Ashton Old Baths at 150

Did you dive in at the deep end?

Ashton public baths were first opened on 6th September 1870. The women’s facilities opened a month later with a separate entrance on Portland Street.

Ashton Old Baths after closure

The memorial stone for the swimming baths was laid in October 1869 by Henry T. Darnton, Mayor of Ashton, on land donated by the Earl of Stamford. Inside the corner stone, a time-capsule was deposited inside a bottle containing a copy of a local newspaper, a corporation manual and information about the ceremony. The architects were Henry Paull and George Robinson from Manchester. Builders T. Clay & Sons from Audenshaw were employed at a cost of £16,000 (around £1 million in 2017) After much effort to raise the sum required, the council failed to fund the project from public subscription and so the cost was paid through the rates.

The first master and matron were Andrew and Elizabeth Mackereth, both aged 40 years old from Kendal in the Lake District. They had a son Edwin and daughter Eunice.

There were wooden stalls for changing. These were hidden from view of the bathers — a pick-pocketer’s delight! As a result, a policeman had to be on guard during opening hours. The men’s swimming pool measured 126 foot long by 62 foot wide and the women’s 27 foot x 15 foot. Hardly equality!

There were also twenty one first and second class private baths supplied with hot and cold water. Many people in the area did not have access to regular washing facilities. A tin bath in front of the fire was used for those who could not afford the luxury of attending the bath house.

The swimming pool was filled with fresh water on Tuesdays, but had no filtration system. From Tuesday to Thursday the charge was 6d (approximately £1.57 today). The price of admission was cheaper later in the week on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, as the water would not have been as clean! Opening hours were 6am to 8pm.

The larger pool used by the men was only open during the summer season, from May-September. During the winter months the men would swim in the smaller women’s pool. This took place on different days from the women’s sessions as mixed bathing had not yet come into play. At this time of year, the larger pool area was also used for roller skating. A board was placed over the top of the pool and converted into a rink. The room was also used for entertainment purposes — a stage was erected and seating provided for more than 5000 people! In the 1890s Ashton Old Baths even hosted an exhibition of new inventions including the electric light.

Ashton Reporter 23 February 1877
Samuel Laycock Champion Swimmer

The Turkish Baths contained hot and cold rooms and a massage area. These were closed in the 1920s and replaced by a Jacuzzi style bath.

The first swimming gala was held on 30th September 1871. A further event was arranged to commemorate the centenary which was held on 5th September 1970. The first recorded minutes of the Ashton Swimming Club are from June 1881 and their success included representation at county, national and even Olympic level. Their reputation in the 1930s was renowned throughout the UK, especially that of the water polo team. Records of the Swimming club can be found at Tameside Archive Centre (catalogue number DD376).

After being closed for forty years Ashton Old Baths were given a new lease of life when in 2014 Tameside Council, in conjunction with the management consultancy ‘Oxford Innovation,’ made plans to convert the building into office space and a digital hub. The structure of the building was maintained, in addition to the the original architecture within, signage and balcony. The building houses digital companies and retains the name ‘Ashton Old Baths’. Affinity Media, Zestme and AM Technology are just a few companies at home there.

Do you have memories of swimming at Ashton Old Baths? Share your memories with us.

Find out more information from our website which has links to our on-line catalogue and our image archive.  You can also get in touch with us by email 

By Jill Morris

Sources: Centenary Brochure- Ashton-Under-Lyne Corporation Public Baths Dept 1870-1970, L797.

Smokestack to Urban Chic- St Petersfield, Ashton-Under-Lyne, History on Your Doorstep Group, L907ASH.

Ashton-Under-Lyne Reporter Newspaper

Covid Diaries

Sense of Place voluteers at Tameside Local Studies and Archives 2017

Until recently, John and Norman, two of our Sense of Place volunteers, came to help at the archives once a week. During lockdown and self isolating, they have been busy in different ways, undertaking research and reading, contributing blog posts and have recently sent us diaries which will become part of the collecting covid archives.

John has been undertaking a lot of tasks, made even harder as he has had no IT access for a lot of the time. At the beginning of lockdown, John wrote about how he was keeping busy, by undertaking research on things he noticed during lockdown.

What’s in a name?

John writes:

Lockdown for me has meant that I am not able to wander the shop and markets as I once did or volunteer in Local Studies and Archives, which I have been doing for once a week over the last few years.  Volunteering meant that I was able to discover new stories about business there, or pass on my knowledge about things.  Rag pudding anyone?

A visit to Portland Basin Museum meant that I was able to learn about a project using the archives to recreate a beer once brewed at Gartside. And I also learnt about the Black Knight, writing a poem and also creating a cartoon.

But I can still go round and find out about things.

After a recent trip to Tesco I picked up a product with the brand name T.E Stockwell established in 1924 written on it. I got curious about this firm so I decided to find who they were.

To find out I had to go back to the very beginning of the Tesco supermarket story in 1919.   Though not from Tameside, there are many Tescos in the area.

A tea business was started by Jack Cohen who sold surplus groceries from a stall in the east end of London. Five years later in 1924 Jack Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from a Mr T. E Stockwell. By using the letters  ‘T E S’ from Stockwell and last two letters of Jack Cohen’s surname,  Tesco’s business name came into being and the tea was the first product to which had the stores own name on the packaging.                        

The Stockwell name came back into use after a marketing campaign to rebrand Tesco’s value range of products.

It just goes to show that you can learn quite a lot from a trip to a supermarket, either that or I need to get out more.

I am going to use my time to try and research some more local food names.  As I do not have access to a laptop and therefore the digital resources on Tameside Local Studies and Archives, I can make a list of these to research when I can access the archives again and ask neighbours and my fellow volunteers, who I am keeping in contact with during this time, adhering to social distancing measures at all times, of course!


Sense of Place volunteer John Writes:

John using the microfim readers during research, Tameside Local Studies and Archives, 2018

Watching the country grind to a halt in the last few months you can appreciate how much the social and economic conditions will have a profound effect on the future for us all. What did I do over this period of history changing event? Well, I’ll tell you. I started working on a comic book.

In truth I haven’t put pencil to paper properly for a long time, 30 years more or less with a little bit of tinkering here and there but it was while I was looking through Herge’s last unfinished Tintin book and being able to see his rough sketches and notes that I began to see a possible way of using the lockdown time for developing an idea.

I started with rough sketches, almost like matchstick figures and worked out a story involving a completely made up version of Tameside. Into this set up comes a pair of comedy villains known as The Shonky Brothers who aided by a mysterious Big Boss decide to abscond with various statues of famous Tameside notables. I’ve had this potential idea rolling around in me head for quite while never realising that events would begin to become reality over the George Floyd situation and the reaction to historic slavery issues.

John’s comic cover of ‘The Grimmocks Pie’. Image courtesy of the artist.

After the rough sketches came the more tricky problem of redrawing everything in a much clearer version with much improved graphics. Not easy, especially when you try and work out the imaginary camera angles and movements, after that comes the colour, a really time consuming job and quite tedious when you want to get on and be creative.

The comic book is finished now and what happens to Black Knight Mystery is pretty much up in the air. I hope it can find an audience at some point. In any case I’ve started work on the second book entitled The Grimmock Pie Caper. Which at this stage is turning out to be a much bigger book with a lot more bits going on it. The thing is in one big development stage at the minute, central characters and themes are continuing and constantly being built on. At this point there’s the idea for one more story after this and it involves the little green men currently being held in a secure holding facility in deepest darkest Denton, known only as Area 51b. Watch the skies and this screen for an update. I’ll leave you with this thought, if we ever go into another lockdown make sure I can’t get me hands on pencils.

Tatty bye.

John July 2020

John’s comic cover of ‘The Black Knight Mystery’. Image courtesy of the artist.

John created a cartoon based on his research on the Black Knight during the Sense of Place project, a copy of which is held at Tameside Local Studies and Archives.

Norman: On Lockdown in Cell Number 9

Norman researched some local history and came across a couple of stories including one of Tommy Dodd , a stone plinth and gas lamp that was moved from Denton Market place to Betty’s Park in Haughton Green when Denton and Haughton were amalgamated in 1884. He found an interesting article about the plinth from a local MP investigating the story.

Norman also researched local mills and found information on Alpha Mill and Broomstair Mill.

Norman cleaning the Stamford maps at Tameside Local Studies and Archives, 2018

Sense of Place volunteer Norman sent a diary that spans from when lockdown started to mid July. Selected entries are below.

On March 23 2020 , I placed myself on Voluntary  lockdown due to this  Nasty Covid-19 virus that hit the country. Here are some of the things I was doing to keep occupied.

On 24 March 20, It was to be a trip to Tameside Archives, To do some cleaning on the Stamford Papers that are archived there but the session was cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus.

On 25 March 20 , I took the re-delivery of my new Mobility Scooter  after waiting 2 weeks for a storage unit to be completed . This was done by contactless handover whereby the delivery driver placed it in the storage unit.

30 March 20 , I was asked by Heather, the Volunteer Coordinator at Adullam Homes and Housing, Ashton U Lyne, if I would do some blog posts for Tameside Archives, and possibly use for the Adullam Newsletter.

20 April 20. Sent Heather at Adullam Office an email with 2 Attachments, Blog posts to forward to Tameside Archives.

20 April 20. Had a phone call from Ingeus Office (Tameside Centre for Enterprise). Sent him a email with six pdf attachments on the voluntary work that we, the volunteers from Adullam Homes, do at the Archives Centre.

24 April 20. Received an email from Heather at Adullam with an attached document for a quiz starting next week, running for 5 days on kindness to the environment.

27 April 20. Working on Quiz for next 5 days, plus doing Word-Search Books.

28 April 20. Registration of mobility scooter with DVLA.

30 April 20. Did some shopping at Tesco’s store, Haughton Green. Went by taxicab.

End of Voluntary Lockdown 30 April 20

Start of OFFICIAL LOCKDOWN. 1st May 2020

1 May 20. Last day of Adullam office quiz. Also received email from Heather at Adullam saying she had sent blogposts to Tameside Archives.

1 May 20. Phone Appointment with the Physiotherapist. This was a quick call to see how I’m getting on.

7 May 20. Adullam Office, Laura called at flat with food parcel.

7 May 20. The Medical Practice Nurse rang informing me that I have C.O.P.D (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and is issuing a nebuliser spray and mask.

22 May 20. Adullam Office called with a food parcel.

27 May 20. Ingeus office appointment,  done over the phone.

29 May 20. Doing my electronic documents.

1 June 20. Ingeus office sent an email  re online courses available. Tried to connect with them. No good.

9 June 20. New Charter Homes.  Warden sends text messages to see how I’m going on.

10 June 20. Ingeus Office phone call.

11 June 20. Gov NHS food parcel service.

13 June 20. Nigel, my mate, went to shop for misc items.

16 June 20. New Charter Homes,  Warden sends text messages  to see how I’m going on.

17 June 20. Sent texts and phone calls to John.

17 June 20, Sent text message to my sister, ‘How are you doing / keeping?’

18 June 20. Gov NHS food parcel service.

18 June 20. New Charter Homes.  Warden sends text messages to see how I’m going on.

20 June 20. Nigel Came round to go to shop for misc items for me. Also did converting of music files for him.

22 June 20. Adullam Office called round with food parcel.

23 June 20. New Charter Homes warden sends text messages to see how I’m going on.

25 June 20. New Charter Homes warden sends text messages to see how I’m going on.

30 June 20. New Charter Homes warden sends text messages to see how I’m going on.

30 June 20. Did online shop at Tesco’s to see how it works.

1 July 20. Cohen’s Chemist delivery of medication supplies for month.

2 July 20. Adullam Office, Heather sent a text message re doing blog post for Tameside Archives on what have you been doing when on lockdown. Also text messages between John and myself.

2 July 20. New Charter Homes warden sends text messages to see how I’m going on.

2 July 20. Gov NHS food parcel service.

2 July 20. John called today, met him outside where we went into garden sitting 2 metres apart on garden furniture. I then opened the shed and reversed out my electric trike and we then took it round the block to the main road with John making a video of me riding it. He also took some photos plus one of the residents here took photographs as he is thinking of  getting a mobility scooter.

6 July 20. Rang John for a natter.

7 July 20. Rang John for a natter. Also John sent an email to me to see if I could read it. Had to adjust the format a bit.

8 July 20. This document produced

How can you get involved?

Both contributions will form part of the Collecting Covid archive which is being collated to build up information of how Covid-19 affected all communities around Tameside. If you would like to contribute with stories, photos, interviews and diaries, please click here to find out more.

Jam or Marmalade?

Home made marmalade

‘What do you want on your toast, jam or marmalade?’ That was a question I heard a lot and still ask today. Usually the sweet treat on my toast is homemade marmalade or strawberry jam made by my mum.

I remember as a child the traditional jam pan sat on the stove with a hot, gooey, sticky liquid bubbling away with the thermometer sticking out and the plate with the spoon on waiting to do the wrinkle test. The sterilised jam jars were lined up like soldiers. I remember the grease-proof paper circles on top of the liquid, the cellophane discs and the rubber band that sealed the lid. Lastly, the final touch, the sticky label with the name and date written in my mother’s cursive handwriting (often illegible but nonetheless a surprise flavour!).

The homemade production line I would witness as a child has made me admire the love and dedication that was put into her priceless jams and marmalades. Fifty years on the production line continues.

Preserving pan

You may be wondering why I am telling you about my childhood memories. Well, it was only recently that I discovered Robertson’s had a factory in our local town of Droylsden. From working at Local Studies and Archives and Portland Basin I should have put the two together really, as Portland Basin has a selection of Robertson’s memorabilia.

The History Bit…   

James Robertson was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1832. He worked in the silk trade and attended night school where he learned to read and write. In 1847 he became an apprentice grocer, establishing his own independent store in Paisley twelve years later.

After his wife Marion had made apple jelly from surplus apples and it was sold in their shop, he noticed that preserves seemed to sell better and more importantly, had a bigger profit margin than fresh fruit.

The invention of their famous marmalade, however, was something of an accident. In 1864 Mr Robertson bought Seville oranges, a type known to be bitter. These were not popular with customers. Mrs Robertson, therefore, keen to balance the books and to prevent her husband from losing money, made marmalade from the unwanted fruit.

Robertson’s Factory, Audenshaw

This was the start of Golden Shred. The couple perfected the recipe by 1874, but the well-known brand name was not used until 1883. A factory had been built several years earlier on land bought in Paisley in 1880. As a result, further products were later manufactured. 1909 saw Silver Shred (made with lemons), Bramble Jelly and Mincemeat added to the range. Thick Cut Orange Marmalade was introduced in 1929. By 1931 Robertson’s employed 1,400 people and by 1970 they were exporting their products to over 70 countries around the world.                                            

Robertson’s was granted the honour of a Royal Warrant in 1933 by King George V for regularly supplying their well-known marmalades and preserves to the royal household. The Royal Warrant continued with both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

To meet a sudden demand for products, the company built their first English factory in Droylsden in 1891. This manufacturing plant was originally run by their son William. By 1970 the factory employed 764 workers who were producing 86 million jars of jam. Sadly, the Droylsden factory closed in 2007 with the loss of 253 jobs and in 2010 the factory was demolished.   

The Robertson’s brand mascots have changed over the years. Today, they have that fabulous bear (I’m biased as he is my favourite bear) Paddington from Peru who is particularly fond of marmalade and who famously carries a jar in his suitcase and an emergency marmalade sandwich under his hat.

Tameside Local Studies and Archives holds a fascinating collection of accounts which list the ingredients for some of the products made in the Robertson’s factory. Here are just a few that caught my eye: Green Fig Marmalade (1926), Lemon Curd (1967), Mincemeat (1941 and 1951) and Plum Puddings (1953 and 1968), Raspberry Jam (1970).

The records for Golden Shred dating to 1957 even include accounts for supply of the product to the War Office. Listed in a Government Contract Account book, the figures cover 1917/18 followed by 1943. A letter dated 4th June 1918 is also attached, sent from the War Office to Messrs J Robertson and Sons Ltd., Golden Shred Works, Paisley.

Page from Robertson’s Archive at Tameside Local Studies and Archives

So next time you’re asked if you want jam or marmalade on your toast, or sandwich in Paddington’s case, remember it could very well have once been produced in a local factory on a far larger scale than my mum’s jam pan on the stove.

Find out more information from our website which has links to our on-line catalogue and our image archive.  You can also get in touch with us by email 

Debbie Worthington

Oh! We do like to be beside the seaside….

Grandma Hodge and family on Blackpool beach 1920

Do you remember taking ‘Wakes Holidays?

This took place when factories closed down and gave their employees a week’s holiday. The vast majority of people from the industrial towns all went by coach or train to the seaside. Each town was given a different week.

Ashton, Droylsden, Dukinfield and Hyde took their holiday in the middle two weeks of August with Mossley & Stalybridge doing similar in September, but these varied as the years went by.                               

Before the nineteenth century the ‘Wakes’ was a religious festival where church goers took a day off from work to celebrate their parish saint, and the congregation ‘waked’ or watched in the church overnight on the eve of the festival. The main event of the ‘Wakes’ was the ‘rush-bearing.’ This annual event saw the ceremonial renewal of the church. The practice ended when churches began to use wooden flooring.

Stalybridge wakes St George’s Church on the right, horse drawn float 1893

The ‘Wakes’ often continued for several days so amusements came to be an important part of the festival. Reports show that these were very varied such as the following unusual entertainment: ‘pulling at the soaped neck of a goose while riding past on horseback (Hole, 1937).’

In Dukinfield horse races took place on a field between Pickford Lane and Dewsnap Lane. The Astley family entered their best breeds, including one favourite named ‘The Old General.’ A public house was named after the horse.

  Dukinfield Races, Official Race Card

During the Industrial Revolution, the ‘Wakes’ tradition gradually changed into an annual summer holiday in the mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire.  The closing of the mills provided an opportunity for the machinery and equipment to be cleaned and overhauled. Air pollution was drastically reduced and views of the surrounding countryside enhanced.

Wakes Savings Clubs were established at the factory or through saving societies such as The PSA Society (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon – these later became insurance companies). Even during the First World War some people were still able to holiday. In 1918 it is reported that 2,000 people left Ashton for Blackpool and withdrawals from the Ashton Savings Bank totalled £25,000.

  Milton Mill, Mossley

During this week fairs, circuses and other entertainments would visit the town for those not fortunate enough to go away. People from other towns would travel to the fairs to keep the ‘Wakes’ going.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is t14382.jpg
 Stalybridge Wakes, showing fairground ride 

By the late-nineteenth century many people began to journey further afield to the seaside, with Blackpool being a favourite. Whole families would stay in boarding houses, some even taking their own supplies to help the landlady with their special requirements. Some shops would take food orders and arrange for it to be taken to the lodgings. This was so they did not lose out on any trade while their customers were away.

Boarding House Ads from June 1914 Manchester Evening News

On arriving in the seaside town, people would rush to buy tickets to see all the shows that had been laid on for their entertainment. The End-of-the-Pier show was always popular and Blackpool had three of them. The Winter Gardens and other theatres, together with Blackpool Tower, meant a show every night was not unusual.

‘Wakes Holidays’ also gave people a chance to meet in different and more relaxed circumstances. Those glances across the factory floor could be given the chance to perhaps develop into something more significant. At the very least new friendships could be made and a good time enjoyed by all.

The Annual Exodus to Blackpool

‘A quarter of Ashton-Under-Lyne’s population of 50,000 people have today migrated to the seaside for the annual wakes holidays. Twelve special trains in addition to ordinary trains have left the town, and 5,000 people have gone to Blackpool alone, and 2,000 to Southport. It is estimated that £100,000 (£2.9 million in 2017) is available for pleasure, two savings banks alone Brookside Brewery and PSA Society having distributed £32,000 between them.’

Sheffield Evening Telegraph – Saturday 16 August 1919

The ‘Wakes Holidays’ finally came to an end with the demise of the cotton mills. People began to prefer to go away at different times and even holiday abroad. A break away from the norm is always welcome, wherever it takes you and whatever you do.


Hole, C. (1937). Traditions & Customs of Cheshire. 

Hickey, J. Edward. (1926). Dukinfield Past & Present.

Hudson, J. (1992). Wakes Week: Memories of Mill Town Holidays.

Mitford, J. (1891). Rush-bearing: an Account of the Old Custom of Strewing Rushes.

Poole, Robert (1994). The Lancashire Wakes Holidays.

 Find out more information from our website which has links to our on-line catalogue and our image archive.  You can also get in touch with us by email 

Documenting COVID-19: Call to collect current memories of Tameside

Tameside Local Studies and Archives and Tameside Culture are asking people to save and share their memories as Tameside follows Government advice to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Items will be chosen to remain in the archives in order to record experiences for the future and will show how Tameside is experiencing these events, in response to a constantly changing situation. We are not just interested in material from the start of the lockdown period, but also as lockdown began to ease up, and moving forward as things will begin to get back to normal. The aim is to create as complete a picture as possible.

Working with interference-art, Tameside Local Studies and Archives have created a series of top tips and templates to help collect your memories, whatever your age. We have seen many stories of people volunteering and helping each other, lots of rainbows, and dancing, and wonder how lives have changed for people as we cope with shopping, looking after family, home schooling and events such as celebrating birthdays and observing Ramadan during lockdown. All stories and experiences from everyone, good or bad, are valid, and we want to collect as much as we can, to have a record from Tameside communities about this time.

interview again

We can at this time collect digital items from the Tameside area such as photographs, blog posts, online diaries, interviews, art and poems-anything that represent Tameside at this time. Our tips and templates have more information and give advice on the best format to send in your contributions to the archive. You can download our templates and find more information below. Please send your digital contributions and/or questions to:

You can also collect paper based material relating to COVID-19 in Tameside, create scrapbooks and develop diaries which can be saved until you are able to bring them in to the archive in person.

Whether you’re sending something digital now, or waiting to hand in paper-based material, please remember to comply with Government guidelines and not to put yourself or anyone else at risk at any time.

The Archives team will get back to you if you, or we, need any further information. Please make sure that this is your own work and that you have permission to use people’s thoughts and comments.  We can keep items anonymous if requested and we will be sensitive to issues of data protection in assessment, description, and access to any materials offered to us.

Please click through the following images to see our resources on how best to record your experiences through journals, photographs, and interviews:

Whichever of the above you choose to use, please also fill in the below form so that we can process any material appropriately at Local Studies.

Donation permission form

‘I’m a Rambler, I’m a Rambler from Manchester way…’

Where can we go?

Laura Smyth, Local Studies Library Assistant writes

As we continue to ‘stay alert’ to limit the spread of the Coronavirus in our community, we are encouraged to think about daily exercise either on our own or with immediate family members, but at all times respecting the rules of social-distancing.

Where we choose to walk has been contentious as some have chosen to drive to beauty spots which had to close as there have been too many people. A booking system is in place at the most popular places. We can now meet up to 6 people, outside our household, according to current Government legislation, though this can change rapidly, we can check the current Government guidelines when planning our walk  current legislation  

Many rights of way much closer to home are available to walk without the need for a car. This has not always been the case.

How odd then that I came across a 1927 newspaper report in the Ashton Reporter of a large group of people demanding their right to cross a piece of land at Gigg Brook and coming into dispute with a local farmer. This was of course illustrating the work of the Rambler’s Association in pressing for the opportunity to walk in our countryside, something that eventually came to a head in 1932 when over 3000 ramblers trespassed the land at Kinderscout in the Peak District from which actions, the legislation changed.

©Tameside Image Archive T10112 Trinity Methodist Church members on a ramble in Castleton, Derbyshire

Anyway, back to the article from 1927

In March 1927 a group of ramblers, both men and women had gone to earn the right to walk along the Benfield footpath on the Compstall slopes of Werneth Low and were said to have  had a ‘thrilling’ experience on that Saturday afternoon.

The newspaper report states that ‘when arrived at the Gigg Brook, they met with the active opposition of the farmer, his son and a dairyman. A barbed wire fence stretched across, and the three opposed a crowd of 150.

Surprisingly, The Reporter newspaper wrote that ‘the struggle was an uneven one. After a series of exciting scuffles in the brook, about a foot deep in water, the ramblers scrambled through and up the opposite bank. There were however, a series of minor casualties, and clothes were torn, and splashed with mud, boots soaked through and one man badly cut his finger on the wire’.

The walk had been organised by the Manchester Federation of Ramblers Association who wished to draw attention to the highly disputed path which they saw as a public right of way. This was supported by local walking groups such as the Hyde Footpaths Preservation Society who met a ‘good section of the ramblers’ at Woodley Station.

From here they walked through Gee Cross to Benfields Farm and were ‘reinforced by a good number of ladies’ along the way whom, like their male counterparts, were well shod, some wearing Russian or Wellington boots’.

The area has been in dispute for over 20 years as the Hyde Footpath Preservation Society had ‘taken steps’ to end the controversy and allow the public the right of way.

©Tameside Local Studies and Archives T10223 Benfield Footpath – mass trespass

Why complain about our rights of way?

Walking became a popular pastime in the 19th century when legislation changed for workers which allowed them a degree of ‘free’ time. As this was something families and friends could partake in without any cost apart from maybe a railway ticket, the public left the confines of their terraced street and ventured into the fresh air of the countryside.

However although the newly used Ordnance Survey maps were clearly marked with public rights of way that were taken from the tithe maps of earlier that century and had been deemed available to travel along for centuries, land owners and farmers alike had not experienced any problems with fencing these off to allow their cattle to roam or crops to be sown.

As the new pastime gathered pace, people viewed to be trespassing grew, and the two parties on ‘either side of the fence’ locked horns.

From this the Ramblers Association evolved and by the 1920s, had sought out areas of contention to ‘fight for’ as a public right of way.

Benfield’s Farm was one such area and on numerous occasions societies interested in the freedom of walking approached the local council to request that any obstructions to that opportunity be removed.

Taken from the Ashton Reporter, 12th March 1927

Opposition to such proposals

However there was stern opposition not just from the farmer in question but also by a Professor Findley of nearby Clough Side Farm and of Manchester University, who shouted at the crowd that they were not rate payers of the Parish as they had travelled in and therefore would make no contribution to the upkeep of the path.

The agitated parties involved became more heated as the Reporter article continues. ‘The most exciting scene occurred shortly afterwards…. the crowd passed through the wicket which led to the rushing Gigg Brook at the bottom which marked the dividing point between the land attached to the Benfield Farm and that of Clough Side Farm…. The ramblers often slipped into holes and then sank several inches into the wet soil.’

Gradually the crowd made their way along the pathway jostling with those in opposition and although fights did not break out, the report suggests that clothing was torn and certainly muddied in the demonstration. However, any barbed wire in their way was cut through and the company proceeded to the end of the disputed path.

In a later statement made by Mr Bury , Chairman of the Hyde Footpath Preservation Society stated ‘The problem was not what it is when we first commenced the agitation. The obstructions originally commenced at the gate leading from Benfield Farm . This gate originally bore the caption ‘No Road’ but this has now been removed and for the first portion of the disputed path, the Benfield side of the brook, the farmer has admitted our claim, and now offers no opposition….. We hope before long the other farmer will be brought to reason, and that arrangements satisfactory to all concerned will be made.’

©Tameside Local Studies and Archives. t10113 Trinity Methodist Church members on a ramble

Today, the farm in the dispute is now known as Far Benfield and the public right of way from the road through to Gigg Brook and beyond is shown on the local Ordnance Survey Maps.

For more information about the Rambling Association history in the area, please check our on-line catalogue and our image archive.  You can get in touch with us by email 

What is it like to be a volunteer at Local Studies?

Well, at the moment, probably a bit quiet… but only temporarily. It’s Volunteer week, and we’ve already had a look at some of the ways people make it possible for us to provide our service. Today, to wrap up the week, we take a look at the work of two volunteers in slightly closer detail.

We spoke to Irene, who has been volunteering with us for over 7 years, and Alison who is far newer to working with us, having started just under a year and a half ago.

So what inspired Irene to get involved? “I had worked in libraries so it was a natural choice to ask if I could help them, and I started the week after I took early retirement in September 2012.  I already knew a few of the staff and everyone was cheerful and friendly.

For Alison, volunteering at the archive was a chance to explore her favourite subject, “I have volunteered for many years in different things. I was looking to get involved in the work of an archivist and there were a couple of local centres who were willing to take volunteers.  As a history graduate I am extremely interested in the work that is undertaken at the centre, so this was the first choice.

Just some of the Manchester Regiment material Irene has been working on…

Irene has taken on various tasks during her time volunteering with us, most recently working on our Manchester Regiment Archive, checking the material is all present, and that the catalogue was correct. This is the kind of project that our staff simply would not have time to do so thoroughly themselves, and as such working with our wonderful volunteers allows us to take better care of our collections. As Irene explains, her work has been extremely varied: “These could be anything: orders, letters, diaries, photograph albums, reports, personal papers, each box was so interesting. My job was to check that all the items listed on the box were present and that no items were missing. This has taken about 2 years so far but is nearly finished. My favourite item is a letter from a mother from Ashton to her son aged 15, who had joined up in 1915 and gone to Egypt. That was definitely one to remember.

Some of the varied items in the Harry Lever collection…

Alison has been working on the Harry Lever collection. A well-known local historian, the documents are extremely varied, and although the collection is not enormous, it relates to many different aspects of Harry’s life. She has been box-listing the material, making it quicker and easier for us to make the material available for researchers. This particular volunteer and role came together extremely well, as Alison explains: “Mr Lever’s work is predominantly focused on Hyde, Flowery Field, Newton in particular. As a local myself, as my parents are also, every week I learn something new or am reminded of something from long ago that I or my family is connected to.

Bringing her local knowledge to the role has been beneficial for us, but also made the role more enjoyable for her. “I am a great believer in volunteering in general, but this role has also allowed me to share stories with my family who remember places and stories that are held in the archives. Every week the first question when I see my parents is ‘what have you found today?’. It’s great for carrying on the dialogue with people who remember the shops, roads etc. that are long since gone.

As well as subject knowledge, volunteers also bring their specific skills to their roles. Being so experienced in libraries, Irene was a perfect fit to jump straight into some of the more technical projects: “When I started I was helping to add information from the card catalogued items onto a searchable database, which was their online catalogue. There were a few other volunteers doing this and we would each complete a drawer of cards before moving onto the next one. It took a number of years before this was completed and it was absorbing work.

Of course, one of the most enjoyable aspects of volunteering at an Archive is the things you learn and the items you come across, some of which make a lasting impression. Irene came across such an item whilst working on the card catalogues: “The item I remember most was a book called “The Elephant who walked to Manchester”. I was working just from a card so this item was one that I wanted to know more about and I waited until the project was finished before viewing the book. The elephant called Maharajah had been bought at an auction in Edinburgh in 1872 by Belle Vue Zoo. The plan had been to transport him by train but he had damaged a railway carriage. It was decided he should walk, accompanied of course! The journey took 20 days and Belle Vue Zoo had crowds ready to greet him. The event passed into zoological folklore and this book investigates the story.”

Some of the photos in the Harry Lever collection, revealing his wide range of interests.

Volunteering also teaches one thing that cannot be learnt except through working closely with archives – as a volunteer, staff-member, researcher, or just interested member of the public – and that is the importance of preserving local history:

I would imagine that many people are unaware of the many resources that are held at the archives. It is so important that history is recorded as it is easily lost. It also holds a wealth of information and as such is a great starting point for many investigations. It is very reassuring to know that so much is being held for posterity.

So, would our volunteers recommend that others go for volunteering opportunities that may arise in the future? Yes, they would!

I find the main benefit of volunteering is the sense of belonging to something, something that can be lost on retirement. So if you are at a loose end and you think you would like something to do, then volunteer! You will get as much out of it as they will benefit from you.

Do it.  What have you got to lose? You never know where it will lead to, the people you will meet or the new and surprising things you will learn.  The staff at the centre are incredibly friendly and I was made to feel very welcome from the first time I walked through the door.

Thank you so much to Irene and Alison for taking the time to answer our questions, and to all of our volunteers for making such a difference to our service! Well, with that in mind, it’s time for a shameless plug…

Keep Smiling!

Going forward, we are looking also at ways that we can offer volunteering in the future and this may involve more remote volunteering while there are restrictions in place.  This will allow us to offer opportunities to more people to get involved in various ways who may not have had the opportunity before and to further open up the archives.

We have a new project on the horizon, Smile! Tameside.  The project was recently awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant and involves digitising some of the negatives from the Reporter Newspaper Photograph collection and making them available for the public to access online.

TR metal cabinet open drawer
Some of the negatives from the Reporter Photograph Collection

This project is currently on hold, but when we are able, we will be asking for volunteers who are interested in digitising and cataloguing the negatives and researching the stories held in the archives.  This will help us to get the photographs online to make them accessible to a wider audience.  If you are interested and want to get involved in digitising, cataloguing, researching places and events, writing for social media and the newspaper, would like to improve skills, meet new people and be part of preserving the images for future generations, please contact

We couldn’t do it without you!

This week is volunteers week which gives us a chance to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers that help at Tameside Local Studies and Archives.  Volunteers help on various projects gaining skills and often sharing their own skills to help in many aspects of archive and heritage work.  This helps us to make more archives avaliable for use by as many people as possible.  Although, due to the current circumstances volunteering on site is on hold, we have described some of the volunteers and the projects they are undertaking. We couldn’t do it withought all the hard work and dedication from all our volunteers!

Local Studies & Archives Volunteers

Peterloo Exhibition created by the Local History Forum

We have a total of sixteen volunteers that come in every week undertaking a variety of projects from helping the public to restoring archives. Their work is vital to our progress as they get to do work that we would be unable to do whilst dealing with the day to day running of the Archive Centre.

Over the years they have helped in a number of projects such as checking the Reporter Newspaper Collection photographs against lists to ensure the right item is in the right place, and more recently, some research on VE celebrations in the past across Tameside.

Family History

We have at least six volunteers that help the public search for their family history. They provide a free service each Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday morning from booked appointments and also every 1st and 3rd Tuesday afternoon which are drop-in sessions.

This is a very useful service especially for those that cannot use the internet, as the volunteers will do the researching on the websites. Some have been providing this service for more than 15 years, and have been successful in achieving the ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’. We are looking forward to resuming this service and are looking at the best way that we may be able to do this when we are open again.

fam hsit trail 4
Family History Volunteer

Clean it up!

You will have read last week about the fantastic work that the guys from The Sense of Place project have been doing.  As part of their work on the Sense of Place project, they received training on basic cleaning of materials.  An earlier blog post describes the training they received.

They have cleaned over 600 Stamford Estate plans that were really dirty and very difficult for the public to access. These are important documents, as they show the area in Ashton, Stalybridge and nearby from 1796-1966, the land that was owned by Lord Stamford, and how it has changed over the years.  In 2019, the team were nominated for volunteers of the year and came runners up.  When asked about something that had surprised him about volunteering, John answered:
Getting an award! That was a real surprise! I knew we’d been nominated for one but I never thought we would win it. It was such a shock as we never thought we’d stand a chance. We had just gone along to Central Library for the event and for an evening out. It hit home how appreciated the work we had done was.
I also surprised myself throughout the project. My confidence has grown so much and I feel a lot more independent.

Norman said:
Winning a Greater Manchester archiving award was a really moving moment for me. We weren’t expecting it and it came as a complete shock. I felt that I was getting so much out of volunteering but didn’t think I was contributing that much! It was a great evening that I’ll never forget!

John and Norman cleaning soot covered plans from the Stamford papers.

Needle in a haystack.

We all wish we could find everything online when we are doing research, but someone has to make the information available. We have a number of volunteers doing just that. They input information into a database which we are able to make available to the public. Over recent years volunteers searched through the newspapers from 1914-1919  for local people who had died during WW1. Now the database is available to search for names and the information in the newspaper can easily be found.

One of our recent volunteers worked on the Goad map collections and wrote a blog post about her work.

We have also had a couple of volunteers re-housing the archives to make sure that they are housed in the best conditions on order to preserve their condition.  Whilst doing this, they are also able to check against the catalogue that the correct items are in the correct boxes. This is vital work to ensure we can provide as much infomation as we can about the archives we hold and are able to retrieve the items that have been requested.  One of our volunteers wrote about her volunteer work and an exciting find in the Manchester Regiment Collection.

Keep Smiling!

Going forward, we are looking also at ways that we can offer volunteering in the future and this may involve more remote volunteering while there are restrictions in place.  This will allow us to offer opportunities to more people to get involved in various ways who may not have had the opportunity before and to further open up the archives.

We have a new project on the horizon, Smile! Tameside.  The project was recently awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant and involves digitising some of the negatives from the Reporter Newspaper Photograph collection and making them available for the public to access online.

TR metal cabinet open drawer
Some of the negatives from the Reporter Photograph Collection

This project is currently on hold, but when we are able, we will be asking for volunteers who are interested in digitising and cataloguing the negatives and researching the stories held in the archives.  This will help us to get the photographs online to make them accessible to a wider audience.  If you are interested and want to get involved in digitising, cataloguing, researching places and events, writing for social media and the newspaper, would like to improve skills, meet new people and be part of preserving the images for future generations, please contact


Archives, volunteers and wellbeing

We’re missing working with our brilliant volunteers. While our doors are closed, we’ve asked them share their volunteer stories – here’s a snippet ahead of Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June).

John and Norman help with our local studies and archives Sense of Place project. Here’s a flavour of their volunteer stories – come back during Volunteers’ Week 1 – 7 June to read more!

Sense of Place Volunteers taking part in oral history training from Ella Wild .

Volunteering Gives us a Sense of Place…

John and Norman have been volunteering for 2.5 years at the Tameside Local Studies and Archives centre.

How we give our time…

We volunteer at the Local Studies and Archives centre every Tuesday for 2 – 2.5 hours.

J  Across my time volunteering at the archives I have done a variety of tasks: rehoming, cataloguing, preservation, microfilm, blogging, planning and hosting exhibitions and much more. My main task now is to clean the Stamford papers – a collection of plans, maps and deeds for the local area – and make them accessible to the public.

N My favourite task has been cleaning the Stamford papers – I love seeing them go from grubby and unreadable to being clean and clear. I feel like I’m really helping by getting these available for people to use.

John and Norman cleaning soot covered plans from the Stamford papers at Tameside Local Studies and Archives..

Why it matters to me…

J It gets me out and about and gives me lots of opportunities to socialise which I now love! I’ve formed some good friendships from volunteering and learnt some brilliant skills that I get to use all the time. I’ve made memories that I’ll never forget and have been able to contribute to, and be part of, local history.

N I am also surprised at how social I have become and now feel confident going out and meeting others. I’ve had a massive boost in confidence and I’ve become really social. I feel a lot busier and seem to be getting involved in lots of things. Some of us volunteers even stay in touch and meet up outside of volunteering. The archives have given me a much wider knowledge of the local community and history. I have also gained loads of new skills.

What archives can give us….

J I think it offers people an amazing opportunity to trace family linage and history. You can also gain a lot of local knowledge. I think the archives centre gives a good sense of community and is always ready to welcome new people.

N It can give the public knowledge of their local area. People can research their family history and reconnect with relatives. It provides a safe place for people to learn and gives them a chance to be part of the community.

John and Heather checking microfilm newspaper records.

All images courtesy of Tameside Local Studies and Archives.

A HUGE thank you to John, Norman and all our volunteers! Thanks too to Heather at Adullam Homes.

Why does giving through volunteering matter?
At Local Studies & Archives, we’ve been working together with Adullam Homes Housing Association to make a volunteering model that matters. Our Sense of Place volunteers give by building skills and confidence in important archive tasks like box listing, cataloguing, research and blogging digitisation, oral history; they’ve also worked with an artist for an exhibition. Their work helps us to care for and share local history.

Volunteering and wellbeing
Giving doesn’t just help improve the lives of others, it’s one of the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ that help us look after our own mental health. Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by creating positive feelings, a sense of reward, giving you feelings of purpose and self-worth and helping you connect with other people.

While our doors are closed…
Why not read more local history blog posts here, written by our staff and volunteers? Our website has links to our on-line catalogue and our image archive. You can get in touch with us by email at 

Future volunteering – get involved in the SMILE! project…
Thanks to a successful application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, a grant has been secured to digitise and catalogue photographic negatives from the Tameside Reporter collection which is held by the council’s Local Studies and Archives service. Digitising and cataloguing the photographs will mean they will be accessible to the public and be able to be used for research, as well as allowing people to look back at events and stories in the Tameside area and preserve the images for future generations.

Once back in the archive building we will be asking for volunteers who are interested in digitising and cataloguing the negatives and researching the stories held in the archives.  This will help us to get the photographs online to make them accessible to a wide audience.  If you are interested and want to get involved in digitising, cataloguing, researching places and events, writing for social media and the newspaper, would like to improve skills, meet new people and be part of preserving the images for future generations, please contact

Portland Basin Museum and Wellbeing

We’re missing our visitors. While our doors are closed, we’ve been sharing stories for wellbeing inspired by our art, museum and archive collections; here Curatorial team Michelle Hill and Alex Leese tell us what it means for Portland Basin Museum when people give their treasured objects.

Why donations matter to the museum…

Portland Basin Museum in Ashton-under-Lyne cares for and displays social, domestic and industrial objects. We love to accept donations from the people of Tameside, especially objects with stories attached to them. People don’t usually think we would be interested in more contemporary objects, but objects familiar to us today will tell stories of how we lived to people in the future, so it’s really important to collect items from the more recent past, and even today.

What donations mean to us as curators…

One of the best bits of the job is sitting down with donors and hearing all the stories behind the objects they’re giving to the museum. That’s where we find out not just the facts but the feelings and experiences of real people in the past. The objects donated allow us to build a picture of what moments in our history actually looked like – it’s almost like time travel!

A recent donation story…

A donation of items from Ashton Grammar School – now Ashton Sixth Form College – came to us earlier this year. Ashton Grammar School dates back to the 17th century. Later, Titus Tetlow left money in his will (26 June 1890) to promote education of both sexes and the school has seen many changes since; finally getting its own building on Darnton Road in 1928. In 1980 the school became Ashton Sixth Form College. The booklets, play programmes and uniforms given to us span about a century of local history; they provide a really interesting timeline of changes in education.

School cap worn between 1958-65


‘The Ashtonian’ was the School Magazine for Ashton Grammar School


‘Staff picks’…

Recognise any of these?! The museum doesn’t just collect ‘old stuff’ – we hope you see some familiar sights here. What everyday objects bring you joy or conjure up memories? What of today would you want to share with people in the future?

Nokia model 6500, c.2007
Nokia 6500 model (c.2007)

subbuteo team, 1970s
Subbuteo Team (1970s)

Subbuteo Team (1970s)

Olympus camera, mid 2000s
Olympus camera (mid 2000s)


GPO telephone, 1970s
GPO telephone (1970s)

All images in this blog are courtesy of Tameside Museums and Galleries Service.

5 Ways to Wellbeing: “Give”
Giving doesn’t just help improve the lives of others, it’s one of the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ that help us look after our own mental health. Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by creating positive feelings, a sense of reward, giving you feelings of purpose and self-worth and helping you connect with other people. How can you look after your wellbeing by doing something for someone else right now?

While our doors are closed…
We can’t accept donations during Covid-19 restrictions, but if you’re considering giving something to the museum you are welcome to get in touch.

Explore the collections at Portland Basin Museum online

Find out more about Ashton Grammar School who recently donated some brilliant school heritage objects to Portland Basin Museum.