A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The extreme measurements of Royton are about 2 miles from east to west, and 1½ from north to south; the area is 1,372 acres. (fn. 1) The general slope of its hilly surface is from east to west, the limits being 825 ft. on Oldham Edge and 400 ft. at Street Bridge. The old village of Royton, which has now become a small town, is situated in a deep valley in the north-west quarter of the township; to the southwest of it are the hamlets of Haggate, Royley, and Holdenfold; to the north-west lies Thorpe; to the north, Dogford; to the east are Luzley Brook and Heyside; and to the south Longsight. The River Irk rises on the northern border, and flows west along it. Oldham has begun to spread over the southern border. The population in 1901 was 14,881, including part of that of Thornham. (fn. 2)
The principal road is that from Oldham to Rochdale, which passes through the town. A branch of it goes north-east to Shaw, to which place another road from Oldham passes through the township. Another important road is that from Royton to Middleton. The Oldham and Rochdale branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway passes through one corner of the township; a branch line from the north of Oldham runs north-west to Royton, its terminus. The Oldham electric tramway to Crompton passes through the township.
The soil is sand, with subsoil of clay. Hay is the chief crop. There are large cotton factories; fustian cutting is carried on, and there is a colliery. (fn. 3)
About 1780 Royton village 'contained only a few straggling and mean-built cottages,' but with the introduction of the weaving of fustians and other branches of the cotton manufacture it increased rapidly. (fn. 4) A local board was formed in 1863, (fn. 5) and the bounds were extended by the addition of part of Thornham in 1879. (fn. 6) A town hall and market were built in 1880. The local board gave place in 1894 to an urban district council of fifteen members, chosen for five wards—Dogford, Dryclough, Haggate, Heyside, and Thornham. There is a cemetery in Rochdale Road, opened in 1879.
At Whitebanks, near Oldham Edge, there was 'a good chalybeate spring.' (fn. 7)
An account of Royton, its chapel, politics, and celebrities, written by John Higson, is printed in Oldham Notes and Gleanings. (fn. 8) John Butterworth, a noted mathematician, who died in 1845, is buried in the churchyard. George Travis, born at Royton in 1741, became vicar of Eastham and Archdeacon of Chester, dying in 1797. He distinguished himself by his knowledge of the law of tithe, which he used to advance the value of his benefice from £30 to £100 a year. He also had a bitter controversy with Gibbon and Porson, defending the authenticity of 1 John v. 7. (fn. 9) Richard Dean, 1727–78, was another divine and author. (fn. 10)
A local saying, of unknown origin, refers to 'the seven that came from Royton.' (fn. 11)
The residence of Richard and Thomas Percival in 1666 had twelve hearths liable to the tax; the rest of the township brought the total up to 54. (fn. 12)
In 1212 ROYTON was held of the king in thegnage as twelve oxgangs of land by a rent of 24s., the tenant being William Fitz William. (fn. 13) William died about the end of 1223, and was succeeded by his son Thomas, (fn. 14) who was still living in 1254. (fn. 15) Thomns had a daughter Margery, who married Alexander Luttrell of Somerset, and in or before 1260 they sold nine oxgangs in Royton and 60 acres in Thorpe and Healey to John de Byron. (fn. 16) It appears, however, that Alice de Byron, mother of Roger, had 'the whole town' in 1246, and had farmed it out to Roger Gernet. (fn. 17) From 1260 or 1270 to the beginning of the 17th century the manor descended in the Byron family, (fn. 18) and during the later part of this period seems to have been their chief residence. (fn. 19) In or about 1622 it was sold to the Standishes of Standish, (fn. 20) and was again sold in 1662 to Thomas Percival, probably a trader of Manchester. (fn. 21) It continued in this family for a century, (fn. 22) when Catherine daughter of a later Thomas Percival of Royton, who died in 1763, carried it in marriage to Joseph Pickford (fn. 23) of Althill. She died in 1765, leaving an only son William Percival Pickford. He died in 1815 without issue, and gave Royton to his father, who had married again, and in 1795 took the name of Radcliffe on inheriting the estates of his mother's brother, William Radcliffe of Mills Bridge, Yorkshire. He was created a baronet in 1813, having taken a prominent part in suppressing the Luddite riots of the previous year. (fn. 24) Royton has descended with the issue of this second marriage to the present baronet, Sir Joseph Edward Radcliffe, of Rudding Park, Knaresborough.
Royton Old Hall was described in 1795 as 'a firm, well-built stone edifice of ancient date . . . pleasantly seated in a deep valley, surrounded by high grounds. In front of the house runs a small stream dividing the gardens from rich meadows.' (fn. 25) This description was substantially repeated thirty years later, (fn. 26) the meadows being still 'fertile' and 'luxurious,' but the surroundings have since so much changed that the original aspect of the building is somewhat difficult to reconstitute, though the stream, now much polluted, still runs at the bottom of the garden. The park and grounds have long disappeared, and the surroundings are now purely industrial.
The hall was largely rebuilt in the 18th century, but part of the 17th-century structure remains at the east end, consisting of a wing running north and south with a gable at each end. The house is built of stone, with stone slated roofs and brick chimneys, and has a long frontage facing south, with a slightly recessed middle portion two stories high and loftier gabled wings. The site slopes from north to south, so that in the south or principal front the ground floor is raised well above the level of the garden, allowing for a good basement. A double flight of stone steps leads from an outer door on this side to the garden.
The 18th-century rebuilding, together with subsequent additions and alterations on the north side, has made it very difficult to determine the lines of the original plan, but the whole of the later work on the south front is built on an older basement apparently of the same date as the east wing, which goes to show that the extent of the original house on this side was the same as that of the present one. The buildings are grouped round a quadrangle of irregular shape, longer from west to east, but those on the north and part of the west side are of modern date, which makes it impossible to say how far they carry out the original arrangement. The east wing, as before stated, is part of the 17th-century building with mullioned and transomed windows and a square projection on the west side to the courtyard containing a radiating oak staircase. (fn. 27) The south and south-west parts of the building are of plain 18th-century work with little or no architectural detail. The older wing has a good stone chimney on its east side with brick shafts set diagonally, and at the north end has string-courses marking the first and second floors, which are not continued round the south end. The gable is without coping, and the general appearance of the wing at this end suggests that it had formerly been the back of the house or that some of its features have been removed in later times. It is probable that the original house was built on three sides of the courtyard only, the north, which would be the principal front of the building, being left open.
The 18th-century rebuilding appears to have been done at two different times, there being a straight joint on the south front about the middle of the centre wing, between the door and the window east of it. The spacing of the windows also points in the same direction. They are of the usual tall square-headed type, with stone architraves, and originally had casements and wooden millions, but these have been replaced by sashes, which detract from the appearance of the house. The walls of the older wing are of rough masonry, but the later work is built in squared coursed stones, with projecting quoins, and at its west end is faced with brick. Against the brick wall at the south-west corner is a spout-head with the initials P/ TM and the date 1768.
There is some good 18th-century panelling with classic cornice, now painted over, in a room in the middle wing, and a large room in the east wing, which was altered in the 18th century and has two windows of that date on its east side, preserves a portion of its decoration, though the oak dado has recently been taken away.
Other local families may be named. The Shaws of Heyside recorded a pedigree in l664, and occur in various ways for a century longer. (fn. 28) The Tetlows of Royley (fn. 29) seem to have been succeeded in the 17th century by the Rhodes family. (fn. 30) Holdens of Holdenfold occur. (fn. 31) At Thorpe the Taylors had a residence. (fn. 32) Dryclough was once held by the Mellors. (fn. 33) There are incidental notices of other estates in the township. (fn. 34)
Royton Moss has long been inclosed. (fn. 35)
For the Established Church St. Paul's was built in 1754 (fn. 36) and consecrated in 1757; it was restored and enlarged a century later, and was rebuilt between 1883 and 1889. An ecclesiastical parish was assigned to it in 1835. (fn. 37) There is a mission church, All Saints', in connexion with it. The rector of Prestwich is the patron. St. Mark's, Heyside, was built in 1878; (fn. 38) the patronage is vested in five trustees; it has a mission room called St. Chad's.
From 1847 to 1861 Royton and Shaw were worked together by the Congregationalists. In the last-named year a separation was made, and a church was built at Royton in 1864. At Heyside, where services began in 1842, a school-room was built in 1851 and a chapel in 1880. (fn. 39)
The Society of Friends have had a meeting-place at Turf Lane, Heyside, from about 1665; (fn. 40) the first burial took place in that year. The house was rebuilt in 1885, but is used only occasionally. (fn. 41)
The Roman Catholic school-chapel of SS. Aidan and Oswald was built in 1880. (fn. 42)