I realize I’ve been neglecting this blog recently in favor of my other one, Stalybridge In Old Photographs , I hope you don’t mind.

I promise there are more history type posts to come, but in the mean time, following on from Al’s Autumn photos, here are some fab Wintry shots taken from and of Cocker Hill. The first few look foggy and damp, the next lot are bright and clear and the final few have a lovely “warm” evening light. I put a picture of our fire on the end just to warm us up after the “cold” pictures. Enjoy.

Stalybridge, Victoria Marklet Hall, from Cocker Hill 2015

Stalybridge, Victoria Market Hall, from Cocker Hill 2015

Snowy Rooftops from Cocker Hill, 2015, St Pauls Church is in the top left of the picture

Snowy Rooftops from Cocker Hill, 2015, St Pauls Church is in the top left of the picture



Snowy Rooftops from Cocker Hill, 2015. St Peters Church is in the centre


Snow on the roof of Stokes’ Mill Stalybridge, now flats.


Snowy Rooftops from Cocker Hill, 2015

Snowy Rooftops from Cocker Hill, 2015

Snowy Hills from Cocker Hill. 2015

Snowy Hills from Cocker Hill. 2015

Sycamore Tree, Old St Georges Graveyard, Cocker Hill

Sycamore Tree, Old St Georges Graveyard, Cocker Hill

Snowy Hills from Cocker Hill.

Snowy Hills from Cocker Hill

Old St Georges Churchyard, Cocker Hill

Old St Georges Churchyard, Cocker Hill

Snowy Hills from Cocker Hill

Snowy Hills from Cocker Hill


Warm up by the fire!

A couple more from a snow day off school 29/01/15


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Cocker Hill, Autumn 2014

Here are a few photographs of Cocker Hill taken over the last month or two; they remind me of the gorgeous Autumn sunshine and warm yellow light. The warmth and sunshine seem long gone today.

2012JanToDec 009 (4) 2012JanToDec 001 (5) 2012JanToDec 012 (4) DSC_0427 DSC_0426 DSC_0417 DSC_0414 DSC_0410 DSC_0408 2012JanToDec 033 2012JanToDec 031 2012JanToDec 037 2012JanToDec 047 DSC_0405 DSC_04062012JanToDec 010 (4)

I feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.


I had a visitor today, Brian Longden, a gentleman who had once been in the choir at Old St Georges Church. He brought around a few photos for me to copy and share on the blog. Wasn’t that kind? I’ll also add the photos to the relevant posts about the church and churchyard but wanted to get them up now so that regular reader can see them straight away.

scan from Brian Longden3oldstgeoges

Above is the third, and final, Old St Georges Church, Cockerhill. The photo was taken pre 1939 as the churchyard railings are shown and these were taken down and smelted in World War II. I love the street lamp. Cocker Hill still has a number of old street lamps, but none as nice as this.


Above is the same church building. I think this photo was taken in the late 1960s just before demolition. The illuminated cross, shining out over Stalybridge was well known at the time. Someone recently commented on facebook that they were glad when the church and the cross were demolished as they interfered with the TV reception locally!


This is the interior of the church, it’s very grand isn’t it. The windows must have looked spectacular.  I understand that the choir were either side of the pulpit,  male choristers on one side women on the other.


 This font has now been moved to New St Georges Church, but is pictured here in its original home at Old St Georges.

NOTE Photos copied and reproduced by kind permission of Brian Longden.

As usual, please read the comments below and add your own if you have any memories of or connections to Old St Georges Church or Cocker Hill in general. I’d love to hear from you.


*John Buckley was born in May 1813 at Cocker Hill in Stalybridge. He is truly a local hero. He is one of the only 1353 people to have received  the Victorian cross which is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross.

His life story would make an amazing film. I wonder if Daniel Craig could pull it off, because if I’m honest I prefer my heroes to look more like Daniel Craig, or perhaps Brad Pitt than the photo below.


John Buckley

John Buckley VC

John Buckley started work, as did most Stalybridge people did then, in the Mills. He worked at Harrison’s Mill and then Bayley’s Mill. When he was eighteen he went to Manchester and joined the Bengal Artillery. Shortly afterwards he was sent to India in June 1832 as a gunner.

In India, he met and married Mary Ann Broadway in 1835. Living in Calcutta the couple had three children but by 1845 Mary Ann and two of the children had died. Buckley remarried in 1846 but in 1852 he lost the surviving child of his first marriage and in 1853 two sons by his second marriage also died.

So far he has lost one wife and five kids… unfortunately he was to lose more by the end of his story.

Four years later, in 1857 Buckley, his wife and three surviving children moved to Delhi where he became Assistant Commissionary of Ordnance and was employed at the Delhi Magazine (storehouse for guns and ammunition).

john buckley

Indian Mutiny

In 1857 the Indian Mutiny flared up against the rule of the British. The mutineers soon reached Delhi where John Buckley and his fellow eight soldiers defending the ammunition store were massively outnumbered. Rather than let the ammunition fall into enemy hands they decided to blow up the building and themselves.  Miraculously four of them, including Buckley, survived. But they were captured by the enemy and he soon learnt that his entire family had been ruthlessly murdered by the rebels. He had now lost two wives and eight children in total and wanted to live no longer. He begged for death from his captors but they refused to kill him on account of his bravery at the magazine. Buckley later escaped and rejoined the British army and apparently volunteered for all the dangerous missions.* see below

In 1858 he was promoted to Lieutenant but shortly afterwards fell ill and was given two years leave. I understand he came back to Stalybridge. Whilst back in England he received his Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria. He lived for a short while in Stalybridge before returning to India as a Major in October 1861. He died in 1876.

A blue plaque to commemorate the life of John Buckley is on the wall of the Travellers Call Public House, Wakefield Road, Stalybridge.

blue plaque

John Buckley was in the news again recently. There was an article in the Manchester Evening News on 11 December 2012 about the recent finding of his unmarked grave in a cemetery in Tower Hamlets cemetery North London.

The Victoria Cross Trust raised money for a headstone.

Thanks to James Melik I can now post a photo of the headstone.

IMG_0251 (1)

And I love this photo; featuring James’ cat!




18/03/13 – I have, as a result of this post, found out a few more things about John Buckley;

*John Buckley’s Revenge – now you have to remember here how much Major Buckley lost whilst in India; first one wife and five kids to illness and then his second wife and three kids to the rebels…So on escaping the rebels capture he was probably a bit mad. apparently then rejoined the British Army, captured 150 of the rebels strapped them to cannons and blew them apart… sounds a bit messy. Thanks for highlighting that one Jim!

*I also have Jim to thank for finding this record of John Buckley’s Baptism.

John Buckley Baptsm


I have had another email about Major Buckley; this time from a descendant of his – it seems there was more to John Buckley’s reasons to joining the army than I originally thought…..A yet another wife and more children! Looks like he had children and got married in Stalybridge before he left for India!

According to some legal documents from the 1830’s, (still in my father’s possession), John Buckley was married to my 3x great aunt Ann Woodall, of Cocker Hill, Stalybridge.

Their two daughters were christened on the same day (6th. February 1831) at Old St.Georges Church, Stalybridge.

Looking at the baptismal records, the first daughter was born illegitimate on 31st.October 1829, and was given the name Mary Ann Buckley Woodall. The second daughter was named Hannah Buckley, and is registered as daughter of John Buckley spindle maker and Ann.

After looking at the parish register of deaths, it looks likely there was a second illegitimate child named Ann Woodall, she died at one day old in 1830.

Ann Woodall was born in 1810,and was the daughter of John Woodall, Shoemaker and Nanny Woodall (his second wife).

The legal document mentioned above, is to do with a business venture drawn up between Ann’s father John Woodall, the local Lord of the Manor  and David Ricardo (M.P. and renowned economist) of Gatcombe Park.

The document names Ann, together with her husband John Buckley and the years they were born, (Ann in 1810 and John in 1813).

Reading between the lines ,it looks as if John Buckley ran off to join the army shortly after they were married and committed bigamy whilst serving in India!

 Ann Buckley was supported by her family for the rest of her life, by means of a 1/8th.portion of the rents from property owned by her father in the Stalybridge area. (Confirmed by more legal documents).

The Woodall family lived at Rasbottom Brow ,Stalybridge, I have been told that the property still exists to this day.”

Interesting stuff eh? I haven’t checked it at all or seen the document in question, but have no reason not to believe it. Thanks very much for the email Val.

As usual, if you have anything to add to this post please let me know – leave a comment below or email me at cockerhill@hotmail.com

Weavers’ Cottages

stalybridge history 609

Weavers’ Cottages Cocker Hill, stalybridge

I’ve been fortunate to become friends with Kate at the StalyMag. She asked me to write about the above photo for a new feature in the StalyMag called Past Staly. The photo is predictably of Cocker Hill. I thought it was unusual as it features the Weavers’ Cottages, rather than the Church, which seems to be a feature of most old photos of the area. It may be that the Church had been demolished before the photo was taken.

It was interesting to write for the magazine; what do you write when asked to write a few words about a photo? My initial thoughts were to write about the difference between the archive photo and the current one, but the reality is there aren’t too many differences. The there are more cars now, the windows have changed but thankfully the Cottages still look similar.


Weavers’ Cottages, Cocker Hill, Stalybridge 2013

The article I wrote is below… What do you think?

This is the first in a new series of archive photos of Stalybridge that we plan to feature over the next couple of months.

The photo is of Cocker Hill, Stalybridge; I’d guess that the picture was taken in the early 1960s.
The Cottages in the centre of the picture are now over 250 years old; we can’t date them exactly but they were first sold in 1750. They were looking over Stalybridge when Stalybridge when Stalybridge contained just 34 houses* and are still there now.

They are known as Weavers Cottages as their owners were wool weavers who worked in their home. The cottages were originally just one room deep with the family generally living and sleeping on the ground floor. Wool was carded and spun on the first floor by the women and children and was woven into cloth by the man of the house using a hand loom on the third floor. There would not have been a bathroom or running water inside the house. The small windows on the top floor of the photo are called mullion windows. The cottages would probably originally have had mullion windows on all levels to allow plenty of light into the cottages to work by.

The house on the far left of the photo was demolished as part of the “post war slum clearance”. The house, and others like it, were replaced by Blandford Court age exclusive accommodation and many of the occupants were rehoused on the Hague Estate by New St Georges Church.

*1795 Census.


I’ve included a few links below, click through if you want to see more about the occupants of the Cottages or about the domestic production of woollen cloth.

Census returns 25-31 Cocker Hill
Cloth production before the factories

And both the Portland Basin and Saddleworth Museums are also worth a visit if you are in the area.

1977 Walking guide to Cocker Hill and beyond.      

My husband found the Ridge Hill Trail guide in the library last week. The whole trail is about three miles long and makes a full circuit around the Tame Valley, including a trip up Cocker Hill. Not sure if the whole circuit is passable now as the guide was published in 1977.   

I enjoyed reading the section on Cocker Hill, and as it provides such a good introduction to the area, I have copied it out so that everyone can see it. Hopefully it doesn’t breach the copy right as it is a small excerpt from the whole guide and only really here as the guide is no longer generally available.     


The trail starts from Stalybridge Bus Station.   

“Leave Bus Station via King Street, walk up the steps, and turn right along Stamford Street, crossing the road at the pelican crossing. Walk down the hill and turn left up a cobbled path just before the stone bridge.   

On your left are Bohemia Cottages, dated 1721. The name “Bohemia” may have been adopted because the view along the Tame Valley at this point is similar to the views along the Elbe, a river flowing through Bohemia noted for its sheer hillsides. The Germanic style of Old St George’s may have enhanced this association.   

Note the lion and sun reliefs on the cottage walls. In Roman times these were symbols of the Persian sun-god Mithras, a favourite of the Roman legionaries. One Roman road to Melandra is thought to have crossed the river below these cottages.     

Go up the steps to the Churchyard     

Cocker Hill, from a photograph taken about 1910


This is Cocker Hill churchyard, the site of the first church in Stalybridge. Built in 1776, the first St George’s church collapsed only two years later. The foundations of the recently demolished church can be clearly seen. There have been three churches built on this site, all of which have been of an octagonal design known as the Galilee pattern.    

At the top of the churchyard, beside the foundations of the old church is the grave of Neddy Hall. In 1776 Neddy Hall built the first cotton mill in Lancashire. It stood in Wood Street, Stalybridge, near the Bus Station. At that time Ashton-Under-Lyne extended as far as the River Tame. Neddy Hall was the first to use steam power in a Lancashire mill. This small 6hp beam engine was probably of the design produced by James Watt, the most reliable at the time. The tall chimney needed to disperse the engine’s flue gases was nicknamed “Sootpoke” and was the first of many which would soon dominate the Stalybridge Skyline.   

On your left, overlooking the churchyard, you can see some of the weavers’ cottages. The top floor, with its mullioned windows designed to give an even light, was utilised for weaving and spinning, leaving the first floor free for treating fibres. The ground floor was used for domestic purposes.     

A Mullion is a vertical bar dividing lights in a window.


Before the Industrial Revolution the textile industry was worked on a small scale, with the whole family involved in  the production of clothes. Mother and daughter would be spinning while younger children and grandparents “carded” the raw material, and father wove the yarn. As weaving was the quickest of the processes, the father would have been left with time to farm a small plot of land. These people were known as yeoman clothiers.”…………………………………….   

The trail then continues up Ridge Hill.   

Cocker Hill Academy

Way before Micheal Gove and the Academies Bill there was the Cocker Hill Academy.

The Cocker Hill Academy was the only recorded school in Stalybridge back in the 1700’s.

John Bradbury the botanist was educated at the Cocker Hill Academy by John Taylor. Taylor was a keen botanist himself and encouraged Bradbury’s interest.

Below is an advert I found for the school from 1807.  James Knight was Principal and taught “reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, history, mensuration (The act, process, or art of measuring), drawing and penmanship” his wife looked after the girls department and taught “plain and useful sewing, knitting, embroidery etc”.  The address is given as Blandford Street, Stalybridge.  James Knight kept a diary from the mid 1850’s until 1862, some of them have survived and are available to view at Tameside Local Studies Library

Advertisement for the Cocker Hill Academy