TURNER LANE Ashton-Under-Lyne

Some memories…………Meg Gain June 2009

I have a long association with Turner Lane, Ashton-Under-Lyne.

My great grandparents, George and Mary Wragg lived at number 74 in the late 19th century and later moved next door to number 76 (1911 census).

My grandfather, Harry Wragg, his unmarried sister Ethel, and my mother and her brother lived at No 17 from about 1930 and my parents moved into Number 17 after they married in August 1945. I was born in ‘the Lake’, as the County Hospital on Darnton Road was then was known, and I lived at Number 17 Turner Lane with my parents, two young brothers and my great aunt Ethel until I was seven years old. We then moved from the two-up, two-down terraced house, owned by the Railway company, and condemned as ‘unfit for human habitation’, to a post-war council house on the Downshaw estate in Waterloo in December,1954. Although the new house would have meant much less work for my mother and there were luxuries such as a bathroom and inside toilet, I have strong and fond memories of living “by the railway line” in Turner Lane.

I’d like to describe the house at number 17. It was the first house on the left as you came through the little subway under the railway line from Ashton town centre. There was a little square of cobbles with railings alongside and our house was opposite the railings. There was a flight of stone steps leading down to the lower part of Turner Lane opposite where Alexandra Road joins. I played in that square for many hours as there were no cars (it was a dead end at the wall that bordered the railway line). In the summer the tar between the cobbles got hot and sticky and I loved to pop the tar bubbles with an old lolly stick. Woe betide you if you got any tar on your clothes though and getting any on your legs meant a session standing in the kitchen sink whilst Dad scrubbed at your skin with a hard bristle scrubbing brush sprinkled with ‘panshine’ (Vim scouring powder). Ouch!

You stepped in through the front door of number 17, from the pavement, straight into the front room. That room was always called ‘the front room’ and it was little used. The pram stood on the oilcloth floor just inside the door, leaving a gap between the pram and the back of the settee, just wide enough to squeeze by.

A thick curtain made from black-out material, left over from the War, hung on a pole behind the door- to keep out the draughts. A carpet square covered most of the floor with the parquet effect linoleum showing around the edge. The linoleum was perfect for tap dancing on and I often used the black-out curtain as my entrance on-stage! The front room was strictly for best. Apart from the settee with its brown mock “leather” back and arms and matching armchairs on each side of the fireplace and a wooden bureau there was no other furniture in the room. The fire was only ever lit when one of us was ill when the bed came downstairs. When we all had measles at the same time there were three of us sleeping downstairs- my brother John, still a baby, in the cot and Richard, my younger brother and I in a double bed. I remember the curtains being kept closed to protect our eyes.

We spent most of our time in the back room where there was a fire permanently lit in a black leaded range. The back boiler would heat the water and the black kettle sat on its own little plate or trivet that swung in and out of the fire. There was a bread oven alongside the fireplace and arranged on the mantelpiece were a collection of brass ornaments which had to be cleaned every week with Duraglit. I particularly remember two brass money boxes in the shape of pillar boxes and a ‘black Sambo’ money box with the face of a black man whose mouth opened wide when you swung an old penny in his hand towards his face.A square wooden table sat in the centre of this room, always covered with a chenille cloth with bobbles along the edges. I spent many happy hours playing under the table. It made a great hiding place when little brothers got on your nerves.The recess in the corner by the window alongside the fireplace was filled with a large cupboard with drawers underneath. Along the back wall of the room was a sideboard and my Nanny’s (Aunt Ethel) old treadle sewing machine.There was a rag rug in front of the fire marked by burns where coals had shot out of the fire. In the rug you could find traces of old coats and blankets that had been cut up into strips and woven into a backing with a special tool.

The kitchen was in a lean-to at the rear of the house. It was fairly primitive by today’s standards, with a stone sink under the window, a boiler in one corner (that came out on washing days) and a Belling cooker (bought with discount from the Electricity Showrooms as my Dad worked for the Electricity Board, NORWEB, as it was in those days). A door led out into a small backyard with a wooden shelter which provided a cover for the coal-heap and the mangle (for wringing the clothes) and the tin bath which hung from a nail on the wall. A wooden gate led from the yard into the ginnel that ran down from Warre Street into a back yard that was shared by the two houses and a shop on that part of Turner Lane and two houses in Warre Street. The toilets were up the yard, entailing quite a trek. At night, if we needed the toilet, we used a potty or “Jerry” that went under the bed. I don’t remember who had the dubious pleasure of emptying the potties! The walls of the outside toilets were regularly white washed and they were not dark as there were large gaps at the top and bottom of the doors but I still hated going there. I had a dread of spiders and someone at school had scared me with stories of rats coming up the drains.

Back in the house, a door from the living room or back room led to the cellar. I don’t remember ever going down the damp steps into the cellar. It was probably forbidden. Some people had their coal delivered straight into their cellar. A hole in the pavement directly in front of their street door led into the cellar. Our coal was delivered into our small back yard opposite the back door. On delivery days I would sometimes get a shock when a black face, eyes unnaturally white, appeared above the yard gate. The gate opened and the coalman strode in, the sack of coal slung over his back, apparently weighing very little. The coalman usually wore a kind of leather helmet with a long piece hanging at the back to protect his neck and shoulders. The 100cwt sack would be tipped over his shoulder and, with a roar like thunder, would land on top of the dwindling heap in the corner of the yard. The days were punctuated with visits from tradesmen such as the coalmen, the window cleaner, the dustbin men and the rag and bone man. One of the men who collected the bins had a disfigured face, one side of which was red and raw looking, with puckered skin and a missing ear on that side. My Nanny told me he’d been badly burned in the War. The rag and bone man could be heard many streets away, long before his patient old nag appeared, pulling his decrepit cart behind. The rag and bone man, apparently dressed in some of the rags he collected, sat sideways on the back of the cart. Sometimes he would loosely tie the reins of the pony around the railings at the front of our house and tie a nose-bag on to the pony’s face. It was dinner-time!In exchange for a few old clothes you’d get a balloon or some donkey stone.

That brings me to one of the immovable activities that punctuated the week. Every Friday the step from the pavement to the front door had to be mopped and donkey-stoned. Sometimes the front room window sill would get the same treatment. Donkey stones or scouring stones were made from powdered stone, mixed with water, cement and bleach. The mixture was ground into a fine, wet paste, pressed into an oblong mould then cut, stamped and air-dried. The most common stamp was a little donkey- hence the name donkey stone - but others included a lion and a pony. The last firm to make donkey stone was Eli Whalley (trade mark the lion, copied from a real life specimen at Belle Vue) who had been making stones in Ashton-under-Lyne for nearly 100 years. The front door-step and window sill would first be scrubbed with a hard brush and hot soapy water and then whitened with the stone to create a neat white entrance to the house. God help anyone who stepped on to the whiteness before it had dried properly, leaving a large footprint which would ruin the effect.

Bath nights were another weekly ritual. As all the water had to be heated by the fire so it was quite a job getting three kids and three adults bathed regularly. A radio jingle at the time sang ‘Friday night is Amami night.” Amami was a lotion to wave the hair and I used to imagine glamorous ladies preparing for a night of fun at the Palais de Danse. My bath was a tin one in front of the fire, filled with kettle full after kettle full of hot water. My night-dress would be warming on the wooden maiden (clothes horse) and I’d have a slippery golden bar of Pears Soap to lather. Then, if I’d been good all week, dressed in warm nightdress (usually winceyette made by my nanny), bedroom slippers (tartan ones, zipped, with a bobble on the front) and my school coat (green with a velvet collar) I’d be allowed to stay up to listen to ‘Have a Go, Joe” with Wilfred Pickles and his wife Mabel or Jimmy Clitheroe, the 43 year old school boy, or “Top of the Form” with posh head girls from smart Scottish academies congratulating the winning team. The teams were never from Council Schools, I noticed. My supper was often a glass of milk and a chocolate covered Marshmallow “teacake”.

As I write I remember how regulated life was- I suppose that my Mum had to have a strict routine to get through all the chores. Mondays was always washing day when the whole house seemed to be disrupted and dinner was usually reheated Sunday leftovers. On Monday mornings the wash tub had to be dragged out from its corner of the small kitchen, filled with water and then the gas light lit under it. “Dolly blue” which came in blue twists of paper was added to the water to make the whites whiter. The sheets were punched and prodded in the water with a “poncer”- a device that looked like an upside down colander on a long stick. A pair of wooden tongs was used to haul the dripping sheets from the tub. They had to be rinsed in the sink and then hauled into a basket to be taken out into the mangle. Our mangle was painted green with large wooden rollers. The name ‘Acme’ was engraved in the metal frame. A large handle had to be turned to squeeze water from the sheets before they could be hung on the lines which criss-crossed the big yard. The sheets were always too heavy for me to handle but I could manage the smaller items- shirts, tea towels, hankies and knickers. On ‘good drying days’ the yard would be festooned with washing pegged on to the line with wooden dolly pegs. The line would be hoisted aloft using a wooden prop, a post with a V shaped top that fitted on to the line, to catch any passing breeze. We weren’t allowed any ball games on washing days but I remember once chasing Susie, a neighbour’s dog who looked just like Toby, the dog in Punch and Judy, and she crashed into the prop, trailing sheets in the dirty yard. If washing day turned out wet, more usual in Ashton-Under-Lyne, then the drying washing would be draped on the wooden clothes horse, or maiden, cutting off all sight of the fire. Smaller items were hung on a “lazy daisy”, a rack that was suspended from the ceiling and was drawn up and down with a rope and pulley.

Upstairs at Number 17 were two bedrooms. The front bedroom was where my Mum and Dad slept in a double bed with a dark green satin eiderdown. They had Utility furniture- a plain wooden wardrobe, a chest of drawers and a dressing table with a mirror. John, my baby brother, slept in a cot at the side of their bed. I shared a double bed with my brother Richard and we slept in the back bedroom with my Nanny (great aunt Ethel) in a bed on the other side of the dressing table. Nanny’s dressing table had two china figures on the small side shelves. She told me that her grandfather had brought them back from the Great Exhibition (1851). One was a shepherdess and the other I called ‘Little Boy Blue’ as he wore a blue jacket and had lovely yellow curly hair.

Next door at No. 19 lived two elderly ladies- I knew them as Alice Ann Hewitt and Mrs Ridings. I often spent time in their house, spinning bone handled knives on their oilcloth tablecloth!! They had a tapestry cover on their settee with a picture of the Egyptian sphinx on it.

Next door to them was the corner shop (on the corner of Turner Lane and Warre Street). It was owned by Mr and Mrs Hough. I often used to go into the Hough's parlour. They had a side door off Warre St. I remember it was always very dark, probably none too clean and always a fug of pipe smoke! Mr Hough always smoked a pipe and Mrs Hough wore a dirty old wrap around pinny (apron) - not exactly modern hygiene standards. There were piles of boxes with stuff for the shop piled up in the corners. Both Mr and Mrs Hough seemed very kind to me when I was little. Did they have any children of their own? I don’t remember any although I think they may have had a old dog. I bought my weekly sweet ration from them. They had a “penny tray” where everything cost one old penny: 4 Blackjacks for 1d but only one gobstopper or pink Bubbly Gum for 1d.

Mr. and Mrs. Rigby and their neighbour Mrs. Neild on Warre Street shared our yard. Mr. and Mrs. Rigby didn’t have any children but they had a mongrel dog called Susie. She was smooth haired and white with a black spot over one eye. Mr. Rigby had lost both his legs, in a terrible accident on the Railways. They were chopped off at the knees by a train. His wooden legs with the socks and shoes still on them would sometimes be standing in their front room. He rode around in an invalid carriage which had one wheel at the front and was operated by pushing and pulling a handle. Mr. and Mrs. Rigby used to go on holiday to Cemaes Bay in Anglesey. Mrs. Rigby used to go by train with the dog who had her own seat, paid for, whilst Mr. Rigby pedalled himself all the way in his carriage. Mrs. Neild lived on her own with her parrot. When there was a thunderstorm she sat on her cellar steps with the parrot, both wrapped in a shawl.

The ginnel that ran up the back of our little yards came out on Warre Street, opposite the first house in the “Belt Row” whose side door fronted on to Warre St. I used to know the children who lived at that end house of the Belt Row. Barry Rhodes lived there and then he & family moved to Cockbrook. Then another family came to live there- I used to play with the two daughters, Joan and May (May was my age and Joan a little older). They were Catholic- they went to St Mary's. I was very envious of their confirmation dresses!! They once gave me a chocolate box full of paper dolls, the kind you cut out and then dressed in different outfits, folding over tabs to hook them onto the paper figures. I gave them my mum’s best handbag in exchange. My Mum had to go round to ask for her bag back- she wasn’t best pleased. They used to give me prayer cards which I stored under the mattress of my doll’s pram. Their house was almost empty of furniture. They literally sat on orange boxes and there were no carpets in any of the rooms. They had a gas meter and my Mum would often lend a few pennies to feed it.

The little kids from the Belt Row, which were back-to-back houses, used to play on some scrubby land between their houses and Shaw's brush works. They often wore just a vest and no shoes. We weren't exactly well off but I always had nice clothes that my Nanny made for me and I always had a new pair of Clark’s sandals (“seconds” i.e. not quite perfect, of course) from “Harry” who had a shoe stall on the Market Ground.

You could walk up a path alongside the back-to-back houses (parallel to Turner Lane) and come out on Winton Street. I used to go to Elgin St School (now Canon Burrows) with Lorraine Hilton who lived on Winton Street. I used to call for her and we'd walk to school together. Her Dad used to stoke the boilers at Shaw's Brush Works and we'd stand in the street watching him open the big doors of the furnace and shovel in the coal. The heat and dirt were tremendous. I remember him as a wiry fellow, stripped to the waist and covered in coal dust as though he'd been down the pit.

On the corner of Winton St was Mrs. Brown's shop where I’d be sent on errands. I used to skip along reciting the list of things I had to buy. There was an upholstery place next door which always had a dusty stripped down old couch as its window piece!! Further up was Lamb's “chippy” (fish and chip shop” on the corner of Boodle Street. My favourite errand was to be sent to Alec Talco’s in Union Street for icecream cornets. It was bliss on a hot summer’s day to stand in the coolness of the icecream factory waiting to be served. I had to run all the way home with icecream and raspberry sauce dripping down my arms.

The people who have contributed to the Message Boards on the Ashton-under-Lyne website (www.ashton-under-lyne.com) have many memories of faces and places in and around Turner Lane. Here are some of them: Thanks to Paul B; Fudge; Greeny; Herby; Tonydj, Grooving Granny and Chris Buckley for their memories of Turner Lane and adjoining streets. Apologies to anyone I have neglected to mention. Meg Gain (formerly Copeland)


“We used to love dressing up. I remember being dressed as a May Queen in an old net curtain and my mum’s high heels, parading door to door collecting pennies. Then we’d always have a Guy Fawkes near November 5th and pester everybody walking through the subway for ‘a penny for the Guy’.”

”That little square in front of the house (number 19) served us kids well for playing in. My bedroom looked out on that square, and at night-time teddy boys and girls sat on the steps playing music, dancing and climbing up the lamp-post that was still lit by gas. “

“I remember the ambulance station by the side of Alexandra Road Methodist Church and the Lees Street Chest Clinic. The building is still there but it's not the Chest Clinic anymore. Those streets have very evocative memories for me. Walking up the hill (Alexandra Rd) from Turner Lane to “socials” at the Sunday School and also to King George's Playing Fields to collect 'hairy marys' (furry caterpillars) which lived on the poplar trees that lined the main path through the park. Another trip was to buy ice-creams at Alec Talco's factory in Union Street.”

I used to play on the little mound that bordered Alexandra Road/Turner Lane (just under the big railway bridge). My Mum could hang out of the bedroom window to shout me in for bed! Further up at the top end of Turner Lane it was known as the Coalpit Hills. I believe there was once a colliery at Lordsfield, now covered by a housing estate.”

“We used to play hopscotch in the area of Turner Lane where it broadens out near the Junction pub. Considering I was under 7 years old, I was quite a way from our house but there were few cars and people weren't so paranoid about 'stranger danger'.


“I lived at 19 Turner Lane for over 10 years from being about 1 year old, till we left when I was about 12 in 1967. I remember going in the derelict brushworks as a kid, just before it got knocked down. Then they built Hall’s “ cash and carry.” I used to help unload the lorries when they made deliveries. Then, every few days, they would put out wooden boxes that the tins of ham and corned beef had been packed in. There would be a mad scramble by the neighbours to grab them for firewood. But, being a budding ‘spiv’, only a fraction got put out; I was given the rest, to chop up, and put in bundles. Then I’d sit on the step at Mr Hough’s corner shop and sell it in bundles for firewood. It was a great passing trade with people going to the market. Or I’d make ‘bogies’ (go-carts) out of bits of wood, if we could find any old pram wheels.”

“Shaw’s Brushworks- we used to watch the man stoking the boilers up The night that the warehouse burnt down I had been talking to Lorraine Hilton who lived a couple of doors off (in Winton Street). By the time I had reached home it was fully ablaze and the houses had been evacuated.”

“Shaw’s Brushworks - there were two sides to the brushworks. The main entrances were both on Winton Street. The works hooter used to go off 4 times a day at 7.30 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m. and then again at 5.30 pm. The warehouse where they use to store the bush bristles burnt down in the 50s. I remember, as a kid, watching it. I think everyone that lived round there watched it. Then later on, the boiler blew up in the building on the opposite side of Winton street and that was more or less the end of Shaw’s brush works.


“The Hough’s corner shop (21 Turner Lane) had those old metal advertising signs on the outside and a dusty dirty looking window display. There were two windows, one facing Turner Lane and the other on Warre Street. The shop door was across the corner. There was a bare wooden floor and an old wooden counter and not much on the shelves.”

“Mr Hough’s used to sell single ciggies (Cigarettes). It always had a funny smell in the shop.”

“We had a dog that could only be described as psychopathic. Only Mr Hough could control it. Mr Hough nearly always ate tins of stewed steak and he would share it with the dog. Maybe this was the source of the smell. Or maybe the mangy dog!”

Mr Hough did smoke a pipe with some foul smelling tobacco so that could have been the funny smell. ”

“The upholstery shop on Turner Lane (between Winton Street and Boodle Street) was a dusty dirty place, full of bales of padding and horse hair. It was really interesting watching them strip an old chair of its cover and padding, and watching them putting new stuff on it. Grabbing a handful of tacks, putting them in the mouth and tacking stuff on the chairs in different layers. I used to make the odd tuppence (2 old pennies) sweeping out the upholstery shop”

“Then there was Alec Talco's wonderful ice-cream factory on Union St. just off Turner Lane. It was a lovely cool place to go on a warm summer’s day. Many's the time I've run back from there with raspberry sauce dribbling down my arm, with my little basket full of cornets for everybody!”

“The Upholstery shop was next to Brown’s corner shop. The Horrocks family lived up there and David and Ronnie Tollomy (I don’t think it is spelt right, think it began with a Ph) then a little shop and the “chippy” across Boodle St was the Lamb’s . Facing the “Chippy” was Pendlebury’s paper shop. (newsagent) A bit further down was the hairdresser’s. And a bit further up was a sweet shop. .Just across the way from the Junction Pub on the corner of Jackson St and Turner Lane was the Pie shop.”

“ There was another shop between the chip shop and the upholstery shop called Clegg’s. We used to wonder, as kids, why the chap was called Thorpe and his missus was Clegg. We did not know what to call the shop, Clegg’s or Thorpe’s. No. 1 Turner Street was a shop and later it was made into a house The Lambs lived there. There was a cobbler’s shop at the corner of Turner lane and Union Street and, just round the corner on Turner Lane, there was another shop. We used to go there a lot; they gave Green Shield stamps. There used to be a shop on Boodle street, opposite Josh Heap’s. I used to pop in many a time on the way to Elgin Street (school); that’s if you had a penny to spend. We used to play in the big area in front of the Junction (pub) and hop scotch in front of Harding’s shop. There was no fear of cars then; you’d be lucky if four or five passed you all day. It used to be hard to fill a page if you were car-spotting! “

“Somebody mentioned the butcher’s and baker’s shops. Mum went to the butcher’s one day and bought some pork sausages for tea. We were having bangers and mash. Sat down to tea that night, was halfway through a banger when I found a dead bluebottle. Mum went round slapped the sausage on the counter and showed the butcher the fly. He laughed and said he should have charged more for the extra meat. Mum nearly dragged him over the counter. I was put off sausages for ages. “


“We could tell the time in our house, which was right next to the railway line by the trains chuffing by. I can’t imagine all that smoke from the steam trains did my Mum’s washing much good!”

“I can remember going with my Dad to the Luggage office on Charlestown station. You went up a long slope where the walls were covered in yellow shiny tiles. The station had its own unique smell, a heady mix of smoke and dust. My Dad would take our big trunk, sewn into a sack and carefully labeled which was our summer holiday clothes for our trip to the seaside. For several years we went to Cemaes Bay in Anglesey. We’d go by train practically all the way- Ashton Charlestown to Manchester, Manchester to Bangor, Bangor to Amlych across the Menai Straits and then local bus the few miles from Amlych to Cemaes Bay.”

“My dad worked on the railway, in the signal box. No.19 was owned by British Rail, and my parents rented it from them. John was the station master at Charlestown. He used to call at my house regularly for a brew with my dad. He used to pick me up and rub his bristly chin on my face; it used to be red raw for days after. A mate and me were caught one day on the railway lines. John caught me and dragged me home; it was the first and only time my dad ever belted me. My mum usually did the leathering in our house! In our backyard, between the back of the toilets and the railway wall, someone built a shed, so we climbed on that and then sat on the railway wall.”

“I also remember John that worked at Charlestown station. You could hear him from the top of Turner street when a train came into Ashton Charlestown. He used to play heck if you were sat on the wall on the Garden Walk and, within minutes, he would be round. He’d chase you all over.


“I went to school with the Pendlebury twins, Heather and Judith. They had an older brother, Christopher”

“The Pendlebury twins- I remember them being born. They were outside the shop in the pram one day, and a run away wagon with no driver came down Turner Lane and crashed into the shop damaging the door and side window. I don’t know if they were taken in the house shortly before the wagon crashed or it missed them by yards. It was in the “Reporter” (Ashton’s local newspaper) at the time, the full story. I remember the run away horse that got out of the pens at the top of Turner Lane and made a dash for freedom. Half the kids round Turner Lane chased after the horse.”

“There was a woman called Bertha Wells. You could set your clock by her. She would go down to the market early morning as the stalls were opening. She always wore clogs; she was a stout lady, always had a black coat. I can recall the houses under the subway where the Irish club was. There were a few terraced houses. (before West Street). I am almost sure a survivor of the “Titanic” (shipping disaster) lived there. She was on her way to make a new life in America. She lost her husband or husband to be, and she returned to Ashton. There was a coffin works on Lord Street just off Turner Lane -Harry Marland’s. I used to get sawdust from there for my pet mice. The works at the top of Turner Street became Wimpole’s garage and Mandor’s engineering but, before that, I think it was a pattern makers because we use to play around in there. We went in one of the disused work shops and there was a calendar for 1944; we were amazed because it was about 1958 by then. I think there were patterns for landing crafts. We used to climb on top of them and pretend we were at sea.”

“There was a girl about my age who lived in Warre Street, who sometimes came out to play with us. One day I was riding past her house on my bike and the girl came out to play. Her mum was stood on the doorstep in her dressing gown. Anyway, next day I was passing and a coffin was being carried out of her house, and the girl was stood there crying. The mum had died. I remember going home and telling my mum. I never found out how she died, and never saw the girl again.”

“There was an old lady who lived on Boodle Street in a very decrepit house; her name was Ethel White. Her house had broken boarded up windows. I often used to come across her sitting on the stone steps that went down from opposite number 17 Turner Lane to the road that goes under the railway (also Turner Lane, just to be confusing). She always wore clogs, an old grey coat and a headscarf. The story was that she had had acid thrown in her face when she’d jilted her lover and, after that, she’d lived as a recluse. I was frightened of her- somebody probably told me she was a witch!! She was just a poor old dear, of course. I always had a vivid imagination. Certainly she was always referred to as ‘Poor Ethel’ in our house.”

“My aunty Annie use to live in Turner Lane; she was a Baker married to George Hurst. I would have been very young at the time so it must have been around early 1950's. They had one girl child Norma. I use to hate going to their house in case I had to go to the toilet because they had a ‘tippler’ (kind of toilet that emptied by tippling the contents straight into the drain) and I was terrified of it. But she always took us to buy ice cream from the ice cream factory (Alec Talco’s). Her house was at the bottom end of Turner Lane, not far from the railway subway. “

“I used to live at 131 Turner lane, opposite Bill Shockledge’s shop. In fact, my mum and dad used to own Connie's shop (122 Turner Lane); it was the shop between Bill's and Moss’s. It later became an electrical shop when we left. My mum is Connie of “Connie’s”!! My uncle Jack (Buckley) used to live at 101 Turner Lane with my grand parents (who I never knew) and then after they were married in 1952, my mum and dad (Derrick and Connie Buckley) lived next door at 103.”

“There were a few pens (smallholdings where people kept a few hens or grew vegetables) when you got to the top of Turner Lane and turned towards the coal pit hills. There was a lane that took you down the side of the railway and the coal pit hills were on the right. You walked through and came out at the back of Monk’s garage (near the Hop Pole Hotel on Oldham Road). Also, there were the pig sties on the coal pit hill overlooking the top of Turner Lane. Up from Elgin Street school there was a lane that took you to the coalpit hills that also had pens on either side. We used to collect frog spawn from one of the pens. It had a sunken barrel; it was teaming with frog spawn. One of the pens had old trucks and cars.”

“I lived at 128 Turner Lane (Corner of Elizabeth St) from 1954 to end of 1959 (when I was 5). The house was shared with my parents, grandparents (Eugene and Ada Melia) and my Uncle. It has gone now, demolished.”

”There was a big old house in its own grounds where Turner Lane and Lees St met. We used to scare each other that a witch lived there.”

“The lady that lived in the big house on the corner of Turner lane and Lees street which looked like a big mansion in its own grounds was called Mrs Willis. We used to think she was a witch and we called her Ma Willis. The house that the murderess (Mary Ann Britland- see below) lived in was not pulled down and people lived in it till they cleared the area.”

“I suppose the Coalpit hills near Turner lane have vanished as well? They ran from the back of the Hop Pole hotel (on Oldham Road) over to near the “Old Ball” pub. (corner of Smallshaw Lane and Broadoak Road). I believe an estate called Lordsfield was built around that area. There were pens at one side of the hills all along. I used to cut through there from Christchurch school (secondary school used to be between Oldham Road and Taunton Road). I also remember there was a doubling mill on Minto st ; some called it the Minto doubling company, others called it Duncan doubling company.

“My great grandfather was licensee at The Old Ball Inn until his death in 1922. He is said to have kept trotting horses in stables at the back of the pub and he also had a pen where he kept a few chickens by the Coalpit Hills.”

I asked Molly Pearce (widow of Bill Pearce of “Adams & Pearce” - they had premises on Turner Lane opposite the Junction) about the house you enquired about (Ashley Cottages). She had only a vague memory of something at the position you described, but also asked 'an old man' she knows in that area. He does remember it, but not its name or who lived in it. One of Joe Wright's daughters lived in the next house, he said.


”The Belt Row was a row of about 10 houses which were back to backs i.e. they only had one door and the interior wall was shared between two houses. They were between Warre Street and Winton Street- one side faced Turner Lane, the other faced the back of Shaw’s brushworks and there was a passageway along their fronts between Warre and Winton Streets and parallel to Turner Lane.”

“They pulled the Brushworks all down and built a Cash and Carry and, where Belt Row was, they built a wine and beer store. I think it was called Rogerson’s. Those houses in Belt Row were horrible. I remember families that lived in there were very poor. We didn’t have a lot but some of the kids that lived there had no shoes; they used to run around in their bare feet. Mr Curran, a rag and bone man lived in one of those houses.”



Thirty eight year old Mary Ann Britland of Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire was hanged by James Berry on the 9th of August 1886, the first woman to be executed at Strangeways (prison in Manchester). Mary and Thomas Britland had rented a house in Ashton-under-Lyne, which she liked very much, except for the fact that it was infested with mice. To eliminate these, she went to the chemists and bought packets of Harrison's Vermin Killer. This contained both strychnine and arsenic and, therefore, Mary had to sign the poison register. Mary's first victim was to be her daughter Elizabeth in March 1886, her death being put down to natural causes by the attending doctor. This was not unusual at the time as food hygiene standards were not very good and there were no refrigerators to preserve food. A few days later, Mary claimed Elizabeth's £10 life insurance. Her next victim was Thomas, her husband. His death was diagnosed as epilepsy and, again, Mary claimed on his insurance. Mary had been having an affair with her neighbour, Thomas Dixon, and after her own husband's death, she was invited round to the Dixon's house by his unsuspecting wife, also called Mary. Mary Dixon was to become the next and last victim of this serial poisoner. The three deaths, all with their identical and somewhat unnatural symptoms, raised suspicion. Mary Britland was interviewed by the police in connection with Mary Dixon's death and her body was examined by a pathologist. It was found to contain a lethal quantity of the two poisons and Mary was immediately arrested. She came to trial on Thursday, the 22nd, of July 1886 before Mr. Justice Cave at Manchester Assizes. Her defence was absence of motive - it was contended that the small insurance payouts were no compensation for the loss of her husband and daughter. It took the jury some time to convict her, although in the end they did. After she was sentenced, she declared to the court, "I am quite innocent, I am not guilty at all." She was in a state of collapse on her last morning and had to be heavily assisted to the gallows and held up on the trapdoors by two male warders while Berry prepared her for execution. “ (taken from local newspaper reports)

I found this in a little booklet called "Ashton Faces and Ashton Places" which is in the Local Studies Library in Ashton.

".... as Canterbury Street was not opened out or thought of, we can take another way. Crossing the road in a diagonal line from Ousey's we come to a footpath called Garden Walks. It leads us to a little stream crossed by a little footbridge on between garden hedges, past what was then Brown's house, and at the end of the wall we turn sharp left and come down what was then the wagon road. It ran down the whole length of the garden wall and, at the end of the wall, we find ourselves at the top end of Turner Lane. On the left hand side is Wild's brickyard and lower down on the right is Marland and Howe's waste place and a little lower is James Howe's (mill). On a triangular piece of ground is The Junction Inn, run by Nicholas Needham or “Old Nick” (another name for the Devil) as he is known.”

“A man called Nelson Buckley lived in Garden Walk which was somewhere near the top end of Turner Lane. They were one-storey houses with gardens at the front. Nelson had formerly been connected with the circus, doing feats of strength. One of his tricks involved being laid on an inclined plane, having two horses pulling at him. They failed to move him.” ( "Ashton Faces and Ashton Places" written about 1890)

“There used to be a big house on Turner Lane just where Lees Street branches off on the opposite corner to the Junction Inn. It sat in its own grounds on a triangular plan. The 1848 map of Ashton shows "Ashley Cottage" standing in its own grounds roughly where that house was. Lees Street didn't exist in 1848.

I checked the 1901 census for Turner Lane and there is Ashley Cottage. My great grandparents lived at 74 Turner Lane which was on the stretch past the big house going towards Leesfield. In 1901 the people living there were called Yates:

The 1931 voters list shows the following living at Ashley Cottage, Turner Lane:

These people are said to have been related to the owners of Williamson’s Ticket works, a big employer in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Very many thanks to Meg for these memories - even if you didn't live on Turner Lane these memories will ring true for most 1950s childhoods. Gay Oliver 5th June 2009
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