This page is about the town of Bolton in Greater Manchester, England. For other places named Bolton, see Bolton (disambiguation)
Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester urban area, England, previously part of Lancashire. It has a population of about 260,000 which makes it one of the largest non-cities in the United Kingdom. It is governed by a unitary authority.
Bolton-le-Moors was a settlement in a natural valley on the West Pennine Moors on the banks of the River Croal, and the Manor of Bolton is first recorded in 1067, as being owned by the Montgomery family. However the earliest evidence for any settlement in Bolton goes back to the Bronze Age, with a stone circle in Egerton. Bolton was part of a large area owned by the Crown after the Norman invasion in 1066. The spoils of war left it a largely barren area, but a baron of William the Conqueror, Roger de Poictou, responsible for Liverpool and Lancaster Castles, was given the land between the River Ribble and River Mersey to the west of Manchester. It was subsequently passed back to the Crown, then on to Ranulf de Bricasard, third Earl of Chester, and transferred to Roger de Maresy. Of the intervening families to whom this manor passed, most held position of the Earl of Derby.
As with many early settlements, the river and valley was the main reason for settlers to choose Bolton. Agriculture was the chief occupation of the residents, the moors ideal grazing land, the fleece of the sheep woven for the local population. Although initially the textiles made were for local use, word spread about the quality, and at around 1100, government officials of Richard I were appointed to measure and mark the cloth. This reputation attracted Flemish weavers to settle in Bolton about 1337. They introduced spinning and weaving, and also clog making. It was still a cottage industry and the town gained a reputation for quality, with more textile workers drawn to the industry, producing wool garments. In around 1540 John Le'land, antiquary to Henry VIII wrote:
"Bolton Moore market stands most my cottons and coarse yarns. Divers villages in the moores about Bolton do make cottons. They burn at Bolton some canale, but more se cole, of which the pittes be not far off".
(Reference to 'cottons' was in fact wool, cotton came around 100 years later). Evidence indeed that coal was used in Bolton, and the existence of an industry in the villages about Bolton. The town's textile industry intensified during the nineteenth century, the population booming by two orders of magnitude. Today, the textile trade has all but vanished.