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Craft & Gift Fair 2017

On Saturday 4th November we enjoyed another successful Craft & Gift Fair at the Horwich Community Centre (10am - 2pm). This year's theme (not surprisingly) was 'Bonfire Night.'

We were pleased to see a number of younger visitors getting involved in the face painting, dressing up, quizzes and 'Penny for the Guy'.

There was also a Bonfire Art display by Horwich Art Society, lots of interesting craft stalls as well as tombola and a raffle and not forgetting Carr's pasties & peas!

This excellent event was enjoyed by over 100 visitors and will be a welcome addition to our funds.


60 Years Since The Last Steam Loco

Our next Horwich Heritage Open Day/Exhibition takes place on Saturday 12th August, 10am - 1.00pm at the Horwich Heritage Centre. It is entitled '60 years since the last Steam Loco' and pays tribute to the 'golden age' of steam locomotive production at Horwich Loco Works between 20th February 1899 (when the first loco, Sir John Aspinall's 1008, rolled out of the erecting shop) and 27th November 1957 (when the last steam loco BR Standard Class 4, No.76099, left the Works). During those 68 years some 1,830 steam locos were constructed and 45,000 repaired.

It might have been the end of an era but it wasn't the end of steam at Horwich or of loco production. For the next 7 years, until 1964, a further 5,000 steam locos were repaired and 169 diesel locomotives were produced. After that, however, it was largely a matter of repairing diesel & electric locos, carriages & wagons before the Works closed on 23rd December 1983 after 97 years of operation. This was a devastating blow to a town which had been so dependant on the Works but fortunately new sources of employment came along shortly afterwards with the Middlebrook development and Horwich is thriving again. Unfortunately, it is about to say goodbye to most of the Railway Works premises, which have been an industrial estate for the past 30 years, as they are gradually being demolished to make way for 1700 new homes on 'Rivington Chase'. We hope sufficient 'heritage' will be retained in the new development to remind future generations of Horwich's wonderful contribution as one of Britains 6 major railway towns.

Time passes... the Works closed 34 years ago, so if you were 30 years old or more when it closed you would be retired by now. If you were an apprentice at the Works during the steam era you would be in your mid 70s. So, as there are fewer and fewer men and women left to remember the age of steam at Horwich, it is all the more important to remember & celebrate it while we can. If you worked on steam locos at Horwich please get in touch and do come along on 12th August to share your memories. Fortunately, Horwich Heritage has a good archive of Works memories, memorabilia & photos for everyone to look at whether you worked at the Loco Works or not, including no less than 10 dvds (all for sale) many of which we will be showing on the day. So young or not so young, please come along. Horwich has a remarkable railway legacy which needs to be preserved and passed on down the generations.

Ridgmont House

The last steam loco to be built leaves the Works 27th Nov. 1957

Top o'th Such cottages

The last steam loco to be repaired leaves the Works 6th May 1964

Harper's Farm

Workers say goodbye to the last steam loco 6th May 1964

Wildersmoor Mine Tramway

The first intake of apprentices at the new Training School 1958

Rockhaven Castle

End of an era - steam gives way to diesel 1958

Crowther Fold Water Mill

Retirement presentation by Works manager AT Garnett to William Bowen 1963

Crowther Fold Water Mill

The Loco Works site from the air 2012


Geoff Waine

The next Horwich Heritage Open Day & Exhibition is on Saturday 15th July at the Horwich Heritage Centre, Longworth Road, Horwich from 10.00am - 1.00pm (admission free, everyone welcome).

It is entitled 'Local Walks & Beauty Spots' and celebrates the many wonderful locations and points of interest that are so easily accessible in the area around Horwich. There will photographs and information on everywhere from Rivington Pike to Red Moss and from Wilderswood to Bottom o'th Moor and the Groundwork Trust and Volunteers will be updating us on progress at the Rivington Terraced Gardens.

As part of this Open Day/Exhibition, Horwich Heritage will be celebrating the considerable contribution of its co-founder, Geoff Waine, to the development of our Society over a period of 31 years. Following his death in September 2017, we wondered how best to commemorate Geoff's contribution and, after some deliberation, we felt the most appropriate way was to create a Memorial Walk around his 'adopted' town of Horwich taking in all the locations he was fond of. A Booklet detailing this walk will be launched at the 15th July event and will be on sale on the day price £1.50. Shortly after the Open Day finishes members and visitors are invited to join with us to undertake a section of this walk from 2.00 - 4.00pm.

Although not originally from Horwich, Geoff had a love of the town like nowhere else. He called it "His beloved Horwich". Railways and railway research were Geoff's main interests - in fact any aspect or even the sniff of a railway would get him excited. But Geoff was also a font of local knowledge and he had the ability to answer most questions he was asked about the town and its surrounding area without having to think twice - a remarkable man who we shall miss greatly.

Geoff Waine

Geoff had a great love of walking, especially around the Horwich area. He loved the hills above the town, but his favourite places were the dozens of well-known paths that made up the area, between the old town and the higher, bleaker moors - that's why this walk takes in many of Geoff's old haunts as a walker and historian.

< Pictured: Geoff with his Horwich Civic Medal.

Appropriately, the walk starts and ends at the Horwich Heritage Centre. Overall, it covers over four miles and could take more than 2 hours if you allow sufficient time to stop and read the descriptions provided, take in the rich history of the area and enjoy the magnificent scenery and panoramic views. Why not take a picnic with you and make a day of it or add in a visit to the Heritage Centre? We hope you have a great day out, combining a highly interesting walk with a detailed insight into local industrial history. And to give you a true flavour of that history in the booklet we have overlain the route on the 1908 Map of Horwich to highlight the historic features, many of which are now lost.

Ridgmont House

Ridgmont House

Top o'th Such cottages

Top o'th Such cottages

Harper's Farm

Harper's Farm

Wildersmoor Mine Tramway

Wildersmoor Mine Tramway

Rockhaven Castle

Rockhaven Castle

Crowther Fold Water Mill

Crowther Fold Water Mill


The next Horwich Heritage Open Day/Exhibition will be on Saturday 17th June, 10am - 1pm, and will be about the 'Lost Businesses of Horwich'.

6 months ago we embarked on a research project to try to find out more about the industries, shops, farms and other enterprises that have operated in the town over the past 240 years of its existence and we will be unveiling our findings at this event.

Many readers will be aware that Horwich as a place hardly existed 240 years ago - it was just a small collection of farmsteads scattered across the moors - but over the years 3 major events have transformed the area into the busy town of 20,000 people it is today:

  • 1. In 1777 John & Thomas Ridgway arrived from Bolton to set up their bleachworks at Wallsuches and in doing so laid the foundations of present day Horwich in the old village next to the Parish Church.
  • 2. Just over 100 years later in 1884 the arrival of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Works transformed a 'sleepy village' of 3000 people into a bustling industrial town of 12,000 in just 10 years.
  • 3. Moving on another 100 years and a major chapter in the town's history ended with the closure of the Loco Works. But within 10 years another one had opened with the building of the Middlebrook office & retail park and the Bolton Wanderers stadium - and Horwich was on the map again.

As a Society we have covered the histories of Wallsuches & the Loco Works quite extensively over the years, so we decided to focus on the stories of other businesses that have come and gone and left their mark on the town. It is difficult to imagine today that Horwich was predominantly an agricultural area until relatively recently with dozens of farms stretching from the slopes of Rivington to the Middlebrook valley all supplying meat and dairy products to a rapidly-growing population in the late C19th/early C20th. Many of these farms, like Ormston's and Hodgkinson Fold have origins going back to Elizabethan times whilst Sefton Fold Farm (demolished to make way for the Middlebrook development) was once a moated settlement dating from the C13th. And it was these humble abodes that gave birth to the early cotton spinning, weaving & bleaching activities particulary in the Wilderswood area in the C17th & C18th. Crowther Fold and Gorton Fold are credited as being the earliest of the area's water-powered textile 'mills' and these in turn gave way to bigger steam-driven mills at Wilderswood & Foxholes and then to the better known textile mills in Horwich itself: Albert Mill, Lee Mill, Telford Mill, Bee Hive Mill and the last to close in 2007, Victoria Mill.

Because of the plentiful water supply from the moorland streams, bleaching was always a popular local activity originally carried out to supplement the meagre farm incomes, but eventually the Ridgways, Longworths & Jolley & Jackson's turned it into a major industry in the town which lasted until the 1960s. And up on the moors, it was the discovery of coal & clay deposits that produced a thriving brick, pipe and sanitary ware industry run by companies like Andrew Peak, Mason's, Crankshaw's, & Pickup's alongside a substantial quarrying business that still continues today. Even on Red Moss, which is today a site of special scientific interest, companies laboured until quite recently to cut peat and dig coal.

The arrival of the Railway Works gave a massive boost to the local economy and hundreds of small shops and businesses sprang up almost overnight - but they were so very different to the ones we see on Lee Lane, Winter Hey Lane and Chorley Old & Chorley New Road today. Did you know that there used to be 17 butchers in Horwich and now there is only one (Greeley's) and most of them slaughtered their animals on the premises! In addition there were several smithies, wheelwrights, clog, boot & shoe makers and a whole variety of grocery, confectionary, clothing and fancy goods shops - the biggest of which was the mighty Horwich Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd. Today, it is difficult to imagine how powerful and all-embracing the Co-op was with its large multi-functional premises on Lee Lane and over a dozen branches around the town. Until its sharp decline in 1960s-70s, the Co-op was able to offer every facility 'from cradle to grave'.

Horwich Town Centre still retains much of the identity created when the Loco Works arrived over 130 years ago and we are all pleased to see so many shops, offices, restaurant & cafes continuing to operate in the town despite difficult modern trading conditions. All the town's present day businesses are standing on some remarkable shoulders when it comes to Horwich's rich & varied commercial past and long may they continue to uphold that tradition.

If you'd like to know more about any lost businesses in Horwich or share some of the stories of businesses where you worked, please come along to our Open Day/Exhibition at Horwich Heritage Centre on Sat. 7th June (10am - 1pm). Admission is free and the exhibition will continue for a month.

Horwich Co-op Central Premises, Lee Lane c.1930

Ferretti's ice cream cart in 1930s

Workers at Victoria Mill c.1960

Rose's Pork Butchers, Winter Hey Lane

Inside Cooke & Nuttall's Paper Mill

Wildersmoor miners 1960s

Open Day

Don't miss our first open day of the year on Saturday 11th March 10am - 1pm.

We will be celebrating a very special occasion: 10 years since we opened Horwich Heritage Centre. Admission is free, everyone welcome!

Christmas Entertainment

The entertainment for this year's Christmas 'special' on Tuesday 13th Dec. at Horwich Community Centre will be provided by 'Young Once' a comedy & music group who will have you 'rolling in the aisles'.

The event starts at 7.30pm, tickets (in advance) are £3 which also includes refreshments. There is a 100 limit so get your tickets as soon as possible from the Heritage Centre.

Download Our 2017 Events Programme

Our 2017 programme has now been finalised, featuring our popular Open Days, Monthly Meetings and Joining Information.

You can download your own PDF copy by clicking here:

Horwich Heritage - Events Programme 2017

Horwich Heritage Annual Craft & Gift Fair

The Horwich Heritage Annual Craft & Gift Fair is on Sat. 5th Nov. 10am - 2pm at Horwich Community Centre, admission 50p.

Now in its 31st year, this is always a good event with lots of stalls with a difference, a raffle, tombola, pasty & peas and our themed exhibition which this year is 'Royal Occasions'.

Are you old enough to remember King George VI coming to Horwich in 1940 or Princess Anne opening Horwich Leisure Centre in 1975?

Did you manage to see the Queen on one of her 5 visits to Bolton?

Many people had street parties for her Silver, Golden & Diamond Jubilees and for her 90th birthday - have you any photos you could lend us for our exhibition?

Do come along to visit the Fair and help us to celebrate these Royal Occasions.


Saturday 17 September 2016 - South Lakes And Beautiful Leven Valley

The trip includes a return steam train journey from Haverthwaite Station with time to visit the Railway Museum before travelling to Lakeside, visit the pier and see the steamer arriving.

Travel by coach to Old Hall Edwardian Working Farm at Bouth for a themed event including a working steam crane and steam saw mill to view old style farming activities, horse-drawn vehicles and butter & ice cream making.

There is an excellent cafe at the station and a lovely tea room at the farm.

The coach will leave Horwich Resource Centre Beaumont Road at 8.45am with pickups on route. Arrive 10.30am at the station for the 11.50am steam train and return 12.30pm.

Leave for Bouth at 2.30pm, return home at 4.45pm, arriving back around 6.30pm. The cost of the Trip, Train and Farm is £23.00 per person.

Download our trip form:

Horwich Locomotiv8ors Project

Horwich Heritage is pleased to have a close association with all the Primary & Secondary Schools in Horwich.

In particular it has for the past 4 years run a successful Schools Programme called 'Locomotiv8ors' in partnership with Bolton Playing for Success (Bpfs) which is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.

This enables every Primary School in Horwich & the surrounding area to bring pupils to our Heritage Centre to learn about the Locomotive history of the town in an imaginative & fun way.

Read More >


Our latest exhibition entitled 'The History of Horwich Churches & Schools' opened on Sat. 13th August - the culmination of a year-long research project delving into the history of every church & school in the town.

If you haven't seen it yet please come along - it will be on display until the end of the year. This should be a must for anyone who attends a church or went to school in Horwich.

Read More >


On 9th March 2016, 'Looking Back' published an article by Horwich Heritage explaining how the Society had embarked on a major project to chronicle the history of every Church & School in Horwich.

Lots of interesting material has been collected during the past 6 months and the project is now moving towards its conclusion with an Open Day & Exhibition launch on Saturday 13th August 10am - 1pm at the Horwich Heritage Centre. The exhibition will then run for the next 3 months with opening hours 2 - 4pm on weekdays and 10am - 12.30pm on Saturdays.

Read More >


Our new books "Horwich in the Great War" (£3), "The History of Horwich in 20 Objects" (£10), "A Horwich Boyhood in the 1940s & 50s" (£4), "Schoolboy Memories of WWII" (£2.50) will make an ideal gift. Or why not try our latest 30 years of Horwich Heritage (£3), Lord Leverhulme & WWI dvds (£5)?

A MEMBERSHIP FEE of just £10 gives free entry to the Society's monthly meetings (renewable in June). Non-members pay £2.00. Contact Betty Ainsworth on 694864. Entry to the Heritage Centre (open weekdays 2-4pm & Saturdays 10-12.30pm) is FREE.


SATURDAYS 10am - 1pm

July 21st 2018
Horwich: Past, Present & Future

September 8th 2018
Family History / Heritage Weekend

November 10th 2018
100 Yrs Since The End Of World War I

All 'Open Days' Admission - FREE



June 12th 2018
AGM PLUS On The Go Theatre Co & Heritage Quiz

more what's on >

Latest News



This year's programme is turning out to be another good one and the leaflet with the list of speakers & Open Days for the second half of 2016 is now available from the Heritage Centre. Please renew your membership now. If you are not a member why not join? Only £10 for 11 talks.

HORWICH HERITAGE CENTRE is open every weekday 2- 4pm & Saturdays 10 - 12.30pm. It has a shop, shows and sells films about Horwich and has a range of professional exhibitions and displays to delight all the family. Help is also available for family history and other research. ADMISSION IS FREE!

The monthly OPEN DAYS provide additional exhibitions on topics of local interest. Special EXHIBITIONS currently running include: Horwich Loco Works, A Victorian Kitchen, The Way We Were, World War II, Winter Hill Mines & the Turnpike Roads. School Parties and other groups welcome. Contact 847797.