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Posts Tagged ‘Cocker Hill’

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.

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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 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.

Thanks

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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.

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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.

Steph

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.

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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.   

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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

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When we moved on to Cocker Hill, Stalybridge many years ago people kept telling us “there used to be a church there”  or “The old church fell into the river” etc.  I did a little research and found that they were correct, but there had not been just one church though, there had been three, all built in a similar style. The first was built in 1776. It was the first recorded church in Stalybridge and it did fall down shortly after it was built. The  next church was demolished around a hundred years later because of structural problems and the last church was demolished in the 1960’s as it was no longer used.

The first Church of St. George, Cocker Hill

I have detailed the history of the three churches below; you might need to get a cup tea though I think this is going to be  fairly long post.  The history of the churchyard is interesting too, especially the tales of the body snatchers.

Prior to the building of the Cocker Hill Chapel the people had to walk to either Ashton or Mottram to get to church, not too bad in Summer but it must have been a fairly muddy journey in winter. The church officials in Ashton realised that this was a problem and set about looking for a possible site for a church in Stalybridge.

The site of the church was first sold  on 5 May 1698 for £1001.2s.0d. The site measured three acres of “Cheshire large measure” and was described in the deed as “a chance close, a parcel of land”. Nothing was made of the land at that time.

On 30th June 1774 Lord Stamford agreed with the church Commissioners to allow the land to be used to be used for a church. Money for the building was raised by public subscription and by various grants and gifts.

The church was consecrated in July 1776 as “Chapel of St. George in Staly Bridge within Ridgehill and Lanes in the parish of Ashtonunderlyne”  (Note how Stalybridge was then two words and Ashton Under Lyne was then one.)

The Rev James Wardleworth was appointed as the first vicar in April 1777. The first Baptisms was recorded were held  28 July 1776 and the first burial in the graveyard took place on 16 January 1777.

The next information I can find for the church is a return made by the church to the articles of enquiry of 1778 sent out by the Bishop of Chester. One question asked about the church services. James Wardleworth answered it as follows:- ” My Chapel had ye Misfortune of Tumbling down on Friday 15th May, 1778 and it is uncertain when it will be rebuilt………”

It appears that the church was rebuilt quickly. I can find no record of  the date though. The new church looked very similar to the previous one.

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The second St Georges Church on Cocker Hil

Rev James Wardleworth resigned 4 October 1790 and was succeeded Rev John Robinson on 1 April 1791.

Rev Robinson resigned 9 October 1795 and was succeeded by Rev John Kenworthy 25 September 1796.

John Kenworthy was the vicar for 11 years until he died 13th August 1806.He was just 34 when he died. He was buried in the Cocker Hill churchyard with his wife and Children. The burial records for his family made sad reading. He had a son william who died March 1815 aged 8, a daughter Ellen who died in December 1815 aged 15. His wife Elizabeth died in March 1818 and his other daughter Sarah died in aged just 19 in February 1819.

Rev John Cape Atty was licenced on 11th April 1807.  Cape Atty lived on Cocker Hill, opposite the church. In the returns submitted to the Bishop he describes his house as a substantial stone building, with stable and cow-house on the premises. Also a garden” Cape Atty remained vicar until he died in 1822. His memorial stone remains in the Cocker Hill churchyard.

Rev Isaac Newton France was appointed in 1822. France was previously a curate in Ashton. He was reported as creating sects and divisions throughout the church. Things did not seem to go any better for him in Stalybridge and it was reported that “The Chapel at Cocker Hill under his incumbency was deserted to a great extent”. In the year prior to Newton France’s appointment there were reported to be 450 people in regular attendance.

In 1835 Newton France asked the church’s patron, the Earl of Stamford, to close the existing Chapel, due to its bad repair, and build a new one on a different site. I think he though a bigger newer church would get him a bigger congregation. The Earl agreed and purchased the land on the Hague Stalybridge. The foundation stone was laid for the new church 1st September 1838. The church was completed and consecrated 24 June 1840. The new church was called the church of St George, same name as the Cocker  Hill Chapel as it was the intention that it the new church replaced the old one; however this was not the case.

The new church, known locally as “New” St Georges,  had a capacity of 1,500 people, but with Newton France in charge the congregation was small and it never reached anything near its intended target. Parish records show that the congregation fell as low as six or seven on a regular basis.

Back at the Cocker Hill chapel, known locally as “Old” St Georges, the people were opposed to the idea of closing the church. They petitioned the Bishop to keep the church open and offered to pay for a new vicar to be found. The Bishop gave them permission to make the church safe and good. They did this and even bought a new organ. On the 29th September 1843 Old St Georges re opened with  new vicar Rev William Hall.  The old Church went from strength to strength and the congregation increased back to the 450 it had been in Cape Attys time.

Then in November 1844 Newton France announced that he intended to leave New St Georges and take up possession of Old St Georges on 1 January 1846.

I think that this decision was mainly due to pew rents and endowments. Basically Old St Georges was making more money than New St Georges and Newton France wanted a piece of it. Because of the difficulties with Newton France Hall resigned from Old St Georges in July 1846 and also resigned as a vicar which seems a shame as it sounds like he was a pretty good one.

Things then went from bad to worse. The newspaper reports at the time implied that Newton France was only returning to old St Georges  for financial reasons. He applied to the Church wardens for the keys to the church in August 1846 but his request “was resolutely refused no matter what the consequences”. Newton France then threatened legal proceedings and was told by the Church Wardens that should he insist on returning to the chapel, the congregation would leave and take their organ with them! The Church remained closed. The local MP Mr Tollmache became involved and put the matter before Parliament for debate.There followed a turbulent year with the Churchwarden’s supporters and Newton France’s supporters regularly breaking into the church, changing the locks and taking control of the church.

Newspaper reports at the time suggested that at certain periods on a Sunday in 1847 there were upwards of 2000  people collected in and around the chapel to see what was going on. The week after there were reported to be 3000-4000 people watching to see what would happen next.

By 1849 the church was reported to be very dilapidated, most of the lower windows were broken and the doorway was smashed beyond repair. There did not seem to be any resolution in sight. In May 1850 Isaac Newton France died. A coroners inquest gave a verdict of “death by natural causes”.

Following the death of Newton France the Bishop of Manchester appointed a new vicar at old St Georges, Rev John Leeson. Leeson had taken over new St Georges after Newton France and had grown and gained the respect of the congregation there. The Bishop hoped that he would help heal the problems in old St Georges.

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The Second Old St Georges with surrounding buildings. This photo was taken some time after 1848 when Wakefield Road Baptist Church, the Church on the top left of the picture, was built.

Leeson continued to have many problems with the churchwardens at old St Georges so perhaps all the trouble at old St Georges wasn’t Newton France’s fault. Leeson appeared to deal with them better though and won in the end.  John Leeson continued at old St Georges until his death in August 1867. His memorial in the Cocker Hill churchyard is still visible and says; “This Monument was erected by many friends and is sacred to the memory of John Edmund Leeson who for 16 years was incumbent of this church……”.

Rev John B Jelly Dudley was appointed vicar in 1867 and continued for 34 years until his death in 1904. He was described as a “flamboyant figure with a great sense of humour”

In February 1877  it was reported that an “alarming landslip occurred at old St Georges churchyard” part of the churchyard had collapsed down the hill and exposed  number of coffins. News of the landslip spread rapidly and hundreds of people lined the Stamford Street Bridge to try to see what had happened.

In 1880 and 1881 church records show that “cracks had begun to appear in the south west corner of the building” The cracks got bigger and on 10th July 1882 the church was officially closed for safety reasons.

In 1886 a contract was drawn up to construct a new church on the same site. The new church was octagonal as the previous ones but the roof and windows were different.

The third “old” St. Georges Church, Cocker Hill

The church was re opened in 1888 and was described by the local paper as “an improvement on the old”

In 1904 old St Georges gained a new vicar; Rev Herbert Hampson. He was well liked and introduced both a dramatic society and an athletic society to the church. He continued as  vicar until he died in September 1924. Hampson was succeeded by Rev Frank Augustine Whitehead who was vicar from 1924 to 1937. Whitehead was described as “a great encouragement” and was a supporter of the dramatic society and was the only vicar known to perform in the dramatic productions.

The next vicar was Rev Reginald Hugh Cadman who stayed 7 years and appeared to have a fairly uneventful time at the church.

Cadman was succeeded in 1946 by Rev Charles James Saunders. Tragically Saunders committed suicide two years after taking over the church. Saunders had received the Military Cross for service during the First World War and it was thought that he had suffered from Shell shock. His time at the church was a strange one; not long after he arrived many of the parishioners of the church began to receive defamatory and insulting letters. Though none of the accusations in the letters were true they caused upset in the congregation and the police were called. The police noted that all the letters that had been typed were typed on the vicar’s typewriter and the letter that had been handwritten was in the vicar’s handwriting.

The next vicar was Rev William George McGowan was appointed in 1949. He was a “much loved and admired” vicar but decided to move on after just four years. At that point talk began again of closing old St Georges.

Rev John Penrose was appointed in 1954 and he stayed just three years. The building had fallen into disrepair again and cracks had begun to appear in the North wall. Architects’ reports showed that there were serious problems with the building and that is perhaps one of the reasons why John Penrose left the church.

In 1958 Rev William Radcliffe was appointed vicar and he too stayed just three years.

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Third Old St Georges Church in the late 1950s/1960s. Note the cross on the wall which was illuminated at night.

Radcliffe was succeeded in 1962 by the last vicar of old St Georges Rev Micheal Hodge. Hodge remained vicar for five years until the church closure in 1967.  Records show over 150 attended the final service in September 1967 and 80 attended the farewell dinner.

A great deal of effort was extended to try to preserve the building. In 1967 the Stalybridge Civic Society were interested in turning the building into a theatre. The Bishop agreed and said the building would be given as a gift to the town on condition that it would be maintained in a dignified manner. Unfortunately nothing came of this and the building was demolished.

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Prior to demolition the majority stained glass windows were moved into storage; unfortunately they were later destroyed b a fire. The “Ruth and Naomi” window was moved to Mottram Parish Church. A number of the pews went to Holy Trinity, Bardsley, the Church Bell went to the Church of St Stephen, Astley and the font went to new St Georges in Stalybridge. The wooded reredos  were sold to the Ealing FilmStudios along with one or two pews. The reredos was used on the set of the film “Cromwell” 

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The Cocker Hill churchyard remains today and you can still see the outline of old St Georges and the memorials to Rev Leeson and Rev Cape Atty.

New St Georges continues to be a living church. Website  http://www.stg.org.uk/

Sources

Two into On will Go by Paul Denby ISBN 0 9515993 0 5

Looking back at Stalybridge ISBN  0904506150

Burial Records Old St Georges

If you want to know more I can definitely recommend the book “Two into one will go” by Paul Denby ISBN 0 9515993 0 5. The book has the full history of both churches together with a full chapter on the battle between Isaac Newton France and the ChurchWardens.   There is also an account of the battle between Isaac Newton France and the Churchwardens in the book “Looking back at Stalybridge” Edited by Alice Lock ISBN  0 9515993 0 5.

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Well,  to be more precise my husband bought me a picture. I turn 40 later this month and am finding it fairly easy to suggest just one more present……….thanks Al. I love you.        

Normally I wouldn’t add personal stuff to this Cocker Hill blog; but in this case I have a good excuse as the picture is a view from the Cocker Hill Churchyard, looking North East, towards St Paul’s Church, Stalybridge. The building in the foreground was Stokes’ Mill. It is now apartments. 

The picture is what I consider to be my view, the one I look at with my coffee after the school run in the morning. Most other people look up a the hills or down onto the town centre, but I look down and across the river………So when I saw the painting I had to have it.       

       

A Light Snow - Sheila Vaughan

 

 If you want to see more of Sheila’s Stalybridge paintings you can see photos of them on her blog.

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