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Denton Town - History

Denton Coat of ArmsTownship Information - Denton


Early History

There are at least two explanations for the name Denton - that it meant 'Dane Town' or 'valley settlement', 'den' meaning valley 'ton' meaning settlement. Denton is mentioned in several 14th century documents, referred to as Denton-subter-Danerhaugh, and by the 1660s it was a large village of 500 inhabitants. The population in 1801 was 2,500, in 1841 was 7,000, and by 1950 over 25,000. The large increase during the 19th century was due to Denton becoming a suburb of Manchester.

One of the most remarkable buildings existing in Denton today is St. Lawrence's known as Denton Old Church, or 'Old Peg', because of the wooden pegs used in its construction. It was built in 1530 and, despite alterations and renovations, is still not greatly changed today.

In 1884 the local governments of the townships of Denton and Haughton were amalgamated under one authority - the Denton and Haughton Local Board - and in 1894 the Committee of the Lancashire County Council decided that Denton and Haughton were to be united and known as the Denton Urban District Council. The free library was planned to celebrate Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 and was opened on April 28, 1888. The cemetery opened in 1894, also allowing the public access to woodland surrounding it, and in 1913 Denton Park opened.

Communications

In 1765, after an Act of Parliament, the main road from Stockport through Denton to Ashton was widened and improved and the first Toll Bar established at Denton. The main highway connecting Denton with the 'outer world', the Manchester to Hyde road, was opened after an 1818 Act of Parliament. The railways arrived in October 1882, although in 1853 there was a private railway between Denton Collieries and the Stockport-Ashton line.

Industrialisation

Coal mining has been in existence in Denton for over 2,000 years. There is a record in the registers at Denton Old Church of a man killed in a pit at Haughton in 1743. At one time coal mining was one of the most important industries in Denton. The main mine was Denton Colliery Co. and the shaft known as Burton Nook was sunk in 1841. Other pits were Hulme's Pit and Top Pit. In April 1926, during the Great Coal Strike (usually known as the Miner's Strike), the mines were closed for several weeks.

Graphic - Multiroller Planking MachineHatting was a major industry in Denton, originating in the 16th century when local farmers made coarse felts from wool and rabbit fur in small workshops attached to the farms. In the 1700s some hatters began employing workers and, by 1825, there were 20 firms in existence. The industry expanded in the 1830s but in the 1840s and 1850s depression, a strike in 1841 and a fall in demand for felt hats created a slump in hatting. Wages fell by 35 per cent, unemployment rose and many families had to leave the district for work. The industry improved after 1860 - mechanisation increased production as demand returned and many felt hatters moved into the previously despised silk hat trade. The decline, which started in 1920s, as bare heads became acceptable and hats began to be used for 'special' occasions, never halted, and hatting today no longer has the importance it had in Denton in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There were many industries in Denton linked with the hatting trade. Turner Atherton and Co Ltd, founded in 1860, were inventors and makers of machinery for all hatting purposes. The Denton Fur Cutting Company, H & P Richardson, engineers millwrights and hatters machinists, Clayton and Web, hat leather stitching and producers of other hatting specialties are just a few examples of industries connected with hatting.

The Woolfenden Family

Thomas Woolfenden who was a member of the first Urban District Council was a member of the famous hatting family of J Woolfenden & Co, founded in 1830. With the other major hatting families in the area, such as Walker, Ashworth and Linney, James Bevan and Co Ltd, J Howe and sons Ltd, J Moores and Sons Ltd, they played an important role in the social, political and industrial life of the town.

The Board of Guardians, the UDC, local parliamentary parties and local churches all counted members of the Woolfenden and other hatting families on their committees. The members of the wealthy hatting families also contributed to various funds such as the Denton Prize Band and Denton Cricket Club.

Joseph Woolfenden came to Dane Shot Bank Farm as a farmer from Bury around 1820 and, by 1830, was manufacturing hats in a small workshop adjacent to the farm. Hatting at Dane Bank, and elsewhere in Denton, was still a supplement to agriculture. This small-scale industry soon outgrew the workshop and a large factory was built nearby. Houses were constructed for the workers at Joseph Street and Daneshot Street and, by 1873, the factory had to be extended to accommodate extra machinery as all the hatting processes were completed under one roof. The Woolfenden brothers had three large houses built for themselves in Dane Bank, symbols of their new status of wealthy hat manufacturers, successful financially and socially.

Hatters Unions

The earliest felt makers were controlled by the Haberdashers Company, but in 1604 the Felt Makers Company was granted its own charter. In 1790 Trade Clubs were organised into the Hatters Society of Great Britain and Ireland, or the Fair Trade Union. In the 19th century the northern workers split with London and formed the Blue Black Union. Men in unions or Trade Clubs received sickness, unemployment and death benefits in return for weekly subscriptions and, when unemployed, tramping for work, they received financial help and advice about work when they presented their card at a turn-house - often a pub such as the Red Lion at Denton. After 1862 contributions were 6d per week, unemployment benefit 7/- for 13 weeks, and funeral benefit £5 for each member or wife.

In 1879 the Amalgamated Society of Journeymen Felt Hatters brought together all the various societies and associations and headquarters were set up in Denton where the union held meetings at the Jolly Hatters Arms. The depression of the 1840s and the strike of 1841 were major factors behind the large numbers joining the union. Unions were also set up for women and juveniles to prevent exploitation of their cheaper labour.

The unions were constantly improving wages and conditions. In 1928 Thomas Mallalieu, general secretary from 1894-1934, was working for a report and discovered that in 1900, hours were over 55.5 per week, the average age at death of members was 45 years 9 months, and half died of chest complaints. By 1927, conditions had been improved, hours reduced to 46.5 per week, the average age at death was 64 years and a quarter died of chest complaints. Even after the decline of the importance of hatting the union still campaigned for improved conditions and wages. By 1965 they had a 40 hour week and three week's paid holiday.

an illustration of St. Lawrence Church, Denton - named 'Th'owd Peg' by G SteindorffThe Twentieth Century

New opportunities have arisen with construction of new motorways. The M67 at Denton opened in September 1981 and the M60 is now complete. Denton roundabout (M63/M67/A57) has already seen a new Sainsburys store, a Whitbread Travel Lodge and Stablegate Restaurant, and a Toyota car showroom. The area has a number of key employment sites along the M60. The Blueprint for Denton reveals plans to revitalise the Town Centre, Crown Point and the Town Hall. In 1991 the town's population was 35,820.

Page last updated: 20 November 2014