Marque of respect

Reporter: KAREN DOHERTY
Date published: 05 July 2010


IN 1882 an Oldham sewing machine manufacturer held an evening of feasting and entertainment that went on into the small hours.

The event celebrated the fact that Messers Shepherd, Rothwell and Hough had been so successful that it was moving to a new factory.

And now that occasion has been recreated at a dinner at the White Hart Inn, Lydgate, to launch a new book about the company — which went from sewing and knitting machines to bicycles, cars and commercial vehicles.

Guests included seven great-grandchildren of Fred Rothwell, one of two brothers who owned and ran the firm which became Rothwell in 1887.

Items on display were sewing machines, a 1902 gent’s racing bike and cars collected by organiser Julia Dawson whose father, James, married Fred’s granddaughter.

“Rothwell of Oldham” has been written by vintage and classic car enthusiast John Warburton after a chance contact with Julia, who owns the only remaining 1910 Rothwell tourer car.

It charts the history of the company which was based on the site of the current Oldham Chronicle offices in Union Street before moving to Viscount Street, off Rochdale Road.

Julia from Uppermill said: “My father wrote a booklet about the Rothwell car for Oldham Local Studies Centre in 1970. Of course, in those days there were no computers and it did not have any photographs.

“I had a lot of original photographs and old sales catalogues and now we have put them together in a book. I think my father would have been thrilled.”

More than 120 people attended the launch of the book which costs £10, with sales in aid of Dr Kershaw’s Hospice.

“We called it a soiree because 128 years ago they built the new factory in Rochdale Road where Oldham college is now,” explained Julia from Uppermill.

“To celebrate the opening of the new factory they held a soiree and ball in 1882 and I have the original programme.”

The Chronicle covered a pioneering trip in 1904 by the Rothwell brothers to the south coast and back in one of their cars.

Julia’s next project is to undertake the journey in her tourer in September and she added: “There is an account of it in the back of the book and we shan’t be able to recreate exactly the original journey because the roads have changed a bit since.

“But we are staying at one of the original hotels in Salisbury.”

“Rothwell of Oldham” is available from the Oldham Chronicle office or Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, Turf Lane, Royton.


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