A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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PRESTWICH WITH OLDHAM (fn. 1)
This large parish, stretching for 13 miles from east to west, was probably in earlier times still larger, as the receipt of tithes from part of Tottington in Bury and the claim to church land in Radcliffe suggest that Bury and Radcliffe, and therefore Middleton also, were at one period under the care of the priest or colony of priests who gave a name to Prestwich. Not only did the three parishes just named become independent, but Oldham also, though remaining nominally a chapelry to the present day, early secured a practical independence for the eastern part of the parish. (fn. 2) Oldham Church is 7 miles from the parish church. The area of the whole is 22,022½ acres, including Prestwich 9,983 acres, and Oldham 12,039½. The geology of the entire parish is represented by the Coal Measures, and on the eastward side of a line drawn from High Crompton to Greenacres, of the Lower Coal Measures or Gannister Beds.
The Roman road from Manchester to Ribchester passed through Prestwich and Pilkington; that from Manchester to York passed through the southern part of Oldham, where Roman coins have been found. (fn. 3)
The parish has no united history. In the western portion the Pilkingtons ranked among the great families of the county, until their adherence to Richard III and the Yorkist side brought about their overthrow. The other manorial families were either non-resident or of only local importance.
Though the Elizabethan reformation found the rector of Prestwich at first reluctantly compliant and then an avowed opponent, there is little evidence of opposition to the change of religion; recusants were few, and the district soon became strongly Puritan. Nevertheless, it is one of the few parishes in which any resistance was made, with a show of popular support, to the abolition of the Prayer Book and Episcopacy; but even this resistance seems to have been due less to principle than to a strong antipathy to the domination of the Manchester Classis. In 1662 the rector complied, but the curate of Oldham was expelled. The chapels at Stand and Greenacres bear testimony to the existence of convinced Nonconformists, as does also the Quaker meeting-house at Royton. (fn. 4)
The Young Pretender's march through the district has left a trace in the story of the arrest of two of his officers in Prestwich. (fn. 5) Volunteers were raised in 1779 and 1803, and again in 1859. (fn. 6)
The Prestwich part of the parish remained comparatively rural till recently; but some sections have now become manufacturing, and others have practically merged in Manchester. The Oldham part, on the other hand, early felt the manufacturing impulse, and has steadily gone on increasing its mines and mills, till it has become the predominant partner. The following is the present apportionment of agricultural land in the whole parish: Arable land, 3,683 acres; permanent grass, 11,395; woods and plantations, 367. The details are thus given (fn. 7):—
For the County Lay of 1624 Prestwich proper was divided into two parts, each paying equally, so that Prestwich and Pilkington each paid £2 12s. 1½d. when the hundred paid £100. Oldham township paid £1 18s. 8d., Royton 19s. 4d., Chadderton and Crompton £1 9s. each, or a fourth part of the contribution from Oldham, which for this purpose was considered a parish. (fn. 8) To the more ancient fifteenth, out of £41 14s. 4d. for the hundred, Prestwich contributed 18s., Pilkington 23s., Oldham 17s., Royton 11s. 4d., Crompton 13s., and Chadderton 21s. 8d. (fn. 9)
The church of ST. MARY (fn. 10) is situated on the south-west side of the town on an eminence overlooking the valley of the Irwell, set in very picturesque surroundings. It consists of a chancel with organ chamber and quire vestry on the north, and a chapel on the south side, nave with north and south aisles, each with a chapel at its east end, north and south porches, and west tower. The main body of the church belongs to the 16th century, and the tower to the 15th, while the whole of the east end, including the chapels at the end of the aisles, is modern.
The tower presumably belongs to a 15th-century building whose east wall was about where the chancel arch now is, and whose width was the same as at present. This 15th-century church had a chancel about 34 ft. long occupying the space of the two eastern bays of the present nave, and a nave of three bays, the lines of the arcade of which are still retained. The aisles were probably of the present width, but whether the chapels at their east ends belonged to this building in the first instance it is impossible to say. The aisles probably overlapped the chancel for about 15 ft., and may have been extended and carried further eastward when the chantries were founded. At some time in the first half of the 16th century the chancel, both arcades of the nave, and the north and south aisles were rebuilt, destroying all traces of the former work. The 16thcentury church also had a south porch and a low vestry east of the chancel. There is no record as to when this rebuilding took place, and the work itself is of a very plain description, and does not help much in fixing a date. At first sight the clearstory seems to be of later date than the arcade, but the evidence of the building appears to indicate that they were built at the same period. The rebuilding left the church pretty much as it was till the restorations and additions of the 19th century, with chapels the full length of the chancel on each side, and 6 ft. wider than the north and south aisles. The chancel had a traceried window of seven lights under a pointed head, possibly belonging to the 15th-century church. The east vestry was a low building whose roof was below the sill of the chancel window and was entered from the church, as at Sefton, by a door on the south side of the altar. The south porch was rebuilt in 1756, and at the same time, according to an inscription upon the porch, the church 'was raised.' This probably refers to the raising of the aisle walls in order to obtain light for the galleries, though there is only record of one gallery being erected at that time, and that probably in the north chapel. (fn. 11) The line of the original aisle roofs may still be seen outside at the west end. In 1782 there were some repairs done to the tower, which was reported to be decaying fast. In 1803 the east vestry was rebuilt, but it seems to have been destroyed about 1860 in order to effect a lengthening of the chancel on its site, having a vestry on the north side. In the same year the body of the church was repewed, and in 1872 a new chapel (the Birch chapel) was built south of the extended chancel and at the east end of the south (Lever) chapel, which was rebuilt two years later. In 1882–3 the tower was underpinned and repaired, the roof of the nave restored, and new roofs put on the north and south aisles, and in 1888–9 the Wilton (north) chapel was rebuilt, and a chancel with organ chamber and vestry on the north side erected, eastward of the line of the original church. (fn. 12)
The building is constructed of red sandstone, which has been considerably renewed from time to time, and the roofs are covered with stone slates. Those of the original structure, including the aisles, have overhanging eaves, but the north and south chapels had straight parapets, and these have been retained in the rebuilding, and are also used in the new chancel and buildings north of it. The chancel has a clearstory, and the roof is slightly higher than that of the nave. The organ-chamber on the north is of the full height of the chancel, forming a kind of transept, and the vestry in the angle thus formed north of the chancel is a lower building of two stories.
The chancel, which measures 40 ft. by 22 ft. 6 in., together with the whole of the eastern part of the building, has no archaeological interest. The east window is one of seven lights under a segmental head and with straight uncusped bar tracery above. A modern pointed arch of two moulded orders without capitals now divides the chancel from the nave, and the west half of the chancel has an arch on each side, that on the north opening to the organ-chamber, and that on the south to the Birch chapel.
The nave now consists of five bays with an arcade of pointed arches on each side, of two chamfered orders, on octagonal piers with chamfered bases but without capitals, the inner order dying into the pier at a height of 15 ft. from the floor. The two eastern bays of the nave occupy the position of the old chancel, and the third pier from the west on the north side is wider than the other two, marking the position of an ancient pier containing the staircase to the rood-loft. It has been entirely rebuilt, and has a capital on the south side of which is carved a shield held by two angels. The original staircase pier was 3 ft. 7 in. square, and the present pier retains this dimension from east to west, but is only 2 ft. deep, the width of the other piers of the nave. (fn. 13) In the 16th-century rebuilding this pier seems to have been left standing and the new arcade set out westward between it and the tower. There being no corresponding wide pier on the south side of the chancel it resulted that in the setting out of the south arcade the spacing of the arches was slightly different, and that the piers did not come opposite to those on the north side. The nave, which is about 80 ft. long and 20 ft. 6 in. wide, (fn. 14) has a continuous range of two-light squareheaded clearstory windows, and a flat panelled roof much restored but retaining a good deal of its original 16th-century timber. The Wilton chapel occupies the two eastern bays of the aisle on the north side, and being entirely rebuilt in 1888 is of no particular interest. Its walls are considerably higher than those of the aisle, and its windows loftier, and it has a separate open timbered gable roof. The chapel is lit by three windows of three lights, with plain tracery, and has a door at its north-west corner. The easternmost arch of the nave is new, and springs from corbelled shafts on each side. The first pier from the east seems to be the west portion of a former length of straight wall to the original chancel, and measures 3 ft. 10 in. on the face, its east half being new. The west half and the arch on that side are old, and the pier has on its north face a recess with a pointed head sunk in the stone above, which was perhaps a cupboard in the original chapel at the end of the north aisle. On the south side of the nave a similar pier also marks the end of the outer wall of the old chancel. The arch to the east of it is much lower than the other arches of the nave, and springs from moulded half capitals on each side, that on the east forming a respond, and that on the west being set in the eastern part of the pier. Both capitals are new, but appear to have been suggested by a mutilated fragment at the back of the first pier, which may be seen from the gallery in the Lever chapel. The arch, though apparently of 16th-century date, must have been a later insertion when the chapel was extended eastward, a blocked window still visible in the wall above proving it to have been at one time an outside wall.
The Lever chapel, the floor of which is a foot above that of the nave, occupies a position on the south side similar to that of the Wilton chapel on the north, but has a lean-to roof, plastered between the spars. It retains its gallery, which has a front of poor early 19th-century gothic panelling, and is lit by two four-light windows on the south side. There is a door with a semi-octagonal porch and gallery staircase in the south-west corner, an addition to the plan of the chapel in its rebuilding of 1874. The nave aisles proper are 12 ft. wide, and have each two pointed windows opposite the second and third bays respectively of three cinquefoiled lights with hollow chamfered mullions running up to the heads. The north aisle has a doorway opposite the first bay from the west, with a modern north porch, and at the west end is lit by a two-light pointed window with trefoiled lights and quatrefoil over in the style of the 14th century, with external chamfered jambs and head and without a label, said to be a copy of an old window formerly in the same position. The south aisle has a doorway with a four-centred arch, under an open porch, opposite the first bay, and a three-light window at the west end. The porch which, as already stated, was rebuilt in 1756, has a semicircular arch on imposts, and a stone gable with date and inscription. There is a stone bench on each side, and the door is an old one studded with nails. There are iron gates to the outer doorway. Each aisle has a second set of three square-headed windows of three lights each, placed high up in the wall to light the galleries. The galleries themselves are good specimens of 18th-century woodwork, with panelled fronts above a classic cornice. The aisle roofs are modern with exposed rafters and purlins and curved wind braces. A stone half-arch is carried across each aisle at the east end between the chapels and the aisle proper, and opposite the piers from which the old chancel arch would spring.
The tower, which is of three stages, is 19 ft. square outside, and rises 42 ft. above the ridge of the roof, its total height being 86 ft. It has buttresses of seven stages with moulded set-offs set square at the angles, the top and bottom stages having panelled fronts, and the buttresses finish in gablets under an embattled parapet. There is an external vice in the north-east corner to the height of the ringers' story, finished with an embattled top lighted by quatrefoil openings. It is entered from the outside, but is a modern addition, the original staircase having been in the south-west angle. The tower arch is now opened out to the nave and the west window exposed. The arch has two chamfered orders of original masonry, but the jambs, which have moulded bases and capitals, are new. (fn. 15) The west door is a restoration with continuous mouldings to jambs and head, and a stringcourse over. Above there is a new window in the style of the 15th century, of three lights with traceried head. Above this again in the ringing chamber is a modern square-headed window of two trefoiled lights, replacing a smaller single-light window which formerly lit the chamber already mentioned in the note. The ringers' room also has a single-light window on the south side, and above this, facing north, south, and east, is a clock, placed here in 1811. The north and south sides of the tower are plain and unrelieved up to this height, but above the clock is a moulded stringcourse on each face. The belfry stage above has a three-light louvred window on each side with traceried head and hood-mould, and the tower is crowned by an embattled and panelled parapet, originally with angle and intermediate pinnacles, above a moulded string-course with gargoyles at the angles. (fn. 16) The tower has a pyramidal roof covered with grey stone slates, and a good 18th-century weather vane. (fn. 17)
The fittings, including the font and pulpit, are all modern, but there is an oak chest of 16th-century date in the vestry with three locks and strong iron bands, and a good 18th-century brass chandelier in the nave. The gallery fronts have already been mentioned. Booker mentions a penance form in 1743. (fn. 18) The chancel has a carved oak screen and canopied stalls of good modern workmanship. The organ was not introduced till 1825. (fn. 19)
The church contains but few monuments, and these for the most part of little interest. The Wilton chapel was the burial place of the family of the Earl of Wilton, but the vault was finally closed in 1885. There was formerly a conspicuous monument to the first Earl of Wilton (died 1814) and members of his family in the chapel, but during the rebuilding and restoration it was removed, and has not been reerected. (fn. 20) The chapel contains memorials to other members of the Egerton family, but all are of modern date. (fn. 21)
In the vestry safe are kept fourteen old deeds relating to the church, eleven on parchment and three, in the nature of memoranda, on paper. They mostly refer to relations between the churches of Prestwich and Oldham, and one is a very interesting contract for the building of the nave of Oldham Church. These were recovered by the Rev. J. Booker when writing his 'Memorials of Prestwich Church,' they having been parted with by a former recotor and their existence forgotten.
There is a ring of six bells. Originally there were four, but in 1721 they were recast into five by Abraham Rudhall and a sixth by the same founder added. Of these, two still bear the date 1721, and four have since been recast, three in the years 1742, 1761, and 1788 respectively, and one, the second bell, again recast in 1884. by Taylor of Loughborough.
The registers begin in 1603, and are complete to the present time, with the exception of the registers of marriages, the entries of which cease in October 1658 and are not resumed till January 1661. The churchwardens' and overseers' accounts begin in 1647 and are continued to the present time. (fn. 22)
The churchyard, which is almost encircled by a number of fine beech trees, lies principally on the south and west, and was extended in 1824 and again in 1886. In it is buried Charles Swain, the poet (died 1874); also Henry Wyatt, an artist, who died in 1840. The oldest gravestone is 1641.
The old rectory house, called The Deyne, or Deyne Hall, which stood a little to the north of the present rectory, was a timber and plaster building, said to have been originally quadrangular in plan, but at the time of its demolition in 1837 it consisted of a centre and two wings, on the H-type of plan. In 1644, when rector Allen was ejected, a portion of the house was pulled down, (fn. 23) and it was never restored to its original dimensions. The present rectory took its place in 1840. (fn. 24)
The rectory is mentioned early in the 13th century, and in 1291 its annual value was given as £18 13s. 4d. (fn. 25) Fifty years later the ninth of the sheaves, wool, &c., was only ten marks. (fn. 26) At this time the tithes of half of Tottington in the parish of Bury were paid to the rector of Prestwich. This may have been the result of some grant by the lord of Tottington, or may indicate that originally the parish also included Bury, Middleton, and Radcliffe. (fn. 27) The income of the benefice in the time of Henry VIII was estimated at £46 4s. 4d. (fn. 28) This was probably much below the real value, for in 1650 the glebe and tithes of Prestwich were £120 a year, and the tithes of the chapelry of Oldham, which had then been made an independent parish, £140. (fn. 29) By 1720 the income had risen to £400, (fn. 30) by 1792 to £700, (fn. 31) and by 1834 to £1,230. (fn. 32) It is now returned as £2,000. (fn. 33)
The patronage was vested in the lords of Prestwich until the death of Sir Robert Langley in 1561, when on the division of his estates it was given to one of the co-heirs, Dorothy, wife of James Ashton of Chadderton. (fn. 34) In 1710 William Ashton, rector of the parish and heir male, sold it to Thomas Watson Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse, (fn. 35) whose son Thomas, Earl of Malton, in 1744 sold it to Dr. John Griffith, rector from 1752 to 1763. In 1755 it was sold to James Collins of Knaresborough, and by him in 1758 to Levett Harris, rector from 1763 to 1783. Two years before his death this rector sold the advowson to Matthew Lyon of Warrington, whose son James became rector in 1783. In 1815 the Marquis of Westminster purchased it and gave it to his son Thomas, Earl of Wilton. (fn. 36) It was again sold, by the present earl, Sir Frederick J. W. Johnstone, bart., being the patron. (fn. 37)
|Institution||Rector||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|c. 1200||Thomas (fn. 38)||—||—|
|c. 1230||Robert (fn. 39)||—||—|
|oc. 1301||Mr. Matthew de Sholverx (fn. 40)||—||—|
|4 May 1301||Mr. William de Marklan (fn. 41)||Adam de Prestwich||—|
|23 Oct. 1302|
|7 Aug. 1316||John called Travers (fn. 42)||"||d. W. de Marklan|
|11 Dec. 1320||Richard de Parr (fn. 43)||Sir Ric. de Holland||res. John Travers|
|15 Oct. 1332||Nicholas de Trafford (fn. 44)||Thos. son of Adam de Prestwich||d. R. de Parr|
|26 July 1334.||Richard de Warton (fn. 45)||Thos. son of Adam de Prestwich||res. N. de Trafford|
|15 April 1347||Robert de Donington (fn. 46)||Ric. de Radcliffe||d. R. de Warton|
|29 June 1357||John de Radcliffe (fn. 47)||"||d. R. de Donington|
|1362–5||Richard de Pilkington (fn. 48)||Ric. de Radcliffe, sen.||—|
|13 Sept. 1400||Geoffrey del Fere (fn. 49)||Rob. de Langley||d. R. de Pilkington|
|—||Thurstan de Atherton (fn. 50)||"||—|
|18 Mar. 1401–2||Nicholas de Tyldesley (fn. 51)||The King||—|
|28 April 1417||Philip Morgan, J.U.D. (fn. 52)||"||—|
|12 Dec. 1417||Thurstan Langley (fn. 53)||Robert Langley||—|
|16 Feb. 1435–6||Peter Langley (fn. 54)||"||d. T. Langley|
|20 Aug. 1445||Ralph Langley (fn. 55)||"||d. P. Langley|
|1 May 1493||Ralph Langley, B.Decr. (fn. 56)||"||d. R. Langley|
|4 Sept. 1498||Thomas Langley (fn. 57)||"||d. R. Langley|
|5 April 1525||William Langley, M.A. (fn. 58)||Rob. Langley||d. T. Langley|
|28 May 1552||William Langley (fn. 59)||W. Davenport||d. W. Langley|
|19 July 1569||William Langley, M.A. (fn. 60)||James and Dorothy Ashton||depr. W. Langley|
|10 May 1611||John Langley, M.A. (fn. 61)||James Ashton||res. W. Langley|
|26 Sept. 1632||Isaac Allen, M.A. (fn. 62)||Edm. Ashton||d. J. Langley|
|30 Oct. 1660||Edward Kenyon, B.D. (fn. 63)||"||d. I. Allen|
|— 1668||John Lake, D.D. (fn. 64)||—||d. E. Kenyon|
|19 Nov. 1685||William Ashton, B.D. (fn. 65)||Edward Ashton||res. Bp. Lake|
|6 April 1732||Richard Goodwin, D.D. (fn. 66)||Lord Malton||d. W. Ashton|
|28 Oct. 1752||John Griffith, D.D. (fn. 67)||John Simpson||d. R. Goodwin|
|9 Dec. 1763||Levett Harris, M.A. (fn. 68)||Abraham Balme||d. J. Griffith|
|22 Mar. 1783||James Lyon, M.A. (fn. 69)||James Lyon||d. L. Harris|
|1 Feb. 1837||Thomas Blackburne, M.A. (fn. 70)||Earl Grosvenor||d. J. Lyon|
|— 1847||John Rushton, D.D. (fn. 71)||Earl of Wilton||d. T. Blackburne|
|— 1852||Henry Mildred Birch, M.A. (fn. 72)||"||res. J. Rushton|
|— 1884||William Thomas Jones, M.A. (fn. 73)||"||res. H. M. Birch|
|29 Jan. 1900||Frederic Wilson Cooper, M.A. (fn. 74)||Sir F. Johnstone||res. W. T. Jones|
As in the case of most 'family livings,' the incumbents of Prestwich call for little notice. Before the Reformation the most distinguished seems to have been the Ralph Langley who was also Warden of Manchester; and of the later ones, Dr. Lake, one of the Seven Bishops of 1688. Others, no doubt, like Isaac Allen and James Lyon, were useful in their time and place.
The Clergy List of 1541–2 shows that, in addition to the rector and one or two chantry priests, there were five other priests in the parish of Prestwich with Oldham, two paid by the rector and the others by private persons. (fn. 75) The Visitation List of 1548 shows the rector, his curate, and four other priests at Prestwich, one of them—a chantry priest—dying about that time; and the curate and three priests at Oldham. There was, therefore, a full staff of ten. In 1554 the same nine priests were in the list, but all do not seem to have attended the visitation. In 1563 the rector and his curate appeared at Prestwich, and two other priests lived there, but were 'decrepit,' and are not named again; and there was a curate at Oldham. The same three names recur in 1565. (fn. 76) Prestwich at that time is of interest because its rector, appointed in 1552, continued under the restoration of the old religion in the following reign, and then again conformed to the changes made by Elizabeth. (fn. 77) However, he did so 'against his conscience very sore,' and 'grievously repenting' was summoned before the Bishop of Chester's commissioners in 1569, and refusing to tamper further with his convictions, was deprived. (fn. 78) His successor was a zealous Protestant. In 1591 he was convicted of uttering 'unadvised, untrue, and undutiful speeches' regarding the queen's ecclesiastical authority, but protested that he had not intended to suggest that 'the sincere professors of religion' were persecuted by her. (fn. 79) In the following year he was under censure for not catechizing and for neglecting the perambulations. (fn. 80) He was, however, held in high respect by the Puritans. (fn. 81)
During the Commonwealth period the parish was prominent in its opposition to the newly-established Presbyterian system. The rector was forbidden to minister and his benefice was sequestrated, but the ministers who were placed in charge were changed rapidly; and the schoolmaster was said to baptize children according to the old form. (fn. 82) Rector Allen regained his place before 1660, and his successor appears to have become a zealous adherent of the episcopal discipline then restored. (fn. 83)
For the next century there is little to record. Many of the rectors appear to have been non-resident, a curate having charge. A view of the condition of the parish in 1778 states that the rector had for twenty years constantly resided and had kept a curate, also in constant residence. Seven chapels of ease were regularly served, each having its minister. At the parish church there was divine service twice each Sunday, with sermon each time, and 'on stated holidays.' Catechizing took place for eight Sundays in the summer. 'The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was duly administered every first Sunday of the month, besides the great festivals and Good Friday.' There were chapels for the Presbyterians and the Methodists, and a few Quakers were known; but these Nonconformists were mostly of the lower ranks. 'Popery' was represented by eight or ten persons, 'all of lower rank'; there was no resident priest, meeting-place, or school. (fn. 84) Since then the conditions have greatly changed, owing especially to the growth of Oldham, Middleton, and Radcliffe; but it is of interest to have this statement of what an 18th-century rector thought was an orderly and wellequipped parish.
Among the curates of Prestwich should be named the Rev. John Booker, whose histories of this and other churches are of great value. (fn. 85)
There were formerly two endowed chantries in the
church. At the altar of St. Margaret, on the south
side of the chancel, was the Langley chantry, founded
by Agnes daughter of John Langley of Agecroft,
and wife of Sir Thomas Holt and then of Thomas
Manne. (fn. 86) The other chantry was founded by Ellis
Hulton. (fn. 87) At the confiscation the priests were celebrating according to their several foundations.
Schools were founded at Oldham in 1606; at Ringley in 1626; and at Stand in Pilkington in 1696; the last-named belonged to the Protestant Nonconformists in 1718. (fn. 88)
Various charitable endowments existed at the date just named. (fn. 89) For the Prestwich half of the parish £10 for the poor represents a gift by Sir Thomas Egerton in 1756. (fn. 90) For the township of Prestwich the principal endowments are those of the Earl of Wilton in 1814 and Lewis Novelli in 1844, producing nearly £60; there are also a poor's stock and some special funds. (fn. 91) The stock for Great and Little Heaton has been lost. (fn. 92) Pilkington has a share in the benefaction of William Baguley, 1728; its poor's fund has been lost, but for the hamlet of Unsworth Miss Jane Margaret Birkett, daughter of a former incumbent of the church there, in 1872 left £500 for the sick poor. The other endowments of this township are for churches and schools. (fn. 93)