Westhoughton’s History


The name Westhoughton is derived from the Old English words "halh" (dialectal "haugh") for a nook or corner of land, and "tun" for a farmstead or settlement - meaning a "westerly settlement in a corner of land"

The town has been spelt various ways, often the "West-" was omitted. In 1210 it was spelt as Halcton, 1240 as Westhalcton, 1292 as Westhalghton, 1302 as Westhalton, and in the 16th century as Westhaughton and Westhoughton

The people of Westhoughton are known as "Keawyeds" (cow heads) and the town is known as "Keawyed City". There are two local stories how this name came about. One tells that in 1815, a celebration was held to mark the end of the Napoleonic Wars and that an ox was roasted. This was mounted on a pole and was fought over by two opposing factions in the town. The victors were dubbed "Keaw-Yeds".

Another story tells that a farmer in Westhoughton found his cow had got its head stuck in a five barred gate (or fence), and rather than cut the gate, the farmer cut the cow's head off, since the cow cost less than the gate

There are pictures in existence of a frock-coated farmer sawing off the head of a cow unfortunate enough to be trapped by the neck in a farm gate.

The caption reads “It’s getten it yed fast in’t gate.  I’st a’t’ get it eaut some road.”

There is no evidence to substantiate this story which has circulated around for about two hundred years; but the story seems to have caught the imagination of some mischievous journalist and has been embellished for generations:  Indeed, the Westhoughton Folk (or Howfeners) went along with this story and the fascination with it, and each year at the ‘Howfen Fair’ or ‘wakes’ festival, they pulled in crowds from miles around and benefitted from this curious legend.

But the truth of this nick-name and the history of the Keaw-Yed legend can be explained more precisely:

Westhoughton was, and still is, a large area made up of small outlying districts – Brinsop, Chequerbent, Chew Moor, Daisy Hill, Dobb Brow, Fourgates, Hart Common, White Horse, & Wingates., (part of Over Hulton was added in 1898).  All these places had their own customs & independent ways, and there was quite a marked rivalry between the people of the districts, who congregated periodically in the centre of the area where the Westhoughton Chapel and cattle market were situated and the Annual Wakes (Howfen Fair) was held.

During these assemblies, the Wingates-ers would challenge the Hart Common-ers and the Daisy Hill folk would challenge the Chequerbent-ers  etc., to various games which included football and no doubt, some clog fighting (although there would be clog ‘dancing’ too).

In 1815 – to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Waterloo – an Ox or bullock, was roasted on the old mill site (this was where the first steam- powered weaving factory was built, and subsequently burned down by Luddites from neighbouring towns, in 1812).  After they had all had their fill of roast-beef, they decided to have a game of football.

A Trophy had to be given to the winners, so they decided that the champions would win the head of the Ox.

As Bonaparte had recently been defeated at the Battle of Waterloo the ox-head was christened ‘Old Boney’.  The Victors would put Old Boney’s head on a pole and march around triumphantly! 

This tradition was continued for many years….hence the nickname Keaw Yeds.

The local people still shorten the name Westhoughton to Howfen, but we can like a bit of fun, and can stand a bit of banter, so we don’t mind the neighbouring towns calling us Keawyeds (pron: Keh Yeds) and referring to Westhoughton as Keawyed City…after all it’s better than being called “Petty Door Bangers!”

As well as the central town area, Westhoughton is made up of several "villages" which have (or at least had) their own distinctive character, sports traditions, amenities including railway stations.

For more information over the centuries, please refer to

Early History

17th & 18th Centuries

19th Century

20th Century