The Cotton Famine Road on Rooley Moor
You may have watched a programme on 29th June on BBC4, called ‘Black and British: a Forgotten History’, presented by the historian David Olusoga, which focussed on the supportive relationship between the mill workers of Rochdale and enslaved Africans in the American South, and featured ‘Cotton Famine Road’. This was a road improvement project, running for a mile and a half across Rooley Moor, on the outskirts of Rochdale, from Catley Lane Head Village to Ding Quarry, devised by the Poor Law Guardians to provide paid work for unemployed and impoverished cotton workers during the ‘Cotton Famine’ of 1861-65.
Until we watched the programme we had never heard of the ‘Cotton Famine Road’, so the other day we went to view it. We found a wide and well-constructed road, surfaced for the most part with robust gritstone setts, though interspersed with shorter sections of crushed stone.
For anyone interested in the history of the Industrial Revolution it is well-worth a visit. To appreciate the road fully you need to walk up at least the first section which goes gently uphill. The moors above Rochdale are somewhat ‘bleak’ most of the time, so warm, weatherproof clothing and substantial footwear are recommended, and choose a warm sunny day if possible.
The road starts at the top of Catley Lane Head Village where there is ample parking near a cattle grid. To one side of the cattle grid we found a white plastic box containing a series of (free) Heritage Trail leaflets, produced by Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum and they added much to our visit.
Unless you know Rochdale very well, Catley Lane Head Village is not the easiest place to find. Sat nav could be your best friend! The post code of the village is OL12 6BH.
Judith Wilshaw, July 2020
(Judith's photos, plaque and below)
A couple of links in connection with the Road and Cotton Famine.
This contains, with permission, excerpts from the programme mentioned above
Also Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time 'The Lancashire Cotton Famine'