"During the research of While Father Is Away, I was fortunate to have met the acquaintance of an Internet researcher, and now friend, Bill McDonald of Droylsden, England. Bill was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the publisher for his contributions to the work of this book. I was proud to travel to England to present it to him and to thank him in person - our first meeting. Independent researchers and volunteers like Bill help add immeasurable value to the process of the historical journey of discovery."
See ManchesterOnline article about their meeting
Droylsden: A Brief History
By Bill McDonald, Droylsden, England
The origins of the township of Droylsden are obscure; some believe that it existed in the 7th Century AD, but is first mentioned by name in 1250 AD. There are various interpretations of the meaning of the name. The historians Wyld and Hirst give the meaning of Droylsden as "obviously the 'dene' or valley of one Drygel" Drygel is an old English personal name meaning "companion of war" or as we would now say "comrade in arms", or it could mean dry valley or dry spring, 'dryge' being Old English for dry.
The Coat of Arms of Droylsden
By Letters Patent dated 16th October, 1950 the Garter Principal King of Arms, the Clareceux King of Arms and the Norroy and Ulster King of Armsin in pursuance of the Warrant of His Grace The Most Noble Bernard Marmaduke Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England, did grant and assign unto the Droylsden Urban District Council the Arms following, that is to say:
Or three Benlets enhanced Vert in base a Lamb passant proper supporting a Cross-staff flying a Pennon Argent charged with a Cross Pattee Gules.
The Arms granted to the township in 1950 incorporate the Arms of the Byron family, to which the famous poet Lord Byron belonged, who were Lords of the Manor of Droylsden. Clayton Hall, the early home of the Byron's and its moat still exists along side St Cross Church, Clayton, though now part of Manchester. Added to these is the Holy Lamb, the emblem of the Moravian
Industrialisation and Expansion
The population of Droylsden in 1831 was 3,000, by 1861 it had risen to 8,000 and in 1900 it was 11,000. From 1931 to 1951 it had increased from 13,000 to 26,000, but by 1971 it had fallen to 24,178. These periods of population increase show the main periods of expansion in Droylsden's history. During the 1830's and 1840's the construction of large factories and cotton mills began,and labour investors from the surrounding areas helped to increase the population. Schools were built. New recreational activities were organised and local sport was in its heyday. By 1850 the local population was changing over from cottage industry and farm work to an industrial factory system. Five cotton mills were established by 1850, these increased to 8 by 1875.
Droylsden had two 'Clockhouses', so the workers could know when it was time to awake for their toil in the mills. The north clockhouse was on Greenside Lane overlooking the Medlock Valley. The south clockhouse was at Yew Tree Farm near the Moravian Settlement. There were only five clockhouses in the whole of Britain and Droylsden had two of them. Sadly they were allowed to disappear before their importance was realised.
William Miller Christy developed a hat making concern in London and Stockport during the 19th Century, and his 3 sons continued the business. William Miller Christy expanded the firm into the textile field, Stockport and Droylsden were the two main centres.
Christy's first opened it's Droylsden branch in 1837 for the manufacture of shirting at Fairfield Mills. The firm contributed to the expansion of the town by the construction of workers cottages, a school and gas works. 960 employees worked at the mill at this time. The development of the well known 'Royal Turkish Towel' came in 1851 after James Christy, the son of William Miller, saw the unusually looped cloth on a visit to Turkey, and brought back a sample. Soon even Queen Victoria was using Christy's towels.
The first terry towel was produced in Droylsden on an especially adapted loom. It was the first machine woven towel in the world.
The other large spinning mills in Droylsden were, Droylsden Mill, Albion Mill, Victoria Mill, Royal Mill, Edge Lane Mill, Angola Mill, Lumb Mill (Littlemoss), Oakfield Mill and Saxon Mill, the last mill to be built in Droylsden in 1906.
Other industries that developed in Droylsden included, copperas (green sulphate of iron, used in dying) manufacturing, this was situated at Edge Lane. Cloth Dyeing was done at Edge Lane, Medlock Valley near Clayton Bridge, and Courtolds on Greenside Lane.
Droylsden had no direct road link to Manchester until the 'New Road' was constructed in 1826 from Manchester to Ashton, passing through Droylsden. Where the new road crossed Droylsden Lane (Market Street) there was a toll gate. Also on Droylsden Lane, opposite Ashton Hill Lane, was found the Droylsden workhouse. The Manchester to Ashton and Oldham area canal was authorised by Parliament in 1792 and built in 1797. It passes through Droylsden, and was later connected to the High Peak, Huddersfield and Cheshire canal system, it forms part of the 'Cheshire Ring'. Coal, lime and manure were the main freight. The canal was busy with the short haul trade till the 1930's, but it had died out by the end of WWII. Now the canals are used only for tourism and recreation. New life has been put into the canal with lottery grants to rebuild the Huddersfield Canal, and link up to the waterways of Yorkshire again. Railway stations were opened; 1841 the Fairfield for Droylsden station on the Manchester, Sheffield, Lincolnshire railway and in 1846 Lumb Station (now closed) on the Ashton, Stalybridge Junction line. At this present moment it is proposed to bring the 'Metrolink' extension to Ashton. This will pass through Droylsden along Ashton New Road, with stops at Edge Lane, Cemetery Road, and Market Street.
Religion in Droylsden
The new Church of England parish of Droylsden was created in 1844. In 1848 the new Parish Church of St Mary's was consecrated by the newly enthroned Bishop of Manchester. Other Churches in the new parish soon followed St. Cross Clayton 1854, St. Luke ( Clement ), Openshaw 1869, St. John, Droylsden 1869, St. Andrew, Droylsden 1896, and St. Martin, Droylsden 1940.
The Moravian Settlement was established in Droylsden at Fairfield in 1783. Originally the society had been established at Dukinfield in 1743, but when the lease expired, 54 acres of land were purchased in Fairfield to build a new settlement.
Other faiths were represented in the township by the Methodists, both Primitives, Independents and Congregationalist. In 1935, it was decided that a new viable Catholic Parish could be created in Droylsden from the former rural area of St. Anne's Parish, Fairfield. This now forms the geographical area of St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Parish of Droylsden.
Education in Droylsden has always been considered an important part of the community life and development. In the Moravian Settlement schools were established, and left a permanent and continuous tradition of education for over 200 years. The first Moravian Sunday School in England was opened at Fairfield in January 1793. Their schools were for boys and girls, (day schools as well as Sunday Schools), and were open to non-Moravian children. The Girl's Boarding School was opened in 1796, the Boy's Boarding School in 1803. Fairfield High School for Boys opened in 1871, but closed in 1891 due to competition from Manchester. Fairfield High School for Girls still continues and is considered 'the' best girls school in the Tameside area.
In Droylsden at present we have the junior schools of Manchester Road, Fairfield, St Marys', Moorside, Greenside Lane and the Catholic junior school of St Stephens. Senior schools consist of Manor Road High School for Girls, Littlemoss High School for Boys and Fairfield High School for Girls.
In Droylsden during the mid 19th Century, there was an unusually high number of different types of schools and institutes. They played an important part in helping the community overcome the difficulties that arose during the cotton famine of 1861-65, caused by the American Civil War. There were seven Sunday Schools, a Mechanics Institute, a Educational Institute (later to become the Town Hall for Droylsden U.D.C.), a night school opened by William Chadwick, various discussion groups and many other societies, religious and non-religious. There were many libraries, some attached to religious groups, others belonging to mills such as Angola mill and Droylsden mills. The Mechanics' Institute and Young Men's Association also had libraries.
Droylsden's purpose built library was not opened till 1937. During WWII, Civil Defence, A.R.P., and Fire Guard orginisations used the library basement for their headquarters. The local Home Guard paraded in the library grounds.
Charles Hindley (1796-1857) Liberal M.P. for Ashton from 1835 till his death was involved in the campaign to reduce working hours in the mills. Hindley had strong links with Droylsden, education and the Moravians. He was born in Fairfield and educated in the Moravian Settlement and at the Moravian School in Fulneck, Yorkshire. He became a teacher at a Moravian School in Northern Ireland, but returned to Droylsden after the death of his father and brother to take over the family cotton-spinning business. As an active campaigner in the field of education and factory reform, it is somewhat ironic that his mill in Dukinfield was one of those prosecuted after the passing of the Ten Hours Bill in 1847.
Clayton Hall, the early home of the Byron family, was sold in 1621 to George and Humphry Chetham. Humphrey Chetham later went on to be the founder of the Chetham Hospital and Free Library, which is now 'Chetham's School' near 'Hanging Ditch' Manchester.
Another family who assisted in the development of the township in the 1850's were the Buckley's. This family who originated in Saddleworth, Yorkshire, built the Angola and Victoria Mills in Droylsden and the Ryecroft Mills in Ashton and Audenshaw. Through marriage they were linked with Hugh Mason the famous mill owner and reformer, and Charles Hindley, the M.P. and mill owner. The brothers, Abel, and John Smith Buckley owned the two large houses in the district, Ryecroft Hall and Alderdale Hall. They also owned the Droylsden Copperas Company, off Edge Lane.
The Graves of Higson, Burgess, and Rev. Thompson in St Mary's Churchyard
Literary people associated with Droylsden are John Owen ("Old Mortality" as
he was known locally) who filled 80 volumes with his writings about Droylsden, Alfred Henry Pearce poet, Elijah Ridings poet, John Higson, author and historian who died in 1871 and James Burgess, the 'Droylsden Bard'. This famous Droylsden poet born in 1808, at one time the village schoolmaster, also taught elocution at the Mechanics Institute. His poems were printed in newspapers and broadsheets until 1869, when his book, Pictures of Social Life, was published. Burgess died in August 1870, and an obelisk was erected by the people of Droylsden as a memorial to him. Both men are buried next to each other in St Mary's Churchyard, Droylsden.
In the 19th Century, Droylsden had its Wakes Week and Rushbearing traditions, which were held on the first Sunday after the 18th August each year.
Today Droylsden still has its Carnival and the Crowning of its Carnival Queen, which is usually held on the third Sunday of July each year.
Co-operative trading first came to Droylsden in 1859 when members of the Dukinfield Co-operative Society set up their own branch.
Droylsden formed its own Industrial Co-operative Society in December 1861, with 71 members and £104. 4s. 1d of funds in Queen Street, but moved into purpose built premises after 1876, on the corner of Manchester Road and Market Street. The society was strongly involved with the community.
By 1890 the Society had opened up many branches throughout the township, and five Reading Rooms were available to members and their children from 8:00am to 9:30pm each weekday. The Co-operative library contained over 1,500 volumes for lending. In 1906 the members met and it was agreed to invest £2,000 in the 'New Mill', also known as the 'Saxon Mill'. Other services to the community included a Death Benefit Scheme started in 1919, and during the two world wars wives of servicemen were employed. The Co-operative movement in Droylsden reached its peak of expansion in 1939 when there were 20 branches in the town. In 1930 the Co-operative Wholesale Society's drug works were opened in Droylsden at the Bee Hive works. After World War II the smaller stores were closed and were replaced by larger self-service shops. The Co-op is still present in Droylsden to this day, with the large 'Shopping Giant Store' on Greenside Lane.
The Twentieth Century
At the start of the new century we find men from Droylsden fighting in the 'Boer War' in South Africa.
During WW1, two men associated with Droylsden were awarded the Victoria Cross, James Kirk from Edge Lane, Droylsden and Arthur Herbert Procter, Lt. Kirk of the Manchester Regiment, was killed giving covering fire to his men as they attempted to bridge the Olse Canal north of Ors, France; on the 8th of October 1918. Also killed in the same action was Lt. Wilfred Owen, the war poet. Both men are buried in the English Communal Cemetery at Ors.
The 'Blue Plaque' in the entrance to St Mary's Church
Private Arthur Herbert Procter won his Victoria Cross on the 4th June 1916 at Ficheux, France. Pte. Procter, under fire, treated the wounds and later rescued two soldiers from 'no-mans-land'. After WW2 he was vicar of St Mary's Church in Droylsden from 1946 - 1951.
Towards the end of the 19th Century the close knit community of Droylsden was beginning to decline, and with the new roads and tram systems, workers found it easier to work outside the town in Manchester, where better wages could be earned. Social life also declined when people realised that they could also easily reach the recreational facilities of Manchester. Manchester was drawing the life away from the township. It was aggravated in 1889 when Little Droylsden became part of Openshaw; then in 1890 Clayton was ceded to Manchester. In 1904 the question of amalgamation or non-amalgamation with Manchester came to a head, and was an important issue in the 1904 Urban District Council Elections. The Conservatives won the election and Droylsden never did amalgamate with Manchester.
From 1880 to 1930 there was a dispersion of the social forces which had brought the township together and created a civic consciousness. The record period of expansion in the 1930's was one of population only, as it became an overflow area for Manchester. Even now at the start of the new Millennium, the town is still expanding, with new estates of private houses being constantly built. To accommodate the growing influx of new children, a new junior school at Moorside has been built.
With the decline of the cotton industry, some mills fought off closure by turning to the manufacture of rayon and other man-made fibres after the war. But the inevitable happened and the mills closed down, one by one. Even the great Christy's mill closed and now has been replaced by a Tesco store.
In 1944 the sport of 'Trotting' racing came to Droylsden with the opening of the Moorside Trotting Stadium. Previous to this in the 1930's there had been Speedway Racing there, where my own father had been badly injured taking part in a race, and was forced to give the sport up (more I think to my mothers influence than the injury). Sadly, the stadium has now gone, and has been replaced by a housing estate.
In 1953 Droylsden was the 4th largest in size and population of the 109 Urban Districts in the County of Lancashire. Then in 1974 it was amalgamated with the other eight towns of Ashton-under-Lyne, Audenshaw, Denton, Dukinfield, Hyde, Longdendale, Mossley and Stalybridge to form the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside.
Droylsden is twinned with Villamomble in France, which is a suburb outside of
Sunset Over Edge Lane, Droylsden
If there are any Droylsdenians reading this webpage - why not join in with the fun? Why not try and discover any historical facts that you can about Droylsden, or find out if any famous people once lived here?
I will start the ball rolling by asking where in Droylsden can you find this inscription:
"I Die Today
I Live Tomorrow"
If you think you know the answer, E-mail Bill McDonald.
Information for this short history of the township of Droylsden has been gathered from various sources:
From the Droylsden fact sheet supplied by Tameside Archives in Stalybridge.
John Higson's Historical and Descriptive Notices of Droylsden
Speak and Witty's A History of Droylsden
Alice Lock Droylsden in Old Pictures
Jill Cronin's Droylsden and Audenshaw
Various Droylsden U.D.C. Guides (Tameside Archives only)
All the above books can be seen at Droylsden Library or Tameside Archives, which is attached to Stalybridge Library.
19th Century Census returns (Tameside Archives only)
Photographs and Old Newspapers of Droylsden (Tameside Archives only)
My own research into the 'Buckley, Baguley and Mercer' families of Droylsden