The company was incorporated on 25th January 1883 to build a cotton spinning mill holding about 80,000 mule spindles, at Beal Lane, Shaw, Oldham. Spinning started in 1884.
In 1920 the company was put into voluntary liquidation. A new company, The Ash Spinning Co. (1920) Ltd was incorporated on 13th August, No. 163894, to purchase for £150,000 the business and assets of the old company. The board of directors stayed the same.
In 1953, the directors took advantage of changes in the Finance Act to turn the firm into a holding company, and to transfer the spinning business and trading assets to a subsidiary company. The Ash Spinning Co. (1953) Ltd was therefore incorporated to purchase the undertaking and business of the 1920 company. As a holding company, it would manage its not inconsiderable investment portfolio, and leave the day-to-day running of the spinning business to its new subsidiary, Ash Mill (Shaw) Ltd.
The company seemed to weather the contraction in the spinning industry with some success, although it did take advantage of the Cotton Board's subsidy to get rid of a small number of mule spindles. This allowed the company to install modern ring frames in 1959.
As a result of further amendments to the Finance Act, 1959, there was no point in keeping the assets of the company in two separate firms. In March 1960 Ash Mill (Shaw) Ltd was therefore wound up voluntarily, and its assets transferred to the parent company, which reverted to its old name, The Ash Spinning Co. Ltd.
A growing demand for man-made fibres led the directors in 1968 to set up a new company to process this product by a heat-setting system, for use by manufacturers of ladies' hose and dress materials. The new company, Forward Textiles Ltd, was established on the Hare Law Estate, Stanley, Co. Durham. Hagues Textiles Ltd of Chadderton were invited to put up half the investment.
The installation of more modern spinning machinery brought new problems of dust control, and Ash's research and development department developed new rotary filters and exhaust equipment to keep the air in the mill purified. The equipment was patented in 1968 and, with Parks Cramer (Great Britain) Ltd, a new company was created to sell the equipment world-wide. This was Talentum Developments Ltd, (q.v. D-HIAG) which was eventually sold in 1977.
Co-operation with Hagues Textiles Ltd bore further fruit in February 1970, when Ash acquired all its shares from the Hague family for £431,000, paid for entirely in cash.
In April 1971, the company bought Jacksons (Hurstead) Ltd from the Jackson family for £82,015, in order to diversify by manufacturing synthetic yarn at Hurstead Mills while removing the doubling machinery to the Ash Mill. A closer examination of the buildings and machinery, however, revealed that re-investment would have to be very high to modernise the mill. Production was therefore phased out, with work finally finishing in July 1971.
A year later, the deepening recession in the industry forced the directors to close both Hagues Textiles Ltd and Jacksons (Hurstead) Ltd, in order to avoid incurring heavy trading losses. This decision proved to be correct, as trade deteriorated still further. The Hawthorn (originally Hagues) and Hurstead Mills were sold, although the companies were retained as non-trading companies.
In 1975 the chairman was able comment with some satisfaction:
"Firstly we created Forward Textiles, followed very quickly by the acquisition of Hagues Textiles. Then there was the purchase of Jacksons Hurstead... Two years ago  we acquired the whole of the capital of Joseph Hardman & Son Ltd in order to integrate it with the activities of Ash. We ventured into chemicals [for the textile industry] this time last year...as agents principally for Dow Chemical Co. of America. Also in June 1974 we bought a 75% interest in W.K. Blackburn who knit, dye, print and make-up stretch material for the furnishing and underwear markets".
A sharp decline in trade forced some rationalisation of resources. Blackburns was closed in 1976, while Hardman's doubling machinery was removed to Ash Mill, and the buildings sold.
In April 1979, in a hard-fought take-over battle, the Ash Spinning Co. Ltd was acquired by John Bright Group Ltd of Rochdale. Before Bright's could do anything with its new acquisition, a fortnight later it was itself taken over by Largs Ltd, an investment company based on the Isle of Man.
By 1982, the Ash Spinning Co. Ltd, now a private company, still owned the whole of the share capital of:
Forward Textiles Ltd
Joseph Hardman & Sons Ltd
Park Yarns (Rochdale) Ltd (formerly Hagues Textiles Ltd)
Jacksons (Hurstead) Ltd,
And held a 75% interest in:
W.K. Blackburn & Co. Ltd (in liquidation) and its subsidiary, F. Bonnington (Drapers) Ltd.
The Ash Group Ltd
On 18th April 1983 The Ash Spinning Co. Ltd was renamed The Ash Group Ltd because the directors felt that the old name was not representative of its restructured activities. In the same year, Largs Ltd, the new parent company, decided to consolidate all manufacturing under Highams Ltd, which it had also acquired and reverted to private status. All of the Ash Group companies, therefore, with their fellow subsidiary, John Bright & Bros. Ltd, were transferred to a specially-created holding company, Access Crown Ltd. All of Access Crown's assets and companies were then sold on to Highams Ltd, for £4m.
It is not clear what happened to John Bright Group Ltd because that company's records have not been deposited. In 1984 its new owners transferred certain of its trading activities, comprising the business of winding and dipping rubberised cord for the automotive, power transmission and tyre fabric industries, to The Ash Group Ltd. The two divisions were now known as:
The Ash Group, trading as John Bright & Bros. Ltd, Tyre Cord Division, Rochdale; and
The Ash Group, trading as John Bright & Bros. Ltd, Technical Yarns, Rochdale.
The Ash Mill itself was closed in 1984, and all its spinning activities transferred to Grape Mill, Royton, the Registered Office of The Ash Group. The land, buildings and unwanted machinery in Shaw were put up for sale, and the site was later turned into a housing estate. By the end of that year The Ash Group Ltd seemingly comprised:
Ash Ltd, with its subsidiary divisions:
Ash Spinning Co. Ltd - Grape and Vine Mills, Royton
John Bright & Bros. Ltd - Grape Mill, Royton
John Bright Technical Yarns Division - Fieldhouse Mills, Rochdale
John Bright Tyre Cord Division - Oxford Mill, Rochdale
Forward Textiles Ltd - Grape Mill, Royton
Jacksons (Hurstead) Ltd - a non-trading company
Joseph Hardman & Sons Ltd - a non-trading company
Park Yarns (Rochdale) Ltd - Park Mill, Rochdale.