21 February 1903

A disastrous fire broke out at the cotton mill owned by Mr Thomas HALLAM in Delamere-street yesterday morning about ten minutes to six. The alarm was first raised by a boy, who at once ran in his bare feet and mill attire to the Town Hall and gave information within five minutes of the outbreak. The Ashton Fire Brigade in charge of the Chief Constable (Mr J SNELL) was promptly on the spot.

When the alarm was first raised, most of the hands had entered the various workrooms and divested themselves of their attire. Immediately they heard the cry of fire several of the minders rushed off to the fire buckets, which were full of water, and ran up the steps with them to the fourth storey in what is known as the new mill, where the fire originated.

On opening the door of the jenny-room they were met by a cloud of smoke, and were unable to enter. The opening of the door allowed ingress of fresh air which fanned the flames, and soon the whole room was one huge blaze. The mill was non-fire proof, and the flooring saturated with oil, so that the flames spread with remarkable rapidity to the stores and attic above, until the whole pile broke out into one great conflagration.

Immediately on the arrival of the brigade with the steamer “Heginbottom” the Chief Constable at once gave instructions for the second fire engine to be utilised, and soon both engines were at work pumping jets of water on to the flames. Jets of water were got to work from the mains – one from Wellington-street and two from Stamford-street supplying one of the engines; four from Old-street and one from Delamere-street, providing water for the reservoir supplying the other fire engine.

About an hour after the outbreak the heavily-slated roof fell in with a terrific crash, and the flames sprang up to a great height, whilst the walls and other portions crackled with the intense heat. The flooring of the various storeys in turn burned through and the heavy machinery fell, twisted and scorched by the heat, with a loud crash down to the second storey, which fortunately was preserved from fire, although the machinery was considerably damaged by water.

After about three hours the fire was got under, but the timber work and other inflammable material was smouldering for several hours afterwards, and firemen were required to put out fresh outbreaks with water from the mains.

The new mill, with the exception of the first two storeys, was totally destroyed. It was one of the oldest mills in the district, and it was five storeys high and an attic. In the new mill there seven pairs of males and several carding machines. A communication was dispatched shortly after the outbreak of the fire to the owner of the mill, Councillor T HALLAM, who was at his home in Taunton-road, and he was very soon on the spot rendering what assistance he could.

The machinery had not started working, and the hands had only just finished lighting up and were oiling. They used patent electric lighters for lighting the gases. Several of the workpeople lost their clothing, and had to return home in their work attire. One or two made a bold dash through the fire and smoke, and, after securing their clothing, ran out into the street with it in their arms. One old man, named Martin FLYNN, a piecer, failed to get his clothing, and it was as much as he could do to escape into the street uninjured, wearing his mill attire.

The damage to the mill, which is considerable, is covered by insurance.

DRUNK AND INCAPABLE. – James BROCKLEHURST pleaded guilty at the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, to being drunk and incapable in Guide-lane, Audenshaw, on February 3, and was fined 2s 6d.

DRUNK AND DISORDERLY. – James HILL was charged at the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, with being drunk and disorderly in Guide=lane, Audenshaw, on Sunday afternoon, February 1st. – Defendant’s wife appeared, and pleaded guilty, and a fine of 5s 6d and costs was incurred.

DELAYED BY SNOW. – James LOMAS, who said he worked for a Stalybridge firm, was before the Ashton County Justices, on Wednesday, charged with being asleep in charge of two horses and a lurry at Audenshaw on Feb 3rd. – Defendant pleaded guilty, and said he had been to Bolton, and had no sleep for two nights on account of being delayed by the snow, he having set out without having his horse sharpened. – Fined 6s.

BEGGING. – James HORNER was in custody at the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, charged with begging at Audenshaw on February 17th. – Prisoner pleaded guilty, and said he was a compositor making his way to Derby. He had been ill, and only came out of the workhouse a week ago. A small quantity of beer got into his head. – The magistrates discharged prisoner on his promising to leave the district.

DOG WITHOUT LICENSE. – At the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, Hy. MERCER was charged with having a dog without license at Audenshaw on February 3rd. Defendant pleaded guilty, and made an excuse that he had been off his work, and that he could not get a license whilst playing him. – The Magistrates’ Clerk (Mr C H BOOTH): The law says you must have a license or else you must not keep a dog. – Fined 5s 6d and costs.

SHEPLEY-ROAD LITERARY SOCIETY. – At the usual weekly meeting of the above named society, which was presided over by Mr Joshua JAMES, Mr W TAYLOR, of Alt, near Oldham, delivered an admirable lecture on “Electricity,” which was listened to by a good audience. In the course of the lecture several experiments were given, demonstrating the wonderful power of electricity.

The dynamo was very lucidly explained, and experiments given producing electric light, also by diagrams the manufacturing of electricity for traction work, showing how electric cars were driven. Other appliances for producing effect were explained and demonstrated by practical proofs. A useful conversation followed, in which many strange stories were related by the members of the wonderful ways that electricity had manifested itself to them. Many questions were answered by the lecturer, and a hearty vote of thanks to Mr TAYLOR brought a very instructive evening to a close.

FOOTBALLERS ENJOYING THEMSELVES. – On Tuesday evening the members and friends of the Sun Inn football team commemorated another victory by sitting down to a capital dinner at the above-named house. The host and hostess, Mr and Mrs J H RADFORD, placed a substantial quantity of viands on the table, to which the 30 odd guests did ample justice, as some of them, by their training for, and afterwards prowess on, the football field, had got their appetite considerably strengthened, and each and everyone got up from the table perfectly satisfied.

The after proceedings were also of a very enjoyable nature, consisting of songs, &c, the following, amongst others, contributing to the evening’s enjoyment:- Messrs A and H SCOTT, J and A CLARKE, J ADSHEAD, C SULLIVAN, J FISHER, W DOWNING, J PEEL, J ROBERTS, J SPENCER, and S HIGGINBOTTOM. A hearty vote of thanks to the host and hostess for their admirable catering brought a pleasant evening to a close.

Information was received at the Ashton Police Office at 2.30pm on Monday from Eliza Jane SMITHSON, wife of Harry SMITHSON, labourer, 118 Brook-street, Ashton, of the death of their infant son, aged one month. The deceased had been a healthy child ever since birth, but was rather small.

About 11 o’clock on the night of the fifteenth last the father and mother retired to bed taking the child with them. Another child, aged eighteen months, lay at the foot of the same bed. The deceased child was placed on the left arm of the mother on the outside of the bed, and fell asleep in that position. During the night, the mother was awakened by deceased crying, and after being given the breast he went to sleep., and at about 5am the husband and mother got up, and the mother placed the child, which appeared to be asleep, on a pillow.

About two hours afterwards the mother heard the other child crying, and she went upstairs. After taking up the child, she kissed the forehead of the deceased, which then appeared to be asleep, and found that the child’s face was quite cold. The mother screamed, and the husband ran upstairs, and after examining the child, he knocked on the wall for the next door neighbour, who came in and examined the child, which lay on the right side, and was discoloured about the mouth. The husband went for Dr CRAWSHAW, who, on examining the child, pronounced life extinct.

The inquest was held on Wednesday afternoon, at the Good Samaritan Inn, Cotton-street, by Mr J F PRICE, district coroner.

Eliza Jane SMITHSON, wife of Harry SMITHSON, labourer at the New Moss Colliery, said the deceased was her child. He was a full-grown child at birth, and had enjoyed very good health, having been fed entirely from the breast. The child seemed in good health on Sunday night about 11 o’clock when witness and her husband retired to bed, taking the child with them. There was another child, aged 18 months, sleeping at the foot of the bed.

Witness placed deceased on her left arm on the outside of the bed and went to sleep. She was awakened in the early morning by hearing the child crying, and she gave him the breast, after which he went to sleep. Witness awoke at eight o’clock the following morning, and found the child still lying on her left arm. She did not notice anything unusual with the child.

Witness and her husband got up, and she covered the baby up with the bedclothes. She could not say whether or not the baby was then dead. She and her husband went downstairs, and two hours afterwards she went upstairs on hearing the other child crying. She picked up the child and then looked at the deceased, which was in the same position as when she went downstairs. She kissed the child’s forehead and found it was cold, and she screamed and knocked on the wall for the nextdoor neighbour who came in and carried the child downstairs. The child was dead and cold.

There was a discolouration down the side on which the child had lain. Witness had often gone to sleep with the child at the breast. It had never struck her that it was a dangerous thing to go to sleep with the child at the breast. The child might have been smothered whilst at the breast. He was insured, but not in full benefits. – The Coroner: I am surprised that an intelligent woman like you should have gone to sleep with the child at your breast. I should have thought you had learned the lesson before this.

Sarah Jane PERKINS, widow, 116 Brook-street, and she had known the child ever since birth. He was then full-grown and healthy but seemed to have gone much thinner. Witness had the child on her lap the night before he died and he then appeared in good health. On Monday morning witness was called into the house and there saw the child lying dead in bed and very much discoloured about the face and body. The tongue was dark coloured and the mouth wide open and frothing. The mother had apparently looked after her children very well.

The Coroner said it was a very good way of suffocating a child, leaving him at the breast. He would not suggest that it was purposely done as the child was not in insurance benefits. There was no doubt the child was dead when the mother got up. – Several jurymen expressed the opinion that the child had been accidentally suffocated. – The jury returned a verdict that death was due to the child having been accidentally suffocated.

Smart Capture by Constable Wilson

At half-past one o’clock on Saturday morning Constable WILSON, of the Ashton borough police force, effected an important seizure of thieves in that act of burglaring the butcher’s shop of Mr James DAVIES, 95 Turner-lane. It is a lock-up shop, and as the officer was patrolling past, all attentive to his duty, his notice was drawn to the flickering of a small light inside the shop. He approached quietly to the window, and was able to see two young men inside, one busily engaged ransacking the cash drawer and the other cutting chunks of beef.

He stepped round the corner for a second, and in a few minutes the burglars emerged from the shop. With commendable alertness WILSON arrested one of the men, and the other made off. He subsequently gave himself up at the Town Hall, doubtless feeling lonesome without his mate. They turned out to be Samuel SIMKISS and James GREENWOOD, young men of about 20 years of age, and dirty and unkempt were they when they appeared in the dock on Saturday, before Messrs T G PLATT, W NEWTON, and J McDERMOTT.

They were charged with breaking and entering the shop and stealing therefrom 6½lbs of meat, one knife, and two eggs, the property of James DAVIES, between 10pm on the 13th and 2am on the 14th instant.

Mr DAVIES was called, and stated that on Friday night, at eleven o’clock, he locked the shop, and left all secure. At half-past two the following morning he was knocked up by the police, and on going to his shop he found a window had been forced open. He went inside and found 6½lbs of beef wrapped up in five paper parcels ready to be taken away. The pieces had been cut from a hind quarter of beef into which he had not cut. He also found a quantity of pork cut up and a ham and two flitches of bacon cut into, likewise a leg of mutton. He missed a knife, two new-laid eggs, and some sausages.

Constable WILSON gave evidence of the apprehension of the prisoners. On being charged at the Town Hall SIMKISS said, “I stole no meat,” and GREENWOOD did not make any reply. SIMKISS had one egg in his possession. – In reply to the magistrates’ charge prisoners had nothing to say.

The Clerk: You said not only did you steal, or attempt at any rate to steal this beef, eggs, and various other things, but you actually cut up beef and did damage to a very great amount to this man’s goods. You aren’t accustomed to cutting up beef and you have practically ruined this man’s beef for this week. People won’t buy it and he will have to sell is at a very great reduction in order to get rid of it in the best way he can. It is not the first time you have been up.

The Chief Constable said SIMKISS had been nine times before. In March last year, before this Court, both of them for shopbreaking, reduced to larceny, got three months. They had been up at Stalybridge since then, where SIMKISS had got three months. GREENWOOD had been up six times.

The magistrates committed prisoners to gaol for three months each hard labour and warned them if they were brought up again they would be sent for trial at the sessions.

An unusual incident occurred at St Thomas’s Church, Stockport, on Sunday morning. During the celebration of Holy Communion a large number of the communicants rose from their places and left the church as a protest against ritualistic practices.

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