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Coordinates: 53°38′38″N 2°05′53″W / 53.644°N 2.098°W / 53.644; -2.098

A view over Littleborough
Littleborough is located in Greater Manchester

 Littleborough shown within Greater Manchester
Population 13,807 (2001 Census)
OS grid reference SD9316
    - London  170 mi (270 km) SSE 
Metropolitan borough Rochdale
Metropolitan county Greater Manchester
Region North West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ROCHDALE
Postcode district OL15-OL16
Dialling code 01706
Police Greater Manchester
Fire Greater Manchester
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament Rochdale
List of places: UK • England • Greater Manchester

Littleborough is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, England.[1] It lies amongst the South Pennines, 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Rochdale and 12.6 miles (20.3 km) north-northeast of the city of Manchester.

Historically a part of Lancashire, what is now known as Littleborough emerged as a settlement on the lands which had formed the ancient township of Hundersfield.[2][3] During the Middle Ages, Littleborough was a small centre of domestic woollen cloth production - an industry which was stimulated as a result of Littleborough's proximity to the West Riding of Yorkshire.[4] Following the Industrial Revolution, Littleborough became a mill town, its landscape dominated by distinctive and large rectangular brick-built woollen and cotton mills.

Hollingworth Lake, built as a reservoir to supply water to the Rochdale Canal, is a water sports venue with a country park and nature reserve.



The name Littleborough, is commonly believed to derive from the words "little" and "borough", signifying its tiny size. However it has never been a borough and it is more probable that the borough part of the name is a corruption of "brook". The heart of the town is at the junction of the River Roch and Ealees Brook. The name of the village is given as Littlebrugh on Saxton's 1579 map of Lancashire.

Littleborough began as a scattering of weaving hamlets within the Parish of Hundersfield, a large area stretching from Rochdale to Todmorden. The oldest building in Littleborough is The Falcon pub which was built around 1756.

The Industrial Revolution brought roads, canals, and railways, as well as mills, foundries and coal-workings. Major civil engineering projects took place in town during the 19th century, mainly being part of the first trans-Pennine canal and railway links. The stretch of the Rochdale Canal which passes through Littleborough still has one of the largest concentrations of broad canal locks in the world and the Summit Tunnel was at the time of its construction (1841) the longest railway tunnel yet built.

During Victorian and Edwardian times, as Littleborough began to grow, three churches were built. There were however, mostly chapels which were then built, thus following the nonconformist principles of the time which happened to be predominant around the Littleborough area.


Lying within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire since the early 12th century, Littleborough was a chapelry and component area of Hundersfield, an ancient township within the parish of Rochdale and hundred of Salford.[1] Hundersfield constituted a civil parish encompassing several settlements to the northeast of Rochdale, until its dissolution.[1][5]

Littleborough's first local authority was a Local board of health established in 1870; Littlborough Local Board of Health was a regulatory body responsible for standards of hygiene and sanitation for parts of the then townships of Blatchinworth and Calderbrook, of Wuerdle and Wardle and of Butterworth, with the local board's territory being expanded into further parts of these townships in 1879.[1] Under the Local Government Act 1894, the area of the local board expanded to encompass all of Blatchinworth and Calderbrook and became the Littleborough Urban District, a local government district in the Rochdale Poor Law Union and administrative county of Lancashire.[1] Under the Local Government Act 1972, the Littleborough Urban District was abolished, and Littleborough and its outlying settlements have, since 1 April 1974, formed an unparished area of the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, within the Metropolitan county of Greater Manchester.[1] In anticipation of the new local government arrangement, Littleborough Urban District Council applied for civil parish status to be granted to the locality after 1974, however the application was not successful.[6]


A view towards Littleborough and Rochdale from Blackstone Edge.

Littleborough is in the Roch Valley, with the Pennines on one side and the Rossendale Fells a spur of the Pennines, on the other side. The valley narrows to the north, where the Summit Gorge creates a gap in the Pennines, and widens to the south where the land drains into the Irwell and Mersey watersheds. The River Roch and the Rochdale Canal run through the town centre. Hollingworth Lake, built as a reservoir to supply water to the canal, is a water sports venue with a country park and nature reserve.

The Pennine Way runs along the top of Blackstone Edge, with views across Greater Manchester and Lancashire to the north.


  • Dearnley Methodist Church - On the A58 towards Rochdale.[7]
  • Greenhill Methodist Church - The smallest church in Littleborough, holds infrequent services.[8]
  • Holy Trinity Church (Littleborough Parish Church) - Located across from the Coach House, is one of the larger churches in the area, and features gargoyles dating from the time it was built. The church was founded in 1471.
  • St Andrew's Church - Located near the main A58 towards Rochdale in the Parish of Dearnley.[9]
  • St Barnabas' Church - Located around the Parish of Shore, of which it is the Parish Church, and is built on a field thought to have once been a lake.[10]
  • St James' Church - The Parish Church of Calderbrook.[11]
  • St Mary's Church - The local Roman Catholic church and is situated on the main A58 Featherstall Road.
  • Smithy Bridge Methodist Church - Near Hollingworth Lake.[12]
  • Hollingworth Lake
  • The Summit Gorge, an ancient glacial meltwater channel that provides a spectacular low level route through the Pennines connecting the Yorkshire Calder and Lancashire Roch valleys.
  • Blackstone Edge, and the historic packhorse, "Roman" and later coach toll roads near it.
  • The "Roman" road over Blackstone Edge, believed by many to have been a significant Roman site (although this has been contested on many occasions).
  • Annually (usually in September) the town hosts "Littleborough Arts Week", an art event comprising of a number of exhibitions from individual artists and organisations, as well as an open arts exhibition and arts events.
  • One of the significant buildings in the town is Littleborough Coach House, which was restored by a confederation of local voluntary groups and is now a community space, cafe and shop. Hare Hill Park is another focus point for the community, which also houses Littleborough Library and Municipal Buildings as well as bowls lawns and children's play areas.
  • On the outskirts of Littleborough, towards Rochdale, lies the seventeenth-century Clegg Hall, the impressive manor house which has been recently restored.[13]
  • On the way up to Blackstone Edge, above Hollingworth Lake is the ancient farmstead, or fold, of Whittaker. The earliest house possibly dates back to the fourteenth century. Whittaker was restored in the early 90s. Close by is Whittaker Golf Club, and Whittaker Wood which is owned by the Woodland Trust.[14]


The Rakewood Viaduct carries the M62 Motorway over Rakewood Valley and Longden End Brook between junctions 21 and 22.


  • St Mary's R.C. Primary School is positioned next to the Roman Catholic church of St. Mary on the main A58 Featherstall Road.
  • Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School is relatively close to the centre of Littleborough across from the Coach House.
  • Littleborough County Primary School (also an infant school) is the largest school in Littleborough, and is also the home of the Littleborough Juniors, and the Littleborough football fields, on which pub league teams play every Sunday.

The school is often referred to locally as "Central", a name derived from the school's history as one of the last central board schools in England and Wales. The original school building was an impressively large stone building overlooking Harehill Park. In the mid 1990s the building was demolished and the school moved to what had been the site of Littleborough High School before it was amalgamated with Roch Valley High School to form Hollingworth High School.

The school is close to Littleborough Cricket Club, which is the notable cricket team of the town.

Notable people





  • Clark, David M. (1973). Greater Manchester Votes: A Guide to the New Metropolitan Authorities. Redrose. 
  • Hignett, Tim (1991). Milnrow & Newhey: A Lancashire Legacy. Littleborough: George Kelsall Publishing. ISBN 0-946571-19-8. 

External links


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