Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

A Crimean War era Firing Range, Holcombe

When we first started this website we were told about a nearby rifle range believed to have been used for training troops during the Crimean War. Only now have we managed to get to it and photograph it - but it was well worth the hike.

 

Our friend, local historian John Ireland (Holcombe Moor Heritage Group / Holcombe History Society), knows a great deal about the history of his local village - Holcombe in Bury. He told us about this site on Harcles Hill, above the Ramsbottom - Rawtenstall valley.

 

The site predates the MoD firing range on the other side of the hill between Holcombe and Hawkshaw which was created in 1912 and covers 900 acres. Indeed, its eastern boundary is not far from the site of the Crimean era firing range, lying on the ridge above it. So it does seem to fit that this range therefore predates the modern range nearby.

 

The Crimean War was between 1853 and 1856. One of the British Army's greatest failures is now famously remembered in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's narrative poem 'The Charge Of The Light Brigade'. It is also the war in which Florence Nightingale became famous when she organised care for wounded soldiers.

 

Our site is unfortunately a bit of a mystery as we have found no formal record of it being built as a practice range for the Crimean War. However, one reference we have found is in 'Notes on Holcombe' (published in 1901) by Henry Dowsett, the Rector of Holcombe. On page 49 during a chapter entitled 'The Troughs' (about the nearby glacial feature marked on some Ordnance Survey maps) he states: "The Connaught Rangers encamped on Harcles Hill during the Crimean War". The Connaught Rangers, according to Wikipedia were "The 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) ("the Devil's Own") an infantry Regiment of the British Army, raised in 1793". As the date of the Crimean War places this site in living memory of Dowsett's book, it being roughly 50 years previous, it seems reasonable to conclude that it is of Crimean vintage.

 

All that can be seen today of the firing range is one of the sites of the targets. It is not known if there were other targets, but we cannot see evidence of any others within the locality. Nor can we see any evidence of where the firing points would be. What we have surviving is the ramped earth bank, a substantial retaining wall for it, a pit (in which the targets would be raised and lowered either mechanically or by hand) behind the retaining wall, steps out of the pit and side and back walls for the pit. Soldiers, whose duty it was to raise and lower the targets, would have been in this pit area, protected by the earth bank, but not daring to put their heads above it in case of being shot! Stray bullets must have landed above on the slope of the hill.

 

The structure of the site is marked, but not named, on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map and is visible on Lidar. it lies on the slope of Harcles Hill above Chatterton Close Farm.

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Other local sites that may be of interest to you:

Holcombe Village Comforts Fund from WW2

Holcombe Firing Range WW2 Home Guard tragedy

Holcombe Village - WW1 Zeppelin Attack

Holcombe - Helmshore Road Pillbox

Nearby historic sites of interest on our Lancashire Past page:

 

Ellen Strange Stone & Cairn

 

Robin Hoods Well

BELOW LEFT: Old firing butts at the current Holcombe Moor Training Camp - Used during WW1 & WW2.

 

BELOW RIGHT: Part of the modern firing range