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  • "The words on Jhon Osbaldestons Grave in Tocholes are "John Osbaldeston Inventor of the Weft Fork Born 1780 Died 1862" and not those stated above."
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Tourist guide to Tockholes

WORSHIP: The outdoor pulpit at St Stephen's Church

WORSHIP: The outdoor pulpit at St Stephen's Church

First published in Tourist guide Blackburn Citizen: Photograph of the Author by

TOCKHOLES should actually be pronounced to rhyme with cockles.

It is situated about three miles to the south of Blackburn and tucked away in a fold on Darwen Moor.

The village has a long and fascinating history and may well derive its name from Toka's Hollow.

There was possibly a 9th century chieftain called Tok and this was his power base.

The search for its ancient history should begin in the churchyard, where an alternative derivation of the name is suggested.

There is stone cross bearing an inscription which reads: "The upper portion of this monument is supposed to be a remnant of the old parish preaching cross, possibly dating back to AD684.

"The lower portion is probably part of the ancient Toches stone from which the parish takes its name."

"Serious" historians point out that there are too many possibilities and not enough certainties.

"The fact remains, however, that there was an ancient church on this site although the present St Stephen's is relatively recent.

A Saxon church was here in AD640 but this had been replaced before 1494.

The present church is 19th century but there was a time when the services at St Stephen's was so popular that outdoor meetings were held.

The stone pulpit in the graveyard dates from 1910.

Also in the churchyard is a reminder of textile history.

Look for the sad reminder of a man who should have become rich and yet died a pauper.

Jon Osbaldeston (1780-1862) did not even get the credit for his work.

On his tombstone an inscription reads:

Here lies
John Osbaldeston
A humble inventor
Who raised many to wealth and fortune
But himself lived in poverty and died in obscurity
The dupe of false friends
And the Victim of misplaced confidence.

John's main contribution to the textile industry was the invention of the West-fork, a simple but very important device which stopped a power loom whenever the weft snapped.

This saved the cotton mill owners a great deal of money but was so easy to copy that the inventor was paid nothing.

He died in Blackburn Workhouse and, had it not been for the kindly Vicar of Tockholes, this "man of cotton" would have been buried into a pauper's grave.

John Osbaldeston may have been deprived of fame and fortune in life but his name should never be forgotten.

Tockholes really is a religious spot because close to the Victoria Inn is the United Reformed Chapel, which is on the site of the original of 1662.

Just like the parish church, this has been rebuilt a couple of times.

The Celts tended to worship the countryside and near the ruins of Hollinshead Hall is a mineral spring which was visited by pilgrims.

It was believed that the waters cured the suffering from eye diseases.

Hollinshead Hall was built in the 18th century but now only a few stones remain.

The Well House built over the ancient spring is still in fine condition and, apart from a complete trough, there is also a magnificent fountain carved in the form of a lion's head.

Those who worship nature should not miss Roddlesworth Woods which were planned by Liverpool Waterworks Company in 1904.

The 80 hectares (200 acres) of woods are a joy especially at bluebell times, while the three reservoirs dates to the 1860s are the popular haunts of wildfowl throughout the year.

There are also resident great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker and treecreeper.

Along the streams which feed into the reservoirs can be found dipper, grey wagtail, heron and kingfisher.

If you want peace, tranquility and a mix of history and natural history then go to Tockholes.

Walk very quietly, however, or you will spoil it.

Do you agree or disagree with Ron Freethy's guide? Where do you think tourists should visit in Tockholes? Add your comments below.

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  • Name: Stephen Smith
  • The words on Jhon Osbaldestons Grave in Tocholes are "John Osbaldeston Inventor of the Weft Fork Born 1780 Died 1862" and not those stated above.

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