Cotton Famine Road

The ‘Cotton Famine Road’ section of Rooley Moor Road could be of National and International importance, it is a reminder of the harsh times cotton workers had to endure during the Cotton Famine and is unique in linking the American Civil War to social changes in our own country at a time when the Rochdale Pioneer Movement influenced social thinking throughout the UK.

Sections of the Cotton Famine Road consist of stone setts, which were hewn by hammer and chisel from local quarries. The approximate length of these sections, from Ding Quarry entrance to Catley Lane Head, is 1,950 yards, the number of stone setts across the road varies from 12 along the narrow sections to 24 at Catley Lane Head. Presuming an average number of stone setts per row of 16 and rows per yard of 10.5 gives a total number of 327,600 stone setts, this excludes the volume of the stone edgings and drainage channels.

Given the poor of Rochdale laid about a third of a million stone setts into the fabric of Rooley Moor by hand, the Cotton Famine Road has to be worthy of preservation!

At an altitude of over 1500 feet this historic feature may also lay claim to being one of the highest roads in England. Enjoyed by walkers & runners, ornithologists and cyclists, this moorland route also forms part of the Pennine Bridleway allowing safe access for horse riders on the Mary Townley Loop.

The upper section of Rooley Moor Road is visible from many miles away (often called the ‘yellow brick road’) and is a prominent part of the North Manchester / Lancashire / West Yorkshire landscape.

We think many people who see the road from afar do not currently appreciate its history or significance, and an underlying objective of the neighbourhood forum will be to improve this awareness.


Our thanks to Mid Pennines Arts for letting us this audio description of the section of Rooley Moor Road known locally as the Cotton Famine Road.


The Cotton Famine Road

Thanks go to the Manor of Rochdale for giving permission to film and drive on the moor.

Food Aid

Our thanks go to the BBC and David Olusoga for letting us use these video clips.

See also

Lincoln’s Letter to the Working-Men of Manchester, England
Source: The American Civil War Society

The Cotton Famine Window, North Manchester General Hospital.

RMR archaelogical assessment June 2003
Rooley Moor Road - An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment - June 2003