Littleborough’s History


The Blackstone Edge Turnpike Trust was established in 1734 to repair, amend, enlarge and widen the existing road and make causeways, erect arches and divert roads. Exactly which road or alignment the act covered is unclear but East of Littleborough, it may have covered the so called ‘Roman Road’ but see separate page. It is very likely that the first act took over the Packhorse Road between Littleborough and Rough Farm. The first tolls were collected in 1734. A further act was obtained in 1754 to widen the road but some 10 years later the road was declared unusable such that a further act was necessary. Again, more acts were obtained to install mileposts etc.

The trust also straightened the road between the Rochdale Canal Bridge and The Rake as well as purchasing land and demolishing properties around Greengate. This work may well have resulted in the cutting beyond Gatehouse and the embankment in front of Lydgate Green (datestone 1764 JBL) but they may have been undertaken later when under local authority control.

This decision is likely to be referring to the construction of the New Road in Dearnley. The alignment via The Old Road and Whitegate is indicated by Tate’s map of 1785 whereas the two alternative roads between Husted (now Hurstead) via Wuerdle to Stubley are both included on Greenwood’s 1818 map and on the 1851 OS Map. On the latter, the old road appears to have been blocked off east of New Street presumably to ensure that users didn’t avoid paying their toll at the Stubley Ticket Gate on the New Road. By 1850 the Old Road was under local authority maintenance.

The growth in coach travel led to further investigations to see how the steep grades of the Old Road could be eased. Whilst the 1815 Act did not seek powers for a new road, in 1819 lots were let for the construction of the current Halifax Road with work complete in 1820/1. However, the 1818  map suggests that the section of the New Road between Stormer Bar and the Coach and Horses (or White House as it was increasingly called) appears to have been available at that date. In 1825 the whole length of the ‘new’ road from the Rake to The Coach & Horses to have been completed with additional fencing provided to the satisfaction of the Inspector General of Mails (for the use by Mail Coaches). Some 6 coaches operated daily between Rochdale and Halifax – Shuffle, Perseverance, High Flier, Defiance, Duke of Leeds and Commerce.

In 1824 John McAdam reported to the Trustees that the road “was in a very bad condition etc” and placed much of the cause being that the Trust relied too heavily on the Parishes for maintenance and repair rather than doing it themselves.

A map of the late 1820s (similar to the upper sketch map on this page shows the new road to the White House from Stormer bar as a turnpike used as a post road (ie carried a Mail Coach) and the southern or western loop of the Old road was shown as a turnpike whereas the Old road beyond Stormer Bar was no longer Turnpiked.

Coaches ceased to operate over The Blackstone Edge Turnpike in 1843 following the opening of the Leeds and Manchester Railway through Summit Tunnel and the Turnpike Trust was finally dissolved in 1872.


Whilst it is not entirely certain that the first turnpike went via ‘Old Road’ in Wuerdle and Whitegate in Dearnley, the name gate in street and local names often recalls where toll gates were located. The Dearnley Toll House and Gate was located opposite New Street on the corner of Watling St. It was called Stubley Ticket Gate in Toll Adverts. Ticket usually applies to small wooden buildings and the 1851 map indicates such a structure in front of a house. At one time the keeper was ‘Old Bob Highley’. The location of the Whitelees Gate is unclear but it was on the Littleborough side of the junction with Whitelees Road so that local traffic to/from the mills near Featherstall would not pay tolls for very short journeys. Whitelees Gate is not shown on the 1851 map.

In the rear porch of the Falcon Inn is a 1657 datestone recording when the yard and stables served as the focal point for stage coach travel over Blackstone Edge. The current Holy Trinity Parish Church was built between 1815 – 1820, being some 15 yards (approx 15 metres) north of the old church (pictured) which originated from around 1471. As the old chapel was located much nearer to the River Roch it was no doubt located south of the ‘newer’ Turnpike Road whilst the replacement church was positioned on vacant land to the north.

The Rake Inn was another Coaching Inn being located at the bottom of the steep climb of the First Turnpike Road to Blackstone Edge. It was known as the Hayrake around 1832. The Toll Road took an easier route around the north side of Windy Bank House before climbing to Gatehouse where local residents believed a gate was located with tolls collected at Rough Farm. Beyond Gatehouse the road passes through the deep cutting at the summit possibly dug by the Turnpike Trust. The road crosses an embankment past the Lydgate Mill and Lidiet Green (the cottage considerably lower on the west side) again possibly  work by the  Turnpike Trust.

Rough Farmhouse, shown painted white in the photograph was an early Toll House. Drovers watered their animals in the Clough below the bridge. Beyond Rough Farm and High Peak there is considerable uncertainty regarding which route the first Turnpike took to cross over Blackstone Edge. Is the so called ‘Roman Road’ actually a Turnpike Toll Road?  If so, the roadway which runs in front of the cottages (and earlier mill) at High Peak was the first Toll Toad. However, it is clear that difficulties in climbing the ‘Roman Road’ led to a revised alignment which is now followed to Stormer Bar. This Turnpike crossed over the later ‘new’ road and took a lower, more northerly route to the White House.

The 3rd Act of 1765 gave powers to “make causeways for pedestrians, construct ditches and fences to prevent toll evasion and to sell the old road if a new one should be contemplated” (Maxim pp 33). The growth of wheeled vehicles would have created pressure for an easier graded route than provided by an improved Packhorse Road. The 1760’s saw work to divert and alter the Turnpike Road between Littleborough and Gatehouse (see later) including around Windy Bank (the present course of Blackstone Edge Old Road) Payments in 1770 included land purchase at Windy Bank and for others between Littleborough and Lidgate Green.

During the 1770s ands 1780s, the Trust determined that work to divert the road between Littleborough and Hurstead, (which included demolition of a smithy and other buildings) must be completed before any new works begin.


Beyond the Rake Inn, the A58 later passes close by the 17th Century ‘Old Bent House’, original home of the Stott Family, Yeoman Farmers and Carriers who carried goods between Rochdale and Halifax over Blackstone Edge during the 17th & 18th centuries. The Moorcock Inn used to be Swaindrod Farm and was first licensed around 1840 with the landlord being recorded as Thomas Butterworth in 1843. And just around the corner was The Shepherd’s Rest Pub previously called Fence Nook (1851 – 1872) and licensed between 1851 and 1915. It became a Transport Café, then The Nook Restaurant and later a private dwelling in 2005.

Stormer Hill Bar, formerly Toll Bar Cottage  (or Bar House) was originally constructed in 1838 being later extended with a porch provided in 1911. The Toll House was constructed where the two Toll Roads crossed as is clearly shown in the adjacent photograph. The A58 passes alongside the Bar House with the ‘Old’ road crossing east west on the north side of the building. A weighing machine was provided at many toll gates including Stormer Bar.

Both Turnpike routes combine on the approach to the White House (previously known as the Coach and Horses), another Coaching Inn.