THERE are many historic locations in Bolton worthy of a mention in Looking Back and this week we are featuring Churchgate in Bolton town centre.

Churchgate features in a Heritage Trail brochure compiled by the Churchgate Heritage Volunteer Group, here are some excerpts.

The tour of Churchgate takes in all the major points of interest and starts at the steps of the Parish Church of St Peter’s Bolton Le Moors which is, of course, known locally as The Parish Church.

On the right is Church Bank which at one time led down to Church Wharf and Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. It was from the canal basin that the packet and passenger boats went into Manchester.

The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal has now disappeared under the A666 St Peter’s Way.

Turning towards the centre of Bolton this was the original Bolton where there were houses, shops and businesses.

It was very popular for coaching houses. The coaching inns fell into decline though with the advent of the railways.

Churchgate was also the scene of the Bolton Massacre in 1644 when, during the Civil War, Prince Rupert and the Royalist Army laid siege to and eventually many Boltonians were killed.

Churchgate was also the place where the market was held.

Ye Olde Pastie Shop is a particularly good example of early architecture and worthy of note is the plaque to Richard Arkwright above Booth’s Music Shop.

In 1750 Richard Arkwright carried on his trade here as a wig and peruke maker. He later moved to Nottingham where he patented his invention of the Water Frame and established his famous mill at Cromford.

At the crossroads of Churchgate, Bradshawgate, Deansgate and Bank Street (gate was apparently the old English name for a way or route) the replacement cross is a significant landmark. It was built in 1909 and paid for by George Harwood MP.

The earlier cross had been removed in 1786 as the coachmen complained about the congestion that was caused as Bolton grew in size due mainly to the cotton trade.

In 1748 John Wesley preached at the cross during his travel through England. He did not have a very good opinion of the people of Bolton describing “many of them as being utterly wild”.

The Old Man and Scythe is the oldest inn in Bolton dating back to 1251 and is famous as being the place in which James 7th Earl of Derby spent his last night before being beheaded at the market cross on October 15, 1651, for his connection with the Bolton Massacre in 1644 during the Civil War.

At one time there were many yards, alleyways and courts along Churchgate.

There used to be a very old tavern called the Cock Inn and this was demolished in 1840 and the Star Inn built in its place.

The Star Inn is believed to be the first concert room and museum that was custom built and led the way for an idea that was replicated all over the country. The building boasted a menagerie which included a leopard that killed its keeper in 1844.

After a disastrous fire the place was rebuilt as the Theatre Royal which last until the 1960s.

The Grand Cirque — built in 1894 — and The Theatre Royal made Churchgate provided a theatre land for Boltonians.

The Grand Cirque provided a venue for travelling circuses in the 19th century and remains of the old ring were found under the stage when the Grand was demolished. Arkwright House and Churchgate House were built on this site.

There used to be many public houses in Churchgate which gave rise to a local poem: The Man and Scythe that never mowed And Legs of man which never strode Also Angel and Trumpet that never blowed The Golden Lion that never roared A Bush that never growed And Boars Head that never gored Rising Sun and Swan that never soared With odd Legs and Arms the Gate is stored Bolton Parish Church Sunday School, built in 1819 by Canon Slade, stood where the former Bolton News offices were.

When it opened in 1819 it had 1,499 students and 110 teachers and was the largest Sunday School in Bolton.Office buildings now stand on what was the site of the Parish Church Vicarage where, in the 18th century, the then vicar built himself a new study from where he could look over the River Croal and the beautiful Croal Valley.