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Hartshead Pike

Hartshead Pike, Ashton under Lyne
Hartshead Pike, Ashton under Lyne.

The tower on Hartshead Pike is a well-known local landmark. It overlooks Ashton and is visible from many surrounding areas. It is a popular destination for afternoon strolls and the tower once housed a refreshment shop.

Although the name "Hartshead Pike" is generally used to mean the tower, it was originally the name of the hill itself. The pike is not the highest part of the hill, but, at 940 feet above sea level, its prominent position has meant that, from early times, it has been the site of a beacon or signalling station.

The earliest structure on this spot may have been a stone pillar, erected to commemorate the passing through the area of King Canute, who is also remembered in the names of Knott Hill and Knott Lanes.

A tower was built on the hill in the early 18th century. It may have been built partly of timber beams with lath and plaster walls. It must have suffered from vandalism because, in 1750, the Court Leet issued a statement that "if any person shall any ways abuse Hartshead Pike either with stones or clods or any ways deface the weather mark, shall, for every such offence, lose 3s 4d each."

The following year, work began on constructing a new tower "in stone", on the site of the present tower. This new tower had a hart's head weather vain on its top. A stone inscription read "This Pike was re-built by publick contributions Anno Domini 1751." and "Look at me well before you go, And see you nothing at me throw!" However, this new tower succumbed not to vandalism but to poor construction as, in 1794, a wide crack 18 inches wide appeared from top to bottom of the tower and it was soon in ruins.

It was not until 1863 that construction of the present tower began, designed by local architect John Eaton. The land on which the tower was built was given to the town by the Earl of Stamford, who also gave the stone for the tower's construction. The two previous stone inscriptions were incorporated, along with a third: "Re-erected by Public Subscription to commemorate the marriage of HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to HRH Princess Alexandra of Denmark - and to restore the ancient monument of Hartshead Pike".

Hartshead Pike, Ashton under Lyne
Footpath to Hartshead Pike, Ashton under Lyne.

A final inscription reads "The Right Hon George Harry 7th Earl of Stamford and Warrington being Lord of the Manor. Arthur F Payne Esq Steward. The foundation stone was laid by Samuel Duncuft Lees MD Mayor of the Manor September 17th 1863. John Eaton Architect."

The structure that now stands on the site of the original tower was made up from stones and millstones from the nearby Marlands Sand Mill.

A "time capsule" was buried in a space below the foundation stone. This was a sealed bottle containing local newspapers, Victorian coins, poetry and documents. Inside the tower was a shop selling refreshments. Visitors could pay a small charge to climb stairs to enjoy the view from windows high up in the building. The inside of the tower was vandalised around a hundred years ago, showing that this is not a purely modern problem.

The pike is still a popular destination for walkers who come to enjoy the wide ranging views, which include the Pennine moors to the east, North Wales to the west and north towards Pendle Hill.

Hartshead Pike, Ashton under Lyne
Hartshead Pike in Winter.
Hartshead Pike, Ashton under Lyne
Hartshead Pike in Winter.

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