Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

Lighting Up

Years ago there was no gas laid on in people's houses and oil lamps were used for light. Most hardware shops sold oil from a large drum and you would take a can or a bottle to the shop and fill it up. The oil lamp would be placed in the middle of the table where it would light up the whole room. Even the market stalls had oil lamps hanging up and people had to be careful not to stand too close to them The smell from the lamps was awful.

I do remember when we first had gas laid on. The flame was fan shaped, but later on mantles were invented and we thought they were wonderful. They were manufactured in Bow St. off Yorkshire St. and they were very fragile. They were packed very well so that they wouldn't break but if you blew on one it would tum to powder. Gas mantles gave a very good light and they would last for a while but I remember my mother saying, "Don't bang the back door you will break my mantle"

Many a time we had to knock up the plumber late at night to buy a new one. Otherwise we had to sit in the dark or light the oil lamp. Later on pretty shades came out which could be bought at Woolworth's for 6d. We all had 1d. gas meters and even the smallest child could put a penny in the meter. If we had no pennies we had to ask the neighbours to change two halfpennies for us.

When I was about thirteen I worked at the Tay Mill in Higginshaw and I remember a man coming round with a lighted candle at dusk, lighting the gas mantles. Electricity came in gradually and word would get around that someone had it and we would go to look and marvel at it. I think the wealthy people had it first but soon everybody had it. We just pressed a switch and we had all the light and power we needed.

Today we take all this for granted, and when I look back I wonder how we managed but we did. You never heard of many fires starting in spite of all the gas and oil buming but I wouldn't like to go back to those days. Thank God for good lights!

Back to Story List

link to home page
Oldham in Gazetteers link
From the archives link
link to members' pages
link to News
link to miscellaneous pages
links page