Oldham Historical Research Group

Marjorie Cottam (née Stott)

When we moved to our new home on Burlington Avenue in the early 1980s whilst shopping at are local grocers shop on Manley Road, I was asked if we had met one of are neighbours who thinks she is a lady. I was intrigued by this remark. A while later I answered a knock at the door on opening the door stood this woman who introduced herself as Mrs Cottam, she asked : would I mind if it was possible if our daughter Andrea, could keep her company that day and play dominoes. After asking her she agreed not knowing that in time we would become trusted neighbours

So I would like to tell the people about a remarkable lady her name was Marjorie Cottom, she was born to one of Oldham’s prominent families.

Stott’s built up a remarkable well respected and prosperous company as cotton spinners, she lived with her parents and siblings at Coldhurst Hall, this used to be across from Holy Trinity Church, Coldhurst, (as a child I grew up in this area.)

She attended day school in Oldham and then sent to boarding school in Hoylake and then to St Ann’s school at Abbott’s Bromley which she enjoyed, at the age of 17 years she then went on to finishing school in Switzerland. Her memories of her childhood were of holidays spent in selected apartments by the sea or farms in the country.

She met her husband Joseph Cottam on a visit to Estcourt House, Coppice, which later on after they married, her father in law bought for them.

Her wedding was a big affair she had eight bridesmaids her youngest brother was a page boy, they laid a carpet from Coldhurst Hall where she lived across the road to Coldhurst Trinity Church. (Which I attended as a child and I was baptised there.)

Her honeymoon was spent in London then onto Montreux, Lugano, Villa D’Este , Como, Venice and Vienna and then to Warsaw.


Her husband lived in Russia with his parents and a brother in a town named Nava in Estonian Province, he attended schools in England on leaving school he was a trainee for another big firm in Oldham, Platt Brothers who were processing machinery manufactures.

Other memories she talked about was travelling with her parents and husband to visit her in laws in Krahnholm Nava, they travelled over land via Berlin where she saw the first zeppelin flying over the city, in celebration for the Kaiser and Kaiserina

In Krahnholm she was shown the house they would live in.

Krahnholm she described as consisting of thousands of workers and their families all housed by the firm, it also consisted of two churches, three hospitals, four doctors, police force and a train station, shops, a resident architect, brickworks, and a self-contained entity for the efficient running of five factories, these were turbine run using water from the river Narova and a waterfall. Her father in law was in charge with the help of English managers and carders, the operatives were Estonian and Russian, but the estate was owned by Baron Knoop. In the fifties as she told us, she parted from her husband and he went to live in Bowden, but they stayed good friends, he died in 1959 and is buried in the family vault in Chadderton cemetery.



Cossacks riding through St Petersburg

She told us that her husband’s parents lived in a large house nicknamed “Bolshoi Dom“ meaning large house. Mr and Mrs Cottam spent their married life in Russia, first in a place called Ekaterinhof St Petersburg before moved to Krahnholm.

She described her new home as a square house with good sized rooms which consisted of three entertaining rooms, kitchen, three bedrooms, a dressing room and bathroom. An attic which was used to drying clothes for storing wine, and cellars. Outside there where gardens and a ice house were they kept food during the summer months.They had a cook and a maid.

Nava was a garrison town she told us about her first winter there were many young officers of the Pechorski eager to try dashing Mazurkas with the new English bride at the dance.


Out side of Moscow in the countryside she speaks of Barons Andrew and Theodore they were invited to see their homes and grounds and she vividly recalls the lovely silver birch wood on Baron Andrews’s estate.

She continued to tell us stories of the dances, meals and people she met in Russia and in England. I will leave this until later on.

FIRST WORLD WAR. 1914-1919.

When war was declared Marjory was back in Oldham on holiday, her two brothers the eldest Prockter and youngest James volunteered like many young men from the town and surrounding districts, but James didn’t have to as he was under age, they both were in the 10th Manchester regiment. The regiment was stationed in Jericho near Bury the family went to visit them prior to the regiment being deployed to Egypt where later they saw action in the Gallipoli tragedy, where many other men and boys who were good friends were killed or injured. She returned to Nava to find that the regiment that was stationed there was gone, but with mail and newspapers from England irregular she became anxious. The day she found out about her brothers Prockter and James was when her husband Joe opened the Manchester “Daily Dispatch “to find their photographs and saying that Prockter had been wounded and James was missing. She decided to return to England for a couple of weeks with her mother in law to be with her mother .Later to be told that he had been killed.


When the Russia revolution broke out they heard rumours from Petrograd the disbanding of the police force, she went on to say the armed forces were out of control and going over to the revolutionaries, indiscriminate shooting from high buildings, suspicious and mistrust of all and by all. It was a dangerous and unpredictable period followed for some time during which one felt completely insecure and apprehennsive.

In her book she writes about the first experiences that happened one morning when her husband had gone to his office, she heard the sound of marching and singing of the MARSEILLAISE which all Russians so dreaded, the crowd were soon outside her home and leaning on the fence trying to force entry to the mill, luckily the large iron gates were locked and they could not gain entrance and so they left. Other incident she relates to one was of an elderly woman who worked at mill who saved her husband from being placed into a sack and the crowd would have thrown him into the waterfall, unfortunley this happened to another English family with their young son. English people were warned to keep away from any disturbances, street discussions and meetings, as tensions were high. As well as serious trouble there was a lighter incident like when her husband Joseph’s aunty felt something hit her suddenly in her back, she cried out to her husband “I’m shot “ only to find it was a cork from a seltzer water bottle. In Ekaterinhof she tells about when a soldier got into the wine cellar and fed the horses champagne until they reeled around the yard.

Whilst staying with her aunty Mollie they nearly lost their passports papers and money when soldiers demanded to search the premises, Mrs Cottam her mother in law and Marjorie managed to slip through a door and hid on the stairs leading to the offices below. As things got worse and the situation deteriorated the British Embassy informed the British communities that they no longer could be responsible for their safety and to evacuate all women and children, and for the men in responsible positions were advised them to stay in charge as long as possible to uphold British interests in Russia. So after several questions of where to go for safety place like Japan, Denmark but they decided on Finland as this would be more easier should the men join them, so this is were she and her mother in law set off on their journey out of Russia this was a very unpredictable time, so they set out for Tammerfors in Norway, but before they could reach their destination they had to fill out intricate and fantastic forms even to one question which was who were their grandparents. One of her tasks was to take a kettle to the engine driver to fill it with hot water for their tea and washing, there were no restaurant cars on some of the trains they were on so they had to buy tickets for their meals at various stations to use at station restaurants where there was no service, which contained large containers of tasteless soup.

On arrival back home after travelling from Norway to Aberdeen and then on to Oldham, she had no home and a baby on the way she went to live with her parents and younger brother Albert. Her mother was very distressed with news of her brothers James was missing in action in Turkey, and Prockter was wounded and far from home in Egypt and with her daughter mixed up in the revolution.

I will finish for now about this interesting neighbour and her family.

by Irene Beever

See also, 'An Oldham family Goes to Russia' contributed by Alice Handley

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