Township Information - Hyde
Its name derives from "hide" meaning a measure of land roughly equivalent to 120 acres. The town is largely a creation of the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. In the late 18th century the area that was to become the town centre was no more than a cluster of houses known as Red Pump Street. Gee Cross was much larger and "Hyde" was still only used to refer to the estates of Hyde Hall on the banks of the Tame. Altogether there were only 3,500 inhabitants in the district in 1801.
Hyde's growth was inseparable from that of the cotton industry. As the town's historian, Thomas Middleton, said "Prior to its connections with the cotton industry, Hyde has no separate identity It was merely an outlying township of the Parish of Stockport". As new mills were erected, cottages were built to house the workers and these hamlets gradually grew together to form Hyde. The name appears to have come into common usage by 1830. Significantly, Hyde received its first Anglican place of worship, St George's, in 1832. Dissenting churches existed prior to this, notably the Unitarian Chapel at Gee Cross dating from 1708.
The earliest mill owners of much consequence in the town were the Sidebothams, in the cotton trade at Kingston from 1748. Steam power arrived in Hyde a few years later than in many factory towns but by 1820 all the new mills built in the town utilised steam rather than water power. Local coal was vital for the supply of these mills. Hyde was fortunate in lying on the South Lancashire coalfield (altogether of course the town was actually in Cheshire, the River Tame forming the county boundary). Many local cotton employers had shares in coal and Sidebothams and Ashtons owned their own mines.
The centre of Hyde was not served by a railway until 1858, but Godley and Newton both had stations on the Manchester to Sheffield line, constructed in 1841. Hyde's growth had been especially enhanced by the Peak Forest Canal which was opened in 1800. In this period, Hyde was also served by Turnpike roads from Manchester to Stockport.
Living and working conditions were certainly no worse in Hyde than in most of the cotton towns. The Ashtons who became the town's largest employers provided good facilities for their workers. Hyde played its part in the social unrest which was such a feature of the early 19th century. A seventeen year old Hyde youth was among those killed at the famous Peterloo Massacre at St. Peter's Field, Manchester in 1819. The murder of the young mill owner Thomas Ashton in 1831 by men in the pay of the Unions who were angry at their exclusion from Ashton's mills became national news. The town was a stronghold of the Chartist Movement which, from 1837-1848, posed a severe threat to public order with its demand for massive political reforms.
The Ashton Family
The Ashtons were among the earliest cotton pioneers in Hyde. From 1800 they worked as a family business with mills at Gerrards Wood and Wilson Brook at Godley. Six brothers were involved in the business which, as well as coal and cotton, also established the calico printing works at Newton Bank
In 1823 the brothers separated, Samuel and Thomas taking the major shares; the former establishing himself at Apethorn Mill and soon after building Woodley Mill, while Thomas ran the factory at the Hollow. The Ashtons were particularly noted for running mills that did both spinning and weaving, a successful practice when most mills concentrated on one process.
Thomas Ashton Jnr.
Thomas Ashton Jnr. was born in 1808 and ran his father's business with his elder brother from 1845. He continued his father's tradition of providing good conditions for this workers. The estate at Flowery Field was a testament to the Ashtons' work and they were amongst the first employers to provide day schools for their child workers.
Thomas Ashton Jnr. was one of the most prominent Liberals in the North West but he always refused to stand for Parliament. It was, however, his son, the future Lord Ashton, who became the town's first MP in 1885. Thomas Ashton Jnr. earned particular note for his conduct during the Cotton Famine of 1861-5, keeping his mills running despite the high cost of cotton, and even managing to build a new mill at Throstle Bank, thus saving many of his employees from unemployment. Thomas Middleton talked of Ashton's 'high sense of public duty', and he certainly was active in numerous causes. He was President of the Mechanics Institute for five years, the founder of Hyde Sick Kitchen and a great promoter of local education.
It was no surprise that Ashton became Hyde's first Mayor on its incorporation as a borough in 1881. Two years later he laid the foundation stone for the impressive new Town Hall which opened in 1885. Thomas Ashton died in 1898, by which time his business employed thousands of people in three extremely modern mills. Of all the Hyde cotton firms the Ashton Brothers & Co Ltd have survived the longest. Not until 1968 were the mills taken over by Courtaulds.
The new town of Hyde was quick to provide modern facilities for its inhabitants including: in 1889 a Public Baths; in 1895 the Fire Station; in 1899 the Free Library and Technical School.
The Twentieth Century
The major features in the development of Hyde in the present century are the considerable growth of municipal services and modernisation of the town, along with major changes in the town's industry.
The early years of the century saw the opening of the park and new schools, including the County School on Clarendon Road. The period after the Great War saw a slump in the fortunes of the local cotton industry. By 1939, half of the town's mills had closed. One beneficial result, however, was the construction of Dowson Road, under an unemployment relief scheme. New industries had begun to appear in Hyde in the late 19th century and this process now considerably accelerated. By the 1930s, the town had a large range of industries including rubber, leather, engineering, ice cream, chemicals and glove works.
One of the towns most noted achievements came with the success of Hyde Seals water polo team who, in the period 1904-14, were the finest in the world, three times winning the world championships. Previously the town's most conspicuous sporting achievement was a rather negative one - her soccer team's 26-0 defeat by Preston North End in 1887 being the greatest defeat in an F.A. Cup match then or since. In 1930 all Hyde feted Frances Lockett who had won the first ever Cotton Queen contest which had been started in an attempt to boost the flagging fortunes of the trade. Despite this success Hyde was not able to escape a major collapse of the industry to which it owed its very existence.
Hyde has seen many changes in the post 1945 era, the new town centre and housing schemes, and the huge estate at Hattersley, being most conspicuous. In 1991 the town's population was 34,821.