Oldham Historical Research Group

Oldham Past Times
The Newsletter of Oldham Historical Research Group
Issue Number 2: April 2012

What Happened to Poor Charlie the Fire Horse?

On 10 April 1883 Oldham Fire Brigade was called out to assist Rochdale’s fire service with a fire at Rochdale Town Hall. The engines were drawn by horses, one of whom was called Charlie, who it was reported later had become badly winded. This may have meant that due to the galloping speed and pulling such heavy engines it had put pressure on his lungs.

Ten years later, on 14 April 1893, a fire was reported at Hargreaves Spinning Company. One of the engines that turned out was drawn by a pair of horses called Billy and Charlie. The driver who was called Hill stated in his report that for some unknown reason the horses had run in to pallisdrys in front of Dr Broomhead’s house on Henshaw Street. Hill also stated that Charlie was bad to handle and difficult to control. So what happened to Charlie? The answer was supplied by an article in the Oldham Chronicle of 13 February 1965 entitled Last Gallop by A. B. describing life in the 1900s.

One day they were jogging along through Glodwick drawn by uncle’s horse, Yes Charlie, when the fire bell began to ring at the Bell Mill. Charlie had been a fire horse but he had become broken and winded after a fire at Rochdale Town Hall,. but when he heard the bell he began to gallop down Glodwick Road, the lemonade cart with my father clinging on for dear life rocking violently from side to side. Lemonade bottles were strewn everywhere align eh road but Charlie galloped on until he reached the scene of the fire. Sadly it was his last gallop for when he reached the scene of the fire he dropped dead.


History of Oldham Fire Brigade Part 2

The development of the Brigade proceeded apace and in 1886 a new fire station was built in Ascroft Street, replacing the Clegg Street station which closed in August 1886 having been in use for over forty years. Ascroft Street station remained the headquarters station of Oldham Fire Brigade and then station C33 in the Greater Manchester Fire Service until it was replaced with a new station in 1979. It was demolished in the late 1980s.

In 1894 the old telegraph system was scrapped and telephones introduced at Central, Werneth and Townfield fire stations. Then in 1896 street fire alarms were installed in various parts of the town, the first being at Mumps Bridge. These street alarms saw service in the town until 1946 when the GPO telephone network superseded them. Stations and appliances were also improved. In 1897 a new fire station was built at the junction of Manchester Street and Frederick Street. With the building of these new stations ambulance work was introduced as an additional responsibility for the fire brigade. By 1899 the strength of the Brigade was forty-seven under the command of the Chief Constable. The Brigade’s appliances consisted of five steam pumpers, six horse-drawn appliances, three hose carts, three escape ladders and five thousand yards of hose. A new station at Townfield was opened on 23 September 1903.

The next advance was the purchase in 1908 of a motor-driven fire appliance which carried a sixty-foot escape ladder and could pump six hundred gallons a minute. Additional appliances were added in 1910, 1915 and 1918. The last horse-drawn appliance was withdrawn in 1922. In 1928 a hose reel tender was purchased and equipped with a forty-gallon tank and a one hundred and twenty foot rubber hose wheel which dealt with eighty per cent of fires. The next technological development was the turntable ladder and in 1936 Oldham took delivery of its first one-hundred foot Leyland-Metx turntable ladder. This appliance was capable of being used for both fire-fighting and rescue of people from high-rise buildings.


Copster Hill Part 1

Copster Hill features prominently on maps of Oldham. Whilst being part of the town it was often referred to as the little village south of the town on the old road from Oldham to Manchester. Historical references can be traced back to 1428 when Copster Hill formed part of the lands of John de Assheton and the Roman road from Manchester to York passed through the area. A small excavation by Manchester University in the area of Copster Hill House failed to find anything dating back before the 17th century. although the remains of a number of structures representing numerous phases of buildings spanning two centuries were found on the site

By the mid 18th century the Copster Hill estate seems to have been jointly owned by the Bent and Kershaw families, with both families having substantial properties on the estate. The Bent family occupied Gate Field House, owned by John Bent prior to his death in 1778, while the Kershaw family lived at Copster Hill. John Kershaw, the owner of the house in 1778, rebuilt Cospter Hill re-naming it Copster House. Jane Bent, widow of John Bent, is believed to have sold her part of the Copster Hill estate to John Kershaw.

Sometime before 1791 John Kershaw built a cotton mill. on land between what is now Copster Place and Copster House. (Copster Hosue was recently demolished to make way for Cop Thorn estate.) The mill was small compared to later mills and probably used horses to power the machinery. However, by 1829 steam power had been introduced. Dunn’s map of that year records a Warehouse, Boiler House, Engine House, Smithy, Mechanics Shop, Yard and Reservoir and a house; presumably for the factory manager, on the site. In spite of a number of disasters, fatal accidents, fires and the like, the factory survived for more than 100 years. The site is now occupied by N.C.P and the houses on Nadin Street.




A display of photographs illustrating the history of trams in Oldham.

at the Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham
23 April-26 May

Oldham Historical Research Group

The History of Trams in Oldham

Illustrated talk by John Holmes charting the rise and fall of trams in Oldham.
Wednesday: 16 May, 7pm

Calling all Bus and Tram Workers

Did you work on the trams or buses?
Come along to our open day on Saturday: 19 May.
Drop in any time between 10am-4pm

The Seven Holy Crosses of Oldham

Illustrated talk by Gary Millward examining the history behind the medieval crosses of Oldham and their possible locations.
Saturday: 19 May, 11am
Booking is essential. Ring 0161 770 4654 to book your place.

Palaeography Group

Saturdays 21 April, 19 May, 16 June 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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