NW Cotton Towns Learning Journey
Your guide: John Mortimer, author of "Industrial Lancashire" (1897)
Step 1: Liverpool to Manchester; Manchester to Stockport; Stockport to Ashton
Step 2: Ashton to Manchester; Manchester to Oldham; Oldham to Rochdale
Step 3: Rochdale to Bury; Bury to Accrington; Accrington to Blackburn
Step 4: Blackburn to Burnley; Burnley to Clitheroe; Clitheroe to Preston
Step 5: Preston to Wigan via Chorley; Wigan to Bolton
Step 6: Bolton to Salford; Salford to Manchester
Click on the steps below to explore.
North West Cotton Towns Learning Journey Step 2
ASHTON TO MANCHESTER
We return to Manchester now on the Ashton Canal. The canal was originally proposed as "The Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham Canal", and when completed in 1796, ran from Whitelands Basin, Ashton, through 18 locks, running downhill and westwards for seven miles to a large basin behind London Road railway station, Manchester.
MANCHESTER TO OLDHAM
We now travel six miles to Oldham, the most productive cotton town in the world, taking a horse-drawn tram car from Piccadilly along Oldham Road, passing through New Cross and industrious Ancoats. We change cars at Newton Heath, climbing through Failsworth and Hollinwood into Oldham, 700 feet above sea level. The landscape is covered with mills and weaving sheds. Oldham produced 11.4 million of the world's 87 million spindles of cotton in 1890; its surrounding towns also important cotton centres: Chadderton has over 50 spinning mills; Crompton (and Shaw) has some 30 mills; Lees lost its spa town status in the shadow of its 11 mills; Royton boasts the first cotton spinning mill in Lancashire, Thorpe Mill, built in 1764 (note: after Mortimer's time, Royton's Elk Mill became the last UK cotton spinning mill to be built, in 1928). Even rural Saddleworth, an ancient wool town mentioned in the Domesday Book, has several cotton mills.
OLDHAM TO ROCHDALE
We head six miles north to Rochdale, on a new-fangled steam driven tram car, a long, tall vehicle with a covered sitting space on the roof, which has become a distinct feature of locomotion on the roads connecting the manufacturing towns. We descend into the Roche valley, where lies Rochdale, population 71,000. Rochdale's mills occupy high and low ground, the first built in 1795. A network of streets in places hints at an older and quainter place. Rochdale was formerly a wool town, specialising in baizes, flannels, kerseys, coatings and cloth, all of which were widely exported: as elsewhere, cotton now dominates. Rochdale's spinning mills produce 1.7 million spindles annually, and there is much weaving done on the town's 23,000 looms. Local collieries provide fuel for both cotton and textile machinery manufacture. The towns around Rochdale: Heywood, Middleton, Littleborough, Wardle and Milnrow all have a strong cotton connection.