The following is an extract taken from Friedrich Engel's book "The condition of the Working class in England"
A few miles north-east of Stockport is Ashton-under-Lyne, one of the newest factory towns of this region. It stands on the slope of a hill at the foot of which are the canal and the river Tame, and is, in general, built on the newer, more regular plan. Five or six parallel streets stretch along the hill intersected at right angles by others leading down to the valley. By this method, the factories would be excluded from the town proper, even if the proximity of the river and the canal-way did not draw them all into the valley where they stand thickly crowded, belching forth black smoke from the chimneys. To this arrangement Ashton owes a much more attractive appearance than that of most factory towns; the streets are broader and cleaner, the cottages look new, bright red and comfortable. But the modern systems of building cottages for the working men has its own disadvantages; every street has its concealed back lane to which a narrow paved path leads and which is dirtier. And, although I saw no buildings, except a few on entering, which could have been more than fifty years old, there are even in Ashton streets in which the cottages are getting bad, where the bricks on the house corners are no longer firm but shift about, where the walls have cracks and will not hold the chalk whitewash inside; streets, whose dirty, smoke begrimed aspect is nowise different from that of other towns of the district, except that in Ashton this is the exception, not the rule.
A mile eastward lies Stalybridge, also on the Tame. In coming over the hill from Ashton, the traveller has, at the top, both right and left, fine large gardens with superb villa-like houses in their midst, built usually in the Elizabethan style, which is to the Gothic precisely what the Anglican Church is to the Apostolic Roman Catholic. A hundred paces farther and Stalybridge shows itself in the valley, in sharp contrast with the beautiful country seats, in sharp contrast even with the modest cottages of Ashton! Stalybridge lies in a narrow, crooked ravine, much narrower even than the valley of Stockport, and both sides of this ravine are occupied by an irregular group of cottages, houses and mills. On entering, the very first cottages are narrow, smoke begrimed, old and ruinous; as the first houses are so is the whole town. A few streets lie in the narrow valley bottom, most of them run criss-cross, pell-mell up hill and down, and in nearly all the houses, by reason of this sloping situation, the ground floor is half buried in the earth; and what multitudes of courts, back lanes, and remote nooks arise out of this confused way of building, may be seen from the hills, whence one has the town here and there, in a bird's-eye view almost at one's feet. Add to this the shocking filth, and the repulsive effect of Stalybridge, in spite of its pretty suroundings, may readily be imagined.