Holly Mount School Tower – Rawtenstall, England - Atlas Obscura

Holly Mount School Tower

Rawtenstall, England

This tower is all that remains of a 19th-century schoolhouse that became a famous music venue before its destruction.  

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This tower looks very much like a church clock tower from a distance, but as you get closer it becomes clear that it’s far too small. In fact, it’s the last remnants of a school constructed in 1839 by two entrepreneurs, the Whitehead brothers. They were factory owners who sought to educate their employees with a very unique offer. 

They charged students typical school fees, but for each student, an account was established. When students reached the age of 21 all their fees were paid and the money refunded. This was intended to encourage the habit of saving among the working class.

During the early 20th century, the school building was extended and the site was converted into a car showroom. In 1932, it was transformed into the Astoria Ballroom, which was reputed to have been adorned with a fantastic Maplewood sprung dance floor.

During the 1950s, the owner at the time started to use the hall as a rock venue. It attracted some of the most popular groups of the time including The Animals, The Kinks, The Hollies, The Who, and The Walker Brothers. Given the fact that Rawtenstall is a quiet Lancashire textile town, the quality of the acts was remarkable and people would travel for miles to see the shows.

When the Rawtenstall bypass road was built, the venue moved to a new location in town, rebranded as the Astoria Dance Hall.

The old school hung around for a few more years until the entire building was demolished; all except for the school’s old clocktower. The spare land was transformed into a delightful little public park in 1973. The clocktower is now officially protected as a listed building.

Know Before You Go

There is free parking for up to three hours off St. James St, but you have to display a disk showing your time of arrival (free from local shops).