Saddleworth Historical Society

bringing history to life

Saddleworth - An Overview

[Description(s) from Baines's Directory of the County of York (1823)]

SADDLEWORTH, in the township of Quick, and parish of Rochdale, (Lanc.) Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Pontefract; 2 miles from Dobcross, 9 from Rochdale, (Lanc.) 12 from Huddersfield and Manchester, (Lanc.) The Church is a perpetual curacy, in the deanry of Pontefract, value, p.r. £108. Patron, the Vicar of Rochdale.

This place gives name to a large valley, about seven miles long, and five broad, in the broadest part, situated in an angle of the county, between Lancaster and the north eastern projection of Cheshire. It is a bleak region, of which a part only is under cultivation; but industry has accumulated in it a large number of inhabitants, who gain a comfortable subsistence by the manufacture of woollen cloth, for which the place is peculiarly famous; indeed, many of the superfine broads made here, vie with those of the west of England. The cutting of several turnpike roads within the last fifty years, through this vale, and the Huddersfield canal, which passes through the heart of Saddleworth, have tended very materially towards reclaiming large tracts of land for the purpose of cultivation, and giving facility to trade. This place is divided into four hamlets or quarters, called Meres, viz. Quick mere, Lord's mere, Shaw mere, and Friar mere. The latter was once an estate belonging the Black Friars, who had a house, or grange near Delph, Saddleworth, though in this country, is in the parish of Rochdale, (Lanc.) on account of Hugo de Stapleton, Lord of the Manor of Saddleworth, having applied to Hugh, Earl of Chester, for leave to erect a Chapel for the use of his tenants; to his permission, the Earl made it a condition that the Chapel should be annexed to the Abbey of Whalley. On the dissolution of Monasteries, this was annexed to Rochdale.

The Roman road from Mancunium, passed through a part of this vale; and at Castleshaw is the remains of an ancient fortification, supposed, by Mr. Whitaker, to have been a fortress of the Primeval Britons, which he thinks is pretty plainly evinced by the few relics which have been accidentally discovered at it.

In this neighbourhood are the much frequented and celebrated Rocks of Greenfield, as well as several Druidical remains, a Rocking stone, &c. of which, would our limits allow it, a particular description should be given. Mr. Bottomley has written a poem descriptive of romantic and almost uninhabited part of this country.

[Description from White's Leeds and the Clothing District of Yorkshire 1853)]


Saddleworth-cum-Quick is a mountainous township and parochial chapelry, in the parish of Rochdale and diocese of Manchester; but in the Upper Division of Agbrigg Wapentake, and West-Riding of Yorkshire, where the latter joins the counties of Lancaster and Chester. It extends from 8 to 14 miles S.W. of Huddersfield, and from 4 to 10 miles N.E. of Oldham; comprising about 18,000 acres of land, of which only 10,000 acres are cultivated. It is extensively engaged in the cotton and woollen manufactures, and increased its population from 10,665 in 1801 to 15985 in 1831, to 16,829 in 1841 and to 17,799 souls in 1851. It contains many villages and hamlets and is divided into four constablericks, called Shaw, Quick, Friar Mere and Lords Mere. Though a rugged alpine region, there is a good deal of grazing land in the valleys and the declivities. The Huddersfield Canal extends through it, and passes under the lofty ridge of Stanedge, trough a tunnel, nearly 3 miles long, and by the side of which is a larger tunnel, through which passes the Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Manchester Railway. The church and hamlet of Saddleworth are near the centre of the township, 12 miles from S.W. of Huddersfield.

The principle villages are DOBCROSS and DELPH, distant a mile from each other and from 5 to 6 miles N.E. of Oldham; JUNCTION (now know as Denshaw), 2 miles N. of Delph; and UPPER MILL (now Uppermill), 1 mile S.E. of Dobcross. The others are scattered through picturesque valleys in which are many large cotton mills, &c. Saddleworth Church (St Chad) has undergone many reparations. Its tower was rebuilt in 1746 and the body was enlarged and mostly rebuilt in 1832-3. Here are also three chapels of ease, viz., St Anne's at Lydgate; Trinity at Dobcross; and St Thomas's at Friar Mere. The vicar of Rochdale is patron of the four perpetual curacies, of which Friar Mere is valued at 120 Pounds Sterling and the others at 150 Pounds Sterling each. Friezeland Church, dedicated to Christ is a handsome structure, which was erected in 1849 and 1850, at the sole expense of R.R.Woodhead, Esq., and brothers at the cost of 12,000 Pounds Sterling, including Parsonage and Schools. It is in the early decorated style and has a peal of six bells and several stained glass windows. Messrs. Whitehead are patrons of the perpetual curacy, valued at 200 Pounds Sterling, and the district has been allotted to this elegant church, under Peel's Act. The Independents and the Wesleyan, N.C. and Primitive Methodists have chapels at Delph, Upper Mill, Springfield, Greenfield and Baguley.

Fairs are held at Delph on April 24th, July 9th and Sept. 24th; at Dobcross on the second Thursday in March and last Thursday in July; at Upper Mill on the Wednesday in Whitsun week and the first Wednesday in October; and at Bentfield an the Tuesday before Easter. At Delph is a subscription library, established in 1816 and a Gas Works, constructed in 1838. The small gas works at Upper Mill belong to Mr Wm. Pontefract. Saddleworth was anciently a desolate forest and tradition says it was once sold for a saddle; but it is more probable that it derived it's name from the form of one of its mountain ridges. Mr. Joseph Thorton, of Dobcross, is the secretary of the Savings Bank. There is a Mechanic's Institution at Upper Mill for the benefit of which a grand Exhibition was open several months in 1853. J.S.T. Greene, Esq., is judge and Mr J. Summerscale clerk of the County Court, held monthly for Saddleworth District. Mr. Edmund Travis is the high bailiff and Mr. B. Tweedale assistant clerk. Petty Sessions are held every alternate Wednesday at Upper Mill. Since May 1853, Saddleworth has maintained its poor as a township under the control of the Poor Law Commissioners. Mr. James Platt is clerk to the Board of Guardians; Mr. Joseph Harp, superintendent registrar; Mr. Owen Platt, relieving officer; and Mr. and Mrs. Radcliffe are master and matron of the Workhouse, which has rooms for 120 inmates.

Archives and Libraries Bibliography Business and Commerce Records Cemeteries Census Chronology Church History Church Records Civil Registration Description and Travel Emigration and Immigration Gazetteers History Manors Maps Military History Monumental Inscriptions Names, Geographical Names, Personal Newspapers Occupations Officials and Employees Parish Registers Politics and Government Poorhouses, Poor Law etc. Population Probate Records Religion and Religious Life Schools Social Life and Customs Societies Statistics

Archives and Libraries

The Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill is home to the combined archives of the Museum itself and those of the Saddleworth Historical Society.

Other relevant archives, particularly for parish register copies, include the Oldham Local Studies Library and the Local Studies Unit of the Manchester Central Library.


Much useful information can be found in the Saddleworth Bibliography. The Society's quarterly Bulletin is also full of useful information.

Sources include the writings of local authors, J.Bottomley, J. Bradbury, A.J.Howcroft,   Ammon Wrigley, Bernard Barnes and others.

Photographic material can be found in collections published over the last few years as well as in the archives.

In recent years, two videos highlighting the history and festivals of the area have been made.

 Business and Commerce Records

The Society's archives contain some business records among various collections of papers. Some commercial records relating to Saddleworth are also held by various repositories.


Saddleworth forms part of Yorkshire for census purposes. The Society's Archives have surname indexes for the area for each of the censuses from 1851 to 1891.


Stone Age  Some signs of early settlement. Saddleworth may have been part of a broad path of movement across the Pennines. 72-140AD Roman occupation in a succession of two small forts at Castleshaw. c. 930 - c. 1100 Saddleworth, as part of Saxon territory between Ribble and the Mersey, becomes part of Diocese of Lichfield. Incorporation into Parish of Rochdale. c. 1100-c. 1250 Stapleton family of Yorkshire installed as lords of the manor by de Lacy overlords. Attachment to West Riding of Yorkshire. First chapel built. Manor of Hildebrighthope (Friarmere) granted to Roche Abbey. c. 1300 - c 1350 Quick (Quickmere) passed from the de Quick family to the Traffords of Trafford and Staveley family of Staveley (Staley). The Shaw estate (Shaw Mere) passed from the Shaw family to the Radcliffes of Ordsall. c. 1270-1590 Manor of Saddleworth with Quick passed by marriage to Scargill and later Tunstall families. Manor sold to Ramsden's of Huddersfield. 1543 - 1649 Following dissolution of monasteries, Friarmere lands sold to Arthur Assheton of Rochdale and subsequently to tenants. 1657-1791 Farrer family of Ewood and Barnborough Grange in Yorkshire Lords of the Manor. 1700-1750 Increasing growth in domestic woollen industry. 1750-1800 Rapid growth in woollen industry. Large number of water mills built in valley bottoms, later use of steam power. Birth and growth of "industrial" villages spurred on by better communications. Sale of Manor of Saddleworth to tenants. 1800-1950 Continued industrial growth through flourishing of wool and cotton trades. 1950- Decline of the textile industry. Mills closed, demolished, or converted. Resurgence of activity around history, culture, and heritage.

Church History

A brief history of Saddleworth's churches can be found in The Saddleworth Story (Chapter 3).

The principal church of the parish, St Chad's was founded about 1200 by the Stapleton family, then lords of the manor. under the auspices of the Deans of Whalley, rectors of the Church of Rochdale. Patronage was later transfered (with Rochdale) to the Cheshire-based Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw later to be shifted to the Abbey of Whalley in Lancashire. In about 1250, the northern part of the parish, known as Hildebrighthope (later Friarmere), was gifted to the Roche Abbey, whose monks established a grange in the Castleshaw valley.

Saddleworth was a chapelry within the parish of Rochdale until 1866 when it became an independent Parish.

'Daughter' churches, or 'chapels-of-ease' were established at Heights (St Thomas, Friarmere, 1768 -1962), Dobcross (Holy Trinity, 1787), Lydgate (St Ann, 1788), Friezland (Christ Church, 1850), Denshaw (Christ Church, 1863), Greenfield (St Mary, 1875), Delph (St. Hilda, 1884), Roughtown, Mossley (St Johns 1878) and Scouthead (St Paul, 1889). Friarmere, Dobcross, Lydgate, Friezland and Denshaw were perpetual curacies until 1866 when they became parishes. Denshaw was created out of Friarmere parochial chapelry in 1864, Greenfield and Roughtown, Mossley was created out of Friezland parish and Scouthead parish out of Lydgate parish

Independent chapels were established at Delph in 1746, Springhead 1807, Uppermill 1807, Dobcross 1871, and Scouthead 1897. Wesleyan chapels were established at Delph 1781, Uppermill 1811, Greenfield 1843, Roughtown 1857, and Diggle 1872. New Connexion at Delph c. 1845 and Primitive Methodists at Delph 1871.

Civil Registration

Saddleworth civil registration records are now held at Oldham.

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