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Lees (pop. 10,100) is a village within the Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker, in Greater Manchestermarker, England. It lies amongst the Pennines on elevated ground on the east side of the River Medlock, east of Oldhammarker, and east-northeast of Manchestermarker. Historically, Lees has been positioned on the Lancashiremarker side of the ancient county boundary with the West Riding of Yorkshire, giving rise to a part of Lees being known locally as County End.

Lees is believed to have obtained its name in the 14th century from John de Leghes, a retainer of the local Lord of the Manor. For centuries, Lees was a conglomeration of hamlets, ecclesiastically linked with the township of Ashton-under-Lynemarker. Farming was the main industry of this rural area, with locals supplementing their incomes by hand-loom weaving in the domestic system. At the beginning of the 19th century Lees had obtained a reputation for its mineral springs; ambitions to develop Lees into a spa town were thwarted by an unplanned process of urbanisation caused by introduction and profitability of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution.

Lees expanded into a factory village during the late-19th century on the back of neighbouring Oldham's booming cotton spinning sector. The former Lees Urban Districtmarker, an area of , had eleven cotton mills at its manufacturing zenith. Notable people associated with Lees include Helen Bradley, a 20th century oil painter.


The settlement dates back to the 14th century and is thought to have been named after former retainer of the manor, John de Leghes.

Lees was one of the localities which, on 16 August 1819, sent a contingent of parishioners to the mass public demonstration at Manchestermarker, now known as the Peterloo Massacremarker. In the week before Peterloo (an assembly demanding the reform of parliamentary representation), weavers in Lees had paraded through the village with a large black flag adorned with the slogans "no Borough Mongering, Taxation Without Representation is Unject and Tyrannical," and "Unite and be Free, Equal Representation or Death". The growing unrest in the village prompted one alarmed inhabitant to write to the Home Office.

In the late-18th century, a natural chalybeate spring was discovered in the locality, and by the-early 19th century the village gained a reputation for these "fashionable" mineral springs. In the early-19th century, water from Lees Spa, had become fashionable to drink, so much so, that it was bottled and sold around the country. In the month of August 1821, 60,000 people visited Lees Spa. Ambitions to develop Lees into a spa town - "Lancashire's very own Harrogatemarker" - were thwarted by an unplanned process of urbanisation caused by introduction and profitability of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought cotton spinning to Lees in the form of eleven mills, which by the late-19th century, had changed the character of the village completely.

Lees has grown in size recently in terms of both amenities and residential population, in its role as a commuter village for people working in Oldham and West Yorkshire. It is home to commercial and distribution companies. The main street is notable for the number of public houses in close proximity.


Lees (or Hey) was within the Knott Lanes division of the parish and township of Ashton-under-Lynemarker, and hundred of Salfordmarker. In 1859 a Local Board of Health (at first known as Lees-with-Crossbank, subsequently as Lees) was established for the Lees area. This area was in the Ashton under Lyne poor law Union.

Between 1894 and 1974, Lees constituted the Lees Urban Districtmarker, in the administrative county of Lancashiremarker; the Local Board became the Lees Urban District Council. As the district was situated entirely between the County Borough of Oldhammarker and the West Riding of Yorkshire, it constituted an exclave of the administrative county of Lancashire. In 1911 part of the Urban District was added to the civil parish of Crossbankmarker, but in 1914 Crossbank was absorbed into the Lees Urban District.

In 1974 the Lees Urban District was amagamated with six other local government districts, to from the newly created Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker within the metropolitan county of Greater Manchestermarker.

The Saddleworth & Lees area committee meets regularly to discuss the progress of the villages.


The village consists of a small cluster of shops and businesses on either side of the A669 Lees Road, surrounded by some terraced houses and some small estates. Lees is separated from the main conurbation of Oldham by a small amount of green belt land in the valley of Leesbrook, on either bank of the River Medlock.

A part of Lees is known locally as County End; Springheadmarker in Saddleworthmarker forms a contiguous urban area with Lees, though the border between the two forms part of the ancient county boundary between Lancashiremarker and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Crossbankmarker is an area of Lees.


Lees is accessed on the roads on the A669 from Saddleworth and Oldham. Along this road, there are frequent buses running towards Oldham and Manchester on First Manchester's 180 and 184 services. Other destinations which can be reached from Lees on the bus are Huddersfield, Hyde, Middleton, Mossley, Saddleworth and Stalybridge.

There is also no train station. Lees railway stationmarker closed in 1955, followed by the complete closure of the line in 1964.

Notable people

Notable people associated with Lees include Springheadmarker-born Annie Kenney, one of the first suffragettes to be imprisoned worked at Lees's Leesbrook Mill. Annie's younger, Lees-born sister Jessie Kenney was also a campaigner for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. By the age of 21 Jessie was the Women's Social and Political Union's youngest organiser. Laurence Chaderton, one of the original translators of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible was a native of Lees. Phil Woolas MP lives in the locality.

Helen Bradley was born in Lees in 1900.


  1. An Illustrated History of Oldham's Railways by John Hooper (ISBN 1-871608-19-8)

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