A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Gorton, 1282 (copy), and usually; Goreton, c. 1450. (fn. 1)
This township (fn. 2) lies to the north and south of Gore or Rush Brook, which flows west to the Mersey. The boundary on the west is irregular, Kirkmanshulme, a detached portion of Newton, lying on that side, with a small detached triangle of Gorton to the west of it. There is evidence that the Stockport Road, on the line of the old Roman road from Stockport to Manchester, was not taken as the western boundary till the 17th century, the portions known as Grindlow Marsh and Midway, lying to the north and south of Kirkmanshulme, having been considered as within Rusholme. (fn. 3) The southern boundary is defined by the ancient Nico Ditch. (fn. 4) Fifty years ago there were four hamlets in the township—Gorton village in the centre, Abbey Hey (fn. 5) to the east, Gorton Brook or 'Bottom of Gorton' to the north-west, and Longsight; the last name seems to belong properly to the small detached triangle already mentioned, but is popularly used for the surrounding district. (fn. 6) The surface is comparatively level, rising a little towards the east. The area is 1,484½ acres.
The principal road through Gorton is that from Manchester to Hyde; almost the whole township to the north of this has become urban, and there are many streets and cross roads. A branch of the Great Central Railway runs along the northern boundary and has a station called Gorton, 1842–8. A branch line going south-east crosses the western part of the township, with a station called Belle Vue, while another branch passes south through the eastern part and has a station called Hyde Road. The Manchester and Stockport Canal goes south through the centre of the township.
The government of the township was formerly vested in the constables appointed at a town's meeting and confirmed by the Manchester Court Leet. (fn. 7) A local board was constituted in 1863. (fn. 8) About a fifth of the township was incorporated in the city of Manchester in 1890, under the name of West Gorton; this portion in 1896 became part of the new township of South Manchester. The remainder, known as Gorton, (fn. 9) is governed by an urban district council of fifteen members. An agreement has now (1908) been made for its incorporation in Manchester. The population of this part numbered 26,564 in 1901. The place gives a name to one of the county Parliamentary divisions.
In 1666 there were forty-four hearths in all contributing to the tax; none of the houses had as many as six hearths liable. (fn. 10) The Maidens' Bridge replaced stepping stones over the brook on the road from Gorton to Denton in 1737. (fn. 11) Longsight or Rushford Bridge, over Gore Brook, was built in 1751. (fn. 12) The stocks were erected in 1743. (fn. 13) Some amusing stories are told of the conduct of the people in 1745. (fn. 14) A case of body-snatching occurred in 1831. (fn. 15) There were formerly several places reputed haunted. (fn. 16) The township was famous for its bull-dogs. (fn. 17)
The annual rush-bearing took place on the Friday before the first Sunday in September; the rush cart was accompanied by morris dancers in its tour of the village. The event was usually celebrated by the baiting of bulls, bears, and badgers. (fn. 18) Horse-races were established in 1844, (fn. 19) but have now ceased.
Bleaching was carried on in the early years of the 18th century. (fn. 20) Power-loom weaving was about to be introduced in 1790 (fn. 21); the Gorton cotton mills were started in 1824, and after a failure were restarted in 1844. (fn. 22) There are now a cotton factory, chemical works, iron works, and tanyard.
There was an old custom, discontinued in 1841, of 'giving an heraldic peal or ring on the bell at the conclusion of divine service.' (fn. 23)
Though a manor of GORTON is named in the 17th century the term seems to have been used improperly. In 1282 the place was held in bondage of the lord of Manchester, being assessed as sixteen oxgangs of land and paying 64s. rent; a plat called the Hall land paid 20s. a year; and the mill 26s. 8d. (fn. 24) A more detailed account is given in the survey of 1320, according to which Henry the Reeve, a 'native,' held a messuage and an oxgang of land in villeinage, paying 8s. 4d. rent; he ploughed one day for the lord, receiving a meal and 2d. as wages; harrowed one day, receiving a meal and 1d. wages, or for half a day without the meal; reaped one day in the autumn, receiving a meal and 1d.; and carried the lord's corn one day, having a meal and 2d. wages. He and all others owing suit to the mill at Gorton were bound to quarry millstones and take them to the mill, for each pair of stones receiving 4d. for loading them and 3s. for the carriage. He paid a fine on his daughter's marriage, and on his sons being placed at a free handicraft. On his death a third of his goods went to the lord, and the remainder to his widow and son; if either the widow or the son were dead, half went to the lord; if he left neither widow nor son the lord took the whole; a posthumous son or daughter must make a special agreement as to succession. He had to carry as far as Chesterfield. Five other tenants are named. (fn. 25)
By one of the lords of Manchester Gorton seems to have been granted or leased to the Booths, for in 1433 Sir Robert Booth and Douce his wife enfeoffed Sir John Byron and William Booth, clerk, of his lands in the hamlets of Gorton, &c., described in a fine as twenty-four messuages, 500 acres of land, 40 acres of meadow, and 500 acres of pasture, also 2s. 6d. rent, in Manchester. (fn. 26) In 1473 John Byron held the vill of Gorton with the appurtenances, paying a rent of £30 11s. to the lord of Manchester. (fn. 27) It descended like Clayton till 1612–13, when the manor of Gorton with messuages, lands, water-mill, and horse-mill in Gorton, &c., appears to have been sold by Sir John Byron and the trustees to the tenants. (fn. 28) Thirty-three of the purchasers were in 1614 summoned to pay their shares of the rent of £30 11s. due to the lord of Manchester; (fn. 29) it was agreed to levy it at the rate of 9d. for each Lancashire acre, the estates called Grindlow Marsh and Midway being exempt. (fn. 30)
The township having thus been parted among a large number of proprietors it becomes impossible to give their history in detail. (fn. 31) Among the new owners were some bearing the local name. (fn. 32) One of the family, Samuel Gorton, went to America in the 17th century and founded a religious sect there, which died out about 1770. (fn. 33)
Among the earliest landowners recorded was Adam the Ward of Sharples. (fn. 34) An estate called the Forty Acres was long held by one of the Bamford families. (fn. 35) Catsknoll was at one time owned by the Levers of Alkrington. (fn. 36) The Taylors of Gorton were benefactors. (fn. 37)
At GREENLOW, or Grindlow, Marsh or Cross appears to have been the land called Withacre or Whitacre, granted by Albert Grelley to the abbey of Swineshead in alms about 1160. (fn. 38) In the 16th century it was held by the Strangeways family, (fn. 39) and remained an integral part of their estate. (fn. 40) There was in 1322 a considerable amount of land in that part of the township in the possession of the lord. (fn. 41) It was in 1609 decided that Greenlow Marsh lay in Gorton and not in Chorlton or Greenlow Heath. (fn. 42) An ancient chantry endowment was situated at the same place. (fn. 43)
From the land tax returns of 1787 (fn. 44) it appears that the most considerable owners were:—Richard Gorton, paying about a sixth of the tax, Robert Grimshaw, John Hague's heirs, and Richard Clowes.
The origin of ST. JAMES'S CHAPEL is unknown. It existed in 1562, when Ambrose Beswick bequeathed 3s. 4d. to the chapel reeves. (fn. 45) It was probably used for service, a lay 'reader' being employed, (fn. 46) and one of the fellows of Manchester preaching occasionally. There was no endowment, but the people seem to have contributed according to an assessment. (fn. 47) Ministers and people were Puritan, and in 1634 it was stated that the surplice had never been used. (fn. 48) The minister had an endowment of 26s. 8d. in 1650, besides the voluntary offerings; (fn. 49) but changes were frequent. (fn. 50) The minister in charge in 1662, William Leigh, is said to have been ejected; but the chapel appears to have been used indifferently by Episcopalians and Presbyterians for some time afterwards. (fn. 51) A library was given by Humphrey Chetham. (fn. 52) In 1706 the fixed revenue was £8 15s. and the contributions about £18; at that time a quarter of the population was avowedly Nonconformist. (fn. 53) In 1755 the chapel was rebuilt, (fn. 54) and again in 1871. A district chapelry was assigned to it in 1839. (fn. 55) The registers date from 1570. The monumental inscriptions are copied in the Owen MSS. The Dean and Canons of Manchester present the incumbents, who are styled rectors. The following is a list:—
|1671||Robert Dewhurst (fn. 56)|
|Joshua Wakefield, (fn. 57) M.A. (Queens' College, Cambridge)|
|1704||John Harpur, B.A. (Brasenose College, Oxford; Jesus College, Cambridge)|
|1715||William Burkitt (fn. 58)|
|1764||John Whittingham, B.A. (fn. 59) (St. Edmund Hall, Oxford)|
|1801||John Darby, M.A. (fn. 60) (Corpus Christi College, Oxford)|
|1808||James Gatcliff (fn. 61)|
|1831||Richard Basnett, M.A. (Trinity College, Oxford)|
|1864||George Philpot, M.A. (Caius College, Cambridge)|
|1902||John Worsley Cundey, M.A. (Magdalen College, Oxford)|
More recently other churches have been added: St. Mark's, 1865; (fn. 62) and All Saints', West Gorton, 1879; (fn. 63) the rectors are collated by the Bishop of Manchester. St. George's, Abbey Hey, was consecrated in 1903; and the district of St. Philip's has been formed, but no church has yet been built; the Crown and the Bishop of Manchester present alternately. At Longsight St. Clement's was consecrated in 1876; (fn. 64) the patronage is vested in trustees.
A school existed in 1716. (fn. 65)
Methodism appeared in the township about the end of the 18th century; a school chapel at Brooke's Green was built in 1809. (fn. 66) The Wesleyans now have churches at Gorton, Hyde Road, and Longsight; the Primitive Methodists two, at Gorton Brook and Belle Vue; and the United Free Church one.
The Baptists have three churches. The Particular Baptists had a school in Gorton as early as 1828. (fn. 67) The Congregationalists have churches at Gorton (fn. 68) and Longsight. The latter began as a Sunday school in 1834; the present chapel was opened in 1842 on land purchased from Lord Ducie. (fn. 69) The Salvation Army has meeting-places at Gorton and Longsight. At Longsight there is also a Presbyterian Church of England, founded in 1871.
The Unitarians have two places of worship at Brookfield, Gorton, and at Longsight. The former represents the old Protestant Dissenters' chapel, built in 1703 and now taken down; (fn. 70) the congregation became Unitarian about a century later. The present church was built in 1871. (fn. 71)
The Roman Catholic mission of St. Francis of Assisi, West Gorton, was opened in 1872. It is in charge of the Franciscans, whose monastery adjoins it. The church of the Sacred Heart was opened in 1901. (fn. 72)