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Haslingden hills.jpg
A view of Haslingden
Haslingden is located in the Borough of Rossendale
Shown within Rossendale
Haslingden is located in Lancashire
Location within Lancashire
Population16,849 (2001 Census)
OS grid referenceSD783232
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBB4
Dialling code01706
AmbulanceNorth West
UK Parliament
List of places
53°42′18″N 2°19′41″W / 53.705°N 2.328°W / 53.705; -2.328Coordinates: 53°42′18″N 2°19′41″W / 53.705°N 2.328°W / 53.705; -2.328

Haslingden /ˈhæzlɪŋdən/ is a town in Rossendale, Lancashire, England. It is 16 miles (26 km) north of Manchester. The name means 'valley of the hazels' or 'valley growing with hazels'.[1] At the time of the 2011 census the town (including Helmshore) had a population of 15,969.[2] The town is surrounded by high moorland; 370 m (1215 ft) to the north; 396 m (1300 ft) Cribden to the east; 418 m (1372 ft) Bull Hill to the south.[3]

Haslingden is the birthplace of the industrialist John Cockerill (1790–1840) and the composer Alan Rawsthorne (1905–1971), and was the home for many years of the Irish Republican leader, Michael Davitt (1846–1906). Haslingden Cricket Club is a member of the Lancashire League.


Arms of the former Haslingden Borough Council

There is some evidence of Bronze Age human presence in the area of Haslingden. Thirteen Stones Hill is 2 km (1.2 mi) west of the town and probably dates from about 3000BC. There is now just one stone visible.[4]

Part of what is now Haslingden, along with the neighbouring towns of Rawtenstall and beyond that Bacup were part of the Forest of Rossendale, part of the Forest of Blackburnshire. The Forest was a hunting park during the late 13th and 14th centuries; 'Forest' referred to it being parkland rather than being heavily wooded, as the forest declined much earlier, during the Neolithic period. The Forest of Rossendale contained eleven vaccaries (cow-pastures) and was poorly populated, with Haslingden being the only town of significance and with a church.[5]

Haslingden appears to have held markets during the sixteenth century, with the first reference in a Court Roll of 1555 where it records a John Radcliffe being fined for being a 'forestaller of the lords market of Haslyngden'.[6] There are later references to markets and fairs in The Shuttleworth Accounts (1582-1621)[6] and the map-maker Richard Blome writing in 1673 describes Haslingden as originally having 'a small Market-town on Wednesdays', and later, at the time of Charles 1st, the market had been moved to Saturday.[7] The market continued to grow and Haslingden was designated a Market Town in 1676. It became a coaching station [8] and a significant industrial borough during the Industrial Revolution. Haslingden benefited in particular with the mechanisation of the wool and cotton spinning and weaving industries from the 18th to the 19th centuries, and the development of watermills, and later steam power. By the final half of the nineteenth century, the diversity and wealth of industry earned the area the name 'The Golden Valley'.[5] In the 20th century the population declined from 19,000 in the 1911 census to 15,000 in the 1971 census. The 2001 census recorded a population of 16,849 living in the town.



Haslingden is notable for its stone quarrying,[9] and Haslingden Flag (a quartz-based sandstone) was distributed throughout the country in the 19th century with the opening up of the rail network. This stone was used in the paving of London, including Trafalgar Square. Flagstone is a type of sedimentary rock, relatively easy to split or quarry in slabs, and hence ideal for paving. Locally it is also used for making fences and roofing. Geologists have found that it has a hardness and silica content not unlike granite, and its presence was the main reason for the growth of quarrying in Rossendale. Haslingden Flag is unique; two other, common types of flagstone ('rough rocks') are found throughout the Pennines, but a third type is found only in the local Haslingden Flags.[10]


Like much of East Lancashire, Haslingden has a long association with the textile industry. From the 16th century, after the old Forest of Rossendale was opened up to settlement, farmers raised sheep on the moorlands and made woollen cloth. Initially this was small-scale and local but towards the end of the 18th century cloth workers came together to work in small groups of houses. At the same time advances in technology meant that the first mills were appearing in the area. Most of these were small, water-powered buildings; and Haslingden, with its elevated situation, was not a natural place for the development of these early mills. Locally they were situated lower down in the river valleys, such as at nearby Helmshore.[11]

The long association with wool meant that Haslingden and the other Rossendale towns had expertise with the processes of cloth production, and so were able to switch easily to cotton weaving. Cotton was better suited than wool to industrialised spinning as its fibres were less likely to break than wool. Cotton cloth manufacture quickly became a highly successful industry, and its development was closely associated with its role in the expansion of the slave trade. African slaves being bartered for cotton goods, and cotton being picked by slaves in the Deep South of the U.S.[12] The growth of mills also had an enormous impact on the landscape, and on the lives of its work force. Cotton weaving in the new factories was largely unregulated, and the workforce kept almost at starvation levels. Hunger drove men and women to fight back, and mobs attacked the power-looms that were seen to be the cause of the decline in status of the workforce. In 1826 almost 3,000 people were reported as 'attacking machinery' in Haslingden. A troop of cavalry was stationed in the vicinity, and ring-leaders were arrested. It was reported from Haslingden in the same year, 1826, that 'a great majority of the unemployed must literally perish from extreme want'. By the 1850 steam power began to supersede water power, and mills grew in size.[13] Grudgingly a minimum wage was introduced, and through the efforts of reformers, the churches and a few enlightened mill-owners, conditions for factory workers slowly improved. Conditions were still harsh, despite the whole Rossendale area being known as the 'Golden Valley'. No longer dependent on the rivers as a source of energy, the mill owners were freed to build elsewhere, and Haslingden began to find that successful mills, such as Hargreaves Street Mill, could be built on its higher land.[13]

The long decline of the cotton industry began in the early years of the 20th century. During the First World War, India and Japan were able to develop their own industries, and after the Second World War, immigration - mainly from Pakistan - were encouraged to help bolster a failing industry. But by the 1950s, mills were closing at an ever-faster rate. The old buildings often re-occupied by small businesses specialising in other occupations.

The Cockerill family[edit]

William Cockerill (1759-1832) and his son John Cockerill (1790-1840), along with other family members, both sons and daughters, are worth a footnote to the industrial history of Haslingden. Both were born in Haslingden, and as a young man William showed great skill as an inventor of machinery. The Slubbing Billy, a roving or slubbing machine, which twists and draws out yarn, is named after him. Slubbing Billy is also the name of a North West Morris Team. Father and son eventually left Haslingden and settled in Belgium, where they built up one of the largest industrial and machinery complexes in mainland Europe. It is said that they instituted the spread of the Industrial Revolution in continental Europe. See John Cockerill (company).

William's beginning are obscure, although it is likely that he worked as a blacksmith in Haslingden before travelling to St. Petersburg, Sweden, and finally to Verviers, near Liège in Belgium. Here he set up spinning and carding machines with his sons Willam, Charles James, and John.[14] John had also been born in Haslingden but moved to Vervier at the age of 12. He was eventually offered a Chateau in Seraing which then became the heart of Belgium's iron, steel and machine-building industries.[15] He is considered to be the founder of Belgian manufacturing and was known as a humanitarian employer.

Immigration and community[edit]

In the 19th century when the cotton industry was thriving, the town became a magnet for immigrants to Britain. In particular the port of Liverpool was a gateway for waves of immigrants, and many of these were attracted by work in the mills. From the late 1840s a large influx of Irish immigrants forced out of Ireland by the Great Famine of 1846–1852, came to Lancashire and some ended up in Haslingden.[16] At almost the same time, as a result of the political instability in Italy, Italians came to Liverpool and Manchester and a few families moved on to Haslingden. Similarly, in the 1930s various eastern European refugees fleeing Nazi persecution settled in the area. Immediately after World War II young women from Germany were brought over to work in the mills, and a few came to Haslingden and stayed.[17]

From 1950 onwards migrants were encouraged to travel from Commonwealth countries to work in the post-war textile industry. Initially this tended to mean young men who travelled from Pakistan, and later Bangladesh, fully expecting to return home after building up their savings. But by the 1970s, many were joined by wives and families and settled permanently in Haslingden. As a result, the town is now home to a substantial and vibrant community of people with a South Asian heritage, mainly Bangladeshi and Pakistani. Many of the Pakistani families have deep ancestry roots from regions like Attock such as Ghorghushti and Mirpur areas of north-west Pakistan while the Bangladeshi community are from Patli Union in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh.[18]

The town now houses two mosques and a considerable number of Asian grocers and other shops. There is also Apna (Rossendale) that provides classes, workshops and a meeting place mainly for South Asian women. It is based at the Dave Pearson Studio, and has a focus on Islamic arts, well-being, health and general education.[19][20]


A civil parish was created in 1866 from the township of Haslingden in the ancient parish of Whalley.[21] A local board was formed for the town in 1875 and the district it governed was extended to cover parts of the townships of Henheads, Higher and Lower Booths in the parish of Whalley, and Musbury and part of Tottington in the ancient parish of Bury.[22] Subsequently, Haslingden was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1891 and in 1894 the civil parish was extended to match the borders of the borough.[21][22] Following the local government reorganisation in 1974 Haslingden became part of the Borough of Rossendale.

In 2005 the Audit Commission rated Rossendale District Council performance as 'Poor', and was listed as the worst performing district council in the country in their Comprehensive Performance Assessment.[23] By 2009 the council was described as 'performing well' by the Audit Commission, rating Rossendale Council as three out of four stars.[24]


St James's Church and the 'Top of the Town'[edit]

Haslingden's Anglican parish church, dedicated to St James the Great, was rebuilt in 1780[3][9] on a site occupied by a church building since at least 1284. Murray's Guide says "it stands well and is plain Georgian, dully Gothicised inside".[25] In 1296 a deed of gift of the Earl of Lincoln to the monks of Stanlaw granted them the parish of Whalley. Haslingden was recorded as being one of Whalley's seven independent chapelries, and was served by two priests.[26] The church is locally known as the 'top church' by reason of its dominating position.

St James's Church, Haslingden

St James's Church now sits well to the north of the town centre, but until the 1930s it was adjacent to the 'Top of the Town' - the area between Town Gate and Church Street, and the old centre of Haslingden. This was an area containing several public house drinking places, the original market, the town stocks, and Marsden Square, where travelling shows pitched their tents. Clearance began in 1932 and the area is now largely housing.[27]

By the west side of the church entrance is a large Plague Stone, with two carved holes. There is some uncertainty about its exact purpose, but most opinion is that such stones were used in times of plague to enable food (or other alms) to be offered to plague victims while avoiding direct contact.[28] A Saxon Cross is mentioned in the Clitheroe court rolls of 1547, and the stone may have been at the base of the cross, so the stone probably dates from the 16th century or earlier.[26]

Other churches[edit]

Beside the Memorial Gardens, the Manchester Road Methodist Church is a classic building with an Italian-inspired interior. Murray's Guide also mentions St Thomas, Helmshore (1851); St Stephen, Grane (1867); St John the Baptist, Stonefold (1885); St Peter, Laneside (1893) and the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (1859) and 'various other nonconformist churches', largely built in the early 19th century.[25]: 146 

St Stephen's, Grane, has a particularly interesting history. The construction of the Ogden Reservoir (which opened in 1912) led to almost total depopulation of the community of Grane. St Stephen's remained in use, with most of the villagers having moved to Haslingden town. In 1925 they decided to move the church stone by stone to a new site, two miles away at Three Lanes End, near Holden Cemetery.[27] The church is now an antiques centre and cafe.

The Public Hall[edit]

The Public Hall was opened in 1868 and built by a private company formed by 'gentlemen representing the working classes and temperance movement'. It was bought by the town council in 1898 but by the 1990s it was largely unused except for occasional entertainments. The hall had been used for 50 or more years by Rossendale Amateur Operatic Society and other local community groups, but it was finally closed by Rossendale Council in 2005. The hall has since been sold by the council to a group representing the Asian heritage community and is in the process of being turned into a mosque.[29]

The hall was once a venue of Winston Churchill during his early political career. Emmeline Pankhurst once addressed the people of Haslingden from the stage and, after the Battle of the Somme in 1916, it was a temporary hospital for the survivors of the Accrington Pals who were sent home for treatment.


The Wesleyan School, formerly on the site of the current health centre, was the site of the first experiment in the world at a standardised intelligence test. It followed from a suggestion by the industrialist and Liberal politician Sir William Mather in 1900, given after a prize-giving to students to members of the Haslingden Technical Instruction Committee. The test was set by Henry Holman, a schools inspector and educationalist, in 1903. It included questions like 'is there a good reason for making a pie crust ornamental instead of plan?'.[30] Mather introduced apprentice schemes at his factories that used testing as part of the selection method. He also introduced a 48-hour working week for employees.[31][32]

Haslingden High School is a specialist arts, maths and computing college. Haslingden Primary School was last inspected by Ofsted on 11 March 2014 and received a grading of 'Good'. [33]


Originally Haslingden Mechanics' Institute and opened in 1860, it became the public library in 1905. A blue plaque commemorates Michael Davitt. The young Davitt migrated to Haslingden with his family in 1840 as a result of the family being evicted from their tenant farm by a British Landlord. He began working in a cotton mill but at the age of 11 his right arm was entangled in a cogwheel and mangled so badly it had to be amputated. When he recovered from his operation a local benefactor, John Dean, helped to give him an education. He also started night classes at the Mechanics' Institute and used its library.[34] Michael Davitt's family home from 1867 to 1870 on Wilkinson Street is now marked by a memorial plaque.[35] Amongst the library's collection is an early photograph (c. 1892) of Thomas Frederick Worrall labelled Tom Worrall, artist, whose watercolours included a depiction of the Old White Horse Inn (long demolished).


Haslingden was once connected to Accrington and Bury by railway (Rush, 1983). The East Lancashire Railway built a station here, which remained open to passengers under British Railways until 7 November 1960 and to goods until 2 November 1964. The withdrawal of the passenger service was therefore not a victim of Dr. Beeching. The Bury – Accrington line itself remained in use until December 1966. Much of the trackbed of the railway is no longer visible, with the A56 by-pass built over it between Grane Road and Blackburn Road, however, the line can still be traced through Helmshore towards Stubbins where several magnificent viaducts still remain. The East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society was originally established at Helmshore Station in the mid 1960s with the aim of reopening the railway line to Stubbins, the project was abandoned with the organisation relocating to Bury in the 1970s and eventually reopening the Rawtenstall to Bury line.[36]

The nearest National Rail station is 4 miles away, in Accrington. A regular service to Manchester has been proposed from Rawtenstall, using the Heritage East Lancashire Railway terminus station.

Other notable places[edit]

The town centre is home to the famous Big Lamp originally erected in 1841 and from where all distances in Haslingden are measured, although the original lamp has been replaced by a replica, the original being lost after being taken to America. Cissy Green's Bakery can be found on Deardengate. People visit from across Lancashire to sample the handmade pies which are still made to the original 1920s recipe. To the north of the town is the Holland's Pies factory, and Winfield's, a large warehouse-style retail development selling footwear and clothing, and promoting itself as a family day out. Haslingden's War Memorial is unusual in that it has no names recorded on it. To the northeast there is a 2 kW digital television transmitter serving a wide area.

Chris Aspin writes of the haunting of Tor View, a house no longer standing that was situated behind the Rose & Crown pub on Manchester Road. Young Emma Walton died in the 1840s after a tragic love affair. This story was reported in 1956 by Joseph Braddock, who claimed to have had first-hand experiences of the ghost, in his book Haunted Houses.[37]

Beauty spots[edit]

Calf Hey Reservoir in Grane Valley
Haslingden Halo

There is an extensive area of moorland to the west of Haslingden. These moors are divided into Oswaldtwistle Moor and Haslingden Moor. The area forms part of the West Pennine Moors. Plans were made in 2007 to build a wind farm consisting of twelve wind turbines on the moors. This attracted both support and opposition, but the plan was approved by councillors in 2010.[38] Further developments have yet to take place, and the plan remains controversial.

The nearby Snighole (eel-hole) in Helmshore is a well-known beauty spot. The Grane Valley including three reservoirs to the west of the town is popular with walkers.

Victoria Park has a bowling green, children's playground, skateboard park and ball court. The top of the park affords views of Musbury Hill.

The Halo[edit]

The Panopticons competition was launched in May 2003 by RIBA Competitions organised by Mid-Pennine Arts. The Halo artwork designed by John Kennedy was selected and opened in 2007 and is sited in the hills above Haslingden as the centrepiece of a reclaimed landscape. It glows at night with an impressive viewpoint.[39]

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Rush, R.W. (1983) The East Lancashire Railway, The Oakwood Press, ISBN 0-85361-295-1
  • Wells, J. and Bentley, E.F. (2000) Bury to Heywood & Rawtenstall, Scenes from the past: 33 – East Lancashire Lines, p. 99–100, Foxline, ISBN 1-870119-56-8
  • Dunleavy, J. Davitt's Haslingden


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names. A.D. Mills, rev.2003
  2. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Haslingden Built-up area sub division (E35001004)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b Murray's Lancashire Architectural Guide/Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh 1955
  4. ^ Hoyle, John R (2014). Megalithis Matters. Matador. pp. 96–99. ISBN 978-1783062942.
  5. ^ a b Rossendale, Benita Moore and Nick Dunnachie, Alan Sutton pub. 1994. ISBN 0-7509-0783-5
  6. ^ a b Tupling, Dr. G.H. (1927). The Economic History of Rossendale. The Chetham Society.
  7. ^ "Townships: Haslingden". British History Online. Manors. Final para. Footnotes 78, 79.CS1 maint: location (link)
  8. ^ "Haslingden". Visit Lancashire. Marketing Lancashire 2020.
  9. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Haslingden" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 50.
  10. ^ "Rock strata, Haslingden Flag and fossils". Valley of Stone. Groundwork Pennine Lancashire.
  11. ^ The Changing Faces of Rossendale - Production Lines. Rossendale Groundwork Trust and Rossendale Borough Council. 1984. ISBN 0 947738 17 7
  12. ^ Harvey, Prof. Mark (4 October 2019). "Slavery, coerced labour, and the development of industrial capitalism in Britain". History Workshop. The History Workshop.
  13. ^ a b Lancashire: The First Industrial Society, Chris Aspin, Carnegie 1995 ISBN 1-85936-016-5
  14. ^ "William Cockerill, British inventor". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  15. ^ "Seraing". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  16. ^ W. J. Lowe, The Irish in Mid-Victorian Lancashire: The Shaping of a Working-Class Community (Peter Lang, 1989).
  17. ^ German Migrants in Post-War Britain: An Enemy Embrace. Dr Inge Weber-Newth, Johannes-Dieter Steinert. Routledge 2006
  18. ^ Horse + Bamboo: Transcriptions from Interviews with first generation immigrants. Heritage Lottery Fund 2015, available at local libraries.
  19. ^ "Rossendale Census Demographics United Kingdom". localstats.co.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  20. ^ "SA Communities – Different Moons". differentmoons.org. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Haslingden CP/CP through time". visionofbritain.org.uk. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  22. ^ a b "The Parish of Whalley: Haslingden", A History of the County of Lancaster, 6, 1911, pp. 427–433
  23. ^ http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Society/documents/2005/09/06/DCPAScoresandAnalysis.pdf[bare URL]
  24. ^ Press, Rossendale Free (11 December 2009). "Three star rating for council". rossendale. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  25. ^ a b Murray's Lancashire Guide. P. Fleetwood-Hesketh. John Murray 1955
  26. ^ a b "Haslingden Parish Church St James the Great". Rossendale: Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society.
  27. ^ a b Aspin and Pilkington (1979). Haslingden. Helmshore Local History Society. pp. 3–7. ISBN 0-906881-00-5.
  28. ^ Mee, Arthur (1936). Lancashire (4th ed.). Hodder and Stoughton. p. 106/7.
  29. ^ Press, Rossendale Free (24 February 2006). "New lease of life for public hall". rossendale. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  30. ^ Aspin, Chris (1988). Surprising Lancashire. Helmshore Local History Society. pp. 35–36.
  31. ^ "Geograph:: Blue Plaque- World's First IQ Test,... © Robert Wade cc-by-sa/2.0". www.geograph.org.uk. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  32. ^ Boschi and Taylor. "The History of Mather & Platt Ltd". The Book of the Jubilee 1958.
  33. ^ http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/2344149/urn/119194.pdf[bare URL]
  34. ^ "History of Michael Davitt | Michael Davitts GAC". Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  35. ^ Michael Davitt's Lancashire Apprenticeship. John Dunleavy. Pub. Galway Archaeological & Historical Society. 2007
  36. ^ The Lost Railways of Lancashire.G. Suggitt ISBN 1-85306-801-2
  37. ^ Aspin, Chris (2016). True Stories of our Local Ghosts. HLHS.
  38. ^ Plans for wind farm on Oswaldtwistle Moor Archived 18 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine The Citizen
  39. ^ "Halo | Mid Pennine Arts". Retrieved 12 September 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aspin, C. (1976) Gone Cricket Mad: The Haslingden Club in the Victorian Era, Helmshore Local History Society, ISBN 0-9500725-8-3
  • (1987) Now & Then: Haslingden and Helmshore, Rossendale: Millgate, ISBN 1-870788-00-1