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Robert Whittaker was born in Oldham in 1747 and spent much time travelling to Hurst, giving advice to his son John. Robert’s wife was a Methodist and heard John Wesley preach near Oldham; she also saw him stoned.
John Whittaker was born in 1776. In 1806, he left Oldham to seek his fortune. He got as far as Hurst but unlike Dick Whittington, he did not turn and the bells did not sound. So he set foot on Hurst soil and founded the works known as Whittaker’s Mill for spinning and weaving.
John Whittaker was a Methodist and was the first to provide a place of worship in Hurst in the year 1808 when he set aside a warehouse to use for worship and Sunday School. In 1803, John and his wife had a son and called him John. Seven years later another son was born and he was named Oldham, probably due to family origins. The cashier at his father’s mill left and
Oldham was placed in the counting house. He was taught the engineer’s art and progressed so well that he designed two engines and built a brand new factory.
Oldham like his brother John became a well-respected and much-liked boss. During the cotton famine, he gave away thousands of pounds to help those who suffered. When the troubles had passed, he would provide treats for his workforce by taking them all on day trips to North Wales and Southport. On one such trip to N. Wales on 20 August 1861, there were 2500 work people, teachers and scholars of St John’s, travelling on three trains with between 70 and 80 carriages. His generosity to his workforce was to benefit the people of Ashton for many years to come.
Oldham died on 31 December 1871 and was interred in the family vault here at St John’s on 4 January 1872.