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Oldham is a large town in Greater Manchestermarker, England. It lies amongst the Pennines on elevated ground between the rivers Irk and Medlock, south-southeast of Rochdalemarker, and northeast of the city of Manchestermarker. Oldham is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker, of which Oldham is the administrative centre.

Historically a part of Lancashiremarker, and with little early history to speak of, Oldham rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture. It was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution, and amongst the first ever industrialised towns, rapidly becoming "one of the most important centres of cotton and textile industries in England". At its zenith, it was the most productive cotton spinning mill town in the world, spinning more cotton than France and Germany combined. Oldham's textile industry began to fall into decline during the mid-20th century, and its last mill closed in 1998.

The demise of textile processing in Oldham depressed the local economy. Today Oldham is a predominantly residential town, and a centre for further education and the performing arts. It is, however, still distinguished architecturally by the surviving cotton mills and other buildings associated with that industry. The town's population of 103,544 lives in an area of around .



The toponymy of Oldham ( ) seems to imply "old village or place" from Eald (Saxon) signifying oldness or antiquity, and Ham (Saxon) a house, farm or hamlet. However, Oldham is known to be a derivative of Aldehulme; undoubtedly an Old Norse name. It is believed to be derived from the Old English ald combined with the Old Norse holmi or holmr, meaning "old promontory or outcrop", possibly describing the town's hilltop position. It has alternatively been suggested that it may mean "holm or hulme of a farmer named Alda". The name is understood to date from 865, during the period of the Danelawmarker.

Early history

The earliest known evidence of a human presence in what is now Oldham is attested by the discovery of Neolithic flint arrow-heads and workings found at Wernethmarker and Besom Hill, implying habitation 7–10,000 years ago. Evidence of later Roman and Celtic activity is confirmed by an ancient Roman road and Bronze Age archaeological relics found at various sites within the town. Although Anglo-Saxons occupied territory around the area centuries earlier, Oldham as a permanent, named place of dwelling, is believed to date from 865, when Danish invadersmarker established a settlement called Aldehulme.

From its founding in the 9th century until the Industrial Revolution, Oldham is believed to have been little more than a scattering of small and insignificant settlements spread across the moorland and dirt tracks which linked Manchestermarker to Yorkmarker. Although not mentioned in the Domesday Book, Oldham does appear in legal documents from the Middle Ages, invariably recorded as territory under the control of minor ruling families and barons. In the 13th century, Oldham was documented as a manor held from The Crown by a family surnamed Oldham, whose seat was at Werneth Hallmarker.

Industrial Revolution and cotton

Much of Oldham's history is concerned with textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution; it has been said that "if ever the Industrial Revolution placed a town firmly and squarely on the map of the world, that town is Oldham." Oldham's soils were too thin and poor to sustain crop growing, and so for decades prior to industrialisation the area was used for grazing sheep, which provided the raw material for a local woollen weaving trade. By 1756, Oldham emerged as centre of the hatting industry in England. The rough felt used in the production process is the origin of the term "Owdham Roughyed" a nickname for people from Oldham. It was not until the last quarter of the 18th century that Oldham changed from being a cottage industry township producing woollen garments via domestic manual labour, to a sprawling industrial metropolis of textile factories.

The climate, geology, and topography of Oldham were unrelenting constraints upon the social and economic activities of the human inhabitants. Located above sea level with no major river or visible natural resources, Oldham had poor geographic attributes compared with other settlements for investors and their engineers. As a result, Oldham played no part in the initial period of the Industrial Revolution, although it did later become seen as obvious territory to industrialise because of its convenient position between the labour forces of Manchestermarker and southwest Yorkshiremarker. Cotton spinning and milling were introduced to Oldham when its first mill, Lees Hall, was built by William Clegg in about 1778, the beginning of a spiralling process of urbanisation and socioeconomic transformation. Within a year, 11 other mills had been constructed, and by 1818 there were 19 – not a large number in comparison with other local settlements. Oldham's small local population was greatly increased by the mass migration of workers from outlying villages, resulting in a population increase from just over in 1801 to in 1901. The speed of this urban growth meant that Oldham, with little pre-industrial history to speak of, was effectively born as a factory town.
Royd mill, built in 1907, and seen here in 1983, was one of Oldham's peak of 360 textile mills which operated night and day.
Oldham became the world's manufacturing centre for cotton spinning in the second half of the 19th century. In 1851, over 30% of Oldham's population was employed within the textile sector, compared to 5% across Great Britainmarker. It overtook the major urban centres of Manchestermarker and Boltonmarker as the result of a mill building boom in the 1860s and 1870s, a period during which Oldham became the most productive cotton-spinning town in the world. By 1871 Oldham had more spindles than any country in the world except the United States, and in 1909, was spinning more cotton than France and Germany combined. By 1911 there were 16.4 million spindles in Oldham, compared with a total of 58 million in the United Kingdom and 143.5 million in the world; in 1928, with the construction of the UK's largest textile factory Oldham reached its manufacturing zenith. At its peak, there were over 360 mills, operating night and day; Oldham's townscape was dominated by distinctive rectangular brick-built mills.

Oldham was hit hard by the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861–1865, when supplies of raw cotton from the United States were cut off. Wholly reliant upon the textile industry, the cotton famine created chronic unemployment in the town. By 1863 a committee had been formed, and with aid from central government, land was purchased with the intention of employing local cotton workers to construct Alexandra Parkmarker, which opened on 28 August 1865. Said to have over-relied upon the textile sector, as the importation of cheaper foreign yarns grew during the 20th century, Oldham's economy declined into a depression, although it was not until 1964 that Oldham ceased to be the largest centre of cotton spinning. In spite of efforts to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of its production, the last cotton spun in the town was in 1998.


Facilitated by its flourishing textile industry, Oldham developed extensive structural and mechanical engineering sectors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The manufacture of spinning and weaving machinery in Oldham belongs to the last decade of the 19th century, when it became a leading centre in the field of engineering. The Platt Brothersmarker, originated in nearby Dobcrossmarker village, but moved to Oldham. They were pioneers of cotton-spinning machinery, developing innovatory products which enabled the mass-production of cotton yarn. Platt Brothers became the largest textile machine makers in the world, employing over people in the 1890s, twice the number of their nearest rivals Dobson & Barlow in Bolton and Asa Lees on Greenacres Moormarker. They were keen investors in the local area and at one time, were supporting 42% of the population. The centre of the company lay at the New Hartford Works in Wernethmarker, a massive complex of buildings and internal railways on a site overlooking Manchester. The railway station which served this site later formed the basis of Oldham Werneth railway stationmarker, which together with the main building exists to this day. Platts gained prestigious awards from around the world, and were heavily involved with local politics and civic pride in Oldham. John and James Platt were the largest subscribers for promoting Oldham from a township to a Borough, pledging £100 (more than double the next largest sum) in advance towards any expenses which may have been incurred by the Royal Charter. In 1854 John Platt was made the (fourth) Mayor of Oldham, an office he was to hold twice more in 1855–56 and 1861–62. John Platt was elected in 1865 to become Member of Parliament for Oldham, and was re-elected in 1868; he remained in office until his death in 1872. A bronze statue of Platt existed in the town centre for years, though was moved to Alexandra Parkmarker. There have been recommendations for it to be returned to the town centre.

Abraham Henthorn Stott, the son of a stonemason, was born in nearby Shaw and Cromptonmarker in 1822. He served a seven-year apprenticeship with Sir Charles Barry, before starting a structural engineering practice in Oldham in 1847 that went on to become the pre-eminent mill architect firm in Lancashiremarker. Philip Sydney Stott, third son of Abraham and later titled as Sir Philip Stott, 1st Baronet, was the most prominent and famous of the Stott mill architects. He established his own practice in 1883 and designed over a hundred mills in several countries. His factories, which improved upon his father's fireproof mills, accounted for a 40% increase in Oldham's spindles between 1887 and 1914.

Although textile-related engineering declined with the processing industry, leading to the demise of both Stotts and Platts, other engineering firms existed, notably electrical and later electronic engineers Ferranti in 1896. Ferranti went into receivership in 1993, but some of its former works continue in other hands, notably the original Hollinwoodmarker site now operated by Siemens.

Coal mining

On the back of the Industrial Revolution, Oldham developed an extensive coal mining sector, correlated to supporting the local cotton industry and the town's inhabitants, though there is evidence of small scale coal mining in the area as early as the 16th century. The Oldham Coalfield stretched from Roytonmarker in the north to Bardsleymarker in the south and in addition to Oldham, included the towns of Middletonmarker and Chaddertonmarker to the west. The Oldham Coalfield was the site of over 150 collieries during its recorded history.

Although some contemporary sources suggest there was coal mining in Oldham at a commercial scale by 1738, older sources attribute the commercial expansion of coal mining with the arrival in the town of two Welsh labourers, John Evans and William Jones, around 1770. Foreseeing the growth in demand for coal as a source of motive and steam power, they acquired colliery rights for Oldham, which by 1771 had 14 colliers. The mines were largely to the southwest of the town around Hollinwoodmarker and Wernethmarker and provided enough coal to accelerate Oldham's rapid development at the centre of the cotton boom. At its height in the mid-19th century, when it was dominated by the Lees and Jones families, Oldham coal was mainly sourced from many small collieries whose lives varied from a few years to many decades, although two of the four largest collieries survived to nationalisation. In 1851, collieries employed over 2,000 men in Oldham, although the amount of coal in the town was somewhat overestimated however, and production began to decline even before that of the local spinning industry. Today, the only visible remnants of the mines are disused shafts and boreholes.

Social history

Oldham's social history, like that of other former unenfranchised towns, is marked by politicised civil disturbances, as well as events related to the Luddite, Suffragette and other Labour movements from the working classes. There has been a significant presence of "friendly societies".

It has been put that the people of Oldham became radical in politics in the early part of the 19th century, and movements suspected of sedition found patronage in the town. Oldham was frequently disturbed by bread and labour riots, facilitated by periods of scarcity and the disturbance of employment following the introduction of cotton-spinning machinery. On 20 April 1812, a "large crowd of riotous individuals" compelled local retailers to sell foods at a loss, whilst on the same day Luddites numbering in their thousands, many of whom were from Oldham, attacked a cotton mill in nearby Middletonmarker. On 16 August 1819, Oldham sent a contingent estimated at well above 10,000 to hear speakers in St Peter's Fields at Manchester discuss political reform. It was the largest contingent sent to Manchester. John Lees, a cotton operative and ex-soldier who had fought at Waterloomarker, was one of the fifteen victims of the Peterloo Massacremarker which followed. The 'Oldham inquest' which proceeded the massacre was anxiously watched; the Court of King's Bench, however, decided that the proceedings were irregular, and the jury were discharged without giving a verdict. Annie Kenney, born in nearby Springheadmarker, and who worked in Oldham's cotton mills, was a notable of the Suffragette movement credited with sparking off suffragette militancy when she heckled Winston Churchill, and later (with Emmeline Pankhurst) the first Suffragist to be imprisoned. Oldham Women's Suffrage Society was established in 1910 with Margery Lees as president and quickly joined the Manchester and District Federation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. The Chartist and Co-operative movement had strong support in the town, whilst many Oldhamers protested against the emancipation of slaves. The Riot Act was read in 1852 on election day following a mass public brawl over the Reform Act, and irregularities with parliamentary candidate nominations.

For three days in late May 2001, Oldham became the centre of national and international media attention. Following high profile race-related conflicts, and long-term underlying racial tensions between local white and South Asian communities, major race riots broke out in the town. Occurring with particular intensity in the Glodwickmarker area of the town, the Oldham Riots were the worst racially motivated riots in the United Kingdom for fifteen years prior, briefly eclipsing the sectarian violence in Northern Irelandmarker in the media. At least 20 people were injured in the riots, including 15 police officers, and 37 people were arrested. Similar riots took place in other towns in northern England over the following days and weeks. The 2001 riots prompted governmental and independent inquiries, which collectively agreed on community relations improvements and considerable regeneration schemes for the town.


Civic history

Lying within the historic county boundaries of Lancashiremarker since the early 12th century, Oldham was recorded in 1212 as being one of five parts of the thegnage estate of Kaskenmoor, which was held on behalf of King John by Roger de Montbegon and William de Nevill. The other parts of this estate were Cromptonmarker, Glodwickmarker, Sholvermarker, and Wernethmarker. Oldham later formed a township within the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham, in the hundred of Salfordmarker.

In 1826 commissioners for the social and economic improvement of Oldham were established. The town was made part of a parliamentary borough, in 1832, though it was in 1849 when Oldham was incorporated as a municipal borough, giving it borough status in the United Kingdom, and in 1850 the Borough Council obtained the powers of the improvement commissioners. In 1880, parts of the Hollinwoodmarker and Crossbankmarker areas of Chaddertonmarker and Ashton-under-Lynemarker townships were added to the Borough of Oldham. Oldham Above Townmarker and Oldham Below Townmarker were, from 1851 until c.1881, statistical units used for the gathering and organising of civil registration information, and output of census data.

When the administrative county of Lancashire was created by the Local Government Act 1888, Oldham was elevated to become the County Borough of Oldhammarker and was effectively a unitary authority area exempt from the administration of Lancashire County Council. In 1951 parts of the Limehurst Rural Districtmarker were added to the County Borough of Oldham, and in 1954 further parts of the same district added to it. Since 1961, Oldham has been twinned with Kranjmarker in Sloveniamarker. Under the Local Government Act 1972, the town's autonomous County borough status was abolished, and Oldham has, since 1 April 1974, formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker, within the Metropolitan county of Greater Manchestermarker.

Parliamentary representation

The boundaries of two parliamentary constituencies divide Oldham: Oldham East and Saddleworthmarker, and Oldham West and Roytonmarker (which includes the town centre), represented by Labour Members of Parliament Phil Woolas and Michael Meacher respectively.

Created as a parliamentary borough in 1832, Oldham's first parliamentary representatives were the radicals William Cobbett and John Fielden. Winston Churchill began his political career in Oldham. Although unsuccessful at his first attempt in 1899, Churchill was elected as the member of Parliament for the Oldham parliamentary borough constituency in the 1900 general election. He held the constituency for the Conservative Party until the 1906 general election, when he won the election for Manchester North West as a Liberal MP. After he became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940, Churchill was made a Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Oldham, on 2 April 1941.


A map of Oldham, and surrounding area.
At (53.5444°, -2.1169°), and north-northwest of Londonmarker, Oldham stands above sea level, northeast of Manchester city centremarker, on elevated ground between the rivers Irk and Medlock. Saddleworthmarker and the South Penninesmarker are close to the east, whilst on all other sides, Oldham is bound by smaller towns, including Ashton-under-Lynemarker, Chaddertonmarker, Failsworthmarker, Roytonmarker and Shaw and Cromptonmarker, with little or no green space between them. Oldham experiences a temperate maritime climate, like much of the British Islesmarker, with relatively cool summers and mild winters. There is regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year.

Oldham's topography is characterised by its rugged, elevated Pennine terrain. With a maximum length from southwest to northeast of over , it has an area of . The geology of Oldham is represented by the millstone grit and coal measures series of rocks. The River Beal, flowing northwards, forms the boundary between Oldham on one side and Roytonmarker and Shaw and Cromptonmarker on the other. To the east of this river the surface rises to a height of at Woodward Hill, on the border with the parish of Saddleworthmarker. The rest of the surface is hilly, the average height decreasing towards the southwest to Failsworthmarker and the city of Manchestermarker. The ridge called Oldham Edge, high, comes southward from Royton into the centre of the town.

Oldham's built environment is characterised by its 19th-century red-brick terraced houses, the infrastructure that was built to support these and the town's former cotton mills – which mark the town's skyline. The urban structure of Oldham is irregular when compared to most towns in England, its form restricted in places by its hilly upland terrain. There are irregularly constructed residential dwellings and streets loosely centred around a central business district in the town centre, which is the local centre of commerce. In 1849, Angus Reach of Invernessmarker said:

In the 1870s, John Marius Wilson described Oldham as consisting of:
 Although Oldham had a thriving economy during the 19th century, the local merchants were broadly reluctant to spend on civic institutions, and so the town lacks the grandeur seen in comparable nearby towns like Boltonmarker or Huddersfieldmarker; public expenditure was seen as an overhead that undermined the competitiveness of the town. Subsequently, Oldham's architecture has been described as "mediocre". The town has no listed buildings with a Grade I rating.

There is a mixture of high-density urban areas, suburbs, semi-rural and rural locations in Oldham. There is some permanent grassland but overwhelmingly the land use in the town is urban. The territory of Oldham is contiguous with other towns on all sides except for a small section along its eastern and southern boundaries, and for purposes of the Office for National Statistics, forms the fourth largest settlement of the Greater Manchester Urban Areamarker, the United Kingdom's third largest conurbation. The M60 motorwaymarker passes through the southwest of Oldham, through Hollinwoodmarker, and a heavy rail line enters Oldham from the same direction, travelling northeast to the town centre before heading northwards through Derkermarker towards Shaw and Crompton.

Divisions and suburbs

Many of Oldham's present divisions and suburbs have origins as pre-industrial hamlets, manorial commons and ancient chapelries. Some, such as Moorsidemarker, exist as recently constructed residential suburbia, whilst places like Hollinwoodmarker exist as electoral wards and thoroughly industrialised districts. Throughout most of its recorded history, Oldham was surrounded by large swathes of moorland, which is reflected in the placenames of Moorside, Greenacres moormarker, Littlemoor, Northmoor amongst others.

A large portion of Oldham's residences are "low value" Victorian era Accrington red-brick terraced houses in a row formation, built for the most part from 1870 to 1920, to house the town's cotton mill workers. There is more modern housing in the semi-rural east of the town, in areas such as Moorsidemarker, although terraces are found in almost all parts of Oldham.

One of the oldest recorded named places of Oldham is Hathershawmarker, occurring in a deed for 1280 with the spelling Halselinechaw Clugh. Existing as a manor in the 15th century, Hathershaw Hall was the home of a Royalist family in the 17th century who lost part of their possessions due to the English Civil War. Waterheadmarker, an upland area in the east of Oldham, traces its roots to a water cornmill over the border in Leesmarker. Recorded originally as Watergate and Waterhead Milne, it was for a long time a hamlet in the parish of Oldham that formed a significant part of the Oldham Above Townmarker registration sub-district. Derkermarker was recorded as a place of residence in 1604 with the name Dirtcar. Bound by Higginshaw to the north, Derker is the location of Derker railway stationmarker and, said to have terraced residencies "unsuited to modern needs", is currently being redeveloped as part of the Housing Market Renewal Initiative. Coldhurstmarker, an area along Oldham's northern boundary with Roytonmarker, was once a chapelry and the site of considerable industry and commerce, including coal mining, cotton spinning and hat manufacture. It is said to have been the scene of an action in the English Civil War in which the Parliamentarians were defeated.


Oldham compared
UK Census 2001 Oldham Oldham marker England
Total population 103,544 217,273 49,138,831
Foreign born 15% 8.2% 9.2%
White 71% 86% 91%
Asian 27% 12% 4.6%
Black 0.9% 0.6% 2.3%
Christian 58% 73% 72%
Muslim 25% 11% 3.1%
Hindu 1.1% 0.1% 1.1%
No religion 8.3% 8.9% 15%
Over 65 years old 12% 14% 16%
Unemployed 5.5% 3.7% 3.3%
According to data from the United Kingdom Census 2001, Oldham had a total resident population of 103,544, making it the 55th most populous settlement in England, and the 5th most populous settlement of the Greater Manchester Urban Areamarker. This figure in conjunction with its area provides Oldham with a population density of 3,998 people per square mile (1,544 per km²). The local population has been described as broadly "working class"; the middle classes tending to live in outlying settlements.

Oldham, considered as a combination of the 2001 electoral wards of Alexandra, Coldhurstmarker, Hollinwoodmarker, St. James, St. Marys, St. Pauls, Waterheadmarker and Wernethmarker, has an average age of 33.5, and compared against the average demography of the United Kingdom, has a high level of people of South Asian heritage, particularly those with roots in Pakistanmarker and Bangladeshmarker. Due to the town's prevalence as an industrial centre and thus a hub for employment, Oldham attracted migrant workers throughout its history, including those from wider-England, Scotland, Ireland and Polandmarker. During the 1950s and 1960s, in an attempt to fill the shortfall of workers and revitalise local industries, citizens of the wider Commonwealth of Nations were encouraged to migrate to Oldham and other British towns. Many came from the Caribbeanmarker and Indian subcontinent and settled throughout the Oldham borough. Today, Oldham has large communities with heritage from Bangladeshmarker, India, Pakistanmarker and parts of the Caribbean. At the time of the 2001 census, over one in four of its residents identified themselves as from a South Asian or British Asian ethnic group. Cultural divisions along ethnic backgrounds are strong within the town, with poor cross-community integration and cohesion along Asian and white backgrounds.

With only a small local population during medieval times, as a result of the introduction of industry, mass migration of village workers into Oldham occurred, resulting in a population change from under 2,000 in 1714 to 12,000 in 1801 to 137,000 in 1901. In 1851 its population of 52,820 made Oldham the 12th most populous town in England. The following is a table outlining the population change of the town since 1801, which demonstrates a trend of rapid population growth in the 19th century and, after peaking at 147,483 people in 1911, a trend of general decline in population size during the 20th century.

Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Population 12,024 16,690 21,662 32,381 42,595 52,820 72,333 82,629 111,349 131,463 137,246 147,483 144,983 140,314 120,511 121,266 115,346 105,922 107,830 103,931 103,544
A Vision of Britain through Time


The stained glass roof of The Spindles, created by local artist Brian Clarke.
For years Oldham's economy was heavily dependent on manufacturing industry, especially textiles and mechanical engineering. Since the deindustrialisation of Oldham in the mid-20th century, these industries have been replaced by home shopping, publishing, healthcare and food processing sectors, though factory-generated employment retains a significant presence. Many of the modern sectors are low-skill and low-wage.

Park Cake Bakeries, recently sold as part of a large shake-up by the Northern Foods Group, have a large food processing centre in Hathershawmarker, which employs in excess of 1,600 people. Over 90% of the cakes produced go to Marks & Spencer. Long existing as an industrial district, Hollinwoodmarker is home to the Northern Counties Housing Association, and Mirror Colour Print Ltd; the printing division of the Trinity Mirror group, which prints and distributes 36 major newspapers, and employs 500 staff.

Oldham's town centre contains the highest concentration of retailing, cultural facilities and employment in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker. It has been extensively redeveloped during the last few decades, and its two shopping centres, Town Square and The Spindles, now provide one of the largest covered retail areas in Greater Manchestermarker. The Spindles (named with reference to textile spindles) is a modern shopping centre with over 40 retailers, banks, building societies and catering outlets. It houses one of Europe's largest stained glass roofs, created by local artist Brian Clarke in celebration of the music of one of Oldham's famous sons, composer and conductor Sir William Walton.

Ferranti Technologies is an electronic, electromechanical and electrical engineering company based in Waterheadmarker.

A number of culinary and medical advances have been developed in Oldham. There are claims that Oldham was the birthplace of the first chip shop. The sometimes disputed claim of trade in deep-fried chipped potatoes is said to have been started in around 1858–60 from an outlet owned by a John Lees, on what is the present site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market. In 1900 Oldham had the highest concentration of chip shops in the country; one for every 400 people. Rag Pudding is a savoury dish said to be native to Oldham. Yates Wine Lodge was founded in Oldham by Peter and Simon Yates in 1884.

The tubular bandage was invented and developed in Oldham in 1961. That "vital contribution to advancing medical science" resulted from a collaboration between local firm Seton and a cotton manufacturer in the town.


Oldham's war memorial was commissioned in 1919 to "symbolise the spirit of 1914–1918".

Town Hall

Oldham's Old Town Hall is a Grade II listed Georgian neo-classical town hall built in 1841, eight years before Oldham received its borough status. One of the last purpose built town halls in northwest England, it has a tetrastyle Ionic portico, copied from the temple of Ceres, on the River Ilissos, near Athensmarker. Sir Winston Churchill made his inaugural acceptance speech from the steps of the town hall when he was first elected as a Conservative MP in 1900. A Blue Plaque on the exterior of the building commemorates the event. Long existing as the political centre of the town, complete with courtrooms, the structure has stood empty since the mid 1980s and has regularly been earmarked for redevelopment as part of regeneration project proposals; none have been actioned.

In September 2008, it was reported that "Oldham Town Hall is only months away from a major roof collapse". A tour taken by local councillors and media concluded with an account that "chunks of masonry are falling from the ceilings on a daily basis, [...] the floors are littered with dead pigeons and [...] revealed that the building is literally rotting away". In October 2009 the Victorian Society, a charity responsible for the study and protection of Britain's Victorian and Edwardian architecture, declared Oldham Town Hall as the most endangered Victorian structure in England and Wales.

War memorial

Erected as a permanent memorial to the men of Oldham who were killed in World War I, Oldham's war memorial consists of a granite base surmounted by a bronze sculpture depicting five soldiers making their way along the trenches in order to go into battle. The main standing figure, having climbed out of the trenches, is shown calling on his comrades to advance. The base serves to house books containing the roll of honour of the 1st, 10th and 24th Battalions, Manchester Regiment. The pedestal has two bronze doors at either side.

Commissioned in 1919 by the Oldham War Memorial Committee, the memorial was designed and built by Albert Toft. It was unveiled by General Sir Ian Hamilton on 28 April 1923, before a crowd estimated at over 10,000. The monument was intended to symbolise the spirit of 1914–1918.

The inscriptions on the memorial read:

  • Over doors: "Mors Januva Vitae, 1914-1918" (death is the gate of life)
  • Opposite side: "To God Be The Praise"

Civic Centre

The Civic Centre tower is the Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker's centre of local governance. The 15-storey white-brick building has housed the vast majority of the local government's offices since its completion in 1977. Standing at the summit of the town, the tower stands over high. It was designed by Cecil Howitt & Partners, and the topping out ceremony was held on 18 June 1976. The Civic Centre can be seen as far away as Salfordmarker, Traffordmarker, Wythenshawemarker and Winter Hillmarker in Lancashire, and offers panoramic views across the city of Manchestermarker and the Cheshire Plainmarker.

Parish Church

The Oldham Parish Church of St. Mary with St. Petermarker, in its present form, dates from 1830 and was designed in the Gothic Revival Style by Richard Lane, a Manchester based architect. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building. It was linked with the church of St Mary the Virgin, Prestwichmarker and together the sites were principal churches of the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham.

A church building had existed on the site since 1280. During this time, a small chapel stood on the site to serve the local townships of Oldham, Chaddertonmarker, Roytonmarker and Cromptonmarker. This was later replaced by an Early English Gothic church in the 15th century. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the population of Oldham increased at a rapid rate (from under 2,000 in 1714, to over 32,000 by 1831). The rapid growth of the local population warranted that the building be rebuilt in to the current structure. Though the budget was originally agreed at £5,000, the final cost of building was £30,000, one third of which was spent on the crypt structure. Alternative designs by Sir Charles Barry, the designer of the Palace of Westminstermarker, although now regarded by some as superior, were rejected. The Church, of the Anglican denomination, is in active use for worship, and forms part of the Diocese of Manchestermarker.


The geography of Oldham constrained the development of major transport infrastructure. It has been put that "if it had not grown substantially before the railway age it would surely have been overlooked". Oldham has never been on a main line railway route, and canals too have only been able to serve it from a distance, meaning that "Oldham has never had a train service worthy of a town of its size".

A principal destination along the former Oldham Loop Line, Oldham once had seven railway stations but this was reduced to four once Clegg Streetmarker, Oldham Centralmarker and Glodwick Roadmarker closed in the mid-20th century; Oldham Wernethmarker, Oldham Mumpsmarker, Derkermarker and Hollinwoodmarker closed on 3 October 2009. Trains from Manchester Victoria stationmarker to Oldham had to climb steeply through much of its route, from around at Manchester city centre to around at Oldham Mumps. The stretch near Werneth, with its gradient of 1 in 27, made the Oldham Loop the steepest regular passenger line in the country. Oldham Mumps, what was the oldest station on the line, took its name from the locality of Mumps area of Oldham, which itself probably derived from the archaic word "mumper" which was slang for a beggar. The former Oldham Loop Line is to be converted for use with an expanded Manchester Metrolink tram network, planned to open in 2012.

Oldham had electric tramways to Manchester in the early-20th century; the first tram was driven from Manchester into Oldham in 1900 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester. The system came to an end on 3 August 1946, however.The £3.3m Oldham Bus Stationmarker has frequent bus services to Manchester, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne and Middleton with other services to the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, Tameside, and across the Pennines to Huddersfieldmarker in West Yorkshire. The roof canopy is supported internally on two rows of steel trees. The extensive use of glass and stainless steel maximises visibility, and there is a carefully co-ordinated family of information fittings, posters and seating, using robust natural materials for floors and plinths. The bus station is used by National Express coaches. First Manchester, FirstGroup plc's bus operator for north-Greater Manchestermarker, has its headquarters in Oldham.

Oldham is about south of the major M62 motorway, but is linked to it by the M60marker at Hollinwoodmarker, and A627 via Chaddertonmarker. There are major A roads to Ashton-under-Lynemarker, Huddersfieldmarker, Manchestermarker, and Rochdalemarker.

The Hollinwood Branchmarker of the Ashton Canalmarker was a canal that ran from Fairfield in Droylsdenmarker, through Littlemoss and Daisy Nook Country Parkmarker to the Hollinwoodmarker area of Oldham, with a branch from Daisy Nook to the Fairbottom Branch Canalmarker. The canal was mainly used for the haulage of coal until it fell into disuse for commercial traffic in the 1930s. It included four aqueducts and a two-rise lock staircase.


Oldham Roughyeds Rugby League Club was established in 1876 as Oldham Football Club, and Oldham Athletic Football Club in 1895 as Pine Villa Football Club. Oldham Athletic have achieved both league and cup successes, particularly under Joe Royle in the 1990s. They were Football League runners-up in the last season before the outbreak of the First World War, but were relegated from the Football League First Division in 1923. They reached the Football League Cup final in 1990 and won the Football League Second Division title in 1991, ending 68 years outside the top flight. They secured their top division status a year later to become founder members of the new Premier League, but were relegated after two seasons despite reaching that year's FA Cup semi-finals. They are currently playing in Football League One, the third tier of the English league. The club's current manager is Dave Penney after the sacking of John Sheridan in mid-March, and they play at Boundary Parkmarker which is the current site of proposed regeneration. Oldham Town Football Clubmarker was established in 1964, and plays in the North West Counties Football League Division Two.

Renamed in 1997 to Oldham Roughyeds, Oldham Rugby League Club has received several club honours during its history, winning the Rugby League Championship five times and Challenge Cup three times. They played at Watersheddingsmarker for years before joining Oldham Athletic at Boundary Parkmarker. Oldham has league cricket teams with a number of semi-professional league clubs including Oldham CC, and Werneth CC in the Central Lancashire League.


Almost every part of Oldham is served by a school of some kind, some with religious affiliations. According to the Office for Standards in Education, schools within the town perform at mixed levels. The Blue Coat Schoolmarker, which dates from 1834, is consistently Oldham's top performing secondary school for 11- to 16-year-olds, and has a sixth form college of further education for 16- to 18-year-olds on the same site.

Oldham produced someone who is considered to be one of the greatest benefactors of education for the nation, Hugh Oldham, who in 1504 was appointed as Bishop of Exeter, and later went on to found what is now Manchester Grammar Schoolmarker.

University Centre Oldham is a centre for higher education and a sister campus of the University of Huddersfieldmarker. It was opened in May 2005 by actor Patrick Stewart, the centre's Chancellor. The University Centre Oldham presented actress Shobna Gulati and artist, Brian Clarke (both born in Oldham) with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters at the Graduation Ceremony of November 2006, for their achievements and contributions to Oldham and its community.

School Type/Status OfSTED Website
The Blue Coat Schoolmarker Secondary School 105739 www.blue-coat.oldham.sch.uk
Breeze Hill Schoolmarker Secondary School 105731 www.breezehill.oldham.sch.uk
Counthill Schoolmarker Secondary School 105728 www.counthill.org.uk
Grange Schoolmarker Secondary School 105729 www.grange.oldham.sch.uk
Hulme Grammar Schoolmarker Grammar School N/A www.hulme-grammar.oldham.sch.uk
Kaskenmoor Schoolmarker Secondary School 105732 www.kaskenmoor.org.uk
New Bridge School Secondary Special School 134517 www.newbridgeschool.net
Oldham Sixth Form Collegemarker Sixth Form College 130506 www.osfc.ac.uk
The Oldham Collegemarker Further education college 130505 www.oldham.ac.uk
University Centre Oldham Higher education college N/A www.oldham.hud.ac.uk
St Augustine of Canterbury R.C.marker High Schoolmarker Secondary School 105741 www.staugustine.oldham.sch.uk
The Hathershaw Collegemarker Secondary School 105730 www.hathershaw.org.uk

Public services

Home Office policing in Oldham is provided by the Greater Manchester Police. The force's "(Q) Division" have their headquarters for policing the Metropolitan Borough of Oldhammarker at central Oldham. Public transport is co-ordinated by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Statutory emergency fire and rescue service is provided by the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, which has two stations in Oldham; at Hollins on Hollins Road, and at Clarksfield on Lees Road.

The Royal Oldham Hospitalmarker, at Oldham's northern boundary with Roytonmarker, is a large NHS hospital administrated by Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. It was opened under its existing name on 1 December 1989. Formerly known as Oldham District and General, and occupying the site of the town's former workhouse (named Oldham Union Workhouse in 1851), the hospital is notable for being the birthplace of Louise Joy Brown – the world's first successful In vitro fertilised "test tube baby", on 25 July 1978. The North West Ambulance Service provides emergency patient transport. Other forms of health care are provided for locally by several small clinics and surgeries.

Waste management is co-ordinated by the local authority via the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority. Locally produced inert waste for disposal is sent to landfill at the Beal Valley. Oldham's Distribution Network Operator for electricity is United Utilities; there are no power stations in the town. United Utilities also manages Oldham's drinking and waste water; water supplies being sourced from several local reservoirs, including Dovestonesmarker and Chewmarker. There is a water treatment works at Waterheadmarker.


Oldham, though lacking in leisure and cultural amenities, is historically notable for its theatrical culture. Once having a peak of six "fine" theatres in 1908, Oldham is home to the Oldham Coliseum Theatremarker and the Oldham Theatre Workshopmarker, which have facilitated the early careers of notable actors and writers, including Eric Sykes, Bernard Cribbins and Anne Kirkbride, daughter of acclaimed cartoonist Jack Kirkbride who worked for the Oldham Evening Chronicle. Oldham Coliseum Theatre is one of Britain's last remaining repertory theatres; Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel performed there in the early 20th century, and contemporary actors such as Ralph Fiennes and Minnie Driver, amongst others, have appeared more recently. Criticised for its lack of a cinema, there are plans to develop an "Oldham West Endmarker". Oldham has a thriving bar and night club culture which attracts significant number of young people into the town centre. Oldham's "hard binge drinking culture" has been criticised however for conveying a negative regional image of the town.

Communal facilities

The Lyceum is a Grade II listed building opened in 1856 as a "mutual improvement" centre for the working men of Oldham.
The Lyceum is a Grade II listed building opened in 1856 at a cost of £6,500 as a "mutual improvement" centre for the working men of Oldham; it replaced an earlier building constructed in 1839. The facilities provided to members included a library, a newsroom, and a series of lectures on geology, geography and education, microscopy and chemistry, female education, and botany. Instrumental music was introduced and there were soon 16 violinists and 3 'cellists. Eventually the building was extended to include a School of Science and Art. Music had always been important in the life of the Lyceum, and in 1892 a school of music was opened, with 39 students enrolled for the "theory and practice of music".

The Lyceum continued throughout the 20th century as a centre for the arts in Oldham, and in 1986 the local authority was invited by its directors and trustees to accept the building as a gift. The acceptance of the Lyceum building by the Education Committee provided the opportunity to re-locate The Music Centre and "further enhance the cultural activities of the town". In 1989 the Oldham Metropolitan Borough Music Centre moved into the Lyceum building, which is now the home of the Oldham Lyceum School of Music.

Oldham’s museum and gallery service dates back to 1883. Since then it has established itself as a cultural focus for Oldham and has developed one of the largest and most varied permanent collections in North West England. The current collection includes over social and industrial history items, more than works of art, about items of decorative art, more than natural history specimens, over geological specimens, about archaeological artefacts, photographs and a large number of books, pamphlets and documents.

Oldham is now home to a newly built state-of-the-art art gallery, Gallery Oldhammarker, which was completed in February 2002 as the first phase of the Oldham Cultural Quarter. Later phases of the development saw the opening of an extended Oldham Library, a lifelong learning centre and there are plans to include a performing arts centre.


The annual Oldham Carnival started around 1900, although the tradition of carnivals in the town goes back much further, providing a "welcomed respite from the tedium of everyday life". The carnival parade was always held in mid-to-late summer, with the primary aim of raising money for charities. It often featured local dignitaries or popular entertainers, in addition to brass, military and jazz bands, the Carnival Queen, people in fancy dress, dancers and decorated floats from local churches and businesses. Whenever possible, local people who had attained national celebrity status were invited to join the cavalcade. The carnival's route began in the town centre, wound its way along King Street, and ended with a party in Alexandra Parkmarker.

The carnival was a popular and prestigious event, though it fell out of favour in the late 1990s. The carnival was resurrected in 2006, rebranded the People's Carnival.

Notable people

People from Oldham are called Oldhamers, though "Roughyed" is a nickname from the 18th century when rough felt was used in Oldham to make hats. The town has been the birthplace and home to notable people, of national and international acclaim. Edward Potts was a renowned architect who moved to Oldham from nearby Burymarker. He was the architect for fourteen new mills in the borough including the Bell mill (1904) and the Iris mill (1907). Other notable persons of historic significance with a connection to Oldham are acclaimed composer Sir William Walton, former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, and Louise Brown, the world's first baby to be conceived by in vitro fertilisation. Notable Oldhamers from TV entertainment include comedy double act Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball, TV host Phillip Schofield, and actress Shobna Gulati. Notable musicians from Oldham include the Inspiral Carpets, and Mark Owen of boyband Take That. Notable sportsmen from Oldham include former England national football team captain David Platt.



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