A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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GREAT AND LITTLE HEATON
These townships, mostly on high ground, which slopes away to the south-east to the River Irk, have areas respectively of 875 and 532 acres. Great Heaton has two detached portions lying on the border of Middleton, and Little Heaton has a small isolated part, occupying the extreme north-east corner of the townships. Formerly the district was called Faghfield, and the places were Heaton upon Faghfield, but in time the present Great Heaton became known as Over Heaton or Heaton Reddish, from the lords of the manor, while Little Heaton was called Heaton Fallowfield. The population in 1901 was not returned separately, but partly with Prestwich and partly with Middleton.
The surface is undulating, varying from 200 ft. to 350 ft. above sea level. The most prominent feature is the large park around Heaton House, now the property of Manchester. The chief road is that from the north of Manchester to Middleton, along the right bank of the Irk. From it roads branch off, making a circuit of the park, and another great highway leads to Heywood. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway from Manchester to Bury passes through the southern corner of Great Heaton, mostly by a tunnel under the park.
The townships have ceased to exist as such. In 1894 the greater part of the area was added to Prestwich for purposes of local government; the small urban district on the east, known as Rhodes, together with the detached portion of Little Heaton above mentioned, were taken into the borough of Middleton. (fn. 1) A further change was made in 1901, Heaton Park being added to Manchester, on its purchase by the Corporation.
Fifty years ago silk-weaving gave prosperity to the villages of Simister and Bow Lee, but the industry has long been extinct. (fn. 2)
There is a well called the Danes' Well in Simister in Little Hulton. (fn. 3) A place called Clark's Cross is on the highest ground, 350 ft., in Corday Lane in Great Heaton. A curious inn sign, 'The Same Yet,' was noticeable at Great Heaton. (fn. 4)
In 1666 there were fifty hearths in Heaton liable to the tax; William Holland's house had thirteen, and Edmund Heywood's six. In Heaton Fallowfield, out of thirty-five hearths in all James Pilkington's house had six. (fn. 5)
Heaton, held in thegnage of the king, had before 1212 become divided into two portions, held by different families at different rents. One moiety, GREAT HEATON, as 4 oxgangs of land, was then held by Adam de Prestwich, and of him by Adam de Heaton, by a rent of 10s. The other moiety, LITTLE HEATON, also 4 oxgangs, was held by William de Radcliffe, and of him by Gilbert de Notton, of Barton, by a rent of 6s. 8d. (fn. 6)
It is difficult to trace the descent of these separate portions. Of the Prestwich moiety (fn. 7) one portion seems to have been acquired by the Hultons, (fn. 8) and thus passed to the Reddish family, being held by a rent of 6s. 8d.; (fn. 9) the other 3s. 4d. may have been due from Rooden Lane in Prestwich, which seems anciently to have been charged with that rent, (fn. 10) or from lands purchased by Adam de Prestwich and given to his son John, (fn. 11) whose descendants sold it to the Hollands of Denton. (fn. 12) This family also acquired a moiety of the Radcliffe part of Heaton, (fn. 13) the other half apparently descending with Radcliffe; (fn. 14) thus in 1346 Richard de Radcliffe and Thurstan de Holland held Heaton Fallowfield in socage by a rent of 6s. 8d., paying double as a relief; puture also was due. (fn. 15) In later inquisitions the tenure is called knight's service. (fn. 16)
The Heaton family appear throughout the 13th century, but sold their lands to the Prestwiches and others; and part was obtained by the Hollands. (fn. 17) This family became the principal one in the two townships. Their original house, known as the Old Hall, was in Little Heaton, but about 1750 the present Heaton Hall in Great Heaton was built, and remained the seat of the family until its purchase by Manchester. A junior branch of the family was seated at Rhodes in Pilkington. (fn. 18)
At the beginning of the 17th century the Hollands of Denton seem to have acquired the inheritance of the Reddish family in Great Heaton, (fn. 19) and from that time chose Heaton for their principal residence. (fn. 20) In 1684 Elizabeth, sister and heir of Edward Holland, married at Prestwich Sir John Egerton of Wrinehill, (fn. 21) and her son Holland, born two years afterwards, (fn. 22) inherited the manors of Heaton and Denton. (fn. 23) He was succeeded in turn by his sons, Sir Edward and Sir Thomas Grey Egerton, (fn. 24) and his grandson Sir Thomas Egerton, created Earl of Wilton in 1801. (fn. 25) His daughter and sole heir Eleanor married Robert, Earl Grosvenor, afterwards Marquis of Westminster, and the Heaton estates went to her second son, Thomas, born in 1799, who by a special remainder succeeded his maternal grandfather in 1814 as second Earl of Wilton. He assumed the name of Egerton, and dying in 1882, (fn. 26) was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Arthur Edward Holland Grey Egerton, who died without issue in 1885. His heir was his brother, Seymour John Grey Egerton, fourth earl. He died in 1898, and his son, Arthur George Egerton, in 1901 sold Heaton Park and some adjacent lands to the Corporation of Manchester, the price being £230,000. All rights, such as minerals, &c., were included in the purchase. The park was opened to the public on 24 September, 1902. (fn. 27)
Heaton House stands on an elevated situation in Heaton Park, and was built in 1772 by Sir Thomas Egerton (afterwards first Earl of Wilton), James Wyatt being the architect. It is a low classic structure facing south with a circular projection in the centre surmounted by a dome, and east and west wings connected with the main building by colonnades. (fn. 28) There is a circular temple to the south-east of the house, and later extensions were made on the east side by the addition of conservatories. The building, in which the Ionic order is used, is a good specimen of the early work of Wyatt, and is now used by the Manchester Corporation for exhibition and other purposes in connection with the park.
The land tax returns of 1787 show that Lord Grey de Wilton paid about half the sums collected from Great and from Little Heaton. (fn. 29)
In 1852 the whole of the land in Great Heaton belonged to the Earl of Wilton, except one cottage with its garden plot; 'this cottage, situated at Catty green, is claimed by the township as the representative of its former owner, who upwards of a century ago, mysteriously disappeared, leaving no traces of his destination, and, what is more remarkable, no heirs to succeed to his property.' (fn. 30) This lies on the edge of a detached portion of Great Heaton, as also do parts of Bow Lee and Rhodes. (fn. 31) Of Bow Lee, however, it is said that the cottages built there about 1800 stood on neutral ground, no decision being given as to whether they were in Prestwich or in Middleton; hence they escaped local rates, and no relief was given by either parish. (fn. 32)
In Little Heaton the hamlet of Simisters Lane takes its names from James Somister, who about 1730 purchased a small farm there, and prospering, afterwards added three others, his estate reaching 52 acres. He died in 1780. (fn. 33)
From a feoffment of 1681 it appears that Robert Lever of Alkrington owned the old hall of Heaton, with its demesne lands. (fn. 34)