Written records of ‘Roun Pike’ stretch back to 1280, though it is entirely feasible the Pike became part of England’s integral beacon defence network over a century earlier under the instigation of the Earl of Chester after the Scottish raids of 1138. The beacon on the Pike was certainly fired in July, 1588, when the Spanish Armada had been sighted off English shores. Fifty years previously, Leland, a chronicler for Henry VIII, recorded he had passed the hill ‘Faierlokke’, though he astutely reported the local variation: “communley the people thereabout caullith it Rivenpike”.
Wood was gathered there in the early 18th century over ill-founded fears of a French invasion, and fires continued to be lit after the building of the Tower - most recently for the Coronation of King George V in 1910, then to mark the end of the First World War in 1918. It is possible to see that over many centuries Rivington Pike has rarely seen a period without human activity. Whilst the Tower has attracted visitors for nearly three hundred years and the Pike Fair for at least two hundred - with a cooling off period in the 1830s for drunken, riotous behaviour over the Easter weekend - flint chippings found on the summit suggest an earlier, prehistoric significance.
The Pike holds an annual fair every Good Friday where many brave the winds and scale the steep ascent to the summit, whilst their children roly-poly back down towards the burger vans and balloon sellers that have pitched themselves into the road around it’s base. Since 1892 the annual Pike Race has also been held on Easter Saturday, attracting over three hundred runners.
There’s a strange looking knobbly bit of ground on top of Rivington Pike and just to the north and slightly east of the Pike tower. It’s alluded to briefly in a number of sources, some vaguely and some with an air of authority, as an old Bell Pit, a prehistoric barrow, the original beacon platform and once to my knowledge as a wartime gun emplacement!
The shape of the structure on the ground is in the form of a seemingly circular bank with a hole in the middle. It does look a bit like a looted out cist burial or maybe the tiniest of bell pits. Today its circular form is exaggerated from some angles by the modern re-landscaping and ground stabilisation that was carried out in the 90’s on the surrounding slope below the structure.
Now I’m not saying it isn’t in the same spot as an ancient burial mound or an old mine trial, in fact I’m certain there would have been some sort of prehistoric monument on this site because the hill is so prominent - who could resist? But, the current structure on the ground is the definitely the remains of an early OS Trig Point that was removed many years ago. I’m not sure when, it’s shown on the earliest OS maps but not on anything later. It’s not shown on any old photographs to my knowledge but then you’d be facing the other way, towards the Pike tower I guess.
Many of the old trig points have a built-up mound or stone plinth into the centre of which the triangulation pillar is cemented. Some even have substantial stone windbreaks around them - as to severl to the north of here from which the Winter Hill summit trig point is visible. Other places where triangulation pillars have been removed often have a similar hole in the centre, I believe a large chunk of cement or concrete comes out along with the pillar itself - leaving a characteristic hole.
You can see the Trig Point marked as a triangle on this old OS map from around 1847, just in the right place - to the north and slightly east of the Pike tower.
I believe the early OS method required many more, closely spaced trig points than the later methods. In fact if you look at the old maps of the area you’ll find many that aren’t around today.
Marker type: Place