Rochdale’s Rooley Moor is a fairly recent name, from the 18th Century, when a Mr Rowley (corrupted later to Rooley) settled on what was to become the Old Moorcock Inn. Rooley Moor was was originally known as Shore Moor, an area that included minor names such as The Ding(e) and Bagden which dates back to medieval times.
Why go to Whalley Abbey?
The abbey owned so much land in Spotland it even claimed the manorial rights. Over 100 Spotland charters that define Abbey land boundaries are recorded in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. So, for example if you wanted to travel north from Smallshaw to the Abbey you would go via the route of Rooley Moor Road. Why go to the Abbey? to take wool, the most valuable crop and Medieval England’s vital export. The Abbey was a major distribution centre for wool.
Rooley Moor Road connects The north of Spotland with the Church and the market in the centre of Rochdale. So if you were in Boarsgeave or Cowpe the line of Rooley Moor Road leads to the Church and market at the centre of your parish. If you look at Greenwood’s 1818 map of Rooley Moor (see References) you don’t have much to choose from! unless you want to make a detour via Whitworth.
To the south is an area known as Catshaw and the road that ran north/south through it was Catley Lane, the original name of Rooley Moor Road. Before the 18th Century the area was known as Shore Moor. Catley Lane is mentioned frequently in the 1626 Rochdale Manor survey, there are three mentions of Catley Lane in the page shown here. There is also a 1597 reference (18th Jan) in the Manor Court Rolls, the earliest historical reference found so far.
1418 Reference in Fiswick
Route to the local market
With so many medieval sites close to the line of what was Catley Lane it is hard to believe there was no medieval track to connect them to the nearby medieval borough of Rochdale. This medieval borough (burgage plots are mentioned in the Manor Court Rolls) of Rochdale, was a market (1251) town which was important enough to have a castle.
The local topography would make an obvious southern route to Rochdale on the west of the steep valley of Healey Dell.
Most interesting of all?
Since there are major sites (English Heritage helped survey them) within a few hundred metres of Rooley Moor Road, medieval and earlier, which I discovered in 2010.
There is plenty of evidence for prehistoric activity in the area.
Iron Age Defended Sites – Smallshaw and Lower Dunnishbooth
Two defended sites, one with a triple ditch and a medieval reference (which called it ancient 800 years ago!) are just to the east of Rooley Moor at Cutgate. There is plenty more archaeology to be surveyed there.
Bagden Hillocks/Old Moorcock
Look down from the ruins of the Moorcock rowards the west and you can see prehistoric fields and an enclosure.
Turn round and look east and you see a cairn a few meters away, at the north wall of what was the Moorcock. A second cairn, Bagden Hillocks, lies a little further to the east.
With such a large number of farmsteads and Abbey land along the line of Catley Lane, a drove way for sheep and cattle would be a natural medieval route to the nearby market (1251) town of Rochdale and north to Whalley Abbey. The 1418 reference to Catcloghgate (early name for Catley Lane) appears to confirm a medieval date. While prehistoric sites in the area would probably have used a track on or near to the present line of the road.
See Manor Court records (Chapter XV) and medieval references to places in the area in: The History of the Parish of Rochdale in the County of Lancaster / by Henry Fishwick 1889 Download it here
Greenwood’s 1818 Map includes Rooley Moor Road, download it here.
Fishwick’s History of the Parish of Rochdale, p91-2