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Things to know about Rochdale borough

​​​​Rochdale borough has a rich heritage. Read the following list of things to know about the borough.

  1. Dame Gracie Fields CBE, a world-famous actress, singer and comedian, was born and brought up in Rochdale. A statue of her has been put up in the town hall square and there is a heritage trail of places associated with her around the town.
  2. The Rochdale Pioneers, the founding fathers of the world-wide co-operative movement, opened the first ever Co-operative shop on Toad Lane in 1844.
  3. Quaker, politician, statesman, social reformer and British radical John Bright was born in Greenbank Rochdale in 1811.
  4. John Bright and assassinated US President Abraham Lincoln were friends and enjoyed a special relationship of mutual respect. Lincoln had a portrait of Bright on the walls of his reception room and in 1864 a bust of Bright was installed at the White House and is still on display today.
  5. Construction of Rochdale’s Grade I-listed town hall finished in 1871. The cost of building it was £160,000 (£13,440,000 in 2017). Adolf Hitler reportedly planned to take it, stone by stone, back to Germany had they defeated the United Kingdom in the World War II. Rochdale Town Hall
  6. A single lavatory was built inside the town hall especially for Queen Victoria but, despite it being in full working order, it has never been used.
  7. During the 18th century Rochdale was described as being 'renowned for many wealthy merchants' and it was at the centre of Britain’s burgeoning wool trade.
  8. The tower blocks that overlook Rochdale are referred to as the 'Seven Sisters' and are built on an area once known as the Paddock. Despite its attractive sounding name, the area was a slum and the towers were built to re-house the people who lived there in dreadful conditions.
  9. The hit BBC drama Waterloo Road (starring Denise Welch and Laura Aikman) was filmed in Rochdale from 2006-2012.
  10. Great Britain Olympic silver medallist swimmer Keri-Anne Payne, Manchester United and England footballer Paul Scholes and actor Steve Coogan (best known for his role as Alan Partridge) all attended Cardinal Langley RC High School, Middleton.
  11. Rochdale AFC played 36 consecutive seasons in the football leagues bottom division from 1974 to 2010. This is the longest any team has been in the bottom division.
  12. Rochdale AFC’s badge has the old coat of arms on it. A new coat of arms was made when Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council was formed in 1974.
  13. 2011 World Series of Poker winner Jake Cody is from Rochdale.
  14. A now defunct speedway team, Rochdale Hornets, was home to racers such as Peter Collins MBE who won 10 world championships.
  15. The Grade-II listed Olde Boar’s Head pub in Middleton dates back to the 14th Century and Bonny Prince Charlie is said to have taken refuge at the inn in 1745. Highwayman Dick Turpin is said to have stopped off at The Olde Boar’s Head on his way to York where he was later executed.
  16. Hollingworth Lake in Smithybridge covers 130 acres and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the north west. Such was its popularity with mill workers who holidayed there during the early part of the 20th century, it became known as the ‘weavers’ seaport’.
  17. Rochdale is twinned with Lviv in Ukraine, Bielefeld in Germany, Sahiwal in Pakistan and Tourcoing in France.
  18. The Courteeners, best known for hit single ‘Not 19 Forever’ hail from Middleton.
  19. Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket lives in Rochdale and in 2015 was awarded a Papal Knighthood for his services to charitable causes.
  20. In 1745, Yates’s wine lodge in Town Hall Square was the home to the Stead family. The initials S.S are still visible at the top of the building.
  21. There has been a church in the current location of St Chad’s church for more than 1,000 years. The town stocks dated 1688 are there.
  22. Writer, composer, comedian and actor Bill Oddie OBE was born in Rochdale, as was film and TV actor Anna Friel.
  23. Rochdale has the highest concentration of canal locks in the north; it houses 91 locks over 32 miles. The highest concentrated area of locks is in Littleborough.
  24. In 1860 Rochdale’s Hamlet Nicholson presented the world with the first compound cricket ball.
  25. Britain’s first automatic tills were tested in Castleton in the early 1980s, before being installed nationally in Asda stores across the country.
  26. Belfield Community School was Britain’s first community primary school.
  27. Captain Matthew Webb used Hollingworth Lake as a training camp before becoming the first person to swim the English Channel in 1875.
  28. Rochdale sports cars made by Rochdale Motor Panels and Engineering were produced from 1959 to 1973.
  29. The cars are now rare collectors’ items as only an average of 210 cars of each model were made.
  30. Double Olympic Gold medallist boxer Nicola Adams studied and trained at Hopwood Hall College Middleton campus.
  31. Sir Edward Lutyens (one of Britain’s greatest ever architects) designed the cenotaph located near the Town Hall.
  32. The world’s first railway tunnel was built in Rochdale at Healey Dell.
  33. On August 13 1994, the Co-Operative broke the world record for cooking the largest pancake, marking their 150th anniversary in their hometown, Rochdale.
  34. Singer Lisa Stansfield (best known for worldwide chart topper All Around the World) is from Rochdale.
  35. Britain’s most notorious hangman John Ellis was involved in a total of 203 executions and was born in Balderstone.
  36. Castleton was home to Rochdale castle until early 13th century when it was abandoned. Buildings have been built over the castle bailey and in the 19th century a house was constructed on the motte.
  37. Cyclist and double Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell-Shand MBE moved to Middleton after leaving school so that she could be closer to British Cycling’s headquarters in Manchester.
  38. Comedian Tommy Cannon (from the double act Cannon and Ball) was chairman of Rochdale AFC during the 1980s.
  39. Rochdale Hornets was one of the original 22 clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world's first rugby league clubs.
  40. The Flodden Window (a war memorial dedicated to The Middleton Archers), in the Grade I-listed Church of St Leonard in Middleton is said to be the oldest war memorial in the United Kingdom. Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton (who built St Leonard) was granted knighthood from King Henry VIII.
  41. A member of the Heywood family and resident of Heywood Hall, Peter Heywood, was among the party that arrested Guy Fawkes during the gunpowder plot that aimed to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
  42. John ‘Earthquake’ Milne, credited with developing the seismograph, was raised in Milnrow.
  43. The world’s largest factory under one roof was once in Rochdale (Dunlop Mill).
  44. In 2014 the Tour De France professional cycling race, one of the world’s biggest and most-watched sporting events, passed through Littleborough.
  45. A cotton loom machine from Littleborough was converted to weave fibreglass after the decline of the cotton industry. It went on to produce the moulds that were used to make the Concorde aeroplanes’ nose cone.
  46. Coronation Street actor Julie Goodyear MBE attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (now St Anne’s Academy) in Middleton.
  47. Rochdale has 10 green flag parks, including Rochdale Memorial Gardens, Truffet Park, Hare Hill Park, Broadfield Park, Queens Park and Milnrow Memorial Park. Parks and open spaces.
  48. New Zealand rugby team ‘All Blacks’ once played against Rochdale Hornets, the game played in Rochdale, on the 17 December 1907 resulted in the All Blacks winning 19-0.
  49. W F Cody performed his famous ‘Buffalo Bills Wild West Show’ in Rochdale at an athletics ground in 1904.
  50. The poster for the Pablo Fanques circus show in Rochdale was the inspiration for the Beatles song ‘For the Benefit of Mr Kite’.
  51. Circus performer General Tom Thumb (Charles Sherwood Stratton) visited Rochdale twice; in 1846 and 1871.
  52. On 10 September 1927, Rochdale Council employed a deep sea diver to repair a large gas holder at the Rochdale Corporation Gas Works.
  53. The Baum pub in Toad Lane was crowned Britain’s best pub in 2013. The pub and the area around it takes its name from a legend that says the ghost of a white rabbit called the Baum Rabbit haunted the neighbourhood.
  54. During the Industrial Revolution the Rochdale canal was one of the UK’s most important commerce routes.
  55. Milnrow has been described as "the centre of the south Lancashire dialect". John Collier (who wrote under the pseudonym of Tim Bobbin) was an acclaimed 18th century caricaturist and poet from Milnrow who wrote in a broad Lancashire dialect.
  56. Sir Peter Ogden, one of the founders of Computacenter, was born in Rochdale and attended Rochdale Grammar.
  57. 2012 Olympic sailing silver medallist Stuart Bithell was born in Rochdale and learned to sail on Hollingworth Lake.
  58. Edwin Waugh, the composer of “Come Whoam to thi' childer an’ me” was born in Rochdale.
  59. Actor, Don Estelle, best known for his role as Lofty in ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ lived in the Seven Sisters tower blocks and is buried in Rochdale.
  60. Arts and Crafts architect Edgar Wood was born in Middleton; he had a romantic, arty approach to his work with the majority of it in Middleton and Rochdale. There is a conservation area in Middleton where a number of buildings designed by Wood can be seen
  61. Joel Halliwell was awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, “for most conspicuous bravery and determination displayed during the withdrawal of the remnants of the Battalion when closely engaged with the enemy.” He repeated this performance several times, and succeeded in rescuing 1 officer and 9 other ranks.
  62. Manchester United and England footballer Sir Bobby Charlton married his wife, Norma Ball, at St Gabriel’s Church in Middleton in 1961.
  63. Rochdale AFC’s record win was a home fixture against Chesterfield which they won 8-1 (18 December 1926). Their record home attendance is 24,231 vs Notts county in 1949-1950.
  64. Before the recent re-opening of the River Roch, Rochdale held the record for the world’s widest bridge. It stretched from the Lviv Bridge outside Number One Riverside in Smith Street to an opening in The Esplanade.
  65. Rochdale appears in the Domesday Book under the name Recedham Manor and was part of the Salford Hundred.
  66. Thomas Langley, once Bishop of London and Durham was born in Middleton. Langley estate is named after him as well as Cardinal Langley RC High School.
  67. The 6th Doctor from the BBC's Doctor Who, Colin Baker, grew up in Rochdale.
  68. Controversial comedian and night club owner Bernard Manning lived in Middleton.
  69. In 2010, archaeologists unearthed a ‘mini-Stonehenge’ on the moors of Rochdale. An oval ring of collapsed slabs and a 30-metre circle of rounded stones were discovered by a team who believed them to be ancient burial sites dating back as far as 5,000 years.
  70. Ian Simpson, architect of the ‘Beetham Tower’ in Manchester (described as the UK’s first proper skyscraper outside London), is from Heywood.
  71. The bowling green at Queen’s Park in Heywood is the 2nd largest in Great Britain.
  72. Rochdale Football Club had the first black manager in the Football League. Tony (Anthony) Collins was an English football player, manager and scout. He managed Rochdale between 1960 and 1967, becoming the first black manager in the Football League and leading Rochdale to the 1962 Football League Cup Final, Rochdale's only major final appearance. The town of Rochdale was his heart and even though he went onto be a football scout, there was no moving him from his house on Edenfield Road that he lived in with his wife Edith and 3 children. Anthony Norman Collins, 19 March 1926–8 February 2021.

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