Hannah Woman of Iron.
Thursday 26th March 2015 @ 16:06 by Anna Fletcher
Ashton Poet's Corner

Hannah - woman of iron

A chance sighting at Park Bridge in Ashton over 60 years ago has now inspired a novel for 94-year-old Barbara Sowood.

Barbara first moved to Ashton when she was married and lived there for thirty years. On a trip to Park Bridge she caught sight of a sign that used to stand at the front of the old iron works that attributed Hannah Lees as the owner.

Barbara said: “I just thought how on earth was a woman in those days, 200 years ago, able to manage that and I felt inspired and very curious as to who she was.”

Barbara began to research Hannah and continued her interest even when she moved out of Tameside and eventually found Hannah’s ancestors who gave her their blessing to publish a book based around Hannah and her family.

Hannah’s living family were unaware of who they had in their family tree until Barbara came along.

Barbara spent hours at the library on Old Street researching the mysterious Hannah and eventually found that she inherited the iron works from her husband after he passed away.

She also found that there was a preacher named John Wroe who came to Ashton when Hannah was there.

She said: “The story really is her battle of bringing up her family and battling against the influence of this zany preacher that almost took over Ashton for a time.”

John Wroe predicted that a messiah would be born in Ashton and entranced many of the wealthy mill owners and members of the public who eventually built a church for him.

Though he was already married he had a relationship with Hannah’s daughter who became pregnant. It was this child, according to Wroe that would become the messiah, however she eventually gave birth to a daughter, not a son, and John quickly cut off ties with her.

Barbara said: “I felt I was identifying with this woman, I have a large family of children and I really sympathised with her bitter struggle. I mean after Hannah’s daughter had her child, John Wroe had nothing more to do with her, so she was an unmarried mother and Hannah had to support her through all of that.”

Barbara, who now lives in Wales, hopes her work will bring Hannah’s story to a new generation.

She said: “I hope it will throw light on this story from 200 years ago. Hannah’s character is one of such determination, she is a very good example.

“She inspired me because of her bravery and endurance. Through everything she stuck to what she knew was right or wrong and wasn’t influenced by others.”

Hannah: Woman of Iron is available now.