The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868
"ROCHDALE, a parish, market town, and parliamentary borough in the hundred of Salford, southern division of county Lancaster, but containing many places in the West Riding of Yorkshire; 11 miles N. of Manchester, and 218 by rail from London. The town is situated on the river Roach or Roche, a tributary of the Irwell, whence it derives its name. Its population in 1801 was 8,542; in 1851 it was 29,195; and in 1861 it had increased to 38,184, occupying 7,705 houses. The population of the parish, which extends into the West Riding of Yorkshire, and covers an area of 58,620 acres, was 119,531 in 1861. The town occupies the site of a castle built by the Saxons at Castleton, and probably destroyed in conflicts between the Saxons and the Danes in the 11th century. Many of the streets are narrow and irregular, but great improvements have been lately made, several of the more important thoroughfares having been widened and rebuilt. The houses are generally built of brick, and in the older quarters the roofs are for the most part of stone, instead of slate. The streets are paved and lighted with gas, and there is an abundant supply of excellent water from four reservoirs in the neighbourhood. The river is crossed by five bridges, one of which, of light ironwork, is used by foot passengers only. The principal public buildings are the townhall, used also as a newsroom, a public hall for concerts, grammar, British, National, and other schools. The parish church, raised in honour of St. Chad, is situated on an elevated site, and is approached from the lower parts of the town by a flight of 122 steps. It was built in the 12th century, partly in the Norman and partly in the perpendicular style. It underwent considerable repairs in 1856, has a square embattled tower, besides several windows of tracery, and some ancient monuments. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester, value about £2,000, in the patronage of the bishop. Besides the parish church, there are St. Alban's, of recent erection, St. Mary's, and St. James's, and in the rural parts of the parish 17 other churches, the livings of which are all perpetual curacies, varying in value from £67 to £300. There are also two Baptist and two Independent chapels, and places of worship for Presbyterians, Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, Primitive, Association, and Wesleyan Methodists, Friends, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. There is a Sunday-school attached to each church or chapel, which large numbers of children attend. Moss school is a well-endowed establishment, where 40 boys and 20 girls receive gratuitous instruction, and there is a free grammar school, founded in 1564 for about 45 boys, who pay a fee of £6 a year from the smallness of the endowment, and also an endowed girls' school. Until the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832 Rochdale was unrepresented in parliament. It was then constituted a borough, the boundary to be a circle, with the townhall as a centre, and a radius of three-quarters of a miles and returns one member. The constituency in 1865 was 1,416. The town is also a polling-place for the S. division of Lancashire. The municipal affairs are attended to by Improvement Commissioners, appointed in 1856 under a private bill. The town is divided into three wards, Castleton, Spotland, and Wardleworth; and the corporation consists of a mayor, ten aldermen, and thirty councillors, two aldermen and six councillors being apportioned to Spotland ward, and four aldermen and twelve councillors to each of the others. A county court is held in the town every fortnight, and manor courts, under an old charter to the Byron family, are held four times a year. The petty sessions court sits on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Markets are held on Mondays and Saturdays; and fairs on 14th May, Whit-Tuesday, and 7th November, for horses and cattle. There are also monthly Monday cattle fairs, and at particular parts of the year they are held every fortnight. The town is under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates. Rochdale was early celebrated as a manufacturing town. Some Flemings introduced the woollen trade in the reign of Edward III., and in the reign of Elizabeth it was in a flourishing condition. The entire district has shared in the rapid improvement which has marked the last century, and the manufactures are now important. In 1861 nearly 60 per cent. of the population over 20 years of age were engaged in industrial occupations, principally confined to mills, mines, and manufactures generally. The woollen and cotton trades are extensively followed in the town and the district immediately adjoining it, the latter in particular employing large numbers. There are about 160 factories, distributed in every available and accessible part of the town and neighbouring heights, where upwards of 11,000 persons are engaged in cotton mills and print works, where strong calicoes, fustians, and other coarse fabrics are made, and about 6,000 in flannel, baize, and other woollen factories. The power loom is now principally used, but there are still large numbers of handloom weavers. A considerable business is done also in the manufacture of machinery, at which about 1,150 are employed, and hat making is extensively followed. Three banks have offices in the town, and three co-operative societies have been established among the working classes, whose dealings amount to £380,000 yearly. The parish abounds in excellent coal, stone, and slate, and large quantities are extracted, the coal being principally consumed in the mills and foundries. Flags are quarried at Spotland, and iron ore has been found in the township of Butterworth. Great facilities exist for active business in the communications by water and rail. The Rochdale canal, which is 33 miles in length, and was completed at a cost of £600,000, unites to the eastward with the Calder and Ribble navigation at Halifax, and on the W. with the Duke of Bridgwater's canal, near Manchester, thus establishing a connection with the E. and W. seas, and with the chief seats of commerce in Yorkshire and Lancashire. One of the reservoirs supplying the canal with water is 130 acres in extent. A still more important means of communication is the Manchester and Leeds railway, which runs through this district, and gives considerable facilities to the trade of the torn. At Littleborough, by which a Roman way formerly ran, a tunnel has been cut through the solid rock, 80 feet below the surface, and 2,860 yards in length, at a level of 500 to 600 feet above the sea. The family of Byron were Barons de Rochdale, and held the manor and estates for more than two centuries, but these were sold by Lord Byron, the poet, in 1823. They are said to extend over more than 32,000 statute acres. Many remains of antiquity have been found in the neighbourhood. In 1820 a small iron box was discovered, containing rouleau of brass coins of the Lower Empire, in very good preservation. At another place some Roman coins and the right arm, in silver, of a statue of Victory, were dug up, the latter 10 inches long, and weighing 6 ounces. About the wrist was a loose armilla, and another was fastened to it above the elbow; attached to the former was a plate of silver, inscribed, "Victoriæ Leg. VI. Vic. Val. Rufus. V.S.L.M." In the township of Castleton the mound of an ancient castle is still preserved. The Poor-law Union of Rochdale comprises the townships of Spotland, Blatchinworth, Butterworth, Castleton, Wardleworth, and Wuerdle, with an area of 40,340 acres, and a population in 1861 of 91,754."