A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Oldum, Oldom, Holdum, Olduum, Oldun, 1292; Oldome, 1427; Oldam, Oldham, Ouldham, (fn. 1) xvi cent.
This township, with an extreme length from southwest to north-east of over 4 miles, has an area of 4,665 acres. (fn. 2) The River Beal, flowing northwards, forms the boundary between Oldham on one side and Royton and Crompton on the other. To the east of it the surface rises, a height of 1,225 ft. being attained at Woodward Hill on the Yorkshire border. The rest of the surface is hilly, the average height decreasing towards the south-west. The ridge called Oldham Edge, 800 ft. high, comes southward from Royton into the middle of the town. The town of Oldham has spread over the whole of the centre of the township and beyond its borders; particularly along the road to Manchester. The population in 1901 was 137,246.
The old open Market Place may be taken as centre. From this High Street and Yorkshire Street—the latter running parallel with the old Goldburne—went eastwards through Mumps and Greenacres; a little off this road, on the northern side, is the church, to which Church Lane leads up from High Street. South-west from the Market Place the old Manchester road went out, crossed some 200 yds. away by King Street, going south to Ashton under Lyne, and westsouth-west goes out the present road to Manchester. From King Street George Street goes north-east to the Market Place, and Union Street east to Mumps. West Street leads from the Market Place towards Chadderton, and from it, as a continuation of King Street, Royton Street goes north to Royton and Rochdale.
Yorkshire Street, proceeding eastward, branches out into two great roads—to Holmfirth and to Huddersfield; the latter has also a branch leading north-east to Halifax. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company has cross lines through the township. That from Manchester, opened in 1842, enters the township from the west, where it is joined by the line from Middleton, at Werneth Station, and goes through and under the town to the Central station; near here it is joined by the London and North Western, the Oldham, Ashton, and Guide Bridge, and the Great Central Companies' line, running northwards from Ashton-under-Lyne, the stations being called Clegg Street and Glodwick Road. The combined railways run north-east to another station, Mumps, where a division takes place; the Lancashire and Yorkshire line goes northward to Shaw and Rochdale, with a station at Royton Junction, at which the Royton line goes off to the north-west, and the London and North Western's line runs eastward into Yorkshire. (fn. 3) A canal, joining with the Medlock, starts from Hollinwood, where a reservoir was formed in 1801.
The ancient divisions of the township were Sholver, (fn. 4) Glodwick, (fn. 5) and Werneth, (fn. 6) in the north-east, south-east, and south-west respectively; the modern divisions are Below Town and Above Town. Sholver lies near the middle of the Oldham part of the Beal valley; Broadbent Moss is to the south; in this division are Fulwood, Besom Hill, Moorside, Watersheddings, and Springhill. The town has spread south-east to include Glodwick; to the south are Fenny Hill and Keverlow, and to the west Alexandra Park, replacing the older name of Swine Clough. Werneth Park marks the site of Werneth Hall. About half a mile to the north of this stood Lees Hall and Bent Hall, and about the same distance to the south-east was Chamber Hall. Near this last are Hathershaw and Copster Hill. Hollinwood lies in the south-west corner of the township on the Manchester road.
There were 215 hearths liable to the hearth tax in 1666. The largest dwellings were those of Benjamin Wrigley (Chamber Hall), with eight hearths; Thomas Kay (Lees Hall), the same; Joshua Cudworth (Werneth Hall), six; and Bent Hall, six also. (fn. 8)
Defoe in 1727 thus records his impressions of the Oldham district:—'This country seems to have been designed by Providence for the very purposes to which it is now allotted—for carrying on a manufacture— which can nowhere be so easily supplied with the conveniences necessary for it. Nor is the industry of the people wanting to second these advantages. Though we met few people without doors, yet within we saw the houses full of lusty fellows, some at the dye vat, some at the loom, others dressing the cloths; the women and children carding or spinning; all employed, from the youngest to the oldest, scarce anything above four years old but its hands were sufficient for its own support. Not a beggar to be seen, not an idle person, except here and there in an almshouse, built for those that are ancient and past working. The people in general live long; they enjoy a good air, and under such circumstances hard labour is naturally attended with the blessing of health, if not riches. The sides of the hills were dotted with houses, hardly a house standing out of a speaking distance from another; and the land being divided into small inclosures, every three or four pieces of land had a house belonging to them. . . In the course of our road among the houses we found at every one of them a little rill or gutter of running water; . . . and at every considerable house was a manufactory, which not being able to be carried on without water, these little streams were so parted and guided by gutters and pipes that not one of the houses wanted its necessary appendage of a rivulet. Again, as the dyeing houses, scouring shops, and places where they use this water, emit it tinged with the drugs of the dyeing vat, and with the oil, the soap, the tallow, and other ingredients used by the clothiers in dressing and scouring, &c., the lands through which it passes, which otherwise would be exceeding barren, are enriched by it to a degree beyond imagination. Then, as every clothier necessarily keeps one horse at least, to fetch home his wool and his provisions from the market, to carry his yarn to the spinners, his manufacture to the fulling mill, and when finished, to the market to be sold, and the like, so every one generally keeps a cow or two for his family. By this means the small pieces of inclosed land about each house are occupied; and by being thus fed, are still further improved by the dung of the cattle. As for corn, they scarce grow enough to feed their poultry. (fn. 9)
The assessment for the house duty in 1779 shows only twelve dwellings of £10 rent and upwards. Chamber Hall was rented at £7 and the curate's house at £6. (fn. 10)
Dr. Aikin in 1793 found Oldham 'pleasantly situated on a high eminence, commanding an extensive and delightful prospect.' (fn. 11)
The modern history of the township is mainly that of the progress of its mining and manufacturing industries, beginning from the early part of the 17th century. The great extension of them occurred at the end of the 18th century, on the introduction of machinery; the growth of the place from a few scattered hamlets to a large well-organized town has since been rapid. The story is told in detail in Edwin Butterworth's Historical Sketches of Oldham. (fn. 12) Hatmaking was formerly an important industry, but decayed early last century, after the introduction of the silk hat. (fn. 13) Machine-making was introduced about 1794. Cotton-mills, however, are the most prominent business establishments. The mills in the district are said to consume over a million bales yearly, nearly a third of the cotton used in the kingdom.
As in most of the unenfranchised towns, the people of Oldham became Radical in politics in the early part of last century, and some movements suspected of sedition found patronage in the town. (fn. 14) John Lees, an operative cotton spinner, was one of the victims of the 'Peterloo massacre' of 1819, and the 'Oldham inquest' which followed was anxiously watched; the Court of King's Bench, however, decided that the proceedings were irregular, and the jury were discharged without giving a verdict. (fn. 15) Apart from politics the district was frequently disturbed by bread and labour riots, occasioned by periods of scarcity and the disturbance of employment following the introduction of machinery. (fn. 16)
Periodical literature began with the Oldham Observer in 1827. The first newspaper was the Chronicle, published weekly from May 1854. At present there are two newspapers—the Chronicle and the Standard— issued daily and weekly. (fn. 17)
The people have long been distinguished for their love of vocal music. (fn. 18)
The Oldham dialect has many peculiarities. (fn. 20)
Portions of the Roman road from Manchester into Yorkshire are recognizable in the southern part of the township. Some coins have been found. (fn. 21)
Lawrence Nuttall of Oldham issued a halfpenny token in 1669. (fn. 22)
Lawrence Chadderton, a Puritan divine, was a native of the town, (fn. 23) as was Samuel Ogden, one of the clergy ejected in 1662 for Nonconformity. (fn. 24) In more recent times Thomas Henshaw, the founder of the Bluecoat Hospital, was an inhabitant and tradesman here. (fn. 25) The Butterworths, father and son, rendered great services to students of local history. (fn. 26) Sir John Mellor, judge, was born at Hollinwood House in 1809, and died in 1887. (fn. 27) James Whitehead, M.D., 1812–85, son of John Whitehead, a herbalist of local fame, became a distinguished physician. (fn. 28) Thomas Oldham Barlow, R.A., 1824–89, was a famous engraver; the Oldham Corporation in 1891 secured an almost complete collection of his works. (fn. 29) Sir John Tomlinson Hibbert was born at Oldham in 1824, and was member of Parliament for his native town 1862 to 1874 and 1878 to 1895, holding minor offices in different Liberal ministries. He was made K.C.B. in 1893. On the formation of the Lancashire County Council in 1888 he was chosen to be its chairman, and retained this position till his retirement in February, 1908. He was appointed Constable of Lancaster Castle in 1907. He died at his house at Grange-over-Sands on 7 November, 1908. There should also be mentioned James Wolfenden of Hollinwood, a mathematician, who died in 1841 aged 87; John Whitehead, a botanist, who died in 1896; and James Dronsfield, of Hollinwood, 1826–96. Some prodigies are on record. (fn. 30)
In the 12th century KASKENMOOR, including Oldham and most of Crompton, was a thegnage estate held of the royal manor of Salford as 25 or 26 oxgangs of land by a rent of 20s., and sending a judge to the hundred court. Adam Fitz Swain was the tenant, and left two daughters, between whom the inheritance was divided. Maud married Adam de Montbegon, lord of Tottington, and her son Roger was the tenant of a moiety in 1212. Amabel, the other daughter, married William de Nevill, but this moiety was in 1212 in the king's hands, 'because the heirs had not spoken with the king.' (fn. 31) Each of the heiresses left issue, but the later inquisitions omit any reference to them, the descendants of their sub-tenants being stated to hold directly of the Earl or Duke of Lancaster as of his manor of Salford.
In 1212 the sub-tenants were Gilbert de Notton, for Crompton; Reyner de Wombwell, for Werneth and Oldham; Adam de Glodwick, for Glodwick; Ralph Tagun, for Sholver; and Henry de Scholefield, for Birshaw. Gilbert, Reyner, and Adam held a moiety under each lord; Ralph and Henry held under Nevill. The combined services due from them amounted exactly to the service required by the king.
There does not seem to have been any manor of OLDHAM, (fn. 32) but in later times it was usually supposed to be attached to WERNETH, the holder of this portion bearing the local name; thus in 1222–6 Alward de Oldham held 2 oxgangs in Werneth by a rent of 191/8d. (fn. 33) Though a number of Oldhams appear in pleadings, &c., (fn. 34) nothing is known of the descent of Werneth until the latter part of the 14th century, Margery daughter of Richard de Oldham and wife of John de Cudworth dying in October 1383 holding the manor of Oldham of the Duke of Lancaster by knight's service and by the rent of 6s. 6d. (fn. 35) Her son and heir, John de Cudworth, was born early in 1379, and proved his age in 1401. (fn. 36) The descent of the manor in the Cudworth family is fairly clear from this time (fn. 37) until 1683, when it was sold by Joshua Cudworth to Sir Ralph Assheton of Middleton. (fn. 38) The new owner gave it with his daughter and co-heir Catherine to Thomas Lister of Gisburn Park, Yorkshire; the Listers sold it for £25,500 to Parker & Sidebottom of London, by whom it was sold in 1795 to John Lees, cotton manufacturer, for £30,000. (fn. 39) It is now owned by Mrs. Charles Lees of Werneth Park.
Werneth Hall is said to have been originally a timber and plaster building, but this was destroyed by fire in 1456, (fn. 40) and no trace of it now remains. The present house, which is built of stone, stands on sloping ground on the south-west side of the town facing south at the corner of Werneth Hall Road and Frederick Street, the original portions dating probably from the beginning or middle of the 17th century. The house, however, has been so much altered and rebuilt both inside and out that its ancient appearance is almost wholly lost, but it was probably a building with a centre and end wings at the east and west. A portion only of the line of the old frontage remains; the west gable is still intact, but the centre portion has been replaced by a brick cottage, and the east wing appears to have been extended, and mutilated at the top, but whether it ever was a gabled building like the west wing is uncertain. There is an original entrance doorway in the east wing facing south, and the old five-light mullioned and transomed windows with labels still remain in both wings, except that the mullions in the lower windows have been cut away. The old west wing runs through to the back of the house, where there are two five-light mullioned and transomed windows with label mouldings, but a modern stone extension has been made to the house at the west, which effectually hides the old work on that side. The existing portion of the old hall is now used as a nurses' home.
CHAMBER HALL, to the south-east of Werneth, was for some centuries the residence of the Tetlows of Werneth, said to be descended from the Oldham family. (fn. 41) Lawrence Tetlow died 26 December 1582 seised of three messuages, &c., in Ashton under Lyne, held of the queen in socage by a rent of 5d.; and twelve messuages, &c., in Oldham, held of Ralph Barton in socage, by a barbed arrow at Christmas, and a pair of gloves (or 1d.) at St. Oswald's. Richard, his son and heir, was about thirty-seven years old. (fn. 42) Early in the 17th century the estate passed by sale to the Woods, (fn. 43) and from them in 1646 to the Wrigleys. (fn. 44) Henry Wrigley served as high sheriff in 1651, (fn. 45) and in local matters was a zealous supporter of Robert Constantine in the disputes as to the church of Oldham. (fn. 46) By marriage Chamber Hall passed to the Gregges of Chester, who in 1773 succeeded to Hopwood, and took this surname. (fn. 47) Edward Gregge Hopwood died in 1798, and left the Chamber Hall estate in equal portions to his three daughters. The eldest died unmarried; Elizabeth married James Starkey of Heywood; and the other married Maj.-General Peter Heron, Tory member for Newton in Makerfield from 1806 to 1814; and the estate was recently held by their heirs. (fn. 48)
Chamber Hall lies on the south side of Oldham at the bottom of Chamber Lane, but on an eminence formerly commanding a very extensive prospect of the country to the south. (fn. 49) The building belongs to two periods. The older part at the back was apparently erected in 1640, along with the barn to the south, and is a stone-built house of two stories and an attic with mullioned windows and gables, and the roofs covered with grey stone slates. Some of the windows are built up and others modernized, but many of the original 17th-century windows with the labels over remain. The walling is of long thin coursed stones with squared quoins, many of great length, at the angles.
The front of the house was pulled down in 1752, when the present block facing the street was erected. It is of three stories, built in stone in the plain classic style of the period, with central door and two squareheaded windows on each side of it. There are five large windows on the first floor with small attic windows over. The ground floor windows have architraves and keystones, but the upper ones architraves only, and the sashes retain their original wood bars. The front is faced with large squared coursed stones, with chamfered quoins at the angles, the chimneys are of brick, and the roof is covered with blue slates. On the south-west of the house is a large stone barn, with stone slated roof and wide end gables. The entrance doorways in each side of the barn have also smaller stone gables, that facing the house bearing the initials g. w., 1. w., and the date 1640 on a stone over a blocked three-light mullioned window. The initials are probably those of George Wood and his wife Jane (Tetlow), the builders of the house. The barn is a fine specimen of the stone-built barns of the 17th century. At the other side of the house, to the south-east, is a range of stone buildings, two stories high, now a cottage and stable, with outside stone steps at the north end. It has low mullioned windows and a stone-slated roof, and over the stable door is the date 1648 and the initials h. w., being those of Henry Wrigley, who bought the hall from the Woods in 1646. He is said to have 'employed numerous artisans in the trade of fustian weaving, and converted part of the outbuildings of his hall into a warehouse.' (fn. 50) The door with his initials may be an insertion in one of the original outbuildings, but it is more probable that he erected this range of buildings himself for workshops.
A portion of the Tetlow estate passed by marriage to the Langleys of Agecroft, and long continued in that family. (fn. 51) Another Tetlow family was settled at COLDHURST, (fn. 52) which was formerly an estate of the Hospitallers. (fn. 53)
LEES HALL was long the residence of the Chadderton family of Oldham and Crompton. (fn. 54) George Chadderton, living in 1515, held Rowdefields, Magot Fields, and Lees in Oldham of John Cudworth by knight's service and a rent of 4d. His widow Katherine died 10 April 1543, and their grandson Thomas (son of Thomas son of George) was the heir, and twenty-two years of age. (fn. 55) In the latter part of the 17th century it was acquired by the Lyon family, (fn. 56) and passed through various hands. Lawrence Chadderton, a famous Puritan divine, first master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, is said to have been born here. (fn. 57) The site is now occupied by saw-mills. Bent Hall, in the same neighbour occupier, John Lees, and has descended in the family to the hood, was at one time occupied as a hat manufactory. (fn. 58)
HORSEDGE, like Coldhurst, belonged to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. (fn. 59) The tenants were families named Taylor (fn. 60) and Hopwood. (fn. 61) The inheritance of the former passed to the Nuttalls and Radclyffes of Foxdenton. Whetstone Hill and Derker lie to the north-east of Horsedge. (fn. 62)
Hollinwood, (fn. 63) Hathershaw, (fn. 64) and other lands in the southern part of Werneth have left no trace in the records. Hathershaw Hall is a long low two-story stone building dating from the end of the 16th century, but with its eastern end rebuilt a century later, and what remains is probably but a fragment. It is divided into five cottages, and stands back from the road, facing south with an open space in front, in the midst of mills and small house property. The older portion is about 54 ft. in length with a slightly projecting wing at the west end, and is described as having quite gone to decay in 1826. (fn. 65) There have been sufficient repairs since to keep the building habitable, but nearly all trace of its original appearance has gone. There is a built-up stone doorway with a moulded head at one end, and a three-light stone mullioned window on the first floor at the other, but all the other windows are modern, and the building is of little or no architectural interest. The east end appears to have been rebuilt in 1694, (fn. 66) and is loftier than the older part, with quoins at the angles and square-headed two-light windows with centre mullion and transom. The windows are of good design, 3 ft. 6 in. wide, and 5 ft. 9 in. high, with double chamfered heads and jambs, and placed with an almost 18th-century regularity. The floor-line is marked by a stringcourse, below which the walling is of large squarecoursed blocks, and above of rough narrow-coursed stones. This portion of the building, which is about 38 ft. long, consists of two cottages, in one of which the mullions and transoms of the windows have been cut away and modern casements inserted. Two of the upper windows are built up, and a new doorway has been made to the second cottage. The roofs of the two portions of the building are ot different levels, and are covered with old grey stone slates, with stone ridge tiles. The end gables yet preserve their ball ornaments, though the copings are gone. Some of the old stone ornaments of the house now lie in front of one of the cottages in a small inclosed garden.
Clarksfield, on the eastern border, was held of the Cudworths by the Ashtons of Ashton-underLyne; it descended to the Booths. (fn. 67) It was in 1625 purchased by the present time. (fn. 68) The Cudworths also had the whole or part of Greenacres. (fn. 69)
Roundthorn was part of the estate of Sir Ralph Assheton of Middleton, and on his death in 1716 passed to Sir Nathaniel Curzon of Kedleston, in right of his wife Mary, a co-heir of Sir Ralph's, and descended to Earl Howe. (fn. 70) Waterloo, formerly Sheepwashes, was in the 17th and 18th centuries the residence of the Brierley family. (fn. 71)
GLODWICK, another of the ancient divisions of Oldham, (fn. 72) came by 1301 into the possession of Hugh de Atherton, (fn. 73) and descended to the Nevills of Hornby. (fn. 74) The later history is uncertain. In the 16th century the Radcliffes of Foxdenton paid the chief rent of 3s. 2d. due to the duchy, but the Standish and Ashton families also had shares. (fn. 75) During the 17th century the estate appears to have been sold in parcels. (fn. 76) The duchy rent of 3s. 4d. was in 1779 paid by the Rev. — Richardson. (fn. 77)
SHOLVER was in 1212 found to have been held by Ralph Tagun as 4 oxgangs of land; it was part of the Nevill estate then in the king's hand. (fn. 78) By 1246 it seems to have become divided; (fn. 79) but in 1324 Robert (or Roger) de Ashton paid the chief rent due for it, holding in right of his wife, it being of the inheritance of Gilbert de Hulme. (fn. 80) In 1346 it was held in moieties by Richard de Pilkington and Cecily dc Hulme. (fn. 81) From the Hulmes it descended to the Prestwich family, (fn. 82) who held it till the middle of the 17th century. It was sold to various persons about 1657. (fn. 83)
The growth of the town at the beginning of last century induced some of the inhabitants to procure an Act of Parliament, 1802–3, for the inclosure of the moors; the commissioners appointed had by 1807 completed the division of the lands among the landowners and occupiers. (fn. 87)
The government of the town appears to have been formerly in the hands of the vestry or the county magistrates. (fn. 88) In 1826 a board of Improvement Commissioners was constituted, who governed the town for twenty-two years. (fn. 89) During this time the Reform Act was passed, and in 1832 Oldham was made a parliamentary borough, the limits for this purpose including the whole chapelry. Two members were assigned to it. One of the first elected was the celebrated William Cobbett, who represented the place till his death in 1835. (fn. 90) The ratepayers becoming discontented with the administration of affairs by the commissioners, (fn. 91) petitioned for incorporation, and a charter was granted on 13 June 1849, constituting the inhabitants of the township a municipal borough; (fn. 92) the town was divided into eight wards, each having an alderman and three councillors. (fn. 93) William Jones, a representative of Werneth Ward, was the first mayor. (fn. 94) A town hall had been built in 1840; the present town hall succeeded in 1879. One of the first acts of the new council was to create a police force. (fn. 95) In 1854 the gas and water works, established by an Act passed in 1825, (fn. 96) were purchased. (fn. 97) The paving and lighting of the town were attended to, and public baths were opened. (fn. 98)
Markets and fairs had grown up, (fn. 99) and in 1855 a covered market was built by a private company. This was in 1865 purchased by the corporation; the fish market, adjoining it, was built in 1873. (fn. 100) The Lyceum, in the hands of trustees, was erected in 1856 as a library and reading room; (fn. 101) attached to it is a school of science and art, erected in 1864, and enlarged in 1880–81. (fn. 102) In the free library, art gallery, and museum is a reference and lending library, and an exhibition of pictures is held annually; the building was opened from 1883 to 1887. A school board was formed in 1871; (fn. 103) its offices were built in 1893. Alexandra Park was opened in 1865. (fn. 104) There are cemeteries at Greenacres, (fn. 105) Hollinwood, and Chadderton. The Corporation Electric Tramways and others provide services in the borough, and connect it with Middleton and Ashton. (fn. 106)
The other public buildings include the county court, post office, and theatres. (fn. 107) The workhouse is in Rochdale Road.
The 6th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment has its head quarters at Oldham; (fn. 108) there is also a squadron of yeomanry.
The church of ST. MART (fn. 109) stands on high ground east of the market-place on an ancient site, but is a modern building belonging to the early part of the 19th century. In 1476, Ralph Langley, parson of Prestwich, built ' a body of a church' there. This seems to impiy the existence of a chancel at that date. The indenture between Rector Langley and the masons he employed is still preserved in Prestwich Church, and sets forth that the building is to be of four arches on each side, of hewn stone, 12 ft. wide between the pillars and 18 ft. high, with a width in the nave of 20 ft., and a cross arch at each end, that at the west 'according for a steeple with two buttresses.' The aisles were to be 10 ft. wide, and the outer walls 12 ft. high, with five windows to the south aisle, one at each end and three upon the side, and a door and porch. The north aisle was to have four windows, one at each end and two in the north wall, and a door, but apparently no porch. Four of the windows were to be of three lights and the rest of two lights, and there were to be three buttresses to the south aisle and four to the north. This work, with later restorations (fn. 110) and additions, apparently lasted till the beginning of the last century.
Illustrations of the old church as it existed towards the close of the 18th century (fn. 111) show a building consisting of chancel with north and south chapels, nave with north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower, and a vestry added at the east end under the chancel window in 1777. (fn. 112)
James Butterworth, writing in 1817, says that the north wall had been built at three distinct periods, the portion eastward from the tower to the fourth buttress being the most ancient and containing the original windows, 'each window on the north side being composed of two pointed arches and on the south side of three, each compartment of equal height divided by mullions and with trefoiled heads.' This would tolerably well agree with the description of the 15th-century work set out in Langley's indenture, and presumably refers to his work. It suggests that the four three-light windows of the contract were all in the south aisle. Butterworth goes on to say, 'from the fourth to the fifth and from the fifth to the sixth buttress . . . are successive enlargements . . . other marks of enlargements are visible in the interior, which is a plain, simple, unadorned specimen of the early (sic) gothic style consisting of a body and two side wings or aisles.' The two chapels north and south of the chancel, and at the east end of the aisles, were clearly added after the completion of Langley's nave, which had eastern windows to both of its aisles, but whether the chancel was of later or earlier date than 1476 is uncertain. The chapel north of the chancel was known as the Cudworth chapel, being associated with the Cudworth family of Werneth Hall, and contained a marble monument to John Cudworth (d. 1652), with a long Latin inscription in the form of question and answer. (fn. 113) The south chapel was associated with the Radcliffe, Ashton, and Horton families, and was probably erected by Edmund Ashton of Chadderton in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 114)
The old church was pulled down in 1827, and the present structure erected between that date and 1830 (fn. 115) in the Gothic style of the period. It consists of a chancel 20 ft. wide by 14 ft. long, with small north and south vestries, nave of six bays 90 ft. by 26 ft., with north and south aisles each 17 ft. wide, and west tower 10 ft. square inside with walls 5 ft. thick. There are galleries on three sides, approached by wide stone staircases at the west end of the aisles north and south of the tower, and none of the fittings of the old building has been preserved. It has twice been restored, the last time being in 1897–9, when many improvements were effected in the interior, including the removal of the old square pews and the substitution of oak benches, and the placing of stalls in the first bay of the nave. The exterior is of stone, now gone black, and is of no architectural merit. (fn. 116)
An octagonal font, formerly belonging to the church, is now in the Oldham Museum. (fn. 117)
There is a ring of twelve bells, (fn. 120) cast by Mears in 1830. They were rehung in 1897. In 1486 Ralph Langley gave three bells to Oldham Chapel, (fn. 121) and in 1553 'four great bells' are recorded. (fn. 122) In 1722 the four bells were recast, and two new ones added, (fn. 123) but on the erection of the new church it was provided with an entirely new ring. (fn. 124)
The plate consists of a chalice of 1663, inscribed with the initials G. H. and A. H., and with the maker's mark H N over a bird; another 17th-century chalice; a flagon of 1770, inscribed with date and churchwardens' initials, and bearing the mark of Francis Crump; a flagon of 1788, inscribed with the date 1790 and initials of churchwardens, maker's mark t w; a paten of 1789–90, inscribed with the names of the minister (Rev. Thos. Fawcett) and churchwardens, 1790; two chalices of 1873, and two chalices and two patens of 1877.
The registers begin in 1558, and are contained in eighty-one volumes. The earlier ones have been transcribed by Mr. Giles Shaw. (fn. 125)
The parochial chapel of St. Mary is of unknown antiquity. (fn. 126) In 1406, on the complaint of the parishioners of Prestwich, the Archdeacon of Chester ordered the inhabitants of the chapelry of Oldham to contribute towards the blessed bread at Prestwich, as also bread, wine, and altar lights, the chapel at Oldham being 'notoriously dependent' upon the parish church. (fn. 127) Thomas Wild, curate of Oldham, is mentioned in a deed of 1411, (fn. 128) but though he and other curates probably retained their charge for life, their names do not occur in the Lichfield books. In 1447 the then Archdeacon of Chester addressed the chaplain celebrating in Oldham Chapel, enforcing his predecessor's decree as to the provision of blessed bread, &c on pain of suspension; the chapelry then, as now, comprised the townships of Oldham, Crompton, Royton, and Chadderton. (fn. 129) It was found necessary to issue similar orders from time to time; (fn. 130) but in spite of the desire of the people of Oldham to make their chapel a parish church, the parish has never been divided, except for a few years under the Commonwealth, (fn. 131) and though many ecclesiastical parishes have been created from 1835 onwards, Prestwich still includes Oldham, and the rector receives the commutation for the tithes of the chapelry. Even in official documents, however, Oldham has from time to time been styled a parish.
There was no endowment, and the chapel is therefore not mentioned in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534. (fn. 132) The list of ornaments in 1552 shows that it was well supplied at that time, there being at least three altars. (fn. 133) Under the Commonwealth, Edmund Ashton, farmer of the tithes, as the price of his peace with the Parliamentary authorities, agreed to give £140 to the chapels of Oldham and Shaw, of which £100 went to the former. (fn. 134) On the lapse of this arrangement at the Restoration, the curate again became dependent on whatever stipend the rector of Prestwich might assign him. (fn. 135) In the 18th century grants were made by the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, the lands therewith purchased yielding a rent of £22 in 1778. (fn. 136) At this time, in addition to the ancient Shaw chapel, three new churches had been built in the neighbourhood, at Oldham, Hollinwood, and Royton.
The chapel became the head of an ecclesiastical district in 1835. (fn. 137) The rector of Prestwich presents the incumbent, and the income is now £530 a year.
|oc. 1379||John de Blackburne (fn. 138)|
|oc. 1411||Thomas Wild|
|oc. 1517||N. Cowper (fn. 139)|
|oc. 1540||Thomas Sherock (fn. 140)|
|oc. 1563||Roger Wrigley (fn. 141)|
|oc. 1585||Richard Bateson (fn. 142)|
|oc. 1589||Thomas Hunt (fn. 143)|
|1619||Isaac Allen, M.A. (fn. 144) (Queen's and Oriel Colleges, Oxford)|
|oc. 1619||— Hall (fn. 145)|
|oc. 1641||William Langley (fn. 146)|
|1646||Humphrey Barnett (fn. 147)|
|1647||John Worthington, (fn. 148) B.A. (St. Catharine's Hall, Cambridge)|
|1647||Robert Constantine (fn. 149)|
|1650||John Lake, B.A. (St. John's College, Cambridge) (fn. 150)|
|1654||Robert Constantine (fn. 151)|
|1662||— Loben (fn. 152)|
|oc. 1664||John Walworth (fn. 153)|
|1669||Isaac Harpur, (fn. 154) B.A. (St. John's College, Cambridge)|
|1696||Richard Sugden, M.A. (Clare College, Cambridge)|
|1712||John Halliwell, (fn. 155) M.A. (Brasenose College, Oxford)|
|1730||James Sugden, (fn. 156) B.A. (St. Catharine's Hall, Cambridge)|
|1732||Samuel Towson (fn. 157)|
|1773||Thomas Fawcett (fn. 158)|
|1861||David Mitchell Alexander, (fn. 159) M.A. (Brasenose College, Oxford)|
|1864.||William Walters, (fn. 160) M.A. (Christ Church, Oxford)|
|1873||William Francis Wilberforce, (fn. 161) M.A. (University College, Oxford)|
|1876||Alfred Julius James Cachemaille, (fn. 162) M.A. (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge)|
|1892||George Perry-Gore (fn. 163)|
In 1548 four priests at Oldham were summoned to the bishop's visitation; one of them, Lawrence Hall, was attached to the chapel at Shaw in Crompton. In 1563 onwards only one appeared. (fn. 164) The curate at the end of the century (T. Hunt) was a strong Puritan, who refused to wear the surplice and to comply in other respects with the statutory requirements. His successor was in 1625 presented to the Bishop of Chester for not wearing the surplice; he said he would do so as soon as the churchwardens should provide one. (fn. 165) During the Commonwealth (fn. 166) the Presbyterian incumbent appears to have been popular; he was ejected in 1662. From this time there is little to record. (fn. 167) In 1778 the church was 'regularly served every Sunday and two sermons preached, and prayers read on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year ; and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper administered the second Sunday in every month . . . and the younger part of the congregation catechised every Wednesday and Friday between Easter and Whitsuntide.' (fn. 168) The provision made in the two other Oldham churches was not so liberal. (fn. 169)
The growth of the town in modern times has led to a great increase in the number of places of worship. In connexion with the Established Church the two buildings just named, St. Peter's in Chapel Street (fn. 170) and St. Margaret's, Hollinwood, (fn. 171) were erected in 1765–8 and 1766–9 respectively; the rector of Prestwich is patron. The former, after being enlarged, was rebuilt in 1901 and the latter in 1879. St. James's, Greenacres Moor, followed in 1829; (fn. 172) Christ Church, Glodwick, in 1844; (fn. 173) St. John's, on the border of Chadderton, in the same year; (fn. 174) Holy Trinity, Waterhead, in 1847; (fn. 175) Holy Trinity, Coldhurst, (fn. 176) was consecrated in the next year; St. Thomas's, Leesfield, consecrated also in 1848; (fn. 177) St. Thomas's, Werneth, (fn. 178) which has a mission-room called St. Michael's, was built in 1855: St. Thomas's, Moorside, (fn. 179) in 1872; St. Stephen and All Martyrs', Lower Moor, in 1873; (fn. 180) St. Andrew's, Werneth, in the same year; (fn. 181) St. Mark's, Glodwick, (fn. 182) in 1876; St. Paul's, Ashton Road, in 1880 ; (fn. 183) and All Saints', Northmoor, in 1891. The patronage of these is in various hands ; the Crown and the Bishop of Manchester present alternately to Coldhurst, Leesfield, Waterhead, Chadderton St. John, Werneth St. Thomas, and Glodwick Christ Church; the bishop alone to St. Paul's; the rector of Prestwich to St. James's ; five trustees to Werneth St. Andrew, St. Stephen's, St. Mark's, and Northmoor ; Thomas Mellodew and John Lees to Moorside St. Thomas. Another church—St. Matthew's, Roundthorn—is a chapel-of-ease to St. Thomas's, Lees.
The Wesleyan Methodists' first chapel was built in 1775; the church in Manchester Street was opened by John Wesley in 1790, and enlarged in 1850. (fn. 184) There are also chapels at Greenacres Road (Wesley), Glodwick, Watersheddings, Moorside, and Northmoor. There are two circuits.
The Primitive Methodists have four circuits in the Oldham district, with nine chapels in the township. The Methodist New Connexion has six chapels; the Methodist Free Church four, and the Independent Methodists five. (fn. 185)
The Baptists have four churches, and the Particular Baptists four. (fn. 186)
Robert Constantine, on being ejected from the curacy of Oldham in 1662, continued to minister in the village and neighbourhood. Before 1695 he was living in a house at Greenacres, which also did duty as a place of worship; he removed to Manchester, and for a time nothing is known of his congregation, but a barn converted into a chapel was used from 1699 till 1784–5, when the Independents erected the chapel which served till 1854, the date of the present building. (fn. 187) Union Street represents an effort made in 1807; the first chapel was opened in 1823, and after a fluctuating history the congregation built the present one in 1855. Hope Chapel was built by Samuel Lees, of the Soho Iron Works, in 1823; it was replaced by the present one in 1866. Providence Chapel is the result of a secession from Hope in 1829. Townfield Chapel began as an undenominational meeting-place in 1850, then it was Methodist, and from 1874 Congregational. A secession from it in 1883 led to the erection of Derker School-chapel in 1886. The history of Werneth Chapel begins in 1868, but the school-chapel was not built till 1874. A cottage meeting in 1878 led to the school-chapel in Ashton Road in 1880. At Hollinwood, then 'a much neglected village,' work began in 1850, but the chapel was not built till 1866. At Waterhead services commenced in cottages in 1837; other buildings succeeded, and a chapel was built in 1870. The chapel at Pastures was built in 1856. (fn. 188)
The Presbyterian Church of England was founded in 1883, the building being opened four years later. (fn. 189) Salem Moravian Church, Clarksfield, was built in 1824, becoming an independent congregation in 1836; on the other side of the town Westwood Church was opened in 1869, after some years'preparatory work. (fn. 190) There are Catholic Apostolic (or Irvingite), Welsh Calvinistic, Salvation Army, and Church of Christ chapels, and some mission rooms. The Society of Friends has long had a meeting-house here. (fn. 191) The Unitarians have a chapel. (fn. 192) The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) also have services. (fn. 193)
There are four Roman Catholic churches: St. Mary's, built in 1838; (fn. 194) Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Patrick's, 1862–70; St. Anne's, Greenacres, 1880–1903; and Corpus Christi, Hollinwood, 1878.
The report of 1826 is the latest official record. (fn. 195) The principal endowments at that time were educational, (fn. 196) but some were for the poor of Oldham, (fn. 197) Crompton, (fn. 198) and Royton. (fn. 199) Chadderton had no special fund.