In the early 18th century, Oldham Street was apparently:
“An ill-kept muddy lane, held in place on one of its sides by wild hedgerows”.
In 1772, a privately owned track which is now known as Oldham Street was given to the public. The road took its name from Adam Oldham rather than from the place name. He was an acquaintance of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, which could account for the Oldham street location of the Methodist Chapel, opened by Wesley in 1781. Central Hall replaced the Chapel in 1885.
The area around Oldham Street became more affluent, with warehouses and shops, many of whose merchants lived within their shop premises. This is described by Isabella Varley, Mrs. Linnaeus Banks, a resident of Oldham Street, in her book The Manchester Man.
One Oldham Street shopowner mentioned by a number of writers is Abel Heywood, who spearheaded the mass distribution of books, supplying the whole country not only with penny novels, but also with educational books and political pamphlets. Heywood went on to become Mayor of Manchester.
The general well to do, mix of hustle and bustle, pubs, warehousing, grand stores, smaller specialist shops and services continued into the 1970’s. Woolworths, C&A, Affleck and Browns, Cantors, Dobbins attracted a steady flow of happy shoppers, I loved the mongrel nature of the mixed use architecture.
The focus if the city centre then slipped away to the newly built Arndale and pedestrianised Market Street.
Oldham Street awaited a new sense of place and purpose.