AN 85-year-old Rossendale author has penned a picture of when ‘The Valley’ was golden and prosperous in the latter half of the 19th century.

Former journalist Chris Aspin has chronicled when local working men and women formed co-operative stores and cotton mills which left the more famous Rochdale Pioneers of the movement in the shade.

The lifelong Helmshore resident details how their efforts sparked global interest in the136-page volume The Golden Valley - When Rossendale Led The World.

Mr Aspin, a former Lancashire Telegraph employee, has written more than 20 books about the borough, East Lancashire and the cotton industry.

This volume brings together a lifetime of work and took two to three months to write compared to his epic The Water Spinners about every mill that used Richard Arkwright’s water frame, which took 14 years.

Mr Aspin said: “Rossendale during the second half of the 19th century attracted world-wide interest.

“It was there that working men and women formed not just co-operative stores but also co-operative mills which were by far the most successful in the cotton trade’s long history.

“'The Golden Valley’ prospered prodigiously and if Rossendalians had heard of Karl Marx and his ‘Communist manifesto’ they would have laughed him off the stage.

“At the very moment he was predicting revolution by the downtrodden poor, the co-operators were enjoying the fruits of their endeavours. So wealthy did this corner of Lancashire become that both British and foreign investors regularly sought finance there

“Self-made men like Henry Whittaker Trickett, who was the world’s largest producer of slippers, and William John Porritt, who ploughed the fortune he made from making industrial felts into the new seaside resort of St Anne’s, exemplified the Valley spirit.”

Mr Aspin tells how even Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was impressed by the Valley’s reputation and success.

He chronicles how laws reducing factory working hours gave local people the time to set up their co-operative mills and companies as the railways enabled them to bring in raw materials and send out finished products while supplying them with better food.

Mr Aspin details the role chapels and churches played in Rossendale’s self-reliant success.

He said: “Almost all the money made by local enterprise was reinvested in the district and this growing wealth boosted the wellbeing of a largely contented population which believed progress would continue unabated.

“The masters built their mansions; the co-operators built mills and, along with several of the friendly societies, substantial houses that are still with us.

“The district had gained a much-envied reputation and the people who lived through the golden years had good reason to believe there was nowhere in Great Britain a more independent and progressive community.”

The book costs £8.99 (plus £1.60 post and packing) from the author at 21 Westbourne, Helmshore, BB4 4QD, phone 01706 227129 or email, and from some Rossendale shops.