Milnrow is a suburban town within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on the River Beal at the foothills of the South Pennines, and forms a continuous urban area with Rochdale. It is 1.9 miles (3.1 km) east of Rochdale town centre, 10.4 miles (16.7 km) north-northeast of Manchester, and spans urban, suburban and rural locations—from Windy Hill in the east to the Rochdale Canal in the west. Milnrow is adjacent to junction 21 of the M62 motorway, and includes the village of Newhey, and hamlets at Tunshill and Ogden.
Historically in Lancashire, Milnrow during the Middle Ages was one of several hamlets in the township of Butterworth and parish of Rochdale. The settlement was named by the Anglo-Saxons, but the Norman conquest of England resulted in its ownership by minor Norman families, such as the Schofields and Cleggs. In the 15th century, their descendants successfully agitated for a chapel of ease by the banks of the River Beal, triggering its development as the main settlement in Butterworth. Milnrow was primarily used for marginal hill farming during the Middle Ages, and its population did not increase much until the dawn of the woollen trade in the 17th century.
With the development of packhorse routes to emerging woollen markets in Yorkshire, the inhabitants of Milnrow adopted the domestic system, supplementing their income by fellmongering and producing flannel in their weavers’ cottages. Coal mining and metalworking also flourished in the Early Modern period, and the farmers, colliers and weavers formed a “close-knit population of independent-minded workers”. The hamlets of Butterworth coalesced around the commercial and ecclesiastical centre in Milnrow as demand for the area’s flannel grew. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution supplanted domestic woollen industries and converted the area into a mill town, with cotton spinning as the principal industry. Mass-produced textile goods from Milnrow’s cotton mills were exported globally with the arrival of the railway in 1863. The Milnrow Urban District was established in 1894 and was governed by the district council until its abolition in 1974.