I recently came across 2 old books that are now available free online. The first was brought to my attention by the TC commentor 'Alf Garnett' in a recent post. It was published in 1823 and written by James Butterworth of Coldhurst, Oldham. It is entitled 'History & Description Of The Town & Parish Of Ashton under Lyne In The County of Lancaster & The Village of Dukinfield In The County Of Chester'.
The title is certainly a mouth full but it is a fascinating account of the sparsely populated hamlets in and surrounding Ashton-under-Lyne. It also indicates how many well known street names originated. If you have the time and inclination it is well worth a read if only for the details of how people lived in that and previous centuries. There are some interesting facts about Ashton-under-Lyne and how Hartshead and Audenshaw were larger districts than they are today.
The Parish of Ashton-under-Lyne was divided into 4 divisions - Ashton Town, Audenshaw, Knott Lanes and Hartshead. It was mainly cultivated land and woodlands. The division of Knott Lanes included Park Bridge, Taunton, Holts, Alt, Lees and Austerlands. The Audenshaw division included Woodhouses, Waterhouses, Little Moss (sic), Shepley and Hooley Hill. The Hartshead division was the largest in Ashton-under-Lyne. It included Smallshaw, Hurst, Hazelhurst, Limehurst, Ridge Hill, Arlies, Luzley, Mossley and
Stayley Bridge (sic). Micklehurst, now in Mossley was then in the parish of Mottram-longden-dale (sic)
Peat for fuel was obtained from Ashton Moss. Pubs mentioned that are still in business today include the Pitt & Nelson & the Highland Laddie. These were meeting places for the many various societies and public bodies.
The second book was published in December 1841 and was written by Edwin Butterworth of Busk, Oldham. Edwin Butterworth was the son of James Butterworth. The book is entitled 'An Historical Account Of The Towns Of Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge &Dukinfield'. This second publication gives a lot more detail of the old towns. Both books can be quite heavy going in places, with lots of geneology regarding the nobility and landed gentry of the time, but if you dig into them you will find many fascinating facts. The following are examples of the book's content.
In the afternoon of June 19th 1817 at 4:00 pm "an unusual darkness came on and prevailed about 20 minutes, during which period hailstones fell, or rather prisms of ice, of between four to six inches in diameter.”
The construction of Ashton Market commenced in 1828 and was opened on Saturday 2nd July 1830. Cotton had arrived and cotton spinning and weaving was the principal means of employment in the area. This was initially carried out in people's cottages but in 1839 there were 33 cotton mills "of moderate size" in the borough employing about 7,000 hands.
The canals from Manchester to Ashton-under-Lyne, Fairfield to Fairbottom, Waterhouses to Hollinwood and Clayton to Heaton Norris were built at a cost of £150,000 and were opened in 1797. Coal and lime were the main goods carried. The railway from Manchester to Sheffield, via Ashton-under-Lyne and the Woodhead Tunnel, was commenced in October 1838.
The book states that "the environs of Ashton and Stalybridge are decorated by the elegant mansions of the wealthy manufacturers". In 1775, shortly after the introduction of the cotton trade, there were 2,859 inhabitants in Ashton Town and 15,632 in the entire parish. This increased to 22,686 and 46,343 respectively in 1841. It is mentioned that at the time "the bulk of the population is in a deplorable state of ignorance and much addicted
to intemperance" – pretty similar to today then.
The streets were first lighted by gas in 1826. Dame Elizabeth Booth donated £2 per year "for the mayor, aldermen and common-council for a good-drinking". So the gravy train was in existence even then. A savings bank was formed in 1829. In 1833 £3,994 was deposited and in 1840 £5,355.
"The Ashton and Dukinfield Mechanics Institution" established a library in Warrington Street in 1825, although in 1840 only 153 people became members - 1 in 163 of the population of Ashton and it's surrounding suburbs. The library contained 791 volumes of
"well selected works".
"The district of Stayley, in the parish of Mottram-en-Longdendale, (sic) was formerly and is yet, in some degree, a wild and romantic region, interspersed with bold hills and the moorish gullies separating them. The scenery of the neighbourhood is bold and impressive; but those enemies to the picturesque - pit coal and steam engines, have diminished the natural beauties and substituted in their place employment for the poor and opulence for the wealthy."
"The views from the summit of 'The Wild Bank', elevated as it is are very extensive and though the axe of the woodman has prostrated the stately oaks there is still here much of grandeur and beauty."
"Thompson Cross received it's designation from a plain cross which stood at the junction of several narrow lanes."
In 1814 there were 12 factories in Stalybridge and in 1818 they had increased to 16. The site of the woods of Staley became a flourishing town and in 1841 the number of cotton mills was 32. The hands engaged in the factories were over 9,000. In 1833, the average wage of the hands was 13s 6d (67½p).
The mill owners "have huge factory like houses, dinners of puzzling variety, servants, everything of the costliest and best to administer to their sensuous wants, but where are there any indications of generous liberality? The yearly stagnation of their income generates nothing but a noxious desire to have a higher chimney or a bigger mill than their neighbours." No change here then.
In 1841 the population of Stalybridge was 21,000. this had increased from 5,500 in 1823 and from 140 in 1749. Click here for a link to read the the second buck. Have a read, especially the second book, I am sure you will find it interesting.
Many thanks to Bill for writing this truly fascinating article. Bill has a brilliant called Walks in Tameside. Be warned, if you are into walking and exploring Tameside and the wider area his website can become addictive as it is full of great information about exploring the great outdoors on our doorstep. The Tameside Walks website can be viewed by clicking here. Tameside Citizen