Barrow Bridge Village

Barrow Bridge is a picturesque village and conservation area in north Bolton. It was created during the Industrial Revolution as a model community village for mill workers. It lies within the Smithills Estate. The cotton mills have long since gone, but the workers’ cottages still stand and are amongst the most sought-after homes in Bolton.

Video of a walk through Barrow Bridge Village
House on Barrow Bridge Road in Bolton.
One of the manager’s houses on Barrow Bridge Road


In the late 18th century, brothers John and Robert Lord opened the first cotton spinning mill using Samuel Crompton’s spinning mules.

In 1830, the brothers sold the business to Thomas Bazley and Richard Gardner. The new owners demolished the water-powered mill and built Dean Mills, two six-storey mills powered by a central steam engine.

Bazley and Gardner also established a model industrial community at Barrow Bridge, building houses for workers and managers, a cooperative shop, and an educational institute.

Benjamin Disraeli visited Barrow Bridge in 1840 and based the fictional village of Millbank on it in his political novel Coningsby, published in 1844. He describes it:

About a quarter of a mile further on, appeared a village of not inconsiderable size, and remarkable from the neatness and even picturesque character of its architecture, and the gay gardens that surrounded it.

The village, too, could boast of another public building; an Institute where there were a library and a lecture-room; and a reading-hall, which any one might frequent at certain hours, and under reasonable regulations.

The mills were sold to William Callender in 1861, but Dean Mills went out of business following his death. The buildings deteriorated and were demolished in 1913.

Present Day

There are three sets of houses in the conservation area. The workers’ houses of the model village built by Bazley and Gardner are situated off Bazley Street on First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Streets. At the northern end, the manager’s homes enjoy a picturesque setting on Barrow Bridge Road overlooking Dean Brook. Just up the road from the bus terminus are a handful of cottages built by the Lord brothers.

The design of the houses reflects the social status of the original occupants. The worker’s houses are terraced and straightforward in design. The manager’s homes are more extensive, are detached or semi-detached, and boast gardens. Each has a small allotment separated from the house by a footpath.

The institute still stands but is now apartments (Borrowdene House). A bus terminus stands on the site of Dean Mills.

The 345-foot-tall ‘Barrow Bridge Chimney’ is not part of the conservation area. It was not connected with the cotton mills at Barrow Bridge but was part of Halliwell Bleach Works.
The famous ’63 Steps’ were once trodden by folk on their way to the coal mines on Winter Hill. They now lead visitors to the West Pennine Moors.

63 Steps at Barrow Bridge in Bolton.
63 Steps

There is a reasonably large car park near the end of Barrow Bridge Road, close to the managers’ houses. If you use a satellite navigation system, the postcode BL1 7NH should bring you near the car park entrance.

Bus 526 goes from Bolton Bus Station to Barrow Bridge Village.


Many years ago, it used to be possible to walk up Dean Brook to the ‘cigarette tunnel’ at Walker Fold Road/Colliers Row. We recently tried it, and although it’s still possible, it is challenging.

Dean Brook, Barrow Bridge, Bolton
Dean Brook
Resting during the difficult walk up Dean Brook, Bolton.
Resting during the difficult walk up Dean Brook

There are no bridges anymore, so crossing the stream involves wet feet. Consequently, the paths are hardly walked and have become very treacherous. There are steep and dangerous drops in places.

View from the 'Cigarette Tunnel' under Walker Fold Road, Colliers Row, Bolton
View from the ‘Cigarette Tunnel’

For a more leisurely walk to the ‘cigarette tunnel’, take the 63 Steps. The path from here is in good condition and leads to Walker Fold Road, just south of the tunnel.

View from the easy path between the 63 Steps at Barrow Bridge and Walker Fold Road, Bolton.
View from the easy path between the 63 Steps at Barrow Bridge and Walker Fold Road

From Walker Fold Road, there are many further walking options. Numerous paths lead to Winter Hill and Rivington. Walking along Colliers Row and through Smithills Country Park, calling at Smithills Hall and Moss Bank Park before returning to Barrow Bridge is also possible.

Nearby Attractions

Tourist attractions and things to do near Barrow Bridge Village include:

  • Moss Bank Park (0.5 miles) - Features a funfair, miniature railway, two playgrounds, tennis courts, bowling greens, and more.
  • Smithills Estate (0.7 miles) - Woodland Trust country park in Bolton.
  • Smithills Hall & Country Park (0.8 miles) - Museum with an impressive collection of historic furniture and artefacts
  • Doffcocker Lodge (0.9 miles) - Nature reserve popular with dog walkers.
  • Smithills Open Farm (1.0 miles) - Offers a great day out for families and school groups.

Nearby Restaurants

Restaurants and places to eat and drink near Barrow Bridge Village include:


Map showing location of Barrow Bridge Village.

Map showing location of Barrow Bridge Village


Barrow Bridge Village

Address and postcode
Barrow Bridge Road
Greater Manchester
United Kingdom

Reviews and Additional Information

  1. Many happy memories of Barrow Bridge, lived in Bolton all my life , spent most of my six weeks holidays up Barrow Bridge with a gang of mates, knowing we were safe and sound happy very happy memories, still go regularly even in my 70’s but don’t go in the stream now ???, love it lucky Bolton, remember it being used in some production of ‘Sam’ on Tv. Brenda Green was Costello x x

    • I lived in Chipping Road, and spent a lot of time in Barrow Bridge.1952 to 1959. Remember the tuck shop with a large stone slab at the window you stood on to see in. 1d Fruit salad sweets and penny black sweets, licorice chews and all manner of toffees. (Cinder toffee.) Boating lake and roundabouts. Cigarette tunnel and wild adventures. He he, what fun.

  2. I loved by Barrow Bridge as a child many lovely memories of this beautiful village.

  3. I lived at Barrow Bridge as a young child. My Father and Mother ( Bill and Bessie Helme) owned the tea rooms and boating lake. Also my Nanny( Alice Kirkman) also lived in the village. I was only young but have wonderful happy memories. My parents eventually moved to Southport. We lived in one of the houses across the stream. I think it was no63 Barrow Bridge Rd. Happy, happy memories. I am now 77 but remember it all so clearly. 63 steps and a tiny Mission near the bus stop.

  4. Just walked up Dean Brook to cigarette tunnel, Very difficult but passable as stream was very low.At the cigarette tunnel there’s building/ wall repairing being done, had to scramble up to the road.
    I have many memories of Barrow Bridge as a child in the 1950’s, Swing boats, boating lake, tuck shop,dandelion burdock.Taking our children on picnics to the bridge passed the 63 steps, following Dean Brook ( no longer there)

    Would be good if path could be restored

  5. As a child my friends and i would spend hours in Barrow Bridge during school breaks, walking the stream, seeing who could run all the way up the 63 steps, All without adult supervision.
    Kids today don’t know what they’re missing. How I wish I was that child again. I’m 65 now and I still love the place. Fond memories.

  6. I was born in Bolton on Spa Road near Queens Park. I had the best years of my life there. Barrow bridge was my wonderland. Growing up in the 1950s we could not afford holidays, so a bus trip to Moss Bank Park and Barrow Bridge was magic. I now live in Western Australia, but i have never forgotten Bolton and Barrow Bridge.

  7. Barrow Bridge was a childhood playground for my Brother and I.
    We used to live on Wentworth Street in the 50’s and 60’s close to Merehall St. Walking from the village to the cigarette tunnel up the river was a common occurance. Those days were a blast. We could leave home and be out all day as long as we were home for tea time. We were 7 and 9 years old. If we could do it all over again, we would. England was a great place growing up, now the kids are involved in politics and cell phones.
    You have no idea what growing up really is. TTFN.

    • Hi , you said yo used to live on Wentworth street what number? We had relatives back then living at number 7 and number 22 Mary brown nee Hornby and Margaret Ellis (or brown ) nee Hornby / halliwell

      Some of the Hornby family moved to Canada and opened a bar called the 63 steps

  8. I was brought up in Great Lever Bolton tho left there 40yrs ago….as a young child growing up Barrow Bridge was a big part of my life, an then even more into my teens…picnics an walks many many times…an now at almost 63…its still a very MAGICAL place an my best place in BOLTON…ive just returned from a family visit to Bolton and of course I have been an took photos, I even did the 63 steps !!….tho not as quick as the many times in the past, its tranquil , pretty, an a wonderful place to see…..never ever will I ferget it.


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