Westhoughton Community Network

group for and run by community groups in Westhoughton

Westhoughton Local History Group

A thriving group, Westhoughton Local History Group was formed in June 2005 by local historian Pam Clarke, now counting over 100 members, it is one of the largest, most innovative, and most successful heritage societies in the region. Meetings and workshops are normally* held in Westhoughton Library the first and third Thursdays of every month, from 10am to 12 noon; some 70 people attending to hear talks or update progress on the various projects undertaken including their regular exhibitions, as well as taking part in local history walks, quizzes and trips.

The Group's exhibitions have been extremely successful in profiling the town's industrial and social history, and have attracted large audiences, from within the town itself, but also many from much further afield. Its work has had a big impact on Westhoughton, marking the major contributions to the town's rich social, cultural and industrial heritage; notably working on the 100-year Remembrance Events for the Pretoria Disaster (21 December 1910), the Luddites bi-centenary and the 'Burning of Westhoughton Mill' (2012), several exhibitions held at the local library including 'Westhoughton and World War I', Westhoughton Under Siege (Development & Planning), 'Aspects of Howfen', 'Westhoughton in the Wake of World War One' (2018), … and an exhibition (2019) marking the Bi-centenary of the Peterloo Massacre.

The group were behind the installation in September 2017 of the 'Westhoughton Historic Timeline', a project breaking down the history of the town across categories of interest with a series of visuals and text.

Eatock Lodge - the new information board (2014) tells the story of the Eatock CollieryKeen to promote their work they can be relied upon to give talks and slide shows to groups and interested parties. They have supported other groups, such as Senior Solutions, Women of Westhoughton (WOW) and Friends of Eatock Lodge supplying information on local events and past history - at Eatock Lodge Nature Reserve their work contributed to an historical noticeboard commissioned by Bolton Council detailing the life, trials and history of the former Eatock Colliery, now a local leisure destination.

The History Group is frequently in attendance at local community events where items such as books, guides and DVDs produced by the group can be purchased, or you can simply ask about local history - all part of its mission to 'Bring Howfen's History to Life'.

*In recent times, with 'Lockdown and Social Distancing' measures in place and their effects still felt, it has been difficult for community groups to operate. The inability to meet in person led to some groups using online meetings to keep things ticking over. Venues have been off-limits and the History group especially has been hit by extended renovation work on the library. Some community venues have not re-opened and this has put added pressure those venues still operating. Since November, on a one-meeting-per-month basis (third Thursday), in-person meetings have resumed, at first at Westhoughton Methodist Church hall and currently at The Hub on Central Drive.

The Committee continued to meet via Zoom during this period and one of the success stories has been the work on the online Archive detailing and preserving for posterity Westhoughton's Local History. This archive can be found at Westhoughton Local History Presentations and Photos. It is very much a labour of love and a gives a fascinating insight into Westhoughton's past and the work of the group.

A key event for 2022 is the 'At Home' open day event (details below).

Group Aims and Objectives

  • To stimulate public interest in, and appreciation of the heritage in the area.
  • To provide suitable premises for the display and study of the social and industrial history of the area.
  • To secure the preservation, conservation, development & improvement of features of general public amenity or historical or public interest in the area.
  • To develop tourism in the area through the preservation and promotion of its heritage.
  • To encourage appropriate use of the countryside in the area as part of the heritage framework.
  • To develop a sense of community in the area.


  • Bi-centenary of the Luddite attack on Westhoughton mill (22nd April 2012).
  • 'Town Trail' guide for Westhoughton.
  • We are assisting schools in finding out the heritage of the town.
  • Westhoughton's Industrial Heritage.
  • Working with David Kaye of Wingates Band to produce a definitive history of Westhoughton's world-renowned brass band - 'From Bible Class To World Class.'
  • World War One project to record and portray the war from a Westhoughton perspective (2014). Download information/book details.
  • The Development of Westhoughton - 'Westhoughton and the Threat of Siege' (2015) - a look at the growth of the town since the 1950s (2015). Download information sheet.
  • 'Aspects of Howfen' (2017) - exhibition profiling many facets of the town's rich industrial, social, cultural, educational and sporting history. Download information sheet.
  • 'Westhoughton History Timeline 1066 to Present Day - a definitive chronological presentation of key Westhoughton Historical Dates and Events.
  • 'Keawyed Characters' - a series of folio profiles of local people who have served and contributed to the community of Westhoughton.
  • 'Westhoughton in the Wake of World War One' (2018) - marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, an expansive exhibition featuring life in the town after the Great War (those who died, those who survived and a town picking up the pieces. Download information sheet.
  • VIP event and Exhibition (2018): 'Westhoughton's Unique and Fascinating Links to the Peterloo Massacre'. A theatrical event and re-enactment marking the 200th anniversary of the ill-fated uprising in Manchester which saw down-trodden workers pitted against the ruling class. 'Peterloo Bi-Centenary' (Overview).
  • Creation of an online Local History Archive - Westhoughton Local History Presentations and Photos. Featuring all the work and research past and ongoing with photos, illustrations and maps, as well as details of historical talks (some on video), this new website went live in 2021.
  • 'Places of Historical Interest in Westhoughton' (2021) a new, fascinatingly-informative.
  • As a member of the 'Lancashire Local History Federation' in May 2022 the Westhoughton group will host an 'At Home' Open Day, allowing the host organisation to profile key aspects of its local history to a much wider audience. The day-long event to be staged on Saturday, 14th May in the Arts Theatre at Westhoughton High School will have a full programme covering four significant presentations by members of the local team - An Overview of Westhoughton's rich and varied history; The Burning of Westhoughton Mill (1812); The Bolton to Leigh Railway (1828) and The Pretoria Pit Disaster (1910). Details & Information.


For some years, group president Pam Clark (who died in January 2017) cherished the hope that one day the walls of the library could be adorned with a comprehensive 'Town Timeline', profiling in graphic fashion all the key events in Westhoughton's history, which could be viewed in perpetuity by all visitors to the library, and in this respect she especially had the town's schoolchildren in mind.

'Aspects of Howfen' - Westhoughton Historic Timeline commissioned by Westhoughton Local History Group

Whilst having conceived the idea, and been responsible for much of the embryonic work, sadly she was destined not to see her vision implemented. Now, however, working in close collaboration with key members of staff at Bolton Library and Museum Services, and aided by a generous grant from Westhoughton Town Council, the Group has brought the project to fruition, the result being a most impressive and colourful graphic display, comprising a series of themed information panels, 4 feet high, and with an overall length spanning 65 feet. One of these panels carries a caption informing that the Timeline is dedicated to the memory of Pam Clarke, a lady whose contribution to the town's history has been incomparable.

The official unveiling and dedication of the permanent Timeline feature was an integral part of the 'Aspects of Howfen' exhibition (2017), which also saw the launch of two new WLHG publications linked to the Timeline project.

Lanchashire Local History Federation

Westhoughton Local History Group present 'At Home'

The Federation comprises some 80 constituent members across the old 'historic' county boundaries, each year focusing on the local history of a particular area with an open day event aimed at reaching a wider audience. In 2022, it is Howfen's turn!

The event will be staged on Saturday, 14th May, in the Arts Theatre at Westhoughton High School. Anyone wishing to participate is welcome to do so, but pre-registration is essential. The event will start at 10am and go on until 4pm. Delegates arriving from 9:30am for Registration and Coffee, before participating in a carefully-constructed Programme for the Day. There will be a break for 'networking' over a buffet lunch.

Programme and Presentations by members of the local team.

  1. 'An Overview of Westhoughton's Rich and Varied History' - Pam Wood/Anne Hodgson/Garth Ratcliffe.
  2. The Burning of Westhoughton Mill' (the story of a Luddite revolt in 1812) - Pam Wood; theatrical pieces by Colin Gradwell.
  3. 'The Bolton to Leigh Railway' (1828) - Phil Wood.
  4. 'The Pretoria Pit Disaster' (1910) - Garth Ratcliffe; musical prelude by Jim Berry (The Houghton Weavers).

Visitors will be able to purchase a range of merchandise from WLHG, including 'Places of Historical Interest in Westhoughton' (£6.00), and the perennially-popular '344 Victims of the Pretoria Pit Disaster - Some Facts' (£5.00). Authored by our late president, Pam Clarke, and being re-printed ahead of the event, this 50-page booklet, crammed with facts and figures about Westhoughton's 'darkest day'.

It is expected that this will be a popular event with interest from across the region and pre-registering is recommended. Further information about the event can be had from the Newsletter, WLHG websites and Facebook page. Registration Forms can be requested by contacting us at howfenhistory@gmail.com or by phoning 01204 696984 / 07970 131460.

Pam Clarke - 'Prolific Pam' (1945-2017)

Pam Clarke Pamela Clarke died 31 Jan 2017 aged 71 after a very brave battle against cancer (Tribute - Bolton News). Westhoughton has lost one of its best-known and much-loved citizens, who has made an incomparable contribution to the life of the town - especially the chronicling of its fascinating history.

In 2005, Pam was a founder member of Westhoughton Local History Group (WLHG) - latterly its president - and, as leader and principal researcher of the group. Enthusiastic, devoted to her subject. The group has grown to become one of the largest and most vibrant heritage societies in the region, regularly attracting 60-70 people to its fortnightly meetings programme of speakers and presentations, the activities of WLHG also embrace publishing, DVDs, exhibitions, excursions, quizzes and local guided walks.

Born and bred Howfener, it was at school that she was inspired to engross herself in local history. For the best part of four decades, Pam Clarke has devoted a huge proportion of her time, talents and energies to researching all aspects of the town's history, embracing industry, agriculture, transport, education, religion, military, and diverse aspects of Westhoughton's rich social and cultural heritage.

Through WLHG and with the support of her friends and colleges, Pam was able to her work and passion to a much wider audience… From 2010, she authored a series of books published under the WLHG banner - commemorating the centenary of The Pretoria Pit Disaster (2010); The Burning of Westhoughton Mill (2012); The Coal Mines of Westhoughton (2013); The Railway Stations of Westhoughton (2013); and Westhoughton and The Great War (2014).

She wrote essays and research notes, gave talks at meetings and in schools; was present at the History stall at Community Fayres… her contributions can be seen in the Library, on the group's website and her work helped with the production of Andy Smith's large-scale painting depicting the Pretoria Disaster at Westhoughton Library. There are cards, artefacts, and a series of blue plaques marking sites of historic significance around Westhoughton; a work in progress is an historical timeline chronicling numerous key dates in the town's history from the 13th century to the present day.

Pam Clarke was the 'go to' person for anyone - locally and much further afield - having any questions about Westhoughton's past. In 2011, Westhoughton Town Council acknowledged her incomparable role in the life of the town by awarding her the Westhoughton Civic Medal. In 2014, she was interviewed by Michael Portillo (in front of the group's first blue plaque, commemorating the Luddite-inspired Burning of Westhoughton Mill in 1812) for one of his Great Railway Journeys programmes.

Pam will be greatly missed within the WCN family, and particularly amongst her friends at Westhoughton Local History Group. Her legacy and work will live on; her final project a Westhoughton Historical Timeline - 1066 to Present Day is in the works for installation in Westhoughton Library.

Pam's Walk in the Park

More info

Westhoughton Local History Group | Westhoughton Local History Presentations and Photos
Facebook Group Westhoughton Local History Group Facebook Group

Local film-maker Ted Wisedale has produced a number of videos celebrating Westhoughton and some of the many community events around the town.
YouTube Channel or History Group (YouTube videos).

Participating Groups

Local Amenities

Photos & Videos


Useful Links

Community Events

  • Westhoughton Library
    Library now open again for books, general reading and computer access. Some activities downstairs, but with referbishment still ongoing upstairs access for community activities will remain closed for time being. Info.
  • History Group - 'At Home'
    Sat 14 May (10am-4pm)
    Arts Theatre, High School (BL5 3DN)
    **Special Event** at Westhoughton High School, 'At Home', an Open Day conference celebrating some key moments in Howfen's history (Flyer).
    Whilst library closed to community groups meetings continue at The Hub. News and updates followed by Speaker. .
  • St. James Church (Daisy Hill)
    Heritage Lottery funded restoration work on the bell tower completed. Now off the 'at risk' register. Fascinating short about the project.
    1st Sat of mth (10-12) 'Open Doors' drop-in - refreshments (also Grub Tub donations) - next 4/6. Messy Church (Kids activities). Plants Sale (28/5).
  • Allotment & Gardening Society
    John Holt Centre (BL5 2NR)
    Initial mtg of new Westhoughton volunteer group (21/4//22) aiming to take on upkeep of plants and floral displays around town centre, as well as other gardening projects.
  • WOW! Women of Westhoughton
    Thursdays from 7:00pm
    John Holt Centre (BL5 2NR)
    Est. 2013, women's group for shared interests, talks, outings & social networking. The group is to resume meetings from 2nd September at its new home. Updated programme.
  • Daisy Hill FC Fixtures (Home)
    League Division 1 North
    New Sirs (BL5 2EB)
    After disruptions of recent times The Cutters are now playing again. New management, new signings and clubhouse improvements. Support your local team. KO Sat 3pm or Mon 7:45pm. £5 adults / £3 concession / £2 U18s / U12s free w/ adult.
    WCN has been providing community news and features for home game programmes >> .
  • Speaker Events
    Both and the have been holding monthly 'open' Zoom speaker events. See Facebook for details.
  • Lockdown information (Covid-19)
    For 16 months life and community was disrupted by measures to deal with the pandemic. It has been a long and impactful period, thankfully things are opening up again there is a return to normal. Watch for updates as community re-engages here and on
    Westhoughton.net Facebook Page.
  • Town Centre Masterplan
    Proposals for investment in Town Centre (Market Street focus) were consulted upon in 2019-20 with a Steering Group meeting to discuss plans for £4m investment and significant changes to Market Street, Central Park, Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. Revised plan now approved.
  • New Support Services
    Two new services have commenced during Lockdown to support local community and vulnerable: Covid Assist and Westhoughton One Stop Shop.
  • Hope Community Centre
    The Central Drive church and community space is currently closed pending refurbishment discussions with Bolton Council.
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