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Openshaw District, Manchester

Openshaw was incorporated
into the City of Manchester in 1890. Its area lies between Ashton
Old Road and Gorton and is known to date
back to 1282 when it was part of the Salford Hundred and in the ownership
of the Lord of the Manor of Manchester, Robert Grelley. Its name comes
from the old English “Opinschawe” which means an
open wood or coppice – by the 14th century it had become known by
the nam e “Oponshaghe” . The wood had been the private
hunting domain of the Grelleys
and was almost certainly cleared in the early 17th century to make
room for farmland or pasture or possibly to provide timber for the
growing English navy.
Since medieval
times a cottage industry had existed within the district in dyeing
and bleaching, but, the end of the 18th century, lying so close as
it does to the new Ashton Canal,
it was drawn into some of the worst excesses of the Industrial
and swallowed up by its crawling squalor and urbanisation.
Its population expanded more than thirty-fold during the 19th century
as it required workers for the Armstrong Whitworth Ordinance Factory,
and the massive Beyer Peacock railway building yards that were being
set up in the district – these latter came to be known as the “Gorton
It was not
therefore coincidental that Socialism and Trades Unionism saw a fertile
breeding ground in the area, and in 1910 the Openshaw Socialists were
formed, with Kier Hardie (founder of the Labour Party) as their inaugural
guest speaker. Annie Lee went on to become Manchester’s first socialist
woman alderman in 1936, having been secretary of the Openshaw Independent
Labour Party since its earliest days in the 1890s.
The ordinance
works closed down after the end of the First World War, and later
the railway yards were closed and as a result, today’s Openshaw has
a population only a fraction of that a century ago. Nowadays there
is very little industry in the district, and fortunately, Openshaw
falls within the East Manchester Regeneration Scheme and has already
begun to see new business moving into the area as a result.

See also:

We have made reference to several sources in compiling this web page,
but must make special mention of the Breedon Books’ “Illustrated
History of Manchester’s Suburbs” by Glynis Cooper, of which we
made particular use. Information about this book can be found on our
Books About Manchester webpage.


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This page last updated 14 Nov 11.