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Towns of Calderdale: Todmorden - a brief history

The Todmorden area, at the western edge of Calderdale, was settled, in places, as early as the Bronze Age and later on, there is evidence of the presence of the Romans and Saxons in the region. Sheep-farming was key to the area from the early Middle Ages and allowed for the development of a thriving woollen textile industry, based in homes, predominantly on the hillsides, long before industrialisation. The process of industrialisation, starting in the 18th Century, moved much local production from the home into the mills, which soon dotted the landscape of the area. The appearance of turnpike roads, followed by the opening of the Rochdale Canal and then the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, revolutionised transportation and allowed for expansion and significant population growth, particularly in the town of Todmorden itself. The Fieldens were a particularly famous local family and made a leading contribution to the establishment of the Cotton Industry in Todmorden in the late 18th & early 19th centuries. John Fielden was MP for Oldham and chiefly responsible for the Ten Hours Act of 1847, which limited working hours in the factories. Expansion in the Cotton Industry, which included the production of fustians, velveteens and sateens, and in associated textile and engineering industries, continued into the era of the First World War. The inter-war period saw the Depression, and subsequently the national decline in textile manufacturing was mirrored in the Todmorden area.

The wider area once comprised the townships of Todmorden-cum-Walsden, Stansfield and Langfield and was similarly divided between the parishes of Halifax and Rochdale. From 1861, the town of Todmorden was governed by a local board, formed under the Local Government Act of 1858. Administratively, Todmorden has been wholly in Yorkshire since 1888, although prior to this, the county boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire ran through the Town Hall. It was incorporated as a borough in 1896 and became part of Calderdale in 1974.

Buildings of historical and architectural importance in the area are Todmorden Town Hall, Todmorden Hall, Todmorden Unitarian Church, Christ Church, St Mary’s Church, Dobroyd Castle and the obelisk on Stoodley Pike, commemorating men who died in the Crimean War.

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