Winter Hill (North West England)

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Winter Hill
Winter Hill From Blackrod.jpg
Winter Hill from Blackrod. The mast can be seen for many miles around
Highest point
Elevation1,496 ft (456 m) [1]
Prominence715 ft (218 m)
Parent peakHail Storm Hill
Coordinates53°37′48″N 2°30′54″W / 53.63000°N 2.51500°W / 53.63000; -2.51500Coordinates: 53°37′48″N 2°30′54″W / 53.63000°N 2.51500°W / 53.63000; -2.51500
Winter Hill is located in Lancashire
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Lancashire
Winter Hill is located in Greater Manchester
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Greater Manchester
Winter Hill is located in the Borough of Chorley
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Chorley Borough
Winter Hill is located in Blackburn with Darwen
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown with Blackburn with Darwen
LocationNorth West England
OS gridSD659149
Topo mapOS Landranger 109
Panorama of Winter Hill, taken from Blackrod

Winter Hill is a hill on the border of the boroughs of Chorley, Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton, in North West England. It is located on Rivington Moor, Chorley and is 1,496 feet (456 m) high. Part of the West Pennine Moors, it is a popular walking area, and has been the site of mining activity, aeroplane disasters and murders.

Its prominent position made it the ideal site for the Winter Hill TV Mast, transmitting to a large part of North West England. There is also a number of other telecommunication masts and towers around the summit and side of the hill for mobile phones, Professional Mobile Radio users and emergency services. Lancashire Constabulary was the first to use the site for one of their base stations in 1950; they had to build the road and it is said to have been built by policemen.[2]

Paths to the summit lead from Belmont in Blackburn with Darwen & Rivington in Chorley Borough, as well as Horwich and Blackrod in Bolton Borough. The summit can be reached via a short walk from the top of a road pass 1¼ miles west of Belmont. The hill is a distinctive feature on the skyline for most of the borough of Chorley and further afield due to its unusual shape. Winter Hill's topographic prominence results in it being classified as a Marilyn. The trig point on its summit marks the highest point in Blackburn with Darwen whereas the highest point in the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton appears 440 yards away on its south east slope at 1,467 feet above sea level.

It offers views over Lancashire and the Greater Manchester Urban Area, including Manchester city centre, Salford, Werneth Low, Wigan and Bolton. In clear weather conditions, it also offers views of Blackpool Tower, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Snaefell in the Isle of Man, the Cumbrian mountains, Snowdonia in North Wales, Liverpool, Southport, the Irish Sea, Peak District, the Pennines and much of the North West of England. On a clear day the summit offers a view of four national parks - The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and Snowdonia.

The Rivington area contains remains of Lever Park and the private gardens constructed for William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme in which several listed structures remain today.[3]


The bare hill top was once covered by woodland that may have been destroyed by fire[4] and it is thought that the hill was once inhabited, though no remains have been found.[5] There is a Bronze Age round cairn dating from 1600–1400 BC on the hill.[6] A stone axe dating from 2500 BC has also been found in the area in the River Douglas in Tigers Clough.[7] A flint knife and two arrowheads were also discovered.[7]

Burial mounds[edit]

Two burial mounds dating from the Bronze Age are located near the peak. On 24 March 1957, two men discovered "curved lines of stones" sticking out of the peat forming a two feet high wall which surrounded a raised area in the middle.[7] In July 1958, a group from the University of Manchester excavated the central mound only to find it had been excavated 250 years earlier.[7] The site was thought to have originated from 1500 BC in the Middle Bronze Age.[7]

The second mound was found higher up the hill on the southern edge of Noon Hill. The site was excavated in August 1958 by the Bolton & District Archaeological Society, revealing two lines of stones and human remains.[8]

Two Lads[edit]

Two memorial cairns on the hill are known as Wilder Lads or Two Lads. There are differing opinions on why they were erected. Details of the site were recorded in 1776 and 1883. Thomas Hampson in 1883 described 'Two Lads' as the graves of two children of a Saxon king, Edgar and recorded that Winter Hill was previously known as Edgar Hill.[9] The cairns could mark the site on which two boys lost their way on the moor and died of exposure in a snowstorm.[10]

Scotsman's Stump[edit]

Scotsman's Stump

On 9 November 1838 George Henderson, a Scottish merchant walking over the hill from Bolton to Blackburn, was murdered by gunshot along the road directly opposite where the television station now stands. James Whittle, a 22-year-old collier from Belmont, was brought to court and found guilty of murder. However, he was found not guilty at a second trial in Lancaster. There is an iron post with a plaque on the hill in memory of the victim erected in 1912, replacing a tree that was earlier planted opposite the television station.[11] This is known as Scotsman's Stump.

Air disaster[edit]

On 27 February 1958, a Silver City Bristol 170 Freighter (G-AICS) travelling from the Isle of Man to Manchester crashed into Winter Hill several hundred yards away from the transmitter.[12] Thirty-five people died and seven were injured.[13] The weather that night (note: the ICAO report [14] states that the accident occurred at 9:15 in the morning) was so severe that none of the engineers working in the ITA transmitting station were aware of the crash.[15] Several feet of snow hampered rescue efforts, and a snow cat vehicle had to be diverted from the A6 to cut a path for emergency vehicles though the track had been cleared by people using spades by the time it arrived. A documentary was made about the disaster.[16]

There have been several other aircraft crashes around Winter Hill. A two-seater aircraft crashed there in the 1920s.[17] During World War II an American Fairchild UC-61 Forwarder (41-54885) of 5th Air Depot Group crashed on 7 August 1942.[17] In the following year, on 12 November 1943, the crew of a Wellington Bomber (Z8799) from 28 Operational Training Unit, flying from Blackpool to Manchester, were killed when it crashed just to the North of Winter Hill, on Hurst Hill, Anglezarke Moor.[17] The following month, 24 December 1943, an Airspeed Oxford (BM837) of 410 Squadron crashed on the hill.[17] Other crashes have included several Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Gloster Meteor which crashed in 1953.[17] In September 1965 a RAF De Havilland Chipmunk flew into the hill in cloud, without serious injury to the crew.[17] The last crash occurred in October 1968 when a Cessna 172 force-landed between Winter Hill and Rivington Pike.[17]

2018 wildfire[edit]

In 2018, a large wildfire broke out on the 28th of June. It burned over seven square miles (18 square kilometres) of moorland, with one hundred firefighters sent to tackle the blaze. In total, the fire burned for 41 days,[18] and caused a major incident to be declared. A man was later arrested for arson on suspicion of causing the wildfire.[19] The fire, along with the Saddleworth Moor fire (which also burned over 7 square miles of land) has been described by local councillor Brenda Warrington as the "worst series of moor fires in living memory".[20] It has affected local wildlife, killing both flora and fauna in an "internationally important ecosystem" as described by the Woodland Trust. The fire destroyed over a fifth of the moorland on the hill, and it may take a decade to recover fully.[21]

Claimed UFO sightings[edit]

UFOs have been reported on Winter Hill. In 1950, a witness described a "dark flat iron shaped object hovering close to the ground" and an encounter with a being that returned to a craft before disappearing.[22] In 1999, in what became known as the "Murphy Incident", a farmer said he saw an object hovering over his cattle field. On investigation, the object moved away and the farmer reported the incident to the police.[23] The farmer returned to the field and discovered the object had reappeared. He reported the incident to the Manchester Aerial Phenomena Investigation Team (MAPIT), who investigated it.[23] While MAPIT was conducting its investigation, they alleged they were being followed by a man in a vehicle.[24] The farmer reported that he was warned by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but has not been traced since the incident, and the current owner has not spoken about it.[23]

The UK government released previously classified information on UFO sightings in May 2006, one picture appeared to show an unidentified object over Winter Hill.[25][26]

A panoramic view of the Greater Manchester conurbation, from Matchmoor Lane on the western side of Winter Hill. Bolton is the large town in the foreground, with all the major Manchester city landmarks visible in the middle distance.

References in song[edit]

The song "Winter Hill" on A Certain Ratio's 1981 album "To Each...", consists of drumming, whistling and a low pitched drone alternating between two notes a tone apart for its entire length. On a visit to Winter Hill in 1988, a piece of electronic equipment was found which made a high-pitched drone and alternated between two notes a tone apart.

The song "Winter Hill" on Doves' 2009 album Kingdom of Rust, also references the site.[27]

Nearby hill summits[edit]

Name Locality Elevation OS grid reference
Winter Hill Rivington 456 metres (1,496 ft)
Counting Hill Smithills/Belmont 433 metres (1,421 ft)
Two Lads Hill Horwich 389 metres (1,276 ft)
Noon Hill Rivington 380 metres (1,247 ft)
Crooked Edge Hill Horwich 375 metres (1,230 ft)
Rivington Pike Rivington 363 metres (1,191 ft)
Adam Hill Horwich 360 metres (1,181 ft)
White Brow Horwich 358 metres (1,175 ft)
Whimberry Hill Belmont 340 metres (1,115 ft)
Egg Hillock Belmont 328 metres (1,076 ft)
Brown Hill Rivington 325 metres (1,066 ft)
Brown Lowe Smithills 325 metres (1,066 ft)
Burnt Edge Horwich 325 metres (1,066 ft)
Denotes walker's cairn or similar.[28]



  1. ^ Lane (2008), p. 19
  2. ^ Davies, J. "Mobile radio for Lancashire's police", Electronics & Wireless World[specify] date
  3. ^ Lane (2008), p. 86
  4. ^ Lane (2008), p. 21
  5. ^ Lane (2008), p. 15
  6. ^ Historic England. "Monument No. 43440". PastScape. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d e Lane (2008), p. 16
  8. ^ Lane (2008), p. 17
  9. ^ Hampson, Thomas (1883). Horwich, Its History, Its Legends and Its Church. pp. 34, 35.
  10. ^ Lewis, Samuel, ed. (1848), "Horwich", A Topographical Dictionary of England, British History Online, pp. 559–562, retrieved 22 May 2011
  11. ^ Lane (2008), p. 26
  12. ^ Black Thursday. BBC. February 26, 2008.
  13. ^ Plane Crashes.
  14. ^ ICAO Accident Digest, Circular 59-AN/54 (83-92)
  15. ^ Survivors relive Winter Hill crash horror[permanent dead link].
  16. ^ Smith, Amanda (15 January 2008). "Winter Hill disaster documentary being made". The Bolton News. Newsquest Media Group.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Lane, Dave (January 2004). Winter Hill Scrapbook. (PDF). Issue 5.
  18. ^ "Winter Hill moorland fire 'out' after 41 days". BBC News. 8 August 2018.
  19. ^ "Winter Hill fire: Crews continue to battle blaze". BBC. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  20. ^ "The devastating toll of this summer's moorland wildfires has been revealed - as firefighters tackle ANOTHER blaze". Manchester Evening News. 27 July 2018.
  21. ^ ""It's just devastation" - A fifth of moorland on Winter Hill has been 'wiped out'". Manchester Evening News. 5 July 2018.
  22. ^ Lane, Dave (August 2004). Winter Hill Scrapbook. (PDF). Issue 3.
  23. ^ a b c Lane (2008), p. 145.
  24. ^ UFOs.
  25. ^ UFO report reveals Lancashire sightings. May 17, 2006.
  26. ^ UFO report reveals Lancs sightings (with photo gallery). Lancashire Evening Post. May 17, 2006.
  27. ^ East, Ben (November 3, 2009). Pastoral symphonies Archived 2017-03-29 at the Wayback Machine. The National.
  28. ^ Fields, p. 17


  • Fields, Kenneth, Five half day walks around the West Pennine Moors (2), Lancashire Country Walks
  • Lane, Dave (2008), Winter Hill Scrapbook,, ISBN 978-1-4092-2068-8

Further reading[edit]

  • The Devil Casts His Net, Steve Morrin, ISBN 0-9534503-1-7, The Winter Hill Air Disaster.

External links[edit]