There are many reasons to visit Todmorden, it has a long and spectacular history; it’s high point being the Industrial Revolution. It is a bustling market town, with plenty of shopping opportunities, sitting on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. Todmorden sits firmly within West Yorkshire, since 1888, despite its Oldham postcode and the fact that most of its sporting teams play in Lancashire leagues! Plus Todmorden is nestled at the convergence of three valleys, which provides the most jaw-dropping scenery for anyone with a mind for a walk. Todmorden is also twinned with Roncq and Bramsche.
The name Todmorden first appears in 1641 and is generally accepted to mean Totta’s boundary-valley, probably a reference to the valley running northwest from the town, although the name “marshy valley of the fox” has also been proposed. The earliest written record of the area is in the Domesday Book (1086), at which time most people living in scattered farms or in isolated hilltop agricultural settlements. Packhorse trails were marked by ancient stones of which many still survive.
Before the Industrial Revolution Todmorden had been growing into a small but prosperous woollen textile producing area. In 1801 the majority of people still lived in the uplands, Todmorden itself could be considered as a mere village. However 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: better roads; the Rochdale Canal (1804); and the main line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway between Manchester and Leeds (1841). This railway line incorporated the then longest tunnel in the world, the 2,885 yard Summit Tunnel; and is now the Caldervale Railway Line. All of these endeavours were supported by the Fielden family, who are Todmorden’s most famous sons.
The Fielden family, who were once the owners of the largest textile concern in the country, are most famous for John Fielden’s parliamentary work where he helped to secure the Ten Hours Act, which limited the amount of time children were allowed to work. They also helped the town in more ways than the ones mentioned above, for example: the unique Town Hall, opened in 1875, the magnificent Unitarian Church and Dobroyd Castle were all built with patronage of the John Fielden’s sons and designed by prominent architect John Gibson, who also designed Birmingham Town Hall and the National Westminster Bank in London. They were also involved in raising of Stoodley Pike, arguably Todmorden’s most famous landmark!
A short stroll around the town also reveals many other interesting buildings, such as the blue plaque buildings honouring Todmorden’s two Nobel Prize winners, John Cockcroft (1951 for Physics) and Geoffrey Wilkinson (1973 for Chemistry), as well as the house and first mill site of the Fielden dynasty.