One day trip we had out was to a small town called Rawtenstall, sat high in the hills of East Lancashire, and home to some rather unusual landmarks…
Status: Rossendale District, Lancashire, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: Tesco
Attractions: Irwell Sculpture Trail, Cobalt Tree, Library, East Lancashire Railway, Rossendale Museum, St Mary’s Chambers etc
Upon arriving in Rawtenstall, we parked just up the road from the Railway Station, and wandered down to check it out. This isn’t a normal station however, as it is actually the terminus of a Heritage Railway line that runs 12 miles between Heywood, Bury and Ramsbotton near Manchester, before terminating in Rawtenstall. Intermediate stations include Bury and Ramsbottom. It runs mainly in the summer season but there are Santa’s specials on around Christmas.
The railway was originally a mainline railway which opened in 1846, but it was closed down in 1982. It was reopened as a Heritage Railway in 1987, and has been extended a few times along the route, with the station at Rawtenstall being one of the latest. The line was once much longer as it ran to the town of Bacup not far from Rawtenstall, but there are plans for expansion in the future.
Aside from the East Lancashire Railway, one of the towns other main features is the Irwell Sculpture Trail, that begins in Salford Quays. It consists of a number of art installations, numbering at least 28 over the 30 mile trail. I mentioned Bacup in the previous section of this post, and the town is also the terminus of the Irwell Trail. Rawtenstall contains a number of pieces of artwork in the trail, starting with the one shown above, which is one of two similar looking pieces down the edge of the railway track. The frame might look familiar, as it is actually made out of a piece of track, bent to form an arch. In the lower right hand corner are the letters “ELR” standing for the East Lancashire Railway. The artwork can be accessed via a path leading down the side of the railway from the station.
This was just the start however, and the most well known feature on the Irwell Trail in this area has to be the Cobalt Tree. There is a small park located across the road from the station, which has a small stone tunnel with an observation hole in the centre. If you crouch down to look through it you can see the tree just down the road.
It is made out of metal and it is one of the main reasons we decided to visit the town, as it is a well known attraction. Next to the tunnel we spotted it through there is a sign showing the twinning arrangements of Rawtenstall, as it is twinned with Bocholt in Germany, hence the name of the tree.
The Tree is located just next to the river Irwell, which runs through the town, and from here all the way to Salford Quays, hence the name “Irwell Sculpture Trail”. It’s a relaxing part of the town, and there were ducks a plentiful for nature lovers.
Moving into the town centre, there is a large roundabout across the road from the Bocholt Tree. There are a few important buildings located around it, and the first of these is St Mary’s Church, which falls under the Diocese of Manchester. Built between 1836 and 1880, this stunning Church was constructed by a man named John Noble, and the Hoyle family laid the first and foundation stones between March and April 1836. The Church Tower was given a clock in 1853, although this has been replaced since, as has the Tower, which was rebuilt in 1888. The Tower was first built at the West side of the building, but today it is on the South side.
In the Churchyard you will find the towns War Memorial, built by Louis Frederick Roslyn (1878 – 1934, German Sculptor) sometime around the early 1920’s, after World War I. The figures cast in bronze above the main base include Farmers, Fishermen, Soldiers and Sailors. They show that everyone contributed to and was affected by the many wars throughout history.
Continuing clockwise around the roundabout, there are many other things to see. The town has typical old buildings for this area of Lancashire and one of my favourite is the Library which is similar to the one in Darwen, and they are not far from each other geographically, lying just 11 miles away. The Library was built in 1906, with funds from Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919, Scottish/American Businessman), who has given money towards libraries all over the country. This is another fine example of his work, and one of the many stand out architectural gems in the town.
Finally, this building is an icon for the town and is called St Mary’s Chambers. It has private rooms as well as conference centres and facilities to hold weddings. Built in 1856 as a Methodist Church, it was turned into an Air Raid meeting point during World War II. Sadly the building began to deteriorate, but in the following decades it was restored, and is now one of the most impressive buildings in the town. It is located at the far end of the roundabout, coming back around towards the East Lancashire Railway.
Rawtenstall is situated in the hills of Lancashire and in the perfect place for great scenery. The M65 runs in the general area of the town and if you come off at Darwen you can drive across to Rawtenstall. It’s only a small town but its fun to explore and if you are following the Irwell Sculpture Trail from its start at Salford Quays then there are quite a few dotted around the town, each with its own unique design.