Rare Travellers’ Rest Stones in North of England Listed
Two Travellers' Rest stones in Warrington, Cheshire, designed by a doctor 160 years ago to create an ideal seat for migrant workers to rest whilst travelling on foot for work, have been listed at Grade II by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.
Four other examples, previously thought to be blocks for mounting horses, have been relisted and their entries on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) updated to correctly outline their use as rest stones and to highlight their special architectural and historic interest.
The stones were installed around 1860 on busy routes from Liverpool to Manchester. Roughly spaced two miles apart, up to 30 sites were selected. Only around 12 are known to have survived, many others of which have been moved and damaged.
All six stones are over 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 Travellers’ Rest stones were a thoughtful, well-designed and welcome place to rest for migrant workers and their families, many from Ireland, who walked miles to find work harvesting crops. It’s right that these journeys should be remembered by the listing of two new Travellers’ Rest stones in Cheshire. They illustrate the incredible diversity of our heritage and its capacity to shed light on different aspects of past lives.
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.