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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

May 13th 2017
St. Catherine's Church Exhibition

June 17th 2017
Lost Businesses in Horwich

July 15th 2017
Local Walks & Beauty Spots

August 12th 2017
60 years since the last Steam Loco built at Horwich Works

September 9th 2017
Family History / Heritage Weekend

16th September

4th November
Theme: Gun Powder Plot

All 'Open Days' Admission - FREE



May 9th ~ David Kaye
"From Horwich to Hyderabad"

June 13th ~ A.G.M.
Royal Occasions in Bolton & Horwich

11th July ~ Mark Olly
The Vikings

8th August ~ Andrew Waldron
A Real Loco for Horwich

12th September ~ David Lewis
Mining on Winter Hill

10th October ~ Russell Hadley
Birds of Rivington

14th November ~ Eric Bond
From Scrap Yard to Main Line

12th December ~ TBA
Christmas Entertainment

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.