Small Hamlets to Big Waterwheels – Diggle thrives on the Industrial Revolution

It is hardly a sprawling metropolis nowadays, but about 250 hundred years ago Diggle comprised of three hamlets; Harrop Green, Diglea and Weakey.

Harrop Green is situated at the northern end of the village close to Diggle primary school.  The cluster of houses around the ‘green’ was home to an industrious group of weavers.

Diglea is the oldest hamlet and is close to the Diggle Hotel.  The narrow lane gives a hint of how the village must have appeared in the early 1800’s and before.

Weakey is the area close to the Hanging Gate pub and is today the centre of the village.

Diggle developed into a linear village as it spread along the valley floor next to Diggle Brook.  In the late 1700’s the village florished on agriculture and textiles, but the construction of the canal and the railway significantly contributed to Diggle’s early economic development.  The Standedge to Oldham turnpike road allowed easy access for inbound labour and materials.  Gritstone houses built with the stone quarried at Running Hill Pits appeared along Huddersfield Road to house the influx of workers.

The photograph shows Diggle Mill’s waterwheel, which was in its day the second largest waterwheel in theUnited Kingdom.  Its diameter was 64 feet 8 inches and provided an output of 130 horsepower.  It was dismantled in 1924.

Whit Friday Celebrations

As Diggle’s population grew, the tradition of Whit Friday grew in popularity.  The workers in the mills, on the railway and canal and the many farm labourers looked forward to a late spring holiday with their families.  The church played an important role in the life of all the Saddleworth villages and was keen to organise processions and open worship to celebrate Whitsuntide.

The tradition continues and every year Diggle is proud to display its church banners on Whit Friday.  This is also the time for the world famous Saddleworth Band Contest.  Diggle has become a very popular venue and the sound of brass against a back drop of Saddleworth Moor in a village rich with industrial heritage is something all Diggle people cherish.

Notice the attendant brass band is in action in the final photo.  The occasion may well be one of the pauses for music and singing made by many of the processions throughout Saddleworth.

The participation of  Wrigley Mill Methodist church in this year’s Whit Walk is uncertain because the church officially closed for worship in September 2011.  We sincerely hope that the tradition lives and we will do all we possibly can to help the village retain these important links with the past.

There may not be as many Diggle people in today’s crowds as there might have been fifty or sixty years ago, but the village still holds the day in high esteem.   We look forward to Whit 2012.