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 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 a new exhibition in summer 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 historic 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'.

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 if 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.


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.

Westhoughton Local History Group Exhibition 2019

'Westhoughton's Unique and Fascinating Links
to the Peterloo Massacre'

The latest exhibition begins with a special VIP event at the Carnegie Hall on Thursday, 15th August, in which the Local History Group continues its tradition of staged events such as 'The Burning of Westhoughton Mill' and 'The Pretoria Pit Disaster', to mark the bi-centenary of Peterloo and its connection with Westhoughton. The group is set to stage a reconstruction of the part which the town played in the Peterloo story, with a group of adults and children acting out a narrated story, to a background of projected images of the unfolding dramatic events. 'Peterloo Bi-Centenary' (Overview).

After the launch event a complementary exhibition staged will be open to the public on the library's upper level, and will remain in-situ until the end of September.

In addition to the dramatic production and the exhibition, the group will also be publishing an extended illustrated essay summarising the Westhoughton dimension to the 1819 happenings.

It was 16th August 1819, a huge crowd, had assembled in the centre of Manchester, to demand major parliamentary reforms – especially extended suffrage, and representation at Westminster (Lancashire had MPs). Life was hard for the lower class in the newly-industrialised northern towns and cities. There was poverty, famine, and mass unemployment. As a result of unbounded economic hardships in the wake of the hugely-expensive Napoleonic Wars, taxes had risen to crippling levels, and the introduction of the widely-despised Corn Laws in 1815 represented the last straw.

Discontent festered, the Establishment feared a revolution similar to that in France just 30 years earlier. Mass meetings were viewed with great fear and suspicion by local magistrates, and were frequently banned or rapidly dispersed by de facto private armies.

On this occasion, drawn by word of mouth and leaflets, a mass crowd gathered in St. Peter's Field, Manchester to hear renowned orator and reform campaigner Henry Hunt. The mood was lively and authorities nervous, an order given to military regiments to disperse the crowds. Ruthless, indiscriminate, the results were disastrous - 18 people killed, and hundreds wounded and maimed. Occurring just four years after the Battle of Waterloo, and having resembled a battlefield, the event was soon labelled 'Peterloo'.

An event that lead to the desired widespread political reform, and gradually-increasing suffrage - the 2018 acclaimed film Peterloo by Mike Leigh (with Westhoughton-born Maxine Peake cast as the fictional character Nellie), prompted interest in the event - the bi-centenary is being commemorated in a diversity of ways throughout the region, with a number of high-profile exhibitions being staged in and around Manchester. Bolton will have its own Peterloo exhibition at the Central Library from 3rd August to 10th November. Here Westhoughton Local History Group will be marking both event and significant local connections from the ruling class - William Hulton Colonel Ralph Fletcher - and the working classes, mainly handloom weavers and agricultural labourers, a group of desperately-hungry and politically radical workers from the Wingates district of Westhoughton, willing recruits to the cause, prepared to march to Manchester and back on that ill-fated day.

A must-see free exhibition from this conscientious and hard-working group, it is viewable during Library opening hours.

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. He legacy and work will live on; her final project a Westhoughton Historical Timeline - 1066 to Present Day is in the works for installation soon in Westhoughton Library.

Pam's Walk in the Park

More info

Westhoughton History 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

  • Pretoria Disaster Remembrance
    Tues 21 Dec (7:40am & 10am)
    Ditchfield Gdns / St. Bartholomew's Church
    Civic Events to mark 111th year since coal mining disaster (344 lives lost). 7:40am, Act of Remembrance at Miner's Statue; 10am, Remembrance Service at St. Bart's f/b procession and laying of wreaths.
  • Rotary Christmas Float
    Rotary Club of Westhoughton are out and about visiting local estates; very grateful for public support and donations in the run up to Christmas raising money for local charities. They will be on Market Street on Sat 18/12
  • Westhoughton Library
    The library will be closed from 30 Oct for 3 months for major works to replace heating system and windows. 'Pop-up' library available at The Hub, Central Drive with limited service. Details (Facebook). Info.
    Library-based community activities continue to be disrupted.
  • History Group Meetings
    Thurs 20 Jan (10-12)
    Westhoughton Methodist Church
    With library closed group has new venue. News and updates followed by Speaker Group will be out for a Christmas meal 16/12 and in attendance at Pretoria Remembrance event 21/12. .
  • Daisy Hill FC Fixtures (Home)
    League Division 1 North
    New Sirs (BL5 2EB)
    ◊ Mon 27 Dec - Atherton LR
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Civic Awards
    Recipients of Westhoughton Town Council Civic Awards 2020 for service to the local community 2021 are David Kaye and Linda Winrow, who will also share the Harold Daniels Trophy. Presentation evening 2020 (25/1/20)
  • Hope Community Centre
    The Central Drive church and community space is currently closed pending refurbishment discussions with Bolton Council.
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