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Ashton-under-Lyne (Line) in 1833

ASHTON-UNDER-LINE, a manufacturing town in the hundred of Salford in Lancashire, on the north bank of the river Tame, which here divides the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire. Duckinfield, which forms a suburb of Ashton across the river, and is united with it by a bridge, is in the latter county. Ashton is 6 miles east. of Manchester, and 186 miles N.W. by N. of London.

Ashton is a thriving place ; and on the whole well laid out and well built. The streets are paved, and the town lighted with gas. The church is large and ancient, furnished with a fine peal of ten bells. The architecture has been much altered by subsequent repairs ; and the edifice sustained considerable injury from an accidental fire in 1821. Near to this church is an ancient edifice, called ‘The Old Hall,’ supposed to have been built in the fifteenth century ; and adjacent to it are the remains of a prison, whose appearance indicates still greater antiquity. This prison is known by the name of ‘The Dungeons,’ and was used as a place of confinement till a comparatively recent period. A new church, the cost of which was defrayed by a grant from the commissioners for building new churches, has also been erected. It is of Gothic architecture, and has a square embattled tower surmounted by pinnacles. The court-house for the transaction of public affairs is a handsome building, with a theatre and a concert-room over it.

The chief business of Ashton is the cotton manufacture ; the increase of which may be judged of by the fact, that in ten years preceding 1831 the mills increased from thirty to seventy. The goods produced are chiefly ginghams, muslins, and calicoes. The Manchester and Ashton, Peak Forest, and Huddersfield canals, which connect Ashton with the various manufacturing districts of the north and middle of England, much promote the trade of the town. Hats, woollens, and silks are manufactured here or in the neighbourhood, and coal is dug in the adjacent districts, and indeed in the very outskirts of the town, in considerable quantity. There are more than twenty collieries in the district, which employ upwards of 1,000 men.

Ashton was once a borough, but had been disfranchised ; and its decay was indicated by the disuse of a market once held by patent granted by Henry VI. The ancient cross is still standing in the market-place. The reviving prosperity, of the town has led to an application to parliament for re-establishing a market ; and within a few years an act for this purpose has been obtained, as well as one for regulating the police of the town, and for lighting, cleansing, and watching it. Under the Market Act, a site has been provided, and buildings erected, at an expense of above £10,000. The market-day is not yet fixed. The main pipes laid down by the gas company exceed eight miles in length. There are four fairs in the year.

There is an ancient foundation-school ; also a national school.

The town of Ashton (including, as it appears, the suburbs or quarters of Boston, Charlestown, Hurst, and some others) had a population in 1831 of 14,673, having increased by more than 5,000 persons in the previous ten years.

The chief part of the town and of the parish is on the estate of the Earl of Stamford and Warrington. As lord of the manor he holds a court, at which constables are appointed, and in which questions of disputes, breaches of trust, and rights of tenants, as well as actions of debt under forty shillings, are cognisable. By the late Reform Bill Ashton was made a parliamentary borough, the boundary of which coincides with that laid down in the Local Police Act. It returns one member, and contained in 1831 above six hundred £10 houses. There is a court of requests for the recovery of debts under £5.

The living of Ashton is a valuable rectory, wholly or in part in the gift of the Earl of Stamford and T. Hunt, Esq. The parish is very extensive, comprehending about ten square miles. It is about six miles from N. to S., and four from E. to W. In it are several large manufacturing villages ; but except in these and in the town itself, the population is not dense. The parish is divided into four arbitrary divisions, for the purpose of collecting rates, viz. Hartshead, Knottlanes, Audenshaw, and Ashton town: but it is all under one municipal government. The population of the whole amounted in 1831 to 33,597. The spiritual wants of these persons were provided for by five places of worship of the establishment, (viz. the parish church, three parochial chapels, and one chapel of ease), and twenty-four other places of worship ; of which, nineteen were Methodist, three Baptist, one Independent, and one Johannite.

The principal villages in the parish are as follows :-

Stayleybridge is on the Tame about a mile E. of Ashton It is not wholly in this parish ; for part of it lies across the river, in the parish of Stockport in Cheshire. The two parts are, however, united by an excellent stone bridge, and included in one local act, for the purpose of lighting, &c. The importance of the place is of modern growth, though so far back as in 1795 it consisted of a continuous well-paved street of half a mile, and had in it an episcopal chapel of octagon form. The chief branches of trade were then, and had been for some time, connected with the wool manufacture, and consisted of weaving, dyeing, pressing &c. The population is not ascertained.

Mossley is N.E. of Ashton about two miles and a half It is connected with Ashton by a new, but not very good road, over a range of high hills. There are scarcely any houses between the places ; but in Mossley there are several good ones, and a parochial chapel in the gift of the rector of Ashton. The population in 1831 was about 1,500.

Lees is N. by W. of Mossley, and about five miles N. by E. of Ashton. Its situation rather connects it with Oldham (through which its manufactures are carried off to Manchester) than with Ashton, with which it has little communication. Population in 1831 about 3,000.

Hooley Hill, the populous part of Audenshaw, S.W. of Ashton. It has a population of between 2,000 and 3,000, and is rapidly increasing.

Fairfield, on the road from Manchester to Ashton, is a settlement of the Moravians. It has a chapel, and several good houses.

Near Mossley is Hart's Head Pike, a well-known object, erected in 1758, on the site of a former structure which is said to have been used as a beacon. The present building is of stone, and is an upright cylinder, surmounted by a cone, whose base nearly covers the upper surface of the cylinder It commands a delightful view of the surrounding country.

On the W. side of the town, and on the N. side of the road from Manchester, is a large moss, or shaking bog, from the edges of which turf is cut for fuel. At the depth of ten feet, or thereabouts, lies a tolerable loam. Which, with improvement, may be rendered good meadow-land. The moss may be crossed at all seasons. Fir trees, fresh and full of turpentine, have been found in it ; likewise oaks, quite sound, and as black as ebony.