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The Town of Rochdale
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Rochdale

A parish comprising the chapelries of Blatchinworth and Todmorden, and the townships of Butterworth, Castleton, Spotland (Further Side), Spotland (Nearer Side), Walsden, Wardleworth, and Wuerdale with Wardle, in the hundred of SALFORD, county palatine of LANCASTER, and the Chapelry of Saddleworth with Quick, in the upper division of the wapentake of AGBRIGG, West riding of the county of YORK, and containing 61,011 inhabitants; the market town of Rochdale being situated partly in the townships of Castleton, Spotland, and Wardleworth, 50 miles (S.E.) from Lancaster, and 198 (N.N.W.) from London.

This place takes its name from the river Roche, on which it is situated, and appears, from the name of a part of the vale below Castle Hill, which is called Killer Dane, or Deyne, to have been celebrated for the slaughter of the Danes, who having, in their predatory incursions, penetrated into this part of the county, met with a signal overthrow.

The castle, from which the township of Castleton has its name, and of which the keep still remains, was one of the twelve Saxon forts which, probably, were destroyed in the frequent conflicts that took place between the Saxons and Danes in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The Roman Watling-street, leading from Mancunium to Cambodanum, traversed this parish; and in the neighbourhood have been found various Roman antiquities, among which were some brass coins of the reign of Claudius, and the right arm of a silver statue of Victory, ten inches in length, and weighing nearly six ounces, having about the wrist a loose armilla, and another united to it above the elbow; attached to the former was a plate of silver, inscribed Victoriae Leg. VI. Vioc. Val. Rufus. V.S.L.M.; and near Rochdale, in 1820, was found a small iron box, containing a rouleau of brass coins of the Lower Empire in good preservation.

Rochdale is not distinguished by any events of historical interest, but owes its importance to the extent of its manufactures, which are comparatively of recent introduction, and to the produce of the mines of coal, and quarries of slate and stone, with which the district abounds.

The town is pleasantly situated in a valley on the banks of the river Roche, and consists of several streets, which, though formerly narrow and inconvenient, have been widened, and in other respects greatly improved, under the provisions of an act obtained in the 50th year of the reign of George III. In 1824, a company was formed for the purpose of widening the principal street, and the road from Yorkshire to Lancashire; in which, and in erecting a market-house and town hall, and other public improvements, they have expended more than £40,000.

The stone bridge of three arches over the river Roche has been widened and greatly improved. Within a few paces to the east of it a handsome iron bridge has been constructed, for the accommodation of foot passengers; and about a quarter of a mile to the west is a stone bridge of one arch, connecting the town meadows with Pinfold, by a new line diverging from the old Bury road.

The houses are chiefly built of brick, but several of the most substantial and respectable in the town and its vicinity are built of the fine freestone from the neighbouring quarries; the town is well paved, lighted with gas by a company established in 1824, whose works were erected at an expense of £12,000, and amply supplied with water brought from small rivulets near Moor-End, into four large reservoirs in Castleton, by a company established under an act of George III.

The environs are pleasant, abounding with fertile vales sheltered by a range of high hills, called Blackstone Edge, and containing many handsome villas, and agreeable walks. From Summer Castle, an ancient mansion, the late residence of Charles Smith, Esq., a celebrated sporting character, an extensive view is obtained of the town, and the surrounding hills and dales.

The public subscription library and news-rooms are well supported; a Horticultural Society has been established, and is extensively patronized; there are several billiard-rooms; and a small neat theatre is occasionally opened; concerts take place in the public assembly-rooms, and races are held annually during the first week in July, which are well attended. A cricket club has been recently established, and there are various other sources of recreation.

The principal branches of manufacture are those of baize, flannel, coating, herseys, and woollen broad cloth; calicoes and strong cotton goods are made to a very considerable extent, and, within the also last few years, the spinning of cotton has been introduced with success, and is making rapid progress; the making of hats also constitutes an important part of the trade of this place. The factories are very extensive, and are increasing in number, and the town is gradually assuming a due share of importance as regards others in the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Since the American Tariff took place, the flannel trade has considerably declined, but the other branches of manufacture are prosperous: the woollen trade employs twelve thousand persons, and produces about eight thousand pieces weekly; and the cotton trade furnishes employment to about six thousand persons.

The number of steam-engines in the town and neighbourhood amounts to fifty-seven, being equal in power to nine hundred and forty-eight horses.

The Rochdale canal, communicating with the Duke of Bridgewater’s canal at Manchester, and the Aire and Calder canal, afford a facility of intercourse with the ports of Liverpool and Hull, and with the whole line of inland navigation: convenient quays and wharfs, for the loading and unloading of goods, have been constructed on the banks of the canal, and the basin is very capacious.

The market days are Monday and Saturday, the former for corn, wool, and manufactured articles of flannel; the latter for provisions of all kinds. The fairs are, May 14th, Whit-Tuesday, and November 7th, for horses, cattle, and pedlary; there is also a fair, or rather a great mart, for wares, on the first Monday in every month, which is generally well attended.

The parish is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, of whom some reside near the town; and the lord of the manor holds a court leet twice a year, and a court baron every third week, at which latter debts under 40s. are recoverable.

The town hall is a neat and substantial building of brick, and contains an elegant saloon, in which the merchants and traders meet for the transaction of business, and for reading the news-papers. The gaol for the town, called the New Bailey, is a convenient building, adjoining the workhouse.

The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester, rated in the King’s books at £11.4.9-1/2., and in the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The church, dedicated to St. Chad, is a spacious and venerable structure, in the early style of English architecture, with a square embattled tower, crowned with pinnacles; the interior has some few remains of Norman character, and contains many ancient monuments, and an antique font; the churchyard is extensive, and a new cemetery has been added to it, which is peculiar for the neatness of its arrangement. The building stands on a lofty eminence, to which there is an ascent of one hundred and twenty-four steps from the lower part of the town.

St. Mary’s chapel, a neat brick building, was erected in 1744, as a chapel of ease to the vicarage.

The chapel dedicated to St. James, a handsome edifice of stone, in the later style of English architecture, with a square embattled tower, was erected in 1820: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar.

There are several places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians, and a Roman Catholic chapel.

The free grammar school was founded, in 1565, by Archbishop parker, and the school premises were erected on a piece of ground given for that purpose, by the Rev. Richard Midgley, then vicar of the parish; the original endowment of £17 per annum for the master, and £2 for the usher, payable out of the archbishop’s tithes, has been augmented by subsequent benefactions: the institution is open to all boys of the parish for gratuitous instruction, who pay £6.6. per annum to the master for the other branches of their education.

The school has an interest, in turn with the schools of Middleton, in this county, and of Steeple-Aston, in the county of Oxford, in two scholarships founded at Brasenose College, Oxford, by Dr. Radcliffe, Principal of that college.

The Moss school, so called from its situation on Vicar’s Moss was founded, in 1769, by Mrs. Jane Hardman, who endowed it with two small estates, for the instructing of thirty boys and girls: the master’s salary, originally £40, has, from the improvement in the funds, been increased to £100, and forty boys and twenty girls are instructed in reading, writing, and accounts; the latter are also taught sewing and knitting.

A National school was erected in and is supported by subscription; there are nearly two hundred children instructed in this establishment, and there are Sunday schools in connection with the established church and the dissenting congregations, in which more than three thousand children receive instruction.

Numerous bequests have been made for the relief of the poor.

About a mile and a half from the town, on the banks of the river Roach, is a romantic spot, called “Tyrone’s bed,” where, according to generally received tradition, the Earl of Tyrone was concealed, when he fled from Ireland, in 1603, after his unsuccessful efforts to release his countrymen from the English yoke: the whole transaction with a sketch of his life, has been interestingly narrated by Mr. Roby, of this town, in his “Traditions of Lancashire.”

The eccentric Mr. John Collier, a schoolmaster, painter, poet, and caricaturist, better known by the appellation of Tim Bobbin, resided here for many years.

Rochdale gives the tile of baron to the family of Byron.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis. Vol. III, London, 1831, pages 617-618.

Entered here 3 February 2013 by K. Knott

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