Sidholme stone, Rochdale


A curiosity, this one, a large stone beside a stream in Sidholme, north of Rochdale. The area is interesting with early enclosures and stone farmsteads nestling below the prominent Hunger Hill. I have posted two pictures, the first picture shows a rectangular recess cut into the south end of the stone. The second picture is taken from the other side of the stream, looking south east towards Hunger Hill.



How old is Rooley Moor Road?

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 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.

Spotland Township

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. CatleyLane203 There is also a 1597 reference (18th Jan) in the Manor Court Rolls, the earliest historical reference found so far. 1597MCRCatleyLane

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.

Prehistoric Origins?

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.

Rooley Moor from Knowl Hill
Rooley Moor Viewed from Knowl Hill

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.

Bagden Hillocks Cairn


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

1818 Map

Greenwood’s 1818 Map includes Rooley Moor Road, download it here.

Fishwick’s History of the Parish of Rochdale,  p91-2

Rochdale’s Other Castle

The 1626 Rochdale Manor survey mentions a lesser known “castle” place-name, it is recorded as “Thrustcastel” which means the “leppers castle”. There is a  “castle” is marked on the first series OS map, but this has been cut through by the M62 and is further east than the Newhey site.


I think this is “Thrustcastell” a prominent hill clearly visible just south of the M62 motorway at Newhey, it has a base station on top.

It looks like the product of glacial processes but it could have been used in earlier times or maybe the glacial sand soil was good farmland!

You can see for yourself on Google Earth or Microsoft Bing Maps. It is just north of Newhey at SD936120.

What do you think?





Farmsteads and Farming around Rooley Moor

Plenty of Evidence

There are plenty of early farming sites on and around Rooley Moor. Medieval records are also plentiful (from the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey)  too and when combined with manorial records and other sources a detailed study of farming in the area will be possible.

But It’s moorland! How could you farm it?

If the soil, climate and farming techniques are right you can farm! Rooley Moor has been farmed since prehistoric times! poorer land was used for pasture.

Want to see the early fields?

Early enclosure/fields on Rooley Moor

Retrieved from Microsoft Bing, Copyright Microsoft You can see the stone walls of the recent fields overlaying the early fields (dark brown grass).There appear to be severaly early field systems overlaying each other at SD 855177. These fields are overlooked by the Bronze Age  cairns on Bagden Hillocks, on the higher ground to the east of the fields, above Rooley Moor Road.

You can see the ploughmarks here

Rooley Moor from Knowl Hill
Rooley Moor Viewed from Knowl Hill SD855177

In a visit to Rooley  Moor in 2010, Al Oswald of English Heritage thought these fields were likely to be the site of prehistoric settlement. The Fields are overlooked  by the Bagden Hillocks cairns to the north east. Early Fields on Rooley Moor

Old wall next to Ding Quarry

North of these early fields (an area called Clegg Ding) and nearer Ding Quarry there is a covering of peat but still the area was in use because a wall was built along the eastern edge Ding Clough, perhaps to stop sheep from going over the edge. There may be other features visible in the foreground of the picture too.

Old Wall parallel to Ding Clough
Wall running North South Next to Ding Clough

Birchen Holts (ruin) – Farmstead next to Rooley Moor OS grid reference: SD 847 173

Birchen Holts was reclaimed from waste and included five closes, in the 1626 Rochdale Manor Survey it was recorded as being 73 acres one rood and 20 perches in total. The annual rent was £7 and 6 shillings Note the sheltered site and the fields south of the Ding in the background. BirchenHoltsStuartDavies Birchen Holts by Stuart Davies SD 847173

Birchen Holts
Birchen Holts

Higher and Lower Bagden

BagdenruinSmall LateCoucherWhitworth


I just got confirmation (Monday 24th March)  that you can now download documents relating to farmsteads in the North West of England. They (parts 1-3) are available from the HELM – Historic Environment Local Management website here.

Essential background reading for Pennine Lancashire, history and archaeology. Particularly of interest is this summary of medieval NW England settlement:

“The 12th and 13th centuries were characterised by rising
population, the colonisation of new land (through the
drainage of fens, clearance of woods and expansion of
farming on to upland moors) and the direct commercial
management by estates of their land, whether this was
dispersed among other holdings or ring-fenced in its
own boundaries.The Church was a particularly active
landlord, and monastic orders such as the Cistercians ran
their estates from both home (or demesne) farms and
outlying granges, which could be very large in scale
(commonly 3 to 1000 acres in size). Climatic changes in
the second decade of the 14th century, with increased
rainfall and lower temperatures, led to famine.These
troubles, compounded by pestilence (the Black Death of
1349 and subsequent epidemics), resulted in a sharp fall
in population and the contraction or desertion of
settlements on marginal soils. Direct cultivation by
landlords continued on some home farms, but in most
areas farms on estates became leased out – in whole or
in part – to tenants, a process often accompanied by the
breakdown of traditional customary tenancies. Other
developments which accelerated from the 14th century
included the amalgamation of farms into larger holdings,
the enclosure of former communally farmed strips, and a
steady growth in productivity sustained by greater
emphasis on pastoral farming, new techniques and
rotations of crops.”

Retrieved from HELM website 24/03/2014 historic-farmsteads-north-west-part2.pdf

I will post about sites around Rooley Moor and Whitworth relating to this subject soon!

Milnrow Carved Stone Fragments

Memorial Stone circa 800 to 1200 AD

Two stone fragments were discovered built into a farm near Milnrow, one appeared to be from the Viking Age (below), the other larger  fragment has part of an “Anglo-Saxon capitals” inscription (see above).

The finds were originally published in 2010 if from originally the area (they are of great significance, given how rare such finds are in the area.


CBA “Milnrow Stones” article by Vanessa Oakden

Portable Antiquities Scheme Entries

Viking Age Fragment 900 to 100AD approx.
Viking Age Fragment circa 900 to 1000 AD 

Oakden, V (2010) LVPL-01F601 A EARLY MEDIEVAL SCULPTURE Webpage available at: [Accessed: Oct 14, 2013 10:43:40 PM]

Improved Technology, Improved Survey Possibilities

From magnetometers (you probably have one in your smartphone)”) to thermal imaging the cost of survey technology is falling, The advent of affordable remote control helicopters means archaeologists can afford their own aerial survey platforms!

I will list the technologies of interest and explain their use and costs. I

  • Aerial Survey Platforms (drones with HD video are now affordable)
  • Aerial Photographs in the public domain such as Google Earth and Microsoft Bing
  • Infra red techniques
  • Thermal Imaging
  • Magnetometers (or gradiometers)
  • Laser survey technology
  • Computer technology
  • GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar)
  • Lidar (now being made available in the UK)

Under construction…



Background to the Discoveries

Three sites were partially surveyed in 2010, with the help of Groundwork volunteers trained by Al Oswald of English Heritage.

One site, Naden Head has already been mentioned in earlier posts, the two other sites, were 2010. A fourth site discovered in 2007 was the subject of an inconclusive geophysical survey in 2010, a possible barrow lies to the west of this, naturally defensive site.

The Hill Fort

Hill forts are extremely rare in Lancashire and this appears to be in a better state of preservation than the scheduled hill fort north of Bury, known as Castlesteads. Castlesteads had a single ditch, Portfield Camp near Whalley, Lancashire is perhaps closer in construction and has similar dimensions to the site near Rochdale.

I found the Medieval reference to the hill fort in November 2012, the site was discovered in 2010 using aerial photography and field work.

A Barrow?


How could anyone miss this?  this area has never been archaeologically surveyed!

I have blanked out the background to hide the exact location, it has been reported to English Heritage, but not visited by them yet.

To be continued….

Salford Hundred Heritage Society Press Release 18th December 2012


Surprising Archaeological Discoveries North of Manchester

During 2009/2010 major archaeological sites were discovered, including a fortified site and burial sites, as old as four thousand years old. This information is made public today. The two thousand year old fortified site (hill fort), with triple ditches (about 75 Metres in length), was described as “ancient” in a Latin manuscript from 800 years ago.

Hill Fort discovered in 2010
Hill Fort discovered in 2010

A nearby site has a bank (clearly visible) cutting off a peninsula of land. There are also extensive early cultivation sites and field boundaries as well as many ruined farmsteads. One expanse of moorland is punctured by dozens of small pits, of unknown origin, some big enough to fall into, but never recorded on any maps of the area. Many more sites remain undiscovered, even though they are above ground.

Whitworth, to the north of Rochdale, has around one hundred medieval charters referring to smallholders land transfers in the area, which firmly secures it’s place as one of the best documented medieval villages in the country. However a 2007 archaeological survey just west of Whitworth found no medieval evidence for the area, and ignored the ruins of the nearby medieval manor house.

It is imperative that this information is made public whilst there is still time to save this rich historical landscape.


 Salford Hundred Heritage Society