Stalybridge is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside, in Greater Manchester, England. It is to the northwest of Glossop, to the east of Manchester and to the north of Stockport. The town has a total population of 22,568.
Historically a part of Cheshire, Stalybridge became a centre for textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution and the 19th century wealth of the town was built on the factory-based cotton industry, transforming an area of scattered farms and homesteads into a self-confident town. After the decline of the cotton industry in the first quarter of the 20th century and the development of modern low density housing in the post-war period, the town is now semi-rural in character.
The name Stalybridge comes from the Old English word staef, meaning a staff or a stave, and leah, a clearing in a wood. The full meaning of "Staeflegh" is therefore "a wood where staves are collected". The medieval Lords of the manor took de Stavelegh as their name, later becoming Staley. After the construction of a bridge over the Tame a settlement grew up which became an important market crossing point and by the 18th century was known as Stalybridge.
The first records of the de Stavelegh family as Lords of the Manor date from the early 13th century. Staley Hall was their residence. The present hall was built in the late sixteenth century on the same site as an earlier hall of the Stayley family, dating from before 1343. It is situated on a knoll making defence of the building a relatively easy affair. The external walls and the roofing slabs are made from locally quarried gritstone. The inside of the building has been altered as parts of it were let as cottage tenements and the plaster has fallen off showing the original lattices of wicker work and clay daub. Part of the staircase still remained in 1871 although the floor was dilapidated even then.
Sir Ralph Staley had no male heirs and after his death his daughter, Elizabeth Staley, married Sir Thomas Assheton, uniting the manors of Ashton and Staley. Elizabeth and Thomas had no sons. Margaret, the eldest of their two daughters married Sir William Booth of Dunham Massey The younger daughter, Elizabeth, was widowed without children. She continued to live at Staley Hall until her death in 1553. In her will she left her share of the lordships to the Booths.
The manor of Staley remained in the possession of the Booth family until the death of George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington on 2 August 1758. Upon his death, the Earldom of Warrington became extinct. His only daughter, Lady Mary Booth, the wife of Henry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, inherited all the Booth estates.
The manor of Staley was owned by the Grey family until the extinction of the Earldoms on the death of Roger Grey, 10th Earl of Stamford in 1976. At this point the family estates were dispersed. Stamford Street, Stamford Park, Stamford Golf Club and the two Stamford Arms pubs in Stalybridge are all named after the Grey family.
In the mid-18th century Stalybridge had a population of just 140. Farming and woollen spinning were the main means subsistence at this time.
In 1776 the town's first small water-powered mill for carding and spinning cotton was built at Rassbottom. In 1789 the town's first spinning mill using the principle of Arkwright's Water-Frame was built. By 1793 steam power had been introduced to the Stalybridge cotton industry and by 1803 there were eight cotton mills in the growing town containing 76,000 spindles. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was completed in 1811 and still runs through the town.
On 9 May 1828, the Stalybridge Police and Market Act received royal assent establishing Stalybridge as an independent town with a board of 21 commissioners. Every male over the age of 21 who was the occupier of a rateable property under the act was entitled to vote at the election of the commissioners. On 30 December 1831 the Town Hall and Market were officially opened. In 1833 the Commissioners set up the Stalybridge Police Force, which was the first of its kind in the country. By this year the population of the town had reached 14,216 with 2.357 inhabited houses.
In 1834 a second bridge was built over the Tame. It was downstream of Staley bridge and constructed of iron.
A movement of resistance to the imposition of wage cuts in the mills, also known as the Plug Riots, it spread to involve nearly half a million workers throughout Britain and represented the biggest single exercise of working class strength in nineteenth century Britain. On 13 August 1842 there was a strike at Bayley's cotton mill in Stalybridge, and roving cohorts of operatives carried the stoppage first to the whole area of Stalybridge and Ashton, then to Manchester, and subsequently to towns adjacent to Manchester, using as much force as was necessary to bring mills to a standstill. The movement remained, to outward appearances, largely non-political. Although the People's Charter was praised at public meetings, the resolutions that were passed at these were in almost all cases merely for a restoration of the wages of 1820, a ten-hour working day, or reduced rents.
" ...multitudes of courts, back lanes, and remote nooks arise out of [the] confused way of building... Add to this the shocking filth, and the repulsive effect of Stalybridge, in spite of its pretty surroundings, may be readily imagined."
John Summers first established an iron forge in Stalybridge in the 1840s. Later, he and his sons developed this into a major business, and employed over 1,000 local men in their factory, the largest in the town.
The Ashton, Stalybridge and Liverpool Junction Railway Company was formed in 19 July 1844 and the railway was connected to Stalybridge on 5 October 1846. On 9 July 1847 the company was acquired by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. On 1 August 1849 the Manchester, Stockport and Leeds Railway connected Stalybridge to Huddersfield and later to Stockport. This line later became part of the London and North Western Railway.
The Cotton Famine
On the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the Stalybridge cotton mills rapidly ran short of cotton. Thousands of operatives were laid off. In October 1862, a meeting was held in the Stalybridge Town Hall which passed a resolution blaming the Confederate States of America and their actions in the American Civil War for the cotton famine in Lancashire. By the winter of 1862-1863 there were 7,000 unemployed operatives in the town. Only five of the town's 39 factories and 24 machine shops were employing people full-time. Contributions were sent from all over the world for the relief of the cotton operatives in Lancashire and at one point three-quarters of Stalybridge workers were dependent on relief schemes. By 1863 there were 750 empty houses in the town. A thousand skilled men and women left the town in what became known as "The Panic".
In 1867, the Victoria Bridge on Trinity Street was built. The Victoria Market Hall was constructed in 1868 and the Public Baths were opened in May 1870. The baths were presented as a gift to the town by philanthropists and benefactors Robert Platt (1802-1882), born in Stalybridge, and his wife Margaret Platt (1819-1888), born in Salford. The Stalybridge Boro' Band was formed in March 1871, holding its first rehearsals and meetings at the Moulders Arms, Grasscroft Street, Castle Hall. The band was known as the 4th Cheshire Rifleman Volunteers (Boro' Band) until 1896. The founder and first conductor was Alexander Owen who conducted the band until at least 1907.
Gorse Hall was the site of a murder in 1909, where local mill owner George Harry Storrs was brutally dispatched. The case is examined in The Stabbing of George Harry Storrs by Jonathan Goodman. and featured in an episode of the television series In Suspicious Circumstances in 1995 and A Most Mysterious Murder with Julian Fellowes in 2005.
Mrs Ada Summers was elected first woman Mayor of Stalybridge in November 1919. At that time Mayors of Boroughs were justices as well as chairmen of borough benches by right of office. However, it was not until The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 came into force on 23 December 1919 that women could become magistrates. Sitting ex-officio, Ada Summers became the first woman magistrate in the country and was sworn in on 31 December 1919. Mrs Summers was also therefore probably the first woman to adjudicate in court. Her picture appeared in the weekly journal Great Thoughts, 5 June 1920, alongside an interview on The First Woman JP on her work. Mrs Summers was the widow of a local ironmaster. She was an active suffragist and Liberal and used her wealth and position to support a number of schemes designed to improve conditions in the town. These included a maternity and child welfare clinic, clinics for the sick and poor and an unofficial employment centre. She later became an Alderman and was appointed MBE. On 31 May 1939 she was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough.
In 1929, with no room for expansion at Stalybridge, the Summers sheet rolling and galvanising plants were transferred to Shotton in North Wales, having devastating effects on local employment; The new plant later became a major component in the British Steel Corporation. By 1932, seven of the town's largest mills had closed and unemployment reached 7,000. In 1934 the borough council set up an Industrial Development committee for the purpose of encouraging new industries to settle in the town. The Committee purchased Cheetham's Mill and rented it out to small firms engaged in a wide variety of enterprises. By 1939 unemployment in the town had almost disappeared.
Stalybridge experienced intensive black-out periods and frequent air-raid warning during the second world war. Bombs dropped by enemy aircraft mainly landed in open country and there were no civilian casualties. Stalybridge war memorial was extended after the war to bear the names of an extra 124 men from the town. The extension was unveiled on 23 April 1950. On 19 July 1946 Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Stalybridge.
In 1955, after the adoption of the first post-war slum clearance plan, new housing estates were built to replace the slums and, gradually, redundant mills were occupied by firms in the various light industries. New applications of engineering principles, the manufacture of rubber goods, plastics, chemicals and packaging materials were all introduced, as well as the addition of synthetic fibres to the textile trade. Unemployment declined.
On 19 October 1970 a frightened red deer registered a speed of 42 mph on a police radar trap as it charged down Mottram Road. The early 1970s saw the development of private semi-detached and detached housing estates particularly in the Mottram Rise, Hough Hill, Hollins and Carrbrook areas. The redevelopment of Castle Hall was also completed.
The construction of the Buckton Vale overspill estate also took place in the early 1970s
The early 1980s saw the closure of the Public Baths after the completion of Copley Recreation centre. One of the symbols of the late nineteenth century civic improvement, the baths were subsequently demolished.
In 1991, for the first time since 1901, there was an increase in the population of Stalybridge to 22,295. The 1990s saw the proliferation of Mock Tudor style estates at Moorgate and along Huddersfield Road close to Staley Hall. This continued into the 21st century with the completion of the Crowswood estate in Millbrook.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which had been culverted in the early 1970s, was reinstated to the town centre between 1999 and May 2001 as part of a two year, multi-million pound refurbishment. The canal now runs under the legs of an electricity pylon. The market hall closed on New Year’s Eve 1999 and became the Civic Hall in 2001. Four years later, the area designated for retail space became exhibition space. There were plans to reopen the market and let the retail hall out to private contractors, though this came to naught. The town's cinema, The Palace closed on 31 August 2003, with the last film being ‘American Pie 3: The Wedding'
In 2004 the Metropolitan Borough Council announced that they had granted permission to a developer to build 16 homes next to Staley Hall. A condition of the planning consent was that the hall be restored. As of 2008 the hall is still deteriorating. It is now listed as being in very bad condition on the English Heritage buildings at risk register.
Stalybridge received its charter of incorporation on 5 March 1857 and was granted municipal borough status. The Royal Charter declared that the council should consist of a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. The borough was divided into 3 wards: Lancashire; Staley and Dukinfield. A list of burgesses was published on 21 April 1857 and the first election of councillors was held on 1 May 1857. The contesting parties were the whites and the yellows. The council met for the first time on 9 May and elected the first six aldermen. From among the councillors the first mayor, William Bayley was elected.
Argent a chevron engrailed gules between two crosses pointed voided in chief sable and a mullet in base also sable pierced of the field with two flaunces azure each charged with a cinquefoil of the field.
A garb or in front thereof a wolf statant argent.The design of the shield represents the main features of the arms of the Stayley, Ashton, Dukinfield and Astley families who owned the lordships of Staley, Ashton, and Dukinfield. The area of Stalybridge covers land which forms the whole of the manor of Staley and parts of the Manors of Ashton and Dukinfield. The golden wheatsheaf and wolf of the crest represent the Earldom of Chester. The motto of Stalybridge is Absque Labore Nihil which means Nothing Without Labour and the town's colours are sky blue.
Under the terms of the Public Health Acts 1873 and 1875 Stalybridge corporation, like other municipal boroughs governed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, was designated as the authority governiing the Urban sanitary district.
The borough, both on the Lancashire and the Cheshire sides of the river, was placed wholly within the administrative county of Cheshire in 1889 under the Local Government Act 1888 and Cheshire was adopted as the postal county for the entire town. The town is now part of the SK postcode area.
Stalybridge was twinned in 1955 with Armentières in France. In 1974 the area and assets of the municipal borough were combined with those of others districts, to form the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside. Stalybridge is currently represented by the occupants of 9 of the 57 seats on the local Metropolitan Borough Council. These seats are spread over three wards: Stalybridge North; Stalybridge South and Dukinfield Stalybidge. Stalybridge currently has four Labour councillors and five Conservative councillors. Since 1998 the nine Stalybidge councillors have been meeting on a bimonthly basis as the Stalybridge District Assembly.
As a county palatine Cheshire was unrepresented in Parliament until the Chester and Cheshire (Constituencies) Act 1542. From 1545 Cheshire was represented by two Knights of the Shire. On the passage of the Great Reform Act of 1832, the area of Stalybridge south of the Tame was included in the North Cheshire constituency.
Between the passing of the Second Reform Act in 1867 and the general election of 1918, the town was represented in its own right through the Stalybridge Borough constituency. Since the 1918 general election, the town has been represented in Parliament by the member for the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency. The current Member of Parliament is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt Hon. James Purnell.
Stalybridge lies in the foothills of the Pennines, straddling the River Tame, which, from its source to its confluence with the Mersey, forms part of the ancient boundary between Lancashire and Cheshire. On the boundary of the Peak District national park, the highest point in the town is the summit of Wild Bank at 1,309 feet (399 m). Harridge Pike is the second highest peak at 1,296 feet (395 m). Buckton Hill, the site of the mediaeval Buckton Castle, is another prominent landmark. The town centre itself is stituated along the banks of the river between Ridge Hill to the North and Hough Hill 801 feet (244.17 m) to the south. Stalybridge Weather Stationis voluntarily manned and has been providing statistics since 1999.
With the demolition of mid-nineteenth century high density housing the population of the town declined over the course of the 20th century. At the 2001 census Stalybridge had a population of 22,568. The town includes the localities of Heyheads, Buckton Vale, Carrbrook, Millbrook, Brushes, Copley, Mottram Rise, Woodlands, Matley, Hough Hill, Castle Hall, Hollins, Hydes, Rassbottom, Waterloo, Cocker Hill, The Hague, Springs, Ridge Hill and Heyrod.
|Population change in Stalybridge since 1823|
Much of the upland areas of the town are grouse moors. Boar Flat is part of the Dark Peak Site of Special Scientific Interest, as classified by Natural England. The slopes below the moors, particularly beneath Harridge Pike, are used for sheep grazing by the hill farms. The Stalybridge Country Park centres on two areas. Firstly, the Brushes Valley, with its four reservoirs running up into the Pennine Moors, and secondly Carrbrook, lying in the shadow of Buckton Castle. Linking the two areas, although outside the Country Park boundaries, is a good rights of way network, and areas of designated access land which take visitors into the Tame Valley, Longdendale and the Peak District. The country park affords views of the Cheshire Plain, Jodrell Bank and on very clear days the mountains of Snowdonia are visible. Buckton Castle and Stalybridge cairn, a round cairn, west of Hollingworthhall Moor are both Scheduled Ancient Monuments .
The town's two parks are the main open spaces in the town centre. Cheetham Park was opened in June 1932 to a crowd of 15,000 people, the park was left to the town under the will of John Frederick Cheetham along with his house, Eastwood, and his collection of paintings which now form part of the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery collection. The park is landscaped informally with large areas of woodland. Adjacent to Cheetham's Park lies the Eastwood Nature Reserve. Eastwood was one of the first reserves to be owned by the RSPB. It is managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The reserve is a cut-over, lowland, raised mire SSSI, surrounded by a woodland fringe. Characteristic bog plants include sphagnum mosses, cotton grass and cross-leaved heath. 9 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded on the reserve along with the Green Hairstreak butterfly. The steep-sided broadleaved woodland is bisected by Acres Brook and has several old mill ponds. The geology is shale and sandstone, with a rich variety of plants and animals typical of woodland habitat on an acid soil. Access is from the A6018 Mottram Road. Car parking is available in the Stalybridge Celtic Football Club car park. The reserve occupies 4.7 hectares (11.6 acres).
Stamford Park is registered by English Heritage as being of special interest. In 1865, local mill owner Abel Harrison died and his home, Highfield House, and its extensive grounds, on the border with Ashton were bought by the two towns. Neighbouring land was donated by Harry Grey, 8th Earl of Stamford and Warrington and the whole area was landscaped to become Stamford Park. The Park was opened by the earl on 12 July 1873. The former mill reservoir known as Chadwick Dams was incorporated into the park in 1891. The reservoir was divided in two by an embankment, with the southern section becoming the present boating lake at which pedalos and rowing boats can be hired. The park contains a considerable area of woodland, dating back to the time when Stamford Park was the grounds to a house. This area includes waterfalls cascading over rock faces and gargoyles built into the bridges and walls. The park has tennis courts, putting greens,bowling greens, a children's playground, paddling pool and an animal corner with a variety of birds and animals. The park is the venue for the annual Tulip Sunday festival.
An annual brass band contest has been held on Whit Friday since at least 1870. Other contests have been held on the same day in the Stalybridge villages of Millbrook, Carrbrook and Heyrod. There is now an established tradition of holding brass band contests on this day in various locations around Staybridge and Mossley and also in the villages of Saddleworth. Bands travel by coach from all over the United Kingdom and sometimes beyond to contest in as many locations as possible on the day.
The song It's a Long Way to Tipperary was written in Stalybridge in 1912 after composer Jack Judge was challenged by a friend to write, compose and produce a song in just one night. On 31 January 1953 a memorial tablet was unveiled by Jack Hylton on the wall of the old Newmarket Tavern, where the song was composed. To coincide with the ceremony a wreath was laid on Jack Judge's grave by the mayor of Oldbury. Jack Judge is now also commemorated by a statue outside the Old Victoria Market Hall.
More recently a live folk music tradition has developed in the town. The Buffet Bar Folk Club meets every Saturday at 9 pm. Some members of the Fivepenny Piece who sang traditional North Country music in the 1970s were from Stalybridge. and the band performed songs such as Stalybridge Station and Stalybridge Market. They also took In Bowton's Yard, the work of local poet Samuel Laycock, and put it to music.
Built as a gift to the town of Stalybridge by John Frederick Cheetham and his wife Beatrice Astley, the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery originally opened to the public as a lecture theatre on 14 January 1901. The space was turned into a gallery to house the Astley Cheetham Collection, bequeathed in 1932. This collection has grown with gifts and donations throughout the twentieth century and is one of the most interesting small regional collections of 15th century Italian paintings. The collection of work by Italian old masters includes Portrait of a Young Man by Alessandro Allori. Also, British art of the 19th and 20th centuries is represented by artists such as John Linnell, Richard Parkes Bonington, George Price Boyce, Burne-Jones, Mark Gertler and Duncan Grant. Aske Hall by J. M. W. Turner is also part of the gallery's collection. Alongside exhibitions of the collection, the gallery also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions by regional artists.
During the earlier part of the 20th century, Stalybridge was artistically captured by the painter L. S. Lowry. Some of his paintings were of the people of Stalybridge. Lowry continued painting pictures until his death in 1976. His house is marked with a blue plaque on Stalybridge Road, Mottram in Longdendale. There is also a statue of him, holding his sketch pad, cleverly positioned on a bench near the Stalybridge Road bus stop. Sheila Vaughan is a Stalybridge Artist working in oils and acrylic Her work and that of other Stalybridge artists such as Keith Taylor are displayed at The Peoples Gallery on Melbourne Street.
Samuel Laycock (1826-1893) was a librarian at the Mechanics' Institute for two years. His poetry presents a vivid impression of mid 19th century, working class life and he drew on his personal experience in the cotton industry. His best-loved poems are 'Bowton's Yard' and 'Bonny Brid' - both written in Stalybridge. Tim Willocks, author of Bad City Blues, Green River Rising and Bloodstained Kings is from Stalybridge.
The restoration of the canal between 1999 and 2001 attracted new commercial ventures such as riverside cafés and boat trips. The reopening of the canal and the fact that the Tame runs through the town centre resulted in the nickname Little Venice. Stalybridge has in recent years, acquired another nickname, Stalyvegas, at first coined as a reaction to a council traffic management plan which included a large number of traffic lights surrounding the main shopping centre, making it difficult to access the shops, the nickname became popular and was used ironically after the controversial conversion of premises in the shopping area into nightclubs and bars, the proliferation of takeaways and the refurbishment of some of the more traditional pubs.
The town's traditional foods include Tater Pie, a variation on Lancashire Hotpot, black peas, today mainly eaten on Whit Friday, and tripe. Stalybridge is the location of the region's last remaining tripe shop.
The Cheshire Building Society and Yorkshire Building Society have branches in Stalybridge, as do Lloyds TSB, Natwest and Yorkshire banks. All branches are located on Melbourne Street. The General Post office is located on Trinity Street. The four sub Post Offices are Ridge Hill, Carrbrook, High Street and Mottram Road. The Police Station is located on Waterloo Road but is open only during working hours on weekdays. The Fire Station is located on Rassbottom Street.
General practitioners' surgeries are Acres Lane Surgery, Acres Lane; Staveleigh Medical Centre, King Street; St Andrews House, Waterloo Road; Lockside Medical Centre, 85 Huddersfield Road and Grosvenor Medical Centre, Grosvenor Street.
Stalybridge railway station is served by three lines, the Huddersfield Line to Manchester Victoria or Huddersfield, the TransPennine Express line to Manchester Piccadilly or Leeds and beyond, and the Stockport to Stalybridge Line, which is notable for its infrequent Parliamentary train gaining it popularity with trainspotters. Stalybridge station is unusual in providing direct services to nine English cites: Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Wakefield, York, Hull, Middlesbrough, Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is routed through Stalybridge. It is part of the South Pennine Ring and runs from the junction with the Huddersfield Broad Canal near Aspley Basin at Huddersfield to the junction with the Ashton Canal at Whitefields Basin in Ashton under Lyne. The canal was completed in 1811, but was closed to navigation in 1951. It was reopened in 2001 and is now managed by British Waterways.
From the end of the nineteenth century until 1909 the main football team in the town was Stalybridge Rovers. The club reached the 1st round of the FA Cup in the 1900/1901 season and its players included Arthur Wharton and Herbert Chapman. Today the town's team is Stalybridge Celtic, founded 1909. They are one of four FIFA recognised teams to be called Celtic. Usually based in non-league football, they are presently members of the National Conference - North, in the sixth tier of English football.
There are two main cricket clubs in Stalybridge. Stayley Millbrook C.C. play in Millbrook and are members of the Saddleworth & District League. Stalybridge St Pauls C.C. play on Cheetham Hill Road, Dukinfield on the ground formerly used by the now defunct Stalybridge Cricket Club. They are members of the Cheshire League Pyramid, and for the 2008 season are in the first division of the Cheshire Alliance.
Stamford Golf Club on Huddersfield Road has an 18-hole course. The club was incorporated on Saturday 24 August 1901 and was named after the local landowner the Earl of Stamford. It is a member of the Cheshire union of Golf Clubs.
Priory Tennis Club is situated next to Cheetham's Park on Mottram Road. There are four astroturf courts, all with floodlights. The club is fully affiliated to the Cheshire branch of the Lawn Tennis Association. The Stalybridge Archery Club was founded in 1858 and is located close to The Priory.
The local athletics club is East Cheshire Harriers which was founded in 1922 by an amalgamation of Dukinfield Harriers and Tintwistle Harriers. Th club headquarters were once in Stalybridge but their home is now the Richmond Park Stadium, Ashton-under-Lyne.
A snooker league is operated by The Stalybridge and District Snooker, Billiards and Whist League which has been in existence at least since 1910. The league starts around October each year and runs until May.
In 1901 Joey Nutall, of Stalybridge, lowered the world swimming record for the quarter mile by 13 secs, his time being 5 min 38 secs. In the same year he asserted his right to the title of the champion swimmer of the world beating three competitors in the 600 yards championship race at Doncaster, and covered the distance in 6 min 30 secs. winning by a length and a half. His share of the spoil was £10, a cup, and two-thirds of the gate money. By 1901 Nutall had held the 500 yards world championship for over ten years. Stalybridge has a 25 metre 6 lane pool at Copley Recreation Centre which is home to the Stalybridge Amateur Swimming and Water Polo Club.
The first Methodist chapel was erected in 1802 on the corner of Chapel Street and Rassbottom Street.. The Baptist chapel, King Street was opened by the Particular (Ebenezer) Baptists. This chapel was subsequently occupied by the Congregational Church on 3 October 1830. The Particular (Ebenezer) Baptists moved to a new chapel on Cross Leech Street on 28 October 1828.