The pub that you see now on the main Littleborough to Walsden road is not the first one to be named the Bird I'th' Hand. Before the turnpike road was built and opened around 1825, there was an older Bird at Calf Holes, situated on the old winding road that led over the tops and into Littleborough and Rochdale. It would catch the trade of the road users who were forced to use this steep road into the west.


After the new road opened through the valley, trade declined on Calderbrook Road and so the old pub closed. Henry Rogers, whose family feature prominently in the story of the new Bird, had kept it. Henry and his wife Nancy Crossley had six children, five sons and a daughter. Two of them were to follow Henry into the trade. The rest became workers in the quarry trade in one capacity or another and continued to live in the Calderbrook area.


John and Joshua Fielden who were the landlords in 1825 originally owned the new Bird, opened around the same time as the new road. In December of 1828, it was leased to William Rogers, son of Henry, the original landlord at the old Bird. William was born at Steanorbottom in 1798 and he and his wife Mary continued to run the Bird until the late 1830's. His trade was mainly from the carters, quarrymen, travellers and canal boatmen, but in 1839 all that was to change.

There was a missing link in the newly opened Manchester to Leeds Railway through the Summit gap. The line from Manchester to Littleborough was completed and opened in 1839. A tunnel was thought to be the best way to connect the east and west lines through the Summit pass and so connect the whole line from Leeds to Manchester. The contract to build it was signed in September 1837 and the first brick laid in August 1838.

The impact on the area would have been enormous. A workforce of 1,000 men was needed and shanty towns sprang up on the hillsides. The railway company built some and the ruins of them can still be found today. The area would have been completely changed almost overnight into a bustling hive of activity. Work would have been plentiful for the local people as well. The shop traders would be happy with increased trade and the pubic houses would benefit enormously, albeit at the cost of the fights and arguments that inevitably follow a bout of drinking. Sundays would be their best day for trade as the navvies were not allowed to work and if they were not working, they were drinking

This was the state of affairs when William decided to leave the trade and find work elsewhere. No doubt he was thinking of his young family and the effect it may have on them. He went to live at Calderbrook where he became a worker at the print works opened there in 1837 by Burgess and Townsend. He died at Newgate in 1879 aged 82.


His younger sister Frances, or Fanny, who was the eldest child of Henry and Nancy, took over the Bird around 1839 and ran it until her death in 1854. She was obviously made of sterner stuff and coped with the influx of trade in her own way.

The Summit tunnel was completed and the whole line opened for traffic on 1st March 1841, a remarkable achievement in only 3 years. It was the longest tunnel in the world at that time.


The event was celebrated in style with the attendance of George Stephenson himself, the Father of the Railways. A plaque at Littleborough railway station commemorates the event with the inscription:


The first section of the Manchester and Leeds Railway, from Oldham Road, Manchester to Littleborough was formally opened at this station on 3rd July 1839. The Summit tunnel was completed and the whole line opened for traffic on 1st. March 1841

The Engineer was George Stephenson who attended and spoke at the opening ceremony

The entrance to the tunnel can bee seen opposite to Sladen Wood Mill at Rock Nook, Littleborough.

Entrance to the tunnel


By this time, two other people were living with Fanny. One was Thomas Rogers, a stonemason aged 20, who was her son, and another Fanny Rogers aged 15, who was working as a servant. Time passed for Fanny and she became well known in the area, even having a hill named after her, "Fanny Hill", the one on the right as you look at the photo.

The line of the Summit tunnel can also be seen by the evidence in this photo, where the airshaft is above and to the far right of the pub.

The young Fanny Rogers, who was helping, is said to be the older Fanny's niece, and she stayed with Fanny, having a child in 1845 that she called James. They continued to put up the occasional lodger and when Fanny died in 1854, the tenancy passed to a William Dawson.


William married the younger Fanny in December 1855 and Fanny's son James went by the name of James Dawson Rogers. William was a quarryman from Top of Close, son of Betty Dawson, born in 1820. He no doubt kept on with his trade, leaving Fanny to the running of the pub. It was shrewd move on William's part after the older Fanny's death, to marry young Fanny. He may have seen it as a good opportunity, or he may just have decided to make an honest woman of her. Whatever the reason, he could carry on working and have a good pub to come home to at night and be "mine host." William died in 1868 aged 48 and leaving Fanny in sole charge of the pub. He is buried at St. Peter's, Walsden.


view of the pub from Warland

She continued to run the Bird and her son James who became a mechanic, married a girl from Calderbrook called Betsy Hannah Dawson and they gave Fanny a granddaughter in 1870. By naming her Fanny, they carried on the tradition of the name Fanny in the family.

James died in 1880 and was buried at St. Peter's, Walsden in the same grave as William Dawson, his father. Betsy Hannah, James' widow carried on living with her mother-in-law at the Bird until she remarried in 1881 to Fielden Fielden, at which point Fanny moved out and went to live at Lanebottom. Fanny died in 1895, but it would seem that she remarried again at some point between 1891 and 1895 as she is buried at St. Peter's, Walsden and named Fanny Greenwood.

So the two generations of Fanny Rogers as landladies had come to an end at the Bird. The name had been over the door for more than 30 years and the name Rogers had been associated with it for over 43 years.

The pub had been bought at auction in 1874 by George Bedford, a brewer, and Fielden Fielden was to take over the reins from Fanny. The pub still had its association with the Rogers family through his wife, Betsy Hannah, Fanny's widowed daughter in law, and with her daughter Fanny by her first husband, there was still a Fanny Rogers living at the Bird.

Fielden was a stone quarrier from Top o'th'Close, the son of John Fielden of Moor Hey.

Moor Hey Farm


Betsy Hannah died in 1885 and left Fielden widowed at an early age. Not long afterwards, in, 1887, he married a girl from Burnley called Sarah Jane Pickles and in 1889 they had a daughter Florence. Fielden kept on with his trade as a quarryman and no doubt left the running of the pub to his wife. By 1892, they had left the pub. Maybe Fielden thought it was no place to bring up a family or was not able to do his regular job of working at the quarry as well as running the pub.


The Bird then passed into the hands of Robert Fielden and his wife Betty, who were the tenants when George Bedford sold it to Whitaker & Sons, the Halifax brewers in 1898. Robert was born about 1840 the son of Betty Fielden of Longlees and William Cryer of Allescholes. His mother and grandmother at Longlees brought him up until one day in 1860, after courting for 30 years, Betty and William finally decided to get married. Both he and his mother then removed to Allescholes and by the 1880's, Robert is farming 20 acres there.


Warland Gate End

From there, he went to live at Warland Gate End and became a loom overlooker. This is where he was when he took over the Bird in 1892.


Robert died in 1900 and his wife Betty then ran the pub until her death in 1903. Betty's brother, Martin Jackson, and his family lived with her at the Bird after her husband died and he took over the tenancy when Betty died in 1903.

Martin married Alice Bulcock in 1883, the daughter of James Bulcock of Cliviger. Alice was born in Todmorden and lived most of her life there. Martin started his working life as the lockkeeper at Longlees Lock, like his father before him.

Longlees Lock House


In the early 1890's, he became the landlord of the Dog and Partridge at Lumbutts, now known as the Top Brink. Maybe he moved down to the Bird after his sister's husband Robert had died, as he was there in 1901, but Betty was still running the pub. He may have been helping her out. He was also working on the canal as a boatman. Martin took over when Betty died in 1903 and the Jackson family continued to keep the tenancy of the pub until 1965.


Martin died in 1917 and his wife Alice carried on running the pub. She later married Fred Fielden and in 1922 he is listed as the landlord. After he died, Alice carried on as landlady until her own death in 1935. She is buried with her first husband at St. Peter's, Walsden. Martin and Alice's son James was the next tenant, taking over when Alice died in 1935. James and his wife Agnes ran it until 1957, all through the years of the war when it was used as a transport café. It would open at 6am selling bowls of soup, sandwiches, toast and tea. No doubt a bit of the stronger stuff would be sold as well. Drivers using this road were carrying essential goods for the war and needed the stops on their journeys, so pubs were used, being the only suitable available premises. There were no convenient "butty stops" in those days.

During the war, the Bird became the victim of a bombing. Obviously off course, as surely nobody would have targeted a pub. The bomb fell at the back of the pub and the only casualties were two ducks and burst water main. Bad enough, as the ducks were probably earmarked for somebody's dinner.

After the war, in 1957, James and Alice's daughter Alice and her husband William Firth were the last of the Jackson family to be tenants, finishing in 1965 and so ending a family involvement which had lasted from 1892.


In 1974, Whitaker's Brewery of Halifax was taken over by the large Whitbread Group.


Today, the Bird I'th' Hand is still a very popular roadside pub, with ample parking for cars and serving extremely good meals. It retains much of the old pub atmosphere and is well worth a visit.



Further reading about the Summit Tunnel can be found in the excellent book "A Pennine Pioneer, The History of Summit Railway Tunnel" by Allen Holt Published by George Kelsall, 22, Church St., Littleborough, Lancashire OL15 9AA

ISBN 0 946571 29 5