Engraving from the Illustrated London News  December 1862     (courtesy Joyce Powell)

In the 1860s the village was struck by an economic disaster. During the American civil war no cotton was exported and the mills in Broadbottom closed. The cotton famine lasted from 1861-5 and the workers of Manchester and Lancashire suffered much privation.
Broadbottom has sprung into existence during the last 50 years but for a few years after the memorable “Panic” the mills were closed and the place had quite a forlorn appearance, the pavement of many of the streets actually becoming overgrown with grass.”
(Chadwick 1890s)

'Twice a week-namely on Tuesdays and Fridays- some hundreds of operatives from the cotton mills gather in the courtyard of Mr John Chapman to receive their breakfast which is given without limitation; and, in addition, hundreds of females obtain, every Friday, relief for their families which is given to them in the shape of flour, bread, clothing etc. It is estimated that from 700 to 1,000 people are the recipients weekly of Mr. and Mrs. Chapman 's beneficence.'

Illustrated London News                                               

John Chapman at Hill End fed the starving villagers and provided some alternative work on his land. An old lady, interviewed some years ago, remembered her father saying they lived off turnip tops. Chapman was remembered as a great benefactor of local people in this crisis. In Hyde and Stalybridge there was unrest when the workers could not easily get poor relief. 

The population of the village declined during the 1860s by about half from 1,000 to 458, and the 1871 census shows a large number of unoccupied houses.

The economic catastrophe was made worse by other factors.

John Sidebottom inherited Broad Mills gambled extravagantly and got into debt, losing about £45,000 in the 1850s. When he died in mysterious circumstances in 1863, Chapman bought up part of the estate. In 1869 Harewood Lodge was uninhabited and the mill was bought by a another local millowner, Hirst. The direct link with the mills and the Sidebottoms ended.

Mr John Sidebottom JP Harewood Lodge Broadbottom of the firm G and J Sidebottom Cotton Spinners died Monday June 1st 1863. He was found dead lying on a couch in his Turkish bath room at Harewood Lodge. Inquest jury found that he had died of suffocation from inhaling carbonic gas. Aged 45 yrs.
Last seen alive 8-00pm Sunday evening, body found 4am Monday morning.
North Cheshire Herald Sat 6th June 1863
This early photograph (left) taken at Hill End House sometime in the 1860s shows a group of wealthier women, presumably some of them the ladies of the Chapman family.  The affluence of their dress makes a stark contrast with the women queuing for relief.

(photograph courtesy of Joyce Powell)

There are few contemporary accounts of local farming but there are glimpses both of small tenancies and of some agricultural squalor. Two descriptions from the 1870s suggest that farming was a modest living for most. The Chapmans and Sidebottoms also farmed, as did a local shopowner, Booth, providing some meat for his shop. Chapman certainly improved his land and was a proactive landlord.
This is the view from the grounds at Hill End House looking towards Charlesworth: 
the remainder of the background is divided into small farms, very primitive in their style. Generally a few cows are kept on the farms, the occupiers of which and their ancestors have rented from the Duke of Norfolk for many generations.’ (Chadwick 1890s)

Traditional hayricks: 1930s  - photo courtesy of Gould family

And later in the same account by Chadwick there is a grim description of conditions on the Hague, a small hamlet of  farms owned by Tollemache, whose tenants included the Shaw family and their relatives:
‘About half a mile from the church (Mottram) is an old hamlet called the Hague which.. has remained stationary for the last 50 years. It consists of a few farms and a number of primitive-looking cottages, which could never boast of a properly formed sewer, to say nothing of a street. From ‘time immemorial’ the water has been allowed to find its way without let or hindrance into the adjoining fields, or to remain in puddle holes in the front of the houses until the warm sun has kindly removed it by evaporation. Sometimes however the rays of the sun are so long in coming forth that the water is covered with a thick green matter, which spreads its pestiferous mischief in the hamlet. In many cases the way to the houses is over a heap of ashes and accumulated filth of various kinds and were it not for the bracing air of the surrounding country great mischief would result from the neglect of proper sanitary measures.’
 ( Chadwick 1890s)

The Shaws also kept the Drum, the old public house on Gorsey Brow, though this too closed during the depression of the 1860s.The pub gained its name at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Thomas Shaw, a weaver and the tenant was given the drum of the Mottram band which he had played. The pub has gone now but the well remains on Gorsey Brow from which the water came to brew the beer, the 'old drummer's sixpenny'.  Richard Matley of Hodge Print works knew Richard Cobden, famous as a founder of the anti-corn law league and in favour of free trade. Cobden's family owned a calico printing business which did some business with Matley. Matley took Cobden to the Drum ot sample the bread and cheese for which the pub was well-known. The landlord Shaw was a committed Tory, and against the repeal of the corn laws which kept the price of bread high. He served Cobden oatcake with his cheese but when he discovered the identity of his customer he swore he would have served him bread had he known. Cobden declared himself satisfied with the good plain country fare and promised that bread would be cheaper by and by.

Shaw bought the beerhouse and the four cottages attached to it in1841 when part of the Tollemache estate was sold off and later  built four more cottages on Gorsey Brow which are still standing.

Postcard of cottages on Pingot Lane in more picturesque times


From the sale catalogue of the Tollemache estate in 1841

Courtesy of Joyce Powell










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Broadbottom Community Association

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The 1860s

The Cotton Famine