Originally a hand-out written about 1973 by Reginald Hindley, who was at that time senior lecturer in Geography at the University of Bradford.

Submitted by John Alan Longbottom


position & settlement of population




climate & vegetation







Position and settlement of Population


Todmorden is situated at the extreme westerly end of the West Riding of Yorkshire and the Borough Boundary on that side is the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Formerly, part of Todmorden lay in Lancashire, but in 1888, when County Councils were set up, the whole of Todmorden was included in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The following is an extract from the Report of an Inquiry by an Assistant Commissioner under the Local Government Boundaries Act, 1887 - held on the 13th April 1888.

Among the gentlemen present at the inquiry were Mr. A.G. Eastwood, Clerk to the Magistrates of the Petty Sessional Division: Mr. T.W. Eastwood, Clerk to the Todmorden Local Board: Messrs. C. Crabtree, J. Dugdale, J. Sutcliffe, W. Jackson, etc., Members of the Local Board: Mr. W. Sagar, Clerk to the Todmorden Board of Guardians: Members of the Board of Guardians: Mr. James Whitehead, Clerk to the Todmorden Urban District School Board: Mr. W. L. Williams, Solicitor to the West Riding Justices: Mr. T. S. Roberts, of Burnley [who appeared to oppose the scheme of the Commissioners on behalf of the ratepayers of Cliviger] Mr. J. S. Horne, Clerk to the Burnley Board of Guardians, etc.

The Commissioner said that it was necessary to hold an inquiry and prepare a report in consequence of the Urban Sanitary District of Todmorden and the Union of Todmorden being situated in more than one County. It became necessary either to alter the Urban Sanitary District and the Union so as to bring them within one County, or to alter the County Boundary so as to put the whole of the Union and the Urban Sanitary District into one County.

Except in rare cases, the Boundary Commission had acted upon the rule not to alter Urban Sanitary Districts, and, therefore, it was pretty clear that in a case like this it was the County Boundary that would have to be altered. The scheme that had been prepared provided that the Lancashire part of the district should go into Yorkshire, and it has this much in its favour - that the town of Todmorden lies more in the direction of the West Riding than it does towards Lancashire, and is within the Yorkshire watershed. This alteration also caused a disturbance of the boundary of the Burnley Union because the Todmorden Local Board District comprises part of the township or parish of Cliviger. Consequently, if the Local Board District was to be put wholly into the West Riding, that part of the township of Cliviger would have to be severed from the Burnley Union: and what the Commissioners proposed with regard to it was that so much of the township of Cliviger as is already in the Todmorden Local Board District should be annexed to the township of Stansfield and the Union of Todmorden.

He did not know whether anyone appeared for the County of Lancaster, but he understood from the Clerk of the Peace that it was not likely that the scheme would be opposed, the Justices considering the proposal of the Commissioners the only one which could be carried out in accordance with the Act.

Mr. J. S. Horne, for the Burnley Union, said their position was a neutral one, and was simply a watching and waiting policy.

Mr. W. Sager, on behalf of the Guardians of the Todmorden Union, said they were of the opinion that it was expedient to make the following alterations in the County boundaries for Poor Law and Sanitary purposes - to add Todmorden and Walsden to the West Riding of Yorkshire, and to add that part of Cliviger within the Local Board District of Todmorden to the township of Stansfield and the Poor Law Union of Todmorden to the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Mr. Sager said that Mr. Thomas Fielden voted against this resolution, and produced a request from Messrs. Samuel and John Fielden, urging the Commissioners to leave the County boundary separating Todmorden and Walsden from the Yorkshire townships of the Union untouched. The Commissioners said that these gentlemen suggested that Todmorden and Walsden should be formed into a separate Union, but they did not propose anything about the Local Board District, and that District would still remain in two counties.

The Guardians were apparently in favour of the scheme proposed by the Boundary Commission.

Mr. T.S. Roberts said he represented the inhabitants of that part of Cliviger that would be affected by the scheme, and he was instructed to oppose. The principal reason for the objection was that the scheme would annex this particular district to a township where the Elementary Education Acts had been adopted, and where the school rate of 8d in the pound was now levied, whereas the Burnley had not adopted the Acts, and had no such rate.

The Commissioner pointed out that one of the clauses of the Bill provided that Local Board Districts and parts situated like this district should go into the County in which the principal part was situate.

A suggestion by Mr. Roberts that the Cornholme Portion of the district should be taken out of the Todmorden Urban Sanitary District and added to the Burnley Rural Sanitary District was received with laughter.

The County Solicitor said that the objection made it entirely a question of pounds, shillings, and pence, and had ignored the question of convenience. He had yet to learn that the count rates were heavier in the West Riding than the were in Lancashire [hear, hear.] There was evidence in that room of the inconvenience of the dual control, for at one door of the Court there was a West Riding constable, and at the other a Lancashire constable. He said that it must be patent to the Assistant Commissioner's mind that there was a general consensus of opinion that for the public convenience (and this, he presumed, was the chief consideration) Todmorden and Walsden and a small portion of Cliviger must come within the West Riding of the County of York.

Mr. T. W. Eastwood presented a copy of the resolution of the Todmorden Local Board that the scheme set forth in the schedule to the notice of inquiry be, and the same is hereby approved and supported by the Local Board. He said that the scheme had the entire support of the Todmorden Local Board, and they were satisfied that no other scheme could be adopted which would do justice to the wants of the neighbourhood and comply with the terms of the Boundaries Act.

On the suggestion that Cornholme should be left out of the proposed Borough, and that it should be formed into a separate Local Board District, Mr. Eastwood said that it should never be suggested for a moment that the Cliviger part of Cornholme could be drained and managed in other respects apart from the other portions of Cornholme. It all drained into the river, which at present divided the two counties, and it was entirely in the Yorkshire watershed. The main road all along the valley was constantly crossing the stream, and going first into one county, then into the other. He pointed out that, from the configuration of the district, it would be impossible to drain Cornholme except through Todmorden.

The Assistant Commissioner said that with regard to the alternative scheme put forward by Messrs. Samuel and John Fielden, it was incomplete, in as much as it did not propose any arrangement by which the Local Board District could be put into one County. All they had to do was to inquire and to report as to the best mode of so adjusting the boundaries of county and other areas as to arrange that no Urban Sanitary District or Parish should be situate in more than one County.

As regards the proposal that had been made on behalf of the inhabitants of that part of Cliviger which would be affected by the scheme, he thought that there would be considerable difficulty in trying to separate it now from the rest of the Todmorden District, and particularly from the rest of the Cornholme District, which was already in the County of York. In fact, when he first considered this question, he was strongly inclined to carry the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire much further in that direction and make it follow the top of the watershed. [hear, hear.]

That would have been a consistent thing to do if they had been making their counties afresh, but it would have been a very serious matter, and one, which he was afraid the Boundary Commissioners would not have been prepared to take up.

Mr. Roberts said that if the financial objection could be removed, they would be quite willing to be put into the County of York.




There is no trace of man during the Ice Age in Todmorden, but a later race appears to have inhabited the district, as is testified by the discovery of pieces of broken flint and occasional specimens of carved flint arrowheads and other tools and implements. These inhabitants would appear to have been men of the Neolithic or new Stone Age. In a field above Butt Stones in Stansfield, where there is a portion of ground enclosed by a circular bank of earth thirty yards across, three vases of baked clay buried in charcoal and burnt bones were found about the beginning of the century. There are also two small clay cups and several flint implements together with a leaf shaped arrowhead. A small earthenware cup in the largest urn contained amber and jet beads, a bone pin, a bronze knife blade three inches long, and a small bronze pin. Other urns and earthenware cups were later discovered. This earth circle appears to be the remains of an ancient graveyard.

There is no record of Roman settlement in the Todmorden district, although there is of course, an ancient Roman Road over Blackstone Edge. Mention is made in Domesday Book of the townships of Langfield and Stansfield and as lands were gradually granted by the King to various Nobles the western half of the Todmorden district eventually passed to the families of Laceys of Clitheroe and Pontefract, and later to the Earls of Lincoln.

One of the oldest families to be connected with the modern development of Todmorden are the Radcliffes, who lived at Todmorden Hall (later to be the Post Office). The building was erected at the opening of the 17 th century by Saville Radcliffe, but the oak timbers, which were then, used supply substantial and unmistakable evidence that an earlier medieval building stood on the spot. In 1292 William de la Dene granted to Alice, daughter of William de Radcliffe all his lands and services in Todmorden. There were various other transfers of property until in the 38th year of Edward III, Henry de Stones conveyed these properties to William de Radcliffe of Langfield. There is little doubt that the Radcliffe family built St. Mary's Chapel sometime between the years 1400 and 1476. Records do not show the exact date of its establishment.

The Stansfields of Stansfield Hall were another old Todmorden family, and on one of the windows of the Chapel at Heptonstall there used to be the arms of the Stansfield's engraved with the date 1508 also inscribed.

At this time presumably farming would be the major occupation, as the bottom of the valley was still marshy as is evidenced by the lack of any highway there. The old road can still be seen running along the top of the moors, although there was a communicating road between the two sides of the valley crossing the river at Scaitcliffe. The Stansfield corn mill was apparently in existence at a very early period, and this too appears to have taken its name from the Stansfield's of Stansfield Hall.

As a result of sheep farming, the manufacture of woollen cloth became the staple industry between the 15th and 18th centuries and fulling mills were built at Scaitcliffe and Lobmill.

The industrial revolution of the 18 th century, during which turnpike roads were constructed along the valleys, and the Rochdale Canal joined the Calder and Hebble with the Bridgewater Canal in Lancashire, saw the farming out of cotton spinning and weaving into surrounding villages in Lancashire and the neighbouring Yorkshire districts.

The first cotton mill was erected in 1786 by John Fielden at Walsden. Other mills were soon erected, but to Joshua Fielden of Laneside may be traced the rise and progress of the cotton industry in the town. Every day he walked to Halifax market carrying woollen pieces, but seeing a greater chance of success in the cotton industry he set up cotton spinning and weaving in three small cottages at Laneside. He soon enlarged the building, and took steps towards the founding of the future Waterside Mill.

The population reached a peak of about 26,000 just before the First World War, but with the depression in the industry following that war and during the 1930's the population fell considerably, and although it rose a little after the last war, it is now falling again and c.1967 was about 16,000. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for the continued fall is that cotton is largely a female industry, and whilst older workers are remaining in the town, younger people are seeking other employment, and as the breadwinner obtains employment outside the town, he takes his family with him.

As has already been mentioned the population has declined from the peak of 26,000 just prior to the 1 st World War, to about 16,000 at 1973, and only 1,800 of this decline is due to natural causes (i.e. excess death rate over birth rate) so that about 8,000 have left the district due in the main to economic reasons. The population that remains contains a lower proportion than the normal in the lower age groups, and a much higher proportion than the normal in the higher age groups. Over 3,000 out of the total population of 16,000 are old age pensioners.

Population Table 1891-1968

Census 1891


Mid 1949


Census 1901


Mid 1950


Census 1911


Census 1951


Census 1921


Mid 1952


Census 1931


Mid 1953


Mid 1932


Mid 1954


Mid 1933


Mid 1955


Mid 1934


Mid 1956


Mid 1935


Mid 1957


Mid 1936


Mid 1958


Mid 1937


Mid 1959


Mid 1938


Mid 1960


Mid 1939




Mid 1940


RG Est 1962


Mid 1941


RG Est 1963


Mid 1942


RG Est 1964


Mid 1943


RG Est 1965


Mid 1944


RG Est 1966


Mid 1945


RG Est 1967


Mid 1946


RG Est 1968


Mid 1947







The valleys descend from the Portsmouth boundary at 702 feet and the Walsden boundary at Steanor Bottom at 605 feet to the Town Hall at 423 feet, and to Sandbed at 361 feet.

The heights of the uplands and moorlands are as follows: -


Fielden Hospital

640 feet

Blackstone Edge

1,550 feet

Cross Stone Church

750 feet


1,400 feet

Stoodley Pike

1,307 feet


1,025 feet


725 feet

Top Edge

1,491 feet


1,200 feet

Haugh Stones above Stiperden

1,574 feet




The valleys are drained by the River Calder running down from Portsmouth, which is joined at the Market by Walsden Water coming down the Walsden valley, and the various tributaries of these two rivers. The Yorkshire Ouse and Hull River Authority is now the Authority which covers most of the district, a small portion, however being in the Mersey and Waever River Authority. The Yorkshire Ouse and Hull River Authority are responsible for the river right up to the Market, but above the Market they are only responsible for ensuring non-pollution etc.


Climate and Vegetation.


The prevailing winds are westerly with northeast to east winds especially in the spring. The valleys are particularly liable to mist and fog which is, perhaps, induced to some extent by smoke that tends to hang in the valleys. The average rainfall for the past 60 years or so has been as follows: -


Fielden Hospital - 47.2 ins.

Sewage Works, Sandbed 48.51 in.

Gorpley Reservoir 60.71 ins

On the heather moors is peat and bilberry, ling, crawberry and whin grow; in boggy places cranberry, sundew, sedges and bog as hodel are found. On the grass moors there are, mat grass, sheep's fescue grass, wavy hair grass, tormentalla and ladies bed-straw. In damper places are purple Molina grass, several species of rush and cotton grass, and the four leaved heath. On the hill pastures are woodrush, quaking grass, yellow violet, gentian, milkwort, eyebright, adder's-tongue fern, and many common grasses.

In the woodlands there is little to be found except the broad shield fern, anemone, lesser celandine, woodruff and wood sorrel, but in thinner woods and on the better soil are dog-rose, raspberry, ivy, bramble, honeysuckle, cowset, lady fern, male fern, soft grass, and golden rod.

In damp portions of the woodland are coltsfoot, lesser celandine, wood anemones, stitchwort, bluebell, garlic and ragged robin. With bracken and cow parsnip in the summer. The trees are beech, oak, sycamore and wychelm, with ash, hazel, alder and elder, willow and mountain ash.












Food, drink etc.








Metal Manufacture












Leather Goods




Clothing and Footwear




Furniture and Timber




Other Manufacturing Industries








Gas, Water, Electricity












Insurance and Banking




Professional Services




Miscellaneous Services




Public Administration









If those in the trades allied to cotton and those in services dependent on the continuation of the town as a community, e.g. distributive trades, National and Local Government, transport and other services are added together it may be said that nearly 50% of the insured population are to a great deal still dependent on the main industry. Even the remaining 50% contains such groups as insurance staffs, garage hands etc., who would hardly expect to retain their employment in the town if the main industry was seriously affected.

Since 1920, 50 factories and mills in Todmorden have closed down and only 11 small new ones have opened. The result has been that over 3,000 fewer workers are now required than were required in 1920, and this takes no account of the fewer employees required by those firms which have continued in business but which have now installed automatic machinery.



The main trunk road from Halifax - East of Preston runs through the town centre and is joined there by the road to Rochdale, which is a county road and which is the only route through the Pennines which is usually open when heavy snow falls. In consequence, in severe weather the town carries a lot of traffic, which normally uses the Blackstone Edge route.

The Rochdale Canal has already been mentioned. This was constructed at the end of the 18 th and beginning of the 19 th centuries. It was closed to traffic by an Act of Parliament some years ago, but cannot be closed entirely owing to the number of water rights that have been granted to various mill owners and others.

The railway came later, being begun in 1837 and opened to Littleborough from Manchester in 1839, and a year later to Normanton from Hebden Bridge. The last portion of the line between Todmorden and Littleborough was not finally completed until 1841, owing to the great difficulties in the construction of the Summit Tunnel and the spanning of the valleys. The Todmorden viaduct has 9 arches, several of them with a span of 60 feet, and the height above the road is 54 and a half feet. There was formerly a branch line to Burnley, but the route to the Lancashire Coast now diverges from the Leeds to Manchester line just outside the town centre.




Owing to its situation on the borders of Yorkshire and Lancashire, Todmorden tradesmen have interests in both directions, and whilst the main industry of cotton has pure Lancashire connections, the other trades centre on either Yorkshire or Lancashire according to convenience. During rationing supplies mainly came from Yorkshire: Halifax was the centre for the distribution of meat, but vegetables in many cases came from Manchester. It is difficult to generalise, however, on centres of trade in any way; for instance, the Halifax Building Society have a branch here, and the Blackburn Trustee Savings Bank also operates in Todmorden.




It may be interesting to compare one or two of the seemingly contradictory arrangements at the present day (1973) Although Todmorden is wholly in the West Riding of Yorkshire for administrative purposes, and has its health services, fire service, and police service directed from Wakefield, and whilst Todmorden Petty Sessional Division embraces Hebden Bridge as well, having a purely Yorkshire boundary, Todmorden for postal purposes is "Todmorden Lancs" since the General Post office covering the area is Rochdale. It is on the Blackburn telephone exchange, and in the Manchester telephone directory. It is in the Burnley County Court District, and its two Cricket Clubs play in the Lancashire League.