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Bolton Town Hall.jpg
Bolton Town Hall
Grid reference: SD715095
Location: 53°34’43"N, 2°25’48"W
Population: 139,403  (2001)
Post town: Bolton
Postcode: BL1-BL7
Dialling code: 01204
Local Government
Council: Bolton
Bolton North East, South East, West

Bolton is a proud industrial town in southern Lancashire. Close to the West Pennine Moors, it is 10 miles northwest of the city of Manchester. The town of Bolton has a population of 139,403,[1]

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 boþl tun, meaning a "hall town", in reference to a lordly hall which must have stood here. 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,[2] 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'.

Early history

The moors around Bolton have been inhabited for many thousands of years. A stone circle stands on Cheetham Close above Egerton[3][4] and Bronze Age burial mounds on Winter Hill.[5] 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 early English settlement exists in the form of religious objects found when the Victorian parish church was built.[6]

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.[7] 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 Man and Scythe, Bolton

The town was given a charter to hold a market in Churchgate on 14 December 1251 by King Henry III.[8][9] It was made into a market town and borough by a charter from the Earl of Derby, William de Ferrers, on 14 January 1253.[8] Burgage plots were laid out on Churchgate and Deansgate in the centre of the mediæval town near where The Man and Scythe, dating from 1251, stands and a market was held here until the 18th century.

In 1337 Flemish weavers settled here and introduced the manufacture of woollen cloth.[10] More weavers fleeing the persecution of the Huguenots also settled here in the 17th century. This second wave of settlers wove fustian, a rough cloth made of linen and cotton.[10] Digging sea coal around Bolton was recorded in 1374. There was an outbreak of the plague in the town in 1623.

English Civil War

During the English Civil War, Bolton supported Parliament and the Puritan cause.[11] 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.[10] It became known as the Bolton Massacre.[8] 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.


Swan Lane Mills

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.[12] 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.[10] 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.[13] The cotton industry declined in the 1920s. A brief upturn after Second World War 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.[14] 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.[12]

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.[15] 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,[10] 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.[10] 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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18] Another engineering company was Hick, Hargreaves & Co, based at the Soho Foundry. This firm made Lancashire Boilers and heavy machinery.[19] 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.[20]

Lord Leverhulme

In 1899 William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, bought Hall i'th' Wood to be a memorial to Samuel Crompton the inventor of the Spinning Mule. He restored the dilapidated building and presented it to the town in 1902, having turned it into a museum furnished with household goods typical of early domestic family life in the 16th and 17th centuries. Lever re-endowed Bolton Schools, giving land and his house on Chorley New Road. He also presented the town with 67 acres of land for a public park which the Corporation named Leverhulme Park in 1914.[21] In 1902 he gave the people of Bolton Lever Park at Rivington. In 1911, Lever consulted Thomas Mawson, landscape architect and Lecturer on 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.[22]

First World War

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.[23][24]


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 (1,496 feet). 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.[11]


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.

Bolton attracts visitors to its shopping centres, markets, pubs, restaurants and cafés in the town centre, it has as well retail parks and leisure facilities close to the town centre and in the surrounding towns and suburbs.[25][26] 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.[27]

Smithills Hall

There are several regeneration projects planned for Bolton over the next ten years including Church Wharf by Ask Developments and Bluemantle costing £226 million,[28] 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 Structures 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.


Bolton Parish Church

Churches have stood in Bolton since Anglo-Saxon times. At the time of the Civil War a Puritan and nonconformist presence was strong in the town. The Unitarians were among the early dissenting congregations which eventually included Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist and other denominations.

Over 40 churches were built during the Victorian era, some now closed, demolished or put to other uses.[29][30]

The Parish Church of St Peter is an example of the gothic revival style. Built between 1866 and 1871 of Longridge stone to designs by Edward Graham Paley, the church]] is 67 feet in width, 156 feet in length, and 82 feet in height. The tower stands 180 feet high with 13 bells.[6]

The first church on the same site was built before the Norman Conquest. It was rebuilt in Norman days 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.[11] Fragments of stone and other artefacts from these first three buildings are displayed in the museum corner of the present church.[6]

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.[31]

The red-brick St George's Church was built between 1794–96 when the Little Bolton area was a separate township. Built by Peter Rothwell it was paid for by the Ainsworth family.[32] After the last service in 1975 it was leased to Bolton Council and became a craft centre in 1994.[33]

Sights about the town

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.[34][35]

Hall i' th' Wood, now a museum, is a late mediæval 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 the council in 1900.[36]

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.

Culture and society

Bolton Civic Centre in 1994, Le Mans Crescent

According to a survey of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Boltonians are the friendliest people in Britain.[37][38] 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.[39]

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.[40]

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.[41] The Bolton Symphony Orchestra performs regular concerts at the Albert Halls and Victoria Hall in the town centre.[42]

The 2008 BBC Radio 3 Adult Choir of the Year[43] and three times gold medal winning barbershop chorus The Cottontown Chorus is based in Bolton.[44]

The town's daily newspaper is The Bolton News, formerly the Bolton Evening News. There is a weekly free paper, the Bolton Journal and Bolton Council's monthly newspaper, Bolton Scene. A new radio station, Bolton FM began broadcasting in 2009.[45]

The industrial village of Barrow Bridge became Millbank in Benjamin Disraeli's novel Coningsby.[46] 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.[47] 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.[48]


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Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bolton)