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Bolton (ˈboʊltən) is a town in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England. Close to the West Pennine Moors, it is 10 miles (16 km) north west of the city of Manchester. Bolton is surrounded by several smaller towns and villages which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton, of which Bolton is the administrative centre. The town of Bolton has a population of 139,403, whilst the wider metropolitan borough has a population of 262,400.

Historically a part of Lancashire, Bolton originated as a small settlement in the moorland known as Bolton le Moors. During the English Civil War the town was a Parliamentarian outpost in a staunchly Royalist region, and as a result Bolton was stormed by 3,000 Royalist troops led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine in 1644. In what became known as the Bolton Massacre, 1,600 residents were killed and 700 were taken prisoner.

Noted as a former mill town, Bolton has been a production centre for textiles since Flemish weavers settled in the area during the 15th century, developing a wool and cotton weaving tradition. The urbanisation and development of Bolton largely coincided with the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. It was a boomtown of the 19th century and at its zenith, in 1929, its 216 cotton mills and 26 bleaching and dying works made it one of the largest and most productive centres of cotton spinning in the world. The British cotton industry declined sharply after the First World War, and by the 1980s cotton manufacture had virtually ceased in Bolton.

Bolton has had notable success in sport; Premier League football club Bolton Wanderers play home games at the Reebok Stadium (Reebok, the sportswear company, is based in the town) and The WBA World light-welterweight champion Amir Khan was born in the town. Bolton also has several notable cultural aspects, including The Octagon Theatre and the Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, as well as one of the earliest public libraries established after the Public Libraries Act 1850.

The name Bolton derives from the Old English bothel and tun, meaning a “settlement with a special building”. The first record of the town dates from 1185 as Boelton. It was recorded as Bothelton in 1212, Bowelton in a charter granted by Henry III in 1251, Botelton in 1257, Boulton in 1288, and Bolton after 1307. The town’s motto of Supera Moras means “overcome difficulties” (or “delays”), and is a pun on the Bolton-super-Moras version of the name meaning literally, ‘Bolton on the moors’.

Man has lived on the moors around Bolton for many thousands of years evidenced by a stone circle on Cheetham Close above Egerton and Bronze Age burial mounds on Winter Hill. A Bronze Age mound was excavated in Victorian times outside Haulgh Hall. The Romans built roads from Manchester to Ribchester to the east and a road along what is now the A6 to the west. It is claimed that Agricola built a fort at Blackrod by clearing land above the forest. Evidence of a Saxon settlement exists in the form of religious objects found when the Victorian parish church was built.

In 1067 Great Bolton was the property of Roger de Poitou and after 1100 Roger de Meresheys. Eventually it became property of the Pilkingtons who forfeited it in the Civil War and the Stanleys who became Earls of Derby. Great Bolton and Little Bolton were part of the Marsey fee, in 1212 Little Bolton was held by Roger de Bolton as plough-land, by the service of the twelfth part of a knight’s fee to Randle de Marsey. The church in Bolton has an early foundation although the date is not known, it was given by the lord of the manor to the Gilbertine canons of Mattersey Priory, in Nottinghamshire, which was founded by Roger de Marsey.

The town was given a charter to hold a market in Churchgate on 14 December 1251 by King Henry III of England. It was made into a market town and borough by a charter from the Earl of Derby, William de Ferrers, on 14 January 1253. Burgage plots were laid out on Churchgate and Deansgate in the centre of the medieval town near where Ye Olde Man and Scythe dating from 1251 is situated and a market was held here until the 18th century.

In 1337 Flemish weavers settled here and introduced the manufacture of woollen cloth. More Flemish weavers fleeing the Huguenot persecutions also settled here in the 17th century. This second wave of settlers wove fustian, a rough cloth made of linen and cotton. Digging sea coal around Bolton was recorded in 1374. There was an outbreak of the plague in the town in 1623.

During the English Civil War, Bolton supported Parliament and the Puritan cause. There was a parliamentary garrison in the town which was twice unsuccessfully attacked but on 28 May 1644 Prince Rupert’s army along with troops under the Earl of Derby attacked again. There were 1,500 dead, and 700 taken prisoner and the town plundered. It became known as the Bolton Massacre. At the end of the Civil War Lord Derby was tried as a traitor at Chester and condemned to death. When his appeal for pardon to parliament was rejected he attempted to escape but was recaptured and executed outside Ye Olde Man & Scythe Inn at Bolton on 15 October 1651 for his part in the Bolton Massacre.

A tradition of cottage spinning and weaving and the mechanisation of the textile industry by local inventors, Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton led to the rapid growth of Bolton in the 19th century. Crompton, whilst living at Hall i’th’ Wood, invented the spinning mule in 1779. It revolutionised cotton spinning by combining the roller drafting of Arkwright’s water frame with the carriage drafting and spindle tip twisting of James Hargreaves’s spinning jenny, producing a high quality yarn. Self-acting mules were used in Bolton mills until the 1960s producing fine yarn. The earliest mills were situated by the streams and river as seen today at Barrow Bridge, but steam power led to the construction of the large multi-storey mills and chimneys that came to dominate Bolton’s skyline, some of which survive today. By 1911 the textile industry in Bolton employed about 36,000 people. The last mill to be constructed was Sir John Holden’s Mill in 1927. The cotton industry declined in the 1920s. A brief upturn after World War II was not sustained and the industry had virtually vanished by the end of the 20th century.

The streams draining the surrounding moors into the River Croal also provided the water necessary for the bleach works that were a feature of this area. Bleaching using chlorine was introduced in the 1790s by the Ainsworths at Halliwell Bleachworks. Bolton and the surrounding villages to the north had over 30 bleachworks including the Lever Bank Bleach Works in the Irwell Valley.

Growth of the textile industry was also assisted by the availability of coal in the Bolton area. By 1896 John Fletcher owned coal mines at Ladyshore, Little Lever; The Earl of Bradford had a coal mine at Great Lever; the Darcy Lever Coal Company had mines at Darcy Lever and there were also coal mines at Tonge, Breightmet, Deane and Doffcocker. Some of these pits were close to the canal providing the owners with markets in Bolton and Manchester. Coal mining declined in the 20th century.

Important transport links also contributed to the growth of the town and the textile industry; Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, constructed in 1791, connected the town to Bury and Manchester providing transport for coal and other basic materials. The Bolton and Leigh Railway was the oldest in Lancashire, opening to goods traffic in 1828 and Great Moor Street station opened to passengers in 1831. This railway was connected to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, an important link with the major port of Liverpool for the import of raw cotton from America. Local firms built locomotives for the railway, in 1830 “Union” was built by Rothwell, Hick and Co. and two locomotives, “Salamander” and “Veteran” were built by Crook and Dean.

Bolton’s first Mayor, Charles James Darbishire was sympathetic to Chartism and a supporter of the Anti-Corn Law League. In August 1839 Bolton was besieged by Chartist rioters and the Riot Act was read and special constables sworn in. The mayor accompanied soldiers who were called to rescue special constables at Little Bolton Town Hall which was besieged by a mob and the incident ended without bloodshed.

By 1900 Bolton was Lancashire’s third largest engineering centre after Manchester and Oldham. About 9,000 men were employed in the industry, half of them working for Dobson and Barlow in Kay Street. The firm made textile machinery. Another engineering company was Hick, Hargreaves & Co, based at the Soho Foundry. This firm made Lancashire Boilers and heavy machinery. Thomas Ryder and Son of Turner Bridge was an important producer of machine tools for the international motor industry.

Service industries including retail and leisure grew in the 1970s, partly replacing jobs in heavy industry. The first modern retail development was Crompton Place Shopping Centre, opened in 1971.

In 1899 William Lever, Lord Leverhulme, bought Hall i’th’ Wood as a memorial to Samuel Crompton inventor of the spinning mule. Lever restored the dilapidated building and presented it to the town in 1902, having turned it into a museum furnished with household goods typical of domestic family life in the 16th and 17th centuries. Lever re-endowed Bolton Schools, giving land and his house on Chorley New Road. He presented the town with 67 acres (270,000 m2) of land for a public park which the corporation named Leverhulme Park in 1914. In 1902 he gave the people of Bolton Lever Park at Rivington. In 1911, Lever consulted Thomas Mawson, landscape architect and lecturer in Landscape Design at the University of Liverpool, regarding town planning in Bolton. Mawson published “Bolton – a Study in Town Planning and Civic Art” and gave lectures entitled “Bolton Housing and Town Planning Society” which formed the basis of an illustrated book “Bolton – as it is and as it might be”. In 1924, Leverhulme presented Bolton with an ambitious plan to rebuild the town centre based on Mawson’s designs funded partly by himself. The Council declined in favour of extending the Town Hall and building the Civic Centre.

During the night of 26 September 1916, Bolton was the target for one of the first aerial offensives in history. L21, a Zeppelin commanded by Oberleutnant Kurt Frankenburg of the Imperial German Navy, dropped 21 bombs on the town, 5 of them on the working class area of Kirk Street, killing 13 and destroying 6 houses. Further attacks followed on other parts of the town, including three incendaries dropped close to the Town Hall.

Lying within the county boundaries of Lancashire, until the early 19th century, Great Bolton and Little Bolton were two of the eighteen townships of the ecclesiastical parish of Bolton le Moors.These townships were separated by the River Croal, Little Bolton on the north bank and Great Bolton on the south. Bolton Poor Law Union was formed on 1 February 1837. It continued using existing poorhouses at Fletcher Street and Turton but in 1856 started to build a new workhouse at Fishpool Farm in Farnworth. Townleys Hospital was built on the site which is now Royal Bolton Hospital.

In 1838, Great Bolton, most of Little Bolton and the Haulgh area of Tonge with Haulgh were incorporated under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 as a municipal borough, the second to be created in England. Further additions were made adding part of Rumworth in 1872 and part of Halliwell in 1877. In 1889, Bolton was granted County Borough status and became self-governing and independent from Lancashire County Council jurisdiction. In 1898, the borough was extended further by adding the civil parishes of Breightmet, Darcy Lever, Great Lever, the rest of Halliwell, Heaton, Lostock, Middle Hulton, the rest of Rumworth which had been renamed Deane in 1894, Smithills, and Tonge plus Astley Bridge Urban District, and part of Over Hulton civil parish. The County Borough of Bolton was abolished in 1974 and became a constituent part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton in Greater Manchester.

Under the Reform Act of 1832, a Parliamentary Borough was established. The Bolton constituency was represented by two Members of Parliament. The Parliamentary Borough continued until 1950 when it was abolished and replaced with two parliamentary constituencies, Bolton East and Bolton West, each with one Member of Parliament. In 1983, Bolton East was abolished and two new constituencies were created, Bolton North East, and Bolton South East covering most of the former Farnworth constituency. Also in 1983, there were major boundary changes to Bolton West, which took over most of the former Westhoughton constituency.

Bolton unsuccessfully applied for city status in 2011.

The early name Bolton le Moors described the position of the town amid the low hills on the edge of the West Pennine Moors south east of Rivington Pike (456 m). Bolton lies on relatively flat land on both sides of the clough or steep-banked valley through which the River Croal flows in a south easterly direction towards the River Irwell. The geological formation around Bolton consists of sandstones of the Carboniferous series and coal measures, in the northern part of Bolton the lower coal measures are mixed with underlying Millstone Grit.

 

Between the 1801 and 1891 censuses, given population figures are for the former townships of Great Bolton and Little Bolton.
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
Great Bolton 12,549 17,070 22,037 28,299 33,449 39,923 43,435 45,313 45,694 47,067
Little Bolton 4,867 7,099 9,258 12,896 15,707 19,888 24,942 35,013 41,937 44,307
Sources: Local population statistics. Great Bolton Tn/CP: Total Population. Little Bolton Tn/CP: Total Population.

 

Between the 1901 and 2001 censuses, given population figures are for the total area of Bolton.
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Population 168,215 180,851 178,683 177,250 163,823 167,167 160,789 154,223 143,921 139,020 139,403
Sources: County Borough 1901–1971 Urban Subdivision 1981–2001

 

In the last quarter of the 20th century heavy industry was replaced by service-based activities including data processing, call centres, hi-tech electronics and IT companies. The town retains some traditional industries employing people in paper-manufacturing, packaging, textiles, transportation, steel foundries and building materials. Missiles were produced at the British Aerospace (BAe) factory in Lostock, now closed. The Reebok brand’s European headquarters are located at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton is also the home of the family bakery, Warburtons, established in 1876 on Blackburn Road. On 13 February 2003, Bolton was granted Fairtrade Town status.

Bolton attracts visitors to its shopping centres, markets, pubs, restaurants and cafes in the town centre as well retail parks and leisure facilities close to the town centre and in the surrounding towns and suburbs. Tourism plays a part in the economy, visitor attractions include Hall i’ th’ Wood, Smithills Hall and Country Park, Last Drop Village, Barrow Bridge and the Bolton Steam Museum.

There are several regeneration projects planned for Bolton over the next ten years including Church Wharf by Ask Developments and Bluemantle costing £226 million, Merchants Quarter by local developer Charles Topham group costing £200 million, Bolton Innovation Zone(BIZ), a large £300 million development with the University of Bolton at its core. The central street development, by Wilson Bowden Developments Limited is a retail lead development costing £100 million.

In 2008, Watson Steel Structure of Lostock, Bolton was awarded the contract to build the steel structure for the 2012 Olympic arena. The mascots for the 2012 games are based on two drops of steel from the Lostock firm.

Situated in the town centre on the site of a former market is the Grade II* listed Town Hall, an imposing neoclassical building designed by William Hill and opened in June 1873 by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. In the 1930s, the building was extended by Bradshaw Gass & Hope. Within the Town Hall are the Albert Halls and several function rooms. The original, single Albert Hall was destroyed by fire on 14 November 1981. After rebuilding work, it was replaced by the present Albert Halls, which were opened in 1985.

The Great Hall of Smithills Hall was built in the 14th century when William de Radcliffe received the Manor of Smithills from the Hultons, the chapel dates from the 16th century and was extended during the 19th. Smithills Hall was where, in 1555, George Marsh was tried for heresy during the Marian Persecutions. After being “examined” at Smithills, according to local tradition, George Marsh stamped his foot so hard to re-affirm his faith, that a footprint was left in the stone floor. It is a Grade I listed building and is now a museum.

Hall i’ th’ Wood, now a museum, is a late mediaeval yeoman farmer’s house built by Laurence Brownlow. Around 1637 it was owned by the Norris family, who added the stone west wing. In the 18th century it was divided up into tenements. Samuel Crompton lived and worked there. In the 19th century it deteriorated further until in 1895 it was bought by industrialist William Hesketh Lever, who restored it and presented it to Bolton Council in 1900.

Bolton’s 26 conservation areas contain 700 listed buildings, many of which are in the town centre, and there is parkland including the Victorian Queen’s Park, Leverhulme Park and other open spaces in the surrounding area. These include Le Mans Crescent, Ye Olde Man & Scythe, Little Bolton Town Hall, The Market Place, Wood Street and Holy Trinity Church. Outside the town centre can be found Mere Hall, Firwood Fold, Haulgh Hall, Park Cottage, St Mary’s Church, Deane, Lostock Hall Gatehouse and All Souls Church. Notable mills still overlooking parts of the town are Falcon Mill, Sir John Holden’s Mill and the Swan Lane Mills Complex.

Most views northwards are dominated by Rivington Pike and the Winter Hill TV Mast on the West Pennine Moors above the town.

Bolton is well served by the local road network and national routes. The A6, a major north–south trunk road, passes to the west through Hunger Hill and Westhoughton. The A666 dual carriageway (sometimes referred to as ‘The Devil’s Highway’ because of the numeric designation), is a spur from the M61/M60 motorway interchange through the town centre to Astley Bridge, Egerton, Darwen and Blackburn. The M61 has three dedicated junctions serving the borough.

Bolton Interchange is located on the Manchester loop of the West Coast Mainline which was served by Virgin West Coast trains passing through Manchester Piccadilly station. Managed by Northern Rail, the station is part of a town-centre transport interchange with services to Manchester, Wigan, Southport, Blackburn and intermediate stations operated by First TransPennine Express and Northern trains.

Today, the parish of Bolton-le-Moors covers a small area in the town centre, but until the 19th century it covered a much larger area and was divided into eighteen chapelries and townships. The neighbouring ancient parish of Deane centred around St Mary’s Church once covered a large area to the west and south of Bolton, and the township of Great Lever was part of the ancient parish of Middleton.

The Parish Church of St Peter, commonly known as Bolton Parish Church, is an example of the gothic revival style. Built between 1866 and 1871 of Longridge stone to designs by Paley, the church is 67 ft (20.4 m) in width, 156 ft (47.5 m) in length, and 82 ft (25.0 m) in height. The tower is 180 ft (54.9 m) high with 13 bells. The first church on the same site was built in Anglo-Saxon times. It was rebuilt in Norman times and again in the early 15th century. Little is known of the first two earlier churches, but the third building was a solid, squat building with a sturdy square tower at the west end. It was modified over the years until it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1866. Fragments of stone and other artefacts from these first three buildings are displayed in the museum corner of the present church.

St Mary’s Deane, once the only church in a parish of ten townships in the hundred of Salford, is a church established in Saxon times. The current building dates from 1250 with extensions and restoration in the 19th century and is a Grade II* listed building.

According to a survey of the British Association for the Advancement of Science Boltonians are the friendliest people in Britain. Humphrey Spender photographed Bolton calling it Worktown for the Mass-Observation Project, a social research organization which aimed to record everyday life in Britain. His photographs provide a record of ordinary people living and working in a British pre-War industrial town.

Bolton has several theatres including the Octagon and independent groups such as Bolton Little Theatre and the Phoenix Theatre Company. Inside the Town Hall there is a theatre and conference complex, the Albert Halls. Le Mans Crescent, home to the central library, museum, art gallery, aquarium, magistrates’ court and town hall, is to be the centre of a new Cultural Quarter. The library and museum are to be extended into the area now occupied by the Magistrates Court. Bolton Museum and Art Gallery has a fine collection of both local and international art.

Bolton Central Library was one of the earliest public libraries established after the Public Libraries Act 1850, opening in October 1853 in the Exchange Building on the old market square (Victoria Square) before moving to Le Mans Crescent in July 1938. The Bolton Symphony Orchestra performs regular concerts at the Albert Halls and Victoria Hall in the town centre. The 2008 BBC Radio 3 Adult Choir of the Year and three times gold medal winning barbershop chorus The Cottontown Chorus is based in Bolton.

The industrial village of Barrow Bridge became Millbank in Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Coningsby. Spring and Port Wine by playwright, Bill Naughton was filmed and set in Bolton and The Family Way based on Naughton’s play All in Good Time was also filmed and set in Bolton. Peter Kay filmed comedy TV series That Peter Kay Thing in the town. Bolton buildings have stood in for other towns and cities. Le Mans Crescent has featured as a London street in the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes and a Russian secret service building in the 1990s comedy series “Sleepers”. The 1990s BBC drama “Between the Lines” also filmed an episode in Victoria Square.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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