Standing on Ashurst Hill in Dalton and overlooking Skelmersdale (land of roundabouts) is a sandstone structure known as Ashurst’s Beacon.
The walk up to the beacon is a gentle amble along a footpath from the road. This leads through a small wooded area spattered with bright yellow gorse and low growing trees. Once almost through the wooded area the pyramidal top of the beacon comes into view until the woods break onto a gentle hillside with the beacon sat there with the sort of sartorial elegance that a hat would sit atop an edwardian gent.
The beacon stands at 570ft above sea level and offers an uninterupted view for a full 360 degrees, taking in views of the Lake District Mountains, the mountains of Snowdonia, the Pennines, the Peak District and the Cheshire Plains as well as offering a superb view of Liverpool and the Mersey and not forgetting our other famous ‘folly’ Blackpool Tower. Situated behind the beacon itself about 100yds away is a rock ‘plinth’ with an indicator pointing out the areas of interest that can be seen along with their distance.
The beacon is one of a chain of Lancashire beacons that stretch from Everton Brow above Liverpool to Lancaster Castle as an early warning against invaders.
Built in 1798 by Sir William Ashurst, who, fearing that Napoleon’s armies would successfully threaten Englands borders and invade decided that a more significant and permanent beacon was necessary. Prior to this there was probably a raised metal brazier on the hill to house the warning fires, most famously to warn against the Spanish Armadas threat of invasion.
I have read two different ideas as to why the beacon was built. One postulates that this was a guard house, built to house the soldiers who manned the beacon. The second and my favourite is that the structure itself was the beacon and was built with a cast iron fire box inside with the windows (now bricked up) acting as ‘chimney windows’ so that the fiery inferno inside could unleash it’s warning flames.
The building by 1940 had fallen into a sad state of repair and had urgent remedial repairs not taken place then this little treasure could have been lost to all.
According to an inscription that used to adorn one side of the structure (I assume it used to as it is no longer there) it was presented to Wigan Corporation in 1962 by Mrs Florence Meadows in memory of her journalist husband Thomas, who desired that the beacon should be a public beauty spot.
Old photograph circa 1914, note the weather vane atop the acorn, both now sadly missing.
So with a last view of the vast panorama presented before us, my son and I turn and amble back down the gentle slope, occassionally glancing backwards until the pyramid roof once again disappears.
Ashurst’s Beacon, Dalton
Description: Ashurst’s Beacon
Date Listed: 22 April 1967
English Heritage Building ID: 357804
OS Grid Reference: SD5008807923
OS Grid Coordinates: 350088, 407923
Latitude/Longitude: 53.5655, -2.7551
Location: Beacon Lane, Dalton, Wigan, Lancashire WN8 7RR