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Rochdale in 1841

ROCHDALE, a parliamentary borough in the hundred of Salford, 12 miles north-west of Manchester, and 202 from the General Post-office, London, by the mail road through Dunstable, Northampton, Market Harborough, Leicester, Derby, Belper, Matlock, and Buxton to Manchester.

The parish of Rochdale is one of the most extensive in the kingdom. It extends into Agbrigg wapentake, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and comprises .58,620 statute acres ; with a population, in 1831, of 74,427, of which 40,340 acres and 58,441 inhabitants are in Lancashire. The Lancashire part was formerly divided into four parts, now into ten townships, as follows :-

Former Division Present Division

Pop. 1831

Honorsfield or Hundersfeild

Blatchinworth & Calderbrook


Todmorden & Walsden




Whitworth & Brandwood


Wuerdale & Warsdale


Spotland Spotland, further side & Spotland, nearer side


Castleton Castleton


Butterworth Butterworth







Chapelry of Saddleworth cum-Quick




* Not given in the Population Returns ; probably included in one of the other divisions.

Rochdale derives its name from the river Roch (which flows into the Irwell, a tributary of the Mersey) ; it is called Recedham the Domesday Survey. In the time of Edward III some Flemings introduced the woollen manufacture into the parish ; and two centuries afterwards, viz. in the reign of Elizabeth, it was still famous for its woollens. In 1610 there were no fewer than five fulling-mills established on the Spodden or Spotland brook in this parish.

The town of Rochdale is situated on both sides of the river Roch, into which, on the north bank, two brooks flow, the Hee brook just above, and the Spodden or Spotland brook just below the town. That part of the town which is on the south side of the Roch is in the township of Castleton, and is connected by three bridges with the more extensive part on the north side of the Roch, which extends into the townships of Wardleworth and Spotland, and a small part into the township of Wuerdale and Wardale. The streets are irregularly laid out, and many of them are narrow and inconvenient. Within the last fifteen years however, great improvements have taken place, several of the streets have been widened and otherwise improved, and a new market-house completed. The houses are chiefly of brick, some of the best are built of freestone quarried in the neighbourhood : the streets are well paved, and lighted with gas ; and the town is supplied with water from four reservoirs in Castleton township. The old bridge over the Roch (a stone bridge of three arches) has been widened and improved ; about a quarter of a mile below it is another stone bridge of one arch, and just above it an iron bridge for foot passengers. There are several churches and chapels, episcopal and dissenting. The parish church was built within about a century of the time of Domesday Survey, and was dedicated to St. Cedd or St. Chad. It is partly in the early English style, with a few remains of Norman character in the interior. The nave and south aisle, and the tower, which is embattled and crowned with pinnacles, are of later date. The windows of the choir have rich tracery ; and the font and many of the monuments are very ancient. St. Mary’s church was built in 1740 as a chapel-of-ease to the parish church ; it is a plain brick building. St. James’s, built in 1814, is a Gothic stone edifice, with a square embattled tower. There are other churches or episcopal chapels (some of them erected of late years) in the out-parts of the parish. There are in the town chapels for Presbyterians, Baptists (two), Methodists (Wesleyan, New and Primitive), Independents, the countess of Huntingdon’s connexion, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics : all these, except the Presbyterian chapel, have been built or rebuilt in the present century.

The manufactures of this place are very important ; they comprehend woollen goods, as baize, flannels, coatings, and friezes, and strong calicos and other goods in cottons ; but the woollen fabrics form the staple. Hats are also made, and cotton yarn is spun. Coal is dug, and slates, flagstones, and freestone are abundantly quarried in the parish, and there are iron-works in Butterworth township. Steam-power is extensively employed by the manufacturers. There are two weekly markets; on Monday for manufactured goods, wool, oil, dye-stuffs, and grain ; and on Saturday for provisions. There are three yearly fairs: on May 14th; on Whit-Tuesday ; and on November 7th ; all for cattle, horses, and pedlary. The Rochdale canal, which unites the duke of Bridgewater’s canal at Manchester with the Calder and Ribble navigation near Halifax in Yorkshire, passes near the town on the south-east side of it.

The town is in the jurisdiction of the county magistrates. The lord of the manor holds a court baron every three weeks for the recovery of debts under 40 shillings. There are a neat town-hall, used also as a news-room, and a commodious gaol called the New Bailey.

Rochdale was erected into a parliamentary borough by the Reform Act ; and the boundary, as defined by the Boundary Act, coincides with the boundary laid down in a previous local police act, and is a circle drawn with a radius of three-quarters of a mile from the old market-place in the very heart of the town. Rochdale returns one member to parliament : the number of voters on the register for 1834-5 was 746 ; for 1835-6, 695.

The borough of Rochdale is a vicarage, one of the richest in the kingdom, at present in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester ; but to be transferred to Manchester when that see is erected. Its clear yearly value is estimated at £1,730, with a glebe-house : it is in the gift of the archbishop of Canterbury. The glebe comprehends 200 acres of land, a part of it built upon.

There were, in 1833, in the three townships of Castleton, Wardleworth, and Spotland, sixty-eight schools of all kinds for daily instruction, with 2,289 scholars ; and twenty-eight Sunday-schools, with 4,036 scholars. Some of these schools are probably out of the town in the outparts of the townships. We have not included Wuerdale and Wardale township, as only a very small part of the town is in it. Four of the day-schools are endowed ; one is a national school, the children of which attend also on Sunday.

Littleborough, in the parish of Rochdale, was a Roman post, but the remains of it have nearly or quite disappeared. Roman coins, and part of a statue of Victory, of silver, have been dug up. The mound of an ancient castle, said to be of Saxon original, to which the township of Castleton owes its name, is mentioned in the ‘Beauties of England and Wales.’ In the chapelry of Saddleworth, in the Yorkshire part of the parish, are some Druidical remains.