Littleborough’s History


In the late 1880’s Peter Butterworth approaching 25 met Emily who was a couple of years younger and they later married in 1888/1889 (see end for more information). Peter was born in Wardle in 1865 and was a Fulling Miller whereas Emily was from Littleborough,

The couple settled down in Smallbridge possibly close to Robert’s family and during mid-1890 they were blessed with a son who they named Fred. At the time of the 1891 Census the new family were living at 412 Halifax Road hear to St John’s Church (see picture). They didn’t stay in Smallbridge because their next child, James Robert was born in Littleborough towards the end of 1893. Three years later their 3rd son, Harvey was born in Littleborough.

By the time of the 1901 Census the family were living at 15 Newall Street, Littleborough and they had a 4th son, Frank born towards the end of 1900. Their father Robert was now employed as a Travelling Draper. Their 5th son, Harold Earnshaw Butterworth was born on 30th March 1904.

Fred, James R and Harvey all went to school in Littleborough starting in the old buildings located on Peel Street and Victoria Street. These Methodist church schools were taken over on 5th October 1894 by the Calderbrook and Blatchinworth School Board which had been formed in June 1894. The 3 sons and studied in these increasingly ageing, unsuitable buildings until the new Board School (pictured) was built and opened adjacent to the park in 1903.

By 1911 the family had moved to 38 Elim Terrace but when they moved isn’t known. Frank may well have also gone to Central school like his brothers but when they moved Stansfield School would have been more convenient so possibly Frank and Harold studied at Stansfield School.

According to the 1911 census Robert was a General Labourer in the Cotton Trade and both Fred and Harvey were Cotton Weavers with James employed ‘Section Warping’. The three lads subsequently changed careers to some degree with Fred later being employed as a labourer by Messrs E. Taylor & Co. on Ebor Street, joiners and builders. James and Harvey both worked for Fothergill and Harveys. James as a Warehouseman with Harvey employed in Sladen Wood Mill. It is not known whether the family attended the same church when living on Newall Street but later Harvey went to Temple Methodist (pictured below right) whilst Fred went to the Victoria Street Congregational Church. None of the three elder brothers got married but they were all members of the local Oddfellows, Lodge 3397.


The outbreak of war saw all three older brothers enlisted into the Army with Fred enlisting in Rochdale on 2nd January 1915 and James R doing likewise on 6th November 1915. Like Fred and James, Harvey enlisted in Rochdale and was went to the front on February 17th, 1916. Like most recruits they spent time in England before going to the front but whilst we know the 3 brothers served on the Western Front it is unclear of any went to Gallipoli or Egypt.

Private 14568 Fred Butterworth, 10th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, the eldest son, went to the front on February 17th, 1916 and fought in the Somme Campaign but was reported missing. In the Rochdale Observer of 6th August 1916 it was still being reported that Private Fred Butterworth, previously reported missing was wounded whilst his Battalion was on action around Contalmaison Shelter Alley, Quadrangle Trench and Pearl Alley on Friday 7th July 1916. However, letters and parcels sent to him were being returned endorsed "Present location unknown". It was not until a year later, week ending 1st July 1917 that it was officially confirmed that Fred posted missing since Friday 7th July 1916 was presumed killed on that date. This was reported by the Rochdale Observer on 7th July 1917, exactly a year after he fell.

 Like Fred, James Robert (right) also fought in the Somme Campaign and but unfortunately by week ending Saturday 30th September 1916, the Rochdale Observer reported that in a letter Private Kershaw of Littleborough had sent home Mr and Mrs Butterworth were led to believe that James Robert was missing in action. It was later officially confirmed that 23 year old Private 26632 James Robert Butterworth, 20th Bn (5th City Pals) Manchester Regiment had been killed in action in France on Sunday 3rd September 1916 when his attacked the German held village of Ginchy.

Thus in a period of less than 2 months 2 sons had fallen barely 6 miles apart. Regrettably, both sons were lost in the advances of the day and they are remembered on the main Thiepval Memorial on the Somme located 3.25 to the north of Contalmaison.

No doubt, the family preyed that Harvey (right) would safely return home from the war but Private 18849 Harvey Butterworth, 7th Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry was killed in action in France on Thursday 28th March 1918. Like his two brothers he has no know grave and is remembered on the Arras Memorial. See further details on Harvey Here

This triple loss Fred (Friday 7th July 1916), James R (3rd September 1916) and Harvey (Thursday 28th March 1918) gave Robert and Emily Butterworth the unfortunate distinction of being the only known Littleborough parents to lose three sons (during the First World War).

After the war all 3 brothers were remembered on the plaques adjacent to the Littleborough Cenotaph as well as on the Littleborough Central School Memorial and on the Oddfellows, Lodge 3397, Roll of Honour – State Section both now located in the History Centre. Fred and John Robert are also remembered on the Victoria Street Congregational Chapel War Memorial.

It is not known if Frank served in the war but he may well have joined up but Harold was probably too young.

Initial researches suggest that Robert Butterworth married either Emily Earnshaw in June 1889 or Emily Stansfield in the third quarter of 1889. With Harold’s second name being Earnshaw it could well be that he was named after his mother’s family name. It is believed that Robert, the father of the 5 sons died in 1937. Harold Earnshaw Butterworth married Matilda Earnshaw (born on 5th March 1910) in the second quarter of 1935 and in early 1939 they were living at 6 Brooklyn Avenue, Littleborough. Harold was a Clerk in the Local Authority’s Rates Department probably located in Hare Hill House. Unfortunately, it appears he died at the early age of 35, just two years after his father. To date, it is unclear whether Frank married as there are a couple of alternatives and similar it has been difficult to clarify further details on Emily Butterworth