1825 History Directory and Gazetteer of the County Palatine of Lancaster
Horwich is a town and civil parish within the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton, in Greater Manchester, England. It is 5.3 miles (8.5 km) southeast of Chorley, 5.8 miles (9.3 km) northwest of Bolton and 20 miles (32 km) northwest from the city of Manchester.
Historically a part of Lancashire, it lies at the southern edge of the West Pennine Moors with the M61 motorway close to the south and west, and Blackrod to the southwest. According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, Horwich has a population of 19,312.
Since 1997, it has been the base of Bolton Wanderers football club, who play at the Reebok Stadium in Horwich, having relocated from Burnden Park near Bolton town centre.
The name Horwich derives from the Old English har wice, meaning the "(place at) the grey wych-elm". The settlement was first documented in 1221 when the name was recorded as Horewic.
Horwich's origins began as a hunting chase in medieval times for the Barons of Manchester. Horwich continued as such until the 17th century, although the amount of woodland was reduced for house building and for fuel.
Early Non Conformists at Horwich Civil War Control
In 1669 numerous meetings of Nonconformists were reported at Horwich there was a 'conventicle,' but the ringleaders had been prosecuted. Among those whose estates were sequestrated for 'delinquency' by the Parliament in the time of the Civil Wars was Philip Martindale of Horwich, chapman. A non conformist service is mentioned in 1672 within the house of Thomas Willoughby.
After the Civil war, with the connivance of the vicar, the chapel was used by Nonconformists, but in 1716 Bishop Gastrell recovered it for the Established Church, and it has since been retained. There was a chapel stock of £190, in the hands of Nonconforming trustees, who refused to pay the interest when the chapel was taken from them.
It was during this period that Richard Pilkington and his family were closely associated along with Hugh Whittle with the Horwich Parish Church, the place then being a non conformist place of Worship. New Chapel located between what is now Brazley and Chorley Old Road was the creation of Richard Pilkington and exists today as a protected building. The Holy Trinity was opened in 1831. A separate ecclesiastical district was assigned to it in 1853.
A large proportion of the population refused to conform at the Restoration, but nothing is known as to their ministers or organisation, until, as stated above, the chapel at Horwich came into their hands about the Revolution. It can be fairly assumed the same occurred at Rivington. On being ejected in 1716 the Dissenters erected a meeting-house called the New Chapel, Horwich; this was enlarged in 1805, and other alterations have been made more recently. A second Congregational church, known as Horwich Lee Chapel, was erected in 1856, replacing one built in 1774.
Pilkington's, Shaws and Lord Willoughby
The family of Baron Willoughby of Parham were Presbyterian and prior to the formation of the Chapel at Rivington in 1703 were greatly influential in exerting Presbyterian rights over the parish church of Horwich and also of Rivington Anglican Chapel. The Shaw family, who owned vast tracks of land at Horwich Rivington border and around Heath Charnock and Anglezarke were another Presbyterian family and had married into the family of Lord Willoughby of Parham. It is in Horwich in this period we find close associations between these two Presbyterian families and that of the Pilkington family of Horwich, again Presbyterian. Richard Pilkington had a long ancestral heritage at Horwich, this branch went on to form Pilkington Glass.
The Pilkington's of Horwich were originally farmers and moved upward to become gentry, Richard Pilkington held rights of the Horwich Manor during his lifetime. Great changes were under way in the 1770s as industry changed two brothers, John and Joseph Ridgway, influential and land agents to the Blundells moved their bleaching works from Bolton to Horwich Wallsuches. The Blundell family had acquired large tracks of freehold after the Anderton family had conflict with the crown after the battle of Preston in 1715. Today The Blundell Arms, Chorley Old Road, Horwich displays the Blundell family coat of arms. above the door.
The Horwich branch of the Pilkington's who in the 1700s went from being farm owners to gentry later went to form Pilkington's PLC, now one of the largest companies in the world and a well known household name.The Pilkington's of Horwich, Rivington, Anglezarke and the surrounding areas all trace their roots back to Leonard Pilkington living 1066. The areas of land owned were once either held in fee simple subject to the goodwill of the King or in many other cases were held of the Knights Templar.
It is not known when Horwich's first chapel was built, but in 1565 the Commissioners for Removing Superstitious Ornaments took various idolatrous items from Horwich Chapel. This chapel was replaced with a larger one in 1782 to accommodate the increasing population. The second chapel itself was replaced with an even larger church in 1831, which is still standing. Until 1853 Horwich was a chapelry in the historic ecclesiastical parish of Deane, after that date Horwich became an ecclesiastical parish of its own right.
In the 17th and 18th centuries there were a number of non-conformists in Horwich. In 1719 they built their own "new chapel" and named so to distinguish Horwich's (Anglican) "old chapel". This building is still known today as New Chapel. In the 18th and 19th centuries other non-conformist churches and chapels were built in Horwich.
In 1881 Horwich still had a small population with 3,761 inhabitants and around 900 houses, this hadn't changed much in the previous fifty years. Two major events led to rapid increased population and size of Horwich, firstly and without doubt the most significant in its time was the arrival of the Railway. In the next 10 years Horwich was transformed into a town of 12,850 people by 1891 followed by the arrival of W.T Taylor Cotton Mill.
In the spring of 1884 the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) started work to build a new large locomotive works in Horwich when the company's works at Miles Platting became too small. By November 1886 Horwich Locomotive Works became up and working when the first locomotives were taken in for repair. The first newly built locomotive (Number 1008) left the works in 1887. This locomotive is now preserved at the National Railway Museum.
In both the First and Second World Wars Horwich Works played an important part with the manufacture of tanks, munitions, etc.
The original company which owned Horwich Locomotive Works was amalgamated in the early 20th century with other railway companies until they were eventually nationalised in 1948 by the Transport Act 1947 and becoming British Railways. In 1962, British Railways transferred control of all its main works to a central body called British Railways Workshops Division, with its headquarters in Derby. In 1970 this Workshops Division was renamed British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL).
The last steam locomotive constructed at Horwich Works left on November 27, 1957 and the last diesel built there left on December 28, 1962. Horwich Works was reduced to repairing engines and finally maintaining railway waggons. On February 18, 1983 BREL announced that the works was to close at the end of the year. Protest marches and spirited trade union resistance failed to alter the decision and so at 1 pm on Friday, December 23, 1983 Horwich Works closed after 97 years. The freehold of vast land acquired for the railway works was transferred as property from British Rail to Bolton Council in the mid 1990's and today much of the new Middlebrook development sits on the old British Rail land. The arrival of Middlebrook and development of the retail park has transformed Horwich again increasing its population. Today Horwich roads cannot cope with the volumes of traffic trying to get in and out of the town.
The old Manor of Horwich was the property of the Andertons of Lostock Hall, Lostock, the crown confiscated lands in 1715 after the battle of Preston. These lands were later leased back to the Blundells. Horwich was once a township in the historic ecclesiastical parish of Deane, in the Hundred of Salford of Lancashire.
In 1837 Horwich joined with other townships (or civil parishes) in the area to form the Bolton Poor Law Union and took joint responsibility for the administration and funding of the Poor Law in that area.
In 1872 the Horwich Local Board of Health was established for the area of the township, and was superseded by the creation of Horwich Urban District of the administrative county of Lancashire in 1894. Under the Local Government Act 1972 Horwich Urban District was abolished in 1974 and its area became a successor parish of the newly created Metropolitan Borough of Bolton in Greater Manchester.
On the 9 January 1974 Horwich was granted a Town Charter by the Earl Marshal, which officially gave Horwich the status of a town, which included a town mayor and town council. On the 6 December 1974 the Earl Marshal also granted and assigned an official Coat of Arms for the town. Horwich had been using an unofficial Coat of Arms.
In March 1990 the towns of Horwich and Crowborough (East Sussex) entered into a unique and historic twinning arrangement when they became the first towns within the United Kingdom to sign a Town Twinning Charter. The charter was signed by the mayors of Horwich and Crowborough at a ceremony in the Public Hall, Horwich on the 22nd March 1990 and in the Town Hall, Crowborough on the 27th March 1990.
|1892 25" map|
1876-77 Post Office Directory
Looking at Horwich today it is hard to imagine that it was once a tiny hamlet. Back in 1777 the Ridgways moved their bleach works from Bolton to Horwich and this paved the way for Horwich to grow into a thriving village during the 19th century — before the arrival of the Railway Works.
The first workers' houses were built in Horwich in 1801 and they were, and still are, known as the "club houses" — because the Ridgways formed a building club to help their workers buy or rent their own homes.
Horwich Heritage has an exhibition entitled "Wallsuches and the Club Houses" which opens at the Heritage Centre on Saturday June 25. Today Arcon Village occupies the Wallsuches spot where the bleach works and houses were built 200 years ago.
Stuart Whittle, chairman of Horwich Heritage, has produced a fascinating insight into the past of the town, dating back to 1620.
Here we look at the early years of Horwich followed by more in forthcoming issues of Looking Back.
In 1620, explains Stuart, Horwich was just a very small settlement with only 48 tenant pastures — the main activity being subsistence farming with the wealthier farms being up on the moors above Horwich where hand loom weaving supplemented the meagre family income.
"Cloth was washed and bleached in the local streams running down off the moor and although this activity was very small scale it contained the elements that would lead to the transformation of these tenant pastures into significant bleaching operations within the next 100 to 150 years," says Stuart.
Thomas Hampson, in his history of Horwich, describes the hamlet in the 1700s as being a bleak and cheerless place.
But it did, however, possess the essential ingredient for what would initially create a local bleaching industry and then provide the means of motive power — water and plenty of it.
"Bleaching at that time used the old "atmospheric" system where cloth was washed in sour milk and urine and stretched out across fields on tenterhooks to dry, explains Stuart.
"Something much more organised and efficient was necessary to make it a substantial industry.
"The pivotal moment was the introduction of chemical bleaching using chlorine and other chemicals.
"And there was one family in Bolton who recognised the importance of this breakthrough — the Ridgways. By doing so they transformed the fortunes of the humble hamlet of Horwich," adds Stuart.
Brothers John and Thomas Ridgway were, originally, bleachers at Dog Brow in Bolton which is now the site of the market hall. A fire at their premises in 1775 prompted them to look for a larger site and they took out a 99 year lease on land at Wallsuches in Horwich in 1777. Horwich at this time only had 365 people.
No one knows how the area got its name, remarks Stuart, but it is said it was derived from the way the Ridgways issued their building instructs: "We'll have another wall at such and such tomorrow." But Stuart says: "It's not an entirely convincing explanation."
Within three years the bleach works had six water wheels driving the machinery.
The company, which now included sons Joseph and Thomas, was one of the first to introduce Boulton and Watt steam engines to replace water power.
The Ridgways seems to have a good attitude towards their workers although dishonestly was not tolerated and there is a record of one of their workers, John Boothman, being transported to Australia for stealing £20 in 1802 and James Holland was one of a number of men executed in the Bolton area for stealing 30 yards of cloth.
The family assisted with the building of the Parish Church School in 1793 and the re-building of the Parish Church in 1830.
A building club was set up by the family in 1802 so that employees could construct their own homes — this attractive area of stone terraces directly opposite the Parish Church is still known today as the "Club Houses".
The Black Bull was used as the meeting place of various bodies. Joseph Ridgway became chairman of the local magistrates' bench and the family was instrumental in bringing the penny post to Horwich in 1815.
Wallsuches was like a village in its own right with buildings and cobblestone roads surrounded by large reservoirs, quarries and mines.
|1845 Map of Wallsuches' Bleach Works|
"Wallsuches was, in fact, the heart of Horwich throughout the 19th century."
At its height the bleach works was a very busy place employing hundreds of people and employees would regularly work until two or three in the morning — after which they would lie down on a bale of cloth to snatch few hours sleep before beginning work again at 6am, explains Stuart.
"The Ridgways were good employers for their time, despite employing child labour in the early years, who overall treated their workforce well and were concerned for their welfare.
"They even continued to pay their workers when there was little work during the cotton famine of the 1860s brought about by the American Civil War," he says.
Pay day at Wallsuches was an extremely important occasion both for the employee, his family and the community. By 1830 "such days" as they were known came about once a month and the whole community would come out to play, "dressing up, holding events, meetings and generally celebrating," says Stuart.
We continue the story of Wallsuches and its part in the development of Horwich.
Wallsuches was the "heart" of Horwich throughout the 19th century explains Horwich Heritage chairman Stuart Whittle who has researched the area.
"Without it and the Ridgways the town would not have developed in the way it did," he says.
At its height the bleach works was a very busy place employing hundreds of people and employees would regularly work until two or three in the morning after which they would lie down on a bale of cotton to snatch a few hours sleep before beginning work again at 6am.
"This would mean that for long periods male employees only saw their women folk when they brought food to the works.
"Despite the long hours and dangerous conditions jobs were secure and work plentiful and there is plenty of evidence of three or four generations of a family working there.
"The Ridgways were good employers for their time (despite employing child labour in the early years) who, overall, treated their workforce well and were concerned for their welfare.
"They even continued to pay their workers when there was little work during the cotton famine of the 1860s brought about by the American Civil War."
Pay day at Wallsuches was an important occasion with the whole community dressing up and celebrating. Once payment became more frequent towards the middle of the 19th century this practice began to die out, explains Stuart.
Right from their early years the Ridgways were anxious to provide accommodation for their workforce the majority of whom were coming from nearby areas such as Deane, Westhoughton, Blackrod, Adlington and Chorley.
They were also keen that these workers should own their own homes and set up a building scheme.
Workers joined the building club in order to qualify for a new house and these were then called club houses.
The scheme started in 1801, explains Stuart. "Because the houses weren't numbered until the 1870s it is difficult to work out who lived where from the Parish Records. It would appear the first ones were built opposite the Parish Church followed by the individual streets running as right angles," says Stuart.
A second club house scheme was started in 1829 and as the area developed a shop and a pub (The Horseshoe) opened in Church Street as well as the Sawyers Arms in Nelson Street.
Thanks to the Ridgways and their rapidly developing bleach works a postal service arrived in Horwich in the early 1800s and the first post office in Horwich opened in Church Street in 1807.
Not surprisingly records reveal that the majority of residents had occupations directly related to the bleaching industry including spinners, weavers, crofters and finishers but there were supporting skills including stonemasons, plumbers and blacksmiths. Many Horwich residents can trace their ancestry back to the club houses and the bleach works.