Sister cities of Ashton-under-Lyne
Ashton-under-Lyne (pop. 43,200) is a market town in the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside, Greater Manchester, England. Historically a part of Lancashire, it lies on the north bank of the River Tame, on undulating land at the foothills of the Pennines. Ashton (as it is often shortened to) is 3.8 miles (6.1 km) south-southeast of Oldham, 6.1 miles (9.8 km) north-northeast of Stockport, and 6.2 miles (10.0 km) east of the city of Manchester.
Evidence of Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Viking activity has been discovered in Ashton-under-Lyne and its surrounding area. The "Ashton" part of the town's name probably dates from the Anglo-Saxon period, and derives from Old English meaning "settlement by ash trees". The origin of the "under-Lyne" suffix is less clear, and it possibly derives from the British lemo meaning elm or from Ashton's proximity to the Pennines. During the Middle Ages, Ashton-under-Lyne formed a parish and township centred on Ashton Old Hall which was held by the de Asshetons, the Lords of the Manor. Granted a Royal Charter in 1414, the manor spanned a broad rural area consisting of marshland, moorland, and a number of villages and hamlets.
Until the introduction of the cotton trade in 1769, Ashton was considered "bare, wet, and almost worthless". The factory system, and textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution triggered a process of unplanned urbanisation in the area, and by the mid-19th century Ashton had emerged as an important mill town at a convergence of newly constructed canals and railways. Ashton-under-Lyne's transport network allowed for an economic boom in cotton spinning, weaving, and coal mining, which led to the granting of honorific borough status in 1847.
During the mid-20th century, imports of cheaper foreign goods led to the decline of Ashton's heavy industries, but the town has continued to thrive as a centre of commerce, and is "considered the hub of Tameside, providing the perfect setting for the town hall, council offices and 19th-century market hall". Ashton Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the United Kingdom. The 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2), two-floored Ashton Arcades shopping centre opened in 1995, and in 2006 IKEA opened what was then the tallest store in the country.
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