Peel Tower, also known as Peel Monument, sits high on Holcombe Hill above Ramsbottom. The tower is a memorial to Sir Rober Peel and erected in 1852. Walk with me on my journey up to find out more.
Late last summer we ventured out in search of another walk to discover. This time I drove west into Greater Manchester along the M60, onto the M66 reaching the town of Ramsbottom. We’ve been to Ramsbottom, ‘Rammy’ as it is affectionately known, on numerous occasions previously.
This was mainly to look at the shops, which are quite quirky, selling old memorabilia, antiques, and boutique clothing. It also has some lovely cafes including a specialised chocolate one.
On this occasion I was curious to find out more about the tower which overlooks the town though.
The walk starts near to the station, which I feel I need to give a little mention to.
Grid Ref: SD792167
Postcode: BL0 9AL
It is a heritage station originally opened on 28th September 1846. It was built by the East Lancashire Railway (ELR). At first it went from Clifton Junction through Bury and Ramsbottom to Rawtenstall. This enabled trains from Manchester Victoria to travel through it.
Originally the Ramsbottom line had been built by Manchester, Bury and Rossendale Railway in 1844. That company was then taken over by ELR in 1845 and the line was extended by ELR from Stubbins Junction (north of Ramsbottom) going to Accrington on 18th September 1948. After this ELR was taken over by Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR) in May 1859.
Up and down platforms which were ‘linked’ by a footbridge were constructed, plus canopies and the station building. The goods yard and shed was situated where the current car park is today. The level crossing and signal box retain much of their originality today.
The station was mainly used for coal traffic, but it also served the Trinity Paperworks on the east of the station and Print Works on the southwest side. The Print Works had its own rail system served by an affectionately named locomotive called ‘Archibald’.
From 1923 until it was nationalised on 1st January 1948 the station was operated by London, Midland and Scottish Railway. It was then taken over by the London, Midland Region of British Railways.
In the late 1960’s it was further rationalised, and this resulted in the demolition of station building and up platform. It was closed to passengers on 5th July 1972 but remained open until 1980 for freight purposes. Finally, it was re-opened on 25th July 1987 by ELR (Heritage Line).
Today the station has 2 platforms and Up platform which are connected by a footbridge. It now has a station building with ticket office and waiting room. The level crossing remains at the north end of the platforms with wooden gates. These are operated by an authentic ‘ship’s wheel’ in the signal box.
The station as you can see has a significant history and is well worth visit for all the family. I vividly remember being there a couple of years ago and seeing the Flying Scotsman going through – fantastic!
It is open to the public to travel on and the line operates from Heywood to Rawtenstall stations. We were treated to a 3-course meal on it for an anniversary present. It was a brilliant experience, and we were seated with a lovely couple who we realised we knew via a dear departed friend. Happy times.
Walking Route to Peel Tower
I think I’d better get on with telling you about the walking route now!
We managed to park near to the station and local Aldi on a side street. At the end of Railway Street take the path to the left signposted for Nuttall Park. At the end of the path take the footpath on the right. This brings you out onto Bolton Street.
Turn left here and walk 50 yards, then cross the road and walk-up Dundee Lane. You can now see Emmanuel Church on the hill. Shortly after Dundee Lane turns right there is a sign to go through a gap in the wall to the tower.
This takes you through the woodland and up some quite steep steps into the graveyard of the church.
The church is quite impressive. The site of it dates to early 1300’s, where there was a strong Christian presence. It was originally a chanty chapel that was closed for 100 years due to Reformation.
The building was then used as a prison in the mid 1600’s and the new chapel was consecrated after this. It was extended in early 1700’s and again in 1774.
Due to the increased population of Ramsbottom, the old chapel was demolished, and the current church was built in 1853 by Thomas Holt of Bury.
It is made of cut and quarry face rubble with ashlar dressings. In a Neo-gothic style with chancel, tall nave, lean to aisles and west tower with angle buttresses. This makes it an impressive grade II listed building.
Walking through the church grounds you reach Chapel Lane in Holcombe Village. Then past the Shoulder of Mutton Pub on the left (we were tempted but carried on our walk).
Carrying on up Cross Lane and onto Moorbottom Road. There is quite clear signage here for the tower if not set quite basically in stone. It reminded me slightly of a signpost for the brothel in Pompeii … moving on swiftly, taking the path to the monument itself.
It’s quite a steep pull at the end up to the monument, but the views of the surrounding areas truly make up for it.
Finally, we reach our destination, Peel Tower and stop for a much-needed refreshment break. It’s a glorious late summers day and the scenery and heather are breath-taking.
You can see all over Greater Manchester towards the coast one way and over the expanse of Holcombe Moor the other way – stunning!
Peel Tower (aka Monument)
This monument was built in memory of Sir Robert Peel and in conjunction with a statue being built at the same time in Bury. It marks the recently deceased statesman who was born in Bury in 1788.
It’s built on Harcles Hill (known as Holcombe Hill) and is 1,100 ft (335 metres) above sea level. The tower is 128 ft (39 metres) high and has 171 steps to the tops.
A public donation of £1,000 was used to build the tower (about £250,000 today). The stone used to build it was sought from the local hillside. The tower was opened in September 1852, the day after the unveiling of the statue in Bury.
At this ceremony the principal guest of honour, Frederick Peel (son of Robert Peel) said that the monument was a splendid memorial to his father and principles of free trade. On the inside entrance to the tower is an extract from Peel’s speech to the House of Commons in 1846.
The tower however, had been built so hastily that permission from the landowner (Duke of Buccleuch) had not been sought. This was rectified in 1868 and the land was transferred to the care of 6 trustees, providing no contentious public meetings were held there.
The original internal staircase became unsafe and was bricked up. It was later renovated, and a new staircase provided. The tower was again renovated in 1929 and at other times. It was closed after World War II in 1947 and reopened in November 1985 by Conservative Counsellor Alice Maders, who rededicated it.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get in the tower to climb to the top due mainly to the COVID restrictions at the time. The tower is also only open at certain times, usually one Sunday a month by volunteers.
However, a white flag is hoisted from the top when it is open, so keep your eyes peeled!
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet
He was a prominent British statesman who was twice elected as Prime Minister:
1834-35 and 1841-46
A key figure in the formation of the modern Conservative Party and best remembered for repealing the Corn Laws (laws established to protect British agriculture in June 1846). He also formed London’s 1st metropolitan police force.
He was the son of a wealthy cotton manufacturer born in Bury, Lancashire. Educated at Harrow and Oxford University, he went into parliament in 1809 as a member of the Conservative Party.
Key stages of his career:
1829 – Whilst in his role as Home Secretary, there was increased support for a state funded, full-time police force. Peel’s role was fundamental in forming London’s 1st police force. Following on from this success, policemen were nicknamed ‘Peelers’ and are still known as ‘Bobbies’ today after his name Robert.
1839 – Offered a chance to form a government by Queen Victoria which originally failed due to a failure of communication known as ‘the Bedchamber crisis’.
Peel resigned, but after intervention from Prince Albert, there was a reconciliation and Peel continued a good working relationship with the Queen. After his death she described him as her ‘worthy Peel, man of unbound loyalty, courage, patriotism and high mindedness’
1843 – Peel survived an assassination attempt. His personal secretary Edward Drummond was shot and died of his wounds. The assassin Daniel McNaughton (Glaswegian woodturner) was suffering with ‘paranoid delusions’ and mistook Drummond for Peel.
Today there is still a legal test for criminal insanity called ‘McNaughton Rules’.
1846 – The repeal of the Corn Laws split Peel’s Conservative Party, and this prompted his resignation and subsequent departure from his 2nd term as Prime Minister. Only 4 years after his resignation, Peel was badly injured after a fall from his horse. He died from his injuries on 2nd July 1850.
As you can see a very inspirational figure from our local area. It is only fitting that he deserves a monument dedicated to him with spectacular views over the Northwest region.
After our refreshment break, we decided to head out over the moor. It’s very popular with walkers from the area. It is a great expanse of moorland with a possibility of getting lost or wandering into Holcombe Moor’s Cadet training area, therefore, it is recommended to observe the warning flags and restrictions.
The moorland forms part of Stubbins Estate and is a previous environment. A blanket bog has formed over the last 6,000 years resulting in a peat layer up to 3 metres in places.
Unfortunately, as with other Pennine areas, the effects of the Industrial Revolution and pollution over 150 years has brought damage to the peat surface, plus damage from fires, erosion, and overgrazing.
This has a knock-on effect to changes in vegetation, affecting breeding moorland birds with increased flooding risks. The peat can also no longer store carbon as it did, which is invaluable in our current climate.
Work is now being undertaken to help with this such as:
· Creating permeable dams, lifting stones into gullies to restrict flow of flood water.
· Excavation to create pools thus reducing flow of water across the moorland.
· Re-introducing sphagnum moss in re-wetted areas. Eventually making top layers of peat more permeable to retain water.
We didn’t walk too far across the moor as we were mindful of stumbling into the cadet’s firing zone. So having had enough walking for the day we doubled back and took a short cut down to the village of Holcombe. We used the church in the distance as a guide.
The path was signposted further down as well.
After a quick comfort break at the Shoulder of Mutton pub, we retraced our route back into Ramsbottom.
A very interesting place to visit with a significant historical background. A pleasant, homely town with a feature railway station. Many walks available in the area with spectacular views of the surrounding region. Our walk was just half of one of them.
If you are visiting around Easter Time, you could see the old tradition of ‘pace-egging’ which takes place on Holcombe Hill. Children (mainly) paint the shells of hard-boiled eggs in bright colours. These are then rolled down the hill, the fastest one wins!
As you can see lots to do and plenty to see as well. Well worth a visit to this area. Enjoy it!