Bolton - multi-million pound investments are ensuring a bright future

Tony Keating with The Bolt supercar at the launch event this autumn

Tony Keating with The Bolt supercar at the launch event this autumn - Credit: Archant

Mixing ancient and modern. a host of developments are putting this Lancashire town on the map - at home and abroad. Sue Riley reports

Fast cars and glamorous weddings aren’t perhaps the first things that come to mind when you think of Bolton. But think again. Ever since one of its most famous sporting sons Amir Khan wed his American bride in a lavish ceremony, marriage seems to be on his mind. The former world champion boxer has just been given permission to build a £5 million luxury wedding and banqueting venue in the town.

It’s one of a host of developments in this former mill town. Even the award-winning food market is getting in on the act. It was opened in the 1930s and still offers a fabulous array of vegetable, fish, meat and cheese stalls and there is a determination to make this the food hub of the the north west. That’s why this month it will get even better as work finishes on a £4.5 million makeover.

Already attracting three million visitors a year, the refurbishment is aiming to encourage new indoor stalls offering hot food with a seating area plus a new outdoor market and an ultra-modern glass entrance. ‘When we were looking at overall strategy we were keen to identify those assets we have in the town centre which represent Bolton’s identity and culture. Very clearly, the market was all of those things,’ said Keith Davies, the council’s director of development and regeneration.

The market aside, food plays a major part in Bolton’s economy as two of its key employers are the bakers Greenhalgh and Warburtons and there’s also the chilled food manufacturer Stateside Foods. Then there’s the Food and Drink Festival every summer which this year attracted 130,000 people.

The improved food market is all part of a major investment in Bolton over the next few years – another £9m has been set aside to improve the town centre with plans to attract a cinema and provide free parking at key times. There’s a raft of other multi-million investments currently under way too, including a £48m scheme to move the bus station next to the railway station. ‘We are giving Bolton a 21st century transport hub,’ said Mr Davies. Other schemes include plans to build 1700 homes and employment space on land at the former Horwich Loco Works and work is also due to start next year at the former Cutacre Coal Mine (now known as Logistics North) to turn it into a major employment area. Aldi supermarket has announced it will be the site’s first occupant and the hope is that once it’s up and running the site will create up to 4,000 jobs.

This autumn work also begins on another multi-million pound project to turn the Grade II All Souls Church from a redundant building into a community space. This disused historic church will become focal point for local people of all faiths or none and it is being transformed with a £4 grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund. Loyd Grossman, chairman of The Churches Conservation Trust, launched the project and local schoolchildren paraded the church banner prior to them being conserved.

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‘There has been £200m of investment in recent years,’ said Mr Davies and the council is keen to ensure the momentum isn’t lost. Certainly the opening last year of the £30m leisure centre Bolton One has attracted more than 320,000 visits so far. Not completely surprising in a town which prides itself on its sporting prowess - and, of course, you have to work off all that delicious food somehow.

The town is an impressive mix of old world grandeur – take a wander around the town square with its imposing civic buildings – and one which is looking to the future. In recent years there’s been a £200m investment in the place once known for its textile industry and it shows no signs of stopping. It’s not all about investment in the infrastructure and employment though, several initiatives are putting Bolton on the international stage in very different ways.

For instance, the council’s Egyptology collection - more than 250 of the museum’s 12,000 artefacts - are currently on tour in Asia, one of the largest ever touring shows of Egyptian exhibits. Among the most important pieces in Bolton’s collection, a rare male mummy which it has been speculated may be the son of Ramses II, forms one of the major attractions and detailed research is currently under way after it was x-rayed and CT scanned by experts in Taiwan at the beginning of the tour.

When it returns to Bolton in two years time the museum is hoping to have a new home for the artefacts as staff are currently applying for a £1.8m grant to renovate the museum’s Egyptian gallery which hasn’t been touched since the 1970s. Dr Carolyn Routledge, who is in charge of the collection, said they are also looking at the possibility of purchasing a replica of the tomb chamber of Pharaoh Thutmoses III from the Valley of the Kings to install in the newly refurbished gallery. ‘We have the largest collection in council hands and the fifth or sixth largest collection the UK. It’s a lot of responsibility,’ she said.

Keating Cars is another example of how Bolton is motoring - its newest vehicle The Bolt is capable of speeds of up to 300mph. Unveiled this autumn, it’s the latest supercar to be made by Tony Keating, this time with technical support from the University of Bolton where he was a student many years ago. Tony 41, said: ‘For real supercar enthusiasts, with very deep pockets, a twin turbo-charged version of The Bolt would achieve 0 to 60mph in 2 seconds and travel faster than any supercar in history.’ The proof is in the pudding as they say and the car is being put to the test in the United Arab Emirates. Bolton really is a town in the fast lane.

In the footsteps of a master

Bolton landscape painter James Naughton, pictured above and right, has followed in the footsteps of one of his inspirations, Thomas Moran, to create an exhibition of work on show in his home town from next March.

James first saw paintings by the 19th century Moran when he was starting out on his career. They left a lasting impression. This year he received an Arts Council grant to travel to America to see the places Bolton-born Moran painted in his distinctive style rather reminiscent of Turner. Now James, whose landscape paintings sell for thousands of pounds, is working on a series of oils which will go on show at Bolton Musuem and Art Gallery. The large-scale works will hang alongside Moran’s images of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton range which take pride of place in the gallery. ‘Thomas Moran’s paintings have been a constant inspiration to me throughout my life, and it has been a long held ambition of mine to make the same journey and to experience the same landscapes as Moran. I hope the exhibition will inspire young painters in the same way that Moran has inspired me throughout my life,’ James said. ‘My intention is to create a strong sense of our shared tradition, with an emphasis on how different artists relate their experiences into pieces of art, thus communicating a unique vision. Even showing in a gallery with some of Moran’s work is thrilling!’

The exhibition which runs from March until November 2014 will be the most ambitious the museum in Bolton has staged.

While you are there

Visit Smithills Hall which dates back to the 14th Century and is set in 2,200 acres of woodland on the West Pennine Moors

Have a stroll around the indoor and outdoor market which is open Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm. The car boot market is open Sunday, 7.30am to 2pm.

Watch the free firework display at Leverhulme Park at 8pm on November 1.

Climb 30ft ropes and try out the zip wires high up in the trees at the popular Go Ape activity centre at Rivington. More details at

Watch the Christmas Parade at the Big Switch On between 5pm-6.30pm on Thursday, November 21 in the town centre.

Bolton Museum is hosting the popular Open Art Exhibition from December 7 to February 2 2014. There you can find out about the men behind Bolton’s industrial heritage including Lord Lever and Samuel Crompton who invented the spinning mule. Or read the fascinating story of mill owner’s daughter Annie Barlow who was responsible for providing the town with its amazing Egyptology collection.

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