Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

 

 

Firewatchers

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Which poor unfortunate had the job of Fire Watcher in Bolton (New Holder Street) on a cold winter's night? They would have had a good view of the whole town centre though!

 

On 26th September 1916 a Zeppelin flew over Bolton town centre, right around where this site would later be, and dropped twenty bombs on the town, including incendiaries. So one wonders whether this was the thinking behind positioning the Fire Watcher tower when the next war came around.

Left: You can just about see the entrance to the little brick "hut". Looks pretty precarious!

 

We knew about this site thanks to Keith Warrender's excellent book "Manchester Oddities" P138

Coming Soon:

- A Firewatcher's Tower in Ramsbottom.

- The story of Tottington Home Guard

- New uses for anti-tank blocks in Bolton

As well as the Home Guard and the ARP, there was the Fire Guard as well as other groups doing vital work in WW2 on the home front. Many factories employed their own Firewatcher to protect their property from the danger of incendiary bombs. However, firewatchers were unable to do anything about neighbouring properties. The Manchester Blitz in December 1940 and the bombing of London the following week convinvced the Home Office that something needed to be done.

 

This resulted in making it compulsory for businesses to have paid firewatchers within their staff. They would be required to watch over the building through the night. Some relics of their duties still remain, others have gone but photographs remind us of what was once in place.

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In Manchester on Dale Street, at the junction with China Lane is this magnificent building (Left).

 

On the double door entrance on China Lane is a Firewatcher's Bell (See photos Right).

 

Thank you to Ian of aircrashsites.co.uk for first telling us about this one: visit his page about it HERE

aircrashsites.co.uk

The above sight is just a stone's throw away from Piccadilly Gardens - which suffered terribly during the Manchester Blitz - there will be a page about the MANCHESTER BLITZ HERE soon.

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Brooksbottom Mill in Summerseat, Ramsbottom.

 

On the roof of the main mill on the left hand end (see photo RIGHT) is a firewatchers tower.

 

Today, the mill has been turned into apartments and the firewatchers tower has gone (see modern photos at the bottom of the page).

 

The black & white photo (Right) and the two photos from the 1970's or 80's below are courtesy of:

 

www.heritagephotoarchive.co.uk

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In front of the mill on this photo, immediately LEFT, is a smaller building that straddled the River Irwell until the Boxing Day floods of 2015. When this building, latterly known as The Waterside pub collapsed into the river.

 

According to John Leyland of Ramsbottom Heritage Society: "The Waterside was the canteen and nursery for the mill which employed 400 people in its heyday. In the Second World War, the mill worked round the clock making army clothing and the canteen in the Waterside provided lunch during the one hour break and [workers] watched government newsreel films."

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LEFT & BELOW LEFT: Abbey Mill in Abbey Village, an old cotton mill.

Is that a Firewatchers tower constructed in brick?

 

 

RIGHT: A mill in Dukinfield (not quite Lancashire) with a firespotters post. Situated on Globe Lane/Globe Square.

 

Photo courtesy of David Griffin