As I was born in Hurst Brook, and have lived in Hurst all my life, I propose to begin describing Hurst Cross. First let me say that the land in Hurst and a good portion of the land in Ashton has been so transformed that it is different from what it was seventy years ago.

Owing to brickmaking, which has been going on all that time, and longer, the land from Oldham-road to Cockbrook is at least two yards lower than it was originally, and then the dingles are gradually being filled up with the refuse of the town, so a great levelling up is in process.

Hurst Cross was a very small hamlet in those days, being composed of only one street, commencing at where the cemetery now is and ending at Prospect Cottage, opposite where St John's Church is now. The church was not then built. There were from twenty to thirty houses which stood close to where the cemetery is now, and a few more on the other side of the road, called Leech's Fold. A little lower down was the old harbour, a farmhouse now converted into cottages.

Just before that was a short street of about a dozen cottages, now called High-street. The cottages on the right hand side going down had their backs to King-street, and were three storeys high, the bottom rooms being used for handloom weaving. They have since been new fronted, and are now made to front King-street.

The next building was the Methodist New Connexion Chapel, which has been superseded by the present chapel in Queen-street, and the old chapel made into two cottages, and one cottage on the opposite side to the chapel. The next building was Prospect House, the residence of Mr John WHITTAKER, senior, the father of Mr John WHITTAKER, of Hurst Hall, and his brother, Mr Oldham WHITTAKER. Adjoining Prospect House was Whittaker's factory, a very old mill since pulled down. They had no power looms at that time, but they had put out hand-loom weaving, and employed most of the hand-loom weavers in the district.

I remember every brick of the present mills being laid. Where the old weaving shed is, but at the corner of King-street and Queen-street, there were a few cottages, and at the end cottage there was a reading-room and library over the cottage, approached by a flight of steps at the end of the cottage. A little lower down the road was a block of about a dozen cottages, George RILEY having a butcher's shop at the corner.

Next to those was the Hunter's Tavern, now called the Hare and Hounds Inn, a fully-licensed, adjoining which are six or seven cottages known as "the pavement," and back to back with these were six cottages known as Sott Hole, now known as Sun Alley. Next to the pavement was the Miners' Refuge beerhouse, and across the road was a farmhouse tenanted by John SHAW, who was also owner of the Miners' Refuge. Then there were eight cottages in Lark-street, now called Carr-street, and leading down Carr-street to Lower Carrs there are still standing five cottages opposite at the end of the Methodist New Connexion in Queen-street.

From Lower Carrs the road wound round to Higher Carrs, a farmhouse just inside the lodge gates in Queen-street. From thence it emerged into Mossley-road, nearly opposite the road leading to Chamber Hills, where the present workhouse is built. Carr-lane was the only cart road from Hurst Cross to Mossley-road, except the one going up by Moss-de-Lee and out at the Junction Inn in Hazlehurst. Lees Fold and Prospect Cottage, opposite where St John's Church in now built, and in which Mr Oldham WHITTAKER lived in his early married days, completes the list of houses in Hurst Cross seventy years ago.

The Church Inn was not built then. Queen-street, Whiteacre-road and Mossley-road were not made then. It was all farm land. Hurst Nook is practically the same now as it was sixty years ago. The next to Prospect Cottage was Hurst Knowle, and about halfway between the two there were some coke ovens and a sett for the sale of coal, belonging to the Steveacre Coal Pit, with a tramway leading to the pit, which was just behind Lower Carrs. There was also a sett at the pit, the road to it being by a lane in close proximity to Lees Fold.

At Hurst Knowle there were six old houses, one being a grocer's shop kept by old James HADFIELD. They were pulled down and the same number of stone houses built on the site. There were also two cottages and a farmhouse down a narrow lane, also the Oddfellows' Arms, a full-licensed house and kept by a man named CURLY. The land on each side of the lane leading down to Hurst Brook was then farm land, and very much higher than the lane itself.

The lane was very narrow, just wide enough for two carts to pass each other, and high thorn fences on each side. The lane itself was called Longshutts, or Longshoots, and in severe snowstorms would become completely blocked with snow, and carts would have to go through

The next houses were at Pot Hill, in Hurst Brook, where there were nine houses, and in Botany-lane six houses and six houses in Bengal. Bengal-lane was a narrow lane extending from Pot Hill to Bengal, and from thence by a footroad into Botany, emerging at the end of two old houses in Holden-street which are still standing. At the bottom of what is now Diamond-street, off Whiteacre, leading to Bengal, was Bengal Coal Pit.

There was a great hollow below Bengal Houses, and a dirt rock formed by the dirt wound up from the pit, and brook of clear water running at the back of the rock, also a little old cotton factory, which was used at that time as stables for the coal pit. The dirt rock, the factory, and the hollow have been filled up. The brook has been made into a sewer, and lies a good many yards below the present surface.

The next house below Pot Hill was a one-storey house in Hillgate-street, built in a large garden, in which an old Johanna named Joseph LEES lived, and he was the proprietor of a banding walk on the opposite side of the road, extending from Pot Hill to what is now back Taylor-street, which was quite open in front then, nothing to obstruct the view only LEE's banding walk, which was as open as the street.

Next below LEE's houses was Garden-walk, now called St Mary's-street, in which were four houses and one at back. One of the houses was a beerhouse called the Cheshire Cheese house, kept by Nicholas ANDREW. There was also a large orchard in the front of the house, and an arch from the jawbone of a whale. This orchard belonged to the beerhouse. The landlord was also a farmer and general carrier as well between Ashton and Manchester, before the railways were made.

The next houses below St Mary's-street and fronting Front-lane, now called Hillgate-street on the left hand going down were three houses, then Collier-street, which is just the same as it was then with the exception of Messrs WAGSTAFF's pickle and jam works, one of the houses being a beerhouse. Next house below was the Colliers' Arms, a full-licensed house, and below that Paradise=street-fourteen houses.

Below Paradise-street and fronting Hillgate-street was COURTMAN's grocer's and draper's shop. The approach to it was up two or three steps, and a small bow window on each side of the door. Mr COURTMAN built a shop and some cottages in Ashton and removed there, and the shop was afterwards occupied by the late Mr James WHITWORTH, also later by his brother Samuel.

Round the corner of COURTMAN's shop were four cottages, and one house in what is now Marland-street. Next below were four houses nearly opposite the Methodist New Connexion Sunday School in Hillgate-street, then seven houses in Matley-street and two at the back, one being a garret. Then below Matley-street five houses in front and two cellar dwellings, then seven houses in Garden-walks and two closets.

Below Garden-walks was Mr William HEGGINBOTTOM's cotton factory. Then there were seven houses in that portion of Botany which is within the boundary of the Hurst District Council. Next to those were a shoe and draper's shop in the square and the Jolly Miller beerhouse. Next to the Jolly Miller was one house, and next to that was Sack-street, afterwards made into a hat shop by Mr GRIMSHAW. Sack-street contained eight houses.

The next above Sack-street was Holland's Court - six houses without back doors and one closet to the lot. Next to that is Wood street-five houses, two of them being beerhouses; then Pedlar's Row - a narrow street leading from the bottom of Botany to Wood-street -ten houses. Then Moss Fold - three houses with one closet. Coming back to Pot Hill, and then going down Hillgate-street, then called Front-lane, on the right hand going down there was LEE's banding walk, extending to Back Taylor-street.

In Back Taylor-street and Saxon's-yard there were four houses and four garrets, then two houses fronting Hillgate-street, one being a beerhouse - the Trumpet Tavern, kept by Luke BRAMMAH. Then Taylor-street - five houses. The next building below Taylor-street was the Methodist New Connexion Sunday School, adjoining which was an orchard extending down to Oldham-street, belonging to Joseph PLATT, a butcher in Oldham-street; lower down was Botany Pump. Then the Seven Stars Inn and two cottages in the square.

Then Factory-yard - eight houses and one garret, without back doors and only two closets for the lot. Mr WRIGLEY's school was the high school for Ashton at that time, and the school in which Messrs John and Oldham WHITTAKER received their early education. In what is now Mount Pleasant-street there was CHAPMAN's factory, and also nine houses, one being the residence of Mr William CHAPMAN, and one a beerhouse.

Coming back to Pot Hill and going down Union-road, then called Back-lane, there was one house next to Saxon's-yard. The next lower down was Blue Botton Hall, which was a farmhouse and two cottages in the same fold. The farmhouse and cottages stood just at the entrance to the footpath into Brown's fields, and it was pulled down in order to widen Union-road at that point, and the barn was converted into a hat shop for Messrs BUCKLEY and FISH.

The next houses lower down were two houses and a workshop built by my father in 1822. The workshop was used for making hand-looms and shuttles, and all kinds of weavers' work, also for making coffins. The houses and shops are still standing, and the business of undertaking still carried on by my nephew, Joshua BARBER. The next houses below my father's were two houses built by my maternal grandfather.

The next to these were three old houses fronting the end of what is now Canterbury-street, one being a beerhouse, the Fox Tavern, kept by old Jenny HYDE. Then three more houses, one being a grocer's shop kept by John SIDDALL, now occupied by Mr James HILL, tripe dresser. The next was Back Water-street, in which were about ten houses, one being a beerhouse and greengrocer's shop kept by a man named WHITELEY.

Next was Water-street, in which were seventeen houses and five at the back, and one cellar dwelling. Next was Oldham-street, in which were five houses and a garret used as a chapel by the Primitive Methodists. It was approached by a flight of steps at the end of the cottages.

Opposite to the Fox Tavern in Union-road, and at the end of the Canterbury Arms was the entrance to Crooked Withens. A walk or path, with gardens on each side, and an open brook, running along the right hand side of the footpath, which was crossed by a plank bridge at the bottom end of the pathway, and was continued into Brown's Fields, until it met the footpath leading from Blue Button Hall, at a hollow by the brook side, in Brown's Fields, locally called Little Hell, owing to the great prevalence of gambling there. The gardens at Crooked Withens, together with their high thorn fences, and the brook, was made into a tip and filled up with rubbish.

At the end of Crooked Withens was a great meeting in summer time, which was called the Parliament, where the hand-loom weavers, hatters and others congregated together to crack jokes and hear the newspaper read, discuss politics, and settle the affairs of the nation generally.

The nomenclature of Hurst Brook was marvelous. Nearly every person had a nickname, such as Harlequin, Spanem, Boggart, Towler, Owd Horse, Copper Nob, and a host of similar names, every one genuine and representing some original character; and although the names may sound outlandish, they were found very useful in fixing the identity of the person named.

For instance, a man from Salford came into Hurst Brook one Sunday morning, and asked the landlady of the Fox Tavern, who was standing at the door, if she could tell him where John LEES lived. "Which John LEES dun yo want?" she said. "Is it Horse LEES, or Lion, or Friday that you want." He mused a little, and remembered that he had heard him called Owd Horse, so he said "I think it is Horse LEES I want. So she directed him to the house which was only about 50 yards away.

And not very long ago in my own family circle, my son-in-law was relating an anecdote about a John LEES, and I said I did not know him, when he said he was sure I knew him. I protested that I did not. "Did you know Friday?" he said. "Yes," I said, "I knew Friday." "Well he is the man we are talking about."

There were two schools in Hurst Brook beside Mr WRIGLEY's, in one of which I finished my education. The school was in the kitchen of a cottage house, and the school furniture consisted of an old shop counter against the wall used as a writing desk, a round table in the middle of the floor used for the same purpose, and the slopstone was used as a third desk.

In speaking to the scholars the schoolmaster always spoke in the vernacular, of which the following is a sample. It was common occurrence for the girls to come into school with their hair hanging down like candles, when the master would exclaim, "Whowse getting thi yuire deawn agen asto; awl tee it thi up with a wax bent, beguy." (Not sure I understand that myself! -Ed.)

The other schoolmaster was a hand-loom weaver as well. He had also two gardens, one in Crooked Withens, and one in Garden Walks; and he got a nice handy wheelbarrow made for the use of the scholars, and a reward for being good, the boy who had behaved himself best during the day had the great privilege of taking the master's barrow and gathering horse manure for the master;s garden, and in summertime when butterflies were plentiful, he offered prizes of a penny for every cock butterfly the scholars could catch; they must take them to him and he would judge them. Cock butterflies proved to be very scarce, as they were nearly all hens. So the master managed to get a plentiful supply of manures for his garden, and he kept his cabbages pretty free from caterpillars at the same time.

You will perhaps have noticed the large number of beerhouses in comparison to the population, but the landlords could not keep their families out of the profits from the sale of drink, but had to work at various occupations and their wives managed the ale selling. Most of the beerhouses were in cottages of from three shillings to three shillings and sixpence per week rent, and I believe were closed by Act of Parliament in the following manner.

That the present tenant should have the license during his lifetime, and when he died the license should be transferred to his widow during her lifetime, after which the license should lapse. By that means all the houses of that stamp were extinguished in one generation, and I don't remember any outcry being raised about compensation or confiscation.

The sanitary conditions of Hurst Brook was simply deplorable. I am almost afraid describe it, it was so bad. Although at that time it was much larger than Hurst Cross, it was in a very dirty and insanitary condition, as there was no local authority in existence to govern the hamlet, the Local Board or District Council not having been formed, and people built houses as they liked, without any consideration for proper drainage, consequently there were accumulations of all kinds of filth, and cesspools in various parts of the hamlet.

Only one road was paved, and that with small cobble stones, and just wide enough to allow two carts to pass each other, namely Back-lane, now called Union-road, it being the main road through Hurst Brook, Hurst Cross, and Hazlehurst to Mossley. All the other streets were unpaved, and not one street in Hurst was drained only by channels on each side of the street, or soughs, which the owners of the property made to convey the suds and dirty water from their own property on to some one else's.

The land from Water-street to Whitworth-street, and from Union-road to Hillgate-street was all waste land and divided into three portions. The first portion extended from Water-street to Oldham-street. It was a disused brickyard, and very much lower than it is now, as it has been filled up at least two yards.

That portion was called Bottom Green. From Oldham-street to Blue Bottom Hall was called the Middle Green, and from Blue Button Hall to what is now Whitworth-street was called the Croft, because that portion had never been a brickcroft up to then, but was made into one later on, so that there was a steep brow between the Greens, the depth of clay taken from it.

I mention the waste land here to show how the sewage was disposed of. The owners of the property higher up made soughs to the top end of the Middle Green, and emptied their sewage there. Then one side of Winter-street and Back Winter-street was the same, consequently about a third of the Green was a huge cesspit, and no provision was made for taking it any farther.

The same thing obtained at the Union-road end of what is now Whitworth-street, where there was another large cesspool formed from the sewage from Taylor and Back Taylor-streets; and the same in other places. There was no one to stop these nuisances. It is true we had a surveyor, but he was likely to trouble himself much as his salary amounted to the munificent sum of £5 a year, and he was expected to do the greatest part of the work himself.

Water-street and Hillgate-street were one mass of sludge, owing to those streets being the main thoroughfare for carts to pass on. The other streets were bad, but these were the worst I ever saw. Carts were constantly up to the axle in the ruts and sludge. It was almost impossible to get across Water-street in wet weather without having the shoe-tops covered. There was great demand for patterns in those days. Girls of five or six years of age wore them.

In addition to the dirty streets there was no water in the houses; all the water had to be fetched from the pumps or wells in the district, or got from the raintubs placed under the spouts at the doors. There was no gas; all the artificial light in the neighbourhood was got from the reflection of the candles in the shop windows, which usually had one on the counter and one in the window, to show off the bright colours of the goods exhibited there.

Then in the dark nights of winter, when there was no moon, people had to grope their way along the roads, for they could not see them, or else they must turn out with a horn lantern, or a piece of lighted pitch rope, to light them on their way. As there were no Lucifer matches in those days, it was a rather tedious job to get a light on a cold winter's morning.

It was a necessity that every household should possess a tinder-box, to hold a piece of flint and a piece of steel about six or seven inches long. The tinder was obtained by charring a piece of cotton or linen rag until it was quite black through; then to obtain a light the operator would take the steel in his right hand, and the flint in his left hand, and strike sparks from the flint into the tinder-box. When a sufficient number of sparks had been obtained, he would blow gently with his mouth until the tinder was well aglow, then he would apply a brimstone match to the tinder, which would set it ablaze, and from the match he would light a candle.

In addition to the other disabilities, food was dear and wages were low. Joiners' wages 24s per week, and hand spinners from 18s or less to 35s in very fine counts; strippers and grinders, about 14s per week; colliers, owing to the system of Charter masters, from 3s 6d to 3s 9d per shift; waggoners' lads, from 5s to 8s per week; jiggers, 4s per week work or play.

Children went to work in the coal pit at a very early age, at from six to seven years old. My brother-in-law told me he went to work at Ridgehill coalpit when he was so young that his mother carried him on her back to the pit, and he used to cry when being sent down. His mother was left a widow with four children, and she was compelled to send them to work as early as possible, or let them go without sufficient food.

I said food was dear. Flour was 3s 6d per dozen, soft sugar 8d per pound, the commonest tea 5s per pound; a very small quantity had to suffice for our family. Father and mother had to have the first coming off, and if any of the children complained about the tea being weak, we could always make it stronger by adding a little mint to it, or if it was summer time we could go into the garden, and get some a black currant leaf or two.

Such is a description of the good old times of seventy years ago, and I have been careful not to exaggerate, but to give as faithful a description as I could.


No. II – Rushbearing and Bullbaiting

I will now give a description of two of the principal pastimes incident to wakes times, namely bullbaiting and rushbearing, both of which I had an exceptional opportunity of knowing the modus operandi. First as to bullbaiting.

The bull was baited on the bottom green, about half-way between Oldham-street and Water-street, and behind the Botany pump. My uncle lived in the nearest house and in close proximity to where the bull was baited. At the back of the house was a one-storey loom shop, on the roof of which I could easily get by going through the bedroom window, and from the ridge of the loom shop climb on to the roof of the house. Then getting myself ensconced against the chimney I could see all that transpired in the bull ring.

There was a stump about the thickness of a man’s body, and a hole through the stump for the rope to go through. The stump was let into the ground about three feet, and well pummelled round to prevent the bull from drawing it. When this was done the rope, which would be about a dozen feet long, and an inch or an inch and a quarter in diameter, was passed through the hole, and attached to a collar round the bull’s neck.

The men with their dogs would arrange themselves in a line against Chapman’s reservoir wall, in Water-street, each man having his dog in a slip. By this time a great crowd of people would be collected, and several rough men armed with sticks, who had been picked for that purpose, would proceed to clear the ring, by applying their sticks vigorously to the legs of bystanders, until they were well out of the bull’s range.

There was also a man appointed as bellart, whose duty it was to see that only one dog was slipped at one time, one dog one bull being the motto. When all was arranged the first man in the line slipped his dog at the bull, and if it pinned the bull by the nose it was said to have won; but if the bull caught the dog with his horns, which was more often the case, he would toss it almost as high as a house, and the dog would probably be killed or so badly maimed that he would be of no further use. Sometimes the bull would break the rope; then the ring would not need much clearing, as the bull generally did the clearing business for himself.

The prize was a leather dog-collar with brass mountings. The bull was baited three days in succession and then killed, and the beef sold at a low price to any one who would buy it. Bullbaiting was abolished by Act of Parliament about the year 1837 or 1839. I am not quite sure of the year. It was a barbarous custom, and appealed to the lowest instincts of the people.

Rushbearing was a pleasant pastime, but it was greatly spoiled by the drunkenness which was engendered through the dancers being treated with too much drink at the public houses where the rushcarts stopped, and where the dancers gave performances of their skill in dancing.

The dancers would begin training about six weeks before the wakes, so that the young men who had never danced before could get perfected in their knowledge of dancing by being trained among the older men, who had perhaps danced for years. There would be from sixteen to twenty couples as it took four dancers to complete a sett. Whilst they were training they would perambulate the streets two or three nights a week, with Dan HAWKYARD, a blind fiddler, and Tom SMITH, a fifer, at their head playing the Morris dance tunes.

I cannot describe the tunes, but it was a pretty sight to watch their performances. The first dance was what was called forwards. The conductor of the dancers always called the dance, and the orders he gave every one must obey on pain of being dismissed. Each dancer was provided with two large white pocket handkerchiefs with different colours of ribbons.

The dancers would arrange themselves in single file on each side of the roadway about a yard distance behind each other, and on the call of forwards by the conductor they would march on to the tune that was being played by the fiddler and fife, swinging their arms and handkerchiefs round, and at certain parts of the tune throwing their hands high over their heads. This part of the dance must be performed with the greatest precision, every handkerchief going up at once, or it would spoil the effect. Indeed every movement in the various dances must be learned to perfection, and all movement made at one time.

The forward movement would be continued until the dancers came in front of a public house, when the conductor would cry “Halt!” Then immediately he would call out Cross Morris. Then each dancer would cross over to the other side of the road, passing their partner in the middle, and performing their various evolutions with the greatest precision.

When this dance had proceeded long enough, the conductor would call out “Nancy Dawson next time o’er.” The dancers would immediately form themselves into fours, and cross over from corner to corner, diagonally exchanging places with each other and dancing to the tune of “Nancy Dawson.” When this dance was ended the conductor would call out “Forwards!” and they would dance away in the same manner as before.

Their wives and sweethearts were as enthusiastic as themselves. For several weeks before the wakes, the young women would be busy going among their relatives and friends, borrowing coral and amber necklaces and broaches to adorn their sweethearts during the wakes, each one visiting vying with the other which could make the best display.

The young women would be busy on the Saturday before the Wakes Sunday stitching spangles and ribbons to the trousers of the dancers, most of whom would have six or eight links of beads round their necks beginning with small ones and finishing up with large ones down to the waist. They wore fine linen shirts, and danced in their shirt sleeves. The ornaments of some of them would cost pounds.

There were also four garlands made to adorn the horses and rushcart. There were always three horses to draw the cart, and upon each horse was a handsome cover or hilling. The one of the leading horse was made of white silk, covered with spangles, stitched on by hand in patterns, nicely designed. There must have been hundreds of spangles. It would cost over thirty pounds, and it was made by the young women of Hurst Brook in their spare time.

After the decadence of rushcarts through the advent of railways and people preferring to spend their holidays at the various watering places, this hilling got into the possession of Mrs Sally HILTON, the wife of the conductor of the dancers. Mrs HILTON had done a great deal of the work herself. She showed me the hilling a good many years ago, and it was then quite yellow with age and exposure to the weather. She kept it as long as she lived, and she never had any children. I think it would pass to her nephew, the late Mr James HILTON, of Longshuts House, Hurst. Perhaps his son, Dr HILTON, can tell what has become of it.

The best garland was always fixed upon the leading horse’s head, and a young man on the horse’s back to keep it steady. The second best upon the second horses, the third upon the shaft horse, and the fourth upon the rushcart. There was a great work of art in making the garlands, and four men were selected to make them, each one getting his own assistants, and be being responsible for his own garland. The garland makers in my time were my uncle, Andrew CLOUGH, John SIDDALL, Samuel LEECH, and Robert MILLS.

Judges were appointed to place the garlands in their order of merit according to their quality, Andrew CLOUGH generally being first, Jno SIDDALL second, Samuel LEECH third, and Robert MILLS fourth. I remember one occasion, and only one, when John SIDDALL’s garland was first, but it was generally hard to judge between the two.

The garland makers would begin to prepare their artificial flowers, etc, three months before the Wakes, and when everything was prepared they would get a framework of wood made to the size and shape they required, which would be from four to five feet high and about three feet wide. Upon this superstructure they would begin to build their garlands, every flower and leaf being artificial and so natural and well made that it was difficult to tell they were artificial a short distance away.

Every rose and rosebud was built up by single leaves made from different shades of tissue paper, cut the proper shape and size with scissors. Of course, they could put a number of sheets of tissue paper together, and so cut them quicker and in different sizes, but every leaf had to be pasted on separately until the full flower was formed, also the opening buds. The flowers were fixed on stems made of fine wire, which could be bent any shape and fastened anywhere.

Dahlias were built up in the same manner, also flowers of every kind. The framework could not be seen as it was completely covered by the mass of flowers, tastefully arranged in sprays and festoons. The best garlands generally cost about ten pounds each or over.

The building of the rushcart also required great skill to make it uniform and nicely balanced, and very few men could build one satisfactorily. The best rushcart builder for miles around Ashton was Mr Jonathan CHARLESWORTH, of Hurst Knowl, and he was in great request at nearly all the Wakes in the parish to make their rushcarts.

The rushes were made into what were termed bottles; that is a bundle of short rushes would be compressed together as tightly as possible, and tied round with string to keep them together, the ends cut and levelled up so as to present and even surface on the outside of the cart. The bottles would be about eight or ten inches in diameter. These rushes could be obtained from the pits in the neighbourhood.

But in addition to the bottles there were a rather large quantity of long rushes required, similar to those for bottoming chairs, which were used for what were termed binders, and were worked into the rushcart in a longitudinal direction from the front to back to bind the whole together, the long rushes projecting about three of four inches further than the bottles and cleanly cut and levelled the same as the others. The binding rushes could not be obtained long enough any nearer than Fidlers Green, several miles on the Yorkshire side of Woodhead.

As there were no railways in that direction at that time, batches of young would start late on Saturday afternoon and walk to Fidlers Green, stopping at Salternbrook for three or four hours until the break of day, when they would proceed to gather rushes. When they had gathered as many as they could carry they trudged back again with their loads upon their backs, landing in Hurst on the Sunday night. I just mention this to show with what an ardent spirit the whole thing was carried through.

When everything was prepared the builder began to build the cart. He first began by building a straight upright stick of hazel or other wood that would answer the same purpose. The sticks were fastened one at each corner of the cart and as high as the rushes were intended to go. The bottles were then built in the cart in a solid mass, and as close together as they could be packed, the second layer breaking the joints of the first layer, the binding rushes being laid as the work proceeded.

The sides of the cart were slightly bulged out with a curve from the front, and gradually brought back to the same width again at the back, and tapering up from the side of the cart at the bottom to half the size at the top. When the building was completed the ends of the binders were stuffed full of dahlias of various colours from the bottom of the cart to the top and at all four corners.

The front and back face of the cart were covered with a strong white cloth, to which was attached, well fastened on, silver plate, borrowed for the occasion from Mr BARROW, the owner and occupier of the Pitt and Nelson Hotel in Ashton, at that time.

The rushcart was generally made in front of the Cheshire Cheese Inn in St Mary-street, and from whence the procession started. When the procession had formed up then those who were chosen for whip crackers took their places on each side of the dancers and rushcart. Then amidst the constant cracking of whips and the huzzas of the spectators the dancers gaily tripped away to the Morris dance tune.


by Aaron Miller.No. III – The History of the Botany Pump

At the time when my narrative begins there was a brook course, the source of which was on a farm called Dry Roads, near Ashton Barracks, from thence it proceeded down one side of what is now Whiteacre-road, across Curzon-road, through Bengal, Botany, Hurst Brook, Turner-lane, Boston-street, the bottom end of Charlestown, across Oldham-road, past the back of Groby Hall, across Manchester-road, dividing Ryecroft and Crowthorne, across Stockport-road, through Jeremy Brook (by which name it was known by there), and from thence it emptied itself into the River Tame.

The farmer who occupied the farm above, where the first pump was in Botany, whilst repairing his ditches by the brook side (the brook having been made into a sewer long ago), found a spring of good water. This, after a time, became a great nuisance to the farmer, as the children who went for water did damage to his ground and fences, so he complained to the landlord about it.

The landlord was a gentleman from Copster Hill, near Oldham. I have forgotten his name, but he was uncle to the late Jonah HARROP, Esq, of Bardsley House, Bardsley. The landlord came to inspect the place himself, and when he saw what a convenience it was for the inhabitants, he gave a site of land to the inhabitants for ever for the purpose of a pump, the site to be six yards square, with a six yard street leading to it from what is now Holden-street, Botany.

The old pump stood in what is now the yard of Messrs BALL and WILLIAMSON’s oil and grease works; it has since been filled up. The pump was used by the inhabitants until the well was drained dry by Mr Samuel CHAPMAN, when it was of no further use. Mr CHAPMAN, of Hurst Mount Mill, had sunk a jackwell at the end of the mill, and driven a tunnel from it until he tapped Botany pump spring, and drained the well dry, so the inhabitants were left without a supply water, which was a very serious thing from them, as they had no other means of getting an adequate supply from other sources.

The inhabitants were allowed to fetch water from his factory yard, for which he charged them a halfpenny a burn can full, thus making them pay for their own water, so they were compelled to take proceedings against Mr CHAPMAN in the law courts to restrain him from taking the water.

They employed Joseph HEGGINBOTTOM, Esq, solicitor, to conduct the case, which was very protracted, as Mr CHAPMAN denied taking the water, and the onus of proof rested upon the inhabitants. The case was finally carried to the Court of King’s Bench, where judgment was given against Mr CHAPMAN, with costs of the action, and an award made by Mr COTTINGHAM, a celebrated lawyer at that time. I have seen a copy of the award, and it was as follows:-

That Mr CHAPMAN must sink a well at his own expense upon his own land, the well to be sunk two yards deeper than his tunnel, so that when he had taken all the water he could there would always be two yards of water left for the use of the inhabitants. The inhabitants must erect a pump at their expense, and must have the right of going down CHAPMAN’s well at any time they think proper to repair the people’s pump.

There were great rejoicings by the people when the lawsuit had ended in their favour, and they got jugs and pots and tea services made with Boatny Pump inscribed thereon, also some doggerel verse, which I have forgotten, only the first two lines, beginning –

Brave Cottingham, of high renown, Who brought Botany Pump tyrant down.

They also christened the square in which the pump stands Cottingham-square, in honour of the man who brought the lawsuit to a successful issue. I have often wondered why our District Council has not put a sign in the square with Cottingham-square upon it. Perhaps it is because the present members don’t know anything about it. I commend this to their consideration.

After the waterworks were made the pump fell into disuse, and the flagstone covering the well, being cracked and becoming dangerous, a subscription was opened to purchase a new stone to cover the well. But Mr Paul COWPER, the owner of the well at that time, engaged a number of men to fill the well up against the expressed wish of the inhabitants, and he afterwards attempted to let the land for building upon, and a house and shop were staked out for that purpose.

While this was being done Mrs Mally TAYLOR, who lived in Water-street, came to see me to see what must be done about it, so I gave her one shilling and sixpence to engage the bellman to call a public meeting to be held in the dinner hour that day in the square. At that meeting there were just three persons – myself, William GREEN, a brushmaker, and Samuel WILLIAMSON, a joiner, who afterwards became of the Central Liberal Club in Stamford-street – with perhaps a dozen more men standing at the corners laughing at us. But we meant business.

So, borrowing a chair from the nearest house, Samuel WILLIAMSON proposed, and I seconded, that Mr William GREEN take the chair. Then mounting the chair, he spoke a few minutes about the advisability of forming a committee to take into consideration the opening of the well again, and so preserve the land for an open space for the hamlet. Upon closing his remarks he announced that the meeting stood adjourned until eight o’clock at night, and would be held at the Ring-o’-Bells Inn, Hillgate-street.

Owing to business engagements I was unable to be present at the adjourned meeting, but I was told it was crowded and the people were enthusiastic. A committee was elected, of which I was one, and the committee were instructed by the meeting to engage men to open the well and begin operations at once, and this was accordingly done. The meeting also appointed collectors to go round the hamlet weekly for subscriptions, which were fixed at threepence per week, and by that means we collected as much money as defrayed all expenses.

The committee engaged Nathaniel PERRY, James OUSEY, Samuel GODDARD, and Thomas CLIFTON to open the well, and immediately after operations began. Mr COWPER warned them to desist, and threatened legal proceedings against them, and upon their refusal he summoned them at the County Sessions for trespass by laying the dirt got out of the well onto his land.

Upon receipt of the summons I was deputed, along with Mr William GREEN and Mr Joseph PLATT, to go to Manchester to engage Mr ROBERTS (a leading attorney in Manchester, and who was styled the miners’ attorney-general, he being the attorney for the Miners’ Federation), to defend the case. After we had given him all the information we could, he asked us the name of the solicitor who had conducted the case re CHAPMAN. We told him Mr Joseph HEGGINBOTTOM.

He asked us to engage him again, as he said he would like to have access to the papers relating to the first law suit. Upon our return to Ashton we went direct from the station to Mr HEGGINBOTTOM’s office in Delemere-street, and when we told him our business he was almost as pleased as a dog with two tails, and he pulled from a recess a large box, upon the front of which was painted in large white letters “Botany Pump Case.” He opened the box, and I should think there was a wheelbarrow full of documents relating to the law suit with Mr CHAPMAN

When Mr COWPER’s case came for trial, Mr DARNTON, the solicitor employed by Mr COWPER, in opening the case, said he believed defendants intended to set up a sort of claim to the pump, which was on his client’s land, but that claim was altogether fictitious, and although he saw by the large heap of papers displayed on the opposite side that something of that sort was to be attempted, yet he defied them to produce a legal title to the land occupied by the pump.

The large bundle of papers that he saw ought long since to have been sent to the butter merchants, for they were utterly useless. His client would produce a proper deed of conveyance giving him legal right and title to the estate.

Mr ROBERTS, after cross-examining the witnesses, said this was the old battle of might against right. It began in the days of Adam, and would continue as long as the world lasted. It was a question affecting the rights and privileges of thousands. His only object was to ascertain the real facts of the case, and to get at the truth at the same time.

He objected to the case being decided in that court at all. He denied the jurisdiction of the court. It was a question of a disputed right, and a magistrate had no power to try such cases; they could only be tried by a jury. These men had done what they had done, believing themselves to have a perfect right to do it, and therefore it was a question for a jury to decide. He contended that the case must be dismissed.

The magistrates, after consulting together for some time, announced through their chairman, Mr BUCKLEY, that they were of opinion that they had no power to try the case. The defendants were therefore discharged. Mr COWPER did not proceed with the case any further.

The well when opened to the bottom is thirty-two yards deep, but on the re-opening of the well, owing to the great influx of water, the men could only get down 16 yards. They would have to have had a pumping engine to get down any further, so it still stands at 16 yards deep. The case was tried again March 24th 1858. I believe the first law suit began in the year 1825. So ends the history of Botany Pump.

(This was originally transcribed from the Ashton Under Lyne Reporter by Ian Rhodes whose Web Site-<Yesterdays> can be found at

©Antony Lambert