Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

Changes in Oldham

My word, what a change Oldham has gone through. Any one coming back to the old place would hardly recognise it. And what a lot of new property! The tall flats are very impressive. I have always loved Oldham, not just the town itself, but the people too. They are all so friendly.

I was bom a few yards from Oldham Church, and did live for some time in St. Mary's St. but we moved to Lodge St. and I lived there till I was married and went to live in Chadderton. From our bedroom window we could see the clock on Oldham Church. It never seemed to stop. As a child I used to play among all the little streets, ginnels and courts round about. I remember many empty houses round Oldham Church and we used to go around looking for these old ruins, as we called them. We used to play behind the King's cinema, where there was place where they made coffins and a mill which always had steam coming out. It was very spooky. We used to climb through a gap in the fence and shout "Old McGinty, run for your lives ", and we did.

I remember going errands for an old lady who lived off Rock St. She lived in one of two or three old stone cottages. Inside they were very dark and had low beams and very small windows. They were just like prison windows. Just off Whitely St. there were more ruins of old cottages. I used to wonder how they had managed without gas or electricity. They used to have oil lamps and candles. In those days the houses were spread around Oldham Church, but when the cotton industry came to Oldham many more houses were built in rows. They were built round the old cottages. We used to play in Horsedge Fold, where the old walls were still standing. We always said the Romans built them, but I don't think the Romans spent much time in Oldham.

The Oldham I knew has gone now, but they can't take your memories away can they? Oldham is an interesting town. Along the main street you will find many stopping places where the carters and their horses used to have a drink. I remember there used to be water troughs and stone steps outside different pubs where people could mount their horses before going on to Manchester or over the moors into Yorkshire. When I was quiteyoung, people used to come from the moors with the cloth they had woven themselves. That was before we had so many mills in Oldham. There was a small community of shops in Church Lane. I remember a blacksmith's, a barber's and a violin shop.

Woolworth's opened when I was about sixteen and a lot of my friends went to work there. They worked all Saturday for 4s.6d. The girls were all dressed alike and there were at least four on each counter. There were tremendous crowds the day Woolworth's opened. It was such a big event.

The Greave's Arms had to be demolished, and it was rebuilt across the road. The landlord chose very special small bricks, which cost a lot of money. Then the War Memorial was built nearby, and some people didn't like it being so near to a pub, but it was near to the church as well.

I think the biggest change I saw in Oldham town centre when I was young was when they moved John Platt's memorial statue f rom outside the Town Hall. I don't think it's changed much since then.

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