ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE, a town, a parish, and a district, on the SE border of Lancashire. The town stands on the river Tame, at a convergence of canals and railways, 6½ miles E by N of Manchester. Its site is a rising-ground, from 30 to 40 feet high, on the N bank of the river; its environs are a low flat tract, reclaimed from the condition of a marsh, overlying rich strata of coal and sandstone, and studded with factories, villages, and mining-shafts; and many parts of both site and environs, previous to the introduction of the cotton trade in 1769, were bare, wet, and almost worthless. The Assheton family, now represented by the Earl of Stamford, were lords of the manor; shared their name with it; and maintained their power over it by means of dungeon and gallows; and a commemoration of their rule is kept up, on Easter Monday, by what is called "riding the black lad," the parading of a figure in black armour through the streets. The distinctive name "Under-Lyne" probably refers to the vicinity of the remarkable line of hills called the "Back Bone of England." The town comprises about 16 miles of street; is well supplied with water; and has undergone great and costly improvements. Some of the oldest houses are at Boston and Charleston, which were built during the American war. The old streets are narrow and dingy; while the more modern ones are wide and regular, and contain many good houses. The town hall was built in 1840, at a cost of more than £7,500; is in the Corinthian style; and contains police offices, rooms for petty sessions and county courts, and a public hall 83 feet by 40. St. Michael's church is a spacious structure in later English, built in the reign of Henry V., thoroughly restored in 1844, surmounted by a tower of more recent date, with a fine peal of bells; and contains tombs of the Asshetons. St. Peter's church, at the west end of the town, is a beautiful edifice, with pinnacled square tower; and was built in 1821, at a cost of £12,689. Christ church, in Oldham road, is a cruciform building of 1847. One Independent chapel was built in 1834, at a cost of £3,200; another in 1852, at a cost of £3,500. One of two Wesleyan chapels was built in 1851, at a cost of £3,300. One of three New Connexion Methodist chapels was enlarged in 1832. Two Baptist chapels, a Primitive Methodist, an Independent Methodist, a Swedenborgian, and two Roman Catholic are neat edifices. The Jewish synagogue was built in 1825, at a cost of £9,500; but is now vacant. The mechanics' institute was built about 1840, at a cost of more than £4,000. A suite of school-houses was built in 1863, at a cost of £3,500. There are six national schools, and three British. The workhouse was built in 1850, at a cost of £12,000: the infirmary in 1858, at a cost of £9,500.
Ashton has upwards of 90 cotton factories; carries on the cotton trade in all its branches; does business in bleaching, dyeing, calico-printing, hat-making, and silk weaving; and derives importance from upwards of 70 factories and 80 coal-pits throughout its neighbourhood. Railway communication goes from it E, W, N, and S, to all principal towns; and 3 canals lead respectively to Huddersfield and the German ocean, to the Peak-forest of Derbyshire, and to Manchester, Stockport, and Oldham. The town has a telegraph station, a head post office, three banking offices, and five chief inns; and publishes two weekly newspapers. Markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday; and fairs, on 23 March, 29 April, 25 July, 5 Aug., 21 Nov., and 3 Dec. The privileges of a borough were enjoyed anciently, but went into disuse, and were lost. The act of 1832 gave the right to send a member to parliament; and a charter of 1847 created a municipal governing body, consisting of a mayor, eight aldermen, and twenty-four councillors. The parliamentary borough is conterminate with the parochial division called Ashton-Town. Pop. in 1841, 22,678; in 1861, 33,917. Houses, 6,460. The municipal borough includes also part of the parochial division called Audenshaw. Pop. in 1851, 30,676; in 1861, 34,886. Houses, 6,647. Electors in 1868, 967. Direct taxes, £14,798. Real property, £113,703. Police force, 21. Cost of police establishment, £1,426. Known depredators, 70 Prisoners are committed to the county gaol at Lancaster, or the house of correction at Salford. The parish consists of the four divisions of Ashton Town, Audenshaw, Knott-Lanes, and Hartshead; and includes the hamlets of Lees, Crossbank, Alt, Altedge, Althill, Taunton, Knott-Lanes, Wood-Park, Hazlehurst, Heyrod, Smallshaw, and Hartshead, the villages of Hooleyhill, Walkmill, Audenshaw, Littlemoss, Wood houses, North-Street, Hurst, Hurstbrooks, Mossley, and Mossley-Brow, and part of the town of Stalybridge. Acres, 9,300. Real property, £233,117. Pop. in 1841, 46,304; in 1861, 66,801. Houses, 12,962. The Earl of Stamford has about 2,030 tenants within the manor; and draws from it an income of upwards of £30,000. Ashton Hall, a very ancient building, long the residence of the Assheton family, is occupied by his head-steward. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Manchester. Value, £900.* Patron, the Earl of Stamford. St. Peter's is a separate p. curacy, Christ church a separate vicarage, each with an income of £300; the former in the patron age of the Rector, the latter in the patronage of alternately the Crown and the Bishop. Audenshaw, Bardsley, Hurst, Leesfield, Lees, Mossley, Staleybridge Old and New, and Hurstbrook, also are separate charges.
The district of Ashton-under-Lyne comprehends the subdistrict of Ashton-Town, identical with the parochial division of Ashton-Town; the subdistrict of Audenshaw, containing the parochial division of Audenshaw and the Manchester township of Droylsden; the subdistrict of Knott-Lanes, identical with the parochial division of Knott-Lanes; the subdistrict of Hartshead, identical with the parochial division of Hartshead; the subdistrict of Denton, containing the Manchester townships of Denton and Hanghton; the subdistrict of Dukinfield, containing the Stockport township of Dukinfield, electorally in Cheshire; the subdistrict of Newton, contain in the Mottram townships of Newton and Godley, electorally in Cheshire; the subdistrict of Mottram, containing the townships of Mottram, Hattersley, Hollingworth, and Tintwistle, electorally in Cheshire; and the subdistrict of Stayley, containing the hamlet of Micklehurst, and the townships of Stayley and Matley, in Cheshire. Acres, 38,657. Poor-rates in 1866, £30,767. Pop-in 1841, 101,605; in 1861, 134,753. Houses, 26,500. Marriages in 1866, 1,320; births, 4,634, of which 282 were illegitimate; deaths, 3,398, of which 1,438 were at ages under 5 years, and 28 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 11,114; births, 46,646; deaths, 33,852. The places of worship in 1851 were 25 of the Church of England, with 20,844 sittings; 11 of Independents, with 5,497 s.; 3 of Baptists, with 1,830 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 740 s.; 2 of Moravians, with 846 s.; 8 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1,862 s.; 13 of New Connexion Methodists, with 5,617 s.; 10 of Primitive Methodists, with 2,375 s.; 3 of the Wesleyan Association, with 433 s.; 1 of the New Church, with 250 s.; 5 of Brethren, with 1,016 s.; 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 970 s.; 2 of Roman Catholics, with 1,400 s.; and 3 undefined, with 1,396 s. The schools in 1851 were 38 public day schools, with 5,536 scholars; 108 private day schools, with 5,233 s.; 93 Sunday schools, with 24,636 s.; and 28 evening schools for adults, with 858 s.
John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)