A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This, the northernmost part of the parish, lies in a bend of the Irk, which bounds it on the north-west, west, and south-west. A ridge over 300 ft. high projects westward through the northern part of the township, the greater part of which lies on the southern slope of the hill. The area is 1,840 acres, having a breadth of about 2 miles from north to south, and measuring somewhat more from east to west. In the southern part a brook runs westward down Boggart Hole Clough. (fn. 1) Barnes Green is on the border of Harpurhey. The population of Blackley and Harpurhey together was 24,501 in 1901.
The principal road is that from Manchester to Middleton, going north. At Blackley village another road branches off west towards Prestwich, and from this latter another runs in a zigzag course through Higher Blackley, formerly known as Crab Lane End, to Heaton. There are various subsidiary roads, and the township is becoming a suburb of Manchester, though most of it remains rural.
In 1666 there were four houses with ten hearths each—those of Mr. Legh, Ralph Bowker, Mr. Bowker, and Edward Dawson—but no other dwelling had more than five. The total number in the township was 107. (fn. 2) The old water corn-mill was in 1850 used for grinding logwood. (fn. 3) The woollen and fustian manufactures were actively pursued in Blackley; a fulling-mill at Boggart Hole Clough is mentioned in 1691. (fn. 4) Within the township are a match works, chemical works, a smallware manufactory, and some minor industries.
BLACKLEY was anciently a park of the lord of Manchester; its value in 1282 was £6 13s. 4d., for herbage, dead wood, pannage, and eyries of sparrow-hawks. (fn. 5) Forty years later its circuit was estimated as seven leucae, and it had two deer leaps; (fn. 6) the pasturage was sufficient for 240 cattle, in addition to the deer and other wild animals. (fn. 7) Leases and other grants of the land and pasture were from time to time made by the lords, (fn. 8) and in 1473 John Byron held Blackley village, Blackley field, and Pillingworth fields, with the appurtenances, at a rent of £33 6s. 8d., then recently increased from £28 1s. a year. (fn. 9) On the dispersal of the Byron estates about the beginning of the 17th century, Blackley was sold in parcels to a number of owners. (fn. 10) The hall and demesne were acquired by Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton, (fn. 11) and sold to Francis Legh of Lyme in 1636. (fn. 12) They descended in this family till 1814, when they were sold in thirty-four lots, William Grant of Ramsbottom purchasing the hall, which was pulled down. (fn. 13) It was haunted by a 'boggart' or ghost, according to the popular belief. (fn. 14)
Among those described as 'of Blackley' in the inquisitions are Daniel Travis, (fn. 15) Francis Nuttall, (fn. 16) Matthew Hopwood, (fn. 17) Abraham Carter, (fn. 18) John and George Pendleton, (fn. 19) Stephen Rodley, (fn. 20) Ralph Wardleworth, (fn. 21) William Chetham, (fn. 22) Patrick Edrington, (fn. 23) William and John Cowper, (fn. 24) and William Heywood. (fn. 25) There were small estates, in most cases resulting from the division of the Byron estate, and held by knight's service.
Humphrey Booth of Salford also had land in the township, (fn. 26) and it descended in the family for about a century. (fn. 27) BOOTH HALL was situated about 4 miles north of Manchester, on high ground a short distance to the east of the old road to Middleton. It is said to have been built during the years 1639–40 by Humphrey Booth for his son, but before demolition, about 1906–7, had undergone many alterations and additions which had robbed it of most of its original architectural features. It was a twostoried house, the oldest portion of which is described as having many gables, and was built of brick, but had been stuccoed and painted over in later years. One addition was made early in the 18th century and another in the first half of the 19th century. On the front of the original part of the house on a wooden beam was carved 'H B: A B: 1640,' the initials of Humphrey Booth and Ann Booth (born Hough) his wife. In 1855 the old part of the house is described as having suffered much at the hands of recent tenants, most of the original mullioned windows on the ground floor having been built up or replaced by modern casements, and on the first floor nothing but the hood-moulds remained to show that such windows ever existed. (fn. 28) The house was pulled down to make way for the Blackley Hospital, but part of the brick farm-buildings are still standing. The house was acquired by Richard Worthington of Manchester, grocer; from him it passed to the Diggles family, and by descent to the Bayleys. (fn. 29) Amselford or Hoozleforth Gate was the name of a farm in the north-east of the township.
The land tax returns show that the principal proprietors in 1787 were Richard Brown, Thomas Bayley, Richard Taylor, Lord Grey de Wilton, John Hutton, Peter Legh, and Robert Jackson. (fn. 30) About 1850 the principal proprietor was the Earl of Wilton, who owned a third of the land, his interest being derived partly by inheritance from the Hollands and Asshetons and partly by purchase. (fn. 31)
The most famous personage connected with Blackley by popular association, if not by birth, is John Bradford, burnt to death at Smithfield on 1 July 1555 for Protestantism. (fn. 32) He was born about 1520–5 and educated at Manchester. Embracing a secular career, he entered the service of Sir John Harrington, paymaster of the English forces in France; a fraud in his accounts at that time, to the hurt of the king, afterwards caused him deep sorrow, being greatly moved to this (fn. 33) by Latimer's preaching. (fn. 34) He became a Protestant, and that of the more extreme type, studied law, and then went to Cambridge, where he was almost immediately elected fellow of Pembroke and made Master of Arts. (fn. 35) He was urged to preach, and was ordained deacon by Bishop Ridley, (fn. 36) but does not appear to have advanced further. He was made prebendary of St. Paul's and chaplain to the king, and preached in London, Lancashire, and Cheshire, without undertaking any parochial charge. (fn. 37) Soon after the accession of Mary he was lodged in the Tower on charges of sedition, preaching without a licence, and heresy. (fn. 38) His first examination took place in the Tower, and he was again examined on 23 January 1554–5, and later days; afterwards he was excommunicated as a heretic. (fn. 39) Fresh efforts to convince him that he was in error were made by various prelates and theologians, (fn. 40) but in vain, and at last he was delivered to the executioners, suffering a cruel death with great courage. He was a zealous and eloquent man, of irreproachable life, and consequently of wide influence. (fn. 41) He was not married, and the only relatives known are his mother, his two sisters, and his 'brother Roger,' who is no doubt Roger Beswick, husband of one of the sisters. (fn. 42)
The water-mill at Blackley was long in the occupation of a family named Costerdine. (fn. 43)
A constable for the township or hamlet is mentioned in 1618. (fn. 44)
There was an oratory at Blackley as early as 1360, (fn. 45) probably the origin of the chapel existing in 1548. (fn. 46) This was rebuilt in 1736, (fn. 47) and again in 1844; it is called St. Peter's. (fn. 48) In 1611 the Byrons sold to John Cudworth, James Chetham, and Edmund Howarth the chapel and chapel yard, and the chamber and garden there, for use as a place of worship for the people of Blackley. (fn. 49) The stipend of the minister was derived from seat rents and offerings. Service was maintained there during the latter part of Eliza beth's reign, (fn. 50) and there exists a plan of the seats made early in the 17th century, (fn. 51) from which time can be traced a succession of curates and rectors. In 1650 the Parliamentary surveyors found the chapel provided with a minister's house and an endowment of 17s. 8d.; the remainder of the stipend came from voluntary contributions. (fn. 52) The same thing was reported in 1707, (fn. 53) but soon after this benefactors came forward, and about 1720 the income was £27 10s. 8d. (fn. 54) The income is now stated to be £500.
A district chapelry was formed in 1839. (fn. 55) The registers begin in 1655. (fn. 56) The patronage is vested in the Dean and canons of Manchester, and the following is a list of incumbents:— (fn. 57)
|oc.||1600||Thomas Paget (fn. 58)|
|oc.||1632||William Rathband (fn. 59)|
|oc.||1646||James Hall (fn. 60)|
|1648||James Walton (fn. 61)|
|1652||Samuel Smith, B.A. (fn. 62)|
|1653||Thomas Holland, M.A. (Edin.) (fn. 63)|
|1662||(?) James Booker (fn. 64)|
|oc.||1668||John Brereton (fn. 65)|
|1669||John Dawson, B.A. (fn. 66) (Jesus Coll., Camb.)|
|oc.||1671||William Dunbabin (fn. 67)|
|oc.||1674||Ichabod Furness, B.A. (fn. 68)|
|oc.||1677||William Bray, B.A. (fn. 69) (Emmanuel Coll., Camb.)|
|1683||John Morton (fn. 70) (Magdalene Coll., Camb.)|
|1705||Nathaniel Bann, M.A. (fn. 71) (Jesus Coll., Camb.)|
|1712||William Whitehead, B.A. (fn. 72)|
|1716||Edward Hulton, B.A. (fn. 73) (Brasenose Coll., Oxf.)|
|1763||Peter Haddon, M.A. (fn. 74)|
|1787||John Griffith, M.A. (fn. 75)|
|1809||Richard Alexander Singleton, B.D. (fn. 76) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1838||William Robert Keeling, B.A. (fn. 77) (St. John's Coll., Camb.)|
|1869||John Leighton Figgins, B.A. (fn. 78) (Queens' Coll., Camb.)|
|1874||William Coghlan (fn. 79)|
In 1865 St. Andrew's, Higher Blackley, was built, (fn. 80) and more recently the district of Holy Trinity has been formed, though a permanent church is wanting.
The first school dates from 1710, when money was left for the purpose by Robert Litchford. (fn. 81)
There are six Methodist chapels. The Wesleyans began with a Sunday school in 1801, and built a chapel in 1806. (fn. 82) At Crab Lane Head, or Higher Blackley, the New Connexion began meetings in 1815; Zion Chapel was built in 1830. (fn. 83) The United Free Methodists opened a small chapel in 1836, rebuilt in 1853; (fn. 84) they have two others. The Primitive Methodists have a chapel at Barnes Green.
The Baptists had a meeting-place in 1880. (fn. 85)
The minister of the parochial chapel in 1662, Thomas Holland, was ejected for nonconformity; many of the people also dissented from the restored services, and as early as 1668 a congregation met at the house of a Mrs. Travis, Thomas Pyke, ejected from Radcliffe, occasionally ministering to them. (fn. 86) A chapel was built in 1697, and was replaced by the present one in 1884. The congregation has been Unitarian since the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 87)
Roman Catholic worship in recent times began in 1851 in a chapel formed out of two cottages. The church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, built in 1855, (fn. 88) has now (1908) been replaced by a larger one. There is a convent of the Good Shepherd, occupying Litchford Hall.