A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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This township, (fn. 1) on the south side of the Medlock, has an area of 1,621½ acres. The surface is comparatively even, rising towards the eastern boundary, and falling on the north, towards the river. Droylsden proper (fn. 2) forms the eastern half of the township, and is parted from Clayton, the western half, by Edge Lane, running south from Newton to Openshaw; Little Droylsden (fn. 3) is a detached area of 2 acres in extent in the extreme east of Openshaw. In the south-east corner of Droylsden lies the hamlet of Fairfield.
The principal road (fn. 4) is that called Ashton New Road, leading east from Manchester to Ashton; (fn. 5) another road leads north-east from Openshaw near the eastern boundary of Droylsden; it is along this road chiefly that the houses are built, though at Clayton there is another group, forming an extension of Bradford. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Manchester and Ashton railway cuts through the northern part of the township, and at Droylsden station (fn. 6) has a junction with the London and North Western Company's line from Stockport. The Manchester and Ashton Canal winds along near the southern boundary; at Clayton it has a junction with the Stockport Canal, coming from the south, and near Fairfield one with the Oldham Canal, from the north.
A stone celt, some Roman coins, and an axe have been found in the mosses at the eastern end. (fn. 7)
There were coal-mines at Clayton; potter's clay has been found on the moss. In 1859 the older people still clung to farming and the hand-loom, and a few to hatting; oats were the principal crop. (fn. 8) Bleaching was introduced as early as the time of James I; (fn. 9) hat-making (fn. 10) and linen and cotton weaving (fn. 11) were ancient industries; but the first factory of the modern type was erected in 1785. (fn. 12) There are now several cotton mills, print and dye works, chemical works, and a rope walk in Droylsden; with similar industries, iron foundries, printing, and brickmaking in Clayton.
In 1666 the hearths liable to the tax numbered ninety-three. The largest houses were Clayton Hall (James Chetham), with eighteen hearths, and John Gilliam's with six. (fn. 13)
The government of the township was formerly in the hands of the constables elected annually at the town's meeting An Act for lighting Droylsden with gas was passed in 1860. (fn. 14) A local board was formed in 1863; (fn. 15) but in 1890 the Clayton moiety was taken into the city of Manchester, and became part of the new North Manchester township in 1896. The population of the remaining part, the present Droylsden, was 11,087 in 1901. (fn. 16) It is governed by an Urban District Council of twelve members. The institute, built in 1858, is now used as a school and council office.
The wakes, or rush-bearing of the Newton wakes, had a singular custom called Threedy wheel, introduced in 1814. (fn. 17) The stocks disappeared long ago. Clayton Hall and other places were supposed to be haunted by 'boggarts.' (fn. 18) 'Rocket,' for frock, occurs in the old township accounts.
Although a 'manor' of DROYLSDEN is spoken of in the 16th century the word seems to have been used improperly. The only manor in the township was that of CLAYTON, for four centuries the seat of the Byron family. (fn. 19) To Robert de Byron the elder Robert Grelley, between 1194 and 1212, granted fourteen oxgangs of his demesne of Manchester to be held by the service of half a knight. (fn. 20) The original grant was of Clayton and Barnetby; this was increased by land in Tunstead and two oxgangs of land in Failsworth, but Tunstead was soon afterwards surrendered. (fn. 21)
Robert de Byron married Cecily, and had several sons; (fn. 22) in 1212 Robert's heirs were in possession of his lands; but one son, Robert, who appears to have been the eldest, afterwards surrendered all his rights to his brother Richard, (fn. 23) and it was this Richard who had a grant of the king's moiety of Failsworth. Richard de Byron's name occurs as early as 1203; (fn. 24) several grants by and to him are known. (fn. 25)
The next known (fn. 26) in possession of Clayton was John de Byron, later a knight, who appears all through the latter part of the 13th century. (fn. 27) He was son of Richard, (fn. 28) probably a second bearer of the name. Sir John married Joan, with whom he had lands in the parish of Rochdale. (fn. 29) He acquired also the estate of Royton. (fn. 30) He and his wife Joan were still living in 1298. (fn. 31) He had a son John. (fn. 32) Sir John de Byron died before Easter, 1318, (fn. 33) and his widow Alice afterwards married John de Strickland. (fn. 34) Sir Richard, son of Sir John, succeeded; in 1308 he had obtained a grant of free warren for his demesne lands of Clayton, Butterworth, Royton, and other manors; (fn. 35) by his wife Agnes he had sons, James and John, (fn. 36) and he died about 1347. Sir James, the succeeding lord of Clayton, who died about five years later, left two sons, Sir John (fn. 37) and Sir Richard; and the former, who took part in the battle of Crecy and the siege of Calais, (fn. 38) dying without issue, was followed by his brother in 1380. (fn. 39)
Sir Richard by his marriage with Joan de Colwick increased the family estates. (fn. 40) He died in June 1397, holding the manor of Clayton, and lands in Royton, Butterworth, Woodhouses in Ashton, and others outside Lancashire; John, the son and heir, was then only ten years of age, (fn. 41) and his wardship was granted to Sir John Ashton. (fn. 42) A settlement of lands in Droylsden was in 1415 made on the occasion of the marriage of Sir John Byron's daughter Elizabeth with Thomas son of Sir John Ashton. (fn. 43) Sir John is stated to have married Margery daughter of Sir John Booth of Barton, by whom he had three sons and five daughters. (fn. 44) He acquired lands in Blackley from Lord La Warre and in Gorton from Sir Robert Booth; (fn. 45) in 1435 he did homage to Nicholas Thorley, one of the feoffees of Lord La Warre; (fn. 46) and in 1440 he made a settlement of his lands in the counties of Lancaster, Lincoln, and Northampton. (fn. 47) Two years later he made a grant to John Byron, said to be the son of his younger son Nicholas, who ultimately became heir to the whole of the Byron manors and lands. (fn. 48) Sir John was sheriff of the county from 1437 to 1449; (fn. 49) when he was succeeded by his son Nicholas, a grant of the reversion having been obtained in 1444. (fn. 50)
Nicholas Byron remained sheriff till 1460. (fn. 51) He was made a knight the year following at the coronation of Edward IV, (fn. 52) but died in 1462, (fn. 53) when he was succeeded by Sir John Byron, above mentioned. Sir John, made a knight by Henry VII as he came from York in 1486, (fn. 54) died 3 January 1488–9, holding the manor of Clayton of the lord of Manchester in socage, by 7s. rent, also the manor of Blackley, with lands there and in Gorton, Royton, Butterworth, Ogden, and Ashton. His heir was his brother Nicholas, who in 1498 was stated to be thirty years of age. (fn. 55) Nicholas was made a Knight of the Bath in 1501 at the marriage of Prince Arthur, (fn. 56) and died three years later. (fn. 57) It would appear that before this Colwick had become the principal residence of the family, (fn. 58) and John, son and successor of Sir Nicholas, (fn. 59) is usually described as 'of Colwick'; he was 'not at home' at the Heralds' Visitation of Lancashire in 1533. (fn. 60) In 1540 he procured a grant of Newstead Priory, Nottinghamshire, (fn. 61) which afterwards became the chief seat of the family. He had no issue by his wife, and his connexion with Lancashire led to his living in adultery with Elizabeth daughter of John Costerdine of Blackley and wife of George Haugh. He had several children by her and afterwards married her. (fn. 62) In 1547 he made a settlement of his estates in favour of his bastard son John, (fn. 63) and died in 1567, expressing penitence in his will, (fn. 64) which contained his open profession of adherence to the old religion, as in his desire that an honest priest be hired to sing or say mass for his soul in Colwick Church, (fn. 65) and confirmed the grant of all his manors, lands, leases, &c., to his 'base son' John, whom he appointed executor.
This son, who was made a knight in 1579, (fn. 66) died in 1603, leaving as heir his son, a third Sir John Byron, (fn. 67) who, having many children and being encumbered with debts, sold the Lancashire estates, so that the connexion of the family with the county almost ceased. The manor of Clayton, with the appurtenances in Droylsden and Failsworth, was purchased by the brothers George and Humphrey Chetham in 1621. (fn. 68) By a settlement made in 1625 it was agreed that the survivor should take the whole in fee. (fn. 69) George Chetham died at Clayton about the end of 1626, without issue, (fn. 70) and Humphrey seems to have lived there for some years, (fn. 71) afterwards granting the hall on lease. (fn. 72) He died at Clayton on 20 September 1653, unmarried, and by a settlement he had made this manor passed to his nephew George, son of James Chetham of Crumpsall. (fn. 73) George Chetham died at the hall in 1664, (fn. 74) but the family do not seem to have resided there afterwards. Clayton descended, like Turton, to the heirs of Alice Bland, who is now represented by the Freres and Hoares. (fn. 75) Clayton Hall became part of the share of Peter Richard Hoare, as husband of Arabella Penelope Eliza Greene, great-granddaughter of Alice Bland. (fn. 76)
Clayton Hall stands in an open space on the north side of the new road from Manchester to Ashtonunder-Lyne (Ashton New Road). It is entirely surrounded by a moat, about 100 yds. square, still filled with water, the inclosed space measuring about 2 acres, the south-east portion of which is occupied by the house. The approach is from the south by a stone bridge of two arches across the moat.
The present building is but a fragment of the original house, and consists of a two-story block of timber construction measuring about 33 ft. in length from north to south and 20 ft. in width, to which has been added on the north a brick building probably of early 18th-century date, and on the west a corridor 6 ft. wide with a projecting staircase and gable over, which appears to be of 17th-century date. There are no traces of the rest of the building, which must have been considerably larger than at present, probably quadrangular, or of three wings. It is said that the north-west corner of the inclosure was the site of the chapel which was standing till the beginning of the 18th century. A licence for an oratory dated 1400 probably gives the date of its erection, and fragments of masonry said to belong to it have been discovered from time to time, and are lying about in front of the present house.
The timber building already referred to consists of two rooms on each floor divided by timber partitions which are not at right angles to its outer walls. This may be accounted for by the supposition that the south wing of the building, which must have abutted near this point, was not set at right angles to the east wing, and that the internal divisions of the east wing followed the lines of those which adjoined them in the south wing. The south wall, however, which is now of brick with a central stone chimney, is at right angles to the outer walls, having superseded a timber end which followed the line of the partitions.
The east front is the most interesting portion of the building with its projecting wooden bays forming an almost continuous line of mullioned and transomed windows. The added corridor on the west front is of timber and plaster on a lower stage of brick, the gable of the staircase being filled in with half-timberwork, while on the roof is a cupola containing a bell.
The newer northern part of the building has little interest, being built entirely of brick, with a central entrance doorway and windows on each side. At the back (east side) it stands about 8 ft. in front of the older structure, but the length of its frontage is about the same. By reason of the skew in the cross walls already mentioned there is a cavity between the walls of the older and newer parts of the building at their junction, diminishing in width from east to west. There is a door connecting the two houses between the corridor and the parlour of the later house, otherwise the buildings are quite distinct. The dining-room (parlour) of the 18th-century portion has a large projecting fireplace, and in the room above is a large hole behind the chimney - breast. The fireplaces in the older part of the house are of stone, but have been rebuilt.
Both parts of the house are covered with stone slates, the pitch of the 18th-century building being the flatter of the two. Over the timber building the original roof timbers remain at a fairly steep pitch, and the east slope is still intact. Over the west slope, however, a roof of flatter pitch running over the added corridor was constructed in 1863.
A very thorough restoration of the hall was made in 1900. The south wall on each side of the great chimney was then rebuilt and the 18th-century wing remodelled inside and new windows inserted in the front. The front of the older building was stripped of its coat of plaster and patched in brick, but the general aspect of the house remains unaltered. In front of the entrance is a mounting block with the date 1686 and the initials J. C. (James Chetham).
The bridge, as before mentioned, is built of stone, and is of two arches with a cut-water pier in the centre forming angular recesses above. It has a low parapet, and on the side next the house a tall iron entrancegate between two well-designed stone piers. The bridge was originally very narrow, but was widened at the beginning of the 19th century, when it assumed its present appearance.
The inside of the house contains nothing of its ancient fittings. The building now belongs to the Manchester Corporation, and the newer portion is used as a caretaker's house. The older part remains unoccupied, but some old furniture, said to have belonged to Humphrey Chetham, is kept in the lower rooms, a proposal to use the building as a museum having been at one time put forward.
The bell in the turret over the staircase bears the inscription: 'Je atende meleor,' together with a rose and crown. (fn. 77)
The old road from Clayton Hall after crossing the bridge ran eastward along the edge of the moat till it joined an old bridle path leading in a south-easterly direction to the Fold, an inclosure of about 4 acres, in which stood three timber buildings. From the Fold a narrow and winding lane led to Manchester. These buildings were designated the wheat barn, the oat barn, and the great barn. The wheat barn was converted into a farm-house (which is still standing); the great barn, which is described as having been a picturesque edifice with a steep-pitched thatched roof and with carved oak roof principals, was burnt down in 1852; the oat barn, which stood till about the year 1877, was a fine example of a building on crucks, 116 ft. in length and 25 ft. in width. It contained six pairs of crucks internally, but none in the gables, giving a span of a little over 16 ft. to each bay.
Much of Droylsden appears to have been by the Byrons sold in small lots to the occupiers. (fn. 81) The Halls of Clockhouse were among the principal of these. (fn. 82) A few other names can be obtained from the inquisitions and other documents. (fn. 83)
The land tax returns of 1783 show that then Mordecai Greene paid nearly a third of the tax; the other considerable landowner was Edward Greaves, about a sixth. (fn. 84)
Droylsden was recognized as a township by 1620. (fn. 85)
For the Established Church, St. Mary's, Droylsden, was built in 1848; (fn. 86) the Crown and the Bishop of Manchester present alternately; while St. Cross's, Clayton, built in 1874, is in the gift of Mr. C. A. R. Hoare. (fn. 87)
Methodism made its appearance about 1779, but the first society was not formed till 1806, a cottage being used. A chapel was built in 1825. The Wesleyans have now three churches in the township; and the Primitive Methodists two, the first of them being erected in 1845. (fn. 88)
The Congregationalists began with a Sunday school in 1837; a special building was raised ten years afterwards, and a church in 1859. (fn. 89)
The earliest and most celebrated religious establishment is that of the Moravians at Fairfield. It was intended to be an industrial village exclusively of their own community, where their special discipline could be freely exercised. The land was acquired in 1783, and the chapel opened two years afterwards. (fn. 90)