Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Oldham Through Time by Steven Dickens

Oldham Town Hall, Yorkshire Street, c. 1910. (Oldham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

Although I live in Flixton, which is on the opposite side of Manchester to the town of Oldham, it is impossible to remain outside for long in the hot evenings of June and July, without Oldham immediately being brought to mind. For many evenings – if the wind was in the right direction – we could smell the acrid smoke produced by the raging peat fires on Saddleworth Moor. Looking towards Manchester it was impossible not to notice what looked like an orange/greyish mist in the direction of the Pennines. Which was the smoke produced by the moorland fires that took over three weeks to be completely put out. I know from personal experience that the terrain in this area is wild and – particularly in winter – desolate. In the 1980s I was employed at the archaeological site of Castleshaw Roman fort (and ‘fortlet’), close to Saddleworth Moor, by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit. Snow-fall can make the area impassable at times. However, in clear weather and in the summer months there are some spectacular views looking towards Oldham and Manchester.

The Ornamental Lake, Alexandra Park, Oldham 1907. (Oldham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

Oldham Through Time shows how the former mill town has changed over the last one hundred years. Its Victorian Metropolitan origins are still self-evident, even in the twenty first century. The green expanse of Alexandra Park is a classic example of its time, constructed as it was by the unemployed mill workers of Oldham, during the economic downturn and cotton famine caused by the American Civil War. In clear weather there are some spectacular views from the park of the Pennines and the surrounding environs. In more recent times, and since the arrival of the Metrolink tram system, Oldham has undergone an economic revival and the historic Tommyfield Market remains a vibrant hub, with the possibility of further development of the town centre.  Oldham’s civic buildings have been rejuvenated and invigorated by their adaptation for alternative uses – the former town hall, now a cinema complex, being a prime example of this. The town of Oldham, despite being on the edge of the vast Metropolitan sprawl of Manchester, has managed to retain its own character and has resisted being incorporated without trace by its larger neighbour. I have attempted in Oldham Through Time to exemplify elements of the town’s uniqueness and hope that the reader will appreciate the result.

Steven Dickens' new book Oldham Through Time is available for purchase now.