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Rossendale is a local government district with borough status. It is made up of a number of small former mill towns in Lancashiremarker, Englandmarker centred around the valley of the River Irwell in the industrial North West. The district combines urban with rural aspects, and is close to the more populated areas of Burymarker, Boltonmarker, Burnleymarker and Manchestermarker.

In the 2001 census the population of Rossendale was 65,652( Government census records),spread between the larger towns of Bacupmarker, Rawtenstallmarker and Haslingdenmarker; the villages of Whitworthmarker, Waterfootmarker, Helmshoremarker, Crawshawboothmarker and Edenfieldmarker, as well as Chattertonmarker, Cloughfold, Cowpemarker, Irwell Valemarker, Loveclough, Lumb, Newchurchmarker, Rockcliffe, Shawforthmarker, Stacksteads, Stubbinsmarker, Weirmarker and Britanniamarker.

The district was formed on April 1, 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, from the municipal boroughs of Bacup, Haslingden, Rawtenstall, part of Ramsbottom Urban Districtmarker and Whitworth Urban District.

Rossendale is twinned with the German town of Bocholtmarker, located close to the Netherlands border.


The borough is linked by the motorway network to Manchester, Burnley and Blackburnmarker via the A56/M65 and M66 motorways. Bordering Greater Manchestermarker southwards, it is 17.4 miles to Deansgatemarker (City Centre) via the Edenfield by-pass and M66, about 30 minutes in a car. However it can take up to an hour in busy periods. Alternatively the A56 route can be taken via Edenfield, Walmersley, Bury centre, Whitefield, Prestwich and Broughton.

There was once a rail link south to Manchester via Bury, but this was closed in 1966 as part of cuts following the Beeching Report. Part of the old railway reopened in 1991 as the East Lancashire Railwaymarker operating a service from Rawtenstall to Bury via Ramsbottom and Summerseatmarker, and manned by volunteers. In September 2003 an eastbound extension from Bury to Heywoodmarker was opened. The line is now just over 12 miles long and is open every weekend of the year. There are aspirations to redevelop this line as a link to Manchester providing a commuter service.

The area is well served by public transport, with bus services provided mainly by Rossendale Transport and Burnley & Pendle as well as Northern Blue. Transport timetables can be found on the Lancashire County Council website.

History and industry

Rossendale is part of the Forest of Rossendale, which consists of the steep-sided valleys of the River Irwell and its tributaries, which flow from the Pennines southwards to Manchester and cut through the moorland which is characteristic of the area. It was given the designation of "forest" in medieval times denoting a hunting reserve.

The larger settlements grew into market towns, typically through the late Middle Ages. Farming and a cottage woollen industry developed during the reign of Henry VIII, but Rossendale's population only really expanded during the period of the Industrial Revolution. The population was 16,033 in 1801; in 1901 it had grown to 89,540 (relevant censuses). Its wet and damp climate are ideally suited to the development of watermills, and later to the mechanisation of the wool and cotton spinning and weaving industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the middle of the 19th Century a felt industry developed, and from this the manufacturing of slippers so that footwear also became a major employer in the area.

The area became one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution, and was known as 'The Golden Valley'. There was great hardship among working people during this time, but many fortunes were made among the mill-owning classes. There was large-scale immigration from Irelandmarker to find work building the railways and in the mills, which led to several instances of serious civil disturbances between the two communities. Michael Davitt, the Irish republican leader was among these immigrants, settling in Haslingden, where he received his education after losing an arm at the age of 11 in a mill accident.

The area is also notable for its quarrying, and Rossendale Flagstone was used widely throughout the country in the 19th century. The flagstones in Trafalgar Squaremarker in Londonmarker were quarried in Rossendale. Upland farming is still carried out, largely of sheep but also of cattle. The history of Rossendale is well documented, largely through the efforts of the historian Chris Aspin, a specialist on the textile industry, and Derek Pilkington, whose efforts led to the preservation of Higher Mill in Helmshore, now Helmshore Mills Textile Museum.

The Whitworth Doctors were local surgeons and bone setters whose reputation spread far and wide, so that they treated patients from throughout the country, including Princess Elisabeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1819 William Hewitt described them as "the most remarkable men of their class that ever appeared in England".

With the steady decline of the cotton industry Rossendale suffered from serious economic decline which has only recently halted, and the area still has pockets of poverty. However, the opening of fast road connections with Manchester, allied to the attractiveness of the local countryside has meant that Rossendale has developed a sizeable commuter population. In its wake this is bringing some signs of economic revival, and Rawtenstall in particular now houses a number of shops that sell niche fashion and luxury consumer goods alongside Asda and Tescomarker superstores. This, coupled with redevelopment plans to regenerate the Valley Precinct and bus depot (both in Rawtenstall), are intended to attract more businesses and visitors into Rossendale.

R.S. Ireland (The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co.) is based near Waterfoot; a family run business of specialist Black Pudding Makers, using only traditional methods and with a recipe dating back to 1879. Rawtenstall has Fitzpatricks Herbal Health, this is the last remaining functioning temperance bar in England, that makes and sells its own non-alcoholic drinks, such as sarsaparilla, black beers, and blood tonic.

Talks of turning the current railway into a commercial commuter line would be an obvious advantage to the area, and the idea of applying for the Metrolink system to be extended to Rossendale are probably a long way off. Existing plans to extend to Rochdale, Oldham, Tameside and Manchester Airport have been put on hold, estimated to cost around £900 million. Documented by the BBC here.


The name Rossendale first appeared in 1292. A record of the name as Rocendal (1242) suggests Celtic ros "moor, heath", with Old Norse dalr "dale, valley", hence moor valley i.e. the valley of the River Irwell.

The Arts in Rossendale

Waughs Well

Rossendale is the home to a large community of artists with several painters' studios, many of which are centred on the area around Waterfoot. A theatre and arts centre known as 'The Boo' is the home of the international touring Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company who specialise in visual theatre, often using distinctive masks. The painters and other artists who make up the major studios within the Valley - Globe Arts, Prospect Studio, Valley Artists, the Slipper Studio - along with the Boo, and the See Gallery in Crawshawbooth, now work together to open their studios and premises each year at the Reveal Open Studios weekend.

The Littoral Arts Trust, dedicated to arts, social and environmental research is based in the Rossendale Valley. The first part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail runs from Deerplay, above Bacup, to Stubbins. The actress Jane Horrocks was born in Rawtenstall, Rossendale, and the composer Alan Rawsthorne was born in Haslingden. Betty Jackson, the fashion designer, is a native of Bacup.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century the Larks of Dean were an unusual group of working-class musicians whose music-making at the Baptist Chapel in Goodshaw Fold became an important local feature. There is also a brass band tradition as well as an amateur theatre scene. There was once over 40 bands in and around Rossendale, including the Irwell Springs Band whose fame was at a peak at the turn of the nineteenth century. There are currently the Haslingden and Helmshore Band, Goodshaw Band, Stacksteads Band, Water Band, 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band, Whitworth Vale & Healey Band, Whitworth Youth Band an the Whitworth Veterans Band.
Haslingden Halo

There has been a long tradition of dialect poetry and writing in Rossendale. Local poets have included Andrew Houston (The Rossendale Bard), Walter Hargreaves (Shepster) and Clifford Heyworth (Bill o' Bows). Waugh's Well, above Edenfield and Cowpemarker, marks the spot where Edwin Waugh wrote many of his poems, and is a favourite spot for walkers - a popular activity in Rossendale that does not appear to be in decline.

The Halo is an artwork in the form of an 18m-diameter steel lattice structure supported on a tripod overlooking Haslingden in Rossendale, positioned to be clearly visible from the M66 and A56 approach to Lancashire. It is lit after dark using low-energy LEDs powered by an adjacent wind turbine. It is the fourth Panopticon in Lancashire. It, and the adjacent landscaped area at Top o'Slate, was opened to the public in September 2007, and was designed by John Kennedy of LandLab.

Sports and entertainment

Lee Quarry now contains a purpose-built mountain bike trail.
Three Rossendale towns have cricket clubs in the Lancashire League - Bacup, Haslingden, and Rawtenstall. The overseas professionals who are associated with the League have therefore often lived in the Rossendale Valley. For example, Everton Weekes was long associated with Bacup; Clive Lloyd with Haslingden.

The popular comedy series, The League of Gentlemen is apparently based upon Rossendale (and perhaps Bacup in particular), playing upon stereotypes and exaggerations of the area. Subsequently, the producers filmed in various northern towns, one of which was Bacup itself, which Jeremy Dyson (writer) and Steve Pemberton (actor) proclaimed, "Bacup was the furthest we went into Lancashire. Bacup was our hot favourite, but it was too frightening - when we arrived there was this cartoon drunk with a bottle shaking his fist at us. Bacup in real life was worse than Royston Vasey".

Various towns within the Rossendale valley were used for filming scenes of the BBC TV series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates during the 1990s.

During Autumn 2008 areas around Rossendale were used in the filming of the BBC TV series Survivors including the Airtours site and other sites in Helmshoremarker and Bank St, in Rawtenstallmarker.

The area has a sizeable ski slope, appropriately named Ski Rossendale, which attracts many visitors. The slope has spawned and aided the Brass brothers, Steve Bailey and Danny Wheeler; and more recently Johnny Greenwood, Colum Mytton and Molly Percival to fame in the snowboarding world.

Rossendale also hosts the Rossendale Motorbike Show which brings in motorcycle enthusiasts from across the country.

Based in Nelson, the Rossendale Model Stock Car Club races scalextric-like 1/32 scale model stock cars.


  1. A Rossendale Anthology; Ronald Digby; Forest Press, Bacup 1969
  2. Lancashire - The First Industrial Society; Chris Aspin; Carnegie 1995; ISBN 1-85936-016-5
  3. Building Blocks; D. Revell and A. Baldwin; 1985; ISBN 0-947738-13-4
  4. Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names; A.D. Mills; OUP 1991; ISBN 0-19-852758-6.
  5. The League Of Gentleman Blog;

Notable residents

External links

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