Bolton does not come high up the list of UK tourist destinations, but over the six years that I have been working here I have come to appreciate the place.
The town that we see today is the result of the industrial revolution, and indeed it played an important role those historic changes. The town is scattered with old textile mill buildings, the oldest being the water powered St Helena Mill of 1777. This is in the centre of town and, perhaps appropriately, is now occupied by the social services which struggle to deal with very high levels of unemployment left after the collapse of the textile industry.
The impressive more recent steam powered mills are scattered around the town, surrounded by the terraced houses that their workers lived in.
The wealth generated by the textile industry funded major civic works in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The magnificent Town Hall dominates the centre of town.
Queens Park, with its parade of statues of local worthies, was built to provide relaxation for the workers. It is only about ten minutes walk from the conference location, and a good place for a change of scene.
Bolton Museum is worth a visit, behind the Town Hall and about ten minutes walk from the conference location. Admission is free, so you can pop in for a short visit while passing by. As you would expect, it has exhibits of about Bolton’s industrial past, and is home to the outstanding Worktown collection of photographs by Humphrey Spender. More unexpectedly it has a substantial Egyptian collection.
Bolton has a number of friendly old fashioned pubs with excellent traditional ales. Here are my favourites, all within walking distance of the conference location: The Hen and Chickens, the Sweet Green (very close to the railway station), the Spinning Mule in Nelson Square (which has perhaps the widest range of ales). Finally, The Old Man and Scythe was recorded in 1251, making it the oldest pub in Bolton, and among the oldest in Britain. So far it has stubbornly resisted gentrification, and is one of the most quirky and authentic pubs you could wish to find. It usually serves a number of draught ciders as well as ales.
On the outskirts of town are two wonderful old manor houses, Smithalls with a medieval hall and sixteenth century panelled room, and Hall i’th’ Wood.
I hope that you enjoy my adopted home!