A Short History of Longridge
Longridge is a small town in the borough of Ribble Valley in Lancashire, England. It is situated at the end of Longridge Fell, a long ridge above the River Ribble, several miles north-east of the city of Preston. Its nearest neighbour is the Roman town of Ribchester, 3.5 miles to the southeast. It has a population of around 8,000.
The town began to develop over 500 years ago as a small settlement around St Lawrence’s Church on Chapel Hill. Farming was the main industry and the Longridge area consisted of a patchwork of farms centred on a ‘fold’, where the farmer and his workers lived together in the same group of buildings. An example of this is Sharley Fold off the top of Berry Lane. Farm diversification led to the brewing and selling of ale in farms located on the main roads, and these eventually became public houses. Slaughterhouses, butchers and provender merchants all became established in the town to service the local farms.
By the end of the 18th Century many families supplemented their farming income by making goods in outbuildings or rooms within their homes. Most wove cloth on handlooms and this resulted in three groups of cottages with workshops being developed. The first was ‘Club Row’ on Higher Road where a terrace of 21 cottages was constructed from 1794 to 1804, each with a basement for one or two handlooms
By 1801 the town consisted of almost 1,200 inhabitants in the two parishes of Dilworth and Alston & Hothersall, growing to over 1,900 by 1821.
The opening of the railway in 1840, initially to transport stone from the local quarries, saw other industries opening in Longridge including four large steam-powered cotton mills. By 1880 this had led to a population of nearly 3,000. The town was finally formed into an ecclesiastical parish in 1861. By 1883 it had become a Local Government District and an Urban District Council by 1884. By this time, almost 70% of the workforce was employed in the cotton industry; 20% in the stone extraction industry; and less than 10% in agriculture.
Many of the traditional industries of Longridge declined or ceased altogether during the 20th Century. Following the final closure of the railway in 1967, the former line has been largely built over and the quarries and textile mills that it served have either found alternative uses or been cleared for development. The last quarry closed just after World War II - although one opened briefly to supply stone for motorway building in the 1970’s – and the former quarries at Tootle Heights now house a caravan park. The only cotton mills remaining are Queen’s Mill and parts of Stone Bridge Mill.
Modern Longridge continues to grow and the 2011 Census population of 7,491 is double the number of residents in 1950, as many people have moved into what is now a thriving small country town. The town is home to 11 pubs, several restaurants and a number of primary and high schools.