Until the industrialisation of the area began in the late 1700's, the area we now call Walkden must have been a fairly bleak expanse of moorland, dotted with isolated groups of farming cottages called "folds", many of whose names survive in the present day names of roads and districts: Parr Fold and Pin Fold are just two which can still be found within the close surrounds of Walkden station.
The area around the station itself used to be known as Wolfpit Greaves giving a colourful indication of the kind of creatures that used to lurk there.
In 1768 the common land of Walkden Moor was added to the Duke of Bridgewater's estate and his eponymous canal, engineered by John Gilbert and James Brindley, reached the area two years later. The canal's arrival was the trigger for industrial scale mining to begin and shafts were dug all over the area. Terraced cottages were constructed to house the colliery workforce, many of whom migrated from Shropshire and Staffordshire.
The Duke of Bridgewater's underwater canal system is justly celebrated for the engineering marvel that it is, with a network extending for many miles and on two levels beneath a large part of modern day Worsley and Walkden. The portals to this watery labyrinth can be seen at Worsley Canal Basin where, with the canals' working days long past, the waterfront and historic buidings form a fascinating and picturesque scene.
The last colliery in the area to close was Mosley Common in 1968 and there is remarkably little evidence of this once mighty industry to be seen in Walkden today. The routes of some colliery railways, such as the one running parallel to Newearth Road, have been transformed into walking and cycle routes and the Pit Rescue Building still stands, now used as an office, on Ellenbrook Road.
The arrival of the railways - the London And North-Western in 1875 followed by the Lancashire And Yorkshire in 1888 - facilitated further industrialisation and the growth of Walkden as a recognisable town. The name Walkden first appeared on an Ordnance Survey map of 1896.
With the town's growth came familiar urban problems - cholera struck in 1866 taking around 30 lives, and in 1869 typhoid took nearly 50 more. Living conditions improved as a mains gas supply arrived in 1868 followed by piped water 8 years later. The Bridgewater estate, reluctant to hand control to a democratic authority, was eventually forced by act of parliament to accept the creation of a local council in 1894.
More housing stock was added in the pre-war years of the 20th century and in 1906 the council, based in what are now the buildings of Worsley College, paid a nominal sum to the 3rd Earl of Ellesmere for land to be used as Parr Fold Park.
Houses have been constantly added to the Walkden area since the end of the Second World War, with large estates like Birch Road and also more piecemeal developments along Old Clough Lane, Walkden Road and Newearth Road. The town has expanded north so that there is hardly a break in the housing between it and Farnworth (and then on to Bolton), but a green buffer of fields to the east retains a clear separation between Walkden and Wardley.
Trolley bus services ran from Atherton to Walkden from 1931 until 1958, and the LNWR railway route from Eccles through Walkden to Bolton closed around the same time (1954). Public transport was under assault from the growth of the private car and even the railway line that survives today was a candidate for closure during this era.
The East Lancs Road was opened in 1934 by King George V and was the first of the new, major roads to criss-cross the region. The M61/M62 Worsley interchange was opened in December 1960 and has been subsequently widened and renumbered with the completion of Manchester's orbital M60 motorway in 2000.
Much of the information on this page has been gleaned from Ann Monaghan's excellent 1993 book "WALKDEN - A Glimpse Of The Past" (ISBN 0-901952-25-7). The book contains far more information and photographs than appears on this page and is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the history of the area.
There are also a number of excellent internet resources which we recommend: