Blog by David Holding, author of “Murder in the Heather” The Winter Hill Murder of 1838".
Travelling up the Winter Hill road towards the TV station, you pass over a ‘cattle grid’ in the road. Then the road bends to the left, with a metal crash barrier on the right side of the road.
This is the area of Winter Hill known locally as “Hole Bottom”.
From the early 19th century, this was the location of a thriving small working community.
Just below the barrier stood a Brick and Tile Works, surrounded by several coal pits. Further up the road and on the left side stood a row of terraced cottages known as “Five Houses”. One of these doubled as an Ale House.
The works, cottages and coal-pits were all owned by a William Garbutt, who features prominently in my Winter Hill Murder book.
These cottages appear on old maps of the area up to 1894 when the first Survey maps were produced. This would suggest that by 1894 the cottages and tile works had been demolished. An interesting article has come to light on searching the Bolton Chronicle dated 19th February, 1849. This carries the following advert:
“TO BE LET – an extensive and well-established Fire Brick and Tile Works situated at Five Houses on Horwich Moor, the present owner being desirous of retiring from the business. The works are complete with Steam Engine, Grinding and Crushing apparatus, stoves, dry-houses, ovens, moulds and every convenience for carry out the business. The clay and coal are of superior quality and are got on the premises. Any person taking the works can be accommodated with five or six acres of land, and a few cottages adjoining. For particulars, apply to Mr William Garbutt at the premises, or on Friday, at the King’s Arms and Four Horse Shoes, Bolton”.
What this information does show is that Winter Hill was a thriving centre of local industry for most of the 19th century, and part of the common ‘domestic system’ of industry of that period.
Regarding 'Murder in the Heather':
This book is a unique account of a brutal murder which occurred on the summit of Winter Hill in Lancashire in 1838. The account draws on both contemporary media reports and court transcripts, and examines the events leading up to the killing of a 21-year old packman. It details the proceedings of the trial of the only suspect in the case. The work concludes with a re-assessment of the case in the light of modern forensic investigation. The reader is invited to reach their own ‘verdict’ based on the evidence provided. A search of the 1881 Census for the area reveals that two families were occupying the Five Houses at that time, in addition to Mr Garbutt. One family, the Thompsons, consisted of husband and wife, together with 6 children, aged from 19 to 6. The father and the two eldest sons were employed at the Tile Works, and described as Terra Cotta Workers. Another family, the Hampsons, also occupied the cottages, the father and son both employed at the works. It can only be assumed that a new tenant had taken possession of the Brick and Tile works possibly around 1850 and carried on the business until the early 1890s. After that time, it is likely that both the works and cottages were demolished.