There was a Roman presence near Tottington when the road-builders of Gnaeus Julius Agricola built a road from Ribchester to Manchester which passes through the modern-day Affetside. Indeed, this village is the half-way point, this fact marked with a relic called 'Affetside Cross', though it is doubtful this relic ever carried a cross. It was the Anglo Saxons who named this road, their name for a street being waeclinga or watling.
The first time Tottington is mentioned as a 'place' was in the 13th century when it was amongst the lands owned by Richard de Montbegon. Tottington was not mentioned in the Domesday Book, but Richard became infamous as one of the people who 'coerced' King John into signing the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. John retaliated by removing all his lands. He gave them back some time later when their falling-out was past.
In 1200, Richard married Olive, widow of Robert de St John. The priory of Monk Bretton near the modern-day Barnsley were involved with this event, for which they received land including 'three acres under Arkilleshow, near Pilgrimcrosseshahe' thus showing how old the Pilgrims' Cross and Harcles Hill are. It also possibly shows that the 'cross' is mis-named, but that is for scholars to argue.
The full Charter of Roger de Montbegon can be found here
Tottington once covered many square miles, encompassing many towns and villages when it was Tottington Lower End and Higher End and the two parishes of Ramsbottom and Tottington were actually formed in the 17th century; more about this can be found at Tottington and Bury Libraries.
The Lamb Inn was built in 1831 following the recently establshed parliamentary decision to mark the boundary between Bury and Tottington and the two roads named. Tottington was slowly forming into an independant village.
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Chapel Street -- Bury Rail Line -- Churches -- Schools c1940 -- Schools c2009 -- Tower Farm
Chapel Street has St Ann's church on one side, and had a row of terraced houses on the other, until a V1 bomb landed there on Christmas Eve, 1944. One of 45 V1 rockets launched from a modified HE-111 Heinkel bomber, I/KG53 squadron, fell short of its Manchester target and landed on these terraced houses. The first of the 15 that fell short landed on Chorley at 05:30, the Tottington one hit at 05:50, killing 6 people. One can only hope they died quickly, and in their beds with no knowledge of the event. The highest death toll of these 15 bombs was on Abbey Hills Road, in Oldham, where 27 people died with a further 49 injured. In Tottington, the Whitehead family of Stormer Hill paid for the Remembrance Gardens to remember the 6 who died. A plaque at the rear of the garden carries the names of those who lost their lives. They are :-
The injured were :-
All but the window behind the altar of St Ann's church, opposite the bomb-site, were blown out.
By the way, there is a list of the 525 brave souls from Bury who gave their lives fighting in WWII here. I think of these people often when I go to the library which involves passing the cenotaph.
In 1821, Joshua Knowles Snr. started a calico printing business at
Tottington Mill after several years as apprentice and Manager for the
Grant Brothers of Ramsbottom, the same year his step-son Samuel was
born at New Lodge in Buxton. Following his death and the death of
Joshua jnr. Samuel formed a railway company along with three other
manufacturers; Edward Mucklow of Elton Fold, Richard Olive of Woolfold
and Hugh Roberts of Stormer Hill. in 1876 the Bury and Tottington
Railway Company was formed to build the line from Bury to Holcombe
The 'sod' was cut on July 26, 1878 and the line opened for passenger and freight on November 6, 1882, just one year before Joshua Knowles was again a factor at Tottington Mill, this time Samuel's own son who became his partner. The reason it took four years to build the line were the many engineering works required, like the wonderful 9-arch viaduct over Island Lodge along with the many tunnels needed.
To celebrate the opening, Samuel Knowles and Hugh Roberts paid for
all their employees to take a day-trip to Belle Vue Gardens in
Manchester. What a gay day out that must have been and I expect Samuel
had them all carry flags advertising the calico industry, as he did in
the Whit Walks!
Their initial task completed and perhaps having shown the line could be profitable, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company took control on July 24, 1888 and the short-lived Bury and Tottington Railway Company was dissolved. More halts were now added, including a level crossing at Shepherd Street called Knowles Crossing.
Knowles Siding was already in place, some remains to be seen from Shepherd Street.
On the 3.75 mile journey, there were stops at Woodhill,
Barndlesholme, Olive's, Woolfold, Sunnywood, Tottington, Knowles,
Greenmount and Holcombe Brook, the end of the line, with several of
these stops being halts rather than stations. It was quite a climb at a
gradient of 1:50 for most of the way, and 1:40 for the very last mile!
Many of these halts had no platforms, so rather clever retractable steps were fitted to the carriages to allow passengers to comfortably board and alight.
Prior to the railway, coal was brought for all these manufacturers from Mountain Mine in Affetside by horse and cart. Though the distances dictated some cart-work was still necessary from Gorsey Clough, the railway made the whole task much easier, especially to the vast coal-yard which was created at Greenmount.
At the turn of the 19th century, Dick, Kerr and Company of Preston
were tendering for a railway contract in Brazil and the gradient,
twists and turns of the Bury to Holcombe Brook line were ideal for
experimentation. This resulted in ground-breaking technology that saw
the line being the very first in the world to be converted from steam
Dick, Kerr supplied two new two-car units comprising a Driving Motor Brake Third (DMBT) and a Driving Trailer Third (DTT). These units were built at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Rail Newton Heath works.
In 1917 work was begun to convert the system to match the Bury to Manchester line which had converted to a 1200v side-contact third rail in 1916. This was completed and running on March 29th, 1918.
Ironically, the third rail system went out of favour in 1940, so when British Rail announced that urgent repairs were required to this system in 1951, it decided to close the line in order to save a annual running cost of over £12,000.
There were official protests from residents who wanted to convert some of the halts so they were unstaffed, to save costs. They also wanted a diesel service.
Several local M.P.'s joined the protest and presented a petition of over 4,000 names to British Rail.
The line was saved!
However, changes and cost-savings still had to be made and British
Rail had no intention of re-fitting overhead lines, though some of the
infrastructure was still in place, so the whole electrification
equipment was removed or made safe and redundant and the line which was
once unique, the only line of its sort in the world that 'pushed the
envelope' of technology ended its life as a poor relative to the
Steam trains were introduced for the last few years of the lines' life and the last passenger train left Bury for Holcombe Brook at 10.26 pm on May 4, 1952. Freight continued to run on the line until May 2, 1960 when the service was cut back to Tottington and the final Bury to Tottington freight train ran on August 17, 1963.
There are still remains of Tottington station, in the form of concrete sidings; If you walk towards Greenmount from Laurel Street, when you can see the bridge that carries Kirk Lees Street over the line, look to your left at the small triangular field. This was the site of the station and the sidings are still there on the station side.
If you carry on to the bridge/tunnel you will still see evidence of soot marks on the tunnel roof. This was always a mystery to me as a Tottington school-boy; why did a tunnel, on a track which was electrified in 1905, have soot marks? Then I learned it was steam for the last few years of its life, hence the soot. Also along the line which now forms part of the Kirklees Trail are concrete squares that used to carry the overhead-cable pylons. I know there is one at Sunnywood Halt - I shall have to scrutinise the trail for more!
The wonderful 9-arch 33 feet high viaduct between Tottington and Greenmount has a strange anomaly I don't remember seeing elsewhere; there is width enough for one line, which was fine - the trains went back and forth on the short run. However, the original builders built double foundations! Presumably, this was in case the railway company decided to add another line at the request of Samuel Knowles, for his freight. There were many hundreds of people working at Samuel Knowles dyeing factory at this time, so it would also have been used by workers from outlying villages, I expect, to get to work.
The line was closed to passengers in 1952. In 1960, Holcombe Brook station closed, the trains terminating at Tottington until 1963 when the line was closed completely by British Rail.. The station at Holcombe Brook is now the car park for the shops. The Co-op was built against the wall where the buffers were and the ramp beside the Co-op was for the passengers to climb up towards Bolton Road West - still used for that very reason, but from the shops rather than the railway station! Next time you walk up the ramp, remember you are following footsteps from the 19th and 20th centuries, not just from when the Co-op was built.
the village, there are three churches, two of which are in use at the
time of writing. St John's is closed, which is unfortunate. It is a
beautiful building, both inside and out and was the church I was
marched to, along with my class mates, from Tottington Secondary School
during religious festivals such as Harvest Day. Every pupil was asked
to bring something from home to make the harvest bountiful. That was
how they ended up with 500 tins of baked beans every year!
I remember going through the portico-ed entrance well. It looked rather imposing to a youngster.
There is a sign outside the church now, telling us the congregation is trying to raise funds to one day open the church again. The opposite seems to be happening nationwide, so I expect it to be a forlorn hope but I often have kind thoughts about the place. One can only hope.
to St Ann's existence, the people of Tottington who wished to worship
made Sunday a day out, when they would make a picnic lunch and walk
down to bury, a two mile trek. The Great and Good of Tottington then
decided to build their own place of worship.
The land was given to James Holt for this purpose by Nathan Rogers, a wealthy Tottington manufacturer. James, having taken charge of the project gave £50. A cousin who was living at the Bull's Head in Greenmount gave a further £100, then John Buckley of Buckley Fold gave £25. The project was on!
Though James was still alive, he might have been ill at the time as the foundation stone laid at the site of all his hard work was laid by his cousin, also James Holt, on May 18, 1798. This James died on March 4, 1806, his cousin, the original James, outlived him to the grand old age of 84, passing away in 1832.
The church was finished in time to be concecrated by Bishop Cleaver of Chester on August 12, 1799. (Tottington had always been in the diocese of Chester).
In the deed of consecration, the following men have the right to nominate a curate over the next 60 years. The names reperesent some serious local and national history!
Writing again of history, the Church Wardens of St Anns are a wonderfully full list, perhaps before 1940, of the people who formed the village as it was, before the ubiquitous house-builders moved in en masse. I would genuinely love to research the working lives of each of these history-forming people, given many, many years to do it!
The first vicar there was Thomas Wade (Feb 1753-Oct 1833), followed by ...
Marriages didn't begin there until 1862 – I am still researching the reasons for the 63 year delay here.
The church is a strange building, more like a warehouse in shape! It can be identified as a church by the powsey cross on the far gable and the wooden bell-tower on the near gable. As well as the fancy windows, of course. As mentioned in the Chapel Street section, the rear window is the only original, the others broken at the time of the bombing.
Some burial stones have been removed from the churchyard. Details of these burials can be found at Bury library. The stones that are still there were painstakingly read and diligently recorded by Dave Ollerton and Susan Scaife.
The National School, behind St Ann's, is recorded below.
Built in 1829, a day school was added behind the church in 1869. The chapel as we know it now was built in 1905, on the same site. The school was sold to developers in the nineties to pay for much needed renovations. The building is extremely attractive, so they were successful!
1713, Thomas Nuttall built the 'free school' in Sandy Lane (now
Kirklees Street) where the nursery is now, behind the bus terminus.
A stone plaque was built into one of its walls which was removed to the grounds of Tottington Hall (changed once to the Town Hall, now the Library) when the buildings use was changed. It can be found on the walk down to the kiddies play area, behind the bowling pavilion, with tree roots growing around it.
There is some fancy lettering (extended S's and F's), but in modern script it reads thus ...
Thos Nuttal of Tottington Gent
built this school in ye year
1713. Peter Baron of
Walshaw Gent in ye year 1773
Endowed it with 9L per Annum
In ye Year 1774 an Additional
Bay was erected by Voluntary
This Thomas Nuttall was of the oldest family in Tottington who lived at Tottington Hall, later the home of the Roberts' family.
£3 a year for the education of '8 poor children' was paid out of the rent of a property called 'The Royds' in Oldham. It was closed in 1879 and sold to the local Constable in 1885 to be the Police Station.
National School was built in 1835, mainly due to the drive and
earnestness of Edward Verdon, the second vicar of St Ann's. It was
built further up the hill from St Ann's church on land donated by
Robert Nuttall and Joshua Knowles.
It must have been quite large - on Sunday, June 24, 1838, there were 140 girls, 121 boys, 12 male and 11 female teachers - 284 in all!
A public subscription for this school raised £637.
It would appear children up to 7 years of age would attend St John's
Free Church School, which is now apartments, between the Hark to Towler
pub and the church.
From 7 to 11 was the Methodist School, behind the Methodist Church which was sold a while ago to developers to raise funds and is now apartments.
11 to 14 was St Ann's Church of England School (The National School) which is a community resource now beside the church, modernised but treated gently to preserve much of the original stone work.
much biger population of children now, but fewer schools! There is
Tottington Primary (it was previously Tottington South, but as the
planned Tottington North, planned for the Woodstock Road area was never
built, they changed it) and the wonderful High School on Laurel Street.
It was a rough Secondary School when I attended in the seventies but is
now a Maths and Computing Specialist school which is second to none. It
was opened in Autumn, 1953.
There is hardly such a thing as a 'local' school now, with pupils bus'd and driven in from all over the borough, when in 1940 each village had its own, such as Affetside which sadly lost its school in the nineties.
Joshua Knowles built Tower Farm, with a wonderful, fifty square-foot crenellated water tower with machicolation detail ( A row of small corbeled arches used as an ornamental architectural feature which was once a projecting gallery at the top of a castle wall, supported by a row of corbeled arches and having openings in the floor through which stones and boiling liquids could be dropped on attackers). Immediately above the imposing archaway entrance to the courtyard is the inscription J.K. 1840
The construction is a folly modelled on Nuttall Hall Farm, Ramsbottom, which is an earlier building with 14th century origins but which is now in ruins. There have been other buildings locally with similar towers but all have now gone. This is therefore the only remaining example of a local fetaure and building which in this case is also particularly well preserved. It was to stable the many heavy horses required to bring coal from Mountain Mine in Affetside and transport raw goods to and finished goods from his calico dyeing works at Totttington Mill to Bury. Before his step-son, Samuel, and Samuels son, Joshua, (popular name in the Knowles' family!) later built the railway, this was the only way to carry goods. The staff required to handle and keep the horses were also billeted here. The farm is constructed from squared and coursed local stone with a mixture of slate and stone-flag covered roofs.
Though it has changed much over the years, the developers of the flats that now occupy the building have been considerate of the history and kept the general shape and structure true, even to the cobbles that run from the imposing entrance down to the gates of Tottington Mill.
The mucky track that runs from Tottington Mill, along the side of the Island Lodge, past Scholes's then up to Royds Street is called Mill Street, and still shows up on most modern maps. This was the main route for the workers who walked, bus'd or trammed to work though it is now shut off with bollards just before the viaduct. The workers who arrived by train would alight at Knowles Halt (just before Shepherds Street) and walk down to Mill Street, beside the track for the coal waggons.
If there is something you wish to include, or you have any comments, nice or not, please e-mail me. I love to hear from anyone with similar interests and any small snippets of information. Lancsman