On approach to Rivington
The "Garden of Remembrance" is the Horwich people's effort to honour the memory of those people of the township who lost their lives in the Second World War, 1939-1945. May they rest in peace.
It is from The "Garden of Remembrance", near the bus terminus, that the annual fell race to and from the tower on the top of Rivington Pike is run on Easter Saturday afternoon; it is a very popular event patronised by good class runners. Old Horwich had a Pike race from the "Tup Row" nearly a century ago and when the Recreation Ground of the railway works was opened an annual Pike race was run from there for a few years. The contestants ran across country to the pike and back.
Many tales are told of gates being opened for fancied runners and then being closed again, planks being placed across brooks and removed when the favoured one had gone, and temporary openings made in hedgerows by friends of certain runners. There evidently was more than good running required to win races in those days.
Behind the villas on the northern side of the road is Jepson's clough, the scene of a tragedy in 1888 when a woman of Horwich was found dead at the bottom of the clough one Sunday morning. This was the area closer to Rivington Lane, Tigers Clough is a little further up aka Shaw clough after Elizabeth Willoughby Nee Shaw of Rivington Unitarian. The 1600's Plague pit is located in the field between Lever Park Avenue and Old Lord's farm, there are over 600 bodies known to be in this mass burial area. there have been a few attempts to acquire planning consent to built there.
An old tragic legend of Horwich Forest
The road leads us in a nice regular curve away from Horwich, and from where it begins to straighten out and on up to the crossing of the River Douglas is the line of the Old Robber's Pad and the rising ground on the Horwich side of the road is the Thieve's Grave names which have come from an old tragic legend of Horwich Forest as told by Thomas Hampson in his "History of Horwich" published in 1883. A short account of the legend woven around this district is that: Very shortly after the Norman Conquest the Forest of Horwich was placed by the Baron of Manchester under a "Lord of the Manor" who was passionately fond of the chase, cruel and niggardly to his dependants, severe on his tenants, and he denied his foresters all the perquisites and emoluments of their position.
In retaliation to this treatment the local inhabitants and the disgruntled foresters combined in practising organised poaching, which led to a diminution of the available venison, fowl and honey, to the great anger of the lord, where upon he dismissed some of ills foresters and replaced them with men from afar off. Also he summoned some of the local inhabitants to appear before him, but they, afraid of being made scapegoats for the offenders, refused to comply. Instead they joined forces with the dismissed foresters and took to the hills and made a camp on the heather. From here they organised a very efficient spy and look-out system and raided the lord's preserves more than ever. This only increased the determination of the lord to bring some of the offenders to account and in the ensuing campaigning the first prisoner to be taken was the leader of the outlaws, as the inmates of the camp on the heather were now termed. After a farce of a trial the unfortunate captive was hung from a tall oak tree and his body was left to swing as a warning to all the other outlaws.
Five of the late leader's more intimate comrades came one night in the dark of the moon and. standing under the fateful gallows, together swore a terrible oath of revenge. Their opportunity soon came. The lord of the manor was called away for service with his superior and he had to take most of his men with him, leaving only a skeleton staff to guard his home and lands. This depleted guard was decoyed away from the manor house to the farthest limit of the forest while the five desperate outlaws forced their way into the lord's house, slew his wife and took his three children and hung them from the same tall oak tree which still carried the bones of their late leader. After the hanging the bodies of the poor unfortunate children were buried somewhere near the gallows and all traces of their burial erased. When the lord of the manor returned he vowed never to rest until the five cruel outlaws were captured and punished for their terrible crime. Summoning more aid he had the uplands surrounded by armed patrols and conducted combing out operations from several points at once, until the miscreants were brought to retribution and five more corpses swung from the tall oak tree.
The Lord of the Manor whose stern, cruel, and tyrannical nature towards the natives was responsible for this tragic chapter of our local history, died soon afterwards and never knew the location of his children's graves. As time passed on the remains of the executed outlaws decayed and only a few whitened bones swung in the breeze from the tall oak tree. But nightly the ghosts of these murderers walked restlessly around the spot. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood terrified of these nightly perambulations met to discuss methods of ending this hair-raising situation and decided that it was caused by the fact that all the victims of the barbarous episode had been denied the rites of Christian burial and that the three unfortunate children were buried in unconsecrated ground. Ultimately the Parish Priest from Deane was consulted and he came to conduct a belated burial service over the area where the three poor children were thought to be buried. This brought all the ghostly visitations to an end and the locality could take its nightly rest in peace. Hampson states that the legend was a local tradition when he was younger, he was born in 1839 and he got his account from an aged native who told of it being handed down from previous generations.
During the great depression, from 1929 local authorities were given powers to lease land for allotments. Horwich Urban district Council arranged for the unemployed to take allotments on this land, and they, finding the ground stony and the soil poor named the spot "Heart-break Hill" most appropriately.
A little further along the road we come to where the water of the infant river Douglas, with its memories of King Arthur's battles around Blackrod and Wigan, pass under the road in a circular culvert. This marks the boundary between Horwich and Rivington.
Until the 1930's this way into Rivington was only a footpath and here a narrow wooden footbridge crossed the stream, with a swing gate at one end to prevent cattle crossing. During the nineties of the last century, this footbridge fell into decay and became dangerous to cross, so a public spirited lady, then living in Rivington, organised a collection through the local press and raised enough money to have a totally new one built. The district was much quieter in those days. Bluebells clothed the banks of the stream in numerous places, the moorhen, locally called the water hen, nested and raised young here, and at times the chestnut coloured water-vole could be seen daintily feeding on the water grasses, the skylark filled the air with melody whilst it soared in the sky and thrush, blackbird, and dunnock nested in the hedgerows.