STUNNING archive images of Bolton from the air have been released, showing the changing face of the town in the last century.

These four black and white aerial photographs, from English Heritage, were taken in 1927 and 1949 and they show a stark contrast from what was an industrial age of mills and factories to today’s "service sector" business landscape.

The images show the Beehive Works in Folds Road (pictured above in 1927), William Townson and Sons Ltd, Higher Swan Lane Saw Mills (opposite page, top right in 1949), Wigan Road in Deane (opposite page, middle in 1927), and the old Bolton Infirmary (opposite page, bottom, also 1927), which closed in September 1996.

The four photographs form part of the Aerofilms collection, which features images of Britain from the sky, including 340 from the Bolton area.

A new website called Britain from Above has been launched by English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales.

It features some of the oldest and most valuable images of the Aerofilms collection, a unique archive of more than a million aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 2006.

Bolton Library’s local history librarian Julie Lamara believes the images will help to paint a clear picture of life in the town before and after World War Two.


She said: “It is a great series of images for someone to gauge the size of the town and that point in time.

"The first thing that I notice about the photos is the number of chimneys on the rooftops and the mills — many of which I am sure the likes of Fred Dibnah (pictured) went up at some point in his steeplejack career.

"Some of the mill buildings are still there today but the chimneys have all but disappeared. Bolton is a much cleaner place now.

“The terrace houses nestling next to the mills represent the fact that many people lived nearby to work — so transport wasn’t necessary.

"Plus they probably would not have been able to afford cars. The houses seem to be a bit more spread out on the photos than they are today.

"The chimneys no longer being a feature in our skyline is a sign of the change in Bolton’s industry — from the textile industry to the service sector, for example — shopping centres, like the market place.

"I imagine the photos must have been taken very early in the morning or during work hours as there are no people or cars on the roads.

"There is a story about people doing their washing on a Monday — that was the only day they would be able to let the dust settle and there was no smoke on the clothes.”

The library’s collections access officer, Matthew Watson, said: “A lot of Bolton’s mills were in Deane, and Wigan Road is where a lot of factories were at that time.”

Anna Eavis, head of archive at English Heritage, said: “The Aerofilms Collection embodies all that is exciting about aerial photography.”

Rebecca Bailey, head of education and outreach at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) added: “Between 1919 and 1953, there was vast and rapid change to the social, architectural and industrial fabric of Britain, and Aerofilms provides a unique perspective on this upheaval.

"We hope that people will be able to immerse themselves in the past through the website, adding their own thoughts and memories.”

To view the images, including the 340 of Bolton, visit