Manchester's Ten  Metropolitan Boroughs




The Town & Borough of Bolton

Bolton Town Hall Bolton, Lancashire - The Old Man and Scythe Inn, Bolton Plaque markin execution of James Stanley
Bolton Town Hall, The Old Man & Scythe Inn and the Plaque marking James Stanley, Earl of Derby's last resting place before execution..

The township of Bolton has developed over the centuries from a small village settlement set in the moors of Lancashire to a major modern township. Situated about 15 miles to the north-west of Manchester city centre, along the M60 & M61 motorways and the A666. It was considered important enough to be attacked three times during the course of the English Civil War. However, Bolton is best known for its industrial heritage, its inventiveness and its cotton manufacturing and thereby to the establishment of Bolton as one of many Lancashire's mill towns that led the way in the Industrial Revolution. Effectively, Bolton became a boom town in the 19th century, as its population grew from around 17000 in 1800 to 10 times that number by 1900.
Cotton was always the dominant local product, though there were other industries that flourished in the locality - trades such as engineering, the building of the railways which fostered all late 19th century industry, as well as the now extinct local mining industry.

Aerial Photograph of Bolton Town Hall
Bolton Town Hall: Aerial Photograph Image Courtesy of © 2005

Bolton Origins

After the Norman Conquest of Britain, Bolton was given by William the Conqueror in 1067 to Roger de Pitou, whose family, the Montgomerys, held it until 1200 when it passed by marriage to the Earl of Derby. The coat of arms shows an arrow (or "bolt") through a crown. The arrow may have referred to the key role which Bolton archers are said to have played in the defeat of the Scots at Flodden Field in 1513. The crown itself represents the wooden stockade which surrounded the Saxon village - known as a "tun" or "ton" (the origin of the word town) - hence "bolt-tun".
In 1251, William de Ferrers obtained a Royal Charter from king Henry III for a market and fair to be held in Bolton. By 1253, Bolton had been granted another Charter making it a free borough and a market town. It still boasts one of the largest and finest shopping centres of any of the towns around Manchester - from the new shopping complex at Knowsley Street to the big Market Hall, and the excellent fish and vegetable markets at Moor Lane.

Bolton during the Civil War

In the 17th century, Bolton was a Puritan stronghold and sided with the Parliamentarian cause against the Royalists. It is said that the Civil War began in Preston, the first battle was in Manchester, but at Bolton the fight was bloodier and at its most intense. Bolton suffered three attacks during the Civil War, led by James Stanley , the Earl of Derby and Prince Rupert. Bolton finally fell to the Royalists in 1644 when their forces entered the town and carried out the only massacre of the Civil Wars. After the war, when the Royalist cause was lost, Derby was tried and sentenced for the massacre. Ye Olde Man & Scythe pub, (pictured above left) is the place where James, the seventh Earl of Derby stayed the night before his execution on Churchgate in 1651. A cross outside the pub bears plaques which relate stories of Bolton through the ages.


Until the 19th century, Bolton was properly known as "Bolton-le-Moors" and the Parish Church of St Peters is still officially called "St. Peter's, Bolton-le-Moors". Before 1830, the town was run by 2 authorities, Great Bolton with 40 representatives, and Little Bolton with 30, the two separated by the River Croal. Locally, the trustees for Great Bolton were known as the "Forty Thieves". Its wealth was built on textiles; Flemish émigré weavers settled in Bolton around 1337 and introduced spinning and weaving to the area, as well as bringing clogs, which were absorbed into the local culture. Cotton spinning and weaving was a large concern, employing over 15,000 men and 21,000 women by 1911. By 1929 Bolton had 216 cotton mills and 26 bleaching and dyeing works. Sadly the 20th century decline in the Lancashire cotton industry took a heavy toll on Bolton's workforce - by the 1980s it had fallen to around 2,500 men and women.

Bolton's Eight Townships

Bolton Borough is made up of eight towns: Farnworth, Kearsley, Blackrod, Little Lever, Westhoughton, Horwich, South Turton and Bolton. Presently it has a population of around 261,000 and covers an area of some 54 square miles - 93,000 people presently work in the borough.

See also:

Books on Bolton Dialects

  • Graham Shorrocks: "A Grammar of the Dialect of the Bolton Area. Part I". Introduction, Phonology". Bamberger Beitr�ge zur Englischen Sprachwissenschaft (University of Bamberg Studies in English Linguistics) 41. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, New York, Paris, Vienna: Peter Lang, Europ�ischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1998. ISSN 0721–281X; ISBN 3–631–33066–9; US-ISBN 0–8204–3565–1.

  • Graham Shorrocks: "A Grammar of the Dialect of the Bolton Area. Part II. Morphology and Syntax". Bamberger Beiträge zur Englischen Sprachwissenschaft (University of Bamberg Studies in English Linguistics) 42. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, New York, Paris, Vienna: Peter Lang, Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1999. ISSN 0721–281X; ISBN 3–631–34661–1; US-ISBN 0–8204–4323–9.

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This page last updated 16 Nov 12.