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There is evidence of a Bronze Age burial site on Shire Hill (near Old Glossop) and other possibly prehistoric remains at Torside (on the slopes of Bleaklow). The Romans arrived in 78 AD. At that time, the area was within the territory of the Brigantes tribe, whose main base was in Yorkshire. The Romans built a road over the Pennines that descended into the Etherow valley along Doctor’s Gate, and in the late 1st century a fort, Ardotalia, on high ground above the river in present day Gamesley. The site of this fort was rediscovered in 1771 by an amateur historian, John Watson. It subsequently acquired the name “Melandra Castle”. The extensive site has been excavated, revealing fort walls, a shrine and the fort headquarters. The area has been landscaped to provide parking and picnic areas. The prehistoric earthworks of Torside Castle are visible on Harrop Moss just north west of Bleaklow Head above the Longdendale Valley.
The next expansion was powered by the machinery of Arkwright and since Glossop had a plentiful water supply the new cotton industry developed rapidly here in the late 18th and early 19th centuries – no less than 46 mills were built in this period, of which one of the first (1785) was Rolfes Mill in Wesley Street, which still stands opposite the school. The railway arrived in the 1840s to complete a period in which the population of Glossop multiplied by a factor of six in less than 50 years.