Trouble at t’mill

Devastating Fire at Oxford Mill- Ashton-Under-Lyne

After 170 years the sad destruction of the Oxford Mill by the fire that took place on 6th August 2019 has filled many with such sorrow. For those who ran their businesses from the mill many may face financial ruin, however it is a great relief that no one was physically injured. The fire was so fierce that fire personnel were there four days later damping down the embers, with the acrid smell of smoke still lingering from a distance away.


The first part of the six storey mill on the North-East side was built by Thomas Mason in 1845, and after huge success he expanded and built another mill on the South-West side in 1851, adding a five storey office and warehouse building in-between in 1863. Thomas’s sons Henry, Booth and Hugh all worked in the mill from being young boys but gradually Hugh assumed sole control by the age of 45 years. Hugh served as an apprentice at the District Savings Bank, gaining experience that would stand him in good stead for this future business success.

Oxford mills were in the production of spinning cotton and at its height Thomas Mason & Sons had 75,000 mule spindles and was employing 418 people.

Even during the cotton famine of 1861-65 the company continued to keep their employees in work where many were being laid off or put on short time. His workers raised money to help those who were in need at that time.


t04327 Hugh Mason                  t04567 Oxford Mill from canal

Hugh wanted to continue with his father’s philosophy of looking after his workers, so much so that he created a ‘community’ for them, providing housing and recreational activities. In 1871 he also gave his workers the whole of Saturday afternoon off, reducing their hours to fifty eight per week. This was unheard of and upset many fellow cotton employers, who thought they would have to do the same in their mills. Hugh stood his ground and said that if he wanted the best from his workers then he must look after their welfare.

He provided recreation rooms known as ‘The Institute’ at a cost of £4,500 (£263,000- 2019) which included a library, smoking room and chess room. Later he added a swimming pool, hot and cold baths and room for holding lectures and classes for his workers to improve themselves. There were sewing classes, singing and music lessons including the Oxford Reed Band. Finally a sports ground and gymnasium were added to the community. Mason’s workers were the envy of the town.

t01908 Oxford Institute        t04585 Oxford Mill weaver


However the other side of the coin to all this philanthropy was what he wished from his workers in return. He was a man of strong principles – he hated alcohol, gambling, and the theatre, Tories, Trade Unions and The Church of England. He attended Albion Chapel and would sit at the back to see who was present and who was absent. If any man refrained from work Hugh Mason would call for their wife who had to explain the cause, if it was for the worse of drink there would be trouble. The wife would be told of the consequences.

Martin Clark


Hugh Mason became the first Liberal elected councillor for Ashton-under-Lyne in November 1856. As well as being a councillor, Mason was also elected a local magistrate for Ashton-under-Lyne in 1857. Although he was a reluctant politician he stood for Parliament in the 1880 General Elections. He led the women’s suffrage movement until 1883 but illness forced him to abstain from public life temporarily. In the 1885 General Election he lost to the Conservative John Wentworth Addison by 3,152 votes to 3,104. Mason demanded a recount, but this increased the majority by one vote; he succumbed to illness and died before the result was announced.


Martin Clark

Hugh Mason became the first Liberal elected councillor for Ashton-under-Lyne in November 1856. As well as being a councillor, Mason was also elected a local magistrate for Ashton-under-Lyne in 1857. Although he was a reluctant politician he stood for Parliament in the 1880 General Elections. He led the women’s suffrage movement until 1883 but illness forced him to abstain from public life temporarily. In the 1885 General Election he lost to the Conservative John Wentworth Addison by 3,152 votes to 3,104. Mason demanded a recount, but this increased the majority by one vote; he succumbed to illness and died before the result was announced.

The company was sold in 1946 to Sandoz Products Ltd, but still traded under the Mason name. It finally closed as a cotton mill in 1960. In the 1970’s H.R. Howard’s ‘knicker’ factory worked from the north-east mill, and Moorlite Electrical Ltd from the south-west mill.

More Fires

In 1849 the Manchester Guardian newspaper tells of a smaller fire that happened- ‘On the evening last (May 16 1849), a fire broke out in the warehouse of Messrs. Thomas Mason & Sons, Oxford Mills, Ashton. An alarm was instantly given and the hands who lived in the immediate vicinity of the mills soon assembled, and succeeded in extinguishing the fire before the engines could arrive, but not before a table and part of a desk and a window were consumed. As soon as the alarm reached the town, Mr J. W. Boulton, agent to the West of England Office, got his engine out and proceeded without horses towards the scene of the fire, but was met by a messenger telling him the fire was out.’

Manchester Guardian 8 Nov 1946

An Ashton boy aged 15yrs was accused of arson at Ashton Juvenile court, he admitted an alleged statement that he was responsible for starting six fires that caused damage estimated at £67,000 at Oxford Mill, Ashton. In an alleged statement which was read to the magistrate the boy said ‘I set fire to the mill because I do not like working there, and I thought if it burned I should not have to go back to work there’.

Further reading

You can find out more about Oxford Mill and the company of Thomas Mason & Sons from Tameside Local Studies & Archive Centre, Cotton St East, Ashton-U-Lyne OL6 7BY. You can also find more photographs at



Intriguing find in the Manchester Regiment Archives

I’m a volunteer at Tameside Local Studies and Archives and I am currently working with documents from the Manchester Regiment Archives in Ashton under Lyne. As I lift the lid on each box there is a sense of excitement, what will I find in here?

I was working my way through a box of correspondence when I found a copy of a letter written by a mother to her son in 1915.  It was sent to him at the British Expeditionary Force, he was in the 1/9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

Leonard Broadhurst letter image

December 1915

My dear Leonard,

How is it you have not sent any letters it’s now over 4 weeks since I had one and that was wrote on the 26 October. I hope you are well I have sent 3 parcels and 2 letters and had no reply. I hope there is nothing wrong with you, they have all had letters round about 2 and 3, some of them. Mrs Fernley has had a telegram saying that Jim has been dangerously wounded, write back at once and let me know how you are, I am looking out for the post every day. Your father is in France. I am very sorry about Jim but you ought not to have gone out, you are both too young, and you are younger than him. Auntie and our Edie send their best love, Accept the same from me and God bless you and spare you is my fervent wish and bring you safely home soon. Your mother

I have had a postcard from J Smethurst asking how you was I told him I had had no letters for a long time and I told him about family. You see his father has stopped him from going out and he was willing to stop, you see he has more sense than you, it would be alright if you was old enough but you are so young, you see there are big men who won’t go until they are made and you throw yourself away at 15 years of age. But I hope you will get your discharge until you are 19 that will be soon enough. Write back as soon as you can and let me know how you are as I am very anxious to know so I think this will be all this time

With best love from

x x x Mother x x x

x x x God bless you x x x

I was tearful by the end of the letter. What had happened to him, had he died?  How awful for his mother to be waiting at home to hear from a 15 year old, gone to fight for his country.  I knew I had to find out more about him and his family.

I started to research him on military and family history records and soon found he was from my own town of Ashton under Lyne. He was an iron worker who lived on Warre Street with his father, mother and two sisters.  He enlisted on 11th January 1915 just 3 days after his 15th birthday.  He told them he was 19 and documents show his height as 5ft 7 ins. His mother’s letter was addressed to him as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, he was sent out in September 1915. He was listed among the soldiers of the 9th Battalion who landed at Gallipoli on 22 October 1915. Military documents show he was discovered to be under age in March 1916 and transferred to a Reserve Unit and shortly was returned to England

I was very pleased to find this information, what a relief.  His mother would have been delighted to have him safely home. There was sad news as well, his sister Alice had died of appendicitis in August 1915 at the age of 12. His father James had enlisted in April 1915 and was still in France. He was wounded in the leg by a shell and discharged on medical grounds in August 1917 so father and son had survived the war.

I wondered about his friend Jim Fernley and what had happened to him.  Jim lived on Tatton Street and had also enlisted in the 9th Battalion. He died of wounds on 4th December 1915 in Egypt and I managed to find a newspaper report of the time

Published in the Reporter 25th December 1915.


Newspaper Headline James R Fernley

 “He seemed such a child to have given his life for his country; his mother has my deepest regret and my sincerest sympathy.” was the concluding sentence in a letter which Mrs. Clara Fernley, of 48, Tatton Street, Ashton, received from Nurse Clara E. Cherry, 21st General Hospital, Alexandria, writing breaking the news that Private 3281 JAMES  FERNLEY had died from wounds. In last weeks issue of the Reporter it was stated that Private JAMES FERNLEY of the Ashton Territorials, had been reported very dangerously ill at Alexandria. Nurse Cherry wrote: – “Your little lad was admitted into my care on Wednesday, December 1st. He was very seriously ill indeed, having been shot through the lungs. He was quite conscious, gave me your address, and wanted me to send a postcard home. I think he realised that he was not going to get better. We did all we could for him. He suffered very little pain, only his breathing became weaker. His mother’s name was on his lips all the time. He passed quietly away at 11.50.” An official intimation of Private FERNLEY’S death has also been received.  In a letter from Private H. FERNLEY, brother of Private JAMES FERNLEY, who is also with the Ashton Territorials in the Transport Section, further details are given of the way Private J. FERNLEY was injured. He says: – ” JIM has not much chance. They were having a bit of a rough time, and the Turks sent a grenade over their trench, and from what I am told it did a great deal of damage, wounding about ten, and killing one – AARON JONES. JIM was wounded.” Private FERNLEY worked as a piecer in Oldham, and was his mother’s main support. He could not bear to see other men in khaki and walk the streets himself, and accordingly he joined the TerritorialsHe was only 18 years of age.  (James R Fernley is buried in Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery).

This is not the end of the story, Leonard Broadhurst enlisted again in 1918 when he was 18 and now 3 inches taller. He joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry and served until he was demobbed in June 1919. I felt quite proud of him by now, to have gone to war at fifteen was a very brave thing to do. He could have left at any time, just telling them he was under age would have meant an automatic discharge but he carried on.

His mother’s letter must have been passed to Tameside Archives by family members. The memories of the brave men who fought in the Great War are revived each time words are written of them. Every person reading these words honours and remembers them.

Being A Family History Detective

I started researching my family history about 7 years ago and soon realised why so many people find it totally addictive. I have always been the sort of person who likes looking for things, the internet has made this so much easier and I jumped in with both feet!

My husband’s family came from Ashton so I started with them as I thought searching locally would be easier. It became a labour of love and these distant ancestors became real people to me – so much so that when reading about historical events I automatically view them in terms of which members of the family were alive at that time.

I started with basic information. My mother in law was born on Curzon Road, Ashton and I knew the names of her family members. This enabled me to find the family on the 1911 census which was my starting point. Tracking back the same names over the 1901, 1891 and 1881 censuses was fascinating. Addresses, occupations, finding family members living close to each other over the years and following their lives was absorbing. I realised that I was more interested in how they lived their lives than merely finding a list of names which stretched back a long way but held no substance, no imagery to me.

I have a favourite person in this family tree. She is my husband’s great, great grandmother Agnes Lee who was born near Kendal in the Lake District. She is my favourite because I found her in Belle Vue Gaol in Manchester in the 1851 census. Her husband and children were at 29 King Street, Manchester, where they were living in the cellar of a jeweller’s shop. Benjamin Lee, her husband, was a porter for the jeweller Henry Whittington and he allowed the family to live in the cellar.

I managed to find prison records showing she had been jailed for larceny and been sentenced to 6 months hard labour at Belle Vue Gaol but there was no more information. I researched newspaper reports from 1851 and managed to find details of the family being brought to the Borough Court

The Manchester Courier, and Lancashire General Advertiser Saturday 1 February 1851

Robberies from a Jeweller’s shop

A little girl, named Mary Jane Lee, having within the last two months pledged various small articles of jewellery at the shop of Mr Kenyon, pawnbroker, of Garside Street, that gentleman suspected they were not honestly obtained, and communicated his fears to Mr Beswick, the chief superintendent of police. In consequence, when the girl visited Mr Kenyon’s on Saturday last, she was detained until Inspector Maybury was sent for, and that officer (himself unobserved), watched her home, and found that she was the daughter of a porter, in the employ of Mr Whittington, jeweller and silversmith, of King Street.

From inquiries instituted, it came out that the girl and her parents resided on Mr Whittington’s premises, occupying a cellar under the shop, and a sleeping room in the attic, and the girl, after some evasion, confessed that the jewellery pledged by her was the property of Mr Whittington, and had been given to her to dispose of by her mother. When interrogated by Mr Beswick, the mother [Agnes Lee], confirmed her child’s statement, observing that she would not attempt to shield her own guilt; adding that she had stolen the property unknown to her husband, who was entirely innocent.  Directing Mr Beswick to look in a certain spot, where the key of a Chubb’s patent lock was found, which opened an inner door leading into Mr Whittington’s shop, she said that, unknown to her husband, she had procured the key, and with it had frequently got inside the shop and stolen articles which she had sent her little girl to pledge. Notwithstanding that the woman disclaimed any guilty knowledge on the part of her husband, Mr Beswick took the whole family into custody, and on Monday they were brought up at the Borough Court to answer the charge.

Evidence of the facts stated above being adduced, and Mr Whittington having identified a gold pencil case, gold guard, six shirt studs, and two silver fruit knives, as his property (all of which were produced by Mr Kenyon, pawnbroker, as having been pledged by the little girl), the prisoners were respectively asked what they had to say. The husband [Benjamin Lee] (whom Mr Whittington, the prosecutor, said had been in his employment for seven years) said, he was quite innocent of the charge, and bursting into tears, said he could not tell whatever had induced his wife to act as she had done.  She had ever been a kind good wife, and he was greatly distressed that she should have robbed Mr Whittington, for he had behaved towards the family like a father. Here the wife and girl began to cry – Mr Walker asked if there was any reason to suspect the husband – Mr Whittington: Oh no; I have every confidence in him. The father and daughter were then discharged, Mr Whittington telling the former to go back to his duty at once, and the wife Agnes Lee, was committed for trial at the sessions

Mr Whittington’s generosity meant the family could continue at 29 King Street where they remained for another 4 years. Mary Jane, who was 11, had a brother, also called Benjamin, age 9, who was not taken to court. Agnes was sentenced to 6 months hard labour in Belle Vue Gaol, on Hyde Road in Gorton, she was released on 13 August 1851.  I wondered what had caused her to steal the items, from the report it seemed out of character. Why did Mr Whittington allow the family to return to the shop when Agnes had stolen from him, it didn’t make any sense?

Further research revealed that Agnes was about 7 months pregnant at the time of her court appearance and the baby was born in prison on 8 March 1851. The baby, called Thomas was baptised in September and his date of birth given on the baptism record. He is the only one of Agnes and Benjamin’s children not to have a birth registered.

I was able to trace other children born to Agnes and Benjamin before Thomas was born.  Her youngest child at the time of her court appearance was Benjamin, then age 9, born in 1842.  In the following years she gave birth to 2 children who died before they were 2 months old.  This would probably explain the reasons for acting as she did. Agnes had a sister, Jane whose husband was a joiner at the Manchester Royal Infirmary when it was situated in Piccadilly Gardens, and the family lived at the Infirmary. Maybe Agnes wanted the money to provide help for the new baby?

Mr Whittington would also be aware of the deaths of the babies, perhaps this was the reason he let Benjamin keep his job. I had originally thought that Thomas had done well to survive in prison, but maybe he was lucky that he was in prison. Women who gave birth in prison could keep their babies with them, providing they were breastfeeding, sometimes until the end of their sentences and they would have had access to regular meals.

My mother in law had always told me that the house she was born in was owned by rich relatives who lived in Lytham but she had no further knowledge of them. I was interested to see how family members who came from such a poor background could have ended up owning blocks of houses in Ashton.  I tracked forwards to 1856 when their youngest daughter Hannah was born in Cowcill Street and Benjamin’s occupation was now Railway Porter, they had moved nearer to Oxford Road Station, perhaps he worked there?  By 1861 they had moved to Gorton and Benjamin was still listed as a Porter. His son, also Benjamin was now 19 and was working as a Solicitors Clerk. Was this their route out of poverty?

It was. Benjamin Lee continued to work as a Solicitors Clerk for his whole career and he moved to the outskirts of town, first to Stretford and then to Levenshulme. He started buying property and in 1871 and 1881 he owned the properties where his mother and father lived in Gorton. Agnes’s husband Benjamin died in 1884 and it was not long before Agnes moved to Ashton under Lyne, where two of her daughters were already living. She lived in Bengal Cottage on Alfred Street and her daughters were around the corner on Curzon Road.  Her youngest daughter Hannah ran a draper’s shop on Curzon Road.  Her son Benjamin owned 10 houses on Curzon Road and also owned property in the Levenshulme area.  Benjamin’s daughters later moved to the Lytham area and my mother in law’s family were living in the properties on Curzon Road until the 1950s.

The one person missing from this story is the baby born in prison in 1851, Thomas. He lived with his parents in Gorton and worked at the London and North West Railway yards at Longsight as an engine fitter. In 1874 he joined the Royal Navy and stayed there until 1895. He then worked as Acting Assistant Prison Warder at the Royal Naval Prison in Lewes in Sussex and became Principal Warden.

Now you can see why Agnes is my favourite person. I could never have imagined at the start that I would ever be able to find out so much detail about events that happened over 150 years ago. The shop at 29 King Street has been a jeweller’s shop ever since. Mr Whittington died in 1874 and his son took over the business, various others followed and now it has been in the Hancock family from 1900 to today. It is not the same building but it is in the same place. It was a very strange feeling standing looking at it for the first time, imagining all the things that had happened.

Perhaps this story will tempt you to research your own family history, I cannot promise you will find anything but hopefully you will have as much fun as I have had!


1851 Census Agnes in Belle Vue Prison


Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 1 February 1851


Benjamin Lee 1851 Census 29 King Street, Manchester


Belle Vue Gaol 1870




Manchester Rate Books

Tameside Local Studies and Archives

Michelle Higgs. Prison Life in Victorian England

GRO Birth Marriage and Death Indexes

Manchester Central Library and Archives

Cheshire BMD

Lancashire BMD

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks

Bonnets, Lunches and Literary Works – a visit to Elizabeth Gaskell House

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell 1810 -1865

On Monday 12th November 2018 ‘Tameside Bobbin’ Club’ visited the house of Elizabeth Gaskell the 19th Century novelist. She lived at 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester with her husband and four daughters. They’d moved from Knutsford, and brought along their cow which they also kept along with a pig and some chickens and grew many vegetables and flowers in the garden surrounding the house.

Elizabeth took up writing at her husband’s suggestion after the death of her baby son. Her husband William was a non-conformist preacher and their house was always open to the parish and their many friends. Elizabeth especially was very hospitable and took an active interest in the running of the house.  The one thing that eluded her was a permanent cook- these were very hard to find and Elizabeth was not very successful in retaining their services.

The house has been lovingly restored to represent the time when the family lived there. After the death of her parents, Elizabeth in 1865 and William in 1884, Margaret Emily known as Meta, the second daughter, remained unmarried and stayed at Plymouth Grove till her death in 1913. She sold off many of the pieces and the hunt is on to find them again. Some have already been returned which is very exciting for the restoration which is ongoing. The carpets, wall-coverings and curtains are not original but all use patterns from the period. In fact Elizabeth in some of her diaries and letters actually describes the various wallpapers that were used and some of the furniture that was bought when they moved to Plymouth Grove in 1850.


William’s study houses books that the family would have read and his desk is covered with copies of the church magazine which he spent many hours editing, this is also where he taught his many students from the parish.

Passing the large staircase you enter a large lounge decorated grandly with original pictures and a semi-grand piano that was played by Elizabeth and her daughters.

The room is set for tea with a lovely table in front to the fire place. Costumes are available to wear to get into the spirit of the time and entertain your many guests as the Gaskells did.



Through into the dining room with wooden floors, a large bay window fills one end of the room from floor to ceiling. The table is set for dinner with all the courses laid at the table together, as was fitting for the time. You can sit at the table and imagine being there.

Elizabeth wrote many letters which vividly describe family life, the holidays they took and her passionate interest in the society of the period which was undergoing rapid change. She is famous for writing Cranford, Ruth, North and South and Wives and Daughters. She also wrote the biography of her friend Charlotte Brontëimage00011

Upstairs there is an exhibition about the running of the house, detailing information about the servants and gardener. Elizabeth’s personal maid travelled with her when she took her lengthy holidays abroad with her daughters.

Downstairs there is a welcoming tea-room that serves delicious cakes and drinks; there is also a shop where you can buy souvenirs, Elizabeth’s books as well as many second-hand books with all funds going to the Gaskell Society.

The house is still being renovated and the Gaskell Society is currently raising money to rebuild the conservatory. To find out more about Elizabeth Gaskell, her family and house and the books she wrote visit the website its definitely worth a visit.


Creating Stories

As part of the Sense of Place project, volunteers were asked to create short films using material they had come across whilst working at Tameside Local Studies and archives. They were shown during the end of event exhibition and subsequent open days, but we are now pleased to announce that they are available on YouTube.

The films are The Black Knight. This is a ballad written and read by volunteer John. After a trip to Portland Basin museum, John became interested in the tale of the Black Knight, which you can read about in an earlier post here. We also visited Chetham’s library to look at their collection of ballads and had a creative writing session from Harry Jelley, both which helped John to write his dramatic piece.

Norman became interested in Harry Rutherford, undertaking independent research away from the volunteer workshops and collecting many images. One of the tasks was to digitize parts of the Rutherford collections and from this he was able to select appropriate images in order to show a timeline of Harry Rutherford’s life.

Another skill that the volunteers had training in was to help them undertake oral history interviews. They were able to interview each other and Lisa talked about Growing up In Tameside. She selected some images from the collections in order to create a short film.

We discovered the George had worked in the Mills when he was younger. George looked through the image collection and selected some images of which were then used with his interview about his experience of Working the Mills.

To create the banners and broadsheet for the exhibition, the volunteers worked over a number of weeks with artist Mitch Robinson from Artden. This short film shows the process and end result of their Printing Workshops.

There is also the film created as an introduction to using Tameside Local Studies and Archives which can be found here.

The work undertaken, increased interest and development of skills that the volunteers developed through their time at Tameside Local Studies and Archives and has given them an insight into one of the ways that stories can be shared through the archives and various ways in how archives can be collected and shared. The volunteers continue to work at Tameside Local Studies and Archives and are also undertaking their own research.

We are also indebted to Heather Butterworth who edited the films.


“Deeds not words”

A well- known statement from the Suffragette movement at the turn of the last century, could easily be applied to an endeavour I, along with others, undertook in the early 1980s, to preserve a piece of Manchester history that we take for granted today.

62 Nelson Street


Back in 1982, near to the old entrance to Manchester Eye Hospital was a dilapidated terraced house that had been boarded up for many years, and with the encroaching expansion of the three hospitals in the area, the site looked doomed to be cleared to make way for car parking and other building construction.

None of the rest of the houses on this unassuming street had remained by this time, so why should these homes be saved?

The cause

Possibly a noteworthy resident could change the future life of this house?

People today would know these buildings to be the Pankhurst Centre, the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and her family who led the Suffrage campaign for Votes for Women and where the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was held on 10th October 1903.

The campaign

Knowing how important this landmark was, a number of women including myself, my mum and my sister together with others including Sylvia Pankhurst’s granddaughter Helen, set about securing monies for its restoration by conducting a sponsored walk through Manchester using Nelson Street as the starting point and finishing at Strangeways Gaol, where a number of suffragettes had been incarcerated during their struggle for the vote.

This wasn’t a straight forward journey from A to B but an opportunity to learn about other notable buildings in the City Centre that also played a part in the lives of not so ‘ordinary’ women. We were to explore places that affected the future of women throughout the country by pioneering acts of individuals.

The strategy

A map was therefore developed demonstrating the history of ‘Women in the Past’ and sold to interested parties for the princely sum of 50p. This guide was also sponsored by important companies of the day who also wanted the building to survive.


And so our group of woman set off on a journey that took in locations such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s house, Chorlton on Medlock’s Town Hall, the Free Trade Hall and many more, all with a potted history that helped the women’s movement. Some three hours later, we reached our destination and our ‘crusade’ was noted by the Manchester Evening News in July 1982 when a feature was published in the then broadsheet.



The armistice

The publicity we generated no doubt helped the cause as in 1984, work commenced on Nelson Street and what is now known as the Pankhurst Centre was restored to what we see today; a museum dedicated to the Pankhurst family and the suffragette movement, and a women’s aid centre to continue to provide support to women of today.

Remembrance Day

As part of the popular Tameside Local Studies and Archive Centre’s Bobbin Club, a group of people including myself have since re-enacted part of the walk last week by exploring the original map once again.


Manchester’s skyline has changed significantly since 1982 and of those buildings we saw on the original walk, many are no longer there, having been replaced by new architecture. However, the history of each site does not disappear and through online research for media, the chance to learn is just as important as the original walk was, in 1982.

Sisters of Suffrage

For Tameside History Festival Running during September 2018, we asked 2 of our Sense of Place volunteers to look through the local papers for any reports relating to Women’s Suffrage.


John and Norman write:

We were asked to research the Tameside suffragettes movement as a contribution to the Women of Tameside project which delves into the hidden history of women’s rise in society.

Firstly, we were given some background information about the history of the women’s rights movement including the differences between the classification of Suffragettes and Suffragists. Suffragettes were more militant in their campaign approach, interested in direct action to get their message across. Suffragists were less radical, more patient in their protesting by having a peaceful yet stern voice.

We carried out our research using the internet and the microfilmed newspapers in the search room including the Ashton Reporter and the Ashton Herald as our main sources of information. We learnt about the attitudes of the time, the political inequality and the measure of efforts taken to attempt to deem a change. We were given a list of relevant dates between 1903 and 1913 and decided to start looking at the newspapers for 1906.

The predominately male outlook at the time often cast the female perspective as less significant in comparison to them, weak, domestic and politically uninformed as a point of view.

Using the microfilm readers and the internet, we researched about the different groups but primarily concentrated on the movement as a whole.  By doing so we also came across Hannah Mitchell who was a local working class member of the Women’s Social and Political Union at the time.

Hannah Maria Webster was born 1871 in Derbyshire. When working in Bolton she met and married Gibbon Mitchell who was a member of the Fabian Society and Labour party.

She moved to Ashton- Under-Lyne and lived on 53 Elizabeth St, until 1910. In May 1904, she was elected as a law guardian to the board in Ashton-Under-Lyne by the Independent Labour Party and was involved with campaigning for women’s votes.

In 1906 she was arrested and imprisoned after interrupting a liberal party rally at Bellevue. ‘Bellevue Disturbance- Women Suffragettes at Manchester police courts. – Ashton Reporter July 7 1906’

Hannah Mitchell


Hannah Mitchell with her husband and son

On 14th July 1906 the Mayor made speech about women and their children, later that July on the 21st a Mrs Mitchell responded to remarks made within his speech and off the back of this she was able to gain more momentum in her movement. In August 4th 1906, a suffragette meeting in Ashton market took place where key suffragette figure Emmeline Pankhurst was also present.

Looking into the microfilm, archives revealed newspaper articles that detailed events and meetings, one in particular accounted of a meeting that took place in Ashton- under- Lyne where militant suffragettes were publicly disowned by the other societies involved with the movement. – The Ashton Reporter, 27th October 1906.

Another article told of the first of a planned series of winter socials at the socialist hall on Katherine Street, Ashton-under- Lyne. Sixty members and friends were present and were presided over by Mrs. Rothwell.– The Ashton Reporter, 1st December 1906.

Although we found using the microfilmed newspapers fairly easy, we did encounter some difficulties. After loading the Ashton reporter microfilm from 1906 I discovered that the film had been rewound backwards so it began from December rather that January which meant that my entire notes had been written down in reverse order and had to be complied in chronological order – this was fun-not! We also used the microfilm reader linked to a computer which was at times a challenge but we hope to get some more training in using it to its full potential.

We enjoyed looking at a lot of the photographs from the time. We both enjoyed researching the newspapers getting a feel for the era and seeing how, amongst all the big social and political changes regarding inequality, some everyday niggles are still the same.  We will continue in our research looking for more articles in the newspapers and developing a resource for researchers interested in this topic to use.

Information about opening times and how to book time on a microfilm reader can be found here.