Tottington, Lancashire

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Tottington Methodist Church - - 375134.jpg
Tottington Methodist Church
Grid reference: SD775130
Location: 53°36’47"N, 2°20’20"W
Population: 9,783  (2011)
Post town: Bury
Postcode: BL8
Dialling code: 01204
Local Government
Council: Bury
Bury North

Tottington is a small town between Bury and Ramsbottom on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire.

Tottington's early history is marked by its status as a mediæval manor which encompassed several townships. It stretched from Musbury and Cowpe with Lench in the north to Affetside in the west and Walshaw in the south-west, while the township of Tottington itself was a small agricultural settlement surrounded by open farmland and hunting ground where deer and wild boar were found.[1]


There is no mention of Tottington in the Domesday Book and little evidence of a settlement before the Norman conquest.[2] The earliest extant record of Tottington is from 1212 when it was recorded as Totinton. Tottington's name is most likely derived from the Old English for 'Tota's farmstead', or "tot" may be from an Old English word meaning "hilltop lookout point".

Tottington was part of the larger Royal Manor of Tottington, which comprised the northern part of the parish of Bury and was originally part of the De Montbegon Barony. (Roger de Montbegon was present at the signing of the Magna Carta.)[3] Throughout the Middle Ages the manor was reduced as land was exchanged and bequeathed. Walmersley and Shuttleworth were given to the Lord of Bury; Musbury and Cowpe with Lench in the north were ceded to Blackburnshire. The Manor of Tottington eventually formed part of the Honour of Clitheroe, which in turn became part of the eventual Duchy of Lancaster. When the Duke of Lancaster seized the throne to become Henry IV the duchy became royal and the Manor of Tottington with it.[3]

Tottington Hall is first recorded in 1504, as the residence of the Nuttall family. The Nuttall family's fortunes improved throughout the Tudor and Stuart periods and in 1715 Thomas Nuttall built the first school in Tottington. In 1770 the hall and its estates were bought by John Gorton, whose family had made their wealth in the cotton trade.[4] He brought his industrial expertise to Tottington, building Tottington Mill, Kirklees Mill and Leemings Hill Bleach Works; greatly contributing to the prosperity and expansion of the village in the Georgian period.[5] During this time the family financed the building of St Anne's Church and vicarage, and refurbished Tottington Hall leaving it much as it stands today.

In 1863 the hall and grounds were put up for sale and came under the Roberts family before being bought by the recently formed Tottington Urban District Council in 1918 for £2,750. The courrent council houses the village library here.[6]

Little expansion occurred until the Industrial Revolution when in common with other Lancashire settlements in the 19th century, Tottington saw a large industrial presence develop, largely under the influence of John Gorton. Nine mills were listed in an 1891 directory producing calico, cotton cloth and yarn.[7] In 1884 Hilaire de Chardonnet, a French chemist, came to the area to work on a cellulose-based fabric that became known as 'Chardonnay silk'. A forerunner of rayon it was an attractive cloth, Chardonnet displayed it in the Paris Exhibition of 1889.[8] However, like celluloid it was very flammable, following several publicly reported accidents, it was discontinued. The site on Royds Street South reverted to typical Lancashire textile production until 1925, when the Kirklees Rayon Company began producing viscose continuous filament yarn at the mill. This continued until 1955 when viscose production ceased. Courtaulds took over the mill in 1962 and converted it into a dye-house, this work continued until 1980. The site is now occupied by the housing estate centred on Kirklees Street.[9] Tottington Mill printworks was the subject of the 1921 sketch "Mill Yard, Tottington" by LS Lowry.[10]

The rapid expansion of the local population in the early 19th century, and the abundance of public houses that followed, led to the building of Tottington Dungeon in 1835 to lock up drunks and miscreants.[11] It is not known who built it, who the carved faces on the outer stonewalls represent or who carved them.[12] However, it does share architectural similarities with the folly built in the grounds of Nabbs House in Greenmount, which was constructed at the same time by John Turner.[13] The following is a first hand account from a local mill worker, as published in Victorian and Edwardian Lancashire by John Hudson (Published 13 November 2008):

In those days a large fair used to be held yearly in Tottington, about the end of August, when the street from Turton Road down to the Parish Church, as as far down as the present Town Hall, was lined with stalls selling nuts and brandysnaps, etc.

The ground about the Robin Hood Hotel served as the cheapjacks' stand, and also for the shooting gallery, while the field on the left of Harwood Road was the place where the trading in cattle, horses and pigs was done. 'Hobby' horses were in full swing behind the Printers' Arms, and a large swing boat caused merriment, the plumber's and confectioner's shops were not built then. Tottington had many more public houses than to-day, and the constable, John Wilkinson, had a very busy time. The old dungeon was often in use.

—Ralph Rooney b. 23 March 1862

In 1882 the Bury to Holcombe Brook Line was opened by Bury and Tottington District Railway. In 1888 the line was taken over by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and Tottington railway station remained open until the line closed for passengers in 1952 and goods in 1963. On 16 September 1904 an electric tram service was introduced running along Market Street between Bury and Tottington by Bury Corporation Tramways; in response to this competition the following year the railway introduced new rolling stock and increased the number of 'halts' on the line such as at Sunnywood. Passengers had to climb up onto the carriages as there were no platforms.[14] Following the closure of the line, in 1972 the Council proposed that the trackbed be developed as a 3-mile recreational path, which pathway is now known as the Kirklees Trail.[15][16][17]

At 5:50 am on the morning of Christmas Eve 1944 Tottington was hit by one of 45 V-1 flying bombs, launched from adapted Heinkel He 111 bombers flying over the North Sea. The 'Doodlebug' landed on a row of cottages in Chapel Street, killing two men and four women and injuring 14 others, one of whom died later.[18] Numbers 21 and 23 Chapel Street were destroyed, while two neighbouring properties and a shop were severely damaged. The impact left a crater 30 ft deep, a total of 27 houses suffered serious structural damage, eight of which had to be demolished. St Anne's Church nearby had all its windows blown out, save for one behind the altar.[19] The Whitehead family of nearby Stormer Hill Hall raised funds to have the area turned into a memorial garden, which was dedicated in 1950. The original brass plaque was stolen in 1975 and the gardens now feature a memorial stone dedicated to those lost.[20]

Since the Second World War Tottington has expanded with the Moorside area residential development being built in the early 1970s and new property built on the site of many of the former mills such as Spring Mill and Kirklees Mill.

Geography and geology

Tottington's physical geography is characterised by its position at the edge of the West Pennine Moors and the Rossendale Valley. Directly north-west, Affetside Moor rises to a height of more than 900 ft above sea level and further north Top of Quarlton and Holcombe Moor dominate the skyline. From elevated parts of the town Scout Moor, Harden Moor and Knowl Hill are visible to the east. The villages of Affetside, Greenmount and Hawkshaw are north of the town, with Walshaw to the south west. Until the post-war period Tottington was a ribbon development along the Bury to Blackburn road, the Kirklees Valley to the east stopped development in that direction and kept Tottington distinct from Brandlesholme. Within the Kirklees Valley there are a number of artificial mill ponds and reservoirs created during Tottington's industrial heyday. Many of these have since dried up, but the remaining examples have proven an ideal habitat for numerous species of wildfowl and bats.[21]

The superficial geology beneath Tottington consists of Devensian glacial tills, which overlie the Lower Pennine Coal Measures; the same sequences of sandstones, mudstones and coal seams that form the Lancashire Coalfield. There is no history of coal mining in Tottington, although most original buildings such as the dungeon are built from sandstone and gritstone quarried locally.[22]


There are three churches in the town

  • Church of England: St Anne's (built in 1799),[23]
  • Free Church of England: St John's (built in 1867)[24]
  • Methodist: Tottington Methodist Church (built in 1905).[25]

Big Society

  • Radio: Tower FM local radio is named after two landmarks in the stations coverage area; Turton Tower near Bolton and Peel Tower on Holcombe Hill near Ramsbottom.

The Sustrans National Cycle Route 6 Runs through Tottington, following the old railway line, on its way from London to Keswick,.[26]

An annual one day music festival and fair has been held in the village since 2002, when it was first held for the Queen's Golden Jubilee.[28]

Despite the semi-rural setting, Tottington is well served by public parks and play areas, including Old Kay's Park to the north, Town Meadow Park behind the library, Compton Meadow and Two Brooks and Kirklees valleys.[29]

Outside links

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about Tottington, Lancashire)