Friday 4 April 1975

Turton Date Stones Survey

Extract from Stories of Turton Date Stones, by Roy Lindop, pages 1-4

17th Century Plaster Panel, Walch Fold Farm, Higher Bradshaw
17th Century Plaster Panel, Walch Fold Farm, Higher Bradshaw
Sketched by Rev.  Arthur  J.  Dobb

Method of Survey

The majority of the date stones recorded were obtained by members of the Society making visual observations during their journeys about the district. A few of the records came as a result of reading various books and other reference sources.

One of the most useful publications was found to be ‘Buildings of Turton’, produced by the Turton Committee of the Bolton and District Civic Trust. This lists and illustrates many of the buildings with date stones including Bolt's Farm at Top o'Turton. The date stone over the door, with a date of 1629 and the initials I.H. is one of the earliest that we have recorded. It is unfortunate, therefore, that part of this date stone is worn and in consequence the date is difficult to read. It is a pity also that very recent renovations have ended in the doorway being framed in plastic rain water pipes. An adjacent barn is a much later addition to the farm and it carries a date of 1827 on a stone set in the main arch entrance.

From the eighth article in the series of the Bolton Evening News on ‘The Changing Face of Bolton’ by Christine Southern, we learn of a date stone on a cottage at Bottom-o'th-Moor, thus: ‘There is an unusual date stone on one of the Clegg's Cottages, which bears the date 1728. It has the initials A.C.M. an upside-down heart and dots rather like a domino - but unfortunately, the meaning is not known.’ The initials, however, are thought to refer to Adam and Mary (?) Clegg. It is interesting too, to be told that the cottage adjoining was there in 1641.

One of the most interesting recordings, followed from reading the book ‘Historical Gleanings about Bolton, ‘ first series, edited by B. T. Barton in 1881., Page 189, describes the Old Cross Guns Inn at Egerton, which was within a few paces of the Walmsley Old Chapel, situated on the Old road from Bolton to Blackburn via Cox Green. The article relates how a John Horrocks built the present Cross Guns in 1794, about the time of the formation of the 'new' road between Bolton and Blackburn. It continues by describing a memorial to this man's Cross Guns proprietorship in the letters ‘J. H. 1816’, cut upon a stone behind the water-spout at the front of the house. The lettering is said to have been executed some time in 1816 by a person from Blackburn, who had been lingering about in idleness at the Cross Guns for a few days, or who, had been 'on the spree'.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the above description the exact position of this inscription on the Cross Guns is not immediately obvious. We will leave it at that, however, and let you locate this for yourselves.

Method of Recording

A standard sheet was devised on which each date stone sighting could be listed. This has enabled all the details, such as date, inscription, address and district to be recorded. These returns were subsequently edited, so as to eliminate duplication, and each separate inscription was then given a reference number.

Limitations of Date Stones as a Record

The limitations of date stones as a record of original building must always be borne in mind when making conclusions for a survey such as this. The date stone that can be seen on a building now, may, in some cases be a record of a renovation or alteration, in other cases it may have come from an earlier building which may not even have been on the same site. A few examples will suffice to illustrate this point

New Hall, (earlier 'New House'), Entwistle, is a well proportioned, mullioned windowed, house thought to have been built about 1680. The stone dated 1742 with initials B over J. M., that can be seen on the building today, was built into the house to record when John Brandwood and his wife Mary took possession of it.

Similarly, the illustration of a fox and the date 1821, which can be seen on the keystone of the main archway entrance to the Large barn at Great Oak, Bradshaw, by no means represents the first establishment on this site. Indeed in a commonwealth Church Survey, dated March 29 1650 we find a recommendation…’that the Chappell of Bradshawe aforesaid ought to bee made a pish, and to consist of Blackshawe, saveing Welshfould and the Birches, all Harwood, pt of Turton, vidzt, The great Oake, the little Oake, the Timberbothom…’

Type and Style of Date Stone

During the compilation of these records it has been interesting to observe the different types and styles of date stone. It is possible to divide them into two basic types; those in which the date and inscription are incised, or cut, into the stone and those in which the surrounding material is cut-down so as to leave the inscription, etc, in relief.

These two basic types seem to span the entire period of the use of date stones. Within these two types the styles of the date stones are almost infinite.

A typical example of one of the early incised designs is that with the initials G.I.G. over the date 1688, which is on a lintel over one of the entrance doorways of Dimple Hall. The simple nature of this carving is illustrated in the publication ‘Buildings of Turton’.

Later, date stones of this type became more elaborate and often included the name of the building or property. A very good early 19th Century example can be seen in Belmont with the inscription ‘1804 Maria Square’. (See illustration of this date stone in Figure 4). This was the first row of houses in Belmont and they were built by a nonconformist named Thomas Ryecroft and named after his daughter. He also started a print works about 1800 which is now the Belmont Dyeing and Bleaching Works.

A rather more rare example, since it uses Roman numerals, is the stone inscribed ‘MDCCCXXIII, Wesleyan Sunday School’ on a building at the corner of Darwen Road and Little Brow, Bromley Cross. We leave you to work out the date.

A really splendid example of an early relief design, with the initial T over I.E. over the date 1709 and the inscription picked out in white paint against a black background, can be seen on Isherwood Hall Farm, Edgworth.

Date stone on Isherwood Hall Farm, Edgworth
Date stone on Isherwood Hall Farm, Edgworth

The advent of the moulded brick tile gave greater scope for relief design and this can best be seen on the two bungalows off Edge Lane, Entwistle, ‘1911, East Bungalow’ and ‘1911 West Bungalow’.

Interpretation of Initials

As you may already have noticed the initial letters on a date stone are usually personal initials and by this means they provide an historic record of the owner and/or person occupying the property at a given date. The letters on a date stone seem to follow a general pattern and an understanding of this may help in their interpretation.