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Bolton's Social history

Bolton-le-Moors was a settlement in a natural valley on the West Pennine Moors on the banks of the River Croal, and the Manor of Bolton is first recorded in 1067, as being owned by the Montgomery family. [grassy moor and view with some snow]

32k GIF 128k JPEG Chetham Close, location of former stone circle March 1996

However the earliest evidence for any settlement in Bolton goes back to the Bronze Age, with a Stone Circle in Egerton. Bolton was part of a large area owned by the Crown after the Norman invasion in 1066. The spoils of war left it a largely barren area, but a baron of William the Conqueror, Roger de Poictou, responsible for Liverpool and Lancaster Castles, was given the land (between the River Ribble and River Mersey to the west of Manchester. It was subsequently passed back to the Crown, then on to Ranulf de Bricasard, third Earl of Chester, and transferred to Roger de Maresy. Of the intervening families to whom this manor passed, most held position of the Earl of Derby.

The name Bolton comes from Bolt and Tun. le-Moors is merely a description of the land which surrounds Bolton (moorland).

The town received its first Charter to hold a market in Churchgate, and annual fair, granted by King Henry III in 1251, after the Manor of Bolton was devolved by marriage. The charter reads: The King to his Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Knights, and to all whom it may concern greeting. Know ye that we have granted, and by this Charter confirmed, to our trusty and beloved William de Ferrars, Earl of Derby, that he and all his heirs shall have the lands and free warren in the Manors of Lyverpull, West Derby, Everton, Crosseby, Wavertree, Salford, Bowelton, Penelton, etc., in the County of Lancaster . . . . We grant to the said Earl also and to his heirs for ever, permission to hold a market at his aforesaid Manor of Bowelton, in the Country of Lancaster, every seventh day; and also at the same place a fair once a year, extending over three days, that is to say on the eve and on the day and on the morrow of the feast of St. Margaret the Virgin.

The Earl of Derby, William de Ferrers granted a Charter to make Bolton a market town and borough on January 14th 1253.

Flemish weavers are recorded as arriving in Bolton about 1337 to work in the textile industry, bringing other skills including clog making.

This is around the time that the industrial history of Bolton starts.

1385, agreement regarding Manor of Little Bolton

The deed no 36b (The Pilkington Family of Lancashire) refers to the Manor of Little Bolton being by right the title of the descendants of Roger De Bolton through his sons marriage to Ymayne daughter of Roger De Pilkington of Rovyngton. The deed also makes a clear link between the families of Bolton of Little Bolton and Pilkington. Later a large number of the Pilkington family can be found within Little Bolton.

[Church and Celtic Cross]

151k JPEG Deane Church and George Marsh Memorial Cross April 1996

George Marsh was a farmers son, born in Deane, 1515. When Edward VI became King in 1547, Marsh's study of the New Testament led to his appointment as a preaching minister. When King Edward died 6 years later, Queen Mary sought to re-establish the old religion, Marsh became victim to her persecution of the reformers. He appeared before Justice Barton at Smithills Hall accused of preaching false doctrines. However he made a stand for his beliefs, he was tried and convicted. He was imprisoned at Chester and finally burnt at the stake April 24th 1555.

Bolton was a centre of Puritanism, and in the Civil War of the 17th Century it was a Parliamentarian outpost, surrounded by Royalist areas. Prince Rupert's army of 10,000 men were joined by troops under the leadership of the Earl of Derby, and stormed the town on May 28th 1644 from Deane Moor. This was the third major assault against Bolton, of the 3000 local troops led by Colonel Rigby, 1500 were left dead, and 700 taken prisoner. It became known as the Bolton Massacre.

[The execution]

90k JPEG From a painting, reproduced in the Bolton Book, published 1929, courtesy of Westhoughton Library.

After Cromwell's Parliamentarian victory, the Earl of Derby, James Stanley was hunted down and captured in Cheshire. After a three day trial, he was taken to Bolton, spent his last hours at Ye Olde Man and Scythe public house, then beheaded in Churchgate on October 15th 1651.

Prior to 1838, the area was split into "Little Bolton" with 30 trustees and "Great Bolton", who's 40 trustees were known as "The Forty Thieves". The boundary between was defined by the course of the River Croal.

[Picture of Darbishire]

52k JPEG Bolton's First Mayor, courtesy Westhoughton Town Library

On January 11th 1838 the Charter of Incorporation was drawn up by the councils of Little Bolton and Great Bolton, with the resolution "That the governing power in all communities ought to be vested in the public at large, and not in self elected bodies." A document dated October 11th 1838 was received by Mr Winder, the solicitor to the applicants on the 13th of October. The joint population was about 47000 at this time. The first election of councillors was on November 30th 1838, and Mr. Charles James Darbishire became the first Mayor.

In 1838 Queen Victoria granted Bolton Chartered Borough status on the 11th of October. Neighbouring districts were embraced at the turn of the century, enlarging the town.

There was considerable distress in Bolton at this time, due to the high cost of food brought about by the Corn Laws and other taxes, unemployment was severe. The Chartists, workless people who banded together to secure rights of government, rioted in the town on August 16th 1839 and the Parish Church was occupied causing considerable damage. They also went on to attack the Police Office at the former Little Bolton town hall where the mob leader was imprisoned after his arrest, using a lamp post as a battering ram forced entry to the building, and further damage stopped only when a troop of Grenadiers from the 96th Foot Regiment arrived to disperse the rioters. Conditions continued to deteriorate, and in 1842 Bolton was involved in the Plug Drawing Riots, bands of rioters pulling the plugs out of boilers causing costly and crippling damage to factory machinery. A public fast was declared on March 12th 1847 following the failure of the Irish potato harvest. In the summer of 1848 an outbreak of cholera ran until the spring of 1849.

In 1850, the Bolton Improvement Act was brought in. A Markets Committee was formed on November 9th 1850, permitting stalls for Butchers' Meat, Poultry,, Grain, Greengroceries, Fruit, Hay, Straw, Boots, Shoes, Smallware, Pedlery, Medicines, Confectionary, Seeds, Bacon, Eggs, Fish, Ironmongery, and other marketable goods. A sanitary committee was appointed, a Public Library Act made in 1852, a Fire Police Committee amalgamated with the Watch Committee in 1853. The River Croal was cleaned and paved by the Sewerage Committee in 1860. The Rhodes farm Sewerage formally opened on August 26th 1899.

Bolton Parish Church, St. Peter's of Bolton-le-Moors was consecrated in 1871. Bolton Town Hall, incorporating the Albert Hall was opened on June 5th 1873.

On August 21st 1883, Bolton New Infirmary opened on Chorley Road. It closed in 1998, with service transferred to Bolton General in Farnworth. On August 25th 1883, Bolton Borough Fever Hospital opened on Hulton Lane.

July 10th 1913 was the day King George V and Queen Mary visited the town, the first time a reigning monarch had come to Bolton.

On April 1st 1974, Bolton Metropolitan Borough was formed, part of Greater Manchester County under local government reorganisation.

There is a separate page on industrial history.

Some of Bolton's history is dated on plaques around the marketgate cross in Churchgate.

DISCLAIMER: Errors and Omissions Excepted.

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