Tales of weavers, the drunk policeman and dad’s alligator rescue
LIFE in Middleton in days gone by was once related by an old Middletonian who liked to be known as ‘Mr Average’.
His first comment relates to how things had changed since he was a young man, he stated; “how much different today in our town to what they used to be. The people have changed in their manners, in their mode of pleasure, in their dress, and, I think, in their homely feeling to one and another.”
Last week we related a donkey race along Rochdale Road where two young men became fined for obstructing the highway; it was at this time that the roads were mainly narrow lanes.
One old saying was: “The lanes were decked with hawthorn spray, but now cogwheels rule the day.” This is confirmed by the writer as he remembered that the roads and the streets around 1860 were once green lanes, but were now lined on either side with rows of houses or cotton mills.
Many comments like this were made during the 1950s when Langley Estate was constructed, taking away the green fields which were once enjoyed by townsfolk for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
As a young man, our contributor related that there were only 3,000 people living in Middleton, of which these mainly made their living at home, silk weaving. SOUND OF SHUTTLES Wherever you went you could hear the sound, the clatter of shuttles. Many weavers went to work in the cotton mills, but they were happier working from home, where they did not have to keep up with the steam powered machines.
Hand-loom weavers would travel to Manchester to sell their work, which was carried in a pouch over their shoulders. Many would walk to Manchester while others used the horse bus.
When in Manchester, upon entering the warehouse, if there should be a queue it was customary to ask, ‘who do I follow’.
The dealers would inspect the work of the weaver, should he claim it to be ‘dirty’ or have ‘stickers’, then a reduction was made in the price paid.
Stickers would be when loose ends were visible. This was called ‘baiting’.”
Two brothers who lived at the Stocks Cottages both sold their work in Manchester, both had different grades. James and Isaac Wrigley would play tricks on the purchaser in an attempt to gain a higher price.
There is an example of this, written in the old Lancashire dialect, in which translating the content is not easy. This can be related at a later date.
Imagine a time before the Times Mill was built at Grimshaw Lane, a time when the river was cloaked with large trees and where the river sported many fish.
Children would spend hours picking ‘wimberries’, due to the large num- ber of wimberry trees dotted along the river bank.
At this period the people from the Junction would obtain their water from the ‘Springs’, because there was no mains water supply. This must have been hard work.
Carting coal for the domestic fire equally became an arduous task. Coal was purchased at the bottom of Hollin Lane, known as the ‘sett,’ or from Tonge Lane, now called Oldham Road, from the ‘pit’. Cottage coal was two pence a hundredweight.
It was when these pits closed and a railway was made in 1857 that people carted their coal from the station yard. William Roberts, John Howell and John Whittaker were the first coal agents at the station yard.
At Low Bands was once a small ivy-covered provisions shop where upon entering was a step down. This was a branch of Middleton and Tonge Cooperative Society, managed by George Booth and his wife. ‘You could have at that little shop a muffin with treacle on penny’, we are informed.
It was noted that a walk from Tonge to Middleton Junction was a dark and lonely one. WARWICK MILL At the side of the old Warwick Mill offices was once a row of thatched cottages. It is recorded that when the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company planned to put a route through from Manchester to York, they requested the best plans be submitted. Of these Thomas Consterdine submitted a plan which was accepted, Consterdine kept his route close to the canal, due to the canal builders choosing the most level part of the countryside as possible.
I could be right in thinking that the Warwick Mill was the last to be built. It’s mainly for this reason that many old Middletonians remember Millfold when its was just that, a ‘fold’. Our reminiscing old gentleman refers to the time when the Warwick did not exist and an old mill was for a reliably once powered by water. Millstones from the mill were used as door steps, recycling even in those days.
The mill was surrounded by trees and greenery, which would give a quaint vision of the town in days gone by as those passing by would hear the miller at work singing old songs, hear the sound of the water and observe a brook teeming with fish. NEW BOOK In the autumn of 1859 a new publication was released by ‘Barnum’. Entitled, Barnum On Money Making.
In the Autobiography of P T Barnum, the American showman narrated his early history as clerk, merchant and editor and his career as a showman.
It embraced the authentic history of Joyce Heth, the Fejee Mermaid, the Woolly Horse, the Herd of Buffalo’s and other showmen incidents, generally denounced as Humbugs, his connection with Gen. Tom Thumb and the Triumphal Musical Cam- paign of Jenny Lind and his rules for business and making a fortune.
It was post free in exchange for 13 postage stamps. This publication is available today under the title of, “The Art Of Money Getting,” or, “Golden Rules For Making Money.”
POLICEMAN GOES TO JAIL
At the Middleton Police Station a special session was held when a policeman became the defendant and a member of the public the complainant.
It was before Thomas Ashton Esq and Thomas Dickens Esq for the purpose of hearing an assault case. Mr Joel Kenyon was the complainant in this case.
Mr Kenyon was seen coming out of the Levers Arms public house around one o’clock in the morning, when he was accosted by PC Ralph Ogle, who asked him if he was going home. On Kenyon saying he was, Ogle said he would go with him.
The complainant said