Littleborough: A Hidden jewel of the South Pennines
Littleborough, a picturesque town in the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England, holds a rich history and a unique charm. Situated in the upper Roch Valley, near the foothills of the South Pennines, this town boasts a scenic location just 3 miles northeast of Rochdale and 13 miles northeast of Manchester. Surrounded by the rural uplands of Blackstone Edge and with Milnrow and the M62 motorway to the south, Littleborough offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and convenient connectivity.
History of Littleborough:
With a population of 13,807 as of 2001, Littleborough and its suburbs of Calderbrook, Shore, and Smithy Bridge have long been a vibrant community within the boundaries of the historic county of Lancashire. Evidence of Neolithic, Celtic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon activity has been unearthed in the area, revealing its long-standing significance. In the Middle Ages, Littleborough was a hamlet in the manor of Hundersfield, situated within the parish of Rochdale and Hundred of Salford. The town flourished as a key junction for two ancient routes over the Pennines, possibly including a Roman road, which intersected at the River Roch.
By the year 1472, Littleborough had evolved into a bustling settlement with a chapel, cottages, and an inn. Its inhabitants were primarily farmers who engaged in wool weaving, driven by the merchants travelling between the markets of Rochdale and Halifax. The introduction of cotton as a base for textile production brought about significant changes to the town. Littleborough experienced an influx of families, particularly from the neighbouring West Riding of Yorkshire, seeking opportunities in the burgeoning industry. As a result, affluent homes and estates began to emerge on the fringes of Littleborough.
The late 18th century witnessed a pivotal moment in Littleborough’s history, when the low-altitude Summit Gap between Littleborough and Walsden became the chosen route for the Rochdale Canal and the Manchester to Leeds railway. This decision led to the construction of Hollingworth Lake, a feeder reservoir designed to regulate the canal’s waters. The presence of these critical infrastructures attracted industrialists who transformed Littleborough’s traditional hand loom cloth workshops into mechanized textile mills. The area’s abundant natural resources, combined with modern infrastructure, led to the growth of coal mining, engineering ventures, and large-scale textile production. Littleborough swiftly evolved into a thriving mill town, witnessing significant population growth and urbanization.
While the influx of cheaper foreign goods during the mid-20th century led to the gradual decline of Littleborough’s industries, the town’s diverse commercial landscape helped it weather the economic depression experienced elsewhere in North West England. In 1974, Littleborough became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, retaining its unique identity as a commuter town with a strong sense of community. The Littleborough Civic Trust plays a vital role in preserving and enhancing the town’s historic character, while various societies make use of the surrounding countryside for recreational activities such as water-skiing, horse riding, and more.
One of Littleborough’s notable features is its stone-built town centre, which has been designated as a Conservation Area due to its exceptional architectural qualities. Walking through the streets, one can’t help but appreciate the town’s heritage and the efforts taken to maintain its distinct character. The blend of old and new creates a captivating ambiance that appeals to residents and visitors alike.
Notable folk from Littleborough:
Littleborough’s charm extends beyond its physical boundaries. The town has been home to several noteworthy individuals who have made their mark in various fields.
Agyness Deyn, a prominent fashion model, was born in Littleborough. Born Laura Michelle Hollins; 16 February 1983) she is best known for her successful modelling career in the 2000s, and has been called one of the decade’s top models. Since her retirement from modelling in the 2010s, she has pursued acting and design, among other ventures.
Elizabeth Marguerita Mary Kershaw (born 30 July 1958) is an English radio broadcaster. She is the second-longest serving female national radio DJ in the UK (after Annie Nightingale), celebrating 30 years on national BBC Radio in 2017.
- Andrew J. G. Kershaw (born 9 November 1959) is a broadcaster and disc jockey, predominantly on radio, and known for his interest in world music. Kershaw’s shows feature a mix of country blues, reggae folk music, African music, spoken word performances and a wide variety of other music from around the world.
Keith Parry (died 2005) was a local author with several published works such as Trans-Pennine Heritage and a broadcaster with Greater Manchester Radio. He also played a vital role in the successful battle to re-open Rochdale Canal and was instrumental in the formation of the Littleborough Civic Trust.
Listed buildings of note in Littleborough:
Stubley Old Hall:
Dearnley Old Hall:
Higher Windy Bank Farmhouse and Barn:
Dating back to the late 17th century, the farmhouse was modified in the 18th century, with the barn added to the right in the 19th century. The house is situated on a projecting plinth, showcasing quoins and a stone-slate roof. With two storeys, two bays, and a right outshut, the house features a central porch, a moulded doorway with an obtuse-angled lintel, and a coped parapet. The windows are mullioned. Inside the barn, you’ll find a round-headed cart entry, a segmental-headed shippon door, as well as other doors and windows. Classified as Grade II. Location: 53.64544°N 2.08430°W