Oldham Historical Research Group

Oldham Past Times
The Newsletter of Oldham Historical Research Group
Issue Number 1: January 2012

This newsletter features the work of two of our members who are interested in various aspects of the history of Oldham Fire Brigade, Irene Beever and Mark Beswick.

Irene Beever has always been interested in history so when she retired from nursing after 37 years she starting undertaking research at Oldham Local Studies and Archives. She began transcribing a Police Oath and Declaration Book recording Oldham police officers who were sworn in to the service from 1881. This was the year in which Oldham Watch Committee refused to join with Lancashire division, so all police officers had to be sworn in and sign the Oldham Police Oath and Declaration book.

During her research Irene noticed there were different types sworn in, ie ordinary police, park police, market police and police/firemen. Whilst transcribing the Oldham Borough Police Records she became particularly interested in police/firemen the so she decided to write about one officer who stood out, Lot Partington.

Lot Partington: Deputy Chief Constable of Oldham

Lot Partington was born in 1845 at Tonge near Middleton and joined the police in 1866 aged 21, when he was described as being 5ft 10in tall, with a fresh complexion and with sandy-coloured hair, and married with six children. His starting pay for a constable 3rd class was 19 shillings a week. Four years later he was promoted to Sergeant and by 1872 to Chief Clerk working out of the Town Hall. By 1883 he had been promoted to Inspector 1st class where his pay had risen to 43 shillings a week.

In 1889 he was transferred to Werneth where he took over the fire brigade. After being promoted to Chief Inspector in 1898 he was transferred back to Central Station where he was appointed Superintendent Deputy Chief Constable in 1899. In 1905 Lot Partington submitted his resignation after 38 and a half year’s service, receiving a pension of £2 4s 4d a week. The Watch Committee recorded its high appreciation of Superintendent Partington’s diligent and conscientious discharge of his duty during his long service in the police. He died in 1825 aged 80.

When he joined the police in 1866 there were only 55 officers; by the time of his retirement the capacity of the force had trebled. He was also the first person to hold the office of Superintendent Deputy Chief Constable. During his period of service he was involved with a report that a body of Fenians were drilling at night at Clarksfield which turned out to be false, and 17 weeks of strikes and lock-outs in the cotton and iron industries in 1898.


Mark Beswick has been in the fire service for almost 31 years, 15 of these at Oldham. His interest in the history of Oldham Fire Brigade has developed over the last few years as a consequence of hearing anecdotes from men who had served in Oldham Fire Brigade until the amalgamation of local authorities in 1974.

Since joining the group he has met several people who share his interest but he is always looking to find out more. If you have any queries or have any anecdotes or relatives who served in Oldham Fire Brigade he would be very interested to hear from you. You can contact Mark by attending one of our meetings or e-mailing him at: markbeswick@hotmail.co.uk

History of Oldham Fire Brigade Part 1

A fire brigade has been operational in Oldham since at least 1807. The fire station, built by public subscription, was located at Mumps Brook and had a complement of six firemen and a manual pump. The firemen also performed the duty of town lamplighters for which they were paid a beer allowance and 6d per hour when on duty at a fire. In 1849 following the incorporation of Oldham County Borough a new fire station was opened in Clegg Street with two manually operated pumps.

By 1864 the brigade consisted of four manually operated appliances, two stationed at Clegg Street and two at Townfield. It was in this year that the Brigade was placed under the control of the Borough police. In addition to the Police fire Brigade there also existed a fire station in Union Street in the charge of Joseph Hall, the founder of an Oldham fire-engineering firm J. J. Hall Ltd. This particular Brigade attended for the West of England Insurance Co. Its last major fire was at the Broadway Lane Mill, Chamber Road, Oldham, which burned down in 35 minutes.

During this early period firefighting was both crude and ineffective with heavy cumbersome hand-operated equipment pulled by horses usually borrowed from the borough’s Cleansing Department to attend fires. The firemen too were rarely where they were required and so a large bell was sited outside the station which called them in to attend the fire.

In 1875 after a number of disastrous fires, a group of mill-owners in Oldham put pressure on the Corporation to take more effective measures in organising its Fire Brigade. As a consequence the Corporation purchased its first steam fire engine at a cost of £560 which could pump 350 gallons per minute. It was first used on the day of its delivery at a large fire at Park Mill, Hollinwood. Two more were purchased in 1876 and 1877 ten permanent firemen were appointed for fire duties only and stationed at Clegg Street under the command of Sergeant Adamson. During 1878 agreements were reached with the Corporation, insurance companies and outlying townships to pay attendances by Oldham Police Fire Brigade, apart that is from Lees which maintained its own fire brigade until 1884.




From January to April at Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham: Hathershaw Past and Present, a display of photographs of Hathershaw comparing photographs taken in the 1970s with more contemporary shots.

Oldham Historical Research Group

Wednesday 15 February at Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham, 7pm: Monthly meeting of the Oldham Historical Research Group for anyone interested in researching the history of Oldham. This meeting will include a talk by John Beever on the history of churches in Oldham.

Wednesday 21 March at Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham, 7pm: Monthly meeting of the Oldham Historical Research Group for anyone interested in researching the history of Oldham. This meeting will include a talk on sources for researching the history of buildings and land-ownership in Oldham.

Palaeography Group

Saturdays 25 February, 24 March at Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham, 10-11.30am.The group is currently engaged on a project to transcribe all Oldham wills and inventories from the 16th and 17th centuries. If you are interested in helping with this project just turn up.


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