Saddleworth is a civil parish of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham in Greater Manchester, England. It comprises several villages and hamlets amongst the west side of the Pennine hills: Austerlands, Delph, Denshaw, Diggle, Dobcross, Friezland, Grasscroft, Greenfield, Grotton, Lydgate, Scouthead, Springhead, Uppermill.
Saddleworth, which lies east of the large town of Oldham and 11 miles (17.7 km) east-northeast of the city of Manchester, is broadly rural, has a scattered population of 24,351, making it one of the larger civil parishes in the United Kingdom.
Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, for centuries Saddleworth was a centre of woollen cloth production in the domestic system. Following the Industrial Revolution, Saddleworth became a centre for cotton spinning and weaving during the 18th and 19th centuries, so much so that by the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, mechanized textile production had become a vital part of the local economy. One of the most famous mills, based in Friezland, was the Royal George Mill owned by the Whitehead family and manufactured felt used for many purposes including pianofortes, billiard tables and flags. The three brothers, Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, James Heywood Whitehead and Francis Frederick Whitehead who owned the Mill were extremely philanthropic and amongst other bequests in the 1850s built Christ Church in Friezland along with the Parsonage, School and Headmaster’s house.The land on which these were built was purchased in 1849 from L. & N.W. Railway Company. Christ Church, Friezland is still thriving today whilst the Church School has been rebuilt and the beguiling Parsonage and grounds, built in the Gothic Revival style, has become a Grade || Listed Building and as "Friezland Grange" is now in private hands. The boom in industry called for greater transport links, including the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and several railways.
Following the Great Depression Saddleworth’s textile sector declined. Much of Saddleworth’s architecture and infrastructure dates from its textile processing days however, notably the Saddleworth Viaduct and several cottages and terraces, many built by the local Mill Owners.
For centuries Saddleworth was linked, ecclesiastically, with the parish of Rochdale and was long talked of as the part of Yorkshire where Lancastrians lived. The former Saddleworth Urban District was the only part of the West Riding to have been amalgamated into Greater Manchester in 1974. However, strong cultural links with Yorkshire remain amongst its communities. There are several brass bands in the parish.
The first documentary evidence of Saddleworth appears in the Domesday Book in which it is referred to as "Quick", spelt "Thoac"; where it is described as "Land of the King in Eurvicsire (Yorkshire), Agbrigg Wapentake."
The history of the region clearly dates further back than the Domesday Book however. Place names derived from Celtic and Anglian dialects, along with the discovery of flint arrowheads and gold Viking rings all point to a much earlier Saddleworth, possibly as old as the Stone Age. Furthermore, there is a Roman road running through the area and Castleshaw Roman fort. Also present in the Saddleworth area is a possible Bronze Age bowl barrow (grid reference SD98010746). Despite excavations, no grave goods or human remains have been found associated with the barrow.
The steep slopes of the Saddleworth area and the acidic soils of the region have never been particularly conducive to intensive farming; meaning that long before the Victorian era, Saddleworth already had a long established, albeit domestic, textile tradition. Small, basic mills had been existent in Saddleworth before the industrial revolution, but these were increasingly replaced by larger more intensive establishments. So much so that by the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, mechanized textile production had become a vital part of the local economy.
The boom in industry that had occurred in Saddleworth during the Industrial Revolution called for greater transport links. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was begun in 1794 at the height of Canal Mania, connecting Huddersfield to Stalybridge via Saddleworth and completed seventeen years later in 1811; when the Standedge Canal Tunnel at Diggle was finally opened. The decline of canals and the rise of steam powered locomotives left the canal falling behind the competition, and so it was decided that a railway tunnel would be built parallel to the canal, which was completed in 1848. The rise in traffic demanded a second tunnel be built, completed in 1871. Both of these were single line tunnels and eventually superseded by the 1894 tunnel, a double line tunnel, which is the only one of the three still regularly carrying passengers.
Unlike the majority of the Oldham Metropolitan Borough, where the industrial architecture was generally constructed from Accrington redbrick, Saddleworth’s textiles mills and supporting infrastructure was made from stone. This is in keeping with other settlements amongst the southwest Pennines, such as Milnrow near Rochdale.
Although on the western side of the Pennine watershed, Saddleworth, or Quick as it was once known, has lain within the historic county boundaries of Yorkshire since the middle ages. From a very ancient time, the area formed part of the Agbrigg Wapentake, in the "Land of the King in Eurvicsire" (Yorkshire).
For a time, during the 17th century, Saddleworth constituted a chapelry within the ancient parish of Rochdale in Salfordshire, which was otherwise entirely in the ancient county of Lancashire.
In 1866 it became a civil parish in its own right and in 1889 became part of the administrative county of the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1894 the parish’s boundaries were altered somewhat, with the parts in Quickmere Middle Division (Springhead), Mossley and Uppermill becoming Urban Districts. The residue became a single-parish rural district.
In 1872, Saddleworth was recorded to be "a hamlet, a chapelry, a township, and a district, in Rochdale parish and West Riding of Yorkshire". At this time, a post office for the area was found under the name of Uppermill which was under Manchester.
In 1900 the boundaries were changed again with the inclusion of Uppermill, and the single-parish rural district being instead replaced by the "Saddleworth Urban District". In 1937 it incorporated Springhead Urban District.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, the West Riding of Yorkshire was abolished and Saddleworth was incorporated into the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester.
Unlike neighbouring Shaw and Crompton, Saddleworth is a Successor parish, and thus was automatically granted civil parish status in 1974 when its urban district status was abolished.
Up until 1996, Saddleworth’s official postal county was Lancashire, due to it forming part of the Oldham post town. Postal counties were abolished in 1996 however.
Saddleworth forms part of the Oldham East and Saddleworth parliamentary constituency, of which the Member of Parliament is Debbie Abrahams.
It is split into three electoral wards; Saddleworth North, Saddleworth South and Saddleworth West and Lees
Saddleworth makes up around 52% (29.4 square miles (76.1 km²)) of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham in terms of area, and remains largely rural. Saddleworth Moor in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is a moorland plateau that straddles the boundary with West Yorkshire.
Bounded directly to the west by Oldham, Lees and Shaw and Crompton, Saddleworth is twelve miles (19.3 km) southwest of Huddersfield.
At the 2001 UK census, Saddleworth had a total population of 24,351. For every 100 females, there were 94.7 males. The average household size was 2.39. Of those aged 16–74 in Saddleworth, 45.3% had no academic qualifications or one GCSE, lower than the figures for all of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham (55.2%) and about the same for England (45.5%). According to the census, 1.9% were unemployed and 28.2% were economically inactive. 18.5% of the population were under the age of 16 and 7.3% were aged 75 and over; the mean age of the people of Saddleworth was 40.92. 71.5% of residents described their health as ‘good’.
Since the local government reforms of 1974, some of the people of Saddleworth have been uneasy about their primary geographic reference frame, with parts of the local community feeling aggrieved at Saddleworth forming part of Greater Manchester. Saddleworth, where the local architecture of stone cottages is of the Yorkshire type, is the only part of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham to come from the historic county boundaries of Yorkshire, the rest being from Lancashire. It is also the only part of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester which lay within those borders. Greater Manchester is based on the conurbation of towns surrounding the city of Manchester with relatively few villages in between. However, Saddleworth is highly rural, and, for the purposes of the Office for National Statistics, most of the parish’s territory does not form part of the Greater Manchester Urban Area.
The Saddleworth White Rose Society organises events every Yorkshire Day (1 August) to promote its contention that Saddleworth remains part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Prince of Wales referred to Saddleworth’s continuing Yorkshire status when he visited the area in 2001 saying "The fact that Saddleworth is still part of the historic West Riding is extremely important".
In 2004, public meetings were held to discuss the feasibility of splitting Saddleworth from the Borough of Oldham. Some residents at the time said they would prefer to become part of the metropolitan county of West Yorkshire or a new South Pennine authority, connecting rural towns and villages on both sides of the border. Even though such a move could involve merging with the neighbouring Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees, Oldham councillors maintained the split was not feasible as Saddleworth does not have sufficient hospital provision, civic buildings, transport, schooling nor other infrastructure in its own right. Councillor Ken Hulme arranged a meeting for the matter to be discussed. One councillor remarked "They [Saddleworth] want a bigger slice of the pie than the rest of the borough. The people of the rest of Oldham are not going to subsidise Saddleworth, and Saddleworth can’t go it alone. It couldn’t afford to provide the services it needs."
In 2010, Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council erected new signs along its boundaries. Those marking the boundary of Saddleworth say ‘in the historic County of York’ at the top, alongside a white rose. Later in the year, signs were unveiled by local dignitaries at Grains Bar marking the historic border between Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Saddleworth has a large number of annual customs and traditions, many of which are held during Whitsuntide. On Whit Friday morning, congregations from the churches of all of the Saddleworth villages hold their Walk of Witness and congregate in Uppermill to take part in a religious service. Later in the evening, the Whit Friday brass band contests take place. The band contests originated in Saddleworth and the nearby towns of Mossley and Stalybridge and are still centred on the local area. Bands from around the country, and indeed the world, travel to the area annually to compete. Due to the huge popularity of the event, Whit Friday band contests are now held in others of Saddleworth’s surrounding villages. In the village of Dobcross a Henry Livings memorial prize is open to bands who play on any of the morning’s walks on Whit Friday.
On the following Saturday, the Saddleworth Beer Walk is held. This is a fundraising event where participants walk around Saddleworth in fancy dress, stopping off at many of Saddleworth’s pubs along the way for a pint of beer. Spectators are encouraged to give money to the participants for charity. It is organised by the Saddleworth branch of the Round Table. The walk starts at Greenfield, taking a small loop round a side street. After walking through Carr Lane, it reaches Uppermill. Dobcross is the next village, before heading into Delph. Then it approaches a very steep hill, Lark Hill, before heading into Diggle then along a back road back to Uppermill.
Each year, on the second Saturday and Sunday after 12 August (the old Saddleworth "Wakes Week"), the Saddleworth Rushcart takes place. In 1975 a team of local lads formed the Saddleworth Morris Men and the first modern Rushcart was built for the first festival. The 2013 Festival was dedicated to PC Nicola Hughes.
Saddleworth Rangers are an amateur rugby league club who play home matches at Greenfield.
Saddleworth Clarion is the area’s cycling club, catering for on and off-road club cyclist.
Tame Valley Tennis and Squash Club (TVTSC) are located in Greenfield and have 4 tennis courts, 3 squash courts and a members bar and an active social side.