AUSTERLANDS’ position as the gateway to Saddleworth has been officially recognised at a special double ceremony.
In June 2018, the Independent exclusively reported the siting of a milestone on the A62 Huddersfield Road at its junction with Thorpe Lane to replace the historic original.
Additionally, and thanks to Saddleworth White Rose Society, a traditional West Riding of Yorkshire sign has now been unveiled on the gable end of Austerlands mill to mark the ‘historic’ boundary with Lancashire.
Joan Sykes, Mayor of Austerlands, joined Saddleworth Parish Council chair Cllr Rob Knotts, Mayor of Oldham Cllr Javid Iqbal, and other dignitaries for the border celebrations.
The milestone is sited at the foot of the village’s landmark chimney and signals the beginning of the first Wakefield to Austerlands Turnpike constructed around 1760 by John Metcalf, aka Blind Jack of Knaresborough.
The distinctive slab of sandstone is a replica of the milestone that stood in the area for more than 250 years until demolished by a car in 2007.
The old, weathered milestone, made of millstone grit and standing 34 inches tall, received Grade II listed status from Historic England in 1986.
However, the replacement produced by Oldham Council at a cost of nearly £900 doesn’t hold the same status.
Pieces of the original historic milestone were placed in storage at OMBC’s former Highways Depot on Lees Road after the mystery road traffic accident.
When the site closed during a management re-organisation, it’s thought they were cleared out of the yard together with other artefacts, including a broken West Riding milestone from Denshaw.
Estimates of a construction date for the old milestone, which was discovered in 1971 by Saddleworth Historical Society in a drystone wall close to the county boundary, vary.
Saddleworth Historical Bulletin reported it came from the area’s first turnpike road circa 1759 and displaced into a farmer’s field when the second turnpike road was constructed. However, there are suggestions it could have been at least 10 years older.
The inscriptions on the milestone – reproduced in the 2018 version – show: ‘To Manchester 10 miles,” and “To Huddersfield 15 miles”.
A spokesperson for Oldham Council confirmed: “The milestone was badly damaged after it was believed to have been hit by a vehicle.
“It looks like it may have been taken to the old Lees Road depot years ago before it closed and may have been too badly damaged to save.
“The council paid £855 to replace the stone and sited it on the other side of the road to hopefully avoid another repeat of the incident.
“Due to the stone being very old we could not use an exact replacement, which is understandable.
“The inscription on the stone is the same as what was on the original.”