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Proud of our History

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

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In 2014 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the creation of Tameside Council. Figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown that the average (median) age of a UK resident is also 40. Put simply, this means that a majority of our residents do not remember a time before the existence of Tameside Council. In recognition of this, I’ve decided this week to explain how our nine towns on the banks of the River Tame came to be grouped together.

One of Tameside’s most defining features is that, unlike most of the other Greater Manchester councils, no one town has grown to dominate the area in the manner of Stockport, Bolton, Wigan etc. This is no accident. Unlike most of the other new local government areas created by the Local Government Act 1972, Tameside did not have a County Borough town to build itself around. Although they shared close links with each other due to history and existing or proposed development, to the outside world the nine towns of Tameside clung to the very fringes of Lancashire and Cheshire, out of sight and out of mind to the people who made the big decisions in Preston and Chester. People who complain about the council being distant and unresponsive now would have been tearing their hair out back then.

Industrialisation and urban growth in the preceding century had also made nonsense of traditional local government boundaries. To give an extreme example, the area that would be reorganised into the West Midlands metropolitan county was split between no fewer than eleven separate counties and boroughs. Tameside was scarcely any better, as below county level administration was split between five boroughs and four urban/district councils, which together formed the historical nine towns. This proved as much of an organisational nightmare as you could imagine, and vital issues that covered anything more than a couple of towns, such as housing and traffic congestion, were almost impossible to handle effectively.

Tameside gives us the best of both worlds. It retains the identities of the nine historic towns, which people rightly continue to take pride in, but also allows us to do what needs to be done to make all of Tameside a place to live, work and do business in in the 21st century. In no way does this invalidate Tameside’s historical legacy. We carry the history of the nine towns on with us, just as the nine towns carried the history of the four medieval manors, Roman Britain and the Celtic kingdom of Brigantia before them. If Tameside Council is replaced by something else in the future, does that invalidate everything that we have achieved? Tameside the borough may only have existed since 1974, but Tameside the place has thousands of years of history. If people want to play silly games with that history in the name of petty points-scoring, they should know that they do a grave disservice to the history and the towns that they claim to hold dear in the process.

A Proud History of Arms: Tameside's First Victoria Cross

Friday, September 25th, 2015

The Victoria Cross has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients.

Throughout most of the history of this island men (and later on, women) from Tameside and its historical predecessors have fought with gallantry and distinction in Britain and lands further afield. It is therefore only fitting to commemorate the fact that this month 160 years ago a Tameside man became one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross, and the first non-officer to achieve the award.

Although the Victoria Cross was not established until 1857 several awards were backdated to recognise acts of bravery during the Crimean War 1853-56. One of these acts was undertaken by Andrew Moynihan. Originally born in Wakefield in 1831, Moynihan moved to Dukinfield at a very young age and lived near Crescent Road. Up until he joined the army at 17 his life was typical for most young Tameside men of that time. He went to school at the Wesleyan Methodist School on Mill Lane, Ashton and worked for periods in Flash Hall Mill (which stood on the site now occupied by Tameside Central Library on Old Street, Ashton) and James Ogden’s Mill in Hall Green, Dukinfield.

It was at the Battle of Sevastopol that Moynihan etched his name into the annals of British military history while assaulting an armoured citadel known as the Redan. Despite suffering no fewer than 12 wounds Moynihan, by this point a Sergeant in the 90th Regiment of the Perthshire Volunteers, killed five Russians and rescued two officers under heavy fire. For this act he became the first non-officer to receive the Victoria Cross. He went on to earn his officer’s commission and the year after was honoured on his return to Dukinfield at the Astley Arms, where he was presented with a golden watch inscribed “Presented to Ensign Moynihan by the inhabitants of Dukinfield for his gallant conduct in the attack on the Redan on the morning of September 8, 1855 – September 26, 1856”.

Ensign Moynihan’s career did not end with Sevastopol and the Crimea. He served with the forces that suppressed the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and was then stationed in Ireland and Gibraltar. By 1865 he was a Captain and appointed musketry instructor for the island of Malta. Tragically, this would be his last posting, as he died on May 1867 of brucellosis from drinking unsterilized goat’s milk. He was 37 years old. His body was buried in Malta, while his Victoria Cross is currently on display at the regimental museum of the Cameronians in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

Despite his premature end, Andrew Moynihan and his family continue to make their mark today. Moynihan’s son Berkeley rose

to be a Major General and one of the foremost surgeons of his day, for which he was raised to the peerage. The present Lord Moynihan, his grandson, is Colin Moynihan, a former Minister for Sport, chairman of the British Olympic Association and the winner of a silver medal for rowing at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. On 14th September 2005 he unveiled a plaque in Dukinfield commemorating the 150th anniversary of his great-grandfather’s achievement.

A Peaceful Window on the Past

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

When you think of buildings of historical interest in Tameside it is only natural that your mind would first be drawn to our outstanding industrial heritage. If Britain was the workshop of the world then Tameside was the workshop of Britain, clothing and fuelling the Industrial Revolution through its cotton mills and coal mines. However, if you want to know the story of one of our most famous places you need to go a little further back and a little further afield.

Specifically, you need to go to Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1457, where a group of followers of the Christian reformer Jan Hus created the first Protestant Church.  Although centred on Moravia in Bohemia (hence their common name of the “Moravian Church”) their evangelical work took them all across Europe. The Moravian Church arrived in Tameside in 1751, when a congregation and a small settlement were established in Dukinfield to provide a base for preaching on the Western side of the Pennines. The settlement we see now began in 1783 when they purchased sixty acres of land in Fairfield, Droylsden on a 999-year lease.

From this patch of ex-farmland in Droylsden sprang one of the country’s finest examples of a model village. Planned and built to be self-governed, self-contained and self-sufficient the village, which included 110 members at its height, possessed its own inn, shop, bakery, farm, laundry, fire engine, night watchman, inspector of weights and measures, road overseer and doctor. Single men and single women lived in their own group accommodation, and all profits from the settlement were reinvested into charity work.

As Droylsden has grown the Moravian Settlement is no longer the self-contained community it used to be, but its character and architecture continues largely unchanged. It remains the largest settlement of its kind of Britain, and all its buildings are listed as being of Special Architectural and Historical Interest. Public worship, Sunday schools and community groups also continue to be run from the Church, which remains the beating heart and focus of the village.

The Moravian Settlement and its long and unique history is something that we should be rightly proud of. That’s why I’m nominating it as one of England’s Great Places, a scheme being run by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to celebrate some of the most attractive, inspiring and historical places in the country. The nominations close on September 1st, so I urge you to apply online here to help the Moravian Settlement or some of the other great places in Tameside such as Werneth Low, Stamford Park or the Huddersfield Narrow Canal get the national recognition they so richly deserve.

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