Denton is a town that sits within the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside, which is part of Greater Manchester. Historically Denton was a part of Lancashire and was a major hub for hat manufacturing in Britain. Today Denton is primarily a residential town with around 34,000 inhabitants. Its location is close to the centre of Manchester, which is around five miles away, and has plenty of amenities, attractions, landmarks and a robust public transport system.
Valley TownDenton Town Hall – Photograph by Gerald England
There are two meanings for the name Denton. One is the literal translation, Dane-Town. Another, however, is an earlier Anglo-Saxon name, denu, which means valley and ton which means settlement, so Denton is therefore assumed to be named after the Tame Valley which surrounds the town. There is still evidence of Anglo-Saxon activity in the area. Part of the Nico Ditch, which is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and dates from around 870 AD, still survives across Denton Golf Club. Legend has it that the local Saxon population dug this defensive ditch running from Ashton Moss through to Hough-End Moss in south Manchester in just one night to protect the township of Manchester from the invading Danish hordes.
Denton used to make hats from as early as the beginning of the 18th century and towards the end of the 19th century it became a major player in hat manufacture in Britain. At one point there was thought to be around 35 companies within Denton making hats, producing up to 24,000 felt hats per week.
Where Did It All Go?
As felt hats became less fashionable and people moved onto the more flashy silk hats, production decreased. Though not long after, when machinery became a viable production option, producing hats at a greatly lowered price, the felt hat industry boomed once again, pushing Denton and neighbouring Stockport to be the largest felt hat manufacturing area in Britain. At the beginning of the 20th century 41% of all people employed in Denton were directly involved in the manufacture of hats alone. Unfortunately by 1980, the last hat factory in Denton had shut down.
During the process of hat making, the process used to separate the fur from the hide involved the use of mercury and due to bad working conditions and inadequate ventilation, many workers suffered from mercury poisoning. It’s by no accident there are three pubs in the town called the ‘Jolly Hatter’ and this is also where the term “Mad as a hatter” came from. It was also due in part to the fact that the people of Denton were quite crazy about hats, to the point where you wouldn’t be taken in to work unless you wore a hat and anyone trying to enter the shops of denton would be cursed for not wearing anything on the head. There’s a well known slogan that came from all this, “If you want to get ahead, get a hat”. Thankfully, it’s not a requirement to wear hats in Denton anymore!