TODMORDEN (/ˈtɒdmədən/ ; locally /ˈtɒdmɔːdən/
/ˈtɒdmərdən/ or /tɔːmdɪn/ ) is a market town and civil parish
Upper Calder Valley in
West Yorkshire , England.
It is 17 miles (27 km) from
Manchester and in 2011 had a population of
Todmorden is at the confluence of three steep-sided Pennine valleys
and is surrounded by moorlands with outcrops of sandblasted gritstone
The historic boundary between
Lancashire is the River
Calder and its tributary, the
Walsden Water, which run through the
town. The administrative border was altered by the Local Government
Act 1888 placing the whole of the town within the West Riding .
The town is served by
Walsden railway stations.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Toponymy
* 1.2 Pagan prehistory
* 1.3 Early history
* 1.4 19th century
* 1.5 20th century
* 2 Governance
Todmorden Town Council Composition
* 2.1.1 Current composition
* 2.2 Twin towns
* 3 Geography
* 4 Economy
* 5 Landmarks
* 6 Media
* 7 Sport
* 7.1 Cricket
* 8 Notable people
* 8.1 Science and Engineering
Nobel Prize winners
* 8.2 Politics and Law
* 8.3 Arts and culture
* 8.4 Sport
* 8.5 Other
* 9 References
* 9.1 Notes
* 9.2 Bibliography
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
Todmorden first appears in 1641. The town had earlier been
called Tottemerden, Totmardene, Totmereden or Totmerden. The generally
accepted meaning of the name is Totta's boundary-valley, probably a
reference to the valley running north-west from the town. Alternative
suggestions have been proposed, such as the speculation "maybe
fancifully" that the name derives from two words for death: tod and
mor (as in mort), meaning "death-death-wood", or that the name meant
"marshy home of the fox", from the Old English .
In 1898 Blackheath Barrow—a ring cairn monument situated above
Cross Stone in
Todmorden —was excavated and proved to be a site of
"surpassing archaeological interest", according to J. Lawton Russell,
one of the men who carried out the excavation. Various Bronze Age
items were discovered, including sepulchral urns, a human skull, teeth
Russell contended that Blackheath Barrow was primarily a religious
site, specifically intended for the "performance of funeral rites", as
there was no evidence that it had been settled for domestic use. Of
particular interest were the four cairns, positioned at the cardinal
points of the compass, and it has been suggested that this indicates
"a ritual evocation of the airts, or spirits of the four directions,
with obvious correlates in relation to spirits in the land of the
The various finds from the 1898 dig are now housed in the Todmorden
Library, on permanent display.
The earliest written record of the area is in the Domesday Book
(1086). Settlement in medieval
Todmorden was dispersed. Most people
living in scattered farms or in isolated hilltop agricultural
Packhorse trails were marked by ancient stones of which
many still survive.
For hundreds of years streams from the surrounding hills provided
water for corn and fulling mills.
Todmorden grew to relative
prosperity by combining farming with the production of woollen
textiles. Some yeomen clothiers were able to build fine houses, a few
of which still exist today. Increasingly, though, the area turned to
cotton. The proximity of Manchester, as a source of material and
trade, was undoubtedly a strong factor. Another was that the strong
Pennine streams and rivers were able to power the machine looms .
Improvements in textile machinery (by Kay , Hargreaves and Arkwright
), along with the development of turnpike roads (1751–1781), helped
to develop the new cotton industry and to increase the local
In 1801 most people still lived in the uplands;
could be considered as a mere village. During the years 1800–1845
great changes took place in the communications and transport of the
town which were to have a crucial effect on promoting industrial
growth. These included the building of: (1) better roads; (2) the
Rochdale Canal (1804); and (3) the main line of the
Leeds Railway (1841), which became the
Lancashire and Yorkshire
Railway in 1847. This railway line incorporated the (then) longest
tunnel in the world, the 2,885-yard
Summit Tunnel . A second railway,
Todmorden to Burnley, opened as a single line in 1849, being
doubled to meet demand in 1860. A short connecting line, from
Stansfield Hall to Hall Royd, completed the "
Todmorden Triangle" in
1862, thus enabling trains to travel in all three directions
Leeds and Burnley) without reversing.
Industrial Revolution caused a concentration of industry and
settlement along the valley floor and a switch from woollens to
cotton. One family in the area was particularly influential on the
town; the Fielden family. They created a "dynasty" that changed the
town forever by establishing several large mills, putting up assorted
impressive buildings and bringing about social and educational change.
A double murder took place at Christ Church,
Todmorden on 2 March
1868. The victims' graves lie in the churchyard. Miles Weatherhill, a
23-year-old weaver from the town, was forbidden from seeing his
housemaid sweetheart, Sarah Bell, by the Reverend Anthony John Plow.
Armed with four pistols and an axe, Weatherhill took revenge first on
the vicar and then on Jane Smith, another maid who had informed Plow
of the secret meetings. Miss Smith died at the scene, while the vicar
survived another week before succumbing to his injuries. Weatherhill
also seriously injured the vicar's wife. On 4 April 1868 Weatherhill
became the last person to be publicly hanged in
Manchester , at the
New Bailey prison. Local legend has it that the face of a young
woman is sometimes seen in the window of the vicarage, now in private
Throughout the first decade of the 20th century, the population of
the Borough of
Todmorden remained constant. The ten-yearly UK census
returns show figures of 25,418 in 1901 and 25,404 in 1911. Like the
rest of the
Upper Calder Valley , Todmorden's economy experienced a
slow decline from around the end of the
First World War
First World War onwards,
accelerating after the
Second World War
Second World War until around the late 1970s.
During this period there was a painful restructuring of the local
economy with the closure of mills and the demise of heavy industry.
On 1 January 1907,
Todmorden Corporation became only the second
municipality in the
British Isles to operate a motor bus service. By
the end of that year, the fleet had expanded to five double-deck
vehicles: two by Critchley-Norris, two by
(predecessor of Leyland Motors) and one by Ryknield. In 1931, the
service became jointly operated by the Corporation and the LMS railway
under the name "
Todmorden Joint Omnibus Committee". At its maximum
size in the 1940s and 1950s, the undertaking operated 40 vehicles over
50 route miles (80 km) through the rugged South Pennine terrain.
Until 1938, the town was served by no fewer than six railway
Todmorden , Stansfield Hall ,
Cornholme , Portsmouth ,
Walsden and Eastwood . With the exception of
station, all closed during the middle third of the 20th century
Walsden railway station reopened on 10 September 1990 on a
site a few yards north of the original 1845 railway station. In
December 1984 a goods train carrying petrol derailed in the Summit
Todmorden and Littleborough causing what is still
considered as one of the biggest underground fires in transport
Todmorden found itself at the centre of a celebrated murder
enquiry. On 11 June that year police were called to J.W. Parker's coal
Todmorden after the discovery of a body, subsequently
identified as 56-year-old Zigmund Adamski from
Tingley , near
Wakefield . The former coal miner had not been seen since setting out
on a local shopping trip five days earlier. Although still wearing a
suit, his shirt, watch and wallet were missing. A post mortem
established that he died of a heart attack earlier that day, and
discovered burns on his neck, shoulders and back of his head. These
appeared to have been dressed by a green ointment, which toxicology
tests were unable to identify. Adamski's case has never been solved,
no suspect was ever arrested and in a television documentary the
coroner, James Turnbull, described it as "one of the most puzzling
cases I've come across in 25 years". Among the explanations to gain
currency was that Adamski was the victim of extraterrestrial
abduction. After intense media interest, the
Todmorden police force
were forbidden from talking further to the press about the case.
In 2008, a group of local residents initiated the Incredible Edible
Todmorden project to raise awareness of food issues and in particular
local food and food provenance. The project has been responsible for
the planting of 40 public fruit and vegetable gardens throughout the
town, with each plot inviting passers-by to help themselves to the
open source produce. The project has attracted publicity, media
attention and visitors and the idea has been replicated in at least
fifteen towns and villages in the UK.
Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms of the former
Todmorden Borough Council.
Todmorden has a complex geo-administrative history. It lies along the
historic county boundary of
Until the boundary reformation by the
Local Government Act 1888
Local Government Act 1888 , the
Yorkshire boundary ran through the centre of Todmorden,
following the River Calder to the north-west and the
Walsden Water for
less than 1 mi (1.6 km) to the south before turning south-eastwards
across Langfield Common. The Town Hall, which was presented to
Todmorden by the Fielden family and opened in 1875, straddles the
Walsden Water; thus, from 1875 to 1888 it was possible to dance in the
Town Hall ballroom, forward and back, across two counties of
Local Government Act 1894 , the
Todmorden Local Board
became an Urban District Council, comprising the wards of Todmorden,
Walsden, Langfield and Stansfield. At the same time,
District Council, comprising the parishes of Blackshaw, Erringden,
Heptonstall and Wadsworth, came into being. Two years later, on 2 June
1896, the town was granted a Charter of Incorporation and the area
covered by the Urban District Council became a municipal borough . The
number of wards was increased from four to six: Central, Walsden,
Langfield, Stansfield, Stoodley and Cornholme.
District was later renamed
Hepton Rural District . Since the local
government reforms of 1974 ,
Todmorden has been administered as part
Metropolitan Borough of
Calderdale , within the Metropolitan
West Yorkshire . At the local government level, Todmorden,
the town, is almost entirely within
Todmorden ward although the
eastern portion of the town toward Eastwood shares some of adjoining
Calder ward with Hebden Bridge.
TODMORDEN TOWN COUNCIL COMPOSITION
ELECTION TO TODMORDEN TOWN COUNCIL 7 MAY 2015
As of the
United Kingdom local elections, 2016 and the By-election in
Todmorden's twin towns are:
Roncq , Nord , Hauts-de-
France , France
Lower Saxony , Germany
A view of Gauxholme "> A typical weaving shed at Queen Street
Mill Textile Museum, Burnley
Heavy industry is now part of Todmorden's history, not its present.
The industrial chimneys have largely gone and the remaining mills have
mostly been converted for other purposes. The town's industrial base
is much reduced (at one time
Todmorden had the largest weaving shed in
the world). There has been a great deal of regeneration activity and
Todmorden is now increasingly a commuter town for people working in
Huddersfield and smaller towns.
Todmorden also services the local rural area and attracts visitors
through its market (indoor and outdoor), various events, heritage and
the local Pennine countryside. Changing work patterns may have
influenced the fact that the town was the first rural telephone
exchange in Britain to be broadband-enabled through public demand.
Rising house prices over recent years are a particular problem as
there is limited land available in the valley for building affordable
housing . It has for centuries been considered the safest accessible
route directly across the Pennines. Nightlife
Pubs in the town centre include the Duke of York, the Wellington, the
Royal George, the Golden Lion, the White Heart (Wetherspoons) and the
Polished Knob, known for live bands and music.
Todmorden Town Hall
Todmorden has a
Greek Revival town hall (built 1866–1875) which
dominates the centre of the town. The building straddles the Walsden
Water, a tributary of the River Calder, and was situated in both
Yorkshire until the administrative county boundary was
moved on 1 January 1888. Designed by John Gibson of Westminster, this
imposing building has a northern end which is semi-circular. One
interesting external feature of the town hall is the pediment to the
front elevation, which reflects the fact that it straddled the
boundary as it depicts the main industries of the two counties. The
fine carved stonework has two central female figures on a pedestal.
The left-hand sculpture represents
Lancashire (cotton spinning and
weaving industries), and the right-hand one
manufacturing, engineering and agriculture).
Todmorden has the look of a Victorian mill town. Other notable
Dobroyd Castle (completed in 1869), now used as a
residential activity centre for schoolchildren; the Edwardian
Hippodrome Theatre, and the
Grade I listed
Grade I listed
Todmorden Unitarian Church
(built 1865–1869). Dobroyd Castle, the town hall and the Unitarian
church were all built at the behest of
John Fielden and his sons and
designed by John Gibson , who had been a member of
Charles Barry 's
team at the Houses of Parliament . Pre-Victorian buildings include two
18th century pubs ;
Todmorden Old Hall, a
Grade II* listed
Grade II* listed manor house
(Elizabethan ) in the centre of town, and St. Mary's Church which
dates from 1476.
Todmorden is situated alongside the
Pennine Way ,
Pennine Bridleway ,
Mary Towneley Loop and
Calderdale Way and is popular for outdoor
activities such as walking , fell running , mountain biking and
bouldering . Its attractions include canals and locks, a park
containing a sports centre, an outdoor skateboard park, tennis courts,
a golf course, an aquarium/reptile house and a cricket ground. There
are wooded areas around the town and cafés and restaurants. The
Hippodrome Theatre shows films as well as putting on live
performances. The town has a small toy and model museum, a library and
a tourist information centre, along with independent retailers. Annual
events include a carnival, agricultural show, beer festival, music
festival and the traditional Easter
Pace Egg plays .
Centre Vale Park in
Todmorden is the setting for several pieces of
local art, including tree carvings by the sculptor John Adamson. Also
in the park are the reconstructed remains of Centre Vale Mansion, next
Todmorden War Memorial in the Garden of Remembrance, and nearby
there is a sculpture of a dog. This was sculpted by local sculptor
David Wynne in 2005, and was cast in steel at the local Todmorden
foundry Weir Minerals. It was donated to the park by the sculptor and
the foundry, but installation was delayed for several years due to the
extensive flood alleviation works. In 2011, the dog was featured on an
episode of Derren Brown\'s The Experiments. Brown spread a rumour that
the dog was lucky; it then gained a reputation for bringing luck to
anyone that touched it. During the
First World War
First World War the mansion was
used as a military hospital.
The 120 ft
Stoodley Pike monument (built 1814 and rebuilt in 1854)
stands atop the 1,300 ft hill of the same name. It commemorates the
Napoleon and the surrender of
Paris . It is a prominent
feature of Todmorden's moors, and is a landmark on the
Pennine Way .
Todmorden has been used as a filming location for the 1980s
Juliet Bravo , Territorial Army series All Quiet on the
Preston Front , parts of
The League of Gentlemen ,
BBC TV miniseries
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit , the award-winning BBC1 series Life on
Mars and a film adaptation of the novel
My Summer of Love . The BBC
One crime drama series Happy Valley , written by
Sally Wainwright (who
grew up in nearby
Sowerby Bridge ), is filmed in and around the town,
amongst other locations.
Todmorden featured in a TV show about haunted buildings. The
programme included a closed surgery in which
Harold Shipman worked for
a number of years, as well as the town hall (haunted by a grey lady),
and Oddfellows Hall (known as Baxter's bar), which is haunted by a
builder who died in the construction of the building in 1811.
Before May 2009, the links to
Lancashire and the North West were also
seen in the media with
Todmorden receiving an analogue TV signal from
BBC North West . The local television transmitter relayed
BBC One and
BBC Two to the
Todmorden area, however ITV and
Channel 4 was different
and has always been relayed from Emley Moor (via Cornholme) which
Yorkshire . Since 2009 all services were relayed via
Cornholme so local television links with the North West were lost.
In February 2010,
Todmorden featured in the
BBC Radio 4 programme
"Costing the Earth: The New Diggers". Members of a guerrilla
gardening group spoke about reclaiming unused land for growing
vegetables, how this helps the local community and how it can be a
driver for change.
In November 2011,
Todmorden featured in the
Channel 4 programme The
Secret of Luck, in which
Derren Brown sought to convince the town that
the dog statue in Centre Vale Park brought good luck.
Todmorden received a visit from
Prince Charles who came to support
Incredible Edible Todmorden project . This featured on
Todmorden's local newspaper is the
Todmorden News owned by Johnston
Singletrack Magazine , a national mountain biking magazine, is based
Todmorden Cricket Club has existed since 1837 and currently play at
Centre Vale in the town. They are the only
Yorkshire team in the
Lancashire League .
List of people from Todmorden
SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
John Mitchell Nuttall (1890–1958) was a Todmorden-born physicist
remembered for the
Geiger–Nuttall law .
John Ramsbottom (engineer) (1814–1897) was a mechanical and railway
engineer and inventor from the town.
Nobel Prize Winners
Todmorden has two
Nobel Prize winners: Prof. Sir John Cockcroft
(Physics) and Prof. Sir
Geoffrey Wilkinson (Chemistry). Despite 24
years' difference in their birth dates, both attended Todmorden
Grammar School (now
Todmorden High School with the prior grammar
school building now home to Ferney Lee Primary School) and both had
the same science master, Luke Sutcliffe.
POLITICS AND LAW
John Fielden (1784–1849), land and factory owner in
scion of the town's Fielden family, was a Member of Parliament and
national leader of the Ten Hours Campaign for factory reform.
Samuel Fielden (1847–1922), socialist, anarchist and labour
activist who was one of the eight convicted in the 1886 Haymarket
affair in Chicago. He was sentenced to death along with six other
defendants, but after writing to the Illinois Governor asking for
clemency his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in November
1887. He spent six years in prison before being pardoned, along with
two other co-defendants, in 1893. He died in Colorado in 1922 and is
buried in La Veta (Pioneer) Cemetery, Huerfano County, Colorado
alongside his wife and two children.
Wilfred Judson , a justice of the
Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada , was born
in and spent his early youth in Todmorden.
Rebecca Taylor , Liberal Democrat MEP for
Yorkshire and the Humber 8
March 2012 – 2 July 2014
ARTS AND CULTURE
Geoff Crowther (born 1944), independent travel guide writer, founding
editor of BIT travel guides ,
London (1972–1980): the first
guidebooks to cover the
Hippie trail . Crowther went on to be a
leading author for
Lonely Planet (1977–1995).
Fred Lawless ,
Liverpool born theatre playwright has a house in
Todmorden; he was also a writer for the
BBC 1 TV series
as well as several other TV and radio programmes.
Claire Benedict has appeared in UK TV shows Waking
The Dead, Prime Suspect, Unforgiven, Holby City, Casualty, Doctors,
Grange Hill, The Bill and the Lenny Henry Show. She featured in the
films Felicia's Journey, Sea Sick and Mersinias, and has had numerous
theatre roles, including work for the National Theatre and Royal
Shakespeare Company. On
BBC radio she is the voice of Precious
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency .
Dicken Ashworth appeared in Coronation Street
Antony Booth , actor, father of
Cherie Blair and father-in-law of
former Prime Minister
Tony Blair , resides in Todmorden.
Becky Simpson is an award-winning actress. As a
10-year-old child she starred as
Spoonface Steinberg in the BBC
production by that name written by writer Lee Hall , famous for
Billy Elliot . Becky is married to
Wes Paul notable Rock and
Roll lead singer with the
Wes Paul Band; they are tenants of the
Grade-I-listed lodge inside the gates of
Todmorden Unitarian Church
and are both members of the local management committee.
The Bayes family of artists were prominent in the 19th and 20th
centuries. They were: Alfred Bayes (1832–1909), painter; Walter
Bayes (1869–1856), painter;
Gilbert Bayes (1872–1952), sculptor;
Jessie Bayes (1876–1970), painter (some of her work can be see
at Lumbutts Methodist Church, Lumbutts, Todmorden).
William Holt (1897–1977) was a writer, painter, political activist,
journalist and traveller. William was often seen riding his white
horse Trigger around
Todmorden and other local areas.
Keith Emerson (1944-2016), founder member of UK prog-rock
The Nice and Emerson, Lake ">
* ^ See page 828 of
John C. Wells 's LPD. Also, see 25 April 2008
and 29 January 2010
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* ^ Nicolaisen, Gelling & Richards, The Names of Towns and Cities
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* ^ Glyn Hughes, foreword in "
Todmorden Album 4", (Birch R.) p. 6
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Calderdale Council. Retrieved
20 January 2014.
* ^ Russell's note of the excavations appears in H. Ling Wroth, The
Yorkshire Coiners 1767–1783, and Notes on Old and Prehistoric
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West Yorkshire The Northern
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Calderdale Council. Retrieved 20 January
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* ^ Hindley, Charles (1871). "Execution and Confession of Miles
Weatherhill, The Young Weaver, and his Sweetheart, Sarah Bell".
University of Virginia Library. Retrieved 13 September 2007.
* ^ "The Murder At
Todmorden Parsonage". News.
The Times (26064).
London. 5 March 1868. col A, p. 12.
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The Times (26072). London. 14 March 1868. p. 11.
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Todmorden Part 2.Alien Abduction". YouTube. 1
August 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
* ^ "
BBC Inside Out –
Alien abduction claims in Yorkshire". BBC.
3 February 2003. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
* ^ "Adamski case still fascinates".
Todmorden News. 13 February
2006. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
* ^ A B C Paull, John (2013) "Please Pick Me" – How Incredible
Todmorden is repurposing the commons for open source food and
agricultural biodiversity, In J. Franzo, D. Hunter, T. Borelli & F.
Mattei (Eds.). Diversifying Foods and Diets: Using Agricultural
Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health. Oxford: Earthscan,
* ^ "Roses united":
The Times (Letters) 15 August 2009
Todmorden ward profile
* ^ Calder ward
* ^ http://www.todmordencouncil.org.uk/councillors/
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* ^ "davidwynne.info". davidwynne.info. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
* ^ "Sally Wainwright: My Yorkshire".
Yorkshire Post . 13 June
2011. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
* ^ BBC4 Costing the Earth: The New Diggers
* ^ "Focus on - Todmorden". Halifax Courier. 10 August 2007.
Retrieved 2 August 2016.
* ^ "Todmorden". Lanchsire League. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
* ^ Paul Collins, "Baboons Are Simply Too Small for Leopard Bait"
(item 10), Slate, 4 August 2008.
* ^ Carole Cadwalladr, "Journey\'s end for the guidebook gurus?",
The Observer Travel, 7 October 2007.
* ^ Hanson, Martyn. Hang on to a Dream – The Story of the Nice.
Helter Skelter Publishing. ISBN 1-900924-43-9 .
Todmorden News, 11 July 2013
* ^ "The Shipman Enquiry". Retrieved 15 September 2007.
* ^ "Abraham Ormerod Medical Centre". YouTube. 5 November 2010.
Retrieved 20 January 2014.
* ^ "Shipman\'s 215 victims".
BBC News. 13 January 2004. Retrieved
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* ^ Randles, Jenny (1983). Pennine UFO Mystery.
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* ^ "Policeman Probed FBI".
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* Birch, R.
Todmorden Album 4, The Woodlands Press, 2006.
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agricultural biodiversity to improve nutrition and health"
Media related to
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