Oldham St Mary, Lancashire GenealogyEdit This Page
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OLDHAM, an enfranchised borough, a parochial chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Prestwich, hundred of Salford, S. division of the county of Lancaster, 7 miles (N. E. by E.) from Manchester; containing 60,447 inhabitants, of whom 42,592 are in the township of Oldham. This place, the name of which appears to indicate some degree of antiquity, has within the last seventy years much increased in importance, from the rapid progress of its manufactures, for which it is indebted to its vicinity to Manchester, and to the mines of excellent coal in the neighbourhood. The town is situated on elevated ground, near the source of the river Irk, and is bounded on the east by a branch of the Medlock; the houses are irregularly built, but since the extension of its manufactures, the place has been very much enlarged, and has undergone considerable improvement. It was first lighted with gas in 1827, by a company who also supply the town with water, and whose capital, originally £48,000, was increased in 1838 to £72,000. The gasworks, at the bottom of Greaves-street, were built at a cost of £20,000, including the laying down of the mains; the water is supplied by iron pipes, from a reservoir covering about twelve acres of ground, in Strines-dale, about two miles and a half eastward, partly in Lancashire and partly in Yorkshire, the whole constructed at an expense of £28,000. The affairs of the town are regulated by commissioners appointed under a police act obtained in 1827, which also provided for the building of a town-hall and other offices. The buildings on the terrace, erected by private enterprise in 1836, contain a public room and a room intended for a market; and there are a subscription library, founded in 1807; a lyceum, in 1839; and a mechanics' institution.
Oldham was for a long period celebrated for the manufacture of hats, which was established so early as the fifteenth century, and is still carried on to a small extent. The principal manufactures now are, those of fustians, velveteens, cotton and woollen corduroys, and the spinning of cotton, the last being the most considerable. In 1785 the number of cotton-mills was six; in 1815 the number was 47; in 1839 it had increased to 94, and it is at present much greater: they are all worked by steam. A great quantity of the coal which is obtained in the neighbourhood is sent to Manchester, and the collieries, being exceedingly productive, afford occupation to a large part of the population. The number of steam-engines employed within the borough, in cotton spinning and weaving, machine-making, ironfounding, bleaching, and logwood-grinding, in the year 1846, was 179; in raising coal, 58; and in grinding corn, 1; making a total of 238 steam-engines, of 5695horse power. The trade at the western extremity of the town is much facilitated by the Oldham canal, constructed in pursuance of an act obtained in 1792; it commences at Hollinwood, and forms a direct communication with Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Stockport. The Rochdale canal passes through the township of Chadderton. There is a branch to the Manchester and Leeds railway, from Oldham; and in 1846 an act was passed for making a branch, 4¼ miles long, to the Manchester and Huddersfield railway: an extension of the former branch, from the west part of the town to Mumps, or Greenacres moor, on the east, was opened November 1, 1847. A market for provisions is held on Saturday; and fairs take place on the first Thursday after Old Candlemas-day, on May 2nd, July 8th, and the first Wednesday after October 12th, for horses, cattle, sheep, and pedlery. By the act 2nd William IV., cap. 45, Oldham was constituted a borough, with the privilege of returning two members to parliament. The right of voting is in the £10 householders of the townships of Oldham, Chadderton, Crompton, and Royton; the returning officer is appointed by the sheriff. William Cobbett, the celebrated political writer, was one of the members first returned for the borough. Petty-sessions are held every Monday and Thursday; and there is a county court for the recovery of debts, established in 1847, with jurisdiction over part of the parishes of Prestwich-cum-Oldham and Middleton. The chapelry is co-extensive with the borough, and comprises 11,138 acres, of which the arable land is scarcely a fifth of that in pasture. Among the mansions are, Werneth, Chadderton, Royton, and Foxdenton Halls. John Frederick Lees, and George Lees, Esqrs., are the lords of the manor. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the rector of Prestwich; net income, £234. The tithes of Oldham township have been commuted for £170. The ancient chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, and enlarged in 1476 by "Sir Ralph Langley, priest of Prestwich" and third warden of Manchester College, was taken down and rebuilt in 1833, at a cost of £22,000. The present chapel is an elegant structure in the early English style, with a square tower having twelve noble bells: the eastern window is richly stained, with figures representing the Four Evangelists and four minor Prophets; and the interior generally is particularly chaste. St. Peter's chapel was erected by subscription in 1765, and enlarged in 1804, and is now a district church: the living is a perpetual curacy, with a net income of £150, and in the patronage of the Rector. The district church dedicated to St. James was built in 1829, by the parliamentary commissioners, at an expense of £8905, and is a neat edifice in the later English style, with a tower and campanile turret: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £150; also in the gift of the Rector. In 1835, the three ecclesiastical districts of Hollinwood, Royton, and Shaw, were formed out of the chapelry; and at the close of 1844, seven other districts were formed, viz. Chadderton St. John, Chadderton St. Matthew, Coldhurst, East Crompton, Glodwick, Waterhead, and Werneth, under the act 6th and 7th Victoria, cap. 37. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Kilhamites, Moravians, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. The free grammar school was founded in 1611, by James Assheton, Esq., of Chadderton Hall, who endowed it with an acre of land in the town, which has been let for building, and produces about £50 per annum. In 1747, Samuel Scholes gave £16 per annum, for which children of the township of Oldham are instructed. Thomas Henshaw, Esq., a native of the town, by will dated the 14th November, 1807, bequeathed £20,000 for the endowment of a Blue-coat school at Oldham, and a like sum for an asylum for the blind at Manchester; and having subsequently added a codicil, by which he gave the further sum of £20,000 for the endowment of the school, with liberty to his trustees to establish it either at Oldham or Manchester, on condition that the inhabitants of the town chosen provided a site and suitable buildings for the institution, the trustees determined upon founding the school here. In consequence of delay, the three sums thus left accumulated to nearly £100,000. At length three acres of land being given for the purpose by R. Radcliffe, and Joseph Jones, Esqrs., the first stone of an edifice for the school was laid at Oldham-Edge, in April, 1829; and the school was opened on the 25th June, 1834, with 50 boys, which number was increased in 1846 to 130. The building is handsome, commodious, and substantial; is built of stone, in the early English style, with two wings; and cost £9000, which were raised by subscription in the township of Oldham. There are a head master and two ushers: the boys are admitted at nine years of age, and remain till they are fourteen, when they are apprenticed to trades. To all the churches in the chapelry are attached national schools; that in connexion with St. Mary's is a stone building, erected at a cost of £3000, in 1842. Three benevolent relieving societies are maintained; and a savings' bank has been established, the depositors in which, in 1845, amounted to 763, and the sum deposited to £17,374. The poor-law union of Oldham comprises eight townships in the parishes of Prestwich and Middleton, containing a population of 72,058. Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, was a native of the town.
From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 472-476. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51192 Date accessed: 20 July 2010.
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