Borough of Rossendale
Rossendale Valley
Rossendale Valley
Rossendale shown within Lancashire and England
Rossendale shown within Lancashire and England
Coordinates: 53°41′00″N 02°15′00″W / 53.68333°N 2.25000°W / 53.68333; -2.25000
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionNorth West England
Ceremonial countyLancashire
Admin. HQBacup
 • TypeRossendale Borough Council
 • MPs:Jake Berry
 • Total53 sq mi (138 km2)
 • Rank171st
 • Total71,169
 • RankRanked 284th
 • Density1,300/sq mi (520/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC+0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (British Summer Time)
ONS code30UM (ONS)
E07000125 (GSS)

Rossendale (/ˈrɒzəndl/) is a local government district with borough status in Lancashire, England. Its council is based in Bacup and its largest town is Rawtenstall. It also includes the towns of Haslingden and Whitworth. The borough is named after the Rossendale Valley, the upper part of the River Irwell.

The neighbouring districts are Burnley, Hyndburn, Blackburn with Darwen, Bury, Bolton and Calderdale.


The name Rossendale is first recorded in 1292. A record of the name as Rocendal (1242) suggests Celtic ros "moor, heath", with Old Norse dalr "dale, valley", hence moor valley i.e. the valley of the River Irwell.[2]


Rossendale is part of the Forest of Rossendale, which consists of the steep-sided valleys of the River Irwell and its tributaries, which flow from the Pennines southwards to Manchester and cut through the moorland which is characteristic of the area. It was given the designation of "forest" in medieval times denoting a hunting reserve.

The larger settlements grew into market towns, typically through the late Middle Ages. Farming and a cottage woollen industry developed during the reign of Henry VIII, but Rossendale's population only really expanded during the period of the Industrial Revolution. The population of the area that would become the modern borough of Rossendale was 24,136 in 1801; in 1901 it had grown to 89,540.[3] Its wet and damp climate are ideally suited to the development of watermills, and later to the mechanisation of the wool and cotton spinning and weaving industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the middle of the 19th century a felt industry developed, and from this the manufacturing of slippers so that footwear also became a major employer in the area.[4]

The area became one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution, and was known as 'The Golden Valley'. There was great hardship among working people during this time, but many fortunes were made among the mill-owning classes.[5] There was large-scale immigration from Ireland to find work building the railways and in the mills, which led to several instances of serious civil disturbances between the two communities. Michael Davitt, the Irish republican leader was among these immigrants, settling in Haslingden, where he received his education after losing an arm at the age of 11 in a mill accident.

The area is also notable for its quarrying, and Rossendale Flagstone was used widely throughout the country in the 19th century. The flagstones in Trafalgar Square in London were quarried in Rossendale.[6] Upland farming is still carried out, largely of sheep but also of cattle. The history of Rossendale is well documented, largely through the efforts of the historian Chris Aspin, a specialist on the textile industry, and Derek Pilkington, whose efforts led to the preservation of Higher Mill in Helmshore, now Helmshore Mills Textile Museum.

The Whitworth Doctors were local surgeons and bone setters in the late 1700s and early 1800s whose reputation spread far and wide, so that they treated patients from throughout the country. In 1819 William Hewitt described them as "the most remarkable men of their class that ever appeared in England".[7]

R.S. Ireland (The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co.) is based near Haslingden;[8] a family-run business of specialist black pudding makers, using only traditional methods and with a recipe dating back to 1879. Rawtenstall has Fitzpatricks Herbal Health, this is the last remaining functioning temperance bar in England, that makes and sells its own non-alcoholic drinks, such as sarsaparilla, black beers and blood tonic.

Administrative history

The modern district was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, covering the whole area of four former districts and part of a fifth, which were abolished at the same time:[9]

The new district was named Rossendale, referencing both the Rossendale Valley and the associated medieval Forest of Rossendale which had covered a similar area.[13] The new district was awarded borough status from its creation, allowing the chair of the council to take the title of mayor.[14]


Rossendale Borough Council
Founded1 April 1974
Andrew Walmsley,
since 19 May 2023[15]
Alyson Barnes,
since 20 May 2011
Rob Huntington
since April 2023[16]
Seats36 councillors
Political groups
Administration (22)
  Labour (22)
Other parties (14)
  Conservative (9)
  Community First (2)
  Independent (2)
  Green (2)
First past the post
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
2 May 2024
Meeting place
The Business Centre, Futures Park, Bacup, OL13 0BB

Rossendale Borough Council provides district-level services. County-level services are provided by Lancashire County Council. Whitworth is also a civil parish, which forms a third tier of local government in that part of the borough.[17][18]

Political control

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Since 1974 political control of the council has been as follows:[19][20]

Party in control Years
No overall control 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1986
Labour 1986–2000
Conservative 2000–2002
Labour 2002–2003
No overall control 2003–2004
Conservative 2004–2007
No overall control 2007–2008
Conservative 2008–2011
No overall control 2011–2012
Labour 2012–2021
No overall control 2021–2022
Labour 2022–present


The role of mayor is largely ceremonial in Rossendale. Political leadership is instead provided by the leader of the council. The leaders since 2004 have been:[21]

Councillor Party From To
Duncan Ruddick[22] Conservative Dec 2004 19 Dec 2007
Tony Swain Conservative 19 Dec 2007 8 May 2011
Alyson Barnes Labour 20 May 2011


Following the 2023 election the composition of the council was:[23]

Party Councillors
Labour 22
Conservative 9
Community First 2
Independent 2
Green 1
Total 36

The next election is due in 2024.


See also: Rossendale Borough Council elections

Since the last boundary changes in 2002 the council has comprised 36 councillors representing 14 wards, with each ward electing two or three councillors. Elections are held three years out of every four with a third of the council elected each time for a four year term of office. Lancashire County Council elections are held in the fourth year of the cycle when there are no borough council elections.[24] At the 2024 election, due to another boundary review, the number of councillors to the council will be reduced to 30.[25]

The wards are:

Rossendale is part of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency. Jake Berry MP has been the member of parliament for Rossendale and Darwen since 2010.


The council is based at The Business Centre on Futures Park in Bacup.[26] It was built as commercial offices called the Kingfisher Business Centre in 2003. The council took some office space in the building before creating a council chamber there in 2009 and consolidating its functions at the site.[27][28]

Prior to 2009 the council was based at Rawtenstall Town Hall at the corner of Bacup Road and Lord Street. It had been built in 1876 as the "Exchange Club" and was subsequently acquired in 1890 by the Rawtenstall Local Board (predecessor of the Rawtenstall Borough Council) for use as its offices.[29] The building was later extended into the offices of an adjoining tramway depot.[30]


The borough is linked by the motorway network to Manchester, Burnley and Blackburn via the A56/M65 and M66 motorways.

There was once a rail link south to Manchester via Bury, but this was closed in 1966 as part of cuts following the Beeching Report. Part of the old railway reopened in 1991 as the East Lancashire Railway operating a service from Rawtenstall to Bury via Ramsbottom and Summerseat, and manned by volunteers. In September 2003 an eastbound extension from Bury to Heywood was opened.

In March 2015, it was proposed to reintroduce a rail service between Rawtenstall, Bury and Manchester. This would use the current route of the East Lancashire Heritage Railway.[31]

The area is well served by public road transport, with bus services provided mainly by Rosso and Burnley Bus Company. These provide regular services to Burnley, Blackburn, Accrington, Bolton, Bury, Manchester and Rochdale as well as Todmorden and other local destinations.

Education in Rossendale

Rossendale contains multiple secondary schools, these are:

In addition, there is Accrington and Rossendale College, based in Accrington.


In terms of television, the area is served by BBC North West and ITV Granada. Television signals are received from the Winter Hill TV transmitter.[32]

Local radio stations are BBC Radio Lancashire on 95.5 FM, Heart North West on 105.4 FM, Capital Manchester and Lancashire on 107.0 FM, Greatest Hits Radio Lancashire on 96.5 FM, and Rossendale Radio, a community based radio station which broadcast its studios in Rawtenstall on 104.7 FM.[33]

The area is served by local newspaper, Lancashire Telegraph.[34]

The arts in Rossendale

Waugh's Well

Rossendale is the home to a large community of artists with several painters' studios, many of which are centred on the area around Waterfoot. Rossendale's only traditional theatre is in Bacup. The Royal Court Theatre first opened in 1893 and has a thriving Youth Theatre called The Rossendale Musical Theatre Academy. The theatre and arts centre known as 'The Boo' as well as being a regular venue for family theatre shows, music and a wide range of community arts events, is the home of the Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company who specialise in visual theatre, often using distinctive puppets and masks. The painters and other artists who make up the major studios within the valley – Globe Arts, Prospect Studio, Valley Artists – along with the Boo, the Whitaker, Apna Rossendale, and individual artists now work together to open their studios and premises each year at the Rossendale Art Trail Open Studios weekend in late summer.

The first part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail runs from Deerplay, above Bacup, to Stubbins. The actress Jane Horrocks was born in Rawtenstall, Rossendale, and the composer Alan Rawsthorne was born in Haslingden. Betty Jackson, the fashion designer, is a native of Bacup.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Larks of Dean were an unusual group of working class musicians whose music-making at the Baptist Chapel in Goodshaw Fold became an important local feature. There is also a brass band tradition as well as an amateur theatre scene. There was once over 40 bands in and around Rossendale, including the Irwell Springs Band whose fame was at a peak at the turn of the 19th century. There are currently the Haslingden and Helmshore Band, Rossendale Encore Concert Band, Goodshaw Band, Stacksteads Band, Water Band, 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band, Whitworth Vale & Healey Band, Whitworth Youth Band, Haslingden Concert Band and the Whitworth Veterans' Band. Rossendale is home to a unique dancing troupe, the Britannia Coconut Dancers, formed in the mid-19th century, and who traditionally dance along the local roads every Easter.

Haslingden Halo

There has been a long tradition of dialect poetry and writing in Rossendale.[35] Local poets have included Andrew Houston (The Rossendale Bard), Walter Hargreaves (Shepster) and Clifford Heyworth (Bill o' Bows). Waugh's Well, above Edenfield and Cowpe, marks the spot where Edwin Waugh wrote many of his poems, and is a favourite spot for walkers – a popular activity in Rossendale that does not appear to be in decline.

The Halo is an artwork in the form of an 18m-diameter steel lattice structure supported on a tripod overlooking Haslingden, positioned to be clearly visible from the M66 and A56 approach to Lancashire. Designed by John Kennedy and selected as part of a design competition managed by RIBA Competitions which was launched in 2003. It is lit after dark using low-energy LEDs powered by an adjacent wind turbine. It is the fourth Panopticon in Lancashire. It, and the adjacent landscaped area at Top o'Slate, was opened to the public in September 2007, and was designed by John Kennedy of LandLab and engineered by Booth King Partnership.

Rossendale is also home to touring theatre company Hard Graft. Established in 1999 Hard Graft found notoriety in the UK touring non theatre venues. Their first tour was with their award-winning comedy Thick As Thieves , touring living rooms throughout the UK. They then toured 56 charity shops with Burt n Joyce turning each shop into a theatre for the evening.

Sports and entertainment

Lee Quarry now contains a purpose-built mountain bike trail.[36]

Three Rossendale towns have cricket clubs in the Lancashire League – Bacup, Haslingden and Rawtenstall. The overseas professionals who are associated with the League have therefore often lived in the Rossendale Valley. For example, Everton Weekes was long associated with Bacup; Clive Lloyd with Haslingden. Edenfield Cricket Club are also associated with the Lancashire League but only participate in the leagues T/20 competition.

Rossendale rugby club for many years had been a small rugby union club playing in the lower leagues, but in recent years the club has gained two promotions to take them into Regional 1 North West. Notable players such as Daniel Collins, Dave Wood and Tim Fourie now play at the valley side.

The area's only semi-pro non league football team are Bacup Borough F.C. who play their home games at West View and are members of the North West Counties League Division One. The area's other major non league side Rossendale United, who played their home games at nearby Newchurch near Rawtenstall, folded in 2011. The only other semi-pro team from the Rossendale area are Ramsbottom United who play in the Northern Premier League Division One North. Previously there had been Haslingden F.C., playing at Ewood Bridge, on the outskirts of Haslingden, until they folded in 1998. Their ground was later used briefly by Stand Athletic F.C. before they vacated and moved back to Whitefield in Greater Manchester. Other clubs around the Rossendale area are all from Step 7 (Level 11) and below, and so playing in various leagues at this level – the West Lancashire Football League (Haslingden St Mary's), East Lancashire League (Stacksteads St Joseph's, Water FC), Lancashire Amateur League (Rossendale FC, Whitworth Valley, Valley United).

The popular comedy series, The League of Gentlemen, is apparently based upon Rossendale (and perhaps Bacup in particular), playing upon stereotypes and exaggerations of the area. Subsequently, the producers filmed in various northern towns, one of which was Bacup itself, which Jeremy Dyson (writer) and Steve Pemberton (actor) proclaimed, "Bacup was the furthest we went into Lancashire. Bacup was our hot favourite, but it was too frightening – when we arrived there was this cartoon drunk with a bottle shaking his fist at us. Bacup in real life was worse than Royston Vasey".[37]

Various towns within the Rossendale Valley were used for filming scenes of the BBC TV series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates during the 1990s.

The 1980's BBC drama series Juliet Bravo was filmed in Rossendale with the exterior of Bacup police station serving as the fictional Hartley police station.

During autumn 2008 areas around Rossendale were used in the filming of the BBC TV series Survivors including the Airtours site and other sites in Helmshore and Bank Street in Rawtenstall.

In 2012 Rossendale featured on the ITV reality television series May the Best House Win featuring former Rossendale Radio DJ Si Carvell.

Local radio station Rossendale Radio broadcast throughout the valley from 2010, before shutting down on 5 March 2012 due to financial difficulties.[38] It then re-launched on 22 December 2018.[39]

The Rossendale Male Voice Choir formed in the valley in 1924.[40]


In the 2001 census the population of Rossendale was 65,652,[41] spread between the towns of Bacup, Haslingden, Whitworth and Rawtenstall; the villages of Crawshawbooth, Edenfield, Helmshore and Waterfoot; and as well as Britannia, Broadclough, Chatterton, Cloughfold, Cowpe, Irwell Vale, Loveclough, Newchurch, Shawforth, Stacksteads, Stubbins, Turn and Weir. The population at the 2011 Census had risen to 67,922.[42]

Urban Area

Much of the borough forms part of the Accrington/Rossendale built-up area which extends into the neighbouring borough of Hyndburn. The Accrington/Rossendale built-up area extends from the towns of Rawtenstall and Bacup to Accrington which takes in parts of the boroughs of Hyndburn and Rossendale. The urban area was recorded at having a population of 125,059.

Civil parishes

  Whitworth parish shown within Rossendale

Whitworth is the only civil parish in Rossendale. The parish council has declared the parish to be a town, allowing it to take the style "town council".[43] The rest of the borough is an unparished area.[18]

Notable current and past residents

For notable past residents see individual towns and villages

Twin town

Rossendale Borough Council is twinned with:[44]


  1. ^ Despite the name, the Walmersley cum Shuttleworth ward did not include the settlements of Walmersley or Shuttleworth, but instead covered the rural parts of the ancient township of Walmersley cum Shuttleworth left over after Walmersley had been absorbed by Bury in 1872 and Shuttleworth by Ramsbottom in 1883.[10][11][12]
  1. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Rossendale Local Authority (E07000125)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names; A.D. Mills; OUP 1991; ISBN 0-19-852758-6.
  3. ^ "Rossendale District". A Vision of Britain through Time. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  4. ^ A Rossendale Anthology; Ronald Digby; Forest Press, Bacup 1969
  5. ^ Lancashire – The First Industrial Society; Chris Aspin; Carnegie 1995; ISBN 1-85936-016-5
  6. ^ Building Blocks; D. Revell and A. Baldwin; 1985; ISBN 0-947738-13-4
  7. ^ "The Story of the Whitworth Doctors". Heritage Open Days. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  8. ^ "Home". The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  9. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972",, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 22 August 2022
  10. ^ "Greater Manchester Gazetteer". Greater Manchester County Record Office. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  11. ^ Annual Report of the Local Government Board. London. 1895. p. 259. Retrieved 16 October 2023.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ "Walmersley cum Shuttleworth Township / Civil Parish". A Vision of Britain through Time. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  13. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Names) Order 1973",, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 22 August 2022
  14. ^ "District Councils and Boroughs". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 28 March 1974. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  15. ^ "Council minutes, 19 May 2023". Rossendale Borough Council. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  16. ^ Jacobs, Bill (12 January 2023). "Rossendale Council appoints new chief executive". Lancashire Telegraph. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  17. ^ "Local Government Act 1972",, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 31 May 2023
  18. ^ a b "Election Maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  19. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  20. ^ "Rossendale". BBC News Online. 19 April 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  21. ^ "Council minutes". Rossendale Borough Council. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  22. ^ "New council leader at the helm". Rossendale Free Press. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  23. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  24. ^ "The Borough of Rossendale (Electoral Changes) Order 2001",, The National Archives, SI 2001/2430, retrieved 18 October 2023
  25. ^ LGBCE. "Rossendale | LGBCE". Retrieved 1 January 2024.
  26. ^ "Council offices". Rossendale Borough Council. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  27. ^ "Committee report, 5 October 2009". Rossendale Borough Council. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  28. ^ Willmott, Alex (6 October 2009). "Rossendale council chamber move given go-ahead". Lancashire Telegraph. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  29. ^ "Proposed purchase of the Exchange Club for public offices". Rossendale Free Press. Rawtenstall. 21 December 1889. p. 8. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  30. ^ Grieve, Jonathan (29 September 2018). "A look inside the renovated Rawtenstall town hall". Lancashire Telegraph. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  31. ^ "Rossendale rail link could connect Valley to Manchester in 37 minutes". Rossendale Free Press. 4 March 2015.
  32. ^ "Full Freeview on the Winter Hill (Bolton, England) transmitter". UK Free TV. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  33. ^ "Rossendale Radio". Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  34. ^ "Lancashire Telegraph". British Papers. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  35. ^ A Bacup Miscellany : Prose and Verse by Local Writers Past and Present. Ed. Harry Craven. ISBN 978-0-9502527-0-4
  36. ^ "News : The Adrenaline Live! Weekend Takes Shape". 2 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  37. ^ The League of Gentleman Blog;
  38. ^ "Lancashire's Rossendale Radio closes down". RadioToday. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  39. ^ "Community radio launches with help from Big Lottery". Lancashire Telegraph. 26 December 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  40. ^ "90 years of harmony for celebrated Rossendale choir". Lancashire Telegraph. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  41. ^ Government census records
  42. ^ "Non metropolitan district population 2011". Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  43. ^ "Whitworth Town Council". Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  44. ^ Rossendale Borough Council, Town Twinning retrieved 21 January 2019