Oldham Historical Research Group


By Stephen Reynolds Clarke

Oldham, a chapelry in the parish of Prestwich, hundred of Salford, 7 miles N.E. from Manchester. Inhabitants 21,662. Fair May 2nd, for horned cattle, horses and sheep. The chapelry of Oldham, though part of the parish of Prestwich, is entirely separated by the intervening parishes of Middleton and Manchester. It has so completely outstrripped its mother church, in wealth and population, that it now takes precedence, though somewhat improperly, in the population returns. The parochial chapel was of the date 1476; it has been much enlarged at various periods, and contained several monuments of the ancient lords of the manor. Being too small for the numerous population, it has been replaced by a new church, and another is now in progress under the late acts of parliament. St Peter's Chapel was built in 1765 by voluntary subscription. At Oldham are seven places of worship for various classes of Dissenters and Methodists, with schools attached. Here is a Free Grammar School, founded by James Assheton, esq., in 1611. A large sum of money was left by Mr. Henshaw, in 1807, for the endowment of a Blue Coat School; but legal difficulties have hitherto prevented the bequest from being carried into execution. Oldham is pleasantly situated on an eminence, commanding extensive and delightful prospects. The Manufacture of hats was the original staple of of the place, and still continues; but that of fustians, with every branch of the cotton business has been introduced, and flourishes with the greatest prosperity.
The numerous streamlets were formerly of great importance in working the machinery; and, though their agency is somewhat superseded by the introduction of steam, they are still of great utility. Oldham enjoys the advantage of abundance of coal, of which a large portion is sent to Manchester. The extent of the chapelry is avout 4000 acres; and the soil is general of excellent quality, consisting chiefly of black loam and clay. Werneth Hall, in this township, is the seat of Edward Lees, esq. Oldham gave birth to Hugh Oldham, bishop of Exeter, a liberal benefactor to Corpus Christi College in Oxford, and who also founded the free grammar school at Manchester, and endowed it with a large revenue: he died in 1519. The chapelry of Oldham has its separate chuchwardens; but is still subordinate in some respects to Prestwich. It contains four townships: -
Chadderton ........... 5124 inhabitants
Crompton ........... 6482 inhabitants
Oldham ........... 21,662 inhabitants
Royton ........... 4933 inhabitants
Entire Population ........... 38,201


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