P is for Public Works

The Lancashire Cotton Famine arose in ~ 1861 due to the shortage of raw cotton arriving in Lancs secondary to the blockade of American ports during the Civil War. The situation was exacerbated by a relative overproduction in 1859-60 leading to reduction in price for the finished goods. The consequence for the Lancashire cotton workers was depressed wages and rising unemployment. This led in turn to a strain on the poor relief system. Informal schemes to provide relief developed, from soup kitchens to sewing classes.

The Public Works (Manufacturing Districts) Act 1864 enabled local authorities to borrow money to be spent on approved public works giving employment to those affected by the cotton famine. Schemes included developing parks (Alexandra Park in Oldham being an example), cleaning rivers and installing water and sewerage systems. Rooley Moor Road between Stacksteads (approx 1 mile from Springhill) and Rochdale over the moor was setted under this act.

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Which is all very well and doubtless of great benefit to the impoverished textile workers but the question is still why this particular project was chosen. Rooley Moor Road was the main drovers' route at one stage but the main routes were the turnpike road in the valley floor and the railway by the 1860s. Rooley Moor Road was a minor way at that stage and it would be surprising if there were not other projects more beneficial to the population at large for the money to be spent and the men to be working on.

Report in the
Sydney Morning Herald Mon 28 March 1864 on the working of the Public Works Act courtesy of the excellent Trove