Littleborough’s History



In the early 18th Century there was concern that poor quality roads were holding back the UK’s development with the result that a network of Toll Roads operated by Turnpike Trusts were introduced for long distance journeys. Trusts obtained Acts of Parliament which enabled them to build and repair roads and collect tolls from users at Toll Houses and Bars (or Gates). Mile posts were provided and relevant tolls were displayed. Tolls generally varied by animal and vehicle with the width of tyre being important – the narrower the tyre the higher the toll  All Turnpikes were abolished by Act of Parliament in 1883.


Most of the main roads in use today were once Turnpike Toll Roads. Those in and around Littleborough and their dates were:

1. 1734 Blackstone Edge Turnpike – Old and New Roads covered Smallbridge (later Rochdale) to Halifax;

2. 1759 Whitelees to Doghill (Dean Head) via Calderbrook;

3. 1777 (date completed not clear but road completed by 1786) Doghill (Dean Head) to Todmorden;

4. 1824 Steanor Bottom to Littleborough;


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. Which road or alignment the act covered is unclear but East of Littleborough, it may have covered the so called ‘Roman Road’. 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 for the construction of a new road, possibly the Coach Road (Blackstone Edge Old Road). Again, more acts were obtained to install mileposts etc. The 1815 Act did not seek powers for a new road. In 1824 John McAdam reported to the Trustees that the road “was in a very bad condition etc”.

Between Husted (now Hurstead) via Wuerdle to Stubley were two alternative roads in 1850. The New Road now referred to as Halifax Road and the Old Road part of which is now called Whitegate. The latter road earlier went through to Stubley but by 1850 appears to have been blocked off where New Street now is presumably to ensure that users didn’t avoid the toll Ticket Gate on the New Road. Further research is required regarding which road was built under which act but by 1850 the Old Road was under local authority maintenance.

Which Act of Parliament authorised the construction of the current A58 east of Littleborough isn’t clear either but it was built after 1795 but before 1851, perhaps it was built after the John McAdam report. However, the construction of the new lower level Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden, Littleborough Turnpike would highlight the difficulties experienced by users of the ‘Old’ Blackstone Edge Road providing real competition and thus a potential reduction in Toll Receipts may have been another incentive to undertake necessary improvements. The Rochdale Canal and the forthcoming railway would also have been an incentive.

A map of the late 1820s shows the northern loop to the White House from Stormer bar as a turnpike used as a post road (ie carried a Mail Coach) and the southern loop as a turnpike. The ‘new’ road (A58) was opened before 1830 prior to the Moorcock Inn’s conversion from a farm and the construction of Stormer Bar. The 1836 Blackstone Act may have formalised the improvements made in between 1820 and mid-1830s. The Blackstone Edge Turnpike Trust was finally dissolved in 1872.


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. 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 and over the summit through a cutting 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.


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


The Turnpike Trust of 1759 was empowered to link the Rochdale to Halifax with the Reddyshore Scoutgate Packhorse Road at Doghills (now known as Dean Head) and included taking over an existing track from Townhouse. The Reddyshore Packhorse Road climbed up and over the hillside to avoid the Summit Gap. 1785 has been suggested as the date of the improvements but this may just refer to the section between Doghills and Steanor Bottom see below). The Todmorden Act of 1800 restricted the placing of toll bars which meant that there would be a gate at Doghills. The power of the Trust appeared to have lapsed after the Steanor Bottom to Littleborough Turnpike Toll Road was finished.


It has been suggested that there was a toll bar at The Dog and Partridge (which became the Caldermoor Pub and is now a hairdressers etc). This would be logical as Shore Road in those days led to Wardle and Whitworth but evidence suggests none was permitted. Beyond the junction, Calderbrook Road continues to the bottom of Clough Road where it commences the steep climb to Calderbrook passing the cottages of Lower and Middle Newgate and once over the top, Handle Hall. The hall was built in 1610 and was originally called named ‘Warcock Hill’ but became the Queen Ann Inn with an early reference being in 1818 when Thomas Bamford was the licensee. It ceased being an inn during the 1930s and reverted to being Handle Hall. The 1800 Turnpike Act mentions ‘A certain dwelling house now used as a public house at Doghills’. In 1818 the landlord was James Lord, Victualler and Butcher. This pub known as the Bull and Butchers was later pulled down and the materials used to construct the Summit Inn (see later).


The Turnpike Trust of 1777 was empowered to construct or improve roads from Doghill (Dean Head) to Todmorden and whilst the completion date is unclear, the road was completed by 1786. As mentioned above, the suggested date of 1785 may just refer to the section between Doghills and Steanor Bottom. The road was controversially abandoned as a through route being retained only as a footway.


The development of a Turnpike Road from Halifax to Todmorden and Burnley and Littleborough was authorised to be formed and constructed in 1759 or 1760 under An Act for diverting, altering, widening, repairing and amending the Roads from the Town of Halifax, and from Sowerby Bridge, in the County of York, by Todmorden, to Burnley and Littleborough, in the County of Lancashire. Work didn’t commence immediately and it was not until 1777 that the Trustees instructed their surveyor to mark out the road intended to be made between Todmorden and Dean Head. In 1821 the Trustees assembled at Hebden Bridge to proceed with lengthening the toll road from Walsden to Littleborough along the valley bottom. Whilst progress in Littleborough was slow, work proceeded to improve the road as far as Steanor Bottom where it connected with the extended Whitelees to Doghills Road in and around 1786. Work on the Turnpike Road may have been affected by the construction of the Rochdale Canal which was opened to Todmorden from Sowerby Bridge in August 1798 and to Rochdale in December 1798. The construction of the canal helped drain Gale Flats, a notoriously wet location. Construction south of Steanor Bottom proceeded such that it was open throughout to Littleborough around 1824. Toll houses were provided at Steanor Bottom and 105 yards north of the junction with the Blackstone Edge Turnpike which was adjacent to the Holy Trinity Church. Todmorden Road as the route of this Turnpike is now known, ceased to be a toll road around 1877 -79.  


One of the most prominent features on the road is the Steanor Bottom Toll House located at the bottom of the road down from Doghills. The hexagonal two storey toll house was built in 1824 and was in use for some 50 years and when no longer required as a toll-house, it was occupied for some time before becoming derelict. In 1972, it was badly damaged by a storm which dislodged the roof and part of the structure.

Following an appeal the restored toll house and extension was completed in 1980. When in use, the building displayed a list of tolls which the Trust was authorised to collect. One of the toll boards is now in the History Society’s collection (see picture below). Beyond Dean Head on the new road is the Summit Inn referred to earlier, was licensed from 1823 with James Lord, Victualler and Butcher being the landlord.

Around Gale, Lawrence Newall purchased land at Gale upon which he built Gale House plus Gale Mill and the Gale Public House as well as some adjacent housing. The Gale Inn was let to Robert Hall, the first licensee, in 1828. Robert and his wife had previously been servants to the Newall family. Robert's children ran the pub until 1851. It continued serving the local community for nearly 150 years before finally closing in 1998. Gale Mill was a Calico print works subsequently owned by Joseph Bottomley and later Frederick Scott, Printers. Like many mills in Littleborough, it was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt becoming a modern looking factory. Fothergill and Harveys purchased the mill in 1950 but it was later used by Walsden Printing. Following closure it was replaced by new apartment blocks built in the style of a Malt House or canalside warehouse.

The southerly Toll House was located opposite Victoria Street 105 yds or more from the junction with the Blackstone Edge Toll Road. It  was pulled down in 1877/78 by William Greenwood of Ebor Iron Works, to be replaced by two shops one side of which went down River Street. The toll house resembled that at Steanor Bottom and the last toll keeper and bill poster was Mr Dixon.

The building erroneously referred to as the old toll house (including a blue plaque) was built by a local architect called Mr Shuttleworth as an office for his business. He built it in the style of a toll house in circa 1885. Mr Shuttleworth also acted as a consultant to LUDC.



Around 1818 James Wild constructed a toll road for Messrs Midgeley and Rhodes which ran from the weir (approx where Wine Press is) to the bottom of Hollingworth Brow (now called Bear Hill). This superseded a foot-road. Messrs Midgeley and Rhodes paid the Canal Co £1 pa for the privilege of taking the road over the dam. The road was extended at the same time to Rakewood. The tolls were collected for a number of years before the road fell into dis-repair so it was taken over by the Canal Co about 1836. John Taylor of Higher Fold collected the Tolls on behalf of the Canal Co from 1840 or 41. Toll collection was not strictly enforced as when the toll keeper was absent none was collected. Henry Blackburn from Milnrow recalled that when travelling during the period 1842 to 1847 the toll bar or chain was located at the bottom of Hollingworth Brow where two gas retorts remain. Mr Blackburn stated that whilst tolls were paid to visit the Lodge Inn (now houses) none were paid to reach the Mermaid Inn (now demolished). On 13th April 1892, by agreement with the Proprietors of the Rochdale Canal Co, Littleborough UDC advised that “This road is open to the public” subject to various conditions including weight limits, no stopping on the dam and restrictions to ensure animals did not stray or pedestrians do not go onto the slopes of the embankment.

In addition to the Hollingworth and Rakewood Toll Road, the Rochdale Canal had a number of gates situated around Hollingworth Lake (The Weavers Seaport) which were locked for a day each year. In April 1953, H Percival recalls some 6 gates located:

1. near the Beach Hotel;

2. opposite the landing stage;

3. corner of road to Littleborough;

4. near road to Higher Cleggswood;

5. next to Bear Hill House;

6. Bridge at top end of lake – closed Sept 1939 but re-opened 1940.

Gates 1, 4, 5 & 6 were still extant when his note was made.

Elsewhere it is stated that "The Toll House, a wooden house, was near to the Fisherman's Inn on corner of the road to Littleborough and Smithy Bridge operated by Mr Jackson and closed on 14th April 1892". - See below. Another note suggested it was moved to the Lake Hotel. The Rochdale Canal Co also erected a brass plaque ‘in the road’ between Yell Lane and the first house (built on the site of the old L&Y Hotel) “RGC – NO RIGHT OF WAY- NORTH WEST OF BOUNDARY STONES – FIXED IN LINE 41 YDS – SOUTH WEST OF THIS POINT”.

Another document within the Society’s collection mentions a toll bar in Littleborough Sq. This may well refer to a private road that included  the very narrow bridge over the Rochdale Canal adjacent to the Railway Hotel and used to reach Inghams Farm and Hollingworth Lake. In pre-railway days, it went across the meadow belonging to Henry Peel Esq before reaching Church Street in Littleborough centre. Adjacent to the canal and road there were lime kilns on Henry Peel’s land. When the railway was built the road to Littleborough was severed and a replacement provided which would have been the end of the reported toll bar in the square. The Toll House mentioned in the paragraph above may well have referred to this Private Road which elsewhere is shown as a toll road.


A Mr Entwistle built at his own (considerable) expense a private road for horses and carriages for the occupation of his tenants only through his farms in Hundersfield and Butterworth commencing at Smallbridge to Hundersfield and Butterworth ending at the Highway at Winnian or Union Flash in the latter township. As he believed the road would be of value to other user, particularly as it crossed over the Canal at Clegg Hall where wharfs and kilns could be built to produce considerable profit, he intended to hold a meeting in the Bull Hotel, Smallbridge on the 12th November. He also issued a Public Notice is also further given “That as the said road is cut and made entirely through Private Property – ‘All Persons presuming to go or to travel the same without leave or by Agreement in Writing or paying a toll as required at the Toll Houses (Foot Passengers excepted) will be prosecuted with the utmost severity of the Law’, John Entwistle, Foxholes, Oct 13th, 1801”. This road still exists over much of its route but is not tarmaced throughout. Ale was brewed at Clegg Hall from as early as the 14th Century and in the early and middle 19th Century Clegg Hall was a inn known as the Hare and Hounds.

More Details on the Public Houses and Inns are included in “A History of Littleborough Pubs” now at a special price of £6.99

Acknowledgement is given to Mr A Rosevear and his website for his assistance and provision of details and clarification