14 minutes | Jan 14th 2020

Is Ramsbottom a Town or a Village? – Episode 159

This is possibly, one of the most commonly asked questions I see, and commonly corrected too (usually pretty quickly and, let’s say passionately).

It’s a simple question, and you’d think would has a simple answer. I’m hoping that this episode of the podcast will serve as a reference for future generations, but most people will probably continue to argue online about it (sorry, discuss passionately).

This question comes up often enough for local poet Paul Jenkins to have created TWO poetry books.

To give you an example of how often this comes up, it has actually spawned two poetry books from local poet Paul Jenkins, namely Poems from VillageTown Volumes 1 and 2.

Is Ramsbottom a town or a Village?

Let me start by explaining that I honestly thought a quick “Google” of this question would provide me with some background. I know what Ramsbottom is, but I wanted to try my best to explain WHY it is what it is. Not just say, it’s this, because it is.

One thing that does come up is people will say “Ramsbottom has always been a town” which I understood to be the case, but the massively helpful people at the Ramsbottom Heritage Society, in particular Keith Burrows pulled out this nugget for me, it would appear, that Ramsbottom went through a bit of a transformation in the mid to late 1800’s:

1850 Heap’s Directory
Comprising the villages of Tottington, Ramsbottom, Nuttall, Holcombe, Etc.

1871 Worrall’s Directory
Ramsbottom, Tottington—Higher End, Tottington— Lower End, Holcombe, Edenfleld, Shuttleworth, Summerseat and Neighbourhoods.
RAMSBOTTOM is a large manufacturing village (or town), situated mostly in the town­ ship of Tottington, lower end, parish of Bury, hundred of Salford, diocese of Manchester, and in the electoral division of South-East Lancashire

1880 Barrett’s Directory
RAMSBOTTOM is a manufacturing town, situated mostly in the township of Tottington Lower End, parish of Bury, Hundred of Salford, diocese of Manchester, and in the electoral division of South East Lancashire.

One of the first sources I came across was a website called Gorgeous Cottages which outlined that a town is:

To be classed as a town, the location must have multiple places of worship as well as central meeting points. Traditionally in England and Wales a town was a settlement with a charter to hold a market or fair.


I’ve trawled through a few other websites to find some references too, here we go:

A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish them vary considerably between different parts of the world.


Wikipedia does also refer to towns as being:

…the term town is employed either for old market towns, or for settlements which have a town council, or for settlements which elsewhere would be classed a city, but which do not have the legal right to call themselves such. Any parish council can decide to describe itself as a town council, but this will usually only apply to the smallest “towns” (because larger towns will be larger than a single civil parish).


Whilst researching and collecting various sources (I hear this is what you do when you’re trying to prove a point, collect evidence, give a bibliography, something else clever and wordy) I came across the City & Town Classification of Constituencies & Local Authorities published in 2018.

The House of Commons Library has developed a new classification of constituency and local authority areas according to the size of the settlements people live in… Each constituency and local authority is assigned to one of six categories, e.g. “Core City” or “Small Town”, which most closely matches its population distribution. This is intended to offer an alternative to rural/urban classifications in analysing variation.

Ramsbottom, as it stands now is a Small Town.

This is based on the classifications outlined in the above publication from 2018, this is also referenced on the Centre for Towns website.

The Centre for Towns website outlines the criteria to classify towns from 2018

In addition to the chart, the Centre for Towns website provides a spreadsheet you can download, this shows you that Ramsbottom, in the 2011 census has a population of 20,713 which isn’t a million miles off from being classed as a medium town.

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