SADDLEWORTH CAN lay claim to the origins of ‘Platt’s of Oldham’, which claimed to be the largest establishment in the world producing textile machinery and for a time the largest engineering works in the world.
It seems incredible nowadays that at its peak it was employing over 10,000 workmen and in the 1890s it was estimated that it provided work for nearly half of Oldham’s workforce.
The beginnings of the company were to say the least somewhat more humble, starting essentially in Dobcross, with Henry Platt a blacksmith working at a small workshop at Bridge House, which was located at the top of Nicker Brow.
His skills were well suited to the developing textile industry and by 1770 he was manufacturing carding equipment.
The direct link to Platt’s of Oldham however comes when the grandson of Henry, similarly named Henry Platt, no doubt having had a grounding of the skills involved by his grandfather, established in Uppermill, on the High Street next to the Waggon Inn, a workshop employing five workmen.
They first produced a carding machine which with good workmanship proved to be the precursor of many more orders.
Henry in 1820 following his success moved to Oldham and forming a partnership with Elijah Hibbert they opened a workshop on Huddersfield Road. Henry died in 1842 and Elijah in 1854.
The two sons of Henry (jnr.), John and James had joined the company. Eventually all the shares passed to the Platt family.
In 1844, they moved to Hartford New Works, Werneth and by 1868 growth in sales meant they had to expand and made a ‘New Works’ off Featherstall Road a site which was to occupy 65 acres and manufactured everything from the raw material to finished product.
Platt’s were at the forefront of technological innovation and they subsequently improved all aspects of the machinery used within the textile industry.
The company was to run successfully for over a century but after various incarnations and links with other companies Platt’s itself was essentially wound down and in 1982 the premises in Oldham were closed. There is little of the actual works surviving but the huge ‘Platt’s’ offices still dominate Featherstall Road.
The other link to Saddleworth with the Platt family is of course Ashway Gap House, Greenfield, which was built from the vast fortune they made.
The sad thing is they only enjoyed the house for a short period as in a shooting accident on the moors in 1857 James Platt, who was MP for Oldham at the time, was killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, the site is marked by a Celtic cross which can be seen from the valley bottom.