A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
This township occupies, as its name implies, a tongue of land between the Irk on the north and its affluent, the Wince Brook, on the south. The area is 392 acres. The surface is mostly above the 300 ft. level—360 ft. is reached at Mills Hill (fn. 1)—sloping down to the streams named. The population in 1901 was included with Middleton. (fn. 2)
The principal roads are those branching out from Middleton, to the east to Oldham and to the southeast to Hollinwood and Failsworth. Dwelling-houses have spread out along these roads, so that the township has long been a suburb of Middleton, to which borough it was added for local government purposes in 1861. (fn. 3) In 1894 Tonge lost its status as a township or civil parish, and became completely merged in Middleton. (fn. 4)
The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company's line from Manchester to Rochdale passes through the eastern side, with a branch to Middleton, opened in 1857. From this the part of Tonge called Middleton Junction takes its name, though the junction itself is in Chadderton. Middleton station is in Tonge. A light railway is laid along the road from Middleton to Oldham. The Manchester and Rochdale canal touches the eastern border.
In this township there were only fifteen hearths liable to the tax in 1666; no house had more than two. (fn. 5)
Originally TONGE seems to have been a part of Alkrington, and is not called a manor. It was, therefore, part of the Prestwich lands, and does not come into notice for some time after these lands had descended to the Langleys of Agecroft. In 1390 a Henry de Alkrington died, holding of the king by knight's service two messuages and certain lands in Alkrington called Tonge. (fn. 6) From the inquisition and subsequent pleadings it appears that Henry was descended from Thomas the son of Adam de Prestwich, whose daughters and heirs left no legitimate offspring. (fn. 7) It would appear that Thomas had a natural son named Henry for whom he made provision by granting this outlying part of his manor of Alkrington. Henry's son Henry died, as stated, in 1390, leaving a son Henry, only eighteen months old. (fn. 8) He proved his age in 1412, and had livery of his lands; (fn. 9) afterwards he took Tonge as his surname, and his descendants continued in possession until the 18th century.
Henry de Tonge in 1437–8 laid claim to the Prestwich inheritance, but illegitimacy was asserted as a defence. (fn. 10) He died before 1470, when his son Richard had to claim his inheritance against Thomas Langley of Agecroft, who had expelled him. (fn. 11) The suit was still proceeding in 1482, when John Langley and Richard Tonge stated their claims. (fn. 12) In 1498 Richard assigned a portion of his lands in Tonge to feoffees in view of the marriage of his son Thomas with Margaret daughter of Thomas Newton; he died two years afterwards, holding various lands of the king as Duke of Lancaster, by knight's service. His son and heir Thomas was then eighteen years of age. (fn. 13)
Thomas duly proved his age in 1504. (fn. 14) Three years later it was awarded that Robert Langley and his tenants in Alkrington should enjoy common of pasture in Tonge Moor, but turbary was denied except to certain tenants named. (fn. 15) In 1527 Thomas Tonge granted to Robert Langley a part of the moor, with common of pasture, turbary and marl. (fn. 16) The next of the family known is John Tonge, the son of Thomas, who died in 1551, holding various lands in Tonge of the king by the hundredth part of a knight's fee; Richard his son and heir was only two years of age. (fn. 17) Richard died at the end of 1568, being still in wardship; he left a son Christopher, two years of age, about whose legitimacy there was some doubt, and apart from whom the heirs were Richard's sisters Ellen, Jane, and Dorothy, aged twenty-one, nineteen, and nineteen years. (fn. 18)
Christopher's right must have been established, for he held possession of the estates in Prestwich, Middleton, Tonge, and Alkrington. (fn. 19) In 1590 he made provision for the jointure of Jane daughter of William Bamford, whom he married. He died 10 February 1600–1, and was buried at Middleton. Richard the son and heir was not quite three years old. (fn. 20) In 1631 he paid £10 after refusing knighthood. (fn. 21) From this time little can be said of the family, except the details in the pedigree; (fn. 22) its members do not appear to have taken any conspicuous part in the Civil War or the Revolution. Richard Tonge, who died in 1713, bequeathed his newly-purchased lands in Hopwood to his elder son Jonathan, subject to an annuity of £20 a year to his wife Alice, and a sum of £500 to his younger son Thomas, then a minor. (fn. 23) In spite of this bequest he appears to have died insolvent, and the executors refusing to act, administration of his estate was granted to creditors. By his second wife he left two sons, Jonathan and Thomas, of whom the latter had issue. The son Jonathan in 1725 demised his estate to his brother Thomas, with instructions to sell it. (fn. 24) In the following year it was purchased by John Starky of Heywood, (fn. 25) whose grandson James Starky in 1846 left it to his relatives, Mrs. Hornby of St. Michael's, and Joseph Langton of Liverpool. (fn. 26) The trustees of the late Charles Langton are stated to be the present lords of the manor and chief landowners.
Tonge Hall passed through several hands. About 1890 it was purchased by Mr. Asheton Tonge of Alderley, stated to be a descendant of the old family. (fn. 27) The hall, a picturesque fragment of a black and white timber and plaster house standing on a low stone base, is now completely dismantled, and in a sad state of decay and dilapidation. The house was originally of much greater extent, and a drawing of the building as it was about 1845 (fn. 28) shows that the whole of the west end, including a projecting porch and gable in front of the present brick-faced portion of the principal elevation, has been destroyed.
The house is situated on high ground above the valley of the Irk, facing north, and overlooking the town of Middleton. It was probably erected in the latter part of the 16th century, and is an interesting specimen of the timber architecture of the county. What remains consists of the central and eastern wings, two stories in height, which preserve their original timber and plaster construction on the north and east sides. The south and west sides have been rebuilt in brick. The exterior timber-work consists of roughly-shaped beams and posts with a filling-in of square quatrefoil panels. The continuous repetition of the quatrefoils, broken only by the shallow plaster coves which mark the lines of the first floor and eaves, gives a somewhat rich and ornamental appearance to the building, though the detail is poor. The oak pegs are left projecting about an inch all round the panels, and form a characteristic feature of the building, which, however, has a very dilapidated appearance, the gables being without barge boards, the windows without glass, and portions of the front of the house boarded up. In other parts the walls are broken through, and open for anyone to enter. The west end of the principal or north elevation has been refaced in brick in front where the porch originally stood, and there is some brick patching in other parts of the front of the house. The roofs are covered with grey stone slates, and the chimney shafts are of brick set diagonally on a square base.
The interior is in an even worse state than the outside, and very little of interest remains. The principal apartment, or great hall, which is paved with stone flags, occupies the whole of the west (or what was the centre) wing, but has been divided in later times unequally across its length by a partition. It measures about 27 ft. in length and 21 ft. in width, and had a large bay window 9 ft. square at the north-east end. The position of the screens seems to be indicated by the present passage at the west end of the room, which is now separated from it by a brick wall. The usual arrangement of the great hall was, however, probably not strictly adhered to. The fireplace is at the west end, in the position of the screen, and blocking up any way to the passage, except on the north side. The ceiling is crossed by four massive beams. When the building was occupied as a farmhouse the part of the hall on the south side of the partition was used as a kitchen, and modern windows and a door were inserted in the south wall. The bay window with the portion of the great hall on the north side of the partition is now a separate apartment. The east wing contains a square staircase, with solid oak steps, and seems to have had originally two rooms, one on each side of a central chimney. One of these rooms, however, has again been divided, and a small apartment, measuring about 12 ft. by 11 ft., formed. This parlour, which has a window on the east side, is panelled all round with 18th-century wainscot, and has had a picture over the fireplace, half of which still remains. In the room at the back there is still a good 17th-century oak table. There are five rooms on the first floor, but they offer no points of interest, and there is a cellar under the front portion of the east wing. There was apparently a restoration or alteration of the house in 1703, that date, with the initials R T A (Richard Tonge and Alice his wife) being on three lead spout-heads in different parts of the building. The initials r. t. were also on a latch-plate in one of the barns, and in yellow stain on one of the leaded quarries of the windows. The house was tenanted by a farmer for some years previous to 1890; since then it has been unoccupied, and allowed to decay. During its occupancy as a farm modern windows were inserted on the south and east sides, and a new brick porch built at the south-east corner. The owner recently offered it as a gift to the town of Middleton for use as a museum, but the offer was not accepted. (fn. 29)
The inquisitions show that the Radcliffes of Smithills held land in Tonge of the king, but no details are given. (fn. 30) About 1400 William del Dam and Margery his wife had lands in Tonge. (fn. 31) Richard Assheton of Middleton died in 1618, holding land in Tonge of the king by knight's service, as part of the manor of Middleton. (fn. 32)
Several places of worship have during the last century been erected in Tonge. In connexion with the Established religion St. Michael's, in the west, was built in 1839, and rebuilt in 1902; the rector of Prestwich is patron; and St. Gabriel's, Middleton Junction, was built in 1885, the Bishop of Manchester collating. In connexion with the former is the iron mission church of the Holy Innocents.