Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester in North West England. Close to the West Pennine Moors, Bolton is 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Manchester. It is surrounded by several smaller towns and villages that together form the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton, of which Bolton is the administrative centre. The town of Bolton has a population of 139,403, whilst the wider metropolitan borough has a population of 262,400.
At the time of the 2001 Census, there were 56,390 people in employment who were resident within Bolton. Of these, 21.13% worked in the wholesale and retail trade, including repair of motor vehicles; 18.71% worked within manufacturing industry; 11.00% worked within the health and social work sector and 6.81% were employed in the transport, storage and communication industries.
A former mill town, Bolton has been a production centre for textiles since Flemish weavers settled in the area in the 14th century, introducing a wool and cotton-weaving tradition. The urbanisation and development of the town largely coincided with the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. Bolton was a 19th-century boomtown but the British cotton industry declined sharply after the First World War and by the 1980s, cotton manufacture had virtually ceased in Bolton.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, heavy industry was replaced by service-based activities including data processing, call centres, hi-tech electronics and IT companies. The town retains some traditional industries employing people in paper-manufacturing, packaging, textiles, transportation, steel foundries and building materials. Missiles were produced at the British Aerospace (BAe) factory in Lostock, Reebok brand's European headquarters are located in the area and Bolton is also the home of the family bakery, Warburtons. On 13 February 2003, Bolton was granted Fairtrade Town status.
There are several regeneration projects planned for Bolton over the next ten years, including Church Wharf and Bluemantle and Merchant's Quarter, which together will contribute 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of business space. The Bolton Innovation Zone is a large £300 million development with the University of Bolton at its core.
Tourism plays a part in the economy. Bolton attracts visitors to its shopping centres, markets, public houses, restaurants and cafes in the town centre as well retail parks and leisure facilities close to the town centre and in the surrounding towns and suburbs.
Bolton is well served by the local road network and national routes. The A6, a major north–south trunk road, passes to the west through Hunger Hill and Westhoughton. The A666 dual carriageway is a spur from the M61/M60 motorway interchange and the M61 has three dedicated junctions.
Bolton Interchange is located on the Manchester loop of the West Coast Mainline which was served by Virgin West Coast trains passing through Manchester Piccadilly station. Managed by Northern, the station is part of a town-centre transport interchange with services to Manchester, Wigan, Southport, Blackburn.