Pool Place

The following is taken from a newspaper article 4th August 1939. Author unknown.

The subject of this week’s article lies around and about the new and the old Church Roads, centring on Pool Place, a district which has now, as a matter of fact, become well-known for its sporting facilities. Some of its original rural character still lurks in the quiet corners, in spite of the fact that almost each week sees some new encroachment by the builder. In the struggle that is being waged, constant retreats are made in face of modern development; that is why we had better take a look at Lower Pools now before its appearance has been completely changed.

The Pool Place of former days – that is the name of the ‘square’ at the junction of Church Road and New Church Road – was formerly dominated by the presence of a large detached house standing in its own grounds. This was East Bank, the home of the late Lt.Col. J Cross-Ormrod, JP. The old boundary wall is still to be seen by the side of the pathway down from Pool Place to Lower Pools.

The house itself stands yet, though it is divided into three separate residences, South Bank, West Bank and East Bank, and it is very much hedged in by new property. The principal carriage-drive to this house ran across the present New Church Road taking a course which was roughly that of Woodsley Road. The gates were therefore nearly opposite the side of the Doffcocker Hotel.

Beside this entrance to East Bank there was another close to Pool Place which ran through a private plantation, and because of its greater convenience was used by the family when they went to St Peter’s Church very close at hand. From that entrance the ladies of the household could be seen taking their daily ride through the plantation. The remnants of the orchard can also be seen yet, flanking the old boundary wall.

If you look closely enough you will see the exact position of the well used by local cottagers before a regular water supply was laid on. It is blocked up now, but you will find it was placed immediately opposite the three cottages that comprise the old fold of Lower Pools, situated a short distance from Church Road. These three cottages are sufficiently far removed from the main road, however, to retain their quaint old-world atmosphere.

One of them was formerly a farmhouse, the last man to occupy it as such being Harry Churnside, the well-known football referee.

Hereabouts St. Luke’s football team played for several years when it was in its heyday. There was always a great trek up there to see its performances. At that time Albert Shepherd was playing for the club. They later removed to the ground now occupied by Church Road Council School, while the pitch they vacated was used by Smithills Football Club and Smithills Ladies Hockey team.

The land was subsequently taken over by Richard Harwood & Son Ltd., as a site for a recreational centre. Not that the countryside was despoiled. On the contrary a fine job was made of the conversion, and today the sports facilities offered here to employees of Harwood’s are deserving of high praise. A most convenient pavilion is surrounded by tennis courts, bowling and putting greens, delightful grounds, the whole beautifully situated at the foot of the hills.

Others have noted the beauties of this area; among them the officials of Heaton Cricket Club, whose ground is of course at Lower Pools. A rummage into the club’s history reveals that it owes its origin to two cricket clubs which played on the west side of Chorley Old Road, near New Hall Lane. One of the clubs had its headquarters on a field between Markland Hill Lane and Whitecroft Road. This club eventually joined forces with Heaton Village Club in New Hall Lane.

The two went along together quite well until building operations robbed them of their ground. It was then – exactly 28 years ago – that the removal to Lower Pools was decided upon, the land they took having been, till then, part of Pool Fold Farm, better known nowadays as Lambert’s, the name of the family which kept it for many years.

Since those days Heaton Cricket Club has not looked back – in spite of the fact that it is no longer in Heaton but in Smithills. Four separate groups of tennis courts adjoining the cricket ground are used by Delph Hill Methodists, Bolton Education Committee’s, Women’s Institutes, St Peter’s Church and Chorley Old Road Congregational Church respectively.

Pool Place was of a much more enclosed appearance until two cottages which stood at right angles to the present ones were demolished years ago. Their backs were side by side with the boundary wall of East Bank.

Changes have been made on every hand. New Church Road has its own housing development, Great Marld, the residence built by Sir Knowles Edge, is still in existence, but the land adjoining which was for a period used for cricket by Delph Hill Methodists has been built upon. Nearly all the old property in Doffcocker Lane which links Church Road with Chorley Old Road has recently gone.

It was down that lane that workers living around Pool Place used to trudge on their way to Doffcocker Factory. Their walk took them up Peggy Lane across the drive to East Bank and into what is now New Church Road, but was in those days nothing more than a footpath.

They were then in what they used to speak of as ‘The Cop’, which in a few minutes brought them to Lord’s Fold, a little community which had Delph Hill as its hub. The last remains are there yet – a few cottages next to the Methodist Church and school.

Pool Fold Farm, from which point we began this digression, is nothing but a shadow of its former self, for all its land has been taken for building purposes. The older residents can remember when between the stone cottages opposite the present cricket ground and the old St Peter’s Jubilee School at Captain’s Clough, there was not a single house.

The Jubilee School formerly served as the day school for the district; all the juniors now are provided for at the fine Church Road Council School which towers behind the old place. As a matter of fact the old school was up even before St Peter’s Church, meeting the needs of the congregation until the time when the church was put up in 1840.

Only two years after the new church had been built, signs of dry rot appeared in the timber and it was decided to renew the whole of the interior of the fabric. A new roof was also provided and the church and tower were considerably enlarged. A new organ and a peal of bells were installed at the same time, the cost of the whole being met by Mr John Horrocks Ainsworth of Moss Bank who had met previously the expense of building the church. His brother, Mr Peter Ainsworth, of Smithills Hall, was one of the MP’s for Bolton from 1835 to 1847.

There is another connexion with Smithills. On succeeding the late Rev. Percy Stott, B.D. as vicar of St Peter’s some nine years ago, the present vicar, the Rev. P Marr Davies, MA became honorary chaplain of Smithills

One or two other points remain to be mentioned. An outstanding feature of Church Road is Knowles Ltd’s recreation ground lying between the road and the new ring road with popular Moss Bank Park beyond. Here all kinds of sports are indulged in, from cricket and football to tennis and rounders.

On any fine afternoon or evening and particularly at week-end, you will find the Church Road – Captain’s Clough junction busy with visitors on their way to and from Moss Bank Park. Before the park was opened this was a quiet spot in the country with the village school at one side of the road and Kershaw’s Farm at the other. Barrow Bridge chimney is a reminder that a number of the Lower Pools residents used to work at the bleachworks for which that chimney was built.

As to the name Pool Place and Lower Pools, it is suggested that they were adopted because of the number of wells in the district. That is the only explanation I have heard.

If from what has been written some idea of the extent to which this area of late years has been hemmed in has been conveyed, then one of its objects has been achieved. On the Church Road side it has of course plenty of open space yet; but on the other, where the Corporation’s Johnson Fold housing estate has gone up there is precious little.