Hilldale Community Association

Local history & lore

A letter to our newsletter from a resident with some information about local place names etc. generated some responses and so we thought it a good idea to open this page for your historical facts, legends and views.  Let's start with an extract from the original letter:

The The giant oak tree next to the High Moor Restaurant is supposed to be the tree where the last highway man in England was hanged! Courage Low Lane dates back to the Civil War – what does it mean? Too Good Lane is from the same period and, of course, there is Hunger Hill in Wrightington. If anyone has knowledge or an idea of the source of these names, why not write in and let us know.

However, my favourite story concerns the farmer who was, at long last, burying his harridan of a wife and, as the horse drawn hearse headed down the hill to the corner, he implored the driver to slow down; to no avail. As it turned the corner, the hearse tipped over spilling the coffin and wife onto the road. She promptly woke up and continued her harridan ways. This gave rise to the name Dangerous Corner – aptly named!

Local historian Derek Dalton is sceptical about the provenance of the oak tree story as that tree is a beech and those don't live for long enough.  Our thanks to Derek for the following contributions:

The last Lancashire highwayman  George Lyon came from Up Holland and was hanged at Lancaster goal in April 1815. Courage Low derives the name from the time of the Civil Wars, when Cromwell is reputed to have marched a troop of very frightened soldiers through the lane,  through lands which were at the time held by very powerful  Royalists, like the Standishes, Rigbys, Dickinsons and Derbys. With all those twisty bends hiding possible ambushes, there must have been a lot of soiled uniforms!  I’m sure I have read somewhere the reason for ‘’Toogood lane’’.  I’ll let you know when I resurrect it.  Incidentally, just east of the High Moor restaurant there was once  a big drift coal mine and a bed of thin layers of stone which was used locally to roof the cottages and houses of  100 to 200 years ago, many of which are still serving that purpose today.


In one way or other I have been associated with Hilldale and Bispham for over 60 years.  In that time I have come from being an ‘’outsider’’ to one of the top 12 longest residents.  Now someone will shoot me down and tell me there are at least 12 without me!  During that time I have witnessed many changes and heard multiple stories which I feel I should pass on for posterity. 
The Delph Tea gardens [Map 1, Ref 1] at the top of the Common were once a Mecca for people to spend a pleasant day out.  Coach parties of Sunday school outings would arrive to indulge in organised games and sports on the fields.  They could then examine the spooky tunnels and grotto [Map 1, Ref 3] which are still there close to Stoney Lane.  They could examine the wonderfully detailed fossilised tree [Map 1, Ref 2] , millions of years old which now lies in the back garden of one of the new houses just  about three houses in on the left from the Stony Lane entrance.  Or they would enjoy a leisurely sail on the lake, which was always popular, with queues often waiting eagerly for a turn.  Refreshments were readily available at the kiosks.  There were pleasant walks in the grounds.
In the lower part of the old quarry there was a large wooden building which was used as a café and occasional dance hall [Map 1, Ref 4].  I went to the last dance there in 1958  organised by the local Young Farmer’s group.  During the 1930’s  the grounds boasted a TT course for motor cycle enthusiasts. At each of the two entrances there were turnstiles which also sold pop and, I believe, cigarettes.  Howitt Hill quarry also had motorcycle events, but that is another story.

and some more from Derek:

For the last 75 years or so Hilldale and its surrounds have played host to many varied activities and events and must have provided enough sport and entertainment to satisfy even the most hard-to-please residents.

Today we still welcome over 500 athletes annually to the notoriously tough Parbold Hill race. A grueling 7 miles of hills, mud and stiles, traversing Howitt, Parbold and Harrock Hills.

During the 40’s and 50’s Jackson’s field [Map 2, Ref 5] hosted the annual Rose Queen events, now, in recent years resurrected in the form of the popular annual Hilldale Fair day.

Hilldale had its own rugby and football teams. The football team played in red and white striped shirts, with white shorts. We could even boast a competent harmonica band; 20 or so men and boys, dressed in yellow and blue, they blew a merry tune!

The main occupations were quarrying along with basket weaving and farming.

The top quarry at Howitt [Map 2, Ref 7] provided us with outdoor swimming for many years until quarry work broke through from the bottom quarry and drained it. There was a nice row of about six stone cottages at the top and a large detached house which was a popular Hovis café for many years. These properties were all accessed from Whittle Lane,  along a road called Sunny Mount.

The quarry supplied the dressed stone for many fine buildings from Ormskirk to Wigan. Window cills were 1 shilling & 6 pence (7½p) heads were 1 shilling (5p). Stone water troughs (now a sought-after garden feature) were from 5 shillings (25p). They also made big heavy mill stones for grinding corn. The last time I was in the quarry one was lying on a spoil heap!

Look at the huge stones which, for over three hundred years, have made up the wall between the Farmer’s Arms and Richard Durning’s School. Some must weigh 10 tons and were carted from the quarry by horses and manhandled into place by the sweat of local men who were probably paid about 25p a week or less. Notice the mounting steps in front of the pub and the remaining hitching rings for horses. These should probably be listed monuments. 

Traders on their way to Wigan market and returning in the evening would use these facilities. I am told that in order to avoid pulling heavy loads over Parbold Hill, a detour was made through Harrock Hall grounds.

I have drunk many a pint at the old Farmers Arms; brought up from the cellars by Ellen in a blue and white striped jug as she did not believe in those new-fangled pumps!

At the top of Hillside Ave, where the last two houses stand on the right, Blacows had two huge horse-drawn caravans [Map 2, Ref 8] fitted out with beds etc., for hire as holiday homes and higher up at the farm the Dandy family had a large wooden café with an open balcony to take in the pleasant views. Blacows also had the Jubilee Tea rooms above their grocery store at 43 Hilldale (Chorley Rd), now a private residence. Number 33 where I once lived was a boot and shoe repair shop. The little cottage just in Hillside Avenue, was a blacksmiths shop. I was told by a local lad that a big wooden water butt stood by the door. One night, a group of mischief makers leaned the full tub against the front door and then knocked on the door.

With a butcher’s shop, a post office, two grocers, two taxi companies (run by the Hulmes family and Blacows), local joiners, wheelwrights, and local farm milk deliveries, the village was practically self-sufficient. The two cottages at 37 & 39, I was told, were once a little ale house.

Motor transport in the fifties was limited to the few wealthier residents and so home visits by the local doctor to the housebound were more frequent. If you needed a prescription dispensing you hung a white flag outside your house and John Halton was sure to call on you and then deliver the medicine promptly.

During the last war Leyland Motors sent vehicles up into the quarry and out at the top to test them over the rough terrain.

The quarry provided a very testing circuit in the 50’s for national motor cycle trials. I have watched many a rider come a cropper over the difficult bits. They used to travel down to the woods on Hall Lane to complete the course in the woods and through a pond there.

Of course Hilldale had a village hall [Map 2, Ref 9] long before the present one. It was sited where the front gates of no. 52A are, with the gable end to the road. There was a billiard table and whist and domino drives were regular popular Saturday evening’s entertainment there. When the hut was dismantled it was taken behind the Mission Church and re-erected and is still in use today. I think the billiard table was taken to Cardwell House at the top of Robin Ln/Chorley Rd, where the local lads would often spend a pleasant evening, courtesy of the Hill family. Edgar, a retired army man, was host and often retired early to bed, telling the lads to lock up when they had finished their game. You don’t get that sort of trust nowadays!

According to Lancashire Records Office there was a drovers road [Map 3, Ref 11] along the bottom hedge of the village field along which cattle were herded to an open market [Map 3, Ref 12] on Grimshaw Green; the field now enclosed as part of Longfold farm. There was always a public footpath down past the cottage, leading down to the little Entwistle’s wood at the bottom. I used the path regularly whilst courting my wife-to-be. Now, sadly it has been built over and is denied to all. It was not always so. In the early 1900’s barn dances were a regular feature there with a fiddler providing the music. If you paid sixpence beforehand to the old farmer, a bale of straw would be put down the field for the more ardent swains!

Bentley Cinema [off the Maps but close to the junction of Bentley Lane with Ridely Lane] based at the bottom of the field at Bentley Lodge and run as an enthusiast’s hobby by the Hutchinson family was a fine Art Deco cinema in miniature, decorated in pink and green, with gold leaf picking out various features such as the fan shapes covering the wall lights. The screen had deep red curtains and some of the seats were upholstered. Usherettes served ice cream in the interval. The films shown were very much up-to-the minute. The cinema closed in the late 1950’s.

In Hilldale, a fine stone detached house, with a building at the south end, stood on the Charity field about 5 yards on the left of the turn into new Beechfield, where Mr and Mrs. Hulmes lived until sadly they were evicted and the house demolished in 1961 to make way for the new bungalow estate.

Does anyone know where Wane’s Blade Rd. gets its name from? That’s the road from Hall Lane, leading to Hoscar Moss. The bridge over the river Douglas once had a bridge which opened to allow masted boats to pass on their way to Wigan as part of the Douglas Navigation system. This bridge was of a Dutch design, with two upright arms like the shafts or blades of a horse-drawn wain or cart. There! So now you can tell your grandchildren.

We have a 1893 Ordnance Survey map and the following images are marked up to show the places referred to by Derek and others. 


Map 1
 Map 2
 Map 3


The map is courtesy of the National Library of Scotland and we have a licence to make use of it for this website only

Unfortunately, the download of the complete map doesn't zoom very well and so if you'd like to see it in greater detail, it can be seen at  https://maps.nls.uk/view/126520025.

If you have something to contribute, please do so either through the website contact page or by email to hello@hilldale-ca.org. 


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