Middletonia
People and places of Middleton
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Jumbo Farm

Lowbands Farm This picture of Jumbo Farm was drawn in 1912 from the two photographs below and from the "vivid boyhood memories" of Mr Fielding who was the caretaker of the Middleton Society's newsroom at Jumbo. It is a representation of how the farm appeared around 1850. Once again the reliance on "vivid memories" produces a deception as it is known that the small "lean to" building at the end of the row was not built until after Lowbands finished in 1861. The date the photographs were taken is not recorded but is estimated to be in the early 1900's.

The path curved round and met another path leading from what is now the junction of Grimshaw Lane and Whiteley Drive just before the footbridge over Wince Brook which led up to the Old Davids area. This second path is still there today, the entrance being between the houses at the bottom of Whiteley Drive. These two paths together with Grimshaw Lane formed a triangle of higher ground and it is from this viewpoint, facing west, that the picture was drawn. This higher ground can still be noticed today. If stood on the far western end of the old British Legion Car Park, (now the Chrysalis Club) it can be seen how the ground is level with the upper stories and roofs of the houses to the west and south. It was on the Grimshaw Lane edge of this higher ground that 200 to 204 Grimshaw Lane were built.

Lowbands Farm

The picture shows a short path at a tangent from the curved path to the spring and a lady carrying water back to the farm from it. In the early 1950's before Whiteley Drive and the "new" British Legion club were built, the houses at 200 to 204 Grimshaw Lane had long plots of land stretching behind the houses to edge of this higher ground. As a small boy I was told not to play down below as there were "wells" and it was dangerous and I might fall down one. Naturally at the first unobserved opportunity I was over the fence and off in search of adventure and danger! The "well" or spring was found unused and covered with paving flags but the roar of turbulent water could be clearly heard. As a child my concept of a well was of "still water" and the noise sounded to be of rushing, running water and I assumed this to be an underground stream. Knowing now that it was a spring explains to me why I was never in spite of numerous searches able to find where this stream emptied into Wince Brook. However this spring was where the picture says it was. Clearly it was the spring which supplied water to the farm and 200 to 204 Grimshaw Lane, but was it "Old Jem's Broo"? The problem is that every account I have read of Jumbo Farm places "Old Jem's Broo" at the end of Wood Lane and Wood Lane is some 100 -150 yards further west around where the far house juts out in the picture! So either this was not "Old Jems Brew" or it was "Old Jem's Brew" and the books have wrongly sited where it actually was. There is one other possibility but it does seem very remote and improbable. Could it be possible that at one time this path continued west parallel with Grimshaw Lane which ran on the other side of the farm house joining Wood Lane and the path itself being known as Wood Lane? It would explain "Old Jem's Broo" being described as "at the end of Wood Lane". Alan Ogden writer of a wonderful modern local history book "The Junction of Bygone Days" thinks that the houses beyond the farm, now demolished, were called the "back to front houses. To me this picture of the farm house looks as if it might be the front, with the rear on Grimshaw Lane. Bearing in mind that Grimshaw Lane itself was only a cart track could it be that this path was regarded as the main thoroughfare and this was why the "back to front" houses were built facing this way?

Lowbands Farm

This well was also the spring from which Joseph Jagger at the future Victoria Hotel drew his water. On an application to the Royton county sessions for a full licence for his beerhouse in August 1866, Jagger states that the well was 200 yards from his house. It is this measurement combined with old maps of the area which have been the basis of estimating that Jumbo Farm's six acres stretched to the area of the Victoria Hotel. This is supported by the fact that at the time of his application, Jagger claimed "to be renting an extensive area of land" which he was going to convert into the Victoria Gardens. It would therefore seem that Jagger had retained the lease on Jumbo farmland, or a large part of it after Lowbands finished.

We can see from the picture that the farm grew vegetables and some sort of wheat or corn. They also had a horse and at least one dairy cow so the prospects of milk, butter and cheese were available. We also know that a further acre was set aside for potatoes. (As a guide under modern farming methods an acre of potatoes feeds 10,000 people for a week.) All these goods would be sold in the Jumbo shop at 204 Grimshaw Lane. There would be other produce as well because George Booth was a frequent visitor to Shudehill Market in Manchester. These would be trips both buying for the shop and selling goods from the silk business. It was on these visits to the market that he saw other co-operative buyers competing and bidding against each other and thus putting up prices. It was this which demonstrated to him how stupid it was when they should all be working together. Hence the seeds of the idea of a Wholesale Society was planted in his mind.

On the 12th August 1860 George Booth was the host at a tea party he had organised. The purpose was to instigate action into the formation a Co-operative Wholesale Society. Those invited were the local store managers and all the leading co-operators of the day. "The Story of the CWS" by Percy Redfern clearly states "Tea was served in the barn with the help of an unorganised women's guild consisting of the wives of the men present. The modest provisions would be supplied from the Jumbo store. Mr Holyoake has told of 'a solid and ponderous load of succulent joints dispatched overnight from Oldham' but there is reason to suspect that the originator of this tribute to Lancashire gastronomic power meant to impose upon the usually shrewd historian. Either on his own responsibility or as manager of the farm George Booth was the host and to him belongs the honour of having introduced the subject of a Wholesale Society. (Careful Percy, you very nearly used the word "Founded" in that last sentence!)....... "probably the rural characteristics were beginning to disappear in 1860 for a railway through Jumbo had been recently built. Nevertheless it was amidst such pleasant surroundings as these suggested that the conferences commenced from which arose the CWS in the first place, the Insurance Society afterwards and finally, in conjunction with London Co-operators the Central Board which developed into the Co-operative Union" (Percy, when you say " ... from which arose the CWS in the first place", do you mean " ... .from which the CWS was founded ?")

The Jumbo Farm Tea Party was attended and later testified to by a number of witnesses. This is important because some historians have relegated or even omitted it altogether from their version of the history of the CWS. Mr Albert Marcroft of Oldham remembers being there with his father William Marcroft (Owd Billy Marcroft, a long-headed 'un). Mrs Manock of Rochdale, William Cooper's daughter was also present, " ... and her eyes still brighten at the remembrance of the girlish joy occasioned by this tea party". Noah Briggs who was the manager of the Prestwich store for 52 years attended the meeting. He remembers walking over to Jumbo and the fragrance of the new mown hay. An Oldham co-operator Edward Ingham recollected the names of four Oldham co-operators who were present and also quoted William Marcroft as saying at Jumbo that, "co-operators must not rest until they had their own ships bringing the produce of other lands direct from the producer to the consumer thereby saving to themselves the profits of the middleman".

William Nuttall stated that William Cooper of Rochdale supported George Booth's idea while William Marcroft pointed out that it was impossible to have a federation of stores until they could obtain power as a corporate body to invest in other stores. Cooper is said to have replied that "No Act of Parliament could stop them as long as they did what was 'reet'." The majority of those present agree with Marcroft though and it was decided to meet again for more discussions at Oldham. All these points were re-iterated by William Nuttall at the 1869 Co-operative Conference. The meeting at Oldham and the others which followed were all concerned with getting organised, specifically identifying their objectives and the methods such as new legislation by which they would achieve the aim of establishing a Wholesale Society. The foundation of all this was the Jumbo Tea Party. Everything which followed and led to the formation of the CWS was a direct result of that Tea Party. It was the foundation stone of what followed and as George Booth personally laid this stone it is he, and only he, who can possibly be entitled to bear the honour of being the founder of the CWS.

Opponents of this conclusion produce a rather strained argument based on an article reporting the meeting in the Oldham Chronicle on the 18th August 1860. The Chronicle in a short report covered the discussion about the formation of a profit sharing cotton mill at Oldham. (Under William Marcroft's leadership the cornerstone of the mill was laid in May 1861). This was all that the Chronicle covered of the meeting and opponents arguments seem to be "that therefore this was all that was discussed". It would seem fairly obvious to any unbiased person that being a local paper catering to a local readership, it would in general cover issues and subject matter directly related to Oldham. I don't know but would risk a small wager that the meeting didn't even get a mention in the Doncaster Daily Bugle! If the criteria of historical fact is dependent on what is published in the Oldham Chronicle then many tomes of history will have to be drastically re-written. The Argument just doesn't stand up to the evidence.


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