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The Cotton Tree Public House, Newton

The Cotton Tree, Blue PlaqueA blue plaque in honour of the history of the Cotton Tree Public House in Newton, Hyde was unveiled by the Rt. Hon. Jack Cunningham on Saturday, 18th December 1999.

The Cotton Tree and The Early Years

The Cotton Tree was opened in 1830, by a man called Joseph Cash. It was so named as it coincided with the opening of the cotton mills in the Newton area by the Ashton Brothers. Unfortunately, Joseph was murdered on 21st August 1833, when he was dragged from his horse near his home and beaten to death. To this day, the murder remains unsolved. Joseph was visiting a neighbouring inn, drinking with several men. An argument started, resulting with two of the men being removed from the pub around midnight.

Joseph left with the remaining men and two hours later he was found dying. The Police could not find enough evidence against any of the men Joseph had been drinking with, although most were suspects. Almost all the inhabitants of Newton were present at his funeral.

The General Strike (1842)

During the hot summer of 1842, areas of present day Tameside became the storm centre of strikes and riots which continued for several weeks, spreading to become a national phenomenon. This 'General Strike' foreshadowed the turbulent revolutions which were to shake the whole of Europe in 1848. It is popularly remembered as the 'Plug Riots' due to the strikers' practice of disabling the mill boilers by removal of their plugs.

Two Blue Plaques have previously been erected to commemorate both The First General Strike and Joseph Rayner Stephens (1805-1879), a renowned chartist leader who campaigned against the Poor Law and for factory reform. Both plaques are located on Stalybridge Town Hall frontage, Waterloo Road.

The Cotton Tree Connection

The Cotton Tree was a popular meeting place for the local Chartists. One meeting, organised by Joseph Rayner Stephens, held on 28th July 1839, was attended by over 4,000 people, including other prominent Chartists, Dr. McDouall and John Bradley. After dark, the large crowds met with firearms and banners and was of 'a most violent and inflammatory character'.

The crowd marched into Hyde via Flowery Field and after much shouting and discharging of firearms, the people dispersed in the early hours of the next morning.

Joseph Rayner Stephens was later arrested, tried and found guilty of inciting a riot. He was sentenced to eighteen months in prison but on his release continued to play a major role in the development of Hyde.

Chartism

Chartism was a political movement which took advantage of the mood of 1842 to try and achieve its desired reforms. It became a focus for the worker's agitation and a channel for action.

Chartism had come into being in 1838 partly as a response to bad trade and its name came from its charter of six points, as follows :-

  1. A vote for every man 21 years of age.
  2. The Ballot - to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No Property Qualification for Members of Parliament - thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of Members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person to serve a constituency.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors.
  6. Annual parliament, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation.