Oldham is a large town in Greater Manchester, England, amid the Pennines and between the rivers Irk and Medlock, 5.3 miles (8.5 km) southeast of Rochdale and 6.9 miles (11.1 km) northeast of Manchester. It is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, which had a population of 230,800 in 2015.
Within the boundaries of the historic county of Lancashire, and with little early history to speak of, Oldham rose to prominence in the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture. It was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution, and among the first ever industrialised towns, rapidly becoming “one of the most important centres of cotton and textile industries in England”. At its zenith, it was the most productive cotton spinning mill town in the world, producing more cotton than France and Germany combined. Oldham’s textile industry fell into decline in the mid-20th century; the town’s last mill closed in 1998.
The demise of textile processing in Oldham depressed and heavily affected the local economy. Today Oldham is a predominantly residential town, and the improvement of the town centre is the focus of a project for transforming Oldham into a centre for further education and the performing arts. It is, however, still distinguished architecturally by the surviving cotton mills and other buildings associated with that industry. As of 2001, the town had a population of 103,544 and an area of around 26 square miles (67 km2).