Friends of Castleton Station

Welcome to Castleton (Blue Pits) Station



Castleton is an example of an Industrial Village with its many textile mills and engineering factories.


The forming of the village probably took place around the time of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851. At that time the village had no school or church, in fact it was more of a hamlet than a village.  Blue Pits was a very small part of Castleton Moor which in turn was a part of the ancient Township of Castleton in the Parish of Rochdale.  It was not until the turn of the 20th century that Castleton became a ward of Rochdale.


An old Saxon castle or watch tower stood high up and became known as the “Castle on the ton”. The Saxon “ton” was a word used for the measure of weight or capacity and “Castle on the ton” was later known as Castleton and was often called Castletown by the locals.




Castleton had two cinemas in the 1940s but only one from mid-1951, these being the Ideal Cinema and the Princess Picture Palace.  The latter was sold and today is St Gabriel and All the Angels R.C. Church on Milne Street which is only about 100 yards from the Rochdale bound platform.


At the turn of the last decade of the eighteenth-century the small hamlet of Blue Pits was to get a boost-a waterway (the Rochdale Canal).  A nearby quarry is said to have mined the blue sand which was used in the construction of the Canal network.  The canal at Blue Pits village was completed during 1802 and opened throughout in 1804 (re-opened 2007).




The original station opened in 1839, named Blue Pits, on the other side of the adjacent Manchester Road bridge. The current station opened in 1875. The Liverpool and Bury Railway from Bolton (opened in 1848) used to join the main line at a triangular junction a short distance (under bridge) South of the station. This line is now the main line connection for the heritage East Lancashire Railway via Heywood, Bury, Ramsbottom to its terminus at Rawtenstall.


The station had a Victorian canopy of stained glass which covered the entire station’s platform (canalside) and was a masterpiece of the Victorian Age. On the other side of the new road bridge was the Heywood Road goods yard, known locally as Bags Yard, and as the railway from the mid 1880’s became increasingly busy the children of the village could be seen train-spotting as the trains passed through Castleton’s  Victorian railway Station. For many years the line was operated by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.


The station had buildings on both platforms, with space behind the Rochdale platform to accommodate a third platform.  A glance at the road bridge shows the arch which would have carried the line from the Bury line.


The Maltings, of Magee Marshall, was built to take advantage of the canal and railway, with raw materials being delivered by narrow boats, barges, and the finished product being loaded onto freight trains using a special sidings behind platform 1.


Tweedales and Smalley’s Globe Mill (1892) textile machinery factory (and during both world wars an armaments producer) also had a private sidings behind platform 2, later owned by F W Woolworth’s distribution centre (1967).


The station made news in 1945 when a German escaped prisoner of war was challenged by the lady porter in the waiting room and was recaptured nearby soon after.


The Calder Valley line was the first railway to traverse the Pennine Hills and the adjacent Rochdale Canal, opened in 1804, was the first waterway to cross the Pennines. 


The Royal train sometimes “over-nighted” in the sidings at Castleton station-the train, bearing it’s Royal visitors, would be shunted into a quiet part of the vast expanse of sidings adjacent to the Canal towpath, the lights switched off and left until the next morning when it resumed it’s journey.  Older Castleton residents still talk about visits by “official looking men” checking the streets and pubs. A day or two later a Royal train would quietly arrive and be gently pushed into a siding away from the main line and away from prying eyes.




Lock 52 (located about 500 yards South (towards Manchester) of the station, was built around 1794. The lock is in dressed stone and has double upper gates. At the south is a roving bridge with a single segmental arch. The lock and the adjacent towpath bridge are both Grade 2 listed structures.


March Barn Bridge 63, listed as an Ancient Monument, (located along the Canal about 500 yards North of the Station toward Rochdale) was built in 1804 and the Engineer was William Jessop. It was the first correctly designed oblique arched (skew) bridge in the country, and is thought to align the Pack Horse trail. The bridge is made of stone and sits at a skew angle of 60 degrees. The stones which form the voussoirs and span are laid in winding courses, a very difficult form of construction.


The Arrow Vale Mill immediately adjacent to the bridge is also a Grade II listed building.


The Blue Pits pub, between the railway and canal, has a morbid history as it was the mortuary for Castleton for some years (accessed from the Canal) and the 2 ‘mortuary slabs’ are still in situ in the cellar (not for public viewing).

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Friends of Castleton Station