Standing 267 metres above sea level, Hartshead Pike is thought to have been a beacon hill since before the Romans came to Britain and legends exist about Druid worship at the site. The hill has an unbroken 360 degree view across the borders of four counties, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. A beacon would surely have been lit there to warn of the Spanish Armada and later of its defeat. In WW2 it was occupied as a look-out post.

There are many ancient sites in the area, including the remains of a Roman fort at Castleshaw and a stone circle at Buckton Castle and the Romans maintained Hartshead Pike as a beacon site. I have read that, after the departure of the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons may have used the site to hold their Moot, a place to elect leaders, leaving a hart’s head to mark the place after the ceremony.

The present tower occupying the Pike was built in 1863 to commemorate the engagement of the Prince of Wales to Alexandra of Denmark. Whilst reliable sources say that the entrance to the tower was bricked up at the end of the second world war, my husband remembers being taken inside the tower sometime in the 1940s with his uncle Ellis and climbing a spiral stair inside the tower. This must have been right at the end of the war, probably before his Dad came home from military service. In 1967, Hartshead Pike Tower was listed as a Grade II Listed Building.

Nearby is a structure that marks the position of an earlier tower that was re-built in 1751 from an even earlier structure but was damaged by a lightening strike in 1794, afterwards falling into ruin. A stone marking this was incorporated into the 1863 tower along with contemporary inscriptions.

With good visibility it is possible to see from the Pike as far as Jodrell Bank, the telescope being visible on the horizon. The centre of Manchester can clearly be seen to the west and the hills of Saddleworth to the east.

It is many years since I photographed the tower, even though it is only a couple of miles from home. Our expedition on the 16th March was in the hope of seeing a spectacular sunset. There wasn’t really enough cloud about to create the hoped-for spectacle, but I made a few exposures with the promise to myself to go back soon.

 

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