Broadbottom Community Association

History Project - 1795

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 This is how he described the hall: 'Below the bridge is Broad-Bottom, a house belonging to Mr Bostock, in a very lonely, but pleasing situation, surrounded by fine meadow ground, which is partly circled by the Mersey.’  (Aikin)

In  1795 a book was published which offers a glimpse of Broadbottom as it was at the start of the industrial revolution. That book, Description of the country 30 to 40 miles round Manchester by Aikin, describes a scattered settlement which was still part of Mottram: Broadbottom does not emerge as a separate entity until later. The main road now linking Broadbottom and Mottram did not exist. Aikin’s  book includes a map which shows roughly how the roads ran over the Mudd from Mottram and down Gorsey Brow to the old pack bridge built in 1683 and down Hill End through Hurst Clough to Tommy Lowe’s mill.

SUMMERBOTTOM with its overhead loomshop for handloom weaving.

Aikin visited two genteel homes: Whitegates, (not the current house which was built on later) where Samuel Lowe lived, and he met Mr Bostock at Broadbottom Hall. He walked down to the old bridge. He saw the countryside almost unchanged with romantic views at Cat’s Tor and the spreading grounds of Broadbottom Hall.



The lane running down Hurst Clough across from the end of Hill End Lane which led down to Tommy Lowe's Mill. (now private)

(photo Joyce Powell)




There was a farming community. The most ancient farmhouse was probably Hill End Farm (photo above before restoration) below Whitegates, some parts dating from the middle ages and with a fine building dated 1604. Other farmsteads included a group of small tenant farms on the Hague, and Brown Road Farm.

A cluster of houses, some dating from the end of the seventeenth century stood at the bottom of what is now Moss Lane, now  called Hodge Fold.  The oldest part was then a single dwelling called Hodge Hall or possibly Hodge Hole. There were also cottages on the other side of the lane where a modern bungalow stands.

All the land, except Broadbottom Hall, was owned by the Tollemache estate, so all farmers were tenants. Farming was not particularly profitable on the hilly terrain and the Tollemaches do not seem to have invested much in land improvement.

 Tenancies had been only 14 or 21 years, though they were often handed on. Tollemache allowed longer leases (99 years) and this was one of the essential conditions for the growth of the mills



The dye vats at Hodge Print Works

Postcard of Hodge Fold (Bill and Kath Shaw)

As well as the two mills that were seen by Aikin, other industrial development was taking place. There were two other cotton mills either already there or established within a couple of years of his visit: one at the Hodge Mills which had been a woollen mill (and maybe before that a much older corn mill) and Wharf Mill or Moss Mill was built just downstream (1796) by a Mr Moss.

 A John Swindells rented Hodge Mill in 1799 and built the first six cottages at Summerbottom with its workers’ cottages and an overhead loomshop in the 1790s. Broad Mills was begun in 1801.

At this stage the mills were driven by water wheels, and weirs were built to raise the water head and mill leats (ponds)  to ensure that there was a sufficient water supply. There was some  locally available coal from drift mines on the Mudd and a small coalmine next to Moss Mill.  The first mills were for spinning or fulling and dying the cloth. Weaving was still done on handlooms as a cottage industry, though Summerbottom represents an attempt to industrialise the process a little.
The map of Mottram from Aikin's Description of the country 30 to 40 miles round Manchester.


Aikin was struck both by the romantic glamour of the river valley and its craggy cliffs  
But he also recorded evidence of changes in the landscape brought about by two new mills. One was owned by Mr Lowe’s son Thomas, down in Hurst Clough,
‘’His son has built a cotton factory in a deep valley, concealed from the sight by an oak wood.’




The other was Best Hill Mill, built by Kelsall and Marsland around 1784. Aikin caught the village on the cusp of change.
‘This pile of building has much injured the picturesque beauty of the view.’ 


(picture: detail from engraving of railway viaduct in 1840s)

Cat's Tor in 1794. (the far side of the bridge and railway viaduct)
Detail from Aikin's map of Mottram showing Whitegate House, Hill End Farm, Broadbottom Hall and two early mills, Lowe's and Kelsey and Marsland's Best Hill Mill.

Broadbottom Bridge, built in 1683 for transporting goods on pack horses, salt from Cheshire, and wool.                        (Aikin)


Why start our history here?  Broadbottom is a much older community than the one which grew so rapidly in the early years of the nineteenth century but the village we live in now is essentially the one which sprang up then. What did it look like before that sudden growth?