The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Tocca’s Stone, Tockholes, Lancashire

OS grid reference: SD 6584 2302. A couple of miles north-west of Darwen is the village of Tockholes. Winter Hill and it’s famous transmitter is a few more miles east of here. Down Chapels Lane is the church of St Stephen, and in the churchyard can be found a curious-shaped stone on a large base. This is Tocca’s Stone or ‘The Toches Stone’. The monument is not more than 4 foot high now because the top section, which could have been a cross-head, was lost to the local area. It is said to have been erected in the late 7th century AD as a preaching cross by Tocca, a Saxon chieftain – Tockholes ‘Tocca’s hollow’ takes it’s name from him. Most probably the area was ruled by some post-Roman, pagan tribe who were Christianized by wandering missionaries like St Paulinus and St Wilfred. The church of St Stephen is a modern building that replaced an earlier Victorian church. Almost certainly there was a medieval church on this site, perhaps even a much earlier Saxon building. The churchyard has a rare outdoor pulpit, dating from the early 1900s, and some old stone arches from an earlier church.

The Toches Stone, Lancashire

The stone, now alas minus its cross-head stands forgotten in many senses, but long ago it was used by local people because of it’s magical healing powers. People came here to touch the round-shaped stone at the side of the old cross shaft. They believed that if they did this some sort of cure, be it magical or divine, would be bestowed upon them. This is probably why the rounded stone is now so smooth. On the large square stone below the cross stump there is a Victorian inscription that states that the cross was set-up on the parish boundary in AD 684 along with some other details of the history. Two local gentleman apparently donated the oblong shaped-stone and re-erected the cross, but they were said to have quarrelled about the cost of the stone and where it should stand, etc.

About 3 miles south of Tockholes is a 17th century wellhouse in the grounds of Hollinshead Hall. The well, however, is much older in date. On the carved arch inside the building there is an old inscription and a carved lion’s heads over a large basin. The water that once issued from the lion’s mouth was said to have had healing properties. However, today the wellhouse is abandoned and rather forgotten. It is a long time since Catholic pilgrims visited this place of sanctity; one can only peer through the windows into the dark, crumbling building.

Tocca’s Stone, Tockholes, Lancashire