1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Oldham

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

OLDHAM, a municipal county and parliamentary borough of Lancashire, England, 7 m. N.E. of Manchester, on the London & North-Western, Great Central and Lancashire & Yorkshire railways and the Oldham canal. Pop. (1891) 131,463; (1901) 137,246. The principal railway station is called Mumps, but there are several others. The town lies high, near the source of the small river Medlock. Its growth as a manufacturing centre gives it a wholly modern appearance. Among several handsome churches the oldest dates only from the later 18th century. The principal buildings and institutions include the town-hall, with tetrastyle portico copied from the Ionic temple of Ceres near Athens, the reference library, art gallery and museum, the Union Street baths, commemorating Sir Robert Peel the statesman, and the county court. Of educational establishments the chief are the Lyceum, a building in Italian style, containing schools of art and science, and including an observatory; the largely-endowed blue-coat school founded in 1808 by Thomas Henshaw, a wealthy manufacturer of hats; the Hulme grammar school (1895), and municipal technical schools. The Alexandra Park, opened in 1865, was laid out by operatives who were thrown out of employment owing to the cotton famine in the years previous to that date. The site is picturesquely undulating and terraced. Oldham is one of the most important centres of the cotton manufactures, the consumption of cotton being about one-fifth of the total importation into the United Kingdom, the factories numbering some 230, and the spindles over 13 millions, while some 35,000 operatives are employed. The principal manufactures are fustians, velvets, cords, shirtings, sheetings and nankeens. There are also large foundries and mUl and cotton machinery works; and works for the construction of gas-meters and sewing-machines; while all these industries are assisted by the immediate presence of collieries. There are extensive markets and numerous fairs are held. Oldham was incorporated in 1849, and became a county borough in 1888. The corporation consists of a mayor, 12 aldermen and 36 councillors. The parliamentary borough has returned two members since 1832. Area of municipal borough, 4736 acres.

A Roman road, of which some traces are still left, passes through the site of the township, but it does not appear to have been a Roman station. It is not mentioned in Domesday; but in the reign of Henry III. Alwardus de Aldholme is referred to as holding land in Vernet (Werneth). A daughter and co-heiress of this Alwardus conveyed Werneth Hall and its manor to the Cudworths, a branch of the Yorkshire family, with whom it remained till the early part of the 18th century. From the Oldhams was descended Hugh Oldham, who died bishop of Exeter in 1519. From entries in the church registers it would appear that linens were manufactured in Oldham as early as 1630. Watermills were introduced in 1770, and with the adoption of Arkwright’s inventions the cotton industry grew with great rapidity.