Home Featured The fascinating history of Winwick’s ‘Travellers Rest Stones’
The Travellers Rest Stones in Winwick

The fascinating history of Winwick’s ‘Travellers Rest Stones’

by Gemma Melling

You’ve probably driven past these stones in Winwick hundreds of times – but have you ever given much thought as to what they are… and why they’re there?

Well, these are 160 year-old ‘travellers rest’ stones – designed to do exactly as they say by providing a convenient place for weary migrant workers to sit and rest a while whilst making long journeys – often on foot – between Liverpool and Manchester.

But it’s only recently that their true purpose – and clever design – has been officially recognised.

Winwick was one of around 30 sites along the route chosen to have travellers rest stones installed in around 1860. They were designed by a doctor, spaced roughly two miles apart – and only 12 are known to have survived.

All 12 surviving stones, including the one at Winwick, have Grade 2 Listed Status – but it’s only recently that the true purpose of the stones has been confirmed. Until now, it was thought that the stones at Winwick may have been blocks for mounting horses – and this was noted in their listed status. But they records have now been updated to reflect their true standing as one of the rare surviving travellers rest stones, on the advice of Historic England – with their special architectural and historic interest recognised at last.

A passer by tries out the travelers rest stone near the Stag Inn, Warrington. Copyright: Historic England

A passer by tries out the travellers rest stone near the Stag Inn, Warrington. Copyright: Historic England

More than just a place to rest – these stones were cutting edge!

The travellers rest stones are more than five feet long and have a stepped shape and domed seat. They were designed by Warrington resident, Dr James Kendrick (1809-1882). He was inspired by the donation of drinking fountains in Liverpool in 1859 by philanthropist Charles Melly.

Dr Kendrick had a good knowledge of biomechanics – the science of the movement of the body – and his stone seats for travellers passing through the Warrington area were made by stonemasons using local sandstone. They provided an easy resting position for adults leaning forward with their elbows resting on their knees with space for companions or baggage.

The lower steps were intended for children and as a footrest for mothers so they could comfortably breastfeed their babies. Most of these stones are inscribed with ‘Travellers’ Rest’ and the date. Some have inspiring quotations such as ‘Come Unto Me Saith The Saviour’ to help them along their journey.

These stones represent a tradition of migration that continued well into the second half of the 19th century. Besides attracting Irish migrant workers, these stones were also resting places for large numbers of young female migrants hoping to fill domestic roles left vacant by their urban counterparts who left for factory work.

Discover more about Winwick’s history

St Oswald’s Church, next to the travellers rest stones, is having a Heritage Open weekend on September 9 & 10, 2023. It’s a chance to discover more about thie history of this church – including it’s links with the Titanic disaster. Find out more.

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