Completed in 1865, the former Victorian school that now serves as the Mossley Community Centre was originally known as Roughtown School. It then became St John’s School when the adjacent St. John the Baptist’s Church was consecrated in 1878. The school saw many generations of children pass through until its closure in 1974, when it became Mossley youth centre and then after that it was transformed into what is known today as the Mossley Community Centre. On average over 800 individuals pass through the the Mossley Community Centre each week, from mums and tots groups to our 55+ club.
St John’s School was built on the edge of an ancient area where the districts of Quick Wood and Roughtown bounded each other together. Parts of Quick Wood extended down the hill onto Manchester Road, Mossley near the appropriately named Woodend Mill and Woodend pub. This area of woodland existed until the mid-1840s after which many trees were felled to make sleepers for the new railway line. Trees also provided fuel for cooking fires, and temporary shelters for the workmen employed in the railway’s construction. Opposite the Community Centre was an area called Little Wood, and not far away were Solomon Wood, The Plantation, and Nield’s Wood, where bullfinches once nested.
Quick Wood lay in the larger area of Quick, in the Lower Division of Quickmere, Saddleworth, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The nearby houses of Quick Terrace and Quick Hall bear testament to the existence of Quick Wood, as did other names. Quick Hall was known as Wood Hall whilst the present day Roughtown Road was known locally as Wood Brow. The stone wall around the Community Centre follows the original course of Wood Brow as it turns left behind Quick Terrace to join present day Carrhill Road. A local stream, now culverted, was known as Roughtown Spout. It fed a small dye works and a domestic water source known as Wood Well that served the residents for many years. I understand the original well is in the cellar of a house on Stockport Road.
Prior to the Norman Conquest, Quick Edge had been settled by the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes. Originally a small settlement on a flank of the hill, it was known to them as Thoac or Tohac, later Wicke or Wyke, which the Norman’s may have pronounced as Quick.
Whatever the case may be, Quick is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. In time, the area of Quick extended from the River Tame up and over Quick Edge until it met with the Lees/Lydgate boundaries. In 1309, William de Mossley claimed the whole area and by 1334, the residents of Quick were paying their first taxes.
It appears the area has caused a few arguments in its time: in 1360, fifty acres of land were at the centre of a boundary dispute between John Adamson and Robert Stanley of Mossley. In 1594, the Lord of the Manor of Saddleworth was in dispute with Peter Winterbottom, whilst in 1625, Sir John Ramsden entered into difficulties with adjoining land owners after he enclosed vast areas of land between Huddersfield and Brookbottom, today’s Top Mossley. This was where the boundaries of Lancashire and West Yorkshire met.
By 1864, due to the rapid spread of Top Mossley as a textile manufacturing area, Quick became part of Mossley Local Board of Health and, by 1885, was a part of Mossley Borough in the County of Lancashire. In 1974, local government boundary changes brought Quick into Tameside Borough in the County of Greater Manchester, where it remains to this day.
Finally, perhaps the best known teacher at St. John’s School was Alfred Holt. He was the Head for many years before his death in 1932, and he loved the school and the people of Mossley. His 1926 publication ‘The Story of Mossley’ remains an informative and popular read. Although Mr. Holt’s ashes were scattered on Hartshead Pike, over the years, some members of staff at the Community Centre have been alone in the building when they have felt a presence. I have to admit, having been alone in the building myself, especially in the cellars, I have looked over my shoulder now and then!
The activities within the Mossley Community Centre go from strength to strength whilst the building itself continues to serve the residents of Mossley as it always has, during its 143 year history.