There are signs of human activity in Heywood dating from about 8000 BC. Flints from the Mesolithic period have been found in Heywood, in the Cheesden Valley and Knowl Moor areas. All were discovered on high ground close to a water source, and all are quite small and suitable for use as arrowheads and similar objects.
According to a report on an archaeological survey of the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale (which appeared in the Greater Manchester Archaeological Journal in 1985) it is likely that the flints were not left by early residents of Heywood, but rather by bands of hunters.
In later times, the people who farmed the inhospitable countryside made a living by weaving - mostly wool from their own sheep - using a handloom, and the early mills were designed to help them with the supply of yarn and the provision of ancillary services.
As early as 1580, Queen Elizabeth I granted one John Blackwall the right to mine coal in the Cheesden Valley. In addition, it is believed that during the 17th century small communities – ‘Folds’ – could have had their own mines.