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Bolton in 1836

BOLTON-LE-MOORS, a borough town in the populous parish to which it gives name, in the hundred of Salford, county palatine of Lancaster, comprising the township of Great Bolton, and the chapelry of Little Bolton ; 11 miles N.W. of Manchester, 6 miles W.S.W. of Bury, 12 miles S. of Blackburn, 11 miles S.E. of Chorley, 43 miles S.S.E. of Lancaster, and 197 miles N.W. by N. of London.

The parish of Bolton contains twelve townships and six chapelries, of which the following is a list, with the estimated annual rental of the lands, &c., of each :



Estimated Value

Anglezarke, township



Blackrod, chapelry



Bolton, Great, township



Bolton, Little, chapelry



Bradshaw, chapelry



Breightmet, township



Edgworth, township



Entwistle, township



Harwood, township



Lever, Darcy, chapelry



Lever, Little, township



Longworth, township



Lostock, hamlet



Quarlton, township



Rivington, chapelry



Sharples, township



Tonge with Haulgh, township



Turton, chapelry






The increase in the population of the town of Bolton has been very rapid since the year 1773, when there were only 5,339 inhabitants in the two townships. In 1801 they amounted to 17,416, in 1811 to 24,149, in 1821 to 31,295 and in the census of 1831 they are returned at 41,195, showing an increase in 58 years of 35,856 persons. The returns for the whole parish during 30 years preceding the year 1831 exhibit a proportionate increase. In 1801 the parish contained 29,826 inhabitants ; in 1811 this number was raised to 39,701, in 1821 to 50,197, and in 1831 to 63,031. The tables drawn up at the last census exhibit the following particulars connected with the population of this borough :



Families employed in agriculture

Families employed in trade, manufactures & handicrafts

Other families not employed in these two classes




Great Bolton









Little Bolton


















The boundaries of the borough, as laid down in the Boundary Act, 2 and 3 William IV. cap. 64, are not the boundaries of the town : a portion of Little Bolton lying to the north of Astley Bridge, and extending as far as Horrock's Fold, is excluded from the franchise, and the small adjoining township of Tonge with Haulgh is included in it. The borough returns two members to parliament.

The name of Bolton is involved in obscurity, though its affix of le Moors evidently points to a Norman origin, and affords proof of the early importance of the place, which required to be thus distinguished from other towns of the same name. If, as it has been supposed, Bolton is a corruption of Bodelton or Bothelton, a town which is mentioned in the ‘Calendariurn Rotulorum Chartarum' preserved in the Tower of London, the manor belonged at the time of the Conquest to Roger de Merscheya, by whom it was sold, along with his other lands between the river Ribble and the Mersey, to Ranulf de Blunderville, Earl of Chester, from whom it came into the possession of the Earl of Ferrers, and from him to an ancient Lancashire family of the name of Pilkington. In the possession of this family the manor remained for nearly a century, until Sir Roger Pilkington, then high sheriff of the county, was attainted and beheaded at the commencement of the reign of Henry VII, for adhering to the cause of Richard III at the battle of Bosworth field. His estates were confiscated and given to Sir Thomas Stanley, then created Earl of Derby. In this way the Earl of Derby became possessed of nearly all the land in the town of Bolton, which he held until part of it was again confiscated during the Commonwealth, in consequence of the conduct of the Earl of Derby in the civil commotions of those times. By a series of mutations, not easily traced, the manorial rights became divided among several individuals, by whom they are still held. The earls of Derby and Bradford have each one-third part, two other individuals have each one-twelfth, and a fifth party holds one sixth. The manor of Little Bolton is in the possession of Thomas Tipping, Esq.

During the political dissensions in the reign of Charles, Bolton began to rise into notice, owing to the ardent spirit manifested by the inhabitants in favour of the Commonwealth. During the long strife between the royalists and the parliamentarians the town was garrisoned by the latter, in whose possession it remained till 1644. After Prince Rupert's successful attack upon the parliamentary troops who besieged Lathom House, the then residence of the Stanley family, finding that they took refuge in Bolton, he followed them with his army, where, being joined by the earl of Derby, he attempted to take the town by storm. After several assaults the royalists, being repulsed with great loss, retired, until the earl of Derby, having collected his tenantry and levied new troops, returned to the attack, and succeeded in dislodging the parliamentary forces, and obtaining possession of the town. It did not remain long in their hands, for by one of the singular vicissitudes of those eventful times it was again surrendered to the parliament ; and after the battle of Worcester the unfortunate earl, who had signalized himself in the attack upon Bolton, being taken prisoner, was condemned by a military tribunal at Chester, and sent under an escort to Bolton, where he was beheaded October 15th, 1651.

Several centuries prior to this date the town was famous for its manufactures. Leland speaks of its being a market for cottons and coarse yarns ; and another writer (Blome), who wrote somewhat later, describes it as ‘a fair well-built town, with broad streets, with a market on Mondays, which is very good for clothing and provisions ; and it is a place of great trade for fustians.' There seems to be little doubt that the making of woollens was imported by some Flemish clothiers, who came over in the fourteenth century ; that other branches of trade were introduced by the French refugee manufacturers, who were attracted by the prosperity of the neighbourhood ; and that the manufacture of cotton cloth was improved, and in many of its kinds introduced, by some emigrant weavers, who came from the palatinate of the Rhine.

Bolton, made no great advances in population until the improvements in the machinery for spinning cotton gave an impetus to the trade, which has been gradually increasing ever since. Almost the first invention in point of importance originated in this town. It was a machine which combined the principles of the spinning-jenny and the water-frame, and was called from that circumstance a Mule. This was the discovery of a man of the name of Samuel Crompton, who lived in a part of an interesting old house about a mile from Bolton called ‘Hall in the Wood’, where the experiments were carried on which resulted in this valuable invention. Fortunately for the public, but unfortunately for the inventor, no patent was taken out for the machine. It consequently came into immediate use and made the fortunes of thousands, while the ingenious discoverer, after receiving the product of two subscriptions of £105 and £400, raised with difficulty from these whom his invention had enriched, was remunerated by a parliamentary grant of £5,000. In the mean time Sir Richard Arkwright, another native of Bolton, who had risen from a very obscure condition, had established large factories in Derbyshire, where he carried the cotton machinery to the greatest perfection. The opposition made by the labouring classes in Bolton to the improvements in machinery has, at various times, driven the most lucrative branches of employment from that town to other places. The introduction of the mule and of the power-loom was not accomplished until they had enriched other communities for some time. After a while cotton factories began to rise up in various parts of the town, filled with machinery upon the best principle. Foundries and machine manufactories followed them, and a great extension was immediately given to the trading interests of the place. Some of the largest mills in the county are in Bolton. Two of the principle spinners have each more than 100,000 spindles employed, and there are nearly fifty factories in the town and the immediate neighbourhood. The cotton manufacture which is carried on in these mills, comprehending the dressing and carding of the raw material, and the spinning it into yarn, employs steam-power equivalent to about 1,100 horses. About fifty steam-engines are used in the spinning mills alone. At seven persons to one horse power (which is Baines's calculation) there would therefore be 7,700 persons, old and young, engaged in the mills alone in Bolton. But this average is taken too high ; five would be more accurate, giving a total of 5,500, which corresponds very nearly with the returns. In 1831 the whole number of men employed in the cotton and silk trade in the townships of Great and Little Bolton was 6,100. The women and children would quadruple the number.

The weavers of Bolton produce a great variety of fabrics, probably a greater variety than any other single place in the county. Plain and fancy muslins, quiltings, counterpanes, and dimities, are the chief kinds of cloth, but cambrics, ginghams, &c. are also woven. Formerly fustians, jeans, thicksetts, and similar fabrics, were the principle articles made in the town, but these descriptions of cloth are now chiefly produced in the power-loom, as well as calicoes and dimities. Silk goods are not produced here to any extent. Several attempts have been made to introduce them among the Bolton weavers, but without much success.

The bleach works in the town and neighbourhood are among the largest in the kingdom, and employ a considerable number of persons, ten millions of pieces being the average number annually bleached in the parish of Bolton. The steam-power used in these works is calculated to be equal to the power of nearly 500 horses.

In the foundries it is nearly as great, twenty-five steam-engines being employed in them. The iron foundries and machine shops in Bolton are numerous and extensive. Steam-engines are made at several of them, and, together with the machinery that is manufactured here, are considered of the first quality.

Many other branches of trade connected with the above are carried on to a considerable extent ; and there are several large chemical and paper-works in the town and its vicinity.

A great proportion of the cotton goods manufactured here are sold in Manchester, where the manufacturers have warehouses for the storing and sale of their cloths. They meet their customers there from all parts of the country, one, two, or three days of each week, but always on Tuesday, which is the cotton market day in that metropolis of the cotton trade. On that day all the principals or their representatives from every establishment in the county connected with the cotton trade, more particularly bleachers and manufacturers, meet in Manchester. The practice, though apparently inconvenient, and certainly attended with much trouble, has so many advantages that there is no wish, even among those who are most remote from the market, to alter it.

Bolton is well accommodated with the means of conveyance to all parts of the kingdom. Being on the direct line of the north road from Manchester, coaches are constantly passing through it in that direction. The intercourse with Manchester, already very easy and frequent, will be rendered much more so by the new rail-road which is being laid (1835) between the two towns, the completion of which is expected in the course of a year. There is also a railway, which was opened in 1831, connecting Bolton with the Manchester and Liverpool line at Kenyon, by which passengers are conveyed to either of the two great towns. The distance by it to Liverpool is thirty-two miles, to Manchester twenty-two miles. The advantages of inland navigation have been enjoyed since 1791, when a canal was made from Manchester to Bolton, with a branch to Bury. It begins on the western side of Manchester from the river Irwell, to which it runs nearly parallel, crossing it at Clifton, and again near Little Lever, where its two branches to Bolton and Bury separate. Its whole length is fifteen miles one furlong, with a rise of 187 feet. The two towns thus connected with Manchester, being on the same level, no lock required between them. The distance by canal from Bolton to Manchester is twelve miles ; from Bolton to Bury six miles.

The district through which the canal runs abounds with coal. The mines, though not perhaps so close to the town, appear to have been worked when Leland wrote his ‘Itinerary’. He says ‘They burne at Bolton sum canale but more so cole, of the wich the pittes be not far off.' The principal mines for cannel coal belong to the earl of Balcarras, and are in the vicinity of Wigan : but some of an inferior quality is found nearer Bolton. The common coal lies around the town, and is the main source of its prosperity.

The two townships of which the borough of Bolton consists are separated by a small river called the Crole, which rises at Red Moss in the hamlet of Lostock, and runs due west into the Irwell, dividing in its course Great and Little Bolton, the south side of it being the township of Great Bolton, and the north side the chapelry of Little Bolton. Though an ancient town, the streets of Bolton are wide and straight, and the houses generally well built. The roads leading from the town in every direction are kept in good condition, and the principal entrances are good. The town covers nearly a square mile, having been very considerably extended in the S.W. direction, under an act of parliament obtained in 1792 for inclosing Bolton Moor, a large tract of waste land comprising nearly 300 acres, which was divided into allotments and sold by public auction on a perpetual chief-rent to be secured by buildings, and made payable to trustees appointed in the aforementioned act. A fifteenth part was deducted as a compensation to the lords of the manor, to whom were reserved also the mines and minerals underneath the surface. The powers of these trustees were extended by another act in 1817, by which they were empowered to raise a rate to the amount of 2 shillings and 6 pence in the pound upon the annual value of the property of the town for the purposes specified in a former act for lighting, cleansing, paving, and improving the town of Great Bolton. The many expensive improvements which were made previous and subsequent to the passing of the last act involved the trustees in expenses beyond the amount of their annual receipts from the Moor, which, united with a want of proper economy, rendered it necessary for them to get an enlargement of their powers, in order to obtain a mortgage upon the Moor rents. In this way they raised £12,000 to defray the interest of which, together with other demands, a police rate, varying from 1 shilling to 2 shillings and 6 pence in the pound, was annually laid upon the inhabitants, and paid for a number of years, until, in the year 1835, the tax was discontinued, and by a better administration of the funds yielded by the chief-rents on Bolton Moor, not only have they been found equal to defray the annual disbursements for the lighting, paving, cleansing, and improving the town, but, in addition, £2,000 of the debt has been discharged. The income of the whole property is £2,500, £400 of which is absorbed by the interest of the mortgage.

The powers of the trustees of Great Bolton, who are appointed under the Police Act, do not extend to the preservation of public order. Officers are annually selected at a court leet called by the lords of the manor, in each township respectively, under the names of a boroughreeve, two constables, and a deputy-constable, in whom all authority is vested, during their continuance in office, for the preservation of the public peace. The consequence of this mode of appointing such important officers is the same as in most other towns similarly situated, - a most inefficient police - an evil which is so strongly felt by the inhabitants, that it is likely they will seek to remove it by incorporating themselves under the provisions of the Corporation Reform Bill.

Little Bolton has a police act distinct from Great Bolton, which vests the appointment of a certain number of trustees annually in the rate-payers. The sum raised last year for the purposes of lighting, paving, and cleansing Little Bolton, amounted to £1,918, 5 shillings and 10 pence, being 1 shilling and 6 pence in the pound upon the annual value. The parochial concerns of the two townships are each as separate as their municipal affairs, and in both are well managed. In Great Bolton, the sum collected for the relief of the poor was about £4,000, being 2 shillings in the pound upon the annual value. In Little Bolton, during the same year, £1,674, 6 shillings and 10 pence was collected for the relief of the poor, being 1 shilling and 6 pence in the pound upon the annual value of the property in the township.

The town is well lighted with gas by a company incorporated in 1820. It is also admirably supplied with water, brought from a distance of four miles N.E. of the town. The springs are first collected in a large reservoir near their source, from which the water is conveyed in earthenware pipes into another reservoir, about a mile from the town, from whence it is again conveyed through an iron main of thirteen inches diameter to the various parts of the town. The water descends from an elevation of about 700 feet but the elevation of the reservoir from which the inhabitants are supplied is not more than eighty feet, and is not found to give sufficient pressure to raise the water to the height at which it is wanted. The company are about to remedy this, by making another reservoir on a higher level, which will make the water available to all the purposes for which it is required. This undertaking was effected at an expense of £40,000, subscribed in shares of £50 each, by a company established by act of parliament in 1824. The scale of charges is so moderate as to put it within the power of the poorest inhabitants to have the water brought into their own houses. Dwellings under £10 are charged 10 shillings a year and houses of greater value one shilling in the pound upon the annual rent.

The churches and chapels, the exchange, news-room, and library, the dispensary, the workhouse, and the town-hall in Little Bolton, are the only edifices that can be considered as public buildings. Of these the large parish church, dedicated to St. Peter, is supposed to be several centuries old, but has few pretensions to architecture. It has a low tower, and is surrounded with a very extensive burial-ground, The living is a discharged vicarage in the deanery of Manchester, and in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester, and is returned of the yearly value of £464 in the Ecclesiastical Returns. Another church was recently erected in Great Bolton, at an expense of £13,412, part of which was defrayed by a grant from the parliamentary commissioners. It is a handsome building with a tower, in the English-Gothic style, and contains 923 free sittings. The living is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the vicar of Bolton. The largest church in Little Bolton, St, George's, a brick building, with a tower and bells, was built by subscription in 1796. The living is a perpetual curacy, to which the subscribers had three presentations, which are now exhausted, and it reverts to the bishop of Chester. There is also a chapel of ease in the same township, dedicated to All Saints, in the gift of Thomas Tipping, Esq., lord of the manor, which is also a perpetual curacy. It is endowed with £200 private benefaction, £200 royal bounty, and £2,200 parliamentary grant. The places of worship belonging to the dissenters in Bolton are numerous and spacious. There are two each for Baptists, Independents, and Unitarians, one each for the Society of Friends and Swedenborgians, a Roman Catholic Chapel, and seven places for the various denominations of Methodists.

The institutions for education in Bolton are numerous. The free grammar-school, contiguous to the parish churchyard, educates 120 boys. It was founded in 1641 by Robert Lever, citizen and clothier of London ; and in 1651 an old school, of unrecorded foundation, was, with its revenue and property, united to it ; since which time both have been considered as one school. The income is £485 per annum, of which the head master receives a salary of £160, the second master £100, and the writing-master £75 per annum. The appointment of masters and the government of the school are vested in twelve governors, who supply vacancies in their number as they occur. No boys are admitted into the school except on the foundation, and they are all selected from the parish of Bolton. The children of dissenters are admitted if they are willing to conform to the rules of the school. The only payment is one shilling on entrance to the head master, who superintends the whole school, and has a class of thirty, who are instructed by himself chiefly in Latin and Greek. In the lower school the second master teaches English, geography, and the rudiments of Latin. The boys both in the upper and lower school attend the writing-master, and receive instruction according to their capacities in writing, arithmetic, algebra, and mathematics : French has been discontinued. The boys learn the Church Catechism and real other religious books, principally selected from those published by the Christian Knowledge Society. Among the masters who have presided over this school are Robert Ainsworth, the compiler of the Latin dictionary, and Dr. Lempriere, the author of the ‘Classical Dictionary.’

At another school, endowed by Mr. Nathaniel Hulton, in School-street, Moor-lane, 120 boys and 80 girls are instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, and the girls in sewing, on the system of the British and Foreign School Society. It was not founded by the testator, but established in 1794, by his trustees, in compliance with his will, out of the surplus proceeds of money bequeathed for other purposes. The children pay a small sum weekly towards their education.

Marsden's and Popplewell's Charity-school, in Churchgate, was founded in 1714, for teaching twenty children, boys and girls, reading and the church catechism, without any charge. Mrs. Susannah Brookes left a further sum to instruct twelve more in the same manner, and latterly another considerable bequest has been received from the executors of the late Mr. Popplewell, which will soon render it desirable to place the school in a situation more adapted to its usefulness to the labouring classes. (Report of Commissioners concerning Charities, pp. 155-176.) The number of private day-schools in Bolton is about eighty ; of which forty-four are for children between the ages of three and nine ; fifteen for girls only, from five upwards ; seven for boys only, of the same age ; and the rest for pupils of both sexes, between the ages of four and twelve. The number of children educated in Sunday schools is very considerable, as may be seen from the following statement, taken with some of the above particulars from the Journal of Education (No. xvii. p. 74) :-





Parish School




St. George's School




All Saints




Methodist - old and new connexion




Primitive and Independent Methodists




Independent Schools




New Jerusalem




Catholic School












Besides these institutions, funds are raised for the establishment of two new schools, one in each of the townships, on the system of the British and Foreign School Society, for the education of a thousand children, 600 boys and 400 girls.

In addition to the school charities, considerable sums are distributed to the poor from various bequests connected with the town. From Hulton's Charity, £25 ; Parker's, £5 ; Gosnell's Charity, £5 ; Crompton's Charity, £7 10 shillings ; Astley's Charity, £3 : Cocker's Charity, £5 9 shillings ; Aspendell's Charity, £5 15 shillings ; Mort's Charity, £1 ; Lomax's Charity, £1 10 shillings ; Greenhalgh's Charity, £4 10 shillings ; and Popplewell's Charity, £30. (Report of Commissioners concerning Charities, 1828, pp. 168-184.)

The dispensary was established in 1814, and is liberally supported. A clothing society, and a society for the relief of poor women during child-birth, are supported chiefly by ladies.

Petty sessions are held on Monday and Thursday in each week, which are attended by several magistrates, the business of which has undergone a most extraordinary diminution since the Poor-Law Bill came into operation.

There is a large weekly market on Mondays and Saturdays, well supplied with all sorts of provisions and vegetables. There are two annual fairs, one on the 31st of July, and the other on the 14th of October, for hardware, toys, &c., and on the day preceding each is a fair for horned cattle. A fortnight fair is also held for lean cattle on Wednesdays, from the 5th of January to the 12th of May. A newspaper, under the title of the ‘Bolton Chronicle', is published every Saturday.