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Almanac History

Between 1906 and 1910 (and perhaps beyond) an annual Bailey’s Almanac was published for New Mills and District. The Almanac’s contain a wealth of anonymous articles and local information , this interesting history of New Mills is one of them.

The author of a booklet on Chapel-en-le-Frith says, when Glossop and Buxton were mere villages, when Hayfield was a hamlet, and New Mills unknown, Chapel-en-le-Frith was an important market town, full of life and industry. We admit that as New Mills it was not known, but when the history of our enterprising and busy town comes to be written, the historian will have plenty of "matter'' to show that our forefathers have played prominent parts in the social, political, and religious history of the country for a thousand years past. Certainly but few places can boast of more commercial enterprise during the last century, and all around there are still the old halls of the families of five centuries ago.

For history we must refer, not to New Mills, but the four hamlets that go to make up the modern parish, and the future historian will have an interesting story to tell. Indeed, the Beards were at Beard more than 800 years ago, and lived at the fine old Beard Hall, now Mrs. Stafford's farmhouse, and from the 11th century Beard Hall remained with a junior line of the family down to the days of Queen Elizabeth, 850 years ago. The hall formerly covered the plot of ground now containing the farm buildings, it had its tower with portholes, but the present building was erected by William Beard, who was living here in 1570, and whose daughter Elizabeth (senior co- heiress) married Ralph Ashenhurst, who was of a very ancient Staffordshire family. It was at Beard Hall where was born John Ashenhurst, who has been described as an infamous Parliamentary Colonel during the Civil Wars. The Colonel's father, Randle Ashenhurst, was a well known Justice of the Peace in the Civil wars, when there were only about a score magistrates in all Derbyshire, and he appears to have tried his hand as a clergyman occasionally, for when Chapel-en-le-Frith Church was closed in 1648, he married seventeen couples from Chapel one morning. On the plan of Hayfield Church there is still ''Mr. Ashenhurst's pew," indeed there was a pew in that edifice for each house in Beard and Ollersett. After the Ashenhurst's the whole of Beard estate was owned by a Mr. Ashmore, who sold the whole, land, houses, and everything else, in addition to some property in Hayfield, to the Duke of Devonshire. It was bought for the Duke by a Mr. Drinkwater, of Beard Wood, an ancestor of the Drinkwaters now of Goytside, and from the Cavendishes passed to Mr. Francis J. Sumner, and then to the present owner. The entire population of the hamlet of Beard in the year 1801 was 297, and thirty years later it was only 288. This goes to show that the population at that time was mainly agricultural, for there were but 54 houses all told. Compare this with the present Beard, which includes Hyde Bank, Church Road, part of Low Leighton, and Marsh Lane!

Bredbury of the Ollersett - The only image of the original Ollersett Hall I've seen.Ollersett has an equally interesting history, because from the ancient Ollersett Hall, the remains of which now form the farmhouse of Mr. Hudson, there have gone men and women whose careers rank among the most distinguished and brilliant in the nation's history. For four hundred years the Bradbury’s owned the Ollersett estate and lived at the hall, which was one of the finest mansions in the county.
They were living here 600 years ago and were always sturdy nonconformists and upholders of the liberty of conscience. There is a record where Hugh de Bradbury attended an Inquisition of the Forest in the year 1818 and protested against the payment of tithes to the Priory of Lenton, and during the 400 years they were here their daughters married with the 'Jodrells of Yeardsley, the Beards of Beard, the Bagshawes of Ford, the Tetlows, the Wests, and the Mellors of Mellor.

In 1565 Nicholas Bradbury lived at the hall, and held "the Queen's Mill, called Berde Mill, or New Mill.'' This was the mill where everybody in the district had to bring their corn to be ground. Ralph Mellor (the squire of Mellor) purchased some fields adjoining the mill, through which there was, and still is, a right of road, for it is now known as " Mill fields," and the mill was where Mr. Edwin Higginbottom's works now are. Squire Mellor disputed the right and closed the road, but Bradbury took proceedings, won the battle, and the road is there today. Branches of the family have gone out to other counties, one became Lord Mayor of London, and others settled down in the locality - Bank head, Kinder, and other places- and their descendants are amongst us today. They were prominent Quakers 200 years ago, as indeed were nearly all the principal families here at that time.
After the Bradburys the estate experienced frequent changes of ownership. Three-quarters of a century ago it was in the hands of the great George William Newton, who built himself a new hall, built a big wall for miles all round the estate, erected the Hare and Hounds at Low Leighton (" Newton's Folly,'') owned the collieries, did a great deal towards making the Canal, was instrumental in getting the road made through from the Swan Inn to Hayfield, which completely opened up the district, and died penniless and in want.

Thornsett hamlet has a history of its own, of which much might be written, and the old family of Needham were the lords for centuries. If you want to know where was their grand seat and where they exercised sway, in Thornsett hall you have only to look at the remains of their mansion, with the big buttresses, at what is now known as "Barn End" They were lords of the territory where the hall was in the midst of the demesne, and when the whole stretch of country was a forest so dense that it is said a squirrel could hop from Mellor church to Chapel-en-le-Frith Church without touching the ground.

Map of 1640There are Needhams among the working classes of the district to-day who are direct descendants of the famous Needhams of Thornsett whose names appear on the Hundred Rolls of Edward I. (Longshanks), in the year 1272. They held estates at Thornsett, Derby, and Snitterton, and they were foresters-in-fee for about a dozen generations, and one of the branches still holds an earldom. When St. George (Clavereaux, King-at-Arms) made his heraldic visitation to the Peak of Derbyshire in 1611, the Needhams of Thornsett were a family of importance and considerable landed property with the rank of esquire, and they were the lords of Thornsett nearly 500 years.
Of the old hall of Whitle, now the principal part of New Mills, we have not just now sufficient data on which to write with confidence, but in all probability it was the old "Torr Top hall," that fine old many gabled house which stood in its own grounds and was pulled down to construct Union Road. In the days of which we have been writing the whole of the district was forest, part of the Forest of the Peak, and trees covered where is now the town of New Mills. The squires who lived at these old places and ruled over other mortals, who were their servants, were foresters-in-fee, or keepers of the forest.

Map of 1640When Hayfield Church was built five hundred years ago King Henry the Fourth ordered the custodian of his royal forest at Whitle Wood, and the custodian of his royal forest at Thornsett Bank, to deliver " six oaks suitable for building purposes to be used in the erection of a Chapel at Hayfield in the peak."
It may probably be asked how and why did these famous men leave the district and desert their old halls and estates. Authorities give a simple explanation. In the year 1635 there was a terrific snowstorm, which destroyed the whole of the deer in the forest. Hence there was no longer a necessity for rangers and foresters-in-fee, their occupation was gone, and so at the petition of the people the Crown disafforested the lands, or stripped them of the forest laws and their oppressive privileges. Successive owners quickly cut down the timber and made merchandise of it, in fact some of them sold the timber for more than they had given for their lands. The land was parceled out and let to the tillers of the soil, farmhouses built, and cottages for the labourers. Then followed the opening out of collieries and the building of cottages in Whitle (now the town of New Mills and Torr Top) and Thornsett.

It may be stated that the Peak Forest Canal was the principal factor in opening out the trade of the locality, and at this day when the Canal is so little used, it will be of interest to know something of its origin.
The Act for cutting the Canal was obtained in 1794, the engineer being Mr. Benjamin Outram, who first invented the railways known as "tramways,'' called after Outram himself. In 1797 it was completed with the exception of Marple locks, which were opened in 1803. The extent of the canal is about twenty miles and a quarter, in the counties of Lancaster, Chester, and Derby, and the articles conveyed by it were principally limestone from Peak Forest, coal, paving stones, and manufactured goods from New Mills and other places, and general merchandise. It branches out of the Ashton-under-Lyne canal near Dukinfield Bridge, and crossing the River Tame, passes Denton, Marple, and New Mills to Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth, from thence there is a railway or tramway extension to Chapel-en-le-Frith and the quarries at Dove Holes. In those days there were extensive lime works at Marple, the comical looking ruins of which are still to be seen on the road to New Mills, and just below these works there were 16 locks in the space of a mile and a quarter. But from 1797 to 1806, the place of the locks were supplied by a steep railway or inclined plane for trams, the great inclined plane at Chapel-en-le-Frith with the double railway, is still in existence and at work with its large inclined pulley over which is passed an immense endless chain, to which the trams are linked and are continually ascending and descending. The water for the canal is wholly supplied by flood waters reserved in the Combs reservoir at Tunstead Milton, and the reservoir at Whaley Bridge, conveyed in iron pipes. The company was authorised to raise £150,000 in £100 shares, and such was the trade then done, before the advent of the railways, that eight years afterwards the shares bore a premium of £10 per cent, and in another eight years it paid the shareholders 30 per cent. They subsequently obtained permission to increase the number of shares, and the works greatly exceeded the original estimate. In connection with the making of the canal, it may be mentioned that just at this time the Duke of Devonshire bought the Beard estate from a Mr. Ashmore, and sold as much timber from it for the canal as paid for the whole estate.

The following Coal Mines about New Mills were then going: Aspenshaw, Bower Lane, Broadhurst Edge, Burned Edge (Ollersett), Cowpasture (Beard), Cuckoo Bush, Torr Mine, and several pits on Eaves Knowl, some worked by the Bowers and others by the Longdens.

The religious needs of the people of New Mills at that time, were supplied by the Wesleyans and the Society of Friends, for there was no Church nearer than Hayfield or Mellor. So early as the year 1689 there were Meeting Houses for the Society of Friends at Torr Top and Low Leighton, and even long before then there were many Quakers in the district and the principal people of the locality belonged to that community. Private houses were registered as Meeting Houses and many of the members had their goods distained upon for non- payment of tithes and other clerical imposts. The present Meeting- House at Low Leighton was built in 1868, but there formerly stood on the spot an ancient Meeting House built in the year 1717.

New Mills had long been a stronghold of Methodism and services were held in cottages by Methodist pioneers long before a chapel was built, and it was in the year 1766 that the first chapel was erected, in what was then the very centre of the village, and was the only place of worship in it, in fact, the present Sunday School was the first Chapel and over the original entrance facing Hyde Bank, there is still the stone inscribed "1766.'' The site was bought from John Hansell, by James Beard, Esp., gentleman, and fourteen others, for the nominal sum of five shillings and the annual payment of "one peppercorn, at, or upon the feast day of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary." The other trustees were Thomas Booth, John Brocklehurst, John Turner, Robert Higginbottom, John Swindells, John Sale, Thomas Dewsnapp, Joseph Kinder, Thomas Stafford, John Collier, Stephen Pearson, and John Handford; descendants of all these worthies are here to-day.
The trust deed contains the customary legal formula, " the said trustees do permit and suffer John Wesley to have free use" etc. The first visit of Mr. Wesley was in 1768, two years after the erection of the first chapel. In his journal he says: "April 30th, I rode to a little town called New Mills, in the High Peak of Derbyshire. I preached at noon in their large new chapel which (in consideration that preaching houses have need of air) has a casement in every window three inches square! That is the custom of the country" His second visit was in 1772 of which he writes: " I went to New Mills, not with standing all the rain the house was well filled, for nothing can hinder this lively, earnest, people." Mr. Wesley paid four other visits to this town, concerning which he speaks in the following terms: " 1774. About noon I preached at New Mills to an earnest, loving, people." In 1776, he writes: " Having climbed over the mountains, I preached at New Mills, Derbyshire; the people here are quite earnest, there being no public worship in the town but at our chapel, so that they go forward knowing nothing of various opinions, and needing nothing but to be Bible Christians." In 1779 Wesley wrote: " About one I preached at New Mills, in Derbyshire; a commodious preaching-house lately built, has proved a blessing to the whole country, they flock together from every quarter and are thankful both to God and man." He paid another visit in 1782, and referring to his preaching on the doctrine of perfection, he says: '' The spirits of many were greatly revived and they are now going on to perfection." Wesley's last visit was in the late evening of his life, and the entry is very touching: " Monday, April 7, 1788, I took a solemn leave of them at Macclesfield at five in the morning and with a deal of difficulty got to New Mills, the roads over the mountains being scarce passable; but the earnestness of the congregation made amends for the difficulty of the journey, they are all athirst for God" Wesley was the guest of Mrs. Beard, the hospitable lady of the old Manor House that stood on Hyde Bank facing the old chapel until it was demolished. She was the wife of one of the first trustees, who built Beard Mill close by, and for very many years a proof of the visit of the founder of Methodism might have been seen on a pane of glass in the front bedroom Mr. Wesley occupied, it bore the inscription written with a diamond pen: -

'' Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day." - Watts.
Oh, Eternity! Eternity!
Reader, art thou preparing for Eternity? ''

'Wesley's initials, J. W., were written across the verse diagonally.
When the house was taken down, this pane of glass came into the possession of a medical man, Dr. Wild, who had a piece of black velvet attached to the back, so as to throw out the writing and the whole placed in a neat oxford frame.

Within a few years New Mills rose to great importance as a manufacturing district, and small mills were built along the banks of the river for a considerable distance, so that by the year 1828 it was quite busy. In the calico printing trade the Strines Print Works had been established a long time, and so had Watford Bridge, the name of which was London Place. In 1828 it was in the hands of the executors of Samuel Bridge who disposed of it to Messrs. Ingram and Yates, Mr. Ingram was father of Mrs. Mackie. The old Garrison Works were carried on by Thomas Oldham, grandfather of Mr. Thomas Bennett, J.P., and just at this time Rock Mill was started by John Edge, and at Spinnerbottom, in the old buildings still standing, John Yates carried on business. He was the "patentee and printer of bright metallic objects on calico and other fabrics.'' The cotton spinners were Samuel Armstrong, Torr Vale; John Barnes and Co., Torr Top; Samuel Arnfield, George Bowden, Rowarth; George Froggatt, Thornsett Mill; John Hadfield, Rowarth; Samuel Schofield and Son, Robert and John Schofield; Samuel Silcock, Rowarth; Thatcher and Bowden, Rowarth; and Ward and Thatcher, New Mills. The manufacturers of cotton banding were James Chadwick, Jonathan Hadfield, Joseph and John Stafford, William Thatcher, in addition to George Howden, and James Hague, in Rowarth. Bleachers had already located themselves, John Yates being a bleacher at Thornsett, and John Hartwell running the Ringstones Bleachworks at Rowarth. The well-known firm of Potts, Oliver and Potts were busy as engravers to calico printers. There were no fewer than five cotton factories and a bleachworks in Rowarth 80 years ago. A few years later the gas works were established by Act of Parliament, and the proprietors were empowered to carry the gas to Hayfield, but they failed to do so, and their powers lapsed.

In 1828 the Post Office was merely a "Receiving House'' at the Mason's Arms, kept by Jordan Bradbury, and letters had to be fetched by a foot post from Disley at nine o'clock every morning. Two years later Adam Brierley, druggist, was the postmaster, and letters arrived from Manchester every night at half-past seven, and were dispatched every morning at seven.

In these days of express trains and motors, the public will be interested to know that the only mode of conveyance in 1828 was a coach called "The Mercury'' which started from the Mason's Arms every Tuesday and Saturday morning at seven, going through Stockport to Manchester, arriving back at nine o'clock at night-if it happened so! The same coach went to Stockport on Friday at eight a.m., returning at the same hour at night.

In 1844 Rowarth contained Ringstones bleachworks, two cotton mills, and two mills not occupied, while New Mills had grown into a busy district, having four calico printworks, eight cotton spinners and manufacturers, four candle wick manufacturers, and two dyer's establishments, viz.: Grove Mill, Rock Mill, Strines Works, Torr Mills, Torr Top Mills, Beard Mill, Garrison, London Place (Watford Bridge), and Marsh Mill, besides St. George's Engraving Works. The total population of the whole district was 3,595, Beard Hamlet had 63 houses and 290 in- habitants, Ollersett 50 houses and 259 inhabitants, Thornsett 185 houses and 764 inhabitants, and Whitle 553 houses and 2,284 inhabitants.

The principal building in the town is the Public Hall, now known as the Town Hall. This handsome pile in a commanding situation overlooking the town, has now been built something like 35 years, so that a few facts concerning its history may not be entirely uninteresting to the present generation. It was in the year 1871 when it was erected, and the cost was, in round figures, £2,500. The leading spirit in the movement was Mr. James Hibbert, of Fern Bank indeed it was thorough his exertions and influence that it was built. The site was given by William Henry Turner, Esq, J. P., Marple (a worthy of those days), and. Miss Cresswell; the foundation stone was laid by Sir Edward Watkin, M.P., the "Railway King." In the reading room there is a framed photograph of the ceremony. An inscribed memorial stone was laid by Mrs. John Mackie. It was built from plans prepared by Mr. John Wild, a well known Oldham architect, and was opened by His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, father of the present Duke. It may be mentioned that Mr. Turner gave the whole of his interest in the land, and Miss Cresswell gave one-half of her interest in the same.

The public responded liberally to the appeal for subscriptions, and after all these years, it may be interesting to know how the money was raised. Mr. Hibbert himself gave the handsome sum of £165, and his wife (nee Mrs. Yates) £100, and equally liberal were Mr. John Mackie, J.P., who gave £115 and Mrs. Mackie £187 10s., whilst Mrs. Ingram, mother of Mrs. Mackie, gave £137 10s. Mr. John Taylor, J.P., of Highfield House, Low Leighton; who was Lord Egerton's agent for this district, and to whose memory the tenants erected the font in the Parish Church, gave £165, and the Duke of Devonshire £155. Another prominent man of that day, Mr. John Bennett, father of Mr. Thomas Bennett, J.P., of Birch Vale, contributed £115. It will thus be seen that half a dozen persons contributed more than £1000. In addition to his gift of land, Mr. William. Henry. Turner gave £50 in cash, Sir Wm. Jackson, Baronet, who was for a short time M. P. for North Derbyshire, contributed £50, Captain Arkwright, M.P., £72, Sir Edward Watkins, £47, Mr. W. S. Lowe, J.P., father of Councillor A. W. Lowe, £50, the late Mr. T. J. P. Jodrell, £50, and the late Mr. R. Broome, J.P., £50. Ashton Brothers and Co., who at that time worked Clough Mill, at Little Hayfield, gave £25, and similar sums were contributed by Mr., Thomas Ashton, J.P., father of the present Mr. Thomas Gair Ashton, M.P.
Dr. Roberton, a prominent Congregationalist who lived at Holly Bank; Colonel Cavendish, of Ashford Hall; Mr. F. J. Sumner, J .P., the well-known Glossop Cotton Spinner, who owned the Beard and Ollersett estates and lived at Park Hall; Mr. George Andrew, J.P., of Compstall Mills; Mr. C. R. A. Schloesser, well remembered as a paper maker at Rock Mill, and Mr. Peter McCabe, who was in partnership with the late Mr. Edward B. Rumney, at Watford Bridge as Rumney and McCabe. Other liberal contributors to the fund, who have passed away, were Lord George Cavendish, who represented North Derbyshire in Parliament many years, and whose portrait along with that of Lady Cavendish, hangs in the library; J. A. Brenner, J.P., Edward Brennan, Hugh Mason, the well-known M. P., of Ashton, Levi Hall, Joseph Arnfield, not long ago deceased; William (afterwards Sir Wm.) Cunliffe Brooks, M.P., George Emmott, a well-known Quaker, Walter Ibbotson, a famous Paper Maker; John Beard, a well-known Free Methodist; John Slack, the wealthy Paper Maker; Wright Turner, J.P., a working lad of Hayfield, who became Mayor of Salford; Thos W. Evans, a Derbyshire, M.P., John Fielding, the Chemical Manufacturer, who sat on the Local Board, the School Board, and the Board of Guardians; Edward Ross, the M. S. & L. Railway., Secretary; John M. Pursglove, a New Mills worthy, only recently laid to rest; Samuel Hodgkinson. J.P., the Manager of Carver's Mills; Thomas Barlow; H. C, Renshaw, J.P., of Bank Hall; Thomas Percival; William and Norman Bennett, father and son, the lawyers and magistrates clerks of Chapel-en-le-Frith, both of whom died in one night; Thomas Saxton, who owned the Crown Hotel, and built the Market Hall; John Wm. Wyatt, the Wesleyan Organist; Samuel Swann, the old farmer at Mousley Bottom; Mrs. Bridge; Abel Buckley Wimpenny, who died this year; Joseph T. Wright, who not only gave a subscription but gave and fixed all the gas piping in the Hall; the Rev. Joseph Ogle, Independent Minister; George Walker, for so long the Postmaster; John Schofield, and Heskey Goddard, Butchers of that day; James Berry, the Grocer, who sat on the Board of Guardians and was one of the first members of the Local Board; Mark Ingram, a well known worthy who served on the School Board and was father of the present Ingham Brothers; John Allen, of the Dog and Partridge; Jacob Johnson, farmer; George Alsop, then the leading Painter in the district; Joseph Waterhouse, the old Parish Clerk, who was more than 60 years an Oddfellow; George Moseley; Wm. Sidebottom, for many years Chairman of the Local Board and by whose casting vote the decision to build the Bridge, and make Union Road, was arrived at; Samuel Lowe, an equally worthy townsman who served on the Board many years ; Robert Collier, the Printer and Postmaster half a century ago, to whom there is a handsome monument erected by the Forester's Society, in the Wesleyan Chapel; George Henry Thorniley, Draper, for many years a Churchwarden; William Shepley, J.P.; Thomas Rhodes, J.P., Cotton Master of Glossop; Peter Swindells, of Strines; John Hibbert, who also served on the local public bodies; John Pollitt, who became Clerk to the Board, and father of the present Mr. Joseph Pollitt, Clerk to the Council; Joseph Cooper, a local Poet; Job and Benjamin Cooper, Jonathan Arnfield, John Maugham, Charles Livesley, James Kirkham, and many others.

It will thus be seen that most of those who contributed to the building of the Hall, have passed away, and it will be interesting to know that of the total subscribers only the following are now living: Thomas Carver, Henry Barber, J .P., Edward Godward, C.C.,
Thomas Bennett, J .P., Joseph Shorrock (Disley), James Hill, Wm. F. Hill, George Higginbottom, the Misses Hall, of Morlands, Mrs. John Drinkwater (Susan Pursglove), Edwin Arnfield, Alfred. Livesley, David Higginbottom and his children, Wm. Parsons, A. Grundey, J. Wharmby, Samuel Whitehead, Timothy Livesley, Edward Antrobus,
John Mason, and Fred Thornley. At that time there was a Temperance Band in New Mills, and they gave £4 to the fund, the Foresters' Friendly Society, and the (Co-operative Society gave £10 each, and Mr. Francis W. Johnson, the head of the well-known firm of Solicitors, not only gave £10 in money, but the title deeds of the property as well.

The Hall was built by Charles Stafford, who was noted for the excellence of his work. His contract for Masons' work and excavating was £800, but there was a bill of £207 for extras, making £1007 paid to Mr. Stafford. The amount paid to Joseph Hague, for Joiners' work was £515 7s 6d., to James Green, for Slating and Plastering, £125 l8s. 0d., and to Joseph Wright for Plumbers' and Glaziers' work, £127 11s. 3d; the Painting was done by George Alsop, at a cost of £58 15s. 9d.; and the Heating Apparatus cost £65; about £90 was paid for day wages and team work; the Boundary Wall cost £53; and the Furniture £100 2s. 9d.; other sundry payments of £111 6s. 7d., and the Architect's commission of £96, bringing the total cost of the Hall up to £2568 16s. 10d.

But the Hall was then a small building as compared with its present size. In 1875, a Tower was added, and the Clock presented by the late Mrs. Ingham, of Watford Villa. For many years it was in the hands of Trustees, of whom Mr. James Hibbert was Chairman. The handing over of the building to the Local Authority, the erection of the Library, and the subsequent enlargement of the Hall are matters of recent date. The ground floor contains the Council Room, Free Library, Caretaker's Cottage, and Offices for the various officials of the Council, Magistrates' Clerk, County Court, and Saving's Bank, while in the upper storey is a large and commodious Assembly Room, Ante-Rooms, and Offices.

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