Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England. Close to the West Pennine Moors, it is 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 dyeing 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; former Premier League football club Bolton Wanderers play home games at the Reebok Stadium (Reebok, the sportswear company, was founded and based for many years 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, as 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, of Roger de Meresheys. It became the property of the Pilkingtons who forfeited it in the Civil War and after that 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 parish church in Bolton has an early foundation although the exact date is not known, it was given by the lord of the manor to the Gilbertine canons of Mattersey Priory, in Nottinghamshire, founded by Roger de Marsey.
A charter to hold a market in Churchgate was granted on 14 December 1251 by King Henry III of England. Bolton became 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 & Scythe public house, dating from 1251, is situated and a market was held here until the 18th century.
In 1337 Flemish weavers settled and introduced the manufacture of woollen cloth. More Flemish weavers, fleeing the Huguenot persecutions, settled here in the 17th century. The second wave of settlers wove fustian, a rough cloth made of linen and cotton. Digging sea coal was recorded in 1374. There was an outbreak of the plague in the town in 1623.
English Civil War
During the English Civil War, the people of Bolton were Puritans and supported the Parliamentarian cause. A parliamentary garrison in the town was attacked twice without success but on 28 May 1644 Prince Rupert's Royalist army with troops under the command of the Earl of Derby attacked again. The attack became known as the Bolton Massacre in which 1,500 died, 700 were taken prisoner and the town plundered. 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 for his part in the massacre outside Ye Olde Man & Scythe Inn at Bolton on 15 October 1651.
A tradition of cottage spinning and weaving and the mechanisation of the textile industry by local inventors, Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton led to rapid growth 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 at Barrow Bridge, but steam power led to the construction of the large multi-storey mills and their chimneys that dominated 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.
Streams draining the surrounding moorland into the River Croal provided the water necessary for 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 had over 30 bleachworks including the Lever Bank Bleach Works in the Irwell Valley.
Growth of the textile industry was assisted by the availability of coal in the area. By 1896 John Fletcher had coal mines at Ladyshore in 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 Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal providing the owners with markets in Bolton and Manchester. Coal mining declined in the 20th century.
Important transport links contributed to the growth of the town and the textile industry; the 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. The railway initially connected Bolton to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Leigh, an important link with the port of Liverpool for the import of raw cotton from America, but was extended in 1829 to link up with the Manchester to Liverpool Line. 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 Hick, Hargreaves & Co based at the Soho Foundry made Lancashire Boilers and heavy machinery. Thomas Ryder and Son of Turner Bridge manufactured machine tools for the international motor industry. Wrought iron was produced for over 100 years at Thomas Walmsley and Sons' Atlas Forge.
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 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.
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.