For the third week in a row, we head to the Darwen Moors to complete another part of the footpath jigsaw. This time we park in Abbey Village, as do another 30 or so cars – a Bury rambling group is meeting up. The classic walk out of Abbey is through the Roddlesworth woods, past reservoirs, on route to Darwen Tower. We just managed to get a head start on this section.

Today we were heading in a round about way to Tockholes, that elusive village in the rough pastures west of Darwen Tower. Nobody just happens to drive through Tockholes, you have to search it out via narrow walled lanes, best done on foot as we were.

It is thought from archaeological findings that Tockholes was an ancient settlement from the Bronze Age. What is certain is that a significant Civil War battle took place nearby in the C17th, the remains of horses, cannonballs and bullets were found in a field in the village. After that, it became a centre for weaving and silk production. So what could we see today, there are over 20 listed buildings in the vicinity.

We entered the village from the moors above and came down Silk Hall Lane. The buildings here showed evidence of top floors used for weaving, with those long windows.

The footpath leading down to the rest of the village was a nightmare of awkward stiles and barbed wire, which were difficult for Poppy, the Airedale. Our thoughts turned to Sir Hugh and his wire cutting equipment. We were relieved to emerge opposite the grounds of St Stephen’s Church.  Dating from the reformation in the mid 16th century,  It was rebuilt in 1833 but fell into disrepair and was demolished and rebuilt again in 1961.

We sat in the relatively modern Lychgate (1906) for a brew and then explored the extensive graveyard which is said to contain 20,000 graves. An early C19th sandstone columnar sundial. There was an old school building from 1834 with a strange open air pulpit.  The stone porch of the 1833 building retained as an archway to the present insignificant church. Nearby on a cheese press base an old cross shaft and the rounded  Tocca stone beside it.  These are said to be Saxon, possibly a preaching cross, with the Tocca stone giving rise to the name of the village. ‘Tocca’  a Saxon surname and ‘hol’ a hollow. Probably not ‘touch stone’ as some legends have it, though the rounded stone was thought to have healing properties. We will never know.

‘The Touch Stone’

I seem to remember seeing a pinfold in the village on previous walks long ago, but could find no sign of it today. We did however come across an ancient well, again said to have healing properties, constructed with a so-called Norman Arch taken from a local hall. This would have been the only source of drinking water into the early C20th.

Time was passing, so we followed the ancient lanes past Tockholes Chapel, one of the first established non-conformist Chapels founded in 1662, the current building dating from 1880. Most of the old farmhouses and barns have been restored sympathetically to provide exclusive rural living.

Chapels Farmhouse.

Lower Hill.

I had bad memories of negotiating the rights of way through Red Lee Farms, where we were heading. It all seemed to go well today, we bypassed the lot somehow, which was good for progress, but I was disappointed not to see the old houses. We were back at the cars before the Bury ramblers.

Poppy seemed out of sorts today, I think she was telling us it was time for a change of scenery. Our trilogy is over.

Before we go I must make a mention of Abbey Village where we were parked. The name Abbey Village derives from Whalley Abbey, the major landowner until the reformation. Abbey Mill still remains the focal point of a largely intact early C19 industrial settlement. Established in 1840 by a John Park, it is one of the earliest surviving purpose-built integrated spinning and weaving mills in Lancashire. The rows of workers houses line the main street. The start of migration from cottage industries, as in Tockholes, to the mill towns.



  1. Michael Graeme

    Parking on Dole Lane, at Abbey can be a struggle, even early morning. And speaking of other struggles, Red Lee’s the place that made a monkey out of me with missing markers, though last time I noted someone had been round and replaced them. Lots of history in Tokholes, glad you made it to Toccas stone!

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      I’ve had difficulty in Red Lee’s in the past, this time we just seemed to walk straight past it on their access road, which isn’t a right of way!
      Tockholes is a mish-mash of antiquities. Of course, you sketched the Toccas stone in Fields book, which I had consulted.
      I forgot to try it for its healing powers.


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