Old Images of Rochdale, England

Old photo of Belfield Hall Rochdale England 1889

Glimpse history through old images of Rochdale, in North West England, UK.

Rochdale Carnival 1927

Rochdale’s first annual exhibition and carnival was filmed in 1927, recording the streets crowded by local people as dressed-up adults, children, early cars and even an electric tram passed by in the parade.

Rochdale carnival (1927) – British Pathé on YouTube

Rochdale’s Empire Day 1927

A thousand children or so took part in the 1927 Empire Day physical exercise performance.

Empire Day in Rochdale in 1927 (1927) – British Pathé on YouTube

Carnival 1928

This brief silent footage of the carnival in 1928 was recorded in a different location to the same event the year before.

INDUSTRY / LEISURE: Rochdale Carnival (1928)- British Pathé on YouTube

Gracie Fields 1937

Born in Rochdale in 1898, Gracie Fields became a very successful actress, singer, and comedienne. In 1937, she was the world’s highest paid movie star!

On the same day the newsreels reported the 21st birthday of the 7th Marquess Townsend (George Townsend, who later died just 6 years short of his 100th birthday), Gracie Fields was given the Freedom of Rochdale while on a visit from Hollywood.

Gracie Fields at Rochdale.- British Movietone

Gracie Fields 1947

Vast crowds of people came out to welcome the star as she visited her hometown during a tour of Britain.

Gracie Fields Visits Rochdale (1947) – British Pathé on YouTube

Queen’s Visit 1948

Queen Elizabeth, wife to King George VI and mother of the future Queen Elizabeth II, visited Rochdale in 1948.

In this silent footage, local people patiently wait under umbrellas to greet the royal visitor, who visits a cotton mill and the nursery.

The Queen Visits Cotton Mills In Rochdale. AKA Queen In Rochdale (1948) – British Pathé on YouTube

Gracie Fields 1954

Gracie Fields was back in her hometown in 1954. These silent film clips open with a great shot of a mill, smokey chimneys, and the foggy landscape, before seeing the local people crowding round to welcome her.

Gracie Fields Sings In Rochdale (1954)- British Pathé on YouTube

Herbert Morrison’s Wedding 1955

In 1955, Herbert Morrison married Miss Edith Meadowcroft. In his lifetime, he was a senior Labour party politician who served in the famous post-war Labour government Cabinet of 1945, and was British Deputy Prime Minister. Through his first marriage, he had a grandson who also went into British Labour politics – Peter Mandelson.

Herbert Morrison and Edith Meadowcroft had met each other on holiday in Switzerland the previous year. Despite Edith being a businesswoman with Conservative views, and Herbert being a very left leaning politician whose first marriage had failed badly, they married in the full glare of the public gaze.

This newsreel opens with a view across a foggy Rochdale, and the 12th century parish church where the wedding took place. So many local people turned out to watch, the policemen had to hold the crowds back to the newlyweds could leave the churchyard.


Rochdale By-Election 1958

In February 1958, Socialist candidate Jack McCann was walking the streets of Rochdale canvassing for votes in the upcoming by-election. Meanwhile, the exuberant John Parkinson was hoping to increase the majority of 1,590 that the Conservatives had won at the General Election.

Ludovic Kennedy and his wife Moira Shearer were campaigning for the Liberals, sometimes driving about in a Morris Minor with speakers on the roof.

ROCHDALE CANDIDATE – British Movietone

The silent footage of the same by-election includes many streets and buildings around town. The polling station is in a school.


Asbestos Suits 1966

An aluminised asbestos suit that was fire retardant seemed the ideal oufit for the fire brigade.

But I couldn’t help wincing as this newsreel shows Rochdale factory workers and machinists working with this lethal material without any safety equipment whatsoever, before the firemen place it all over their bodies, heads and faces.

33 year old Nellie Kershaw was buried in a pauper’s grave in Rochdale in 1924. Her employers, the Turner Brothers Asbestos Company, knew the product may have caused her death, but didn’t want to create a compensation precedent. Over the years the directors found regulations ‘tiresome’ and did their best to evade responsibility to the local residents and workers their production process killed. When the company was wound up in October 2001, a pension fund deficit estimated at £400 million left workers unable to receive the pension they had saved for over many years, and the victims of this terrible form of lung cancer only received a fraction of their compensation.

The link between asbestos exposure and pleural mesothelioma was published in various medical papers over the 11 years prior to this newsreel. Asbestos was fully banned in the UK in November 1999, following an initial ban on the particulalry dangerous blue and brown asbestos types back in 1985.

They’re Fireporoof (1966) – British Pathé on YouTube

Rochdale Carnival 1981

On a rainy day in 1981, local Rock Band ‘Localheroes’ (also known as ‘Victor Mature’ made) a video in the Town Center on Carnival day.

Rochdale Carnival 1981- Wildlife on YouTube

Ashfield Valley Estate 1984

Back in 1984, Thames TV filmed the Ashfield Valley estate by air and from a number of locations around the estate.

1980s Rochdale | Ashfield Valley Estate | Greater Manchester | TV Eye | 1984 – ThamesTv on YouTube

Rochdale Buses 1995

This trailer for a transport DVD that you can buy from PMP films focuses on buses, but also takes in some local streets and buildings, and the occasional passing car or pedestrian.

ROCHDALE BUSES 1995 – DaveSpencer32 on YouTube

Historic Book

Extract from

The History of the Parish of Rochdale in the county of Lancaster Volume 2

by Henry Fishwick

Published 1889

Page 534-537

A custom of repairing to Knoll Hill and Blackstone Edge on the
first Sunday in May was long prevalent in the district , and the day
was formerly known as Spaw Sunday . As far as Blackstone Edge is
concerned the custom has not yet died out .

Within the last twenty years it was believed that if the grass
grown on this meadow was the first mown and carried away without rain
falling , none of the hay from the neighbouring meadows would be
” housed ” dry , and for years the Chapel ( or Chapel Vard ) Croft was
mown after the others .

The belief in witchcraft was at this period widespread throughout
the land , and that the inhabitants of this parish were no wiser than
their neighbours is evident from the fact that , in 1597 , one Alice
Brerely of Castleton obtained a pardon after being condemned to death
for having killed James Kershaw and Robert Scholefield by witchcraft .

In pulling down an old barn at Healey in 1876 , beneath one of
the roof timbers the workmen discovered a small wood box , which
contained a charm written in cipher…The tabe on the top corner is a magic square dedi
cated to the sun , on which the numbers are expressed by letters
formed from the Greek alphabet ; any six sums in this square taken
in a straight line make the number 111 , and together make up a total
of 666 , being the number of the beast ” ( Rev. , xiii . , 18 ) . In a line
with this square are the symbols of the sun and moon and under
them the word ” Machen , ” strife or contention ; below this is a symbol
consisting of a Jerusalem cross and the sign of Jupiter ; beneath this .
is the word ” Michael . ” In the centre is a symbol to which no mean
ing can be attached , and above it is the word ” Intelligence ; ” the
other figure , on which is ” sigil . ” is the seal of the sun . of the body

of the charm the first two lines are meaningless words in the Greek
character , and end with the word ” tetragrammaton . ” What follows is
in Latin and may be translated into ” I love God , the Lord God , the
Hour , Christ , let it be done , let it be done ; let it be done as it is
said in the xvii . chapter of St. Matthew and at the twentieth verse .
By faith ye may remove mountains . Let it be according to your
faith . If there is or shall be however a bewitcher or a demon
dwelling in , or in the habit of disturbing , this person , this place , or
this thing , I exorcise it to depart without any disturbance , trouble or
the least tumult , in the name of the Father , and of the Son , and of
the Holy Ghost . Then follows the Lord’s Prayer . On the back of
the paper is endorsed ” Agla en Tetragrammaton . ” The four letters in
the ” Agla ” form the initial letters of a cabalistic word meaning ” Thou
O Lord , art mighty for ever . ” Tetragrammaton is the Hebrew
Jehovah .
A charm almost exactly like this was found in the beginning of
this century under a brass plate on a tombstone in a Lancashire
churchyard , and another one was discovered in the roof of a barn at
West Bradford , near Clitheroe . The belief in this kind of charm
lingered long in Lancashire , and probably none of these exorcisms are
more than 100 or 150 years old .


In 1626 Roger Brereley [ or Breirley ] , clerk , held ( by descent from
his grandfather , Roger Brereley ) a close of land near the site of the
reputed castle in Castleton . This Roger Brereley , clerk was the fourth
son of Thomas Brereley of Marland . He is said to have been
the founder of a religious sect called the Breirlists or Grindletonians . “
He was for some years of Grindleton in Yorkshire , and afterwards
held the perpetual curacy of Burnley Church , where he died in 1637 .
During his life he underwent much persecution : at one time he was
kept prisoner at York pending the hearing of fifty charges against him
of false teaching and the like , not one of which being proved he was
set at liberty and allowed to continue his ministry . Roger Brereley
was also a poet . His sermons and poems were published in 1677…

An elder brother of Roger Brereley was Abel Brereley , who was
parish clerk of Rochdale .

This term is locally applied to a storm which took place 4th July .

The effects of the flood were mostly felt in the Spod valley ,
where it swept away Spotland Bridge . It is recorded that near to the
site of the bridge the strean rose to a height of fifteen feet ; of course
all the mills and houses near to its banks were much damaged .

As late as 1775 these matches between the various hamlets in the
parish were played in the streets of Rochdale , with an occasional
divergence into the bed of the river.

As late as 1830 the boys at the Grammar School were permitted
to indulge in this sport in the school – house .

This name was given to a ghost which for many years was firmly
believed to haunt the vicinity of St. Mary’s Chapel ( Cheetham Street ) .
Why it chose this locality or why it usually assumed the form of a
white rabbit has never been divulged .

Some fifty years ago Good Friday morning was known as Cracknel
Friday , and children calling on their friends were regaled with small
thin cakes known as cracknels .

THE Srocks .
It will be seen from the views of Whitworth and Littleborough
Chapels that the stocks were in both cases within the chapel yards ;
the stocks in Rochdale were just outside the churchyard ; the upright
stones of the latter still remain ; upon them are cut the letters ” w . w . “
and the date ” 1666. “

In 1650 the remains of a cross stood at Stubley , near Portsmouth…The ordnance map shows also a hill in Wardle called
Stubley Cross Hill . At the junction of the Oldham and Ripponden
Turnpike with the road to Cold Greave , in Ogden , is marked the
site of an old cross . The market cross in Rochdale remained in its
original position until about the beginning of this century , when ,
tradition says , it was pulled down wilfully by some drunken men , and
was afterwards removed to Goose – lane .

Most of the hill tops in the parish have been utilized for beacons ,
certainly Knoll Hill , Brown Wardle , Blackstone Edge , and the hill
behind Stones in Todmorden [ see p . 473 ] were so used .

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