Rivington Pike is a hill on Winter Hill, part of the West Pennine Moors. The Pike itself is 1191 feet high (363 meters). At the top of the Pike is a tower, which will be the focus of this article.

Rivington Pike Tower

The current tower dates from the eighteenth century. There was an older, wooden construction here which formed part of a beacon system, first put in place c. 1139. The beacon system was used to warn the country of the approaching Spanish Armada in 1588. Construction on the tower started in 1732 and was complete a year later. The tower was made of stone shipped from Liverpool and the workers were paid in ale. The foundations of the tower are made from older stones. Interestingly, these stones are now visible due to erosion around the tower. The ground is around 3 feet/ 0.9m lower than it was almost three hundred years ago.

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The tower, Rivington Pike, 2019 (note the foundations visible here) (Own Photograph, 2019)

The tower was constructed for John Andrews (1684-1743), the former owner of the Rivington Estate. He was a solicitor who practised in Bolton. In 1707 he married Abigail Cook and they had eight children together. Unfortunately, only one child survived to adulthood; a daughter, Abigail. She married Joseph Wilson and had two children; Lydia and John. As a woman in the eighteenth century, Abigail had no legal status, therefore it was her husband who inherited the Rivington Estate, not herself. Abigail sadly died aged 32 just a few months after the birth of her son. Her husband died in 1765, having outlived both his children (Lydia died aged 17 and John died aged 19 from smallpox). The estate then passed to an another member of the Andrews family (Abigail’s first cousin). It was this Robert Andrews (1741-1793) who rebuilt Rivington Hall in 1774. The sad tale of the Andrews/Wilson families is perhaps a stark reminder that wealth was no protection from ill-health and disease in the eighteenth century.

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An old postcard, showing the tower, c.1900 (Bolton Photos Old and New, 2014)

The tower was built as a hunting lodge. It contained one square room, with a cellar, fireplace, door and windows. It sparks quite a romantic, idyllic image of life in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries for the various members Andrews family and their guests, riding up to the top of the Pike and sheltering from the weather by a roaring fire. The current tower is blocked up and the chimney has been lost since the late nineteenth century. A date stone from the tower has also gone missing.

However, by the latter-decades of the nineteenth century, the Rivington Estate was on the cusp of change. It had been inherited by various descendants of the Andrews family; it passed to Robert Andrews who died in 1858, when it then passed to his brother, John Andrews. On John’s death in 1865 it passed to his great-nephew, John William Crompton. Crompton was born and raised in Liverpool, so it was his spinster aunts and other relatives who resided at Rivington Hall. In 1899, Crompton sold the Rivington Estate to William Hesketh, Lord Leverhulme, who turned the Estate into a public park.

The Reservoirs 

In 1847 the Liverpool Corporation first proposed a series of reservoirs around Rivington to supply Liverpool with clean water. After some setbacks the reservoirs, Upper Rivington and Anglezarke, were full by February 1856. Although a large amount of land and property had been lost to the development.

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A view of the upper reservoir, 2018 (Source: Own Photograph, 2018)

However, the reservoirs were quickly deemed a beauty spot and attracted tourists to this ‘man-made’ lake district. A peaceful, healthy escape from surrounding industrial towns. As early as May 1856 one local business the ‘New Black Boy Inn’ on the edge of the reservoirs was taking advantage of the”South Lancashire Lakes“. The local newspaper noted “the proprietor of the above inn begs to call to the attention of excursionists, tourists and pic-nic parties, to the first rate accommodation he is able to provide.”

The Tower as a destination 

The Tower on Rivington Pike, as a folly of a bygone age, was always a point of interest for visitors and the vantage point from the summit was (and still is) breathtaking. It is no surprise that Leverhulme decided to build his summerhouse and the pigeon tower near the foot of the Pike. The original house, Roynton Cottage was destroyed in an arson attack in 1913 by the suffragette, Edith Rigby. The second house, the bungalow, was purchased by John Magee after Leverhulme’s death and he resided there between 1925-1939. After Magee’s death it was purchased by the Liverpool Corporation and it was demolished in 1948. However, the decline of the bungalow post-1930s (with the exception of the war when it was used by the military) marked the rise of the Pike and the tower. This was due to the fact the area around the bungalow and the base of the Pike was no longer part of a private residence, so it was visited much more frequently by the public. Since 1900 the Rivington Easter fair has been held on Good Friday and this marked as a local tradition in nearby towns, which was a mass-exodus of the population to go on a hike to the Pike.

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Crowds gathering around the foot of the pike, the tower in the background, c.1930s (Bolton Photos Old and New, 2014)

At the top, on the tower itself, many visitors have carved their names into the stones, as a form of tourist graffiti. One of the oldest examples I have been able to find dates from 1855. One account by a visitor to the Pike in 1889 is recalled below:

“I have succeeded in reaching the summit, and close by its walls. I use my opera glasses. My curiosity is now increased, and a thorough search for information aroused. I find at first its walls are strongly built, with the date 1733, I presume the year in which it was erected, and in the second place its height from the ground, its height the level of the sea which is from the ground about twenty feet, and from the sea level, I have heard it is 1192.

Many inscriptions and names are chiselled on its walls externally, of those who wish to remind strangers, of their visit there, perhaps being strangers themselves. I now walk around its walls, viewing everything with keen interest, its moors and the country around, and coming to the east side of it, I find a breeze, a refreshing breeze. I next come to its door, an iron one, and tried to open it in vain; barred or locked on the inside, and I wondered who was the last individual that entered its precincts. I presume not in existence now.”

The 20th Century: An Uncertain Future

The Pike was clearly a popular destination, however this wear and tear and took its toll on the tower itself. There were even car races up there from around 1909. In 1944, an article in the Manchester Evening News ran the story: RIVINGTON TOWER PERIL. The article recounted:

“ The postmistress at Rivington told me to-day: Everybody expects it to fall at any moment. It is very disturbing to see hikers and trippers sitting near to it on the grass. Children play about inside it.”

With post-war austerity looming into the 1950s and with massive public improvement schemes, the Liverpool Corporation could not afford to pay for the upkeep of the tower. In 1967 their plans to demolish it were met with uproar. In 1971 the land and building were transferred to Chorley Rural Council, who gave the building a ‘facelift’ in September 1972 and enacted further restorations in 1974.

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Graffiti on the tower, one example dating from 1855. (Own Photograph, 2019)

Today

In the 21st century, Rivington Pike remains as popular as it always has been. The hike to the tower is still a local tradition upheld by some on Good Friday. The tower itself continues to arouse curiosity. Just as it marked a place for the Andrews family to rest during their hunts 286 years ago, it continues to mark a peaceful spot, especially welcoming for those who want to sit down after walking up to the top!

 

Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath

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