This week we continue the story of Wallsuches and its part in the development of Horwich.

Wallsuches was the "heart" of Horwich throughout the 19th century explains Horwich Heritage chairman Stuart Whittle who has researched the area.

"Without it and the Ridgways the town would not have developed in the way it did," he says.

At its height the bleachworks was a very busy place employing hundreds of people and employees would regularly work until two or three in the morning after which they would lie down on a bale of cotton to snatch a few hours sleep before beginning work again at 6am.

"This would mean that for long periods male employees only saw their women folk when they brought food to the works.

"Despite the long hours and dangerous conditions jobs were secure and work plentiful and there is plenty of evidence of three or four generations of a family working there.

"The Ridgways were good employers for their time (despite employing child labour in the early years) who, overall, treated their workforce well and were concerned for their welfare.

"They even continued to pay their workers when there was little work during the cotton famine of the 1860s brought about by the American Civil War."

Pay day at Wallsuches was an important occasion with the whole community dressing up and celebrating. Once payment became more frequent towards the middle of the 19th century this practice began to die out, explains Stuart.

Right from their early years the Ridgways were anxious to provide accommodation for their workforce the majority of whom were coming from nearby areas such as Deane, Westhoughton, Blackrod, Adlington and Chorley.

They were also keen that these workers should own their own homes and set up a building scheme.

Workers joined the building club in order to qualify for a new house and these were then called club houses.

The scheme started in 1801, explains Stuart. "Because the houses weren't numbered until the 1870s it is difficult to work out who lived where from the Parish Records. It would appear the first ones were built opposite the Parish Church followed by the individual streets running as right angles," says Stuart.

A second club house scheme was started in 1829 and as the area developed a shop and a pub (The Horseshoe) opened in Church Street as well as the Sawyers Arms in Nelson Street.

Thanks to the Ridgways and their rapidly developing bleachworks a postal service arrived in Horwich in the early 1800s and the first post office in Horwich opened in Church Street in 1807.

Not surprisingly records reveal that the majority of residents had occupations directly related to the bleaching industry including spinners, weavers, crofters and finishers but there were supporting skills including stonemasons, plumbers and blacksmiths.

Many Horwich residents can trace their ancestry back to the club houses and the bleachworks.

See next weeks Looking Back for some of these fascinating stories.