Heywood is a town and unparished area within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, England. Historically part of Lancashire, at the 2001 census it had a population of 28,024. The town lies on the south bank of the River Roch and is east of Bury, west-southwest of Rochdale, and north of the city of Manchester. The town of Middleton lies to the south, whilst to the north is the Cheesden Valley, open moorland, and the Pennines. Heywood's nickname is Monkey Town, a name known to date as far back as 1857.
Heywood as a settlement is believed to date from Early Medieval England, when the Anglo-Saxons cleared the densely wooded area, and divided it into heys or fenced clearings.During the Middle Ages, Heywood formed a chapelry in the township of Heap. This chapelry was centred on Heywood Hall, a manor house owned by a family with the surname Heywood. Farming was the main industry of this sparsely populated rural area, which in the 15th century "consisted of a few cottages". The local population supplemented their incomes by hand-loom woollen weaving in the domestic system.
The factory system in the town can be traced to a spinning mill in the late 18th century. Following the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, Heywood developed into a populous mill town and coal mining district. A period of "extraordinary growth of the cotton-trade" in the mid 19th century was so quick and profound that there was "an influx of strangers causing a very dense population". The town became a municipal borough in 1881. Imports of foreign cotton goods during the mid-20th century precipitated the decline of Heywood's textile and mining industries, although this resulted in a more diverse industrial pattern.
Economically, Heywood is supported by its proximity to junction 19 of the M62 motorway, which provides transport links for large distribution parks in the south of the town. The major landmark is the 1860s-built tall Parish Church of St Luke the Evangelist which dominates the town's centre and skyline. Heywood was the birthplace of Peter Heywood, the magistrate who aided the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot whose family seat was Heywood Hall. Heywood has a station on the East Lancashire Railway, a heritage railway and local tourist attraction.
Lying within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire since the early 12th century, Heywood during the Middle Ages constituted a chapelry in the township of Heap, parish of Bury, and hundred of Salford. The Heywood family, who had their seat at Heywood Hall, exercised considerable political power locally throughout the Middle Ages.
Following the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, Heywood formed part of the Bury Poor Law Union, an inter-parish unit established to provide social security. Heywood's first local authority was a local board of health established in 1864. Heap Middle Division Local Board of Health was a regulatory body responsible for standards of hygiene and sanitation for the Heywood part of Heap township. In 1867 the local board was reconstituted as the Heywood Local Board of Health which covered the whole of Heap township and parts of Hopwood, Birtle-with-Bamford, Pilsworth and Castleton townships. In 1879 further parts of Hopwood and Pilsworth townships were added to the area under the local board. It was not recognised as a borough in the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, but in 1881 the local board area was granted borough status and became the Municipal Borough of Heywood. Following the Local Government Act 1894 (which formally dissolved all townships) the municipal borough became a local government district of the administrative county of Lancashire. In 1900 a part of Castleton Urban District was added to Heywood, and in 1933 there were exchanges of area between Heywood borough and County Borough of Bury.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, the Municipal Borough of Heywood was abolished, and Heywood has, since 1 April 1974, formed an unparished area of the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, a local government district of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester.