primary sources

Here are extracts from the full text of primary sources relating to northern social movements in the ‘age of reform’

1. Edwin Butterworth diaries, Oldham Local Studies and Archives

2. William Rowbottom diaries, Oldham Local Studies and Archives

3. Home Office correspondence, The National Archives, Kew

HO 42






Other transcribed archive sources:

Oldham Archives, William Rowbottom diaries –


Oldham Archives, Butterworth MS –




1. Edwin Butterworth diaries, Oldham Local Studies and Archives

MS note:


Go to the Timemapper timeline of the diary entries:

butterworth diaries timeline link















March 8th 1830 – State of the poor weavers – it is really heart rending to see the picture of the awful misery displayed by the handloom weavers.

May 1st 1830 – On last Saturday (May 1st) several petitions from Oldham were very numerously signed, praying that government might restrict the hours of working in the day to 10 ½ hours and totally abolish running mills in the night.

A spirit of improvement still prevails in the busy and flourishing town of Oldham; several buildings at Mill End recently called the New Market are in the act of being taken down and rebuilt into large and elegant shops, to continue the line of High St to the termination of Church St.

May 10th 1830 – last week a requisition signed by about 250 householders of Oldham and its neighbourhood was addressed to the constables of that town, to convene a meeting to take into consideration the state of the country and petition the leg to repeal the Corn Laws and effect a Radical reform in the commons house of Parliament; as might be expected the authorities declined to call a meeting for such purposes; in consequence of this, the requisitionists have given notice in handbills calling a public meeting for the above purposes on Bent Green in the afternoon of the said day; that venerable advocate for a Radical Reform in the Commons house of Parliament Mr John Knight stands the foremost in the requisition list.

June 1st 1830 – On Sunday the 30th inst a very numerously attended camp meeting of Primitive Methodists was held on Oldham Edge, near Oldham… a white banner was raised in the cart upon which the preachers stood, to denote that the meeting had assembled; it was inscribed in black letters as follows – ‘Prepare to meet thy God’.

On Sunday last a camp meeting of the Primitive Methodists took place on Hartshead Pike near Mossley – a white banner was displayed on the cart and hill – it was very numerously attended.

June 24th 1830 – On Monday eve last, about ½ past 8 o’clock a meeting took place in the large room of the Grapes Inn, Yorkshire Street, Oldham, for the purpose of forming a branch union to the National one lately established in Manchester to associate into one body all trades to defend their wages against reductions.

James Mills of Sarah Moor near Oldham in the chair. Hives and Marshall, 2 delegates from Manchester and Bolton, spoke to the great necessity of a union in Oldham.

July 15th 1830 – Proclamation – Monday 12th July amidst a splendid procession from proceeded from the Towns Office in Lord St (various militia and civil officers) including Loyal Orangemen three abreast – walked thro’ Spring St, and down Henshaw St, into the Market place where the proclamation was read, a volley of musketry fired into the air…thro’ High St, Yorkshire St, Mumps, Lees Rod, Croft Bank, to Greenacres Moor where the same ceremonies were again passed through; and they return’d thro’ Oldham, down Manchester St, and to Hollinwood where the constables read the proclamation a third time – thro’ Hollins, Copsterhill, Broadway Lane, King St, and George St to the Market place…procession separated the pensioners to their clubhouse and the Orangemen to their lodge. Dinner at Angel Inn.

August 16th anniversary – in the Union Sunday School Room, West St Oldham 6pm – room full of patriotic reformers. The tricolored flag was hoisted on the summit of the room. Mr Fitton of Royton, Mr Knight of Oldham. Comments on the French Revolution. Fitton gave a sketch of the times of 1794. Speeches on Peterloo by Mr Haigh of Primrose Bank, John Buckley, mr Holliday. Mr James Mills the vice-chairman proposed to form a Radical Reform Association in Oldham.

8 Sep 1830 – pursuant to a notice, a meeting assembled on Oldham Edge on eve of Sat last, Sep 4th, but not at the hour of 4 stated in the bills but 6, on account of the unavoidable absence of some Manchester delegates…the business of the meeting was opened on the bleak hill abovementioned – the crowds around being seated on brows inclosing a small circular valley. Mr J Bentley of Waterhead Mill on the motion of Mr Knight was appointed chairman. Mr Doherty of Manchester in a long speech explained the benefits and objects of the National Association…attended by 3 or 400 persons…the meeting separated by giving 4 loud and hearty cheers, which sent the ‘keen air’ of elevated Oldham Edge.

Hatters turnout – hat mans of Denton, Hooley Hill proposing an abatement of prices – strike took place on Weds Sep 5th – hatters of that vicinity have come over to Oldham.



June-Sep 1830

Sun last [June] camp meeting of Primitive Methodists on Hartshead Pike near Mossley – a white banner was displayed on the hill, numerously attended.

Oldham June 24th – Mon last – number of the veteran pensioners formerly belonging to the 6th Regt dinner at the Plough Inn, Copy Nook, anniversary of Battle of Vittoria.

Trades Union – Mon eve last – ½ past 8 meeting in the large room of the Grapes Inn, Yorkshire Street, Oldham, forming a branch union to the national one, lately established in Manchester – to defend their wages against reduections. James Mills of Sarah Moor took the chair. Hines and Marshall – 2 delegates from Manchester.

Mon morning last – arrival of new church bells from London – drawn by 4 horses – on entering Oldham a band of music and a vast crowd of spectators met and preceded them to the Church Yard.

The authorities of the town and the multitude, having just heard of his Majesty’s death, conducted themselves with decorum and peaceable order tho’ the British flag was wafting on the church tower, yet it was a solemn and interesting scene.

Oldham July 15th 1830 – Oldham proclamation – police placarded thro’ Oldham proclamation of King William 4th issued on Monday July 12th amidst a splendid, procession which proceeded from the town’s office, in Lord Street, in the following order – Constables, Royal Irish Fusileers, Oldham veteran pensioners, British flag, clergy, gentry, head constables, lord of the manor on horseback. Loyal Orangemen 3 abreast, watchmen, fusileers, Lord St, Spring St, down Henshaw St, into the market place, High St, Yorkshire St, Mumps, Lees Road, Croft Bank, Greenacres Moor, Manchester St, to Hollinwood, Hollins, Copsterhill, Broadway Lane – King St, George St, marketplace. Pensioners to club house, Orangemen to their lodge, dinner at Angel Inn.

Middleton – July 19th 1830 proclamation – procession met in the marketplace 2 o’clock – Rochdale Road – Spring Gardens – Rochdale Road – as far as the Black Bull – Marketplace. Includes Orangemen.

August 5th 1830 – Sat eve last July 31st attempt made to assemble a meeting at the Union Room West St Oldham for purpose of considering supporting the Prestonians in the election of Mr Hunt.

On same evening, lodge of Free Gardeners met at Duke of York tavern, West St, Oldham.

Pursuant to notice, a meeting took place as on Mon last Aug 16th anniversary of the memorable affray which occurred on that day in 1819 at Manchester – in the Union Sunday School Room, West St, Oldham, 6pm – very large company, dinner.

The tricolored flag was hoisted on the summit of the room and the glorious French Revolution formed the subject on which they had met to dine. Mr Fitton of Royton rose to move that Mr Knight take the chair. [speech]

Aug 27th 1830 – gas works now erecting both at Shaw and Royton.

The authorities at Oldham have given notice that the old rural custom of drawing rushcarts thro’ the town be finally abolished tho’ the carts are permitted to perambulate the streets on Monday.

Sat 21 Aug present king’s birthday – procession of military. Volley of shots in Curzon St.

Oldham Sep 2nd 1830 – Sat last – annual wake – continued pretty generally till Weds Sep 1st. No carts or rushcarts being allowed to perambulate the town as customary on the Saturdays several paraded on Monday. Bullbaiting at Royton.

Pursuant to a notice, a meeting assembled on Oldham Edge, on eve Sat last Sep 4th – 6 = crowds seated on the brows inclosing a small circular valley. Mr J Bentley of Waterhead Mill on the motion of Mr Knight was appointed chairman. Mr Doherty of Manchester in a long speech explained the benefits and objects of the National Association or a general union of the working classes. 3-400 persons.

Hatters turnout – hat manufacturers of Denton, Hooley Hill etc – abatemen of prices – strike on Weds Sep 8th – journeymen hatters.


D-BUT F/3 – from Sept 1830

Colliers turnout – Tues last a number of the colliers assembled Delegates from Mossley and other places have arrived.

October – meetings on slavery – request of 27 respectable requisitionists meeting of inhabs of Oldham was called on Weds last by the constables – Free Grammar School ½ past 12.

Tues eve Oct 12th – meeting of the spinners and rovers of this town and neighbourhood met in the large room of the Grapes Inn, Yorks St – for forming more efficient and stronger union of those trades. John Knight in the chair.

Serious affray = disagreements between Messrs Gould and Cowper of Lower Moor near Oldham and their spinners – or the hands who were employed by those Gentlemen before their taking on those vulgarly stiled ‘Nobsticks’ – the old hands proceeded to Mr Cowper’s house, at a late hour on the eve of Weds week Oct 6th and after severely beating Mr Cowper.

Meeting at Lees – A numerous meeting of the working classes took place at 5 o’clock on Sat eve last in the village of Lees, near Oldham, to consider the propriety of forming a branch union of the National Association for the protection of Labour – 500 persons – was held in the Square of that populous place. A cart provided for speakers – Mr Ben harrop of Lees was unanimously elected chairman. Mr Jonathan Hodgins a delegate from Manchester then addressed the meeting. Mr John Doherty of Manchester dwelt at some length on the ruinous system of reducing wages and the necessity of forming a General Union throughout the kingdom. Resolutions – 2) the Association should publish a newspaper of its own. Petition against stamp tax on newspapers.

Colliers turnout Fri week – meeting of master coal miners took place and another of the operatives at Dryclough – Messrs Barker and Evans Coal Co agreed to give advance.

Downfall of the Duke of Wellington – On Mon eve last a large concourse of working people and others resident at Mill Bottom and its neighbourhood, assembled at that place and having prepared an effigy of the Hero of Waterloo, they adorned him with a brown coat and finally blew him up with gunpowder amidst a large bonfire while a band of music encircled the group. An effigy of the same distinguished individual, was also consumed at Lees the same evening, the mob paraded that populous village, preceded by 2 bands of music, shouting with exultation.

Oldham Nov 24th 1830 – Oldham politics – a considerable excitement has recently taken place in the minds of our village politicians, in consequence of the sudden resignation of the Wellington administration, some talked of a grand illumination.

Dec – On Sat eve last (Decr 11th) a numerous meeting of the Reformers of Oldham assembled in the Union Room, West St – for aiding Mr Hunt.

Mr Hunt’s visit to Oldham – Fri last Dec 31st – Henry Hunt MP for Preston …at one o’clock people assembled at Bent Green and formed into a procession, headed by a band of music – banner ‘Lees Flag’ proceeded on the road to Middleton and at Mills Hill met Mr Hunt – house of Mr Brierley in the Market Place – from an upper window addressed a concourse of at least 4000 persons.


Jan 1831

Reform meeting at Shaw – Mon last Jan 10th respectable and well attended meeting called by the constables of Crompton. School Room. ½ 1pm, 900 persons.

Reform meeting at Oldham – last week requisition signed by 64 respectable inhabs of Oldham was unsuccessfully addressed to the constables, praying they would call a meeting to consider Radical Reform. Mon last Jan 31 meeting held in the new school room of the Indep Meths, George St, 3pm, Mr halliday as chairman, 800 people.

Wall collapsed – no one injured – adjourned to a back place called Jackson’s Pit, a short distance from the School.

2 reform petitions – 1. Agreed upon at the George St Radical meeting desiring universal suffrage, etc. 2500 sigs. Second requesting a more extended mode of franchise.

Public meeting at Lees – Weds last very numerous and spirited meeting called by the constables of Lees and Knott Lanes division – Old School Room Lees. Petition parl for repeal of Corn Laws and EIC monopoly.


Feb 9th 1831 – Reform meeting took place on Weds last in the Free Grammar School – attendance restricted to proprietors of land or houses within the township. Wm Crompton Esq in chair.

Public meeting at Lees Weds last Old School Room.

March 7th 1831 – on Mon eve last a numerous meeting held in the Union Room, West St for discussing proposed ministerial plan of Reform.

Reform meeting – Mon eve last (Begin March 31) reform meeting Union Room, West St, John Knight in chair.

Mon March 14th – respectable meeting in free grammar school – reform bill.

Chadderton – Mon last spirited meeting called by the constables – School Room, Cowhill, petition for supporting Reform bill.

Shaw – Fri eve last, March 11th, school room.

Saddleworth – public dinner Fri last March 11th – at Dobcross – reform – James Lees of Delph Lodge, New Delph, in chair.


D-BUT F/4 – April 1831-Oct 1831

Ashton under Lyne – Fri last April 22nd public meeting held in Town Hall to consider sending deputation to London.,

Oldham spinners and colliers on strike.

Lees public meeting – respectable meeting of working classes and others held in the Square of the village of Lees near Oldham on Mon last May 30th 1831 for purpose of pursuing the plan recommended in the Voice of the people of sending a deputation up to London to obtain either household or universal suffrage.

Radicals vs Corn Laws – public meeting of the Oldham real radicals – 500 – assembled on Bent Green, the usual scene of the feats of the Oldham Liberals on Mon last (July 4th) to petition for a total repeal of the Corn Laws.

Ceremony of the Coronation at Lees, Saddleworth etc. Early on Thurs morn Sep 8th in honour of their Majesties Coronation a procession of the authorities, principal inhabitants on horse and foot…assembled at Lees cum Hey, near Oldham, and on their being joined by the Oldham Above Town procession, walked thro’ Hey, Austerlands, Waterhead Mill, Greenacres Moor and Dolstile, and back to Lees by the side of the Moor. Dinner at the New Inn.

Saddleworth – procession moved from the Bell Inn at New Delph, on Thursday…thro’ Delph, Dobcross, Weakey, Woolroad, and upper Mill to New Delph again.

Waterhead Mill – numerous meeting of inhabitants of this populous village Monday evening last in large room of George and Dragon Inn.

Newton and Failsworth – Monday last – schoolroom near Failsworth Pole.

Royton – Monday evening School Room – Mr Buckley constable in chair. Mr Fitton forcibly dwelt on the importance of aiding the ministers but praying for more extensive measures.

Leypayers’ meeting Wednesday last April 6th – vestry to elect overseers held in vestry of Methodist Sunday School St Domingo St.

Coronation festivities – at Greenacres Moor Thursday morning September 5th – Hat and Feather, thro’ Mount Pleasant St, side o’th’moor, Clarksfield, Roe Lane, Lees Brook to the lees procession with which they walked thro’ Hey, Austerlands, Waterhead Mills, Greenacres Moor.

Oldham – assembled on the waste ground belonging to Earl Curzon Howe, and fronting Lord St, Oldham, adorned with ribbons and medals. General town’s procession formed in Lord St – 12 o’clock thro’ High St, Mill End, Yorkshire St,Oldham Lane, Mumps and Greenacres moor, returning by Croft Bank, Mount Pleasant St, thro’ Market place, up Henshaw St, down Barker St, Royton St, St Domingo St, Manchester St, Fog Lane, to Primrose Bank and from thence to the market place, up George St on Bardsley Brow, the proceedings concluded in the market place.

Procession includes brethren of the Orange Lodge with flags, staff, sashes, a bible born on a cushion, authorities of the lodge in surplices and with white staves surmounted with doves.

An odious effigy – effigy of a hat manufacturer, who has made himself obnoxious to his hands and the trade by an attempt to reduce wages, preceded by a tricolored banner and a dense crowd of followers was exhibited thro’ the streets of Oldham on Tuesday; the figure was burnt opposite his warehouse.


Public meeting – Wednesday September 21stpublic meeting called by constables in compliance with wish of 80 requisitionists calling upon House of Lords to pass reform bill – Free Grammar School – John Lees Esq of Greenbank Mills in chair.

Lees – Weds – Wellington Inn Royton – meeting assembled at Croft Head, Thos Buckley, one of the constables, appointed chairman.

Public meeting – request of 50 inhabitants – constables have called a public meeting to be held in the open air on Thursday on the waste land called ‘Tommy Ground’ to address the King on reform bill.

Great Public Meeting – the greatest meeting ever held at Oldham took place on Thursday Oct 13th in the open air, on the waste ground at the back of the White Horse Inn, commonly called ‘Tommy Field’ called by the head constables at the request of 50 principal inhabs – to address HM. 4 o’clock. 2 waggons provided, a coach filled with spectators from Mill Bottom heightened the scene, which presented that of an immense assemblage of persons, thousands in number, all animated with the desire of reform, a greatly increased by the workpeople of many mills, which had ceased working on the occasion both at Oldham and Royton – 25,000 and before the conclusion the numbers were moderately estimated at 33,000. Mr Fitton of Royton address. Mr haigh, shopkeeper, Lords Gate near Oldham, seconded Mr Fitton’s motion. He was since no one could say he was inconsistent as he was an old Radical (cheers). Mr Knight of veteran radical notoriety rose to say now in the 1st place – this bill decides your ? then how can you expect unanimity we are all deeply interested; but to you the lower classes the power and support of the state is preached. [keeps mentioning 1819].


D-BUT F/5, Oct-Dec 1831

Oldham Political Union – meeting Monday eve last [Nov 14th] to form a Branch Union in the Grand National Union – effect a complete reform of the Commons House of Parliament by loyal constitutional means – large room of the Grapes Inn, Yorks St, 7 o’clock – 350 persons. Mr Knight read the resolutions and informed the meeting that a subscription of 1d per week would be required from each member.

Committee: Mr Stepney grocer Market Place

Halliday, millwright, Royton St

Knight, schoolmaster, Lord St,

Swire, Clogger, Greenacres moor

Knott, hatter, High St

Mills, hatter, Sarah moor


John Halliwell, Manches st

Fred Taylor, tailor, Yorks St

Alex Taylor, grocer, Mumps –chair

Mr Knight read the resolutions and informed the meeting that a subscription of 1d per week would be required from each member.


Political Union meetings at the union room, West St.

1832 – Mr Cobbett at Oldham.

Lees Thurs eve, Jan 19th – meeting on supporting Mr Sadler’s motion on subject of reducing labour and petition for household suffrage – Old School Room.

Public meeting Monday evening at Providence Independent Chapel, Oldham.


2. William Rowbottom diaries, Oldham Archives and Local Studies


pp. 30-1 – July 23rd 1794 – Sessions at Manchester.

Smith, Thorp, Berry and Seddon where convicted of assaulting Whitaker in Failsworth on 22nd of April last on the pretence of his being a Jacobin when two of them were sentanced to Lancaster for six months each one in said gaol or three mths one in New Bailey for two months and Knight of Saddleworth a noted Jacobin for wounding in his own defence one Joseph Taylor; at Royton on 21st April last sentanced to two years imprisonment at Lancaster and John Taylor of Royton for defending one of his neighbours from the ametys of the mob on the 21st of April one months imprisonment in the New Bailey.


28 November 1819 – died Charles Beswick keeper of the general Abercromby public house Pig Street Oldham aged 58 was interred at Middleton. John Rhodes of Threepits within Hopwood he was one that was wounded at Manchester on 16 August and is suposed to have died of his wounds a grate number attended him to his grave 1300 with drab hats and crape besides a number with cloaks it is supposed that ten thousand people assembled on the occasion and all parted in peace.




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