There is evidence of human activity in the area from arrowheads that were found on Hunger Hill, scrapers on Knowl Hill, Bronze Age Burial mound and socketed axe on Windy Hill, which is to the south west of Deeply vale*.
Roman (70 AD)
By AD 70, the Romans were in control of Rochdale until about the start of 5th century AD*.
Saxon (450 AD)
Local place names abound with Saxon origins e.g. Ding, wick (farm), dene (valley), holt (wood)*.
Viking (793 AD)
There are example of Norse name too, e.g. carr (marsh), schole (hillside hut) and Viking e.g. ding (assembly). There was certainly communication between the Viking in York and those in Dublin, so it’s feasible that Rochdale was on their route.
During the Norman period, there are references to Rochdale, then called Recedham, in the Domesday Book, land changing ownership, mention of Naden & Cheesden Brooks in 1161 and a Wednesday market in the 13th century. Market days were added in 1577 and 1673*.
Rochdale was not a wealthy area. By this time, Wolstenholme, Shawfield and Black Pits were established hamlets, agriculture was at a subsistence level e.g. spelt, a rough wheat was grown on moors. Cattle rearing had made way for sheep in the 14th century and the woollen industry was well established & cottage based in the 15th century. Households would have a spinning wheel and a loom. Wool would be transported by pack horses elsewhere for fulling by stamping under foot, or powered by water wheel, then bleaching. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1530, the Holt family purchased most of what is now Norden. There as a walking powered mill at Naden by 1585 and water powered corn mills in Ashworth & Greenbooth by 1540*.
In the 16th & 17th centuries, corn mills were being converted to woollen mills. By the late 17th century, Rochdale had become a fairly prosperous town due to wool – the Holts, Butterworths, Schofields, Gartsides, Chadwicks Midgeley’s. Many local houses were rebuilt in the 17th century. Wooden buildings were being replaced by stone e.g. Lower Tenterfield 1639, Bank House 1692, Woodhouse 1709*.
The first cotton mill opened in Rochdale in 1791, and by 1848, Samuel Lord & Bros. Laneside Mill, Edward Shepherd & Sons’ Coal Bank Mill and Turner & Co.’s Black Pits Mill were all cotton spinning*.
Rochdale produced 90% of the flannel in England in 1856, it was not until the 1870s that cotton became the town’s main industry. In 1861 the area known as Black Pits was named Norden, as St Paul’s Norden was suggested by Lord of the Manor, Thomas Dearden for the newly built parish church. Clearly a name preferred to St Paul’s Black Pits. The name could have been adapted from Naden or from the Old English, Noedre Dene which translates as Snake Valley*.
*Malcolm Jones, Norden & District Local History Society