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Todmorden is a market town and civil parish, within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdalemarker, in West Yorkshire, England. It forms part of the Upper Calder Valleymarker and has a total population of 14,941.

Todmorden town centre occupies the confluence of three steep sided valleys in the Pennines. The valleys constrict the shape of the town. Todmorden is surrounded by moorlands with occasional outcrops of gritstone sandblasted by winds.

The historic county boundary between Yorkshiremarker and Lancashiremarker was marked by the River Calder and its tributary, the Walsden Water, which runs through the centre of the town. The historic border remains but the administrative border was altered by the Local Government Act 1888, whereby today all of Todmorden lies within West Yorkshire. The town is served by Todmorden railway stationmarker and Walsden railway stationmarker.

The town's name is subject to a variety of pronunciations. The Longman's Pronunciation Dictionary lists as the most common, and as a common alternative. Locally, some may also use a rhotic pronunciation, . is the traditional dialectal pronunciation. , although to most people living in the town, the place is just known as 'Tod'.



The name Todmorden first appears in 1641. The town had earlier been called Tottemerden, Totmardene, Totmereden or Totmerden. The generally accepted meaning of the name is Totta's boundary-valley, probably a reference to the valley running north-west from the town. Alternative suggestions have been proposed, such as that the name derives from two words for death: tod and mor (as in mort), meaning "death-death-wood" (Birch, R., see below), or that the name meant "marshy home of the fox", from the Old English.

Early history

Todmorden c.1870
The earliest written record of the area is in the Domesday Book (1086). Settlement in Medieval Todmorden was dispersed. Most people living in scattered farms or in isolated hilltop agricultural settlements. Packhorse trails were marked by ancient stones of which many still survive.

For hundreds of years streams from the surrounding hills provided water for corn and fulling mills. Todmorden grew to relative prosperity by combining farming with the production of woollen textiles. Some Yeomen clothiers were able to build fine houses, a few of which still exist today. Increasingly, though, the area turned to cotton. The proximity of Manchester, as a source of material and trade was undoubtedly a strong factor. Another was that the strong Pennine streams and rivers were able to power the machine looms. Improvements in textile machinery (by Kay, Hargreaves and Arkwright), along with the development of turnpike roads (1751–1781) helped to develop the new cotton industry and increase the local population.

19th century

In 1801 the majority of people still lived in the uplands, Todmorden itself could be considered as a mere village. During the years 1800–1845 great changes took place in the communications and transport of the town which were to have a crucial effect on promoting industrial growth. These included the building of: (1) better roads; (2) the Rochdale Canalmarker (1804); and (3) the main line of the Manchester and Leeds Railway (1841), which became the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1847. This railway line incorporated the (then) longest tunnel in the world, the 2,885 yard Summit Tunnelmarker. A second railway, from Todmorden to Burnley, opened as a single line in 1849, being doubled to meet demand in 1860. A short connecting line, from Stansfield Hall to Hall Royd, completed the "Todmorden Triangle" in 1862, thus enabling trains to travel in all three directions (Manchester, Leeds and Burnley) without reversing.

The Industrial Revolution caused a concentration of industry and settlement along the valley floor and a switch from woollens to cotton. One family in the area was particularly influential on the town; the Fielden family. They created a "dynasty" that changed the town forever by establishing several large mills, putting up assorted impressive buildings and bringing about social and educational change.

A double murder took place at Christ Church, Todmorden on 2 March 1868. The victims' graves lie in the churchyard. Miles Weatherhill was forbidden from seeing his housemaid sweetheart, Sarah Bell, by the Reverend Anthony John Plow. Weatherhill armed himself with four pistols and an axe and took revenge first on the vicar and then on Jane Smith, another maid who had informed Reverend Plow of the secret meetings. He also seriously injured the vicar’s wife. On 4 April 1868 Weatherhill became the last person to be publicly hanged in Manchestermarker.

20th century

Throughout the first decade of the 20th century, the population of the Borough of Todmorden remained constant. The ten-yearly UK census returns show figures of 25,418 in 1901 and 25,404 in 1911. Like the rest of the Upper Calder Valleymarker, Todmorden's economy experienced a slow decline from around the end of the First World War onwards, accelerating after the Second World War until around the late 1970s. During this period there was a painful restructuring of the local economy with the closure of mills and the demise of heavy industry.

On 1 January 1907, Todmorden Corporation became only the second municipality in the British Isles to operate a motor bus service. By the end of that year, the fleet had expanded to five double-deck vehicles: two by Critchley-Norris, two by Lancashire Steam (predecessor of Leyland Motors) and one by Ryknield. In 1931, the service became jointly operated by the Corporation and the LMS railway under the name "Todmorden Joint Omnibus Committee". At its maximum size in the 1940s and 1950s, the undertaking operated 40 vehicles over 50 route miles through the rugged South Pennine terrain.

Until 1938, the town was served by no fewer than six railway stations: Todmorden, Stansfield Hall, Cornholme, Portsmouth, Walsden and Eastwood. With the exception of Todmorden station, all six closed during the middle third of the 20th century, though Walsden station reopened on 10 September 1990 on a site a few yards north of the original 1845 station. In December 1984 a goods train carrying petrol derailed in the Summit Tunnelmarker between Todmorden and Littleboroughmarker causing what is still considered as one of the biggest underground fires in transport history.

Harold Shipman, the G.P. who is believed to have killed over 200 patients in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, claimed some of his victims while working as a doctor in Todmorden, between March 1974 and September 1975.


Todmorden has a complex geo-administrative history. It lies along the historic county boundary of Yorkshiremarker and Lancashiremarker. Todmorden is in the Oldham postcode areamarker and the telephone code (01706) is that of Rochdalemarker (both in Greater Manchestermarker).

Until the boundary reformation by the Local Government Act 1888, the Lancashire-Yorkshire boundary ran through the centre of Todmorden, following the River Calder to the North-West and the Walsden Water for less than a mile to the South before turning South-Eastwards across Langfield Common. The Town Hall, which was presented to Todmorden by the Fielden family and opened in 1875, straddles the Walsden Water; thus, from 1875 to 1887 it was possible to dance in the Town Hall ballroom, forward and back, across two counties of England.

Following the Local Government Act 1894, the Todmorden Local Board became an Urban District Council, comprising the wards of Todmorden, Walsden, Langfield and Stansfield. At the same time, Todmorden Rural District Council, comprising the parishes of Blackshaw, Erringden, Heptonstall and Wadsworth, came into being. Two years later, on 2 June 1896, the town was granted a Charter of Incorporation and the area covered by the Urban District Council became a Municipal Borough. The number of wards was increased from four to six: Todmorden, Central, Walsden, Langfield, Stansfield and Cornholme. Todmorden Rural District was later re-named Hepton Rural Districtmarker. Since the local government reforms of 1974, Todmorden has been administered as part of the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdalemarker, within the Metropolitan county of West Yorkshire.

Twin towns

Todmorden's twin towns are:


Other villages and towns in the Upper Calder Valleymarker include Hebden Bridgemarker and Mytholmroydmarker. The territory of the civil parish of Todmorden also extends to cover Eastwoodmarker, Walsdenmarker, Cornholmemarker, Mankinholesmarker, Lumbutts, Portsmouth and Cross Stone.

Medieval Todmorden had consisted of the townships of Langfield and Stansfield in Yorkshire, and Todmorden/Walsden section of the greater township of Hundersfeld in the Ancient Parish of Rochdale, Lancashire. The township of Todmorden and Walsden was created in 1801 by the union of the older villages of Todmorden and Walsden.


Heavy industry is now part of Todmorden's history, not its present. The industrial chimneys have largely gone and the remaining mills have mostly been converted for other purposes. The town's industrial base is much reduced (at one time Todmorden had the largest weaving shed in the world). There has been a great deal of regeneration activity and Todmorden is now increasingly a commuter town for people working in Manchestermarker, Leedsmarker, Bradfordmarker, Huddersfieldmarker and smaller towns. Todmorden also services the local rural area and attracts visitors through its market (indoor and outdoor), various events, heritage and the local Pennine countryside. Changing work patterns may have influenced the fact that the town was the first rural telephone exchange in Britain to be broadband-enabled through public demand. Rising house prices over recent years are a particular problem as there is limited land available in the valley for building affordable housing.


Town hall
Todmorden has many attractions. It lies alongside the Pennine Waymarker, Pennine Bridleway, Mary Towneley Loopmarker and Calderdale Way and is popular for outdoor pursuits such as walking, fell running, mountain biking and bouldering. It has a canal and locks, Sports Centre, skateboard park, tennis courts, golf course, aquarium, cricket ground, large park and woods and many eating places. Its thriving indoor and outdoor markets sell a wide range of locally produced food. The Hippodrome Theatre shows films as well as putting on live performances. The town also has its Toy and Model Museum, library, second hand bookshops and a Tourist Information Centre, along with many independent retailers. The visual arts are particularly strong in the town. Annual events include a carnival, agricultural show, beer festival, music festival and the traditional Easter Pace Egg plays.

Todmorden has the look of a Victorian mill town and has some notable buildings including Dobroyd Castle (completed in 1869) owned by Robinwood Activity Centre Ltd. who use the castle and it's grounds as a residential activity centre for school children; the Hippodrome Theatre (Edwardian); an imposing Greek Revival town hall (built 1866 - 1875) that dominates the centre of town; a Grade I listed Unitarian church (built 1865-1869); and the 120 ft Stoodley Pikemarker monument (built 1814 and rebuilt in 1854) atop the hill of the same name.

Dobroyd Castle, Todmorden Town Hall and Todmorden Unitarian church were all built at the behest of John Fielden and his sons and designed by John Gibson, who had been a member of Charles Barry's team at the Houses of Parliamentmarker.

The town hall in Todmorden straddles the Walsden Water, a tributary of the River Calder, and was situated in both Lancashire and Yorkshire until the administrative county boundary was moved on January 1 1888. Designed by John Gibson of Westminster, this imposing building has a northern end which is semi-circular. One interesting external feature of the town hall is the pediment. The fine carved stonework has two central female figures on a pedestal. The left hand one represents Lancashire (cotton spinning and weaving industries) and the right hand one Yorkshire (engineering and agriculture).

Older buildings include two 18th century pubs; Todmorden Old Hall, a Grade II* listed manor house (Elizabethan) in the centre of town and currently in use as a restaurant; and St. Mary’s Church which dates from 1476.


Todmorden has been used as a filming location for the 1980s BBC TV police drama Juliet Bravo, Territorial Army series All Quiet on the Preston Front, parts of The League of Gentlemen, BBC TV mini series Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the award-winning BBC1 series Life on Mars and a film adaptation of the novel My Summer of Love.

Prior to May 2009, the links to Lancashire and the North West were also seen in the media with Todmorden receiving an analogue TV signal from BBC North West. Todmorden and the nearby towns and villages now receive BBC Yorkshire analogue television from Leedsmarker, whilst ITV regionalisation is from Yorkshire Television at Leedsmarker and not Granada Television from Manchestermarker. However, both transmissions are freely available in some areas of Walsden.

Todmorden's local newspaper is the Todmorden News owned by Johnston Press.

Singletrack Magazine, a national mountain biking magazine is based in Todmorden.

Notable people

The town has two Nobel Prize winners: Prof. Sir John Cockcroft (Physics) and Prof. Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson (Chemistry). Despite 24 years' difference in their birth dates, both attended Todmorden Grammar School and both had the same science master.



  1. Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Calderdale Retrieved 2009-09-02
  2. See page 828 of John Well's LPD. Also, see 25th April entry on John C Wells's blog.
  3. See notes for Heptonstall on "Todmorden Fair" pronunciation. Also Peter Wright, A Yorkshireman's Dictionary, page 8
  4. Nicolaisen, Gelling & Richards, The Names of Towns and Cities in Britain, p. 181
  5. Survivor! The Summit Tunnel. Parry, K. ISBN 0 948287 00 4
  6. The Shipman Enquiry. URL accessed September 15 2007
  7. "Roses united": The Times (Letters) August 15, 2009


Further reading

  • Birch, R. A Way of Life, E.J.Morton Publishers, 1972. ISBN 0 901598 58 5
  • Birch, R. Todmorden Album 4, The Woodlands Press, 2006.
  • Cass, E. The Pace-Egg Plays of the Calder Valley, London: FLS Books, 2004.
  • Heywood, M., Heywood, F. and Jennings, B. A History of Todmorden, Smith Settle Ltd, 1996.
  • Holden, J. A Short History of Todmorden, Manchester University Press, 1912.
  • Jennings, B. Pennine Valley: History of Upper Calderdale Dalesman Publishing Co Ltd, 1992.
  • Law, B. The Fieldens of Todmorden: A Nineteenth Century Business Dynasty, Littleborough: George Kelsall, I995.
  • MacDonald, M. The World From Rough Stones, Random House, 1975. (A novel set during the building of the Summit Tunnel).
  • Malcolm, F., and Heywood, F. Cloth Caps and Cricket Crazy, Upper Calder Valley Publications, 2004.
  • Wilkinson, R. Todmorden Buses: A Century of Service, Nostalgia Road Publications, 2006 ISBN 1 903016 68 1

External links

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