Eatock Lodge: Home from Home

Sunday 21st April 2024 – Habitat Management

Before Eatock was a Local Nature reserve it was just an abandoned industrial lodge, that lodge belonged to a colliery, before the colliery there was a farm, and before the farm there were open fields. The first record of the name Eatock in Westhoughton was in 1739, this and architectural evidence, place the building of Eatock’s Farm’s farm house at around the same time. The farm passed through several hands and was originally larger than it was in its final years, however, in 1862 some of the farm’s land was leased by Wigan Coal and Iron and in 1882 construction began on a new colliery. In 1890 Eatock Colliery started producing coal from its 1000 foot deep shafts, the mine continued to operate until 1936 when it finally closed and was then demolished. The closure was partly due to The Coalfields Act 1930 forcing the merger of collieries into larger amalgamated concerns, but also Eatock’s history of flooding and the fractured nature of its coal seams made it too expensive to continue.

Map of Eatock 1909 and 2022
Map of Eatock 1909 and 2022

At this time Eatock Farm was owned by John Gregory, who also owned nearby Hoskers Farm. In 1944, John Mather Snr, a former shunter driver at Eatock Colliery, purchased the farm from him. With his wife, Annie, their children, John and Jessie, and Annie’s sister Emily, John Snr. ran the farm for dairy, eggs and apples, serving the people of Daisy Hill and Westhoughton until 1973. Over this time the Mather family acted as stewards to the lodge and pit shafts keeping them safe from intruders. But in 1973 Eatock Farm closed after being served with a Compulsory Purchase Order by Manchester Council which had plans to develop the site. Once vacated the buildings were immediately demolished and the land left vacant until 1978, the area was then landscaped and the shafts filled in with the material from the spoil tips. The site was then left again until housing development began in the 1990s.

Eatock swans
Eatock swans

But the story didn’t end there. Just before the housing development began a team of ecologists, including BCV’s Rick Parker, did a torch-light search for amphibians and found over 1000 breeding toads on the site. This unprecedented find resulted in Eatock Lodge being designated a Site of Biological Importance Grade ‘B’ in 2000, and as a Local Nature Reserve in 2004. Eatock Lodge LNR is now home to toads, swans, heron, hedgehogs, and emperor dragonfly.

John and Annie’s daughter, daughter in-law, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren now live in London, Weymouth, Leigh, Bolton, and Westhoughton, and one even works with BCV. I’ll give you a guess who that is.

Today’s task at Eatock, with members of the Friends of Eatock Lodge group, involved digging drainage channels from the path. The recent wet weather has resulted the paths becoming muddy and difficult to negotiate. Hopefully the channels will help aleviate this. In the afternoon we created a dead hedge to stop people trespassing near the swan’s nest, disturbing the swans and damaging their eggs.

Thanks to Chris and the Friends of Eatock Lodge crew for having over.

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