Town and seat of Bolton metropolitan borough, Greater Manchester, northwest England, on the River Croal, 18 km/11 mi northwest of Manchester; population (2001) 139,400. Industries include engineering and the manufacture of chemicals, paper, and textiles. Bolton developed rapidly in the 18th century as a cotton-spinning town.
History The Manor of Bolton was first recorded in 1067, owned by the Montgomery family, but there is evidence of Bronze Age settlement in the area. The town received its first charter to hold a market and annual fair in 1251. Following the arrival of Flemish weavers in about 1337, the town became a centre for the wool trade. During the Industrial Revolution there was a prominent cotton-spinning industry; with engineering developing alongside textile production. Growth was encouraged by the opening of the canal to Manchester in 1791 and the railway in 1838. Bolton's cotton-textile industry outlasted that of many other towns, but demand eventually diminished and the town's economy diversified. The Textile Museum, to the north of the town, illustrates the early machinery used in the industry. Exhibits include examples of Samuel Crompton's spinning mule (1779), and the spinning frame invented in 1768 by Richard Arkwright, both of whom lived and worked in Bolton.
Features Dating from 1251, the Old Man and Scythe is the oldest inn in Bolton; following a Royalist massacre in the town in 1651 during the English Civil War, James Stanley, Earl of Derby, reputedly spent his last night at the inn before being executed by Oliver Cromwell. The classical-style town hall was completed in 1873, and the civic centre (1939) houses a library, museum, and art gallery. Nearby Smithill's Hall, dating from the 14th century, is one of Greater Manchester's oldest manor houses.
Bolton was the birthplace of William Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme and founder of Lever Brothers (which later became Unilever). An important local benefactor, he bought and restored Hall i'th' Wood, a 15th-century manor house and the former home of Samuel Crompton, presenting it to the town in 1902. Lying north of the town centre, the house now contains a folk museum. Crompton is buried in the churchyard of the town's Victorian Gothic parish church.
Economy Over £500 million was invested in the regeneration of the local economy during the 1980s and 1990s. Developments included the £150 million Middlebrook Leisure and Retail Park, containing the Bolton Wanderers Reebok stadium. There was also £150 million of investment in the town centre in the late 1990s, including extensions to the pedestrianization scheme, the building of new shopping complexes, and the refurbishment of the Victorian Market Hall.