The County Borough of Bolton 

County Borough of Bolton
 - 1911 15,279 acres (61.8 km2)
 - 1971 15,280 acres (61.8 km2)
 - 1891 146,487
 - 1971 154,223
 - Created 1838
 - Abolished 1974
 - Succeeded by Metropolitan Borough of Bolton
Status Municipal borough 1838–1889,
County borough 1889–1974
 - HQ Bolton Town Hall
 - Motto Supera Moras (Latin: Overcome delays)
coat of arms of the Bolton Borough Council
Bolton was, from 1838 to 1974, a local government district in the northwest of England, conterminate with the town of Bolton.


Bolton was created a free borough in 1253 when William de Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby granted a charter.

However the borough did not develop into a self-governing town, remaining under the control of officials appointed by the lord of the manor.

By the eighteenth century the town was rapidly expanding and the Bolton Improvement Act 1792 established two local government bodies for the area: the Great Bolton Improvement Trustees, and the Police Commissioners for the Township of Little Bolton.

In 1838, under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, the townships of Great Bolton and Little Bolton, along with the Haulgh area from Tonge with Haulgh township, were incorporated as a municipal borough, making it the second to be created in England (after Devonport).

However, there was doubt about the validity of the charter, with the local Conservatives refusing to stand for the first council elections, and the magistrates of Salford Hundred disputing the jurisdiction of the new corporation.

The first elections to the town council were uncontested, with Whigs and Radicals holding all seats.

The council was highly supportive of The People's Charter.

The legality of the charter (as well as those of Devonport, Birmingham and Manchester) was resolved by the Borough Charters Confirmation Act 1842.

The Act forced the new municipality to compensate the officers of the old corporation.

The first contested elections were held in November 1842 and Conservatives gained control in 1844.

In 1850 the borough corporation took over the Great Bolton and Little Bolton trusts established in 1792.

In 1889, as it had a population in excess of 50,000, Bolton was constituted a county borough by the Local Government Act 1888.

As a county borough, Bolton was independent of the administration of Lancashire County Council, although it remained part of the county for judicial, shrievalty and lieutenancy purposes.

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the County Borough of Bolton was abolished and its territory transferred to Greater Manchester to form part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton.

Boundaries and Wards

The original borough was divided into six wards: Bradford, Church, Derby, East, Exchange and West.

The borough was extended in 1872, taking in the Daubhill area, which became the seventh ward of Rumworth.

In 1873 the number of wards was increased to eight, with the formation of a new North ward.

In 1877 a further enlargement added the ward of Halliwell.

The Bolton , Turton, and Westhoughton Extension Act 1898 allowed the county borough to absorb Astley Bridge Urban District and the bulk of Bolton Rural District (the civil parishes of Breightmet, Darcy Lever, Deane, Great Lever, Heaton, Lostock, Middle Hulton, Smithills and Tonge).

The area added to the borough was divided into eight wards (Astley Bridge, Tonge, Darcy Lever-cum-Breightmet, Great Lever, Hulton, Deane-cum-Lostock, Heaton, and Smithills), increasing the total number to seventeen.

The Exchange Ward was subsequently abolished and the borough had sixteen wards until its abolition.

Political Control

As noted above, the first elections of the council were uncontested, with Whigs and Radicals forming an administration. Following the entry of Conservative candidates in 1842, they gained a majority in 1844.

Until 1887 the only groupings on the council were the majority Conservative and minority Liberal groups, with elections frequently uncontested. The Bolton Engineers' Strike of 1887 led to a highly politicised situation and eight Labour representatives were successful.

Three years later the council returned to two-party politics.

There was little change over the next decade, although individual Labour and Home Rule candidates were returned.

From the beginning of the twentieth century a Labour grouping began to emerge.

By the 1920s Labour had become the second largest party on the council. The Liberals became the third party, while a Women's Citizen Association councillor sat on the council from 1921 to 1927.

In 1933 the Conservatives lost their majority, and the council was under no overall control until 1937.

Conservatives regained control in 1937 and held it at the following year's vote. Elections were postponed for the duration of World War II., with the next municipal election being held in 1945.

The Labour Party gained 17 seats from both the Conservatives and Liberals, and in 1946 gained control for the first time.

The council was then under Labour control until 1949, Conservative from 1949 to 1952 and Labour from 1952 to 1954.

After a year under no overall control, Conservatives were in power from 1955 to 1958 and Labour from 1958 to 1961.

A Labour-Liberal coalition governed Bolton for two years before Labour regained a majority in 1963 The Conservatives regained the borough in 1965 and held it for seven years.

In 1972, the final election before the borough's abolition was held, with Labour regaining control.


Census population of the County Borough of Bolton
Year 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 † 1951 1961 1971
Population 146,487 168,215 180,851 178,683 177,250 163,823 167,167 160,789 154,223
Sources: (a) Encyclopædia Britannica. (b) Vision of Britain.
The 1939 population is estimated from theNational Registration Act figures. The 1941 census did not take place because of the Second World War.

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