Holcombe Village

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Travelling up Lumb Carr Road from Holcombe Brook, you will pass what was once a farm, where I worked as a teenager (my first job, £8 a week) and which is now a development of several nice houses. Going on a little, there is an access road on your left which goes to Aitken Sanatorium. It is now renamed and is now Darul Uloom Al-Arabiyyah Al-Islamiyyah. Darul Ullom means 'House of Knowledge'. Further still, a small car-park on the right caters for hill-walkers. The view of the hill is impressive from here; you can see the footpaths people have used throughout the years to access the top.

Going on, we soon reach the village proper where there is a ' bottle-neck' between the Shoulder of Mutton pub on the right and a lovely row of terraced cottages on the left. One of the cottages is an Indian restaurant called Mala now but was once run as a restaurant by a Mrs Anderton. (I believe it was also the Post Office). Her mother ran a restaurant when I was a child on the road that runs parallel to Lumb Carr, at the base of the hill. She seated people in the parlour of her terraced cottage and cooked in her kitchen. We went once for Christmas dinner. Lovely.

Once past the terrace, the access road on the left turns back on itself to take you to the hill. Once you have turned onto this road, you can turn right where you will see some stables and a riding stadium. This was once a Disabled riding establishment run by Mrs Hays. My friend and I took Treacle the welsh-mountain pony up there every Sunday for the children to ride, then plodded back down to Holcombe Brook, where I lived, afterwards.

Back on the main road, there is a road off to the right called The Rake, which is not far off vertical! Not suitable for cars, really, and some chaps cycle up it every year as a challenge. Off to the right of The Rake is the beautiful Emmanual Church, built in 1852 at a cost of £3000, consecrated by the first bishop of Manchester, Dr. Prince Lee, on April 8, 1853.
The first Rector was the Rev. G. Nightingale.

Along the road again we come to the Emmanuel C of E School on our left, then we are out of the village and away towards Buckden and Helmshore.

There is a nice story about a house at the base of the hill that was used to film some scenes for an 80's comedy drama called Brass, about the textile trade in the 19th century. Some chaps were working on the church steeple whilst filming was going on. Every time the director yelled, "Action!" the men up the steeple would shout nice things at the actors and actresses. I am sure you can imagine the theme of the language. The director had to come to some arrangement with the construction people before filming could continue.

Backing up a bit to the tower access road, as we go along it it forks. The left fork goes down to where Mrs Anderton had her parlour eatery. The other is a road that skirts the hill, then continues all the way to Edgeworth, many miles away. It makes a wonderful walk. Just when you begin walking this way, there is a right turn which winds along to the right, then switches back to the left and climbs up and around the hill to an isolated farmhouse at the top, a few yards to the west of the tower. I remember the inhabitants had a food drop by helicopter in 1976, when we had a bad winter. It possibly happened more often, but with the advent of efficient fridges and freezers, this sort of thing isn't really necessary now - it is hardly Mount Snowdon!

A slight curiosity - the village was known as Holecumbe in 1265 according to a document that was found. No idea what.

Pilgrims' Cross

I would like to say how much help the Reverend Dowsett has been in my research into the Pilgrims' Cross. The man was passionate about Holcombe and wrote beautifully about the village in his books and other documents. Thank you, Sir, if you are looking down and 'tutting' about my somewhat lame attempt to gather together some of the facts about this historically important village.

The following two poems were penned by the Reverend H Dowsett, then Vicar of Holcombe, around the turn of the 19th century. The first invokes in me a picture of pilgrim groups, weary from the long, hard trek through Holcombe Forest and up Harcles Hill. If one stands quite a distance from the hill and imagines Redisher Woods covering the whole of it and as far as can be seen of the moors, both left and right, one may get an impression, perhaps, of how it once looked.
The second describes exactly what many of us locals have done - a lovely picnic atop the hill on a summers day. Wonderful!


Old weather-beaten stone! Thou hast a story,
Telling of bygone scenes in ages hoary;
When Whalley pilgrims knelt around to pray,
And rest awhile, amid the heat of day.

Plantagenet bore rule when thou wast set up here,
And sires and sons have gone – how brief is life!
But Holcombe's hills encircle thee as dear
Old, steadfast friends, faithfull 'mid stress and strife.

Then centuries rolled on; true light arose;
The misty, devious ways were left untrod;
No longer 'neath they shade men sought repose,
For better pathways led them up to God.

They might have left thee in they solitude
Inviolate, but those old times were rude;
Despoilers came, iconclasts in mood,
Then thy fair shaft no longer upright stood.

By these has pageant passed, mingled of joy and woe;
But what has been, what is, and e'en what might have been,
Is traced in characters none here may know,
The Omniscient only hath its record seen.

Hoar stone – farewell! I leave thee with regret;
They solemn lesson my dull heart hath conned;
Thou bid'st me, 'midst life's fever and its fret,
Live for that better world which lies beyond.

Nov 16th 1896


Wearied we rested by this ancient Stone
One summer's day,
Where pilgrims oft in ages long agone
Have knelt to pray.

They came afar, perhaps from Cambria's stand
O'er hill and dale;
or some from Sicily, or Holy Land,
For home set sail.

The track o'er this wild Holcombe moorland steep,
Sandalled they trod;
The City gates, we fain will trust, now keep
Their souls with God.

Blest band of pilgrims! To have gained the rest
Of heaven's bright home;
No longer sought by hard, laborious quest;
No more they roam.

No more is theirs a long and weary way
To ancient shrine;
On them hath dawned the beatific day -
Be that day mine!

Yet here, as they, we linger once again;
Pilgrims are we,
With staff in hand; a few steps more, and then -

July 11, 1901

There was once a cross, hundreds of years ago, though until 1901 all that remained of the original relic was the stone socket into which the cross had once been been set. It is known the cross was there in 1166, probably much earlier, when pilgrims would worship here, possibly on the way to the Cross of Paulinus at Whalley Abbey.

Presumably it was maintained either by locals or the monks from Whalley Abbey or Bretton. Please see the Charter of Roger de Montbegon here where there is mention of it with the original spelling.

Unknown vandals destroyed this stone socket in one night of destructive frenzy in 1901. Never caught, the perpetrators actions led to the forming of a committee to replace this important relic.

Some curious history with reference to the plug-drawing in Ramsbottom and Tottington was found on the socket before it was destroyed – there were several crude inscriptions, one of them being …

RP 1842 A 12 REMBER

The initials are purported to be those of Reuben Pilkington who could have been involved in some way with drawing plugs from the factory boilers, thereby stopping all the machines run by that devil, steam power, during the riots.

The Rev H Dowsett has been responsible for helping me with my research, and I stumbled across a letter, quite by chance, from him to the Bury Times on August 21, 1901 ...

The Bury Times, Saturday August 24, 1901.
To the Editor.

Sir, - Within the last few days a wanton act has been perpetrated on Holcombe Moor, in the complete destruction of the ancient Pilgrims' Cross Stone. I saw this relic of the past intact on Saturday, August 3rd, but it has now utterly disappeared.
The massive foundation stone which belonged to the Cross, and which was all that remained of it, has been smashed to pieces, and an attempt made to bury the fragments.
In this, an act of vandalism has been committed which is simply outrageous, and, surely, could not be equalled. It is also an affront to every student of antiquarian matters in the county, and it deserves the severest reprobation and penalty. Whoever did this atrocious act, or in any way participated in it, or connived at it, should sternly be made to feel that it is insolent,infamous, nay criminal.
The Cross, of which this now broken-up stone formed part, is referred to with much interest and at some length, in Whitaker's "Whalley," Ed.1872, Vol. L, pp. 101 and 323-6 Baines' "Lancashire;" Ed. 1868, Vol. L., p. 524, also makes most interesting mention of it. The Cross is referred to as a boundary, in part, in a bequest of land in Holcombe Forest, made by Roger de Montbegon, mesne lord under the Lacy's, to the Monastery of Monk Bretton, and the date of the bequest is about A.D. 1225. So the Pilgrims' Cross on Holcombe Moor was in existence then, and how much earlier none can tell.
The old public moorland track runs close to the now vacant site of the demolished stone. The six-inch ordnance map, sheet 79, survey 1844, shows this clearly. Thus there can be no claim that anyone using this ancient path is trespassing; the the very words "Foot Path" are printed on the map close to the usual dotted lines, which show this track, and which passes over the shoulder of Bull Hill and onward. But, be this as it may, those who could in any way appreciate such an act of vandalism as to destroy this time-honoured stone must be persons of a very peculiar mental type indeed. And those persons are still at large!
I have heard, sir, that some of your readers have been interested in my rough-cast notes on Holcombe, which, by your courtesy, appeared in the Bury Times some few months ago. I am concious they were meagre, truly; but after frequent requests by friends hereabout so to do, I sent them for publication, so that the facts, which I obtained and recorded in the notes, might come to the knowledge of others than those for whom I originally prepared them. These sympathetic readers will assuredly share my strong sense of abhorrence of this abominable outrage which has deprived our historic Holcombe Moor of an ancient monument erected some seven hundred years ago.
I may add that the fragments of this stone show that its destruction was brought about by some very clumsy depredators, and not by an ordinary skilled worker in stone-craft. An expert, with whom I visited the place to-day, pointed this out to me. Wedges had been inserted in the block, and they had been very clumsily dealt with. The wedge-holes, too, were badly made, and other marks showed the unskilful use of heavy hammers. I identified portions of the inscription which had been cut upon the stone. These lie among the broken pieces, which weigh, variously, from five to twenty pounds. They tell too plainly the story of the destruction of the relic, which, when intact, might have weighed a ton or thereabout. I also found other clear evidence that the destruction by these vandals had been committed on the site where the stone so long had stood, and the broken-up parts carried to, and placed in, a wet "bog-hole" situated twenty yards distant, and almost due south of it.
To keep secret their infamous action, the depredators covered over the "bog-hole" with masses of whinberry roots, &c., removed from the surface close at hand. - I am, sir, yours faithfully,


Holcombe Rectory, August 21st, 1901


The memorial stone consists of a massive block of sandstone, 5ft (1.524mtrs) high and 3ft (0.914mtrs) square, standing on a base-stone 4.5ft (1.372mtrs) square and 12in (0.30mtrs). In thickness. Together the stones (quarried at Fletcher Bank) weigh about 5 tons (4.54 tonnes), and fourteen horses were required to drag them to their present position. They were taken up to the moor in an undressed state, and the sculpting done on the spot, with Mr J Pilkington of Ramsbottom as overlooker. The lettering was cut by Mr Pilkington's son, Thomas, a descendant of Reuben Pilkington who carved on the old stone the inscription referring to the labour troubles in the early part of last century (see above). On each of the four sides of the monument are clearly-cut inscriptions, as follow ...




A.D. 1176


IN A.D. 1176
AND IN A.D. 1225
IN A.D. 1662,


MAY 24TH 1902


Old Holcombe Pilgrims Stone, farewell!
We grieve at thy inglorious end;
No softened tone of rung-out knell
Did thy last hour attend.

Farewell, old friend! what can atone
This heartless, sordid, selfish, deed,
If thou by Vandals wast o'erthrown
For money's paltry meed?

The student youth, the grey-haired sire,
With Masters of historic lore,
In Palatine of Lancashire
Keenly thy loss deplore.

Thou hadst a mission to fulfil
In by-gone years of hoary past,
Showing the track on Forest Hill
To home and rest at last.

A kindly friend thou oft hadst been
To many who afar did roam;
In summer heat and wintry scene,
A land-mark to guide home.

Seven hundred years they voice here spoke,
Telling of better world than this;
Who knows but some from dreams awoke!
Fearing that world to miss.

Shades of the past-arise, dismayed!
Thy ancient Stone stands here no more,
Where pilgrims often knelt and prayed
When crossing Holcombe Moor.

But thou art gone! We heave the sigh
Of sorrow and of keen regret;
For strewn around they fragments lie,
With tears of dew-drops wet.

The Rev H Dowsett, 1901

The view to the East & South by East from Peel Monument

east (65K)

The view to the North West by West from Peel Monument

east (65K)

The view to the North & North East from Peel Monument

east (65K)

The view to the South South West from Peel Monument

east (65K)

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