Townships: Little Bolton

Pages 251-255

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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The principal part of this township, containing the northern half of Bolton-le-Moors, is bounded on the south by the Croal, on the east by Tonge Brook, and on the north by Astley Brook. The township projects north of the last-named brook, including part of Astley Bridge. It has also three detached portions intermingled with Sharpies; one of them adjoins Smithills Park and contains the Thorns, another stretching across from Halliwell on the west to Turton on the east includes the hamlets of Eagley and Horrocks Fold; the third, to the north of this, has a small hamlet called Hampsons. The area of the whole is 1,779 acres. By various modern changes of boundaries this has been reduced to 728 acres, (fn. 1) of which the population in 1901 was 45,333.

The town is of comparatively recent growth, the oldest portion being that opposite the parish church on the north bank of the Croal, and to the east of Bank Street and its continuation, formerly called Manor Street, and now Kay Street. This street turns west to join the road to Blackburn, a northward continuation of Bridge Street in Great Bolton, now one of the principal thoroughfares of Little Bolton. From Bank Street, another street—Barn Street and Folds Road—goes north-east to Turner Bridge, where it crosses the Tonge. From this point Waterloo Street proceeds north-west to cross Blackburn Road, and is continued as Halliwell Road. From Bridge Street, St. George's Road leads west to Chorley Old Road, from which Chorley New Road branches off. Marsden Street leads south from St. George's Road into Great Bolton. These are the main thoroughfares on which the northern half of the town has been formed.

Gilnow lies on the south-west border. (fn. 2) Some districts are called from the rising ground on which they are built, as Mill Hill in the east and School Hill near the centre.

In this township are a small part of Bolton or Queen's Park, Thomasson Park, with its museum, and a recreation ground beside the Tonge. The corporation has gas-works near Folds Road.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's line from Bolton to Blackburn passes through the south-east corner, and has a branch to Astley Bridge, with goods stations. The electric tramways serve for passengers.

Although in 1666 there were seventy-one hearths liable to the tax, only one house had as many as four hearths. (fn. 3)

What has been said regarding the industries of Great Bolton applies generally to this township. There are large cotton mills, bleach works, engineering and machine works, where all kinds of cotton-spinning machinery are made.

Like Great Bolton this township was governed by the officers appointed annually at the court leet; the principal was called the borough reeve, in imitation of the other township, for Little Bolton was never a borough. On the incorporation of Bolton in 1838 the greater part of Little Bolton was included, and the remainder has now come within the borough. Under the first Improvement Act of 1792 a town hall was built in Little Bolton in 1826; it is now used as a branch of the free library. Another Improvement Act was obtained in 1830. For Astley Bridge, including parts of Little Bolton and Sharples, a local board was formed in 1864. (fn. 4)


Like Great Bolton LITTLE BOLTON was part of the Marsey fee, being in 1212 held of Randle de Marsey by Roger de Bolton as one plough-land, by the service of the twelfth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 5) The Bolton family continued to hold this manor— which included Haulgh, part of Tonge, and parts of Sharples—down to the 17th century. But little is known of them. Roger de Bolton died in 1421 holding the manor of Little Bolton by the services mentioned; Roger his son and heir was twenty-four years of age. (fn. 6) Another Roger Bolton died in 1473 holding the manor, leaving as heir his son Robert, twenty-two years of age. (fn. 7) William Bolton, the son and heir of Robert, died 14 October 1554 in possession of the manor and lands in Little Bolton, Great Bolton, and Tonge, rendering the services above stated, and leaving his son Robert, then twenty-three years of age, as his heir. (fn. 8) Robert died six years later, leaving as heir his son Robert, only eleven years old. (fn. 9) The younger Robert died in 1579, and the heir, his son Richard, was again a minor eight years of age. (fn. 10) Richard Bolton in 1599 sold or mortgaged the manor and all or most of his lands to Robert Bolton (fn. 11) of Acton Grange near Frodsham, who died in 1604, (fn. 12) but he recovered possession of at least a portion of the estate, and in 1610 transferred the manor to Thomas Ireland and Thomas Heaton. (fn. 13)

Bolton. Sable a falcon argent.

The former of these, Sir Thomas Ireland of Bewsey, died possessed of the manor in 1625, (fn. 14) and a few years later it was by his son Thomas included in a settlement. (fn. 15) It descended to Gilbert Ireland of Hale, (fn. 16) and by him was sold in 1670 to Thomas Marsden. (fn. 17) A later Thomas Marsden (fn. 18) by his will directed a sale, and John Moss of Manchester, woollen draper, purchased it in 1716; (fn. 19) he was succeeded by his son John Moss, (fn. 20) and his grandson James Moss, (fn. 21) who died without issue. The manor then went to the heir-at-law, John Gartside of Manchester, a cousin, who died in 1817, having bequeathed this manor and other estates to his nephew Thomas Tipping. (fn. 22) The new lord was in 1846 succeeded by his son Gartside, and in 1890 by the latter's son Mr. Henry Thomas Gartside-Tipping of Quarr Wood, Isle of Wight.

Tipping. Argent a bull's head erased sable, armed or, on a chief of the second three pheons of the field.

Little Bolton Hall is a small rectangular building, its external measurement being about 46 ft. 6 in. in length by 30 ft. in width, with a slightly projecting portion on the north side and a south-west wing nearly 20 ft. square. Its situation is very striking. In 1833 it was described as standing in an isolated part on a woody bank above the River Tonge; (fn. 23) but the house is no longer isolated, and the high bank on which it stands above the curve of the river on the east side is totally bare of foliage. But though its surroundings are mean and ugly, and it is overshadowed on the west by a high railway viaduct, it is not hard even now to imagine the former beauty of its position, and the defensive strength of its site. The house is stated to have been originally of brick and wood-and-plaster, (fn. 24) but was entirely rebuilt in 1862, when nearly all traces of the ancient building were lost. The roof timbers and principals of the great hall were, however, preserved, and the south side of the house in which the hall is situated was rebuilt in brick between the old timber framing and frced externally with timber and plaster on a low stone base. This timber facing, which is continued round the end of the hall facing east, consists of uprights and straight and diagonal fillings, with a single centre crosspiece, the absence of horizontal lines adding to the apparent height of the elevation. The design, however, does not apparently follow that of the old building, which was of a much plainer description, the constructive timbers only showing with wide plaster spaces between. The rest of the house has been rebuilt in stone in the domestic Gothic style of the middle of the last century, with square-headed windows and tile-covered roofs.

Little Bolton Hall

If the former great hall occupied the full length of the south side of the house, it must have been about 42 ft. long by 17 ft. wide, and the spacing of the roof principals, if following out the original arrangement, seems to imply that it did so. The principals are two in number, dividing the roof into three bays of unequal length, the western of which is now divided from the rest by walls, and forms a separate room on each floor; a floor is also inserted in the eastern bay of the hall, so that only the middle bay is now open to the roof. The principals come down to the floor, resting on stone bases, the timbers being quite plain and roughly wrought, the height from floor to ridge being about 25 ft. The purlins are strengthened by wind braces, and the trusses have arched braces rising to the underside of the collars, and king-posts above the collars. The fire-places and windows date from 1862, but the tall window which occupies the full height of the south side of the room probably replaces an old one of similar type. The staircase is on the north side, and preserves its Jacobean twisted balusters and newels. A modern gallery across the east side of the open bay of the hall gives access to the bedroom above. The cutting up of the hall and the introduction of floors, together with the entire rebuilding, has made the original disposition of the plan impossible to follow. The house was opened in May 1908 as a church house in connexion with the parish of St. John.

Some other owners of land in the township occur; as Humphrey Booth of Salford (fn. 25) and William Horrobine, (fn. 26) in the 17th century. In 1782 the lands of John Gartside paid half the land tax; the other estates were small. (fn. 27)

John Norris of Little Bolton, for some slight compliance with the Royalists, had to compound for his estate with the Commonwealth authorities in 1646. (fn. 28)

For the Church of England All Saints', formerly known as the Chapel in the Fields, was built in 1726, and rebuilt in 1871; (fn. 29) St. George's, 1796; (fn. 30) St. John's, 1849; (fn. 31) St. James's, 1871; (fn. 32) St. Matthew's, 1876; (fn. 33) St. Barnabas's; (fn. 34) and at Astley Bridge, St. Paul's, 1848, rebuilt 1869; (fn. 35) All Souls', 1881. (fn. 36) The patronage is in various hands. Some of the churches have benefited by the diversion of the Bolton Lectureship endowment.

The Wesleyan Methodists have churches in Bridge Street, built in 1803, Park Street, 1863, and three other places in the township, as well as one at Astley Bridge, opened in 1868. The Primitive Methodists have two; the New Connexion also have two: in St. George's Road, (fn. 37) and at Brownlow Fold; the United Free Church one, in Albert Place; (fn. 38) the Independent Methodists two, and a mission hall. (fn. 39)

The Congregationalists have three churches; one of them, in St. George's Road, claims to be the representative of the original chapel in Duke's Alley, Great Bolton; it was opened in 1863. (fn. 40)

The Baptists have two churches, named Claremon and Zion, and a third is at Astley Bridge. (fn. 41)

The Society of Friends, removing from Great Bolton, have had their place of meeting in Tipping Street since 1820.

Among the other places of worship are a Catholic Apostolic (Irvingite) church, (fn. 42) a New Jerusalem of the Swedenborgians, (fn. 43) a Christian meeting-house, and several mission halls. The Welsh Calvinistic Methodists have a church in Clarence Street. (fn. 44)

For Roman Catholic worship there is the church of St. Mary, opened in 1847.


  • 1. Including 22 acres of inland water; Census Rep. of 1901. As an independent township it ceased to exist in 1895, being merged in the new township of Bolton; Loc. Govt. Bd. Order 33407.
  • 2. In 1773 the tenement called 'Gilnough' in Little Bolton was assigned byJames Livesey of Great Bolton, innkeeper, to James Marsland at £25 rent; it had been lately occupied in succession by Richard Livesey and John his son. It had been leased to the Liveseys in 1717 by John Moss of Manchester; Free Lib. D. Manchester, no. 117.
  • 3. Subs. R. Lancs. bdle. 250, no. 9.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 28 Jan. 1864.
  • 5. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lanes. and Ches.), i, 71. Roger de Bolton, perhaps a son, occurs in 1254; ibid. 193; while in 1302 the heirs of Robert of Little Bolton held the twelfth part of a fee; ibid. 314. The Plea Rolls give little assistance. In 1253 Roger of Little liolton was one of several defendants in a claim for money owing; Curia Regis R. 148, m. 42 d.; 154, m. 9 d.; while in 1292 John and Alexander, sons of Roger, were non-suited in a claim to prove their freedom against Roger de Bolton; Assize R. 408, m. 29; and Ellis son of Henry de Tonge unsuccessfully claimed a tenement in Great Bolton against the same Roger; ibid. m. 8, 44. Roger de Bolton held a third part of Duxbury in 1288; Lancs. Inq. and Extents, i, 270. Robert son of William de Bolton was defendant to a claim for lands in Tonge and Great Bolton in 1278; Assize R. 1268, m. 11 d., 12d. In 1292 Roger and William de Bolton attested a Farnworth charter; Lever Chartul. (Add. MS. 32103), no. 52. In 1299 Robert de Bolton and Roger the Clerk of Little Bolton are witnesses; ibid. no. 72. Roger de Bolton occurs in 1321; ibid. no. 86. Roger de Middleton (sic for Little Bolton) in 1324 held 'a hamlet called Bolton' by homage and the service of the twelfth part of a knight's fee; also paying 10d. a year for ward of Lancaster Castle, and 2s. 6d. for sake fee; Dods. MSS. cxxxi, fol. 37b. About the same time Roger de Bolton was plaintiff and defendant in suits concerning Little Bolton and Tonge, his opponent being John de Tonge; Assize R. 425, m. 2; R. 426, m. 7 d. Again in 1346 Roger de Bolton held the twelfth part of a knight's fee in Little Bolton and paid 2s. 6d.; Add. MS. 32103, fol. 146. In suits of 1351 and later, Robert son of Roger de Bolton and Margaret his wife were parties; see the account of Moston. Roger de Bolton settled his manor of Little Bolton on his son Robert and his issue by Margaret his wife, as stated in a deed of 1385 respecting the marriage of Robert's son Roger; Rivington D. in possession of Mr. W. H. Lever. The last-named Roger had a son Robert living in 1445; see the account of Rivington. Robert de Bolton was witness to a Great Lever deed in 1378, and Richard de Bolton to an Anderton one in 1399; Lever 101, 105.
  • 6. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc), i, 144; in a note it is added 'Roger son of Robert Bolton had a pardon 3 Hen. V.—Patent Roll.' John son of Ellis de Bradshagh in 1410 acknowledged a debt of £100 to Roger son of Robert de Bolton; Towneley MS. RR, no. 1628. Another version of the inquisition is dated 5 Hen. V, and Roger the son is stated to be twenty years of age; Harl. MS. 2085, fol. 444b. For the livery of the manor see Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxiii, App. 20. Roger de Bolton held the sixth part of a knight's fee in 1431; Feudal Aids, iii, 96. In 1445–6 it was recorded that Roger de Bolton held the tenth part of a knight's fee in Bolton and Tonge; Duchy of Lanc. Knights' Fees, 2/20. At the same time Roger de Bolton and his sons Roger and John are mentioned; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 8, m. 2.
  • 7. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Chet. Soc), ii, 101; the clear value of the manor is given as 52s. 4d. There was, however, another inquisition made many years later, in 1504, when it was found that Roger Bolton died 3 Apr. 1482, and that Robert his son and next heir was then twentyfour years of age. The estate is called the manor of Little Bolton, ten messuages, 100 acres of land, 30 acres of meadow, 10 acres of wood, 60 acres of moor, and 200 acres of pasture, held of the king as of his duchy by knight's service, and worth £10 clear a year. Robert the son was living in 1504; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. ii, no. 13. Roger Bolton in 1472 complained of an assault upon him at Little Bolton by Roger Hulton of Hulton and others of the family; Pal. of Lanc. Writs Proton, file 12 Edw. IV. Robert Bolton in 1528 granted to Roger Brownlow certain lands in Little Bolton and an attachment of the stream at Longeyes in exchange; Harl. MS. 2112, fol. 132b/168b. William the son and heir of Robert Bolton had livery of the manor and estates in 1551; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxix, App. 550. In 1549 there was a suit between William Bolton and Ellen Bolton, widow, alias Rawson; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), ii, 99.
  • 8. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. x, no. 8. The inquisition recites a grant by Robert the father of William to Agnes widow of Richard Worthington, including Howcroft, with lands in Little Bolton, for her life; she was still living. William Bolton was also seised of the services of George Haulgh, Archdeacon William Knight, and Roger Lever, for certain lands in Bolton, &c. For the livery to Robert son and heir of William, see Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxix, App. 551.
  • 9. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xi, no. 54. William Bolton the father of Robert had held Bolton Hall, twenty messuages, a water-mill, &c., and had in 1545 granted to a younger son, Edmund Bolton, a tenement in Little Bolton for life. Robert Bolton had granted annuities to George Bolton of Clement's Inn, and Edmund and Peter Bolton; the two last were his brothers. Before his death he made some provision for his daughters Jane, Barbara, and Margaret. A settlement by Robert Bolton the elder was made ia 1558; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 20, m. 19. Edmund Bolton was defendant in 1586; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 189. The wardship and marriage of the heir were granted to Christopher Anderton; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxxix, App. 551.
  • 10. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xiv, no. 15. Particulars of former grants are given; Edmund the son of William Bolton the grandfather was still living; Elizabeth the widow of William was in possession of her dower lands and living at Chester; Eleanor widow of Robert son of William was living at Pennington. Robert the son of Robert had a wife Lettice and daughters Alice, Margaret, Harebottell, and Jane; he had bequeathed to Robert Bolton, son of the above-named Edmund, the house, &c., held by Edmund for life. An entail on the heirs male had been made in 1579, the day before Robert's death.
  • 11. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 61, no. 173. The purchaser was probably the Robert son of Edmund of the preceding note. The grant included the manor, with messuages, water-mill, and lands in Great and Little Bolton, Sharpies, Tonge, and Haulgh.
  • 12. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 11: the 'manor' is not named, but there were twenty messuages, a fullingmill, 100 acres of land, &c., which Robert Bolton by his will gave to his brother Peter, together with all moneys due for the redemption of the same. Eleanor widow of Robert the grandfather of Richard Bolton was still living at Pennington as widow of James Starkie; and Lettice widow of Robert the father was living at Little Bolton as widow of Thomas Mort. The next-of-kin of the deceased Robert Bolton was his nephew Robert son of William Bolton. Peter Bolton, to whom the estate had been bequeathed, died in 1605, but the inquisition was not taken till 1612. Eleanor Starkie died in 1609, but Lettice Mort was still living; the heir, as before, was Robert son of William Bolton; ibid. i, 196.
  • 13. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 78, no. 43; the manor of Little Bolton and lands, &c., in that township only were included. See also Lancs. and Ches. Recs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 242, 244. There was a recovery of the manor in 1622; Com. Pleas Recov. R. Hil. 19 Jas. I, m. 9.
  • 14. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvi, no. 58; the tenure was knight's service. Sir Thomas also held the tithes of the township.
  • 15. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 119, no. 22. Thomas Ireland died in 1639, leaving a daughter and heir Margaret; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxviii, no. 9.
  • 16. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 150, m. 70; the deforciants were Sir Gilbert Ireland and his wife Margaret, who was the heir of Thomas Ireland.
  • 17. Ibid. bdle. 185, m. 124; the purchase included the manor with messuages, water grain-mill, and lands in Great and Little Bolton and Tonge, together with tithes.
  • 18. The remainder of this account of the descent of the manor of Little Bolton is taken chiefly from Scholes and Pimblett, Hist. of Bolton, 56. They state that in 1700 the manor was settled by Thomas Marsden on his wife Sarah daughter of William Croxton. This Thomas may be the Thomas Marsden son of Thomas who matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1665, being then seventeen years of age; he took the M.A. degree in 1671; Foster, Alumni Oxon. Thomas Marsden was a benefactor to the church and parish (Scholes and Pimblett, op. cit. 180, 182), founding a charity school, which is still at work, the endowment having been increased by John Popplewell in 1820; End. Char. Rep. for Bolton, 1904, pp. 16, 71.
  • 19. In 1729 the new owner bequeathed the manor to his son John, but the tithes to the support of All Saints' Church; Scholes and Pimblett, loc. cit. Thomas Moss, one of the sons of John Moss, was a fellow of Manchester Collegiate Church.
  • 20. He settled it in 1733 on his wife Mary daughter of Jeremiah Bower of Manchester; ibid.
  • 21. He settled it in 1764 on his wife Appylina daughter of James Bayley of Manchester; ibid.
  • 22. See the pedigree of Gartside-Tipping in Burke's Landed Gentry; it is said that Thomas was the son of John Tipping by his wife Anne daughter and heir of Robert Gartside. John Tipping was a cousin of Martha wife of Samuel Clowes of Broughton. In 1770 a fine respecting half the manor of Little Bolton, &c., was made between John and Robert Gartside, plaintiffs, and Samuel Clowes and Mary his wife, deforciants; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 383, m. 76.
  • 23. Butterworth, Statistical Sketch of Co. Pal. of Lanc.
  • 24. Canon Raines, Notes to Gastrell's Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc. xix), 12. There is a rough drawing of the building as it was about 1860 now hung in one of the upper rooms.
  • 25. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxvii, no. 44; no details are given. Roger the Louerd of Little Bolton was defendant to a suit by Adam the Purser of Lancaster from 1327 to 1332, respecting goods found on the moors at Bolton in 1322; De Banco R. 269, m. 184; R. 283, m. 233, &c.
  • 26. Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxviii, no. 70; he died in April 1633, holding a messuage, &c.; his son John was eighteen years of age. A Thomas Horobin was defendant in 1586 in a suit respecting lands in Tonge; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 175.
  • 27. Land Tax Returns at Preston.
  • 28. His landlord, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, had, at the outbreak of the Civil War, asked John Norris to tell the tenants that each man should provide himself with arms and meet the king at Nottingham. He read the letter, but had never taken active part for the king, and had taken the Negative Oath and National Covenant; he had also found two men for the Parliament, who were slain when Prince Rupert took Bolton. He paid £15 as composition; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iv, 223.
  • 29. There is a view of the original chapel in Scholes and Pimblett, Bolton, 229. A district was formed for it in 1841; Lond. Gaz. 12 Nov. The patronage is in the hands of five trustees of the Tipping family.
  • 30. A district was assigned to it in 1841; Lond. Gaz. 12 Nov. It was afterwards endowed with £128 a year; ibid. 28 July 1863. The vicar of Bolton is patron. There is a peal of eight bells.
  • 31. A district had been assigned in 1846; Lond. Gaz. 10 Apr.; for endowment, ibid. 10 Aug. 1866. The Crown and the Bishop of Manchester present alternately.
  • 32. The church was opened in 1869. A district was assigned in 1872; Lond. Gaz. 23 Apr.; for endowments, ibid. 11 July 1873 and 10 June 1881. It is in the gift of three trustees.
  • 33. A district was assigned in 1875; Lond. Gaz. 29 Oct.; for endowment, ibid. 15 June 1877. Five trustees hold the patronage.
  • 34. The district was formed in 1896, but a permanent church has not been built; the patronage is in the hands of the Bishop of Manchester and the Bolton Lectureship Trustees alternately.
  • 35. A district was assigned in 1844; Lond. Gaz. 3 June. The Crown and the Bishop of Manchester present alternately. There is a peal of five bells.
  • 36. The patronage is vested in five trustees.
  • 37. Opened in 1852.
  • 38. This chapel was originally known as 'Nimmo's,' from the Rev. David Nimmo, an agent of the Town Mission. The Methodists acquired it in 1857, and it was rebuilt in 1881; Scholes and Pimblett, op. cit. 368. The New Connexion and Free Church have recently united.
  • 39. Their history, reaching back about a century, has been published in S. Rothwell's Mem. of Folds Road Chapel, 1887.
  • 40. B. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. iii, 30. Blackburn Road Congregational Church was an offshoot from this; started in 1872, an iron church was built in 1877, and the present church was built by Mr. W. H. Lever in memory of his father.
  • 41. At Astley Bridge there was a meeting of Baptists about 1818, revived again about 1840. Claremont Church, opened in 1869, is a migration from Moor Lane Chapel, Great Bolton, which had become too small; Scholes and Pimblett, op. cit. 376–8.
  • 42. It was opened in 1877.
  • 43. This denomination, known in Bolton in 1781, had a meeting-place in BuryStreet early last century. This was abandoned to the Latter Day Saints in 1844 and the present church erected. Samuel Crompton, the inventor, was connected with this society ; Scholes and Pimblett, op. cit. 378, quoting James Dakeyn's Hist. of the Bolton New Ch. Soc.
  • 44. This was opened in 1872.