AN “internationally important” piece of local history has been awarded Historic England’s highest level of protection.

The Chequerbent Embankment has been recognised as a scheduled monument after efforts by a local councillor and Westhoughton Local History Group came to fruition.

Built around 1828 by George Stephenson, renowned as the ‘Father of Railways’, the 200-metre stretch of embankment runs parallel to the Bolton to Leigh line, the first public railway to be built in Lancashire and one of the first in the country.

Cllr Derek Bullock, who was instrumental in the embankment gaining its official status, said: “You could say it’s internationally important. It’s unique.”

This refers to the how the embankment was engineered. Whereas most railway embankments are usually made by redepositing excavated materials, Chequerbent has the presence of the dry-stone work.

Historic England’s advice report described this as “unusual in itself,” and adds: “This is not decorative stonework and in our view clearly has a structural role, yet to be fully understood. This embankment might represent an engineering experiment.”

The embankment was facing an uncertain future as the now rejected proposal by Peel L&P to build the Hulton Park luxury golf course included plans to demolish part it.

Cllr Bullock admits Peel’s plans motivated him into action. He said: “Peel knew about its protected status but still wanted to knock a hole through it. It would be a bit like knocking a hole through Stonehenge.

“Normally it takes ages but because of the threat from Peel, Historic England did it really fast. I was amazed.”

Phil Wood, of Westhoughton Local History Group, assisted Cllr Bullock in his efforts.

He said: “It’s very valuable because this was the first public railway in Lancashire. This is one of several key dates in our history and is a matter of great interest.”

He said upon hearing of their successful bid he was “absolutely delighted,” adding: “We know it’s there and know the significance but it’s great to have it recognised officially.”

Cllr Bullock is also behind Bolton’s bid to have the new Great British Railways headquarters based in the borough, after the government announced a competition in which local authorities can make their case for being the home of new publicly body that will absorb National Rail.

He said: ''I was very pleased to help initiate the heritage bid for Horwich Loco Works by Bolton Council before Covid hit and now I fully support the latest bid by Bolton Council to bring the Great British Railways headquarters to Bolton.

“An important part of any successful bid is that the chosen site has a long history of railway activity. The embankment's new status would of course assist with the bid.”

The loco works played an integral role in railway engineering for nearly a century between its opening in 1887 until its closure in 1983.