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Borough of Rossendale
Borough and Non-metropolitan district
Rossendale shown within Lancashire and England
Rossendale shown within Lancashire and England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region North West England
Ceremonial county Lancashire
Admin. HQ Bacup
 • Type Rossendale Borough Council
 • Total 53.3 sq mi (138.0 km2)
Area rank 194th
 (2005 est.)
 • Total 71,482
 • Rank Ranked 296th
 • Density 1,341.6/sq mi (517.99/km2)
Time zone UTC+0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+1 (British Summer Time)
ONS code 30UM (ONS)
E07000125 (GSS)
Ethnicity 90.6% White British
5.6% Asian

Rossendale is a district with borough status in Lancashire, England, holding a number of small former mill towns centred on the valley of the River Irwell in the industrial North West. Rossendale combines modest size urban development with rural villages and is immediately south of the more populated town of Burnley, east of Blackburn and north of Bolton, Bury, Manchester and Rochdale, centred 15 miles (24 km) north of Manchester.

In the 2001 census the population of Rossendale was 65,652, spread between the larger towns of Bacup, Haslingden and Rawtenstall; the villages of Crawshawbooth, Edenfield, Helmshore, Waterfoot, Whitworth; and as well as Britannia, Broadclough, Chatterton, Cloughfold, Cowpe, Irwell Vale, Loveclough, Newchurch, Shawforth, Stacksteads, Stubbins, Turn and Weir. The population at the 2011 Census had risen to 67,922.

The district was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, from the municipal boroughs of Bacup, Haslingden, Rawtenstall, part of Ramsbottom Urban District and Whitworth Urban District.

Rossendale is twinned with the German town of Bocholt, located close to the Netherlands border.

The name "Rossendale" may also refer geographically to Rossendale Valley, and historically refers to the medieval Forest or "Chase" of Rossendale, which encompassed approximately the same area as the modern district.

Rossendale is part of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency. Jake Berry MP has been the Member of Parliament for Rossendale and Darwen since 2010.

All of Rossendale is unparished, except for Whitworth, which has a town council.

History and industry

Rossendale is part of the Forest of Rossendale, which consists of the steep-sided valleys of the River Irwell and its tributaries, which flow from the Pennines southwards to Manchester and cut through the moorland which is characteristic of the area. It was given the designation of "forest" in medieval times denoting a hunting reserve.

The larger settlements grew into market towns, typically through the late Middle Ages. Farming and a cottage woollen industry developed during the reign of Henry VIII, but Rossendale's population only really expanded during the period of the Industrial Revolution. The population was 16,033 in 1801; in 1901 it had grown to 89,540 (relevant censuses). Its wet and damp climate are ideally suited to the development of watermills, and later to the mechanisation of the wool and cotton spinning and weaving industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the middle of the 19th century a felt industry developed, and from this the manufacturing of slippers so that footwear also became a major employer in the area.

The area became one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution, and was known as 'The Golden Valley'. There was great hardship among working people during this time, but many fortunes were made among the mill-owning classes. There was large-scale immigration from Ireland to find work building the railways and in the mills, which led to several instances of serious civil disturbances between the two communities. Michael Davitt, the Irish republican leader was among these immigrants, settling in Haslingden, where he received his education after losing an arm at the age of 11 in a mill accident.

The area is also notable for its quarrying, and Rossendale Flagstone was used widely throughout the country in the 19th century. The flagstones in Trafalgar Square in London were quarried in Rossendale. Upland farming is still carried out, largely of sheep but also of cattle. The history of Rossendale is well documented, largely through the efforts of the historian Chris Aspin, a specialist on the textile industry, and Derek Pilkington, whose efforts led to the preservation of Higher Mill in Helmshore, now Helmshore Mills Textile Museum.

The Whitworth Doctors were local surgeons and bone setters whose reputation spread far and wide, so that they treated patients from throughout the country, including Princess Elizabeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1819 William Hewitt described them as "the most remarkable men of their class that ever appeared in England".

With the steady decline of the cotton industry Rossendale suffered from serious economic decline which has only recently halted, and the area still has pockets of poverty. However, the opening of fast road connections with Manchester, allied to the attractiveness of the local countryside has meant that Rossendale has developed a sizeable commuter population. In its wake this is bringing some signs of economic revival, and Rawtenstall in particular now houses a number of shops that sell niche fashion and luxury consumer goods alongside Asda and Tesco superstores. This, coupled with redevelopment plans to regenerate the Valley Precinct and bus depot (both in Rawtenstall), are intended to attract more businesses and visitors into Rossendale.

R.S. Ireland (The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co.) is based near Haslingden; a family run business of specialist black pudding makers, using only traditional methods and with a recipe dating back to 1879. Rawtenstall has Fitzpatricks Herbal Health, this is the last remaining functioning temperance bar in England, that makes and sells its own non-alcoholic drinks, such as sarsaparilla, black beers and blood tonic.


The name Rossendale first appeared in 1292. A record of the name as Rocendal (1242) suggests Celtic ros "moor, heath", with Old Norse dalr "dale, valley", hence moor valley i.e. the valley of the River Irwell.


The borough is linked by the motorway network to Manchester, Burnley and Blackburn via the A56/M65 and M66 motorways. Bordering Greater Manchester southwards, it is 17.4 miles to Deansgate (city centre) via the Edenfield by-pass and M66, with a journey time of around 30 minutes in a car. Alternatively the A56 route can be taken via Edenfield, Walmersley, Bury centre, Whitefield, Prestwich and Broughton.

There was once a rail link south to Manchester via Bury, but this was closed in 1966 as part of cuts following the Beeching Report. Part of the old railway reopened in 1991 as the East Lancashire Railway operating a service from Rawtenstall to Bury via Ramsbottom and Summerseat, and manned by volunteers. In September 2003 an eastbound extension from Bury to Heywood was opened. The line is now just over 12 miles long and is open every weekend of the year. There are aspirations to redevelop this line as a link to Manchester providing a commuter service. As such the nearest railway connections are Blackburn, Burnley, and Todmorden.

The area is well served by public transport, with bus services provided mainly by Rosso and Transdev in Burnley & Pendle. These provide regular services to Burnley, Blackburn, Accrington, Bolton, Bury, Manchester and Rochdale as well as Todmorden and other local destinations.

In March 2015 a 37-minute rail connection for Rossendale to the centre of Manchester was proposed.

The arts in Rossendale

Waugh's Well

Rossendale is the home to a large community of artists with several painters' studios, many of which are centred on the area around Waterfoot. Rossendale's only traditional Theatre is in Bacup . The Royal Court Theatre first opened in 1893 and has a thriving Youth Theatre called The Rossendale Musical Theatre Academy. A theatre and arts centre known as 'The Boo' is the home of the international touring Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company who specialise in visual theatre, often using distinctive masks. The painters and other artists who make up the major studios within the valley - Globe Arts, Prospect Studio, Valley Artists, the Slipper Studio - along with the Boo, and the See Gallery in Crawshawbooth, now work together to open their studios and premises each year at the Reveal Open Studios weekend.

The Littoral Arts Trust, dedicated to arts, social and environmental research is based in the Rossendale Valley. The first part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail runs from Deerplay, above Bacup, to Stubbins. The actress Jane Horrocks was born in Rawtenstall, Rossendale, and the composer Alan Rawsthorne was born in Haslingden. Betty Jackson, the fashion designer, is a native of Bacup.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Larks of Dean were an unusual group of working class musicians whose music-making at the Baptist Chapel in Goodshaw Fold became an important local feature. There is also a brass band tradition as well as an amateur theatre scene. There was once over 40 bands in and around Rossendale, including the Irwell Springs Band whose fame was at a peak at the turn of the 19th century. There are currently the Haslingden and Helmshore Band, Goodshaw Band, Stacksteads Band, Water Band, 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band, Whitworth Vale & Healey Band, Whitworth Youth Band, Haslingden Concert Band and the Whitworth Veterans' Band. Rossendale is home to a unique dancing troup, the Britannia Coco-nut Dancers, formed in the mid-19th century, and who traditionally dance along the local roads every Easter.

Halo in Haslingden, Rossendale, England
Haslingden Halo

There has been a long tradition of dialect poetry and writing in Rossendale. Local poets have included Andrew Houston (The Rossendale Bard), Walter Hargreaves (Shepster) and Clifford Heyworth (Bill o' Bows). Waugh's Well, above Edenfield and Cowpe, marks the spot where Edwin Waugh wrote many of his poems, and is a favourite spot for walkers - a popular activity in Rossendale that does not appear to be in decline.

The Halo is an artwork in the form of an 18m-diameter steel lattice structure supported on a tripod overlooking Haslingden, positioned to be clearly visible from the M66 and A56 approach to Lancashire. Designed by John Kennedy and selected as part of a design competition managed by RIBA Competitions which was launched in 2003. It is lit after dark using low-energy LEDs powered by an adjacent wind turbine. It is the fourth Panopticon in Lancashire. It, and the adjacent landscaped area at Top o'Slate, was opened to the public in September 2007, and was designed by John Kennedy of LandLab and engineered by Booth King Partnership.

Sports and entertainment

Lee quarry
Lee Quarry now contains a purpose-built mountain bike trail.

Three Rossendale towns have cricket clubs in the Lancashire League - Bacup, Haslingden and Rawtenstall. The overseas professionals who are associated with the League have therefore often lived in the Rossendale Valley. For example, Everton Weekes was long associated with Bacup; Clive Lloyd with Haslingden. Edenfield Cricket Club are also associated with the Lancashire League but only participate in the leagues T/20 competition. Rossendale rugby club for many years had been a small rugby union club playing in the lower leagues, but in recent years the club has gained two promotions to take them into National League 3 North. Notable players such Daniel Collins, Dave Wood and Tim Fourie now play at the valley side. The areas only non league football team are Bacup & Rossendale Borough F.C. who play their home games at West View and are members of the North West Counties League Premier Division. The club changed to its current name in 2013, after being known as Bacup Borough for nearly one hundred years, in order to try and attract a wider support from the area. This was after the areas other non league side Rossendale United, who played their home games at nearby Newchurch near Rawtenstall, folded in 2011. The only other team that can be associated with the area are Ramsbottom United who play in the Northern Premier League First Division.

The popular comedy series, The League of Gentlemen is apparently based upon Rossendale (and perhaps Bacup in particular), playing upon stereotypes and exaggerations of the area. Subsequently, the producers filmed in various northern towns.

Various towns within the Rossendale Valley were used for filming scenes of the BBC TV series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates during the 1990s.

The 1980 drama Juliet Bravo was filmed in Rossendale.

During autumn 2008 areas around Rossendale were used in the filming of the BBC TV series Survivors (2008 TV Series) including the Airtours site and other sites in Helmshore and Bank Street in Rawtenstall.

In 2012 Rossendale featured on the ITV reality television series "May The Best House Win" featuring former Rossendale Radio DJ Si Carvell.

Local radio station Rossendale Radio broadcast throughout the valley from 2010, before shutting down on 5 March 2012 due to financial difficulties.

The area has a sizeable ski slope, appropriately named Ski Rossendale, which attracts many visitors. The slope has spawned and aided the Brass brothers, Steve Bailey, Chris Moran, Danny Wheeler; and more recently Johnny Greenwood, Colum Mytton and Molly Percival (née Boys) to fame in the snowboarding world.

Until recent years, Rossendale also hosted the Rossendale Motorbike Show which brought in motorbike enthusiasts from across the country.

Based in Nelson, the Rossendale Model Stock Car Club races scalextric-like 1/32 scale model stock cars.

Rossendale is sometimes called "The Valley of Song", and this was certainly the case when the choir was founded in 1924, by Fred Tomlinson MBE. He took a group of men and moulded them into one of the country's finest male voice choirs, winning countless festivals, including the international Eisteddfod in Llangollen on four occasions. The choir has been fortunate in enjoying the services of several conductors, some of whom have remained for many years. The choir's current musical director is Kate Shipway, and like all the others, Kate brings something new and vibrant to the table, and it is from this diversity that the choir has continued to draw great benefit. Over the years, and from different competitions, trophies and silverware have been held aloft and brought back to the valley. Whilst these are a good yard-stick of the choir's abilities, they have never been the most important aspect of what the choir does, and why they do it. Friendships between the members are integral to the choir, and sharing a love of singing and music-making drives all members to do their very best, at any concert or festival. These friendships extend well beyond the valley, and the choir has an active twinning association with two German choirs; a ladies choir from Monchengladbach, and a male voice choir from Bocholt. The choir has been heavily involved is charity fundraising work, and recently appeared alongside the Black Dyke Band, raising £30,000 for the Christie Hospital.


Civil parishes

Borough of Rossendale parishes map
     Whitworth parish shown within Rossendale

Whitworth is the only civil parish in Rossendale.

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