Digging Around Ashton Moss

Fri, 09/24/2010

Kindling's Forgotten Fields project is exploring the incredible history of market gardening in Ashton Moss with local residents. Over the next few months Fiona Dunk, local historians and children of Aldwyn Primary School, Audenshaw, are carrying out inter-generational interviews with local growers.

This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800's to grow some of the best crops - It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses. The ground was apparently fertilised by marl dug from local banks or pits, and by dung brought by horse and cart from the elephant and tiger enclosures at Belle-Vue Zoo, down the road.

Many of the market gardening families, and those who remember or worked on the Moss, have passed through Aldwyn Primary School. Many families sustained themselves on a three or four acre plot on the Moss, selling their produce in Ashton and Manchester markets as well as locally, from as far back as the 1840's.

For example, four brothers of the Kelly family came from Ireland shortly after the Irish potato famine of 1840's, settled on the Moss and still have a descendent selling fruit and vegetables on Ashton Market today.

The Moss is also where Bill Sowerbutts, of Gardener's Question Time fame, learnt his trade. Bill's first memories were of his Father's smallholding on the Moss, which had been bought from a market gardener called Tommy Knight in 1892.

The children will also be interviewing the last families to grow commercially on the Moss. They will learn about the economic pressure to change from growing food to ornamental plants and hear about the ultimately futile resistance of locals to the commercial development of the Moss, which has led to the irretrievable destruction of a site of special social, economic and environmental value.

Click here for more information about Forgotten Fields.

Forgotten Fields is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It focuses on the heritage of food production and availability in Manchester from 1750’s to present day, concentrating on six communities from across Greater Manchester who have expressed a need to explore a particular food heritage.

For more information contact Fiona Dunk on 07848 026 257 or email her at fiona@kindling.org.uk

The Kindling Trust is a not for profit social enterprise with charitable aims (Company number: 6136029).
Kindling Trust Ltd - Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 7HR