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This is the story of a small, south-east Lancashire town called Heywood. A place that is also rather affectionately (or disparagingly) known as 'Monkey Town’.

On the surface, Heywood might not appear to have as notable a history as its mid-sized neighbours Bury, Middleton and Rochdale. And they in turn do not have the great historical impact of the twin Lancastrian giants of Manchester and Liverpool.

Look closer, however, and even in a small town like Heywood you will find connections to most of the major events and epochs in British history - from the Ice Age, the Bronze Age, the Romans, The Danelaw, Medieval England, the Civil Wars, the Industrial Revolution, and the World Wars... connections that show how the big stories of the nation were experienced by ordinary people living in the smaller corners of the country.


The 'Old Mills of Heywood' Project

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Click here to view the interactive map!

A-Z listing of mills and old workplaces:

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The aim of this project is to record details of as many of the mills, factories and works of early Heywood as possible. These will include all the cotton mills that once dominated the town, as well as other significant factories and works such as woollen mills, roperies and iron works.

Many of these places are now lost to history - although a surprising number still survive - and together they represent the rich industrial heritage of Monkey Town. A few of these places are on the outskirts of Heywood, in either Middleton, Bury or Rochdale, but would have been familiar to Heywoodites at one time or another.

I welcome any suggested additions or corrections to this information, as this project will remain a work in progress.


General Timeline of Heywood History

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This timeline of the history of Heywood is a work in progress. It is intended to be as accurate as possible, and suggested corrections or additions are welcome.

Pre - A.D. 1270 7th century: Middleton is thought to have been settled by this time.1086: Rochdale recorded in the Domesday Book as Recedham.1164: Heywood family recorded in local area.1183: Records for Ashworth start around this time.1197: Reference to Birtle in records.12th century: Hopwood family recorded at site of current Hopwood Hall.1210: Reference to hamlets of Lumhalghs (Lomax) and Hep (Heap) in records.1260: Land at Pilsworth granted to William de Radcliffe. 1270-1600 1260s-70s: Adam de Bury grants land to Peter de Heywood during this time.1278: William del Bridge granted land near Bury.1292: Reference to Hoppewode in records13th century: Bamford family living in Bamford area.13th century: Peter de Heywood builds Heywood Hall.13th century: Woollen mill recorded at Bamford16th century: Woollen mill recorded at Bridge Hal…

Monkeypedia

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This is a comprehensive list of resources for researching Heywood’s history. If you have any suggestions for additions to this list, please email me.

Heywood and Surrounds History John A Green, Bibliography of the Town of Heywood, 1902. This link is for my transcription of this book. John Hannavy, Roger Fenton of Crimble Hall, London, Gordon Fraser, 1975. Hannah Haynes, Heywood, Chalford Publishing, 1997. Heywood Living Memories, Heywood Memories Society, 2001-present.John Hudson, Heywood in Old Photographs, Sutton Publishing 1994. Charles S MacDonald, A History of Hopwood Hall, London, Waldergrave, 1963. Mike Sheridan, Heywood Book of Remembrance, Hertford, M-Y Books, 2005. AV Sandiford and TE Ashworth, The Forgotten Valley, Bury: Bury and District Local History Society, 1981. John Slawson, Hopwood, Heywood and Me, 1986.
Online History for Heywood and Surrounds
Samuel Bamford, Early Days, Manchester, John Heywood, 1859. Samuel Bamford, Walks in South Lancashire and its Borders, Blackley…

The 19th-Century Chroniclers of Heywood

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There are several richly-written accounts of Heywood scenes and people from the mid-19th century. This was still a young growing town yet to experience its most prosperous days, but still old enough to have developed established grand homes and impoverished neighbourhoods:






Hey, Hey, We're Monkey Town

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'It is with some diffidence that I venture to make an inquiry in relation to an offensive name which is sometimes derisively applied to Heywood. Is the origin of the name ‘Monkey Town,’ as given to Heywood, known? Is it known when the town was first slandered in this way?’ So wrote ‘H.B.’ to the Heywood Advertiser in 1908. It is not clear just how offended HB really was, because Heywoodites have long been happy to call themselves ‘monkeys’. But where did this name come from, and when?

A well-known bit of self-effacing folklore still doing the rounds is that Heywood men used to have tails, and so the stools and benches in the town's pubs had holes in them for the tails to fit through. The reality, of course, is that the holes were there for carrying the stools.
A clue as to where the name came from is in the timing. The first recorded mention of ‘Monkey Town’ came in the 1850s, when Rochdale author Edwin Waugh wrote in his Sketches of Lancashire Life of, ‘Heywood, or ‘Monkey …

The Land Before Heywood

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Millennia of human history had already unfolded before this place was even named Heywood. Although physical evidence is limited, we do know that people lived within the wider district during the Bronze Age, the Roman era and the Danelaw. It was only after this time, during the 13th century AD, that a settlement named Heywood (or Hewode) was created.