Whitworth Local History

Here you can find a brief history of the places in and around the Healey / Whitworth area

whitworth village


Whitworth is a small town and civil parish in Lancashire, England, amongst the foothills of the Pennines between Bacup, to the north, and Rochdale, to the south. It had a population of 7,500 at the 2011 Census.

Whitworth spans the Whitworth Valley, a 7 square miles (18.1 km2) area consisting of Healey, Broadley, Whitworth, Facit and Shawforth, linked by the A671 road. Several smaller hamlets are now part of Whitworth, such as Cowm Top, which was removed to make way for Cowm Reservoir.

Whitworth is twinned with Kandel, Germany.

Healey Dell sign

Healey Dell

Healey Dell nature reserve is a wooded valley area along the path of the River Spodden, It is situated between Hallfold in Whitworth and Spotland in Rochdale. Through-out the “Dell” there are remnants of the Industrial age, including the derelict remains of a 17th century corn mill and of course the stunning Viaduct. The Viaduct was built in 1867 from local stone and is at the highest point 31.5m above the river, It has 8 arches each spanning 24m. It was a part of the Rochdale to Bacup line which ran from 1870 to 1947 although a part continued to run until 1963 transporting goods.

fairy chapel Healey Dell

Fairies Chapel

The famous falls of Healey Dell are so named from several legends including tales of a Fairy King and a visit to a local witch from Robin Hood himself. What ever the legend; the Falls are a stunning sight and the sound of the (Fairies) at high water is tremendous.

Cowm Reservoir Whitworth Rochdale

Cowm Reservoir

Whitworth’s water supply originally came from Cowm Reservoir until it became polluted in the 1970s. The former reservoir now provides water ski facilities for the able bodied and also for the BDWSA – British Disabled Water Skiers Association. It’s a popular walk for local people along the levelled footpath that now encompasses the reservoir. Nearby stone quarries are still in use and provided the stone for London’s Trafalgar Square. Tree planting schemes, (including a Life for a Life Memorial Forest at Cowm Reservoir) are encouraging birds and wildlife to return to the area, and hiding the landscape scars caused by excessive stone quarrying.

whitworth square, red lion by Healey Life Photography

Whitworth Square

Whitworth Square is a designated conservation area. 200 years ago the pioneering Whitworth Taylor Doctors had their practice here. John Taylor was formerly a blacksmith and horse doctor. He lived at Whitworth House, just below the Red Lion public house. The Whitworth Doctors were local bone setters but also treated patients from London and overseas, including the then Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Bartholomew’s Church is a grade 2 listed building. The building features many gargoyles

whitwroth morris men rushcart By Healey life photography

Whitworth Rushcart

Whitworth’s Rushcart parade is one of only 4 still remaining in Northern England. Whitworth’s being unique among them, as Whitworth’s Rushcart is the only one to cover the cart in locally picked heather. The tradition dates back to the 14th century (in its earliest form). In the early days Straw was gathered before winter for use in the local parish churches as a floor covering, due to Straw being a valuable commodity in the pennines (due to less agricultural lands) Rushes were collected. In the 19th century the need for rushes on church floors declined it became more of a ceremony then a necessity. Whitworth then began to collect heather rather the rushes for a more decorative cart. In the early 2oth Century the practise died out only to be revived again in the 70’s only to stop again in the 90’s. The tradition has now again been revived and attracts 1000’s of people each year.  Dancers accompany the cart along Market street.