Oldham Historical Research Group

Oldham Past Times
The Newsletter of Oldham Historical Research Group
Issue Number 3: September 2012

Oldham Historical Research Group meets on the third Wednesday of the month at Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham, from 7-9pm.
The aim of the group is to encourage an interest in researching any aspect of the history of Oldham.
If you are interested in joining just come along to any of our meetings.

Copster Hill Part 2

Frank Seaton Jones

A census in 1811 by Samuel Crompton identified 19 mills in the township of Oldham. This suggests that John Kershaw played an important role during the Industrial Revolution in Oldham. The result was a population explosion from 12,000 to 86,000 thousand in 70 years. (In the 1860s the writer's great-grandfather and two brothers walked all the way from Ferry on the River Trent to find work in the area. They were basket makers and set up prosperous businesses making skips for the cotton mills.)

On John Kershaw's death in 1793 the estate passed on to his son Ralph who died soon after without an heir. The Copster Estate then passed to John's daughter Betty. She married John Harrop of Bardsley House, the owner of most of Bardsley Village. He died in 1814 and was succeeded by his son and heir Jonah Harrop. However Dunn's Map of Oldham (1829) shows Betty (Kershaw) Harrop as the owner of Copster House with its spacious garden, and of Copster Mill. The occupier is John Wrigley; from this we can assume he rented the mill from the Kershaw's.

John Kershaw is also listed as the owner of the houses in Copster Place, occupying two himself, one with additional stables and garden. Both the mill and cottages appear on the 1829 map but only the mill is shown on the 1804 enclosure award. From this we can conclude that the houses were built sometime between these two dates presumably to house the workers employed in the mill. The two rows of dwellings below, originally named Cotton Street were renamed Copster Place in 1912.

To-day the look of the cottages with the sandstone flagged roofs, colour washed front and back with old fashioned style of light fittings, give a quaint appearance more in keeping with the open countryside surrounded by meadows full of daisies and buttercups and other wild flowers. The inconsistency between the cottages and their surroundings is the result of unprecedented industrial expansion with corresponding house building that swallowed up the green fields.

Almost the whole of Hollins, the Coppice, Fitton Hill and Hathershaw consisted of open countryside at the time the houses were constructed. From the early 1700s there was a local pub called The Noggins which brewed its own beer until the end of the19th century when Oldham Brewery took over. The pub was rebuilt during the First World War, as a patriotic gesture it was renamed ‘The King George’.


The History of Oldham Fire Brigade Part 3

Mark Beswick

In the main, personal who enrolled as firemen were tradesmen who were capable of maintaining the vehicles and fire station property. This kept the running costs of the Brigade to a minimum. In 1916 the first of the underground fire tanks were installed and improved water mains with fire hydrants continued to be laid in the Borough.

In 1938 the Brigade, with Chief Constable A K Mayall OBE, consisted of 32 permanent police firemen and 21 police as auxiliary firemen. Later in this year an Act of Parliament was passed which had far reaching effects on fire brigades throughout the country. With the threat of war it was decided that fire brigades must be strengthened and organised in such a way they could be ready to assist each other efficiently and quickly. In Oldham the police auxiliary firemen were replaced by volunteers known as Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). Between March 1938 and September 1939 some 800 AFS volunteers were trained at Central fire station, these men were drawn in from areas in Oldham and surrounding districts of Chadderton, Royton, Lees, Crompton and Failsworth.

War was declared against Germany in September 1939 and sixteen additional AFS stations with 120 emergency fire pumps and towing vehicles became available in Oldham and for assistance to surrounding brigades. For nearly 12 months the enemy was quiet and the AFS attended only normal calls with the regular fire brigade. But in August 1940 enemy bombs dropped on Belgium Mill, Royton and air raids continued until August 1941 keeping the AFS and men of the regular brigade busy. The AFS also attended major fires, caused by air raids in surrounding districts of Manchester, Liverpool, Coventry, Leeds, Birmingham and Sheffield. Whilst on a fire in Trafford Park in December 1940, five AFS firemen from Oldham were killed during an air raid.

In 1941 a further Act of Parliament was introduced welding the country’s regular firemen with the AFS, the new organisation being called the National Fire Service. Oldham Fire Brigade lost its identity as such and became `H` Division of Number 27 Fire Force Area. Control of the fire brigade passed from the police to the Home Office and Divisional Officer Bellamy was appointed officer in charge of Oldham area NFS. Preparations for the air raids continued, but never came, only on a small scale. At Christmas in 1944 the Oldham NFS probably rendered its greatest assistance to the town when a flying bomb landed on Abbeyhills killing and injuring many people. At the end of the war the NFS was slowly disbanded and the fire brigade passed back to local authority controls.

On 1 April 1948 Oldham County Borough once again had its own Fire Brigade under the charge of its first Chief Fire Officer-Bert Bellamy. The many improvements to the Brigade continued over the years and conditions of service were much improved. For example firemen only worked a 60 hour week, two watch systems! The number of men and appliances attending was greater, better training, equipment and machines gave Oldham ratepayers a better quality service. Emergency Tenders, Salvage Tenders, and various other rescue equipment. This gave Oldham a compliment in 1950 of 2 turntable ladders, 2 pump escapes, 3 major pumps,1 water tender,1 emergency tender, 2 salvage tenders and 2 motor cycles with 89 officers and men.

Oldham Fire Brigade continued to progress and with the fast moving technology and speed of appliances it was decided to close the Townfield Fire Service in late 1948, leaving Central and Werneth to cover the Borough and surrounding areas. Much assistance was given to the Lancashire County and City of Manchester Brigades and some memorable and tragic fires were attended in these areas, including Ram Mill in the 1960s and Texas Mill in 1971.

Alas, on 1 April 1974 Oldham County Borough and its fire brigade were to cease and become amalgamated into the County of Greater Manchester. Oldham fire stations became part of `C` Division- Central being C33 and Werneth C34. The Chief Fire Officer of the day Mr Harold Garlick retired but many other officers and men continued in the new GMC ire Service. In October 1979 the new fire station at Lees Road was handed over and became operational. It housed two Water Ladders and a Hydraulic Platform, with a complement of sixty four fire-fighters, two Assistant Divisional Officers and three Fire Prevention Officers. The Old Central and Werneth fire stations are now gone with replacements at Lees Road, nearly opposite the old Townfield fire station and Hollins Fire Station on Hollins Road replacing Werneth fire Station.


Phonograph or Gramophone: A Brief Explanation

David Barker (Isle of Man)

Although Thomas Edison first recorded sound in December 1877, his invention, which was dubbed Phonograph, or` sound-writer` was viewed at the time as a scientific curiosity only and, unbelievable as it seems to us today, the unexploited commercially for more than ten years.

The machine was limited to recording and playing back brief messages indented into thick tinfoil which had a short life. Alexander Graham Bell of telephone fame won the international Prix Volta for science in 1880, and approached Edison with a view to shared further research and development of Edison’s dormant brainchild. This was rejected by Edison, who claimed the phonograph as his` favourite` invention and flew headlong into his own further work on the machine. Wasteful patent battles between the two men and a major legal bungle by the Edison camp necessitated settlements by the early1890’s which account for the` Bell` in the company name Edison Bell, a company well remembered by the older generation of British record owners.

By this time Emil Berliner, a German from Hanover had invented the Gramophone in 1888. He took his idea to America. In his invention, a spinal groove on a flat record contained a signal recorded laterally that is` side-to-side`, as opposed to Edison’s cylindrical record which possessed a grove which wound spinally around it and contained a signal that was vertically cut or hill and dale in form. This is the fundamental difference between the two inventions.

From the outset, the gramophone and its records were both easier to manufacture and distribute than the phonograph. For all the quality of Edison’s products, they were far costlier both of time and materials to bring to market and harder to use and store once in the customer’s hands. It is probably fair to say that the Berliner been a wealthy man in 1888 he would have overcome the Edison opposition far earlier than he eventually did. As it was, he couldn’t even raise starter capital in America to begin production and had to return to his native Germany to have the first gramophones made by a doll factory.

Edison’s early inventions had made him a fortune in the twenties, which combined with his national celebrity, gave him a great commercial advantage. It took years before Berliner’s David seriously threatened Edison’s Goliath. Contrary to the popular understanding, therefore cylinders did not `come before` discs in the marketplace. In fact the first disc- playing machine, (in toy form), available for Christmas 1889, before it was possible to buy a phonograph for domestic entertainment! Because all records were made without any electrical intervention prior to 1924, and because the machines which played them back did so purely mechanically, they are known as acoustic records and machines.

Incidentally; not many people knew that the very word `Gramophone` is not genetic, and was in fact the copyright name of Berliner’s invention. In Britain the courts defended the word until 1910, when they ruled that the term had become universal. Prior to that date any similar product had to be described in print as a `Talking Machine`. This term conveniently covered both gramophones and phonographs before the First World War, and fell from popular use after it.


Future Meetings of Oldham Historical Research Group:

Wednesday 19 September

Baseball in Oldham

Wednesday 17 October

Audio & Visual - Stories from Victorian Egypt to present-day Uppermill and some in-between

Wednesday 21 November

Votes for Women

Wednesday 19 December

The Victims of the 1941 Bombing of Oldham


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