Todmorden and the County Boundary


The original hamlet or settlement of Todmorden originated in Lancashire, the ‘den’ part of the place-name stems from ‘dene’ which was a term used for a boundary. In the early Middle Ages Rochdale was divided into 4 townships and one of the townships, 'Hundersfield', included places such as Walsden, Wardle, Littleborough and Todmorden.

Taken from:'
A History of Todmorden' by Malcolm & Freda Heywood and Bernard Jennings

What we see now is the town having grown in size from the initial hamlet to a town straddling the 3 old townships of Hundersfield (to the south and west), Stansfield (to the north) and Langfield (to the south and east). Hundersfield being in Lancashire and Stansfield and Langfield being in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

As it stands now and using the historic border then most of the population of the town do currently live in Yorkshire, as the border, the River Calder runs mostly to the south of Burnley Road whilst most of the population is on its northern bank above Burnley Road. Then from the town hall the border follows Walsden Water more or less southwards from the town centre and so all of the development either side of Halifax Road is also in the West Riding. The Lancashire parts of Todmorden are mainly to the south and west of the town i.e. west of Walsden Water and south of the Calder. This includes half of the cricket ground, the railway station and the handsome Dobroyd Castle for example.



My great-great -grandfather's birth certificate of 1841 gives his birthplace as “Knowl, Walsden” which is between Todmorden and Walsden and is right on the border. The certificate also states 'Birth in the sub-district of Todmorden in the counties of Lancaster & York".

So the town had expanded so much by this period of the industrial revolution that it was widely recognised in the 1840s that the town was in both counties.
Starting in the north-west, the border follows the course of Pudsey Clough (originally Redwater Clough), down from the Pennines alongside Dawk Hole Wood, where it ultimately flows into the River Calder at Cornholme. You cannot see this now as the clough is culverted at Cornholme by a row of terraced houses and the water is now carried to the Calder underground.


Once at the Calder the county border follows it to the town centre but with one notable and curious exception. If one looks at the 1840s first series Ordnance Survey map you will notice the border deviate southwards from the Calder at Ewood Road (where Ewood Mill once stood), through Centre Vale Park, where the cricket ground is, and then returning back to the Calder at Patmos. The reason for this was that the Calder had been diverted in the first part of the nineteenth century and I am assuming to provide water for the mills that ran alongside Burnley Road. Thus the OS map correctly shows the border running along the old river course.                                                      Todmorden Cricket Ground with a line denoting the border line added!


 After the river had been diverted Todmorden Cricket Ground and Todmorden School were developed on this land, creating the unusual situation where a county border now crosses Christ Church churchyard, through Todmorden School and right through the middle of Todmorden cricket ground. In fact, at one time a tree called 'Boundary Tree' stood in the middle of the pitch until it was cut down in the 1870s.  






The border carries on along the Calder from Patmos towards the current town centre. The Calder also had its course slightly diverted when the railway was built in the 1830s. The border then leaves the Calder at the confluence with Walsden Water, one of it’s tributaries, which runs directly underneath the Town Hall at County Bridge. The border continues to follow Walden Water southwards past the library and St Mary's church. At Swineshead Clough the border then leaves it's water course as it's form of demarcation and heads south-eastwards up into the Pennines via Rake End and onto Walsden Moor and onto Stoney Edge.



I rejoice in the fact that Todmorden has this mixed heritage and identity. It adds great value to the town and I tend not to think of Todmorden being exclusively in one county or the other. Both Yorkshire and Lancashire cricket second elevens have used this ground as a home fixture and you’ll see flags at the ground which depict both red & white roses.


                                                                                                                                                                         Todmorden Town Hall

The current flavours of administration give a confusing picture of the town given its dual identity. The town falls under the jurisdiction of West Yorkshire police; its local government services are provided by Calderdale Council; and it also has an Oldham postcode! *
Of course these ephemeral layers of bureaucracy will never overshadow the fact that Todmorden will always have one foot in both red and white rose gardens.
May I recommend 'A History of Todmorden' by Malcolm & Freda Heywood and Bernard Jennings for anyone who needs further information about the town.


* Addendum
People ask why Todmorden is in the Admin area of Calderdale. Here is the answer.
Until the boundary reformation by the Local Government Act 1888, the Lancashire-Yorkshire boundary ran through the centre of Todmorden, following the River Calder to the north-west and the Walsden Water for less than 1 mi (2 km) to the south before turning south-eastwards across Langfield Common.
Following the Local Government Act 1894, the Todmorden Local Board became an Urban District Council, comprising the wards of Todmorden, Walsden, Langfield and Stansfield. At the same time, Todmorden Rural District Council, comprising the parishes of Blackshaw, Erringden, Heptonstall and Wadsworth, came into being. Two years later, on 2 June 1896, the town was granted a Charter of Incorporation and the area covered by the Urban District Council became a municipal borough. The number of wards was increased from four to six: Central, Walsden, Langfield, Stansfield, Stoodley and Cornholme. Todmorden Rural District was later renamed Hepton Rural District. Since the local government reforms of 1974, Todmorden has been administered as part of the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale, within the Metropolitan county of West Yorkshire. At the local government level, Todmorden, the town, is almost entirely within Todmorden ward although the eastern portion of the town toward Eastwood shares some of adjoining Calder ward with Hebden Bridge. Source: Wikipedia
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