In the years following the construction of St Helena Mill, this part of the Croal valley filled up with industry. The picture above looks back upstream from some point on the previous picture. It was taken during the 1930s, probably 1937,38 as part of Humphrey Spender's Worktown Project. Note the alley way on the right which went up to Bark Street.
This picture looks down the street from Bark Street to the bridge and across the Croal Valley to the Town Hall. This is a Spender photograph. It was taken shortly after a large number number of industrial buildings had been demolished. The tannery is on the right and the Beehive Iron Foundry on the left.
Fifty years earlier looking across from St George’s Road across Bark Street you would have been presented with a much more crowded industrial scene. This picture is undated and is simply labelled "the tannery". We appear to be looking from above St George's Road and the row of houses is probably Bark Street. Not too long after this picture the tannery moved out of town to Rose Hill. But the label hardly does justice to the scene which also contains the Albion foundry, the Bolton Brass works, and the Beehive Iron foundry.
All that industry had already disappeared by 1937 when Spender took his pictures. This is what you see now looking across that area from right to left, viewing from the High Level Bridge. New building between Bark Street and St George's Road on the left, Deansgate and the GPO buildings on the right, Victoria Hall and the Market Place on the sky-line. The River Croal is off the picture to the right flowing away from us.
At this point we need to divert onto Deansgate.
(1) We look from just opposite the GPO towards Knowsley Street, but it is Ridgway Gate we are interested in, pictured (2) 1950s and (3) 2009.
1935, Georgian houses on the right side of the street near the top of Ridgway Gate.
As we go down Ridgway Gate, behind Poundstretcher we find the Victoria Hall on the right and a car park on the left. This narrow little lane goes down to the River Croal. The buildings seen at the end of this lane are actually on the other side of the river.
At the bottom of this lane was a row of houses called Ridgway Fold.
The black and white picture from 1895 is taken from close to the river, almost at the bottom of the lane on the coloured picture, looking back up towards Ridgway Gate and Deansgate.
Behind this row of houses is the Albion Forge. The Albion pub on Moor Lane is actually only a few hundred yards from this and that is probably where it got its name from.
Many photographs of this era share the characteristic that the locals are posing at the front door. You wonder whether the photographer has asked them to be on his picture or whether word got around that there was a photographer chappie in the vicinity and out they all came to try and get on the picture, like people in the street standing behind the TV reporter!
Up the street and to the right is another street with the intriguing name of Velvet Walks.
At the bottom of Ridgway Gate we reach the River Croal. Here we are looking downstream (east) from the bottom of the car park towards Knowsley Street,
The River Croal as it disappears under Knowsley Street. The Victoria Hall is on the right. Since the mid eighties the river has been hidden from view for the quarter mile to Bridge Street as it is now covered by the Market Place. However before that time it emerged at the other side of Knowsley Street.
Having emerged from under the Market Place, the Croal continues its journey through the town centre, from Bridge Street to Bow Street. Woolworth’s is immediately up on the right. The street across the bottom left hand corner is Bow Street and the building dominating the picture is the Bow Street car park. This is taken 1997 (posted by Peter James Roscoe on the Bygone Bolton facebook group) from the roof-top car park of the Market Place and shows the corner which had been the Bolton Co-op main offices, bank, meeting hall, butchery department and grocery store. It has now been built over again and Argos stands on that corner.
1. This is looking down from Knowsley Street towards the Co-op building on Bridge Street. 2. This looks back in the other direction to see the Croal coming out from under Knowsley Street. The Bark Street mills were still standing, seen to the right. The steps by which pedestrians could access this route to Bridge Street can be seen. The roadway alongside the Market Hall, on the left in the second picture goes under Knowsley Street and the buildings on its far side to access the bottom of Ridgway Gate. 3. The Bark Street Mills have gone and it becomes clear that all of this part of Knowsley Street, which seems like ground level is actually raised on a viaduct twenty or so feet above the river valley.
This is the Croal as it flows under Knowsley Street and the Market Place - clipping from Bolton News
For more pictures of the culverts under the town click on
Same view in 2012 by Terry Hutchinson and posted to Bygone Bolton. To this side of the multi-storey car park is a service road. Beyond the car park is Crown Street running up from Bow Street to Deansgate and then Manor Street which becomes Bank Street running from the bottom of Folds Road to the Preston’s corner.
Crown Street was the site of the infamous Top Storey Club fire in May 1961. At left we are looking downstream as the river passes under Crown Street. This picture emphasises the height of the upper floors. Some people sadly lost their lives by jumping to escape the fire.
Above - cutting from Bolton Evening News - looking up Crown Street.
<< From Crown Street we look towards Bank Street and the Parish Church.
^above^ Brown Street and Water Street run alongside the river downstream from Bank Street. About 100 yards further on the river turns right round the end of the spur on which the Parish Church is built and reaches Church Wharf.
The River Croal runs along the bottom at the left of the picture. Churchgate runs along behind the buildings at the top of the bank on the right. This area is behind the Boar's Head Hotel and is the site of a cock-fighting pit.
This is Church Bank pictured 1958, and was the main road to Bury. The Parish Church is on the right. Church Wharf is at the bottom of the hill.
And here is the view in February 2014. The white rendered house and the building with the blue shutters remain as before but the rest of the block has gone. The whole middle distance has changed but the tower of the Kestor Street mill can still be seen.
11 February 2014
Here is the river as it approaches the bridge at the bottom of Church Bank. Bolton News of 24 Feb 2014 reports, “A ‘dangerous’ former factory is set to be demolished. Bolton Council said that they intend to knock the old Church Wharf Foundry in Church Bank near St Peter’s Church down to its existing slab level. The work will start in May and is expected to take around three months.
Until around 1970 it passed under the road to Church Wharf where it fed the Bolton canal and wended its weary way towards the Haulgh and Burnden. Now it is culverted from this point flowing alongside or under St Peter’s Way and is not seen again until the other side of Haulgh Bridge (Bridgeman Place, Bradford Street).
18 May 2015
Similar view with the Church Wharf Foundry now demolished.
18 May 2015
The River Croal goes under the bridge at the bottom of Church Bank. It used to reappear at the other side in the Church Wharf canal basin. It now disappears under St Peter's Way and reappears at the Haulgh.
18 May 2015
What are these structures? Supports for an old footbridge? Sluice gate supports to control the flow of water into the canal?
The little community of Church Wharf. "Church Wharf Health Centre, Consulting Herbalist" on the corner. The wharf itself is on the right as the road bends. The River Croal passes under the road just before the railway arches.
A splendid picture of Church Wharf, Church Bank and the Parish Church. The Grand Theatre is also just visible.
The pub in the centre of the picture is the Bull and Wharf.
The canal wharves themswlves are down to the left across the front of the pub. This picture was taken in 1947, the canal still existed at this time but it was no longer in use.
This is the Bolton end of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal. The area is already looking derelict even though the boat looks serviceable. The Croal runs through this area and its water is used to feed the canal. . An old map shows quite a complex system of the canal, the original line of the Croal, and a newer straightened cut for the Croal.
The Bolton to Blackburn railway crosses the Croal valley immediately downstream of Church Wharf. We saw the viaduct on a previous picture. We look back through one of the railway arches to the Bull and Wharf.
Views from the canal basin looking east along the canal and downstream towards the Haulgh. What appears to be a rectangular building with a chimney on Haulgh Bridge is in fact advertisement hoardings as will become apparent later. The chimney is 1/4 mile further away at the Springfields paper mill.
Top left: the canal still has water in it.
Top right from further to the right: The canal is now dry.
Bottom left from a bit further right: This view from Church Wharf looks downstream towards Bridgeman Place, Bury Road and the Haulgh. The water is the river up to a weir. The canal, now filled in was to the left. Canal and river go under the bridges in the distance. Part of the Springfield Mill site can be seen at the right. Flood lights at Burnden Park can just be made out.
Bottom right: Picture from David Whenlock's collection. This appears to be at the start of work on St Peter's Way. The river will be culverted as far as the next bridge.
Picture from David Whenlock
Site of Church Wharf at the start of construction of St Peter's Way. Church Bank off to the left, Mill St into the picture, Church Wharf across the picture with the garage off to the right. The curved building at the road junction is the building seen at the bottom of the hill looking down Church Bank.
Picture from David Whenlock
further to the right with the railway viaduct visible on the right edge