20 February 1904

By Joseph Isaac NEWTON

What a feeling of regard we have for the haunts of our boyhood days! Having been a resident of Bardsley at a time of prosperity, I venture some reminiscences of my past acquaintance with it.

During our stay in the village we resided in a dwelling of antique character, where the wood work of its interior showed signs of the axe having done duty for a joiner’s plane; yet the small hamlet of Bank Top, surrounded with garden and serene foliage, seemed both homely and pleasant. When seated in the garden on the edge of the farm fold we could gaze down on the busy valley of Fairbottom, with they river Medlock well in view, over which Jos BARDSLEY was the caretaker.

To save inquiry in regard to the nature of these duties, at this part of the river there used to be a slop sluice which regulated the flow of water through the goyt feeding the canal, and while it was held on the part of the canal company that the water was again returned into the river lower down its course, the water was then in such a muddy condition that it caused complaint at the printing works of Messrs WOOD and WRIGHT, Clayton Bridge, which firm enjoyed a right of clear water, and Jos BARDSLEY was employed by them in order to check, where possible, any undue pollution of the stream.

After the decease of his wife in 1854 and a daughter in 1858 while residing at Bank Top he removed in 1862 with his only daughter in a venture of farming at Higher Alt Hill, but the farm being small in acreage would not pasture many cattle, so in connection with the same house he subsequently sought a beer licence. This being granted, he opened the place as a public in the name of Hunter’s Tavern; and held it until circumstances pressed his retiring into private life, when he again removed to Higher Hurst, where he eventually died in his 85th year.

The people of Bardsley village built the Primitive Methodist Chapel in the year 1852, and in 1864 a larger building to use as a school. Holy Trinity Church, a much larger building in 1844 to which Mr Jonah HARROP, the owner of the estate, was a munificent donor. His son-in-law, the Rev A H HULTON, of Hulton Park, Lancashire, was the first minister of the church, later succeeded — during the eighteen fifties — by the Rev John WILSON, after whom the Rev H S BYRTH held the incumbency for over thirty years.

The schools have always been used for elementary education, and during my school days I was under the tuition of Mr S MILLS and Miss GREAVES. Since this time some new modern schools have been built, and in order to give space for the building an old house on elevated ground, which had long obstructed the view of the schools, was removed.

This old house was perhaps of the 16th or early 17th century, composed of thick rubble walls, flag roof, and small lead diamond windows. It stood about eight or ten feet above the level of the road, and apparently as a thoughtful memento of the place there is still a stone post left standing on the footpath opposite the new schools, which no doubt was formerly the fate post leading up to the house and grounds.

The winter of 1854-5 was long and severe. There were said to be thirteen weeks of frost and snow, while the ice on the canal was frozen to an incredible thickness. The space of Crime Lake, about five acres in extent, was often much used like a fair ground. Here the snow was daily cleared to form a track for skaters, and a rail pulled from the fence was passed in front to leg down those who had not paid the toll. In the centre of the ring were a number of hot coffee, pies, peas, and other refreshment stalls.

The country around, even in October 1854 — a date which I have an occasion to remember — was thickly covered with snow, and often were the roads made impassable with snowdrifts ranging from to yards deep in sheltered places.

One morning in particular, about January, the village of Bardsley was curious to witness. The doors and bottom windows of some houses facing the wall of the church were banked up with drifted snow, and those houses where they had only one doorway there was some sport through the drift to release the inmates, Carts, etc, were busy opening a passage along the main road.

Opposite the church and adjoining the Horseshoe Inn for many years there was a low smithy. Mr Samuel YEARDLEY, the farrier, often drew the gaze of the schoolboys from the peculiar manner he manipulated a part of his work. In place of a man striker in nail making he had a lever contrivance attached to a kind of drop hammer, which he worked by his foot.

Heedless of radiating sparks, he would twist the heated iron to and fro in one hand, and, with a small hammer in the other, work alternately, and in harmony with the lever, and thus beat the heated iron till it dropped on the floor, a horse nail. The same gentleman suffered a lamentable bereavement in the loss of two sons in the Bardsley explosion of 1858.

A short distance from the church towards Oldham there are a number of houses, and the only colliery now working in the neighbourhood, known by the name of the “Copperas House.” On the eastern side of the road and opposite the colliery there used to be some low premises, apparently of long standing, in which Mr E NEWTON carried on the manufacture of copperas, or sulphate of iron, from which presumably the name of the place originated.

The said gentleman, prior to his decease in 1840, was an ardent supporter of the church, as his family are still, and many will remember the crystalised model he annually prepared to give lustre to the holly decorations at Christmas in the schools.

Turning our attention to other local industries, the iron trades are still employed under similar lines of working as in former years. The ironworks in Keb-lane were first started by Messrs J and L GREAVES for textile roller and shaft turning. The place is now working under the name of DOBB and Co. in the same business.

The works of a much older firm are yet situated in Knott-lane, where Mr Abel LEES and his family for the most the past century added to the welfare of Bardsley in the business of general textile turning.

A part of the same building used to be an iron foundry, for some years worked by Mr Jos STAFFORD, who finally built a new shop at Lower Limehurst, to which place he removed his business in 1869. Some years later one or more of the LEES family at Bardsley worked for a time an iron foundry in part of the building fronting Ashton-road, the same place now being used in the waste trade.

In the grocery trade were formerly several dealers, including Mr Jonathan URMSON, who during his time established an extensive business, and seemed to do a better trade on the lurry in family weekly orders than by daily custom. But of late years the Co-operative Store higher up the village seems to have gained the most favour.

Coming to Bardsley bridge, we notice in the vale the ruins of an old stone-built mill, where it is said, where it is said that its machinery in ancient times was run by means of a water wheel, supplied from the present goyt leading behind the mill in the river weir a little higher up. Adjoining the old mill until recent years, there was a fine brick mill, worked by Messrs DODGSON and GRUNDY in cotton spinning. On the erection of the latter the chimney was built in such a position that it would answer for both of the mills.

The stone mill was afterwards fully run by steam power, and for some years both mills seemed to be working to the satisfaction of employer and employee. In course of time the stone mill was burnt down, and not rebuilt, and later, May 15th 1891, the brick mill was partly burnt down, and ended as a cotton mill. Since then, however, the place has been rebuilt in its present form, and is again working by Messrs KERFOOT and Co, in the saccharine business.

In a remote and shady corner of the dale is situated Bardsley Brewery. The name of the late owners, Messrs SHAW and Sons, is familiar to the district, and will long be respected for the constant benevolence to Bardsley and the church.

During the year 1862 the main road crossing Bardsley Vale was more or less altered, and raised several feet on the river bridge. But prior to the alteration the walls bounding the road on the bridge converged inwards, and contracted the road to about one-half its present width. Anyone may ascertain this by noticing the structure of the iron supports resting on the stone work of the bridge.

In comparing the designs and build of this river bridge with the canal aqueduct at Waterhouses, their similarity suggests the idea that they both were built at a time, and by the same company that constructed the canals in 1793 to 1799. And owing to the constant repairs and raising of the canal bank along the path the arch of the bridge became too low to allow the boat horses to travel under, through which for a time the horses were unhooked from the boats and led over the road to the path on the other side.

In order to amend this trouble the bridge was ultimately raised and crossed with iron girders. On one is the year 1862. And apparently this alteration over the canal necessitated the raising of the bridge over the river as mentioned, and though this work increased the incline of the roads leading to the adjoining works it took much of the steepness off, and thus improved the ascent of Bardsley brew.

A little from the base of the bridge, and close to the river, there was formerly a stone quarry, from which much of the stone may have been got in the erection of various buildings in the neighbourhood. But from about 1864 the quarry between the road and the new sewerage works has been covered with coal pit dirt. There was another stone quarry off Bardsley brew, which was used about the same time.

In directing our attention to an ancient and now declining industry, let us consider the present disused coal shafts where once there was a colliery. We shall perceive that some have long submitted to nature’s call, with little but bare vestige here and there on its deserted mound to denote its past existence. Some have crumbling rails around the mouth which is partly concealed in vegetation. Others are bricked round to guard from danger. A few are still mantled more or less with falling gear.

Such a network of subterranean mines found employment for many of our ancestors. During that flush of prosperity in the coal trade and miners’ wages in a few years of 1870 there were upwards of twenty shafts where coal was being raised in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne alone. Now in 1900 we may perhaps count three or four still working.

(To be continued.)

Dramatic License.— Thomas OUSEY applied at the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, for a dramatic license for the Taunton Sunday School. — The application was granted.

Billiards.— On Wednesday evening the final heats of the members billiard handicap at the Bardsley Liberal Club were brought to a close, with the results: - 1st prize, F HEMINGWAY; 2nd, F HORROBIN; 3rd, Tom HOWARD; 4th, W ASHWORTH.

Breaking the Peace at Woodhouses.— On Wednesday Thomas MALLARKY and John TOMLIN appeared before the county magistrates (Dr HUGHES and Messrs Herbert JOHNSON and J Wade TAYLOR) charged with committing a breach of the peace at Woodhouses on the 31st of January. MALLARKY pleaded guilty, and TOMLIN not guilty.— An officer proved the offence, and said about a quarter to seven on the night in question they were both fighting in the Dog and Partridge, Woodhouses. They could be heard out on the road challenging each other.— MULLARKEY’s version was that he was sat down, and TOMLIN came in and commenced the bother.— They were bound over for three months.

An Alleged Habitual Drunkard at Woodhouses.— A somewhat unique case — unique that id for the district — occupied the attention of the county magistrates at Ashton on Wednesday, when Joseph MURDEN, of Woodhouses, applied for a separation order from his wife, Jane MURDEN, on the ground that she was an habitual drunkard. She pleaded not guilty, although she admitted she took drink at times.

Questioned by the Clerk, applicant said she had been drinking for eight years, and pawned the goods to obtain drink, although she alleged it was for food.— The Clerk: How often has she been drunk? — Applicant: She never gets fairly drunk, but takes enough through the day to make her silly and neglect her work. She was all right when she was sober, and he was willing to try her again if the magistrates had no objection.

The Clerk: Oh, the magistrates have no objection. (To the defendant): Will you be sober if he takes you on again? Yes, sir.— The Chairman: You know this is a very serious matter to you. It means ruin and death to you. You cannot continue drinking without feeling the effects.

Man Knocked Down and Injured

About 11.15 on Saturday night a rather startling cab accident took place in Henry Square, Ashton. A hansom cab, belonging to Mr Thomas LEACH, coach proprietor, was crossing the square from the direction of Old-street to Chester Square, when a man named Noah CLAYTON, collier, 20 Dean-street, who was crossing the square from the direction of Stamford-street, was knocked down.

There were two occupants of the hansom at the time of the accident. According to a statement of a man named Robert SMITH, he saw the man crossing the square in front of the approaching hansom, and he called out to him, warning him. He seemed to hesitate, and went forward, and before the driver was able to pull up the inner shaft of the hansom caught him in the breast and knocked him down, his head coming violently in contact with the pavement, rendering him unconscious.

He was picked up and carried into the West End Police Station, where an examination was made as to the extent of his injuries by Dr HAMILTON, who said he was suffering from shock and probable internal injuries. The doctor ordered his removal to the District Infirmary, where he was conveyed in the horse ambulance by Constables STOREY and ALFORD.

Sir,— The whole agitation for the reduction of licences is based upon the theory that fewer licences mean less drunkenness. The Royal Commission of Licensing, which reported in 1899, stated that statistics showed “that there is apparently no relation between the number of licences and the amount of drunkenness,” and it is interesting now to contrast teetotal theory and facts.

Three places during the past few years have been specially prominent in the direction of considerably reducing the number of licensed houses, namely, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Farnham.

At Birmingham a reduction scheme was inaugurated in 1897 and has each year resulted in a further decrease of licences. Yet in October 1902, Mr Arthur CHAMBERLAIN had to admit that “he had compared the city’s record with that of eight other large cities, and was shocked to find that Birmingham alone had been going back.” Again, on February 4th last, Mr CHANCE, presiding at the Brewster Sessions, stated that drunkenness during 1903 had further increased to the extent of 16 per cent per 1,000 of the population.

At Liverpool, which has been held up as a splendid example of the results of reduction, a worse state of things prevails. In 1891, it is true that prosecutions for drunkenness stood as high as 11,343, and the city has become known as the “Black Spot on the Mersey,” but owing to proper police control a better state of things had at that time already set in.

This continued down to 1899, when the prosecutions numbered 4,069. Just at that time the fullest benefit of the smaller number of licences ought to have been permanently felt. But, notwithstanding that licences have since been further reduced each year, what has been the result? In 1900 drunkenness prosecutions rose to 4,180, in 1901 to 4,329, in 1902 to 5,115, and in 1903 they further increased to 7,507 — the highest for ten years, and marking a rise of no less 84 per cent on the figure of 1899.

At Farnham, too, a similar result is seen. Mr Mowbray HOWARD, presiding at the licensing sessions held on February 10th last, had to regret that drunkenness prosecutions had increased to an extent which the figures for 1903 as much as 69 per cent over and above the average of the previous few years.

I venture to think, sir, that the teetotal theory referred to can no longer be upheld in the face of these practical results.— Your obedient servants,

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