Littleborough’s History


There have been regular road based public transport services in the Littleborough 250 years. Initially, it was by horse drawn ‘Coaches’ which were first operated over the Blackstone Edge Turnpike circa 1774 when 3 regular Manchester to Leeds Coaches operated each week and later to Todmorden on the Calderbrook Turnpike. By 1781 Coach services over the Blackstone Edge Turnpike were daily and by 1825 the much improved Blackstone Edge Road was completed to the satisfaction of the Inspector General of Mails (for the use by Mail Coaches) such that 6 coaches operated daily between Rochdale and Halifax – Shuffle, Perseverance, High Flier, Defiance, Duke of Leeds and Commerce. Not long afterward, in 1826 there were regular Stage Coaches from Todmorden to Manchester via Summit. With the coming of the railway to Littleborough and then through Summit Tunnel towards Todmorden and Leeds these coach services ceased operation.

Whist it is probable that irregular local coaches operated around Littleborough connecting with the trains, many local people walked often considerable distances on a regular basis. However, the first recorded Omnibus began running from Rochdale to Littleborough in May 1877 with fares inside 5d and outside 4d. In June 1879 Omnibus Timetables were published for Rochdale (Reed Hotel) to the Falcon Inn in Littleborough and from Falcon Inn to Summit. But these soon faced competition by the new Steam Trams which operated from Rochdale to Littleborough (Falcon Inn) and lasted until 1905 when they were replaced by electric Trams. The electric trams ran from Rochdale to Littleborough and thence to the Summit Inn.

The first regular bus service in Littleborough was operated by Todmorden Corporation when they extended their service from Todmorden to Steanor Bottom (pictured right) to the Summit pub in 1921.

Rochdale Corporation was a late into motor bus operation not obtaining powers until the Rochdale Corporation Act of 1925. Littleborough began agitating for a local service to link the trams with the surrounding areas. And these began in August 1926 when an hourly service ran between Littleborough Square and Hollingworth Lake (Fisherman’s Inn) via Smithy Bridge.  On return to Littleborough the bus ran alternately to Shore and to Clough Road, giving each a 2-hourly service.  

Rochdale ceased operating trams by 1932 which led to rapid increases in the number of bus services operated in and through Littleborough. Some actually commenced before then as in January 1928  a daily limited stop bus service between Rochdale and Todmorden started, jointly operated by Rochdale and Todmorden Corporations, offering a 40 minute interval service for most of the day. A though service from Halifax to Rochdale via Blackstone Edge was taken over by the LMS railway company in December 1928.

On the 19th October 1930  Rochdale Corporation buses replaced trams on the Rochdale to Littleborough to Summit service and the pattern of most journeys between Littleborough and Todmorden requiring passengers to change at the Summit Inn remained for nearly 40 year. Even now, the road is still wider outside the Summit to enable the respective buses to turn around.

Whist there were various changes in the routing and frequency of local Littleborough services and a change in the operator of the Blackstone Edge route to Ripponden and Halifax (Hebble took over from the LMS Railway). Ribble was another long-distance service operator which ran a Burnley - Todmorden - Rochdale - Manchester service (X4) for many years, with some journeys extended to Blackpool or Morecambe. Picking up and setting down restrictions applied within municipal boundaries, as usual with Ribble express services. However, the Ribble service did stop in Littleborough. No significant changes took place until the 1968 Transport Act led to Rochdale Corporation buses being absorbed by SELNEC Buses (South East Lancashire, North East Cheshire) in 1969. Over time the traditional Cream and Blue livery was replaced by Orange.

Meanwhile organisation changes led to Todmorden becoming owned by a Joint Committee with the LMS railway in 1st January 1931. In September 1971 the Joint Operator committees of Todmorden and Halifax merged to form Calderdale Joint Omnibus Committee. An important benefit for Littleborough of these organisational changes was that in June and October 1973 all-day services operated through from Littleborough to Todmorden, Halifax and Burnley without the change at the Summit Inn.  complete with extensions to Halifax and Burnley.

Further changes occurred in 1974 when SELNEC was replaced by GMPTE (Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive). A similar change affected West Yorkshire when their PTE became operational. And took over the Joint Omnibus Committees there.

So far as Littleborough local services were concerned, all day direct services operated between Hollingworth Lake and Rochdale Town Centre with subsequent direct services to Rochdale via Milnrow later being introduced. But perhaps the most significant change occurred in the mid-1980s when through services were operated between Rochdale - Littleborough - Todmorden - Halifax and Burnley providing 2 buses per hour throughout the day.

The 1985 Transport Act resulted in the privatisation of bus services on 26th October 1986 and the new arrangements heralded much change as new small operators sought to enter the bus market place. Many changes didn’t last long and neither did the smaller operators except Rosso which has become a regular feature in Littleborough. Now owned by the Transdev Blazefield Group it operates a service from Littleborough to the lake and then Rochdale via Hollingworth Road, only possible with the rebuilding of the original very narrow and awkward Ben Healey canal bridge and the redesign of the Halifax Road/Canal Street Road junction.

Not all changes have been positive following these re-organisations as the Milnrow service disappeared as has that to High Peak and for a time evening bus services stopped running. A loss of perhaps greater significance was that of a through bus to Burnley albeit a train service is now available (2021).

Charabanc and Coaches and other services

Charabancs excursions (or Charas in the vernacular – even used to refer to Coach trips even recently) were popular from between the wars and later. Technically, a Charabanc had doors to each bay of seats and sometimes shared a chassis with a wagon or lorry. Excursions often left from local hostelries or churches and chapels. They actually replaced excursions by barge. Later, coaches took over taking local residents on day trips or annual holidays or even Coach Holidays (pictured is a Coach Trip from the Summit Inn). Interesting enough, coach excursions were often run from seaside locations to Hollingworth Lake and many a local on a mystery trip found themselves not far from home! National Tour Holidays operators  pick up in Littleborough but these may be by a shuttle service. Coach services to Football matches both home and away were also popular journeys from Littleborough.

Since Littleborough no longer has a Secondary School (June 2021) school buses operate from the town especially to St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic School. Also services operate to Rishworth Public School. Coach services to Football matches both home and away were also popular journeys from Littleborough.

Littleborough had a number of operators over the years with Ellen Smith starting in the town. Richard Jay advertised in local booklets in the 1950s noting that ‘Private Parties Specially Catered for’.  

Compiled with the grateful assistance of Ian Holt and Geoff Kerr