age Fort

Bury Castle