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Title: The Thomas Ashtons of Hyde : three generations of influence 1800 1900
Author: Bedford, Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2691 998X
Awarding Body: The Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 1993
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In Ashton Bros. Magazine of September 1921, an article on the history of Ashton Bros. and its' founders began thus: There is a certain fascination about the progress of a business which begun in a small way by one generation of a family, develops in three generations into one of the largest of its kind known ... (1) It goes on to say that their lifework meant a great deal to Hyde, and not only Hyde and its people: [Their life-work] ... meant much, not only to the district in which they lived, but also to the country at large, for the development of the cotton trade had much to do with placing England in the van of the manufacturing and trading nations ... (2) Thomas Middleton exalted this family in his book The Annals of Hyde and District and also in The History of Hyde and Its Neighbourhood describing them as a family ... distinguished for the high sense of public duty which has characterised its members ... (3). Middleton, a contemporary of two members of the family featured in this study, ",rote his account of a privileged family, portrayed in all its benevolent acts and 'public duty'. Taking Thomas Middleton's documentation of the Ashton family as a guide and starting point, this study will attempt to depict more of a global picture of the effect and involvement the Ashton family hod on the development of Hyde - industrially and economically; its inhabitants in terms of labour and social conditions. By looking at the general conditions of the working-class, i.e. at work, at home, this study will to try to evaluate the Ashton family's role in the development of cotton manufacture in Hyde. The study will be divided into four main sections in an attempt to evaluate the Ashtons' influence at specific points in local social history . Section One will look at the development of Hyde as an early industrial town together with the Ashton family's involvement in the beginning of Hyde's cotton manufacture, together with their first mills and early industrial relations i.e. the formation of trade unions and early industrial unrest in the district. Section Two follows on directly from Section One and will be a case study of the 'Apethorn Lane Murder'. Following several years of industrial agitation, in 1832, Thomas, the eldest son of Samuel Ashton of Pole Bank was murdered. This section will look at the evidence presented at the trial of the men accused of the murder to attempt to discover whether or not there was, as had been alleged, involvement of the unions. Section Three will also be a case study of Thomas Ashton of Flowery Field, and the continuing development of the family's involvement in cotton manufacture in Hyde, together with the Ashtons' provisions for and the conditions of the workforce and the building of Flowery Field village, on the lines of the Gregs' 'model' village of Styal, and to ascertain whether or not this was purely for a degree of paternalistic control or a genuine philanthropic concern. The case study will attempt to analyse the conditions that the operatives worked and lived in, set against another period of industrial unrest, 'The Plug Riots'. Section Four will be a case study of Thomas Ashton of Hyde and Ford Bank, Didsbury. This Thomas Ashton became the first mayor of Hyde. He introduced new technology into the family mills and expanded the village of Flowery Field for the workforce. This case study will also attempt to analyse the implications on Thomas Ashton's workforce during the period known as 'The Cotton Panic' and the provisions made by the firm for its operatives. To conclude the study, Section Five will give a brief analysis of the reaction of the workforce to the changes within the firm and the relationship between employer and employed. It will also give a brief account of the demise of the family firm. Thomas Gair Ashton was the last member of the Ashton family to be connected with the manufacture of cotton in Hyde, he became more widely known for his political and educational activities. Thomas Gair also was the first MP for Hyde, and was duly elected to the peerage in 1911, becoming the first Lord Ashton of Hyde. Due to his involvement in politics he left the district, thus severing the ties between the Ashton family and Hyde. The Company did continue in cotton manufacture, continuing its policy of technological development. Since ]968, the firm has continued in textile manufacture, trading under the name of Ashtons, although it is now a member of the Courtaulds Textiles Group. Through the use of existing documentation, information supplied by the current members of the family - especially the 3rd Lord Ashton and Judge Chetwynd-Talbot; archived family papers, material and information supplied by ex-members of Ashton Bros. workforce and relatives of 'house-staff' from the Ford Bank home of the Ashtons, I hope that this study will expand the available documentaries of this remarkable family's influence and involvement with the township of Hyde.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available