Ashton's local history

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A history of Ashton Heath itself can be found at Ashton Heath Restoration Project.

The Hermit of Ashton Heath.

John Jonas Kilshaw (1848-1919), son of a local hingemaker, was commonly known to the people of Ashton as the hermit of Ashton Heath, although he occasionally called himself the Gypsy King. His residence, a hut 3ft high, was built in a ditch situated on Ashton Heath. It was no more than a dugout, roofed with flags, stones and sack cloths, with an old bucket as a chimney. He washed in a ditch and cut his own hair and beard with a pair of borrowed scissors. He used to melt solder from old cans and then sell it. Every summer he used to walk to Kent to pick strawberries. In September 1919, his body was found on a colliery tip at Park Lane Collieries. An inquest at the Robin Hood Hotel recorded a verdict of 'death by misadventure'. Most probably he had gone to sleep on the tip for warmth and been overcome by fumes.

Ashton Heath Hermit

Joe Gormley

"According to the book "The Battered Cherub", Joe (later Lord) Gormley was born in Duke Street."

- David Brown

The Millstone

"The Millstone pub, better known as Lymer's, was off Mill Street on Druid Street. It was demolished in the 1970s."

- Ann Rampling

The Millstone

"One of the last landlords of the Millstone was a Mr Benson and the brewery was Greenhall Whitley. The pub closed in the late sixties and was used for a variety of purposes afterwards. It was situated at the end of a row of terraced houses. There was a gap then a further block of five terraced houses and also terraced houses on the other side of the street. At the back of the pub there had been a bowling green but even in the sixties it was overgrown. The houses and pub were compulsorily purchased by Wigan Metro in 1983 and demolished shortly afterwards. I believe the land situated at the corner of Druid St/Mill Street is still owned by United Utilities going back to the days when there was a reservoir which supported the mill that closed at the turn of the century."

- Brian Unsworth

© Brian Unsworth

The front of the Millstone circa 1960. On the left is the landlord Mr Benson, and on the right is Tommy Winnard who used to live in Druid St, with Brian Unsworth.

© Brian Unsworth

Brian Unsworth and Jennifer Hughes on Ashton Heath circa 1961/2 with Cookson's farm in the distance prior to its demolition and the creation of the Lincoln Drive estate.

Colliers Arms

"The Colliers Arms, better known as the Dull Pick, was the best pub in Ashton. It was on Warrington Road next door to the Bay Horse. It had flag floors and the seating was more like settles. It had the best night out ever and the mild was only one and six in real money."

- Ann Rampling

Colliers Arms

"My ancestors the Cookes and then the Sankeys were the BeerHousekeepers of the Colliers Arms for many years in the 19th century and are on the censuses from 1841 to 1901."

- Christine

"Wartime memories

My sister Pam and I were evacuated to Ashton-in-Makerfield somewhere around 1941 or 1942. We lived (I thought) in Lee street but I may have a 'failed memory' and that Lee was the family name.

There was a daughter Nellie, and they had a black pony that pulled a cart with hay or something in it. Must have been hay as Pam and I played on top of it in the cart while it was going to and from wherever!

We were in the May Day parade through the 'village' as it seemed to be then, and we were flower girls, and some of the local boys were dressed as baker boys. There was a bakery or flour mill, something like that within easy walking distance, and there was a school also walking distance, and a shop that sold tripe and onions.

I was only about five years old. I recall that every Friday evening was bath and hair wash (that yukky but necessary green soap in those days). After that there was a lovely rice pudding for supper while we listened to Ramsbottom and Enoch and Me on the radio. We were taken one time to the Hippodrome, Wigan, and were fascinated by the chorus girls. For weeks afterwards we played at being the chorus girls. Pam was always the one in pink dresses and I was the one in red dresses. For the Mayday parade we had on crepe paper skirts over our dresses, and the long-handled basket we carried was full of crepe paper flowers. We had to toss them out as we walked along in the procession. The May Queen was on a horse-drawn cart if I remember correctly. I am not sure if there was a maypole at the end of it all, as there had been visits to one in London's Kensington Gardens before the evacuation, and so the timelines become a little blurred and the maypole I recall could be the London one.

All the people I knew in Ashton were very happy friendly people. It was a marvellous place to be and I am very sorry indeed that I didn't keep in touch. Had I been few years older, I certainly would have, but the war keeps even children's minds on other things, and just a few months later my grandmother (who was my guardian) brought us back to London, and then my mother and Pam (who was eighteen months younger than me) went to Torquay and I didn't see either of them again until I was about twelve."

- Virginia van Engel

"Lady Hill Dig

I organized a dig at Lady Hill, which is situated in woods near of Haydock Racecourse. Mark Olly from Lost Treasures fame was the site director, and Steve Dowd was asked to record the project. The local Explorer scout group was involved as part of the D.o.E. award scheme, and Bill Aldridge from Wigan Archaeological Society helped with the Geophysics.

What actually inspired us to investigate Lady Hill was the question "What is it?". We had several suggestions, including a garden folly for Haydock Hall, a shooting butt, or even a beacon to warn of the Armada, so a dig was organised. Although until radio-carbon dating on remains found in a cist are completed we can not say for certain that it is a barrow, yet most of the accredited Archaeologists that visited the site were happy to say it was a Barrow circa 2500 years old.

There were other finds indicating that it had been used over the years perhaps for most of the possible explanations mentioned. There were traces of a Welsh style build, and even a slim chance of a Roman temporary altar, although much further investigation would have to be carried out to prove that.

Lady Hill is also known as Seven Sisters. This indicated that several barrows existed in the area. A Golborne history book gives details of another two on Golborne land, and we suspect another may be on Ashton Heath. Barrows are commonplace on the hills inland and in the south, but are a rare find in this area due to industry and because the area was very boggy and marsh-like several thousand years ago.

What we aim to do next is to find the settlement linked to the burial mounds. This could take some time. Our aim is to find the ancient history of this area and make the knowledge available. We also wish to preserve it for future generations. The site is on private land and only authorised digging is permitted. English Heritage has given the details to the local sites officer, and a site visit is being organised.

We could not find a tithe map for the area, but understand there may be one in Rylands in Manchester. If anyone has one we would be most appreciative if we could borrow it.

Videos of the dig can be seen at and I would be pleased to answer any questions - my email address is"

- Bob Hayes

Ashton Heath in the Fifties

"Stumbled on to the Ashton Heath Residents Group Web Site. Glad to see the heath is still there.

I was born in Ashton and can remember many a sunny afternoon on Ashton Heath. We used to go for a picnic to the big hill. The picnic would consist of a big bottle of Tizer or Dandelion and Burdock, which we bought at a grocers shop at the corner of Ladysmith Ave and Princess Rd. Plus condensed milk butties if we were lucky. Then we would start the long trip all the way down Princess Road. We always looked in on Jimmy Gillets Horse, then up past the Eagle and Child and then the trek to Great Hill usually via Little Hill. When we reached the top and had consumed the pop and butties we would amuse ourselves by: 1. Watching out for trains so we could run on to the bridge and get in the smoke; 2. Digging holes because we were told the hill was hollow inside; 3. Trying to catch rabbits with home-made snares as there was what seemed like hundreds of them burrowing in the sand; 4. Catching red ants and putting them with the black ants and then watching the battles that took place.

I can also remember picking peas in the fields across the bridge. Writing this brings tears to my eyes as I remember those long summer days. Ashton was a wonderful place for kids in the fifties. we used to help bring in the wheat in Captains Fields. And what an adventure playing in the old POW camp. The huts were still there and so was the water tower. To be in our gang you had to climb up to the top of the tower and walk round the outside of the water tank. I can also remember a huge tip somewhere to the rear of the camp where we dug for old bottles.

All kids should experience a childhood like ours. We got half a crown a week, and this bought our pop for the picnic and got us in the pictures twice a week, usually the Scala on a Saturday if you weren't barred. If you were you could get in by a mate going in and then opening the fire door which was behind a big curtain near the screen. Then it was the Queens or Palace mid-week. Good Days!"

- Gerald Ellis

"Lincoln Drive estate was originally 'Cooksons Farm'. It was owned by my great grandad Fred Hope from approx 1905 to 1959. He was a Dairy Farmer along with his son (my grandad) Joe Hope. When dairy farming became depressed in 1959(ish) Fred Hope sold the farm and it became a pig farm from 1959 to 1969(ish). It was then sold to a developer and the Lincoln Drive estate was built. My grandad used to take a horse drawn cart round Ashton selling milk direct from the churn. There was also a tip at the back of Cooksons farm (which is where the bottom end of Lincoln Drive is now) and the tip was used by the Council to dispose of human waste that was collected from the outside privvies. NOW do you want to live near that?"
- Karin

"My grandad was one of the people that collected the "human waste" and dumped it though much of it was dumped on what is now Manor Park - I am sure the residents will have fantastic gardens with years of muck buried beneath them!"
- Denise

Ashton station was on Warrington Road at the boundary between Wigan and St Helens. Primarily a goods line, it closed in the early 1950s, though the line was used for goods traffic for some years afterwards.

Ashton-in-Makerfield station. Submitted by Emily West.

- Denise

The Plunkett family

"My Mother Margaret Plunkett was born in Ashton 1927. Mum was always talking to us (all 13 children) about the heath that she played on as a child.

Mum's ancestors the Plunketts lived in Heath road and at 4 Mill Lane. George Plunkett had a piece of shrapnel in his leg, which found its way into a photographic shop window at the bottom of Bryn street. Years later he became landlord of the Eagle & Child overlooking the Heath.

George's parents were -

Isaac Plunkett, born 1855 died 23 Feb 1929 at Heath Road, Ashton in Makerfield.


Margaret Vernon, born 5 Feb 1860, Ashton in Makerfield; died 9 Feb 1942 at 4 Mill Street, Ashton in Makerfield.

Is there anyone that can recall the Plunkett Family?"

- Amanda Bennett

AiMi - Ashton Community Information The contents of this site contain contributions from local people and due acknowledgements are given where requested. The site is sponsored by AiM.i.