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Little Lever (not to be confused with Great Levermarker), is a large village within the Metropolitan Borough of Boltonmarker in Greater Manchestermarker, Englandmarker. Historically a part of Lancashiremarker, it is southeast of Boltonmarker, west of Radcliffemarker, and west-southwest of Burymarker.



The first recorded mention of the village was in the 12th century when it had the spelling Lefre. Over the preceding years the name was recorded in several ways. Whilst the spellings may appear to be different, the pronunciation was similar to that of 'lever' – Lethre 1221; Leuere 1278; Leuir 1282; Leuer 1291 and Leyver 1550. In 1370 it was listed as a mining village near Bolton.

Early history

Little Lever started as a tiny hamlet, originally bounded by five sides. Three of these sides were water courses, the River Irwell, the River Croal and Blackbrook. The other two sides were manorial boundaries. In 1623 the Bubonic Plague killed a third of the village population.

The village was listed in 1901 as having including 37 of inland waterway. In the 2001 Census it is listed as having 481 hectares (1188 acres).

Before the standardisation of schooling and social welfare in the United Kingdommarker, Little Lever had no facilities of for education, instead relying on the nearby town of Bolton. Children who were not employed or orphaned along with the adult poor were taken care of by the Poor House. The Bolton Poor Law Union was established in 1837 under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and administered by the Board of Guardians. It was to take the poor from Little Lever and the townships of Bradshawmarker, Breightmetmarker, Darcy Levermarker, Edgworth, Entwistle, Farnworthmarker, Great Bolton, Great Levermarker, Halliwellmarker, Harwoodmarker, Heatonmarker, Horwichmarker, Kearsleymarker, Little Bolton, Little Hultonmarker, Longworth, Lostockmarker, Middle Hulton, Over Hulton, Quarlton, Rumworth, Sharples, Tonge-with-Haulgh, Turton and Westhoughtonmarker. The Guardians made use of the former township workhouses at Fletcher Street in Great Bolton and Goose Cote Hill in Turton until in 1861, a purpose built union workhouse was opened at Fishpool in Farnworth.


The manor of Little Lever was originally part of the barony of Manchester. From the 11th until the mid 14th century, the area of Little Lever was not self governing and was governed by the manorial land holder, the Baron of Manchester. Records show that in the time of Henry II, a parcel of land within the manor, consisting of one moiety was rented to Alexander son of Uvieth for a ½ mark and a hawk (12d).

In 1212, the village was assessed as being four oxgangs of land and was held in moieties, however the name of the tenant is not listed,. In 1227 Adam de Radcliffe was called upon by Robert Grelley, the Baron of Manchester to perform suit at his court of Manchester regarding the village of Little Lever every two weeks. In 1246 the Lord of the manor was recorded as one Leising de Lever.

During the next hundred years, many changes occurred in the de Lever family and in who took control of the moieties. In the absence of satisfactory evidence of ancestral descent it can only be said that around 1320, the manor was jointly controlled in homage by William de Ratcliffe and William de Lever. This homage amounted to a yearly rendering of 4d with a sake fee of 6s 8d and 12d for provision of puncture for the serjeant and foresters a total of 8s. Several cases were brought before courts by family members all trying to take control. Eventually a settlement in 1331, found in favour of Adam, son of Ellis de Lever and the family line was settled Nothing appears in the records that can clarify the ownership over the intervening years until 1448, when Henry Lever the elder was shown to have owed rent of 25s on the village.

By 1666, the village had become sizeable containing sixty hearths liable to tax. The records show that the land was in use as agriculture and that the main landowner was John Andrews, who had the only large house in the village which contained 9 hearths.

In 1872, the village gained independent status and became governed by a local board until 1894 when an urban district council was formed. The council consisted of twelve members elected from the four wards, Church, Ladyshore, Stopes and West.

In 1974, local government reorganisation took Little Lever out of the Lancashire urban district and it became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton, Greater Manchester, and is represented on the borough council by three councillors as part of a ward which also covers Darcy Levermarker.

It is represented in the United Kingdom Parliamentmarker as part of the Bolton South Eastmarker constituency and at the European Parliamentmarker as part of the North West England constituency. In 2008, the Member of Parliament for the Ward is Dr Brian Iddon (Labour Party). The Councillors for the ward were in 2008, Councillor Anthony Connell (Labour), Councillor Sean Colin Hornby (Labour) and Councillor Mrs Mary Woodward (Conservative)


The last UK Census in 2001, gives the population as 11505, with a population density of 25 persons per hectare. This figure is significantly higher than Bolton (18.7 per hectare) and is almost six times the average population density of England and Wales (3.5 per hectare). The Census also shows that the population has a population split of almost equal numbers of males and females which is uncommon in the area.

The population has changed dramatically since the turn of the 20th Century, at that time the majority of the population was employed in the labour intensive areas of coal mining, canal working and the other mill/factory industries. Today the population is more sedentary, employed in other sectors, as Little Lever has little left in the way of industry. Many people today commute out of Little Lever to nearby Bolton, Radcliffe and Manchester to carry on employment. The main employer within the village is the wholesale/retail sector.

The 2001 census shows approximately 8000 persons have employment (the majority of the others are children or retired persons), it shows how the main areas of employment break down in terms of socio/economic grouping and employment sector (three top groups only shown).

Classification Number
Workplace Social Population - Code UV50
Managerial/administrative (Classes AB & C1) 4200
Skilled manual workers (Class C2) 1900
Semi skilled/unskilled manual (Class C2) 1900
Employment groups - Code UV34
Manufacturing 1300
Wholesale or retail trades 1200
Health and social work 600

Over the past 20 years, the population has undergone changes and now reflects a more diverse ethnic make up. The following table compiled from the 2001 Census shows the ethnic make up and how the ethnic population compares with the figures for Bolton and England.

Ethnic Classification Number % Little Lever % Bolton % England
Ethnic Breakdown - Code UV09
White 11250 98.2 88.4 91.6
African/Caribbean descent 38 0.3 0.6 2.3
Asian descent 149 1.3 9 5.1
Chinese and other ethnic groups 20 0.2 2 1


The village lay on the junction of three roads, the road between Farnworth and the adjoining hamlet of Nob Endmarker which continued on to Radcliffe (A6053) and the road to Bolton (B6209) now replaced by the (A665) as the main route out of Little Lever. These provided the main transport to and from the village. Later the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal provided direct links to Manchester, Bolton and Bury. There was a railway line from Bury to Bolton via Little Lever (with a station at Bradley Fold) though this was closed in 1970. The nearest railway stations are now Moses Gate or Radcliffe (on the GMITA Metrolink system).

The town is also served by Firstbus, and Maytree Travel buses from Bolton, Farnworth and Bury.


Little Lever's past is marked by cotton spinning, textile manufacture, paper making and coal mining.


Records are available that show mills were working in Little Lever prior 1559. When Adam Byrom of Salford died in 1559 his holding was described as "being an estate of eight messuages, a moiety of two fulling-mills etc., in Little Lever", his three year old grandson Ralph, was his heir. Adams greatgrandson Ralph Byrom, died in 1599 without issue, leaving his fourteen year old brother Adam as heir to twelve messuages, half a water-mill and fulling-mill in Little Lever (there is a doubt however that these may have been in Darcy Lever).

Coal Mining

There was in the 1800s a large coal mining industry that was spread throughout the area including Kearsley, Outwood, Radcliffemarker and Little Lever. In 1880 there were some 10 working pits listed for Little Lever : Bally, Harpurfold, Middle Bents and Stopes, owned by Thomas Fletcher and Sons, Ladyshore, Owl Hole and Victoria owned by John Fletcher and Dingle, Farnworth Bridge and New Rivin, owned by Andrew Knowles and Sons (Limited).

The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal passes alongside the village, where there are two basins that were used to load coal from the Ladyshore Collierymarker (originally named, Back o'th Barn, opened 1830).. The pit finally closed in 1949 and only the colliery offices (now a house) and the stables survive.

Brick industry

Little Lever has had a long association with the manufacture of bricks and tiles. The main area for this industry was along Stopes Road. While the industry today is much smaller than it was, Tarmac Topblock Ltd still run Crowthers Brickworks. Originally the site of a much larger traditional clay brick works, it is currently used for the production of building materials and produces lightweight blocks for the construction industry.

Little Lever was once famous for its terracotta industry, the manufacture of terracotta in the north of England was pioneered by Colonel John Fletcher at his Ladyshore Terracotta works. The Ladyshore Coal and TerraCotta Company supplied the terracotta used in the building in St Stephen and All Martyrs’ Church, Lever Bridge.

Paper industry

There were several paper mills situated in the area, two located in Little Lever. Creams Mill, founded by James Crompton 1677 and Grundy's Mill, founded by James Grundy in 1760. The name Creams was given by Adam Crompton II who said it described the paper being made.

Other industry

The three arms of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal meet at Nob End which is approximately , south west of the village, making Little Lever a convenient place for lodging and refreshment in the days when the canal was in operation. The canal is currently pending restoration.

The proximity of the canal and the coal industry led to the establishment of a small boat-making industry for coal transportation. In part 2 of his book, Waterson (the last of 5 generations of boat builders) describes working on the canal.

There existed a small chemical industry on the outskirts of the village. There were also major chemical works just along the canal at Nob End, Farnworth. Bridson, Thomas Ridgeway & Sons, operated the Lever Bank Bleach Worksmarker, (later becoming Smith, J. Junior & Company). Wilson Edward & Company operated the Prestolee Alkali Works between 1875 and 1884.


In the early days, water was obtained from local sources and some shallow wells driven into the underlying sandstone. As the industry took a hold, more water and from a reliable source was required. In 1872, the Bury Improvement Act allowed the Bury Improvement Commissioners to take over Bury, Radcliffe, (who supplied Little Lever), Haslingdenmarker and Rawtenstallmarker Waterworks Companies, in 1876, the Commissioners were replaced by Bury Borough Council.

Bury and District Joint Water Board was set up in 1900 with responsibility for Bury County Borough, the Municipal Boroughs of Haslingden, Radcliffe and Rawtenstall and the Urban Districts of Kearsleymarker, Little Lever, Ramsbottommarker and Tottingtonmarker). The name was changed in 1935 to the Irwell Valley Water Board and then in 1962, under the Bolton Water Order 1962, was replaced by Bolton Borough Council. In 1974 with the changes in local government, the whole was replaced by the North West Water Authority.


There are seven schools in Little Lever, controlled by Bolton Metropolitan Borough education department: There are five primary schools, Bowness Community Primary, Masefield Community Primary, Mytham Community Primary, St Matthew's C of E Primary and St Teresa's RC Primary.

There is one secondary school Little Lever School, which is a specialist language college and there is one special needs school, Ladywood School.

Other facilities include pre-school playgroups, nursery schools and a library which was built in 1939.

Sports and leisure

There is a purpose built leisure centre adjacent to Little Lever School with sports hall, gymnasium, squash courts, all-weather pitch and extensive playing fields. There are also facilities around the village for football, rounders, bowls and cricket. Little Lever Cricket Club is a long established facility which includes a social club and bar. The cricket team play in the Bolton Cricket League. There are also a number of youth organisations, a youth club, an old age pensioners' club, and a Women's Institute branch. There are several public houses and political, sports and social clubs.

Little Lever is located on the edge of Moses Gate Country Parkmarker, a park which spans the valleys of the River Croal and River Irwell.


St. Matthew's Church, Little Lever.


Ringley Chapel was built in Outwood in the Parish Of Prestwich which belonged to the Manchester Classis. Kearsley and Little Lever were in the Parish of Deane and therefore in the Bury Classis. For convenience, members of the congregation in Kearsley and Little Lever attended Ringley Chapel. At a meeting at Ringley on July 12, 1649, it was agreed that parishioners who wished to join the Ringley congregation should be allowed to do so and should be released from the Bury Classis accordingly.The religion at that time was Puritan and there was one well known nonconformist divine by the name of Oliver Heywood who preached to the wealthy families of the area such as Captain Peter Seddon. In 1667, he wrote and distributed copies of his book ‘Heart treasure'.

The first church to be actually built in Little Lever was St Matthew Church of England in 1791. The Congregational Church, Market Street was founded in 1857,. In 1972, the Congregational Church closed, when it joined the Presbyterian Church to become the United Reform Church.

Present day

There are several churches representing a number of denominations in Little Lever:

St Matthew, Church of England, Market Street founded in 1791, King’s Centre Christian Fellowship (non denominational), Market Street Founded in 1982, Little Lever United Reformed, Church, Mytham Road, Christ Church Wesleyan Methodist, Mytham Road founded prior to 1892, St Teresa Roman Catholic Church, Redcar Road, opened in 1975, and the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mytham Road


There are several graveyards in Little Lever, the churches of St Matthew, King’s Centre Christian Fellowship, and Christ Church Wesleyan. The Congregational Church, Market Street whilst now closed had a graveyard.


  1. Bolton Museum and Archive, Microfilm D9:27-31: Fishpool Admissions 1861-1880
  2. Bolton MBC web site - Political
  3. Bolton MBC web site - Political
  4. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xi, no. 65.
  5. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m.xvii, no. 39.
  6. Report of HM Inspector of Mines 1880
  7. Bolton Archive and Local Studies Service, Catalogue Ref. ZLA: Ladyshore Colliery, Little Lever
  8. Bolton Archive and Local Studies Service, Catalogue Ref. ZLA: The Ladyshore Coal and TerraCotta Company.
  9. Bolton Archive and Local Studies Service, Catalogue Ref. ZLB: Lever Bank Bleachworks, Little Lever
  10. Bolton Archive and Local Studies Service, Catalogue Ref. ZLA: Prestolee Alkali Works, Little Lever
  11. Bolton Archive and Local Studies Service, Catalogue Ref. UWJ: Irwell Valley Water Board

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