Greenhill Grammar school, Oldham





I was watching our local news recently and there was an item about a park that had been built in Plymouth in the 1930s to create employment during the depression of that era.
It got me wondering just how many local parks owe their origins to job creation schemes devised to combat periods of mass unemployment.

0010beautiful oldham smokey owdham   
Smoky Owdham , Beautiful Oldham

Some of you will already know that Alexandra park was built in the 1860s to create employment for destitute cotton workers.
Below, for those who didn't know the reason behind the creation of the park is a potted history.

Because of the struggle for the abolition of slavery in North America, and the ensuing American Civil War in the mid nineteenth century, cotton exports from America to Europe almost ceased, and the mill towns of the North-West of England began to suffer.
Thousands of mill workers from, Oldham, Bury, Bolton and Rochdale, attended a meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester voting overwhelmingly to support the abolitionists, even though this meant unemployment and probable starvation for their families.
The Oldhamers were later praised for their stand although riots broke out in many other towns in the North West.

The cotton famine of the 1860s created chronic unemployment in Oldham.
Many of the cotton workers were self-employed people who rented or owned parts of factories, working there for themselves.
They would have had little cash saved to tide them over this lean period.
By the summer of 1862 the Spinners' Union funds had run out and a Central Relief Fund was started.

Robert Ascroft, a wealthy Oldham mill owner, persuaded many of his friends to help in starting a job creation scheme to keep the town alive.
By 1863 a committee had been formed and with the help of a government loan and with the purchase of land at Swine Clough the creation of a park was planned.
This brought about the eventual creation of Alexandra Park.

A Park Committee was formed, and 72 acres of land at Swine Clough, a boggy area once used to house Oldhams pig population, was purchased from the Reverend John Cocker of Crompton, with a stipulation by the Reverend Cocker that the unemployed cotton workers were employed to do the work of creating the park.
Work began on the park and the first sod was cut in 1863 by the Mayor John Riley.

"eddief on 27 Feb 2011:-
   Here's a short report of the opening of Alexandra
   Park (or the Peoples New Park).
   The report is taken from the Penny Illustrated
   Paper of 9 September 1865.

Men working on the park were provided with a free hot meal each day not only for themselves but also for their families, there was also a bread ration and milk for infants.
A soup kitchen was opened at The Working Men's Hall, with more soup kitchens soon opened.
It was reported that meals of porridge were served three times a day, but there is no confirmation of this, and other reports say that vegetable and occasional meat soups and stews were provided.
Local allotments provided vegetables which were used by, and traded between, the growers.
The vegetables were given to the communal kitchens to provide food for all the community.
The old and sick were also provided for.
As the land was cleared, the workers were given the trees and shrubs from the clearance, to use as fuel in their homes.

The park was opened on the 28th of August 1865 by the Mayor of Oldham, Josiah Radcliffe.
Oldham not only survived the hard times, but with the creation of Alexandra Park gained a wonderful asset.
The park was named Alexandra Park to celebrate the recent marriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.


0030lancashire cotton famine opening of alexandra park at oldham

From an engraving showing the opening ceremony of the park.

Lancashire Cotton Famine
Opening of Alexandra Park at Oldham

28th of August 1865
Original antique engraving, 1865