Lees (pop. 10,100) is a suburb and village within the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies amongst the Pennines on elevated ground on the east side of the River Medlock, east of Oldham, and east-northeast of Manchester. From 1894 until 1974 Lees was an urban district located on the Lancashire side of the county boundary with the West Riding of Yorkshire, giving rise to a part of Lees being known locally as County End.
Lees is believed to have obtained its name in the 14th century from John de Leghes, a retainer of the local Lord of the Manor. For centuries, Lees was a conglomeration of hamlets, ecclesiastically linked with the township of Ashton-under-Lyne. Farming was the main industry of this rural area, with inhabitants supplementing their incomes by hand-loom weaving with the goods sold through a travelling agent. At the beginning of the 19th century Lees had obtained a reputation for its mineral springs; ambitions to develop Lees into a spa town were thwarted by an unplanned process of urbanisation caused by introduction and profitability of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution.
Lees expanded into a factory village during the late-19th century on the back of neighbouring Oldham's booming cotton spinning sector. The former Lees Urban District, an area of 0.4 square miles (1 km2), had eleven cotton mills at its manufacturing zenith.
Lees was one of the localities which, on 16 August 1819, sent a contingent of parishioners to the mass public demonstration at Manchester, now known as the Peterloo Massacre. In the week before Peterloo (an assembly demanding the reform of parliamentary representation), weavers in Lees had paraded through the village with a large black flag adorned with the slogans "no Borough Mongering, Taxation Without Representation is Unject and Tyrannical," and "Unite and be Free, Equal Representation or Death". The growing unrest in the village prompted one alarmed inhabitant to write to the Home Office.
Lees Urban District
Between 1894 and 1974, Lees constituted the Lees Urban District, in the administrative county of Lancashire; the Local Board became the Lees Urban District Council. As the district was situated entirely between the County Borough of Oldham and the West Riding of Yorkshire, it constituted an exclave of the administrative county of Lancashire. In 1911 part of the urban district was added to the civil parish of Crossbank, but in 1914 Crossbank was absorbed into the Lees Urban District.