Whitworth, Lancashire

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View over Whitworth to Brown Wardle Hill.jpg
A view over Whitworth, to Brown Wardle Hill
Whitworth is located in the Borough of Rossendale
Shown within Rossendale
Whitworth is located in Lancashire
Location within Lancashire
Population7,500 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceSD882185
Civil parish
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtOL12
Dialling code01706
AmbulanceNorth West
UK Parliament
List of places
53°39′47″N 2°10′37″W / 53.663°N 2.177°W / 53.663; -2.177Coordinates: 53°39′47″N 2°10′37″W / 53.663°N 2.177°W / 53.663; -2.177

Whitworth (/ˈwɪtɜːrθ/ WIT-əth) is a town and civil parish in Rossendale, Lancashire, England, amongst the foothills of the Pennines between Bacup, to the north, and Rochdale, to the south. It had a population of 7,500 at the 2011 Census.[2]

Whitworth spans the Whitworth Valley, a 7 square miles (18.1 km2) area consisting of Healey, Broadley, Whitworth, Facit and Shawforth, linked by the A671 road.[3] Several smaller hamlets are now part of Whitworth, such as Cowm Top, which was removed to make way for Cowm Reservoir.[4]

Whitworth is twinned with Kandel, Germany.[5]


Early history[edit]

The early history of Whitworth is unclear; exact dates are difficult to pin down. At the very earliest period, Whitworth was at the edge of the famed and extensive Forest of Rossendale, which covered 22,000 acres (8,900 ha) and reached a point somewhere near Bacup. Flint arrows, stone hammers and spearheads found in the area point to the existence of Mesolithic man who roamed the bleak open moors.[6] Whitworth has a substantial history, notably the Whitworth Doctors who occupied Whitworth House, a property still in existence in Whitworth Square.[7]

In those early years, Whitworth came within the ancient parish of Rochdale which, although vast, was itself a part of the hundred of Salford, one of the main divisions into which the historic county boundaries of Lancashire were divided during Norman times. The Abbot of Whalley Abbey held much of the land in this area. Saxton's Map of Lancashire of 1577 does mark Whitworth, setting it between neat pyramid-like hills on either hand.[8]


The 16th century saw the beginnings of sheep farming, the growth of weaving and eventually the first industry in the area, with coal mining being recorded in the 17th century[6] Industrialisation, however, remained a "household" affair through the 18th century and the settlements of Whitworth, Facit and Shawforth remained villages. Impetus was given to the development of the area through the construction, during the middle of the century, of a turnpike road through the valley.[3] It ran from Manchester via Rochdale and Whitworth to Bacup and then on to Burnley, Colne and Skipton.[9] It was one of the few such roads in East Lancashire and provided a ready means of conveying local goods to Manchester and Yorkshire. The road was of vital importance in Whitworth's industrial expansion and with it, the settlements in the township thus began to grow. By the 19th century, quarrying and coal mining were the chief industries although the manufacture of yarn remained important.[10]

Towards the end of the 19th century a great deal of development was visible including the opening in 1881 of a rail link between Bacup and Rochdale. Passenger services on the railway stopped in 1947.[11] Two reservoirs, at Cowm and Spring Mill, were completed in 1877 and 1887 to augment Rochdale's water supplies.[4] In 1910, a tram service was introduced by Rochdale Corporation, first to Whitworth and later extended to Bacup. Buses replaced these in 1932.[12] The population of Whitworth reached its peak of 9,574 in 1901 following which the recession in industry in the 1930s and the effects of the Second World War saw it decline. The first post war census in 1951 declared a population of 7,442 which declined further to 7,031 by 1961. Since then, however, the figure has risen to its present total of around 7,500.[13]


  Whitworth parish shown within Rossendale

It is part of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, with Jake Berry having been the Member of Parliament since 2010.[14]

Local government services in Whitworth are provided by three local authorities; Lancashire County Council, Rossendale Borough Council and Whitworth Town Council.[15]

Whitworth Town Council was formed in 1974 following the Local Government Act 1972, as part of the terms of successor parishes. Prior to this date, Whitworth formed the Whitworth Urban District which was the administrative unit of the valley but was abolished following the reorganisation.

The history of local government in Whitworth began in 1874. The latter end of that century, as has previously been mentioned, saw a great deal of local development. As a result, a local board was set up in 1874 to administer Whitworth. Further independence arrived towards the end of the century with the creation of the Parish of Whitworth, one of nineteen new parishes carved out of the original vast Rochdale Parish. Complete independence came in June 1894 when an urban district council replaced the Local Board. The first meeting was held on 3 January 1895 and the first chairman was William Ernest Whitworth. With this, Whitworth had become ecclesiastically and administratively autonomous from its neighbour. However, in 1974 when Whitworth Urban District was abolished and Whitworth was absorbed into the newly created Rossendale Borough.[16]

The town council consists of twelve elected members and a part-time town clerk. Its mission statement is "To improve the quality of life for the community of Whitworth". The town council acts as a pressure group upholding the rights and values of Whitworth, a sounding board for local opinion and a centre for promoting the town's historical, cultural and social identity.[15]


Whitworth's current mayor is Councillor Madeline De Souza and the current deputy mayor is Councillor Lynda Barnes.[17] They lead a twelve strong council made of six councillors representing two wards. Facit & Shawforth to the north of the town, and Healey & Whitworth to the south.[18]

Ward Councillor Party
Facit & Shawforth Tom Aldred Labour[18]
Facit & Shawforth Rachael Barker Labour[18]
Facit & Shawforth Lynda Barnes Conservative[18]
Facit & Shawforth Jim Mellor Conservative[18]
Facit & Shawforth Donna Nutt Community First[18]
Facit & Shawforth Janet Whitehead Independent[18]
Healey & Whitworth William Calderbank Community First[18]
Healey & Whitworth David Chorlton Independent[18]
Healey & Whitworth Mary Hughes Community First[18]
Healey & Whitworth Maureen Jones Community First[18]
Healey & Whitworth Alan Neal Community First[18]
Healey & Whitworth Dayne Powell Community First[18]

The town is also served by 4 councillors on Rossendale Borough Council, 2 for Facit & Shawforth, and 2 for Healey & Whitworth.

Ward Councillor Party
Facit & Shawforth Tom Aldred Labour
Facit & Shawforth Lynda Barnes Conservative
Healey & Whitworth Alan Neal Community First
Healey & Whitworth Dayne Powell Community First


River Spodden running through Healey Dell.

Situated between the towns of Bacup to the north and Rochdale to the south, the town is built around the Whitworth Valley in the Pennines.

In April 1976, an area in and surrounding Healey Dell, at the south end of the valley became legally designated as a statutory local nature reserve. A prominent feature of Healey Dell is the railway viaduct which stands 150 feet above the River Spodden, which rises in the Lancashire Pennine hills above Whitworth and proceeds south through Healey Dell and on to Rochdale, where it merges with the River Roch.[19]

Brown Wardle is a hill between Whitworth and the village of Wardle The summit is on the border of Greater Manchester and Lancashire and stands 1,312 ft (400m) above sea level. The hill is part of the South Pennines, lying within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire.[20]

Whitworth experiences a temperate maritime climate, like much of the British Isles, with relatively cool summers and mild winters. There is regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year.

Communal facilities[edit]

The facilities available in Whitworth for the pursuit of sports, although limited, are varied, and in some instances unique. Chief among these is water sports. Whitworth Waterski and Recreation Centre[21] based at Cowm Reservoir provides integrated facilities for both the able bodied and the disabled.

It specialises in providing for the latter but facilities for all include water skiing, inflatables and banana rides. Whitworth Leisure Centre in John Street was opened in June 2003 thanks largely to the efforts of the Community Leisure Association of Whitworth (CLAW). The centre, which replaced the defunct Whitworth Swimming Pool, caters for a variety of activities including swimming in the refurbished pool. The location of Whitworth close to high moorland, and Brown Wardle Hill in particular, makes it an ideal venue for hang gliding while the rugged quarry areas make for interesting motor sports.

More usual sporting activities are also catered for including golf at Lobden Golf Club,[22] crown green bowls at Festival Park Bowling Club and fishing care of Whitworth Angling Club.

Construction of a new civic hall on Market Street in Whitworth began in early 2006 after the previous hall was destroyed by an electrical fire on 6 December 2003.[23] The new hall is called "The Riverside" and is run by the Community Leisure Association of Whitworth (CLAW). It was officially opened at 2.00pm on Saturday, 28 October 2006.

A number of football clubs exist in the area, the most senior of which is the Whitworth Valley Football Club.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official website". Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  2. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b Robertson, William (1897). Rochdale and The Vale of Whitworth. Kelsall. pp. 92–93. ISBN 094657121X.
  4. ^ a b "Rochdale". abandonedcommunities.co.uk.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 July 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b "Introduction to the Archaeology and Early History of Whitworth". 11 September 2009.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "saxton_lancs_1579". freepages.rootsweb.com.
  9. ^ "12 Market Street - Rochdale ENG - MapQuest". mapquest.com.
  11. ^ Suggit, Gordon (2003). Lost Railways of Lancashire. Countryside Books. ISBN 1853068012.
  12. ^ "Rochdale Corporation Transport: 1902-1969". petergould.co.uk.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Councillor Madeline De Souza new Mayor of Whitworth". rochdaleonline.co.uk.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m http://www.whitworth.gov.uk/councillors[bare URL]
  19. ^ "Railways and Viaduct Healey Dell". Archived from the original on 14 November 2007.
  20. ^ "Mountain Page". hill-bagging.co.uk.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Lobden Golf Club". lobdengolfclub.co.uk.
  23. ^ "Centre destroyed by fire". 6 December 2003 – via news.bbc.co.uk.

External links[edit]