The name Shaw is derived from the Old English word sceaga, meaning “wood”. The name Crompton is also of Old English derivation, from the words crom or crumb, meaning “bent” or “crooked”, and ton, for “hamlet or village”. A local historian stated that “this name aptly describes the appearance of the place, with its uneven surface, its numerous mounds and hills, as though it had been crumpled up to form these ridges”. The University of Nottingham’s Institute for Name-Studies has offered the suggestion that the name Crompton means “river-bend settlement”, which may reflect Crompton’s location on a meander of the River Beal.
The dual name of both Shaw and Crompton has been said to make the town “distinctive, if not unique”, while preference of Shaw over Crompton and vice versa has been (and to a limited extent remains) a minor local controversy and point of confusion. Today, the single name of Shaw seems to have won preference in the locality.
Shaw was originally a hamlet and sub-district of Crompton, and appears to have originated as the commercial and ecclesiastic centre of Crompton because of a small chapel sited there dating back to the 16th century. Before then, Whitfield had been the largest village in Crompton. In 1872, Shaw was noted as one of three villages in Crompton. However, due to Shaw’s urbanisation following the construction of a major road from Werneth to Littleborough, and the establishment of a post office sub-district named and situated in Shaw, it came to dominate Crompton. Additionally, a separate ecclesiastical parish was created for the township in 1835, which was given the name Shaw because of the church’s location on Shaw Moor, in Crompton. The names merged to form the present day Shaw and Crompton, which boundary markers have used since at least the 1950s.