Broadbottom! A name to strike concern into any lady’s heart. Despite that, in a variation of her usual outings, Judith decided to organise a walking tour of two iconic Pennine villages - Broadbottom and Mottram. Led by a local expert, David Frith, we first explored Broadbottom, a village on the Etherow which came to the fore in the nineteenth century with spinning and weaving mills. We began by exploring the village itself, a pleasing mix of the old and the new. There were several fascinating historical stops but, regrettably, our party seemed to be most interested in the methodist chapel where Pat Phoenix got married in 1973. Then it was down Gibble Gabble (a ginnel), past some genuine back-to-back terraces and a quick look at the railway station (1842).
We then descended to the valley bottom (which wasn’t as broad as we’d been led to expect from the name.) The Etherow had powered the earliest mills and at one time there had been three mill complexes along this short stretch of river. The first we came across was Moss Mill which was converted to become Hodge Print Works in 1805. The dye vats are still in good condition and it was easy to visualise bolts of cloth being submerged, first for bleaching and then for dyeing. Samuel Matley was as environmentally sensitive as they come in the early 1800s because used dye was run off to settling tanks before being discharged straight into the river. Alternatively it could be thought that he was being parsimonious because the sediment could be re-used to dye the next batch of grey cloth.
Then on to Broad Mills - a large complex which employed 1200 people in its day. The foundations of the various buildings remain and some interpretive work has been started but there is still much to learn about the hydraulics of the system feeding the undershot water wheels, the steam driven engine powering the massive flywheel and the gasometer which held the gas for lighting.
Time for lunch and this was more than adequately provided by the Lymefield Garden Centre. Then on to Mottram. We first assembled at the church which was much older than many of us had expected. The Rector of Mottram is the Bishop of Chester, though he appoints a vicar to care for the souls of the people of Mottram. With its own small grammar school within the grounds and its twelfth century font it has much in common with Mellor church. Sir Edmund Shaa who founded Stockport Grammar School was a benefactor but again, we are ashamed to admit, we spent more time looking at some of the oddities. There were enough to merit a whole new section to Donald Reid’s lecture on Cheshire Curiosities and he was seen making copious notes. No doubt we will hear more about the Body Snatcher’s Grave, the Huntsman’s Grave, the Bellringer’s Grave or the Polish airman.
Leaving the magnificent views over Longdendale, we cut down to the centre of the village at the Crown Pole. This tall metal column may have had a crown on top when it was first erected in 1760 but it now bears a wind vane with a cockerel. Nearby the supply of water to the village in 1888 is celebrated with a trough, inscribed with the instruction that the water is “To be drunk on the premises.” We nearly died of exhaustion waiting to cross the A57 but it was worth it. On the opposite side was a bronze of L.S.Lowry, sitting on a bench patiently sketching and Paul Rice was pleased to join him for a token rest. A little further along was the house where he spent his last thirty years and a short detour took us to one of the air shafts of the Mottram tunnel. Still working perfectly after 160 years, as part of the Longdendale chain of reservoirs, it was one of the biggest civil engineering projects of its time, taking 50 million gallons of water each day to Manchester.
We then retraced our steps to the church, passing a seventeenth century chip shop and a National School suggesting that “Manners Makyth Man” (no concessions to co-education in those days.) Up the Church Warden’s steps and our very last curiosity - a sign for the Bull’s Head, 1769. The church had its very own pub on the premises but it was used for religious purposes. It was from here that the Mottram Watchers kept vigil over the burial yard to deter body snatchers. (Don, busily making notes.)
The weather (sunny and fresh) was the icing on the cake of a fascinating day. This exploration of two Pennine villages was a variation on our usual Spring outing but hopefully it will set the pattern for more.