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Winter Hill (North West England)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Winter Hill
Winter Hill From Blackrod.jpg
Winter Hill from Blackrod. The mast can be seen for many miles around
Highest point
Elevation1,496 ft (456 m) [1]
Prominence715 ft (218 m)
Parent peakHail Storm Hill
Coordinates53°37′48″N 2°30′54″W / 53.63000°N 2.51500°W / 53.63000; -2.51500
Winter Hill is located in Lancashire
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Lancashire
Winter Hill is located in Greater Manchester
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Greater Manchester
Winter Hill is located in the Borough of Chorley
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Chorley Borough
Winter Hill is located in Blackburn with Darwen
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Blackburn with Darwen
LocationNorth West England
OS gridSD659149
Topo mapOS Landranger 109
Panorama of Winter Hill, taken from Blackrod
Panorama of Winter Hill, taken from Blackrod

Winter Hill is a hill on the border of the boroughs of Chorley, Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton, in North West England. It is located on Rivington Moor, Chorley and is 1,496 feet (456 m) high. Part of the West Pennine Moors, it is a popular walking area, and has been the site of mining activity, aeroplane disasters and murders.

Its prominent position made it the ideal site for the Winter Hill TV Mast, transmitting to a large part of North West England. There is also a number of other telecommunication masts and towers around the summit and side of the hill for mobile phones, Professional Mobile Radio users and emergency services. Lancashire Constabulary was the first to use the site for one of their base stations in 1950; they had to build the road and it is said to have been built by policemen.[2]

Paths to the summit lead from Belmont (in Blackburn with Darwen), Rivington (in Chorley borough), and Horwich and Blackrod (in Bolton borough). The summit can also be reached via a short walk from the top of a road pass 1 14 miles (2 km) west of Belmont. The hill is a prominent feature on the skyline for most of the borough of Chorley and further afield. Winter Hill's topographic prominence results in it being classified as a Marilyn. The trig point on its summit marks the highest point in Blackburn with Darwen whereas the highest point in the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton is 440 yards (400 m) away on its south east slope at 1,467 feet (447 m) above sea level.

It offers views over Lancashire and the Greater Manchester Urban Area, including Manchester city centre, Salford, Werneth Low, Wigan and Bolton. In clear weather conditions, it also offers views of Blackpool Tower, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Snaefell in the Isle of Man, the Cumbrian mountains, Snowdonia in North Wales, Liverpool, Southport, the Irish Sea, the Pennines and much of the North West of England. On a clear day the summit offers a view of four national parks: the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and Snowdonia.


The bare hilltop was once covered by woodland that may have been destroyed by fire[3] and it is thought that the hill was once inhabited, though no remains have been found.[4] There is a Bronze Age round cairn dating from 1600–1400 BC on the hill.[5]

Burial mounds

Two burial mounds dating from the Bronze Age are located near the peak. On 24 March 1957, two men discovered "curved lines of stones" sticking out of the peat forming a two feet high wall which surrounded a raised area in the middle. In July 1958, a group from the University of Manchester excavated the central mound only to find it had been excavated 250 years earlier. The site was thought to have originated from 1500 BC in the Middle Bronze Age.

The second mound was found higher up the hill on the southern edge of Noon Hill. The site was excavated in August 1958 by the Bolton & District Archaeological Society, revealing two lines of stones and human remains.[6]

Two Lads

Two memorial cairns on the hill are known as Wilder Lads or Two Lads. Thomas Hampson in 1883 described Two Lads as the graves of two children of a Saxon king, Edgar, and recorded that Winter Hill was previously known as Edgar Hill.[7] The cairns could mark the site on which two boys lost their way on the moor and died of exposure in a snowstorm.[8]

Scotsman's Stump

Scotsman's Stump
Scotsman's Stump

On 9 November 1838 George Henderson, a Scottish merchant walking over the hill from Horwich to Blackburn, was murdered by gunshot. A monument was erected in 1912 to replace an earlier bush planted at the spot, sited at the side of the road opposite the television station.[9] Scotsman's Stump was celebrated in a poem entitled 'Scotchman's Stump' by Bolton poet John Cassidy. It was published in his collection Night Cries, published by Bloodaxe in 1982.

Air disasters

Aircraft crashes around Winter Hill include a two-seater aircraft in the 1920s.[10] During World War II an American Fairchild UC-61 Forwarder (41-54885) of 5th Air Depot Group crashed on 7 August 1942.[10] On 24 December 1943, an Airspeed Oxford (BM837) of 410 Squadron crashed on the hill.[10] Other crashes have included several Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Gloster Meteor which crashed in 1953.[10]

On 27 February 1958 occurred the Winter Hill air disaster, a Silver City Bristol 170 Freighter (G-AICS) travelling from the Isle of Man to Manchester crashed into Winter Hill several hundred yards away from the transmitter.[11] There is a memorial plaque to the accident at the site.

In September 1965 a RAF De Havilland Chipmunk flew into the hill in cloud, without serious injury to the crew.[10] The last crash occurred in October 1968 when a Cessna 172 force-landed between Winter Hill and Rivington Pike.[10]

2018 wildfire

In 2018, a large wildfire broke out on the 28 June. It burned over 7 square miles (18 km2) of moorland, with one hundred firefighters sent to tackle the blaze. In total, the fire burned for 41 days,[12] and caused a major incident to be declared. A man was later arrested for arson on suspicion of causing the wildfire.[13] The fire, along with the Saddleworth Moor fire (which also burned over 7 square miles of land) has been described by local councillor Brenda Warrington as the "worst series of moor fires in living memory".[14] It has affected local wildlife, killing both flora and fauna in an "internationally important ecosystem" as described by the Woodland Trust. The fire destroyed over a fifth of the moorland on the hill, and it may take a decade to recover fully.[15] Concerns were raised in 2011 to Natural England regarding moorland management with warnings of increased fire risk due to policy of United Utilities to reduce grazing, whilst not using other land management measures including cutting or controlled burning to reduce fire risks.[16]

Rights to Roam

The area is popular with walkers and footpaths and bridleways provide access to the hillside and surrounding moorland.[17] Winter Hill was the site of a mass trespass in 1896 when 10,000 people marched from Bolton to the open countryside in a mass demonstration after the owner of the Smithills Hall estate, Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth tried to stop public access, the demonstrators repeated the march the following week and were met with no opposition to them accessing the moors, it is considered an early forerunner of the Kinder Scout mass trespass. The demonstration is commemorated by a memorial stone on Coal Pit Lane, below Smithills Moor.[18][19] The hill and surrounding moorland area is open access land with a legally protected right to roam.[20][21]

Claimed UFO sightings

UFOs have been reported on Winter Hill. In 1950, a witness described a "dark flat iron shaped object hovering close to the ground" and an encounter with a being that returned to a craft before disappearing.[22] In 1999, in what became known as the "Murphy Incident", a farmer said he saw an object hovering over his cattle field. On investigation, the object moved away and the farmer reported the incident to the police.[23] The farmer returned to the field and discovered the object had reappeared. He reported the incident to the Manchester Aerial Phenomena Investigation Team (MAPIT), who investigated it.[23] While MAPIT was conducting its investigation, they alleged they were being followed by a man in a vehicle.[24] The farmer reported that he was warned by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but has not been traced since the incident, and the current owner has not spoken about it.[23]

The UK government released previously classified information on UFO sightings in May 2006; one picture appeared to show an unidentified object over Winter Hill.[25][26]

A panoramic view of the Greater Manchester conurbation, from Matchmoor Lane on the western side of Winter Hill. Bolton is the large town in the foreground, with all the major Manchester city landmarks visible in the middle distance.

References in song

The song "Winter Hill" on A Certain Ratio's 1981 album "To Each...", consists of drumming, whistling and a low-pitched drone alternating between two notes a tone apart for its entire length. On a visit to Winter Hill in 1988, a piece of electronic equipment was found which made a high-pitched drone and alternated between two notes a tone apart.

The song "Winter Hill" on Doves' 2009 album Kingdom of Rust, also references the site.[27]

Nearby hill summits

Name Locality Elevation OS grid reference
Winter Hill Rivington 456 metres (1,496 ft)
Counting Hill Smithills/Belmont 433 metres (1,421 ft)
Two Lads Hill Horwich 389 metres (1,276 ft)
Noon Hill Rivington 380 metres (1,247 ft)
Crooked Edge Hill Horwich 375 metres (1,230 ft)
Rivington Pike Rivington 363 metres (1,191 ft)
Adam Hill Horwich 360 metres (1,181 ft)
White Brow Horwich 358 metres (1,175 ft)
Whimberry Hill Belmont 340 metres (1,115 ft)
Egg Hillock Belmont 328 metres (1,076 ft)
Brown Hill Rivington 325 metres (1,066 ft)
Brown Lowe Smithills 325 metres (1,066 ft)
Burnt Edge Horwich 325 metres (1,066 ft)
Denotes walker's cairn or similar.[28]

See also



  1. ^ Lane (2008), p. 19
  2. ^ Davies, J. "Mobile radio for Lancashire's police", Electronics & Wireless World[specify] date
  3. ^ Lane (2008), p. 21
  4. ^ Lane (2008), p. 15
  5. ^ Historic England. "Monument No. 43440". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  6. ^ Lane (2008), p. 17
  7. ^ Hampson, Thomas (1883). Horwich, Its History, Its Legends and Its Church. pp. 34, 35.
  8. ^ Lewis, Samuel, ed. (1848), "Horwich", A Topographical Dictionary of England, British History Online, pp. 559–562, retrieved 22 May 2011
  9. ^ "Mysterious murder on the moors". Bolton News. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Lane, Dave (January 2004). Winter Hill Scrapbook. (PDF). Issue 5.
  11. ^ Black Thursday. BBC. February 26, 2008.
  12. ^ "Winter Hill moorland fire 'out' after 41 days". BBC News. 8 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Winter Hill fire: Crews continue to battle blaze". BBC. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  14. ^ "The devastating toll of this summer's moorland wildfires has been revealed - as firefighters tackle ANOTHER blaze". Manchester Evening News. 27 July 2018.
  15. ^ ""It's just devastation" - A fifth of moorland on Winter Hill has been 'wiped out'". Manchester Evening News. 5 July 2018.
  16. ^ March 2011, Contract Report BD 1706. "Conservation of the Historic Environment in England's Uplands" (PDF). DEFRA. ADAS in association with Oxford Archaeology North. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  17. ^ Moorland Fringe, Lancashire County Council, archived from the original on 30 October 2010, retrieved 3 May 2011
  18. ^ Anson, John (13 September 2020). "Winter Hill was the battleground for the right to roam". Bolton News. NewsQuest. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  19. ^ "Winter Mass Trespass 1896" (PDF). Rossendale Ramblers. Ramblers Association - Rossendale branch. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  20. ^ "Public Access Land to the North of Bolton". Bolton Council. Bolton Council Highways Dept. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  21. ^ "ACCESS". MAGIC MAPPING. DEFRA. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  22. ^ Lane, Dave (August 2004). Winter Hill Scrapbook. (PDF). Issue 3.
  23. ^ a b c Lane (2008), p. 145.
  24. ^ UFOs.
  25. ^ UFO report reveals Lancashire sightings. May 17, 2006.
  26. ^ UFO report reveals Lancs sightings (with photo gallery). Lancashire Evening Post. May 17, 2006.
  27. ^ East, Ben (November 3, 2009). Pastoral symphonies Archived 2017-03-29 at the Wayback Machine. The National.
  28. ^ Fields, p. 17


  • Fields, Kenneth, Five half day walks around the West Pennine Moors (2), Lancashire Country Walks
  • Lane, Dave (2008), Winter Hill Scrapbook,, ISBN 978-1-4092-2068-8

Further reading

  • The Devil Casts His Net, Steve Morrin, ISBN 0-9534503-1-7, The Winter Hill Air Disaster.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 March 2021, at 20:44
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