Oldham Historical Research Group

'Appeal for Contributions'

'Appeal for Contributions' to raise money for the 'Proposed New Pole'


Brief History of the Failsworth Pole
by the Rev. James Smith

The historic Pole is the principal landmark of Failsworth, and has dominated the centre of local life from time immemorial. When the loyal Pole was erected in the year 1793, there was an old one already there that had stood from the most ancient times. It was probably the village Maypole, because Pole Lane end is mentioned in the parish books in the year 1746, when Joseph Schofield was appointed constable for Pole Lane end, and it is plain that there could hardly have been a Pole Lane unless there had been a pole. In the year 1760 Pole Lane House was occupied by Edward Moores, who was followed by William Booth, whose family had successively tenanted it up to the present day. Backstone muffins and cheese, supplied by Booths, and toasted in the Royal Oak oven across the way, provided tasty 'bitings-on' for wayfarers.

On the 1st of February, 1793, the High Party in exuberant loyalty set up a new Pole to overawe the Jacobins. A beautiful oak tree was selected in a wood near the place, and was cut down, handsomely cased with boards, and painted. It was then set up with the following inscription in gold letters:-

This, our Loyal Standard of Failsworth, was erected on the 1st January, 1793, to the King, Church, and present glorious Constitution.

At the raising of the Pole, all the Church and King Party came and touched the Pole, after which, when it was half raised, it had to be lowered for the belated Henry Booth to render similar homage. At the coronation of William lV, the Pole was taken down, re-painted, re-gilded, and re-erected; and to celebrate the great occasion, an ox was roasted whole in honour of the event.

This first Pole lorded it over the scene until October the 7th, 1849, when, owing to decay, it was broken and blown down by a strong wind.

The second Pole was put up on August 24th, 1850, and was a ship's mainmast.

The third Pole was erected on October 24th, 1889, at a cost of £100 13s 2d, which was raised by public subscription. This Pole was purchased by Messrs. Thomas Allen and William Dunkerley in Liverpool, on behalf of the Pole Committee, and on the advice of Messrs. George Evans and Sons, timber merchants, of Newton Heath. It was conveyed from Liverpool to Manchester, after being dressed by Mr. George Jones, professional rigger, by the L. & N. W. Railway on five trucks, and from Manchester to Failsworth on Messrs. Evans' lorries. The dimensions were 84 feet long, 19.5 inches by 20 inches at the base, tapering to 8 inches at the top. The Pole was sunk into the ground 11 feet 6 inches, and its total length above, along with 8 feet of ironwork, was 80 feet 6 inches or 2 feet 6 inches higher than the previous one. The total weight with fittings was about four tons. Ben Brierley assisted at the erection.

On Edward Vll Coronation Day, the Sunday Schools held a United Sing at the Pole, which was re-painted, decorated and garlanded for the important occasion. Again, an ox was roasted whole in honour of the event. The cock on the top was kept crowing all the day, being primed, by the 'juice' from an electric wire, with a special gadget.

The cock must have his place in this narrative. He is a fine lusty bird, standing 2 feet 9 inches high, and measuring 2 feet from tip to tip. He is made of solid copper, heavily gilded, and cost £2 5s 0d, and might well claim the distinction of being the 'Cock of the North'. He crows when he smells roast beef, and he also flaps his wings and crows when he sees the sun rise, to herald the dawn of the day.

The Jacobins' Club Library was kept in a room next to that in which Ben Brierley was born, and old John Moffatt, tailor, of 'Crockey Hall,' opposite the Pole, had charge of the Library. Died in 1830, He wrote the following lines, which are remarkable for their patriotism. He must have been a mild sort of Jacobin.

The Standard stands under a Cock and Crown;
Three Boards for Three Roads are fix't on't lower down;
Hands with long Forefingers are painted on them,
To point unto A{shton], unto O[ldham], unto M[anchester].
N.E.W.S. are four letters which shew
That Newspapers come from four quarters Winds blow.
Lo! Under the Crown are two G's and two R's,
Which have been renewed since the end of the Wars.
A patriot King is a Nation's delight;
His Yoke it is easy, his burden is light;
Not like the French Cock turned by every Wind
Of Favourites, Flatterers, and such like kind.

Anno Domini, Millesimus {sic} Octingentesimus Vicesimus Secundus. - J.M. (1822)

The neighbourhood of the Pole has long been a favourite resting place for man and beast journeying between Manchester and Oldham - that is why there are so many Inns in the vicinity. The Crown and Cushion, Ben Brierley's 'Owd Bell', owned by William Barrow and his successors during the past one-and-a-half centuries. The Pack Horse, the oldest Licensed house between Manchester and Huddersfield. Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman was wont to call here, and often used the mounting block which stands in front. The Royal Oak, a later creation, being converted from a warehouse to its present use as a house of call. Also the Church Inn, on the opposite side. The rush cart was built at the Crown and Cushion, and together with the Morris Dancers, was an unique feature at the Annual Wakes.

The Parish Church, built in 1846, is also within a few yards of the Pole, and the Churchyard was the township burial ground for 40 years.The municipal life also centred at the Pole. The first Local Board held its meetings in one of the cottages adjoining the Crown and Cushion.

Fifty Years ago Failsworth was little unchanged by the passing of the centuries of history: its people were native born, and dwelt in the scattered hamlets and folds which had sheltered their forefathers. In 1663 there were only 50 families; in 1763 the population was 1,353; and in 1863 numbered 5,000. It is now upwards of 17,000.

To those who remember Failsworth of 50 years ago there is one saddening feature, and that is the gradual destruction of the picturesque. At that time Oldham Road was lined for a great part of its length with noble trees.

In conclusion, Failsworth and Failsworth Pole are associated together in the minds of all former inhabitants, wheresoever they may dwell. Let us, therefore, prove ourselves worthy inheritors of past traditions; and now that the third historic Pole has succumbed to decay, let us erect a fourth Pole equally as good and handsome as its predecessors.

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