AUDENSHAW, a division, in the parish and union of Ashton-under-Lyne, hundred of Salford, S. division of the county of Lancaster, 5 miles (E. by S.) from Manchester; comprising the villages of Audenshaw, Hooleyhill, Littlemoss, North-street, Walkmill, Waterhouses, and Woodhouses; and containing 5374 inhabitants. The name of this place, in ancient documents written Aldwinshagh, is said to be derived from the Saxon Aldwin, an elder or chieftain, and Shagh, a wood. It is supposed to have belonged prior to the Conquest to some Saxon thane, whose residence was on or near the site of the present village, which exhibits appearances of earlier cultivation than the surrounding district, the latter consisting mostly of woods and morasses. A small hamlet in the division derives its name of Danehead from its situation at the head of an extensive valley called "the Danes," probably from some battle which took place there between that people and the Saxons; it is traversed by a stream which falls into the river Mersey.
The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the various branches of the hat manufacture, in silk and cotton weaving and spinning, and calico-printing. The Ashton and Oldham canals, and the Manchester and Sheffield railway, pass through the division; and a large reservoir has been constructed here for supplying the town of Manchester with water. The village of Audenshaw is large and populous, and is situated a mile and a half west of Ashton, on the road to Manchester; that of Hooleyhill, also populous, had its origin in the establishment of a hat manufactory about 1790. Waterhouses is formed of a group of rustic cottages, in a deep woody vale; and to the south of it is Littlemoss, also a small rural district: the village of North-street is a mile west of Ashton; and Woodhouses, a pleasant hamlet, two and a half miles north-west of that town. Audenshaw Lodge, an agreeable seat, was for many generations in the possession of the Stanfields: there are several other ancient and some handsome and neat mansions in the division. A church district was formed in 1844, and endowed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and a church dedicated to St. Stephen, the first stone of which was laid in May 1845, has been erected in the early English style, with a tower, partly by means of a grant from the Church Commissioners: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Crown and the Bishop of Chester alternately; net income, £150. There are places of worship for Wesleyans and for Methodists of the New Connexion. A parochial school was founded about the year 1745, and endowed by Miles Hilton with two estates in the parish of Manchester, producing £40 per annum; the schoolroom, with a large house for the master, was erected at an expense of nearly £1000, defrayed partly by subscription, and partly by the appropriation of the income arising from the endowment.