Holcombe Moor Heritage Group

Local History on the edge of the West Pennine Moors

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"I went to see a Mr Wood of Greenmount who lives in an 18thC house near Nab's Lane.  The gardens are most peculiar & deserve adequate description.

Starting at Point A is a grotto built under a massive amount of rock.  It contains many ornate stone carvings, what appears to be a small altar and a kind of stucco work on the walls.  Natural pieces of gritstone and pieces of glass are used in the passage (B).  After passing through the stone arch at (C), the Castle (D) is reached. There are many more gargoyles and carvings here.  Inside are the remains of two fireplaces and an anteroom (E).  At (F) there is a long dark tunnel leading to a colonnade and 'secret garden'.  The pond is reached at (H).  The garden is incredible and should be listed.  ... I think it was started in the early part of the 19th century".

"John Turner's Cave "

Why did John Turner, an industrialist, who lived at Nabbs House in Greenmount, spend much of his time excavating this remote moorland area, close to the cave he built in the banks of Red Brook?  Ruins of the cave and the mounds of earth are still clearly visible, if you know where to look!


John Turner was born in 1811. The 1841 census shows him as an industrialist, though 20 years later he is down as a gentleman. Although he was a church warden at Emmanuel Holcombe in 1840-41, the local people viewed him as an eccentric and a 'crank'. Prior to 1867 he built the ‘Images’ in his garden at Nabbs House. This castle like folly had many gargoyles on top of the crenelated walls as well as several protruding from them, a few of which may still be seen today.  


The inside was once panelled with richly carved oak.  It was said that Turner and his valet would occasionally go on a binge spending days at a time locked in the folly. It was also said that it was used as a retiring room for the men to have a port and smoke. There were various tunnel like stone built passages leading back to the house.  These passages, once lined with coloured glass, opened out into rooms in which there were more stone carvings of animals and people. A most impressive one was of a man lying on a couch with a gun at his side and his dog at his feet.


John Turner devised some tricky water spouts along the approach to his house. One was a brass hose cunningly concealed in the cobbles at his front gate, another was over his front door and yet another in the folly. He used these on any undesirable visitors who were given an unexpected soaking. Sadly all the passages have gone and many of the gargoyles have been stolen.

















John Turner's cave is mentioned in Ralph Rooney's book 'The Story of My Life'. Ralph was born in Greenmount in 1862 and many times had seen John Turner with his horses and dogs going hunting on the moors. He tells of the cave being the gamekeeper's quarters and that there was a coal seam opposite the entrance, very convenient in cold weather.


It took many walks up the rocky bed of Red Brook before we found the ruins of the cave. Thinking the cave would be in the rocks we didn't look higher onto the moors until one winter's day when the ruins were quite obvious. We should have realised that John Turner would build his cave not in the rocks but like the passages in his garden. From the ruins it would appear to have been built like an igloo with a long narrow entrance and as Ralph Rooney described, a coal seam is in the bank directly opposite the cave entrance.


All who have seen it would like to dig it. It is not very big and could probably be done in a day, but the mounds of excavation are another matter. What was he digging for? In an interview in the 1980’s Clifford Wood, whose relative once lived at Nabbs House, stated that some of the stones in the garden were fossilised trees – did Turner find these on the moors and cart them back to adorn Nabbs House?


See MORE about John Turner's folly lower down the page!

More about John Turner by Christine Taylor

Christine Taylor's book "History Of Greenmount" is available directly from her (you can send correspondence to us and we will forward it to her) and is for sale at local events.

It is also available on Amazon - click the link to the right.

The book has more information on John Turner and his folly and photographs too.

You can also see photos of John Turner's folly here in "Manchester Oddities".


Keith Warrender's book is a highly recommended look at local curiosities, including some fantastic colour photos of Nabbs Folly / The Images in Greenmount.

John turner - Copy John turner

Above Left: John Turner's Cave. Above Right: The Folly at Nabbs - both photos courtesy of Christiine Taylor and her copyright

Walk N Talk John Turner 026 (600x800) Walk N Talk John Turner 027 (600x800) Walk N Talk John Turner 042 (600x800) Walk N Talk John Turner 031 (800x600) Walk N Talk John Turner 038 (600x800) Walk N Talk John Turner 069 (800x600)

Above Right: This photo shows the lumps and bumps directly adjacent to the known site. Which makes us believe that whatever we have here is bigger than first thought. This seems to be a complex and unrecorded site. What was going on up here? All the buildings/features face West directly onto an upland stream - Which is in the hollow below where you can see the first patch of peat on the above right photo.

Notice also on the above right photo, the curved stone wall at the end of the long stone walled passageway, before you enter into a small square room.


In early 2014 we had two Walk N Talks - HMHG MEMBERS ONLY lead by Christine Taylor to 'John Turner's Cave' - see photos and explanation below.

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Nab's Lane Garden, Greenmount, Holcombe Brook, Bury  25th Nov 1976

From the diary entry of Ken Howarth, then at Bury Museum.