BOLTON’S bells bonged last night to mark the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The union flag flew from all civic buildings and flagpoles and its colours of red, white and blue lit up the town hall.

In the shadow of the town’s tallest building, people gathered in Victoria Square to hear the clock tower’s bells chime at 11pm as special arrangements were made to mark Brexit.

Some celebrated while others mourned ­— but the message from the borough’s leaders is one of unity.

Bolton’s UKIP leader Sean Hornby threw a party at his pub in Bradley Fold where he said remainers were just as welcome as leavers.

Speaking ahead of the Brexit celebrations at Queens pub, he said: “There will be a few people coming that did not want to leave. But we are not going to rub their noses in it. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new beginning.

“It’s an issue that’s divided the country and I suppose had it been the other way around, a different side of people would have been feeling annoyed.

“But I think this is an opportunity for the country to make a fresh start with the European Union. We’ve not fallen out with the EU, but the British people felt they wanted to take back control.”

Council leader David Greenhalgh expressed relief that three years of uncertainty would end. He said: “Whatever side of the argument you were on, however you voted, whatever emotions you currently have, it is so important now that we come together and unite moving forward.”

His calls were echoed by the borough’s religious leaders.

Revd Canon Dr Chris Bracegirdle, the Vicar of Bolton, urged those disappointed by the UK’s departure not to “sit and sulk”, but to work together for the “common good”.

He said: “Regardless of the views that people have on Brexit, the decision has been made. We are leaving the European Union. And the important thing is that we work together. It doesn’t diminish our friendships within the faith groups and across the continent.”

The Rev Oliver Preston said that people at St Peter’s Parish have been divided on Brexit but congregants have been praying for peace and healing divisions.

He said: “We share a desire for our community to be a place where we can thrive and the country being the best it can be. We have been asking how we as a church can show we can be people who disagree but still live together and that divisions don’t need to be something which drive us apart.”

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes is one of many across the borough who was not celebrating last night.

He said: “I make no secret of the fact that I am sad about it, as I believe there were far more positives to our membership than there were negatives.

“The important thing now is for the country to work together to make sure that we get the best outcome we can from the situation we face. That will mean some original thinking from Government and an outward looking attitude. Over to you Boris Johnson!”

Bolton West MP Chris Green said: “We had a referendum in 2016, where the British people voted to leave the European Union. In order for us to be unified as a country, our democratic decisions must be respected and delivered upon and that is what this Government has done.”

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi said: “Today the UK leaves the EU. Although there are strong feelings on both sides of the debate, there is so much that unites us a country. We are still one United Kingdom, with shared values and culture. Now we must all work to stay close to our allies and friends in Europe.”

The borough’s newest MP, Mark Logan, said: “This marks the beginning of a new age of inclusiveness for Bolton North East, and an end to the political divisiveness of the last few years. Let’s celebrate all that we share in common, and seek new common ground with countries across the world.”

Bolton Labour group deputy leader Akthar Zaman said: “As we leave the EU today as a result of a democratic decision we now need to put our efforts into improving community cohesion, forging positive relationships with our EU neighbours and grasping new opportunities.”