Oldham Historical Research Group

William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard


William Rowbottom lived in interesting times. He was a hand-loom weaver living on the edge of Northmoor, near Oldham in Lancashire.

From 1787 up to his death in 1830 he kept a diary in which he noted the events of his locality that interested him. Births and deaths, disease, accidents and murders, all were noted down.

National events were also mentioned: wars, bad harvests, defeat and triumph for the Army and Navy.

'Old Cock' from the Parish Church
The 'Old' Parish Church

This ordinary man was, in fact, extraordinary. A humble weaver, who rarely left his immediate home area, gives us a wonderful account of the day to day concerns of the population far away from the centre of power in London.

The diaries were serialised in weekly parts in the 'Oldham Standard' from the 4th of January 1887 (just a century after they were written) until the 23rd of March 1889. On the 30th March, 1889, an ammended note to the Annals was also printed. They were edited by Samuel Andrew, the Secretary of the Master Cotton Spinners’ and Manufacturers’ Association.

He also added his own comments and observations, not only putting the events into their historical context but also offering us, over 125 years later, another, invaluable 'voice' from an earlier century.

Spelling and punctuation are recorded, in these transcripts, as faithfully as possible to the original.

Corroborative evidence of the author's identity came to light with the following :

14th AUGUST 1929

Mr. Chas. E. Higson, of Lees, has shown me a copy of Edwin Butterworth’s “Statistical Sketch of Lancashire” formerly belonging to his father, and bearing his signature “John Higson, Droylsden, Dec. 1854”

Pasted in the front cover of the volume is a slip of paper, 4½ “ x 2½”, in Edwin Butterworth’s handwriting, worded as follows:-

Purchased Sepr. 2 1837, from the widow of Wm. Rowbottom of Burnley Lane near Oldham the MSS books of Mr. Rowbottom recording events chiefly local from 1787 to 1830, for the sum of £1..2s / paid to Mrs Rowbottom same day –

Edwin Butterworth
Busk Oldham”

Mr. C. E. Higson also informs me that he showed this book, with the above receipt, to Mr. S. Andrew while he was reprinting the diaries; but the full text of the receipt has not been published. It proves the author of these diaries to be Wm. Rowbottom, as Mr. Andrew and others have suggested.

Frank J. [?] Stubbs



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Diary page links
Timeline link
Oldham at the time - circa 1787 - 1830
William rowbottom's life and family - link
samuel andrew link
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William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard
Transcribed by Mary Pendlbury & Elaine Sykes
Courtesy of Oldham Local Studies & Archives
Not to be reproduced without permission of Oldham Local Studies & Archives
Header photograph © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for re-use under the C.C. Licence.'Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0'

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