The River Croal


The River Croal (derived from the Old English croh and wella, (the winding stream) is a tributary of the River Irwell and it meets the Irwell at Nob End, Kearsley.

"Middlebrook" derives from "Mickle Brook", earlier "mycel brok" meaning "Great Stream". This has surprised some people because they are aware of the supposed Scottish saying, "Mony a mickle maks a muckle" where mickle stands for little (not big) and muckle stands for much.

The river runs through Bolton town centre and is culverted in various sections as a result of new developments built above the river. The river once served as an open sewer for the town, and was also used by the mills in the town, which are now derelict or have been redeveloped.

It also serves to handle runoff from the drains in the streets overhead. It does have the capacity to serve as a storm drain, from seeing it in full flood.

A disaster occurred next to the River Croal in 1961. A bar called the “Top Storey Club” caught fire with some 20+ people trapped inside. The fire ladders were too short to reach, and several people had jumped the 80 feet drop into the (then) open river below. Amazingly, since the river is only about 3 feet deep at most, one or two survived the fall, others did not, and 19 people were killed.

In recent years, the river has been subject to being cleaned up the environment agency and the local water board, United Utilities, and fish can now be seen in the river, and the water is much cleaner than it has ever been.

Whether the river will be “un-culverted” and allowed to flow through the town to be seen and walked along by everyone, remains uncertain, although a proposal was put forward for this many years back.

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