Westhoughton Community Network

group for and run by community groups in Westhoughton

Westhoughton Local History Group

Westhoughton Local History Group formed in June 2005.A thriving group, Westhoughton Local History Group was formed in June 2005 by local historian Pam Clarke, now counting 2,000 'Howfen Herald' subscriber members, with some 15,000 in the Facebook group, it is one of the largest, most innovative, and most successful heritage societies in the region. Meetings and workshops are currently being held on the third Thursday 10:30am to 12:30pm upstairs at the library; some 80-100 people attending to hear talks or progress updates on the various projects undertaken, including their regular exhibitions, as well as taking part in local history walks, quizzes and trips.

The Group's exhibitions have been extremely successful in profiling the town's industrial and social history, and have attracted large audiences no only locally and also many from much further afield. Its work has had a big impact on Westhoughton, marking the major contributions to the town's rich social, cultural and industrial heritage. Notably: the 100-year Remembrance Events for the Pretoria Disaster (21 December 1910), the Luddites bi-centenary and the 'Burning of Westhoughton Mill' (2012), several exhibitions held at the local library including 'Westhoughton and World War One', 'Westhoughton Under Siege' (Development & Planning), 'Aspects of Howfen', 'Westhoughton in the Wake of World War One' (2018), the Bi-centenary of the Peterloo Massacre (2019),… and following the Lockdown hiatus and under the auspices of Lancashire Local History Federation 'At Home', profiling key events in 800 years of Howfen's history (14 May 2022); a few months later assisting the new Cornerstone Church LEP Partnership with its Heritage Open Day event, A Heritage & History Weekend celebrating The Bethel (URC) and Methodist Churches. In 2023 'The Wingates Band Story', an ambitious exhibition celebrated the 150th anniversary of world-renouned local brass band, bringing together archive materials, individual stories, key events in its history, photographs and musical performance.

Programme of Presentations & Events
January to June 2024

Westhoughton Local History Group - Programme of Presentations/Events H1-2024 and General Information.
  • 18th Jan - DAVID LLOYD: The History of Bolton Co-op.
  • 15th Feb - JUDY BEESTON: Edith Rigby (suffragette).
  • 21st March - RUTH DUCKWORTH: My Life in Cricket (Part 2).
  • 28th March - DAY EXCURSION - Harwood House & Gardens, Yorkshire.
  • 18th April - JUDITH ATKINSON: Worsley Delph & Green Industrial Complex.
  • 25th April - PLAY: 'CHANGING TIMES' by ON-THE-GO Drama Group.
  • 16th May - STEPHEN IRWIN: Lancashire & The English Civil War.
  • 20th June - BRIAN GROOM: Manchester – The Story Of The City That Shaped The Modern World.

Meetings Third Thursdays from 10:30am at Westhoughton Library.

The group were behind the installation in September 2017 of the 'Westhoughton Historic Timeline', a project breaking down the history of the town across categories of interest with a series of visuals and text.

Eatock Lodge - the new information board (2014) tells the story of the Eatock CollieryKeen to promote their work they can be relied upon to give talks and slide shows to groups and interested parties. They have supported other groups, such as Senior Solutions, Women of Westhoughton (WOW) and Friends of Eatock Lodge supplying information on local events and past history - at Eatock Lodge Nature Reserve their work contributed to an historical noticeboard commissioned by Bolton Council detailing the life, trials and history of the former Eatock Colliery, now a local leisure destination.

The History Group is frequently in attendance at local community events where items such as books, guides and DVDs produced by the group can be purchased, or you can simply ask about local history - all part of its mission to 'Bring Howfen's History to Life'.

In recent times, with 'Lockdown and Social Distancing' measures in place, it had been difficult for community groups to operate with venues off-limits. The History Group also hit by extended renovation work at the library. The inability to meet in person led to many groups using online meetings to keep things ticking over; sadly some community venues did not re-open putting added pressure those venues still operating. The Committee continued to meet via Zoom and during this period one of the success stories has been the work on the online Archive detailing and preserving for posterity Westhoughton's local history. This archive can be found at Westhoughton Local History Presentations and Photos. It is very much a labour of love and a gives a fascinating insight into Westhoughton's past and the work of the group. The group was very pleased to be able to be putting on exhibitions again in 2022 (May and September).

In November 2021, on a one-meeting-per-month basis (third Thursday), in-person meetings resumed, at first at Westhoughton Methodist Church Hall and then at The Hub on Central Drive; the group returned 'home' to the library in September 2022. Further disruption is expected once the remodelling of the library/Carnegie Hall gets the go-ahead (Town Centre Regeneration).

Group Aims and Objectives

  • To stimulate public interest in and appreciation of the heritage in the area.
  • To provide suitable premises for the display and study of the social and industrial history of the area.
  • To secure the preservation, conservation, development and improvement of features of general public amenity or historical or public interest in the area.
  • To develop tourism in the area through the preservation and promotion of its heritage.
  • To encourage appropriate use of the countryside in the area as part of the heritage framework.
  • To develop a sense of community in the area.


  • Pretoria Mining Disaster Centenary events (2010) including exhibition, book and mural and civic events.
  • Bi-centenary of the Luddite attack on Westhoughton mill (22nd April 2012).
  • Historic signage and blue plaques around Westhoughton marking historical sites of importance.
  • 'Town Trail' guide for Westhoughton.
  • Giving assistance to schools in finding out about the heritage of the town.
  • Westhoughton's Industrial Heritage.
  • Working with Wingates Band to produce a definitive history of Westhoughton's world-renowned brass band - 'From Bible Class To World Class' (David Kaye, 2013).
  • World War One project to record and portray the war from a Westhoughton perspective (2014). Download information/book details.
  • The Development of Westhoughton - 'Westhoughton and the Threat of Siege' (2015) - a look at the growth of the town since the 1950s (2015). Download information sheet.
  • 'Aspects of Howfen' (2017) - exhibition profiling many facets of the town's rich industrial, social, cultural, educational and sporting history. Download information sheet.
  • 'Westhoughton History Timeline 1066 to Present Day - a definitive chronological presentation of key Westhoughton Historical Dates and Events.
  • 'Keawyed Characters' - a series of folio profiles of local people who have served and contributed to the community of Westhoughton.
  • 'Westhoughton in the Wake of World War One' (2018) - marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, an expansive exhibition featuring life in the town after the Great War (those who died, those who survived and a town picking up the pieces. Download information sheet.
  • 'Westhoughton's Unique and Fascinating Links to the Peterloo Massacre' (2018). Exhibition launched with a theatrical event and re-enactment marking the 200th anniversary of the ill-fated uprising in Manchester which saw down-trodden workers pitted against the ruling class. 'Peterloo Bi-Centenary' (Overview).
  • Creation of an online Local History Archive - Westhoughton Local History Presentations and Photos. Featuring all the work and research past and ongoing with photos, illustrations and maps, as well as details of historical talks (some on video). This new website went live in 2021.
  • 'Places of Historical Interest in Westhoughton' (2021) a new, fascinatingly-informative local guide.
  • 'At Home' Open Day Conference at Westhoughton High School, Sat 14 May (flyer). As a member of the 'Lancashire Local History Federation' in May 2022 the Westhoughton group hosted 'At Home' , an Open Day allowing the host organisation to profile key aspects of its local history to a much wider audience. The day-long event staged Saturday 14th May in the Arts Theatre at Westhoughton High School had a full programme covering four significant presentations by members of the local team: An Overview of Westhoughton's rich and varied history; The Burning of Westhoughton Mill (1812); The Bolton to Leigh Railway (1828) and The Pretoria Pit Disaster (1910).
  • A Heritage & History Weekend - Heritage Open Day September 2022 event celebrating the legacy of The Bethel (United Reformed Church) and Methodist Churches having formally merged to become a LEP (Local Ecumenical Partnership).
  • 'The Wingates Band Story' exhibition (Sept/Oct 2023) as the world-renowned local brass band celebrated its 150th anniversary. Detailing the brass band's rich and colourful history intertwined with Howfen itself. As well as the exhibition there were special events, talks and performances from local musicians - Jim Berry (Houghton Weavers) and Corrie Shelley. Programme.


For some years, group president Pam Clark (who died in January 2017) cherished the hope that one day the walls of the library could be adorned with a comprehensive 'Town Timeline', profiling in graphic fashion all the key events in Westhoughton's history, which could be viewed in perpetuity by all visitors to the library, and in this respect she especially had the town's schoolchildren in mind.

'Aspects of Howfen' - Westhoughton Historic Timeline commissioned by Westhoughton Local History Group

Whilst having conceived the idea, and been responsible for much of the embryonic work, sadly she was destined not to see her vision implemented. Now, however, working in close collaboration with key members of staff at Bolton Library and Museum Services, and aided by a generous grant from Westhoughton Town Council, the Group has brought the project to fruition, the result being a most impressive and colourful graphic display, comprising a series of themed information panels, 4 feet high, and with an overall length spanning 65 feet. One of these panels carries a caption informing that the Timeline is dedicated to the memory of Pam Clarke, a lady whose contribution to the town's history has been incomparable.

The official unveiling and dedication of the permanent Timeline feature was an integral part of the 'Aspects of Howfen' exhibition (2017), which also saw the launch of two new WLHG publications linked to the Timeline project.

Pam Clarke - 'Prolific Pam' (1945-2017)

Pam Clarke Pamela Clarke died 31 Jan 2017 aged 71 after a very brave battle against cancer (Tribute - Bolton News). Westhoughton has lost one of its best-known and much-loved citizens, who has made an incomparable contribution to the life of the town - especially the chronicling of its fascinating history.

In 2005, Pam was a founder member of Westhoughton Local History Group (WLHG) - latterly its president - and, as leader and principal researcher of the group. Enthusiastic, devoted to her subject. The group has grown to become one of the largest and most vibrant heritage societies in the region, regularly attracting 60-70 people to its fortnightly meetings programme of speakers and presentations, the activities of WLHG also embrace publishing, DVDs, exhibitions, excursions, quizzes and local guided walks.

Born and bred Howfener, it was at school that she was inspired to engross herself in local history. For the best part of four decades, Pam Clarke has devoted a huge proportion of her time, talents and energies to researching all aspects of the town's history, embracing industry, agriculture, transport, education, religion, military, and diverse aspects of Westhoughton's rich social and cultural heritage.

Through WLHG and with the support of her friends and colleges, Pam was able to her work and passion to a much wider audience… From 2010, she authored a series of books published under the WLHG banner - commemorating the centenary of The Pretoria Pit Disaster (2010); The Burning of Westhoughton Mill (2012); The Coal Mines of Westhoughton (2013); The Railway Stations of Westhoughton (2013); and Westhoughton and The Great War (2014).

She wrote essays and research notes, gave talks at meetings and in schools; was present at the History stall at Community Fayres… her contributions can be seen in the Library, on the group's website and her work helped with the production of Andy Smith's large-scale painting depicting the Pretoria Disaster at Westhoughton Library. There are cards, artefacts, and a series of blue plaques marking sites of historic significance around Westhoughton; a work in progress is an historical timeline chronicling numerous key dates in the town's history from the 13th century to the present day.

Pam Clarke was the 'go to' person for anyone - locally and much further afield - having any questions about Westhoughton's past. In 2011, Westhoughton Town Council acknowledged her incomparable role in the life of the town by awarding her the Westhoughton Civic Medal. In 2014, she was interviewed by Michael Portillo - in front of the group's first blue plaque, commemorating the Luddite-inspired Burning of Westhoughton Mill in 1812 - for one of his Great British Railway Journeys programmes.

Pam will be greatly missed within the WCN family, and particularly amongst her friends at Westhoughton Local History Group. Her legacy and work will live on; her final project a Westhoughton Historical Timeline - 1066 to Present Day is in the works for installation in Westhoughton Library.

Pam's Walk in the Park

More info

Westhoughton Local History Group | Westhoughton Local History Presentations and Photos
Westhoughton Local History Group Facebook Group Facebook Group

Local film-maker Ted Wisedale has produced a number of videos celebrating Westhoughton and some of the many community events around the town.
YouTube Channel or History Group (YouTube videos).

Page last updated: 2/2/24.

Participating Groups

Local Amenities

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Useful Links

Community Events

  • Panto: 'Rapunzel' - Bethel Crowd
    Fri 23, Sat 24* Feb (7:15pm)
    Peace Community Theatre, Rishton Lane, Bolton BL3 2BN
    Always good fun! The Bethel Crowd travel to Bolton to perform their latest Panto. *Extra matinee show Saturday 24 Feb at 2:15pm. Tickets £7.50
  • Daisy Hill Station Improvements
    March to December 2024
    As part of 'Access for All' improvements station will see changes to ticket hall and installation of a lift and toilet, as well as car park changes. £4m project. Some disruption but services continue. Details of Friends of Daisy Hill stage page -
  • History Group
    Monthly meetings - 3rd Thurs (10:30am)
    Westhoughton Library
    After a busy 2023 including the Wingates Band Story exhibition celebrating the brass bands 150th anniversary (Q323), schedule resumes with speakers and special events for this popular heritage group. Next mtg 21/3 st March - Speaker Ruth Duckworth: My Life in Cricket (Part 2)
  • Rotary Christmas Float 2023
    During December Rotary Club of Westhoughton were out and about visiting local estates and will at Sainsbury's ahead of Christmas. As well as Santa and his Rotary Elves bringing Christmas cheer to young and old, it is an important fundraiser; this year £6,249 was raised to be shared out with local community organisations. £5,640 raised and shared in 2022 - Presentation evening 20/4/23; 19 organisations receiving cheques.
  • Hub at Westhoughton
    The Hub at Westhoughton on Central Drive is home to a range of groups and activities serving the community. Information Leaflet.
  • Westhoughton Library
    Library now open for books, general reading and computer access. With current refurbishment complete, community activities on both ground and upper floor have resumed. Info | Community Plans.
  • Robert Shaw / Book of Quint
    Special event with Ryan Dacko, author of 'The Book of Quint' took place at Wetherspoon's 1st July, celebrating Westhoughton-born Robert Shaw and introducing the backstory of the shark hunter from Jaws. It was a great success with people coming far and wide, leading to Amberley publishing deal.
  • WOW! Women of Westhoughton
    Thursdays from 7:00pm
    John Holt Centre (BL5 2NR)
    Est. 2013, women's group for shared interests, talks, outings & social networking. New meeting venue. Updated programme.
  • Daisy Hill FC Fixtures (Home)
    League Division 1 North
    New Sirs (BL5 2EB)
    Cutters season in full flow. New management, new signings and clubhouse improvements. Support your local team. KO Sat 3pm or Mon 7:45pm. £5 adults / £3 concession / £2 U18s / U12s free w/ adult.
  • Lockdown information (Covid-19)
    For 16 months life and community was disrupted by measures to deal with the pandemic. It has been a long and impactful period, thankfully things are opening up again there is a return to normal. Watch for updates as community re-engages here and on
    Westhoughton.net Facebook Page.
  • Town Centre Masterplan
    Proposals for investment in Town Centre (Market Street focus) were consulted upon in 2019-20 with a Steering Group meeting to discuss plans for £4m investment and significant changes to Market Street, Central Park, Carnegie Hall and Town Hall.
  • Hope Community Centre
    The Central Drive church and community space is currently closed pending refurbishment discussions with Bolton Council. Hope Church services take place in the Hub.
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