Birtle, Heywood.

Birtle Heywood, is a village that lies within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester. Although the people of Birtle may tell you different. Birtle lies in the Cheesden Valley, set amongst the Pennines, and is on both the edges of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough and the edge of Greater Manchester.

Whit Walk at Birtle in 1908. Kindly posted to our Facebook page by Kenneth Hall

Historically has been a part of Lancashire, Birtle has been referred to as Bircle or Birkle which means Birch Hill. Together with neighbouring Bamford, it formed the civil parish of Birtle-with-Bamford (also known as Birtle-cum-Bamford). It was in Middleton ecclesiastical parish and in Bury poor law Union. In 1933, Birtle-with-Bamford was dissolved with Birtle being amalgamated into the Municipal Borough of Heywood. The local church is the Church of Saint John the Baptist, known locally as Bircle Church. In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Birtle like this:

BIRTLE, a township, a chapelry, and a subdistrict, in the district of Bury, Lancashire. The township bears the name of Birtle-cum-Bamford; is in Middleton parish; and lies near the Manchester and Rosendale railway, 2½ miles NE of Bury. Acres, 1,388. Real property, £7,909,-of which £300 are in mines. Pop., 2,350. Houses, 404. The inhabitants are employed chiefly in cotton and woollen manufactures, and in calico printing. The chapelry consists of part of this township and part of Bury parish, and was constituted in 1848. Pop., 2,135. Houses, 353. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester. Value, £180. Patron, the Rector of Middleton. The church was built in 1849. There are three dissenting chapels.-The sub-district comprises parts of two parishes. Pop., 4,758.

Photo kindly posted to our Facebook page by Kenneth Hall


There does not seem to have been at any time a manor of BIRTLE, the land being held in parcels of the lord of Middleton. The local surname was at one time in use, for in 1246 Roger de Birtle, whose tenement was said to be in Bury, complained that Geoffrey de Middleton had raised a mill-pool to his injury and to the injury of Adam de Bury. Adam’s claim was rejected by the jury, but they admitted Roger’s, for the course of the water had been altered so that the water laid waste his land. They at first ordered that the old state of things should be restored, but the parties having agreed, they ordered that Geoffrey should pay half a mark yearly to Roger, and leave the mill-pool as it was. The Bury family in the 16th century held part of Birtle. The most prominent residents were the Holts of GRISTLE HURST, who were in possession in the first part of the 15th century, succeeding a family named Wood.

The Birtle Dene Mill Complex.

This large establishment was owned by the Ramsbottom family for most of its life, it consisted of a four-storey spinning mill and weaving shed, The mill produced its own gas , It was powered by a large waterwheel and auxiliary engine, When a boiler was installed at the mill most of the workforce were given a day’s holiday that they might escape injury should there be any accident occur during the lowering of the boiler into the valley bottom, The same boiler having to be removed by a large team of horses when the mill closed at the end of the nineteenth century. Access was always difficult and goods had to be hauled up and down via a windlass. It was a curious location for a mill, Three rows of cottages were built to accommodate workers. Sometimes a number of the machines would be operated by a single family; only the person in charge would receive payment and then be in charge of distributing payments to his family and apprentices. One fourteen year old girl who lived at Fairfield would leave for work at 5:30am, on arrival at the mill she would operate four looms, possibly for up to twelve hours a day. The Ramsbottom’s relinquished their control of the mill by 1890 and it was in the possession Goulden, Adam’s and Company until all trading ceased at the end of the century.

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