Townships: Failsworth

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Townships: Failsworth', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 273-274. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

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Failesworth, c. 1200.

Failsworth has an area of 1,073 acres. (fn. 1) The surface slopes somewhat to the brooks which bound it on the north-west and south-east, and rises slightly towards the east. It had formerly three hamlets: Doblane End, Wrigley Head, and Mill Houses. The population in 1901 was 14,152.

It is traversed near the northern boundary by the road from Manchester to Oldham, which is lined all the way with houses and factories; parallel to this for part of the way is the Street, part of a Roman road from Manchester, and from it branches off a road to the east, through the hamlets called Street End and Holt Lane End. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's railway from Manchester to Oldham runs through to the north of the high road, with a station near the middle called Failsworth. The Rochdale Canal crosses the north-west corner, and the Oldham Canal passes near the eastern border.

The industries of the place are the old ones of silkweaving and hat-making. To these have been added cotton-spinning, to which the growth of the place is mainly due, and an engineering works.

Only one house had as many as four hearths liable to the hearth tax in 1666; the total number was 69. (fn. 2)

A local board was formed in 1863. (fn. 3) In 1894 an urban district council of twelve members took its place; the township is divided into two wards, the Higher and the Lower. It possesses a town hall and a cemetery.

Ben Brierley, the dialect writer, was born in the township in 1825. (fn. 4) John Smethurst, Unitarian minister, 1793–1859, was also a native. (fn. 5)

Clayton mill, serving for the Byron manors, was locally in Failsworth. (fn. 6)


At the survey of 1212 it was found that FAILSWORTH, rated as four oxgangs of land, was held in moieties by different tenures. Two of the oxgangs were held of the king by Adam de Prestwich in thegnage, by a rent of 4s., Adam's under-tenant being Gilbert de Notton, who held by the same rent. (fn. 7) The other two oxgangs were held by the lord of Manchester as part of his fee, and had by Robert Grelley been added to the grant of Clayton to Robert de Byron, the tenure being knight's service. (fn. 8) The Prestwich moiety was also acquired by the Grelleys and granted to the Byrons, (fn. 9) so that this family held the entire township. It descended like Clayton, (fn. 10) and was acquired by the Chethams; (fn. 11) but a considerable portion of the land appears to have been sold to smaller holders, who had perhaps been tenants. (fn. 12)

The abbey of Cockersand held land in Failsworth by grant of the Byrons. (fn. 13)

The land tax return of 1787 shows that Mordecai Greene was then the principal owner, paying nearly a fourth of the tax. George Smith, John Birch, Edward Greaves, and Sir Watts Horton together paid about the same amount. (fn. 14)

Accounts of many of the old dwellings, as well as of the families, may be seen in Mr. H. T. Crofton's Newton Chapelry. (fn. 15) A complete valuation of the township, made in 1794, is printed in the same work. (fn. 16)

In connexion with the Established Church St. John's was built in 1846; the rector is presented by the Crown and the Bishop of Manchester alternately. (fn. 17) A new district, Holy Trinity, has recently been formed; the patronage is the same, but no church has yet been built.

The old school, built in 1785 by subscription, is now a Free-thought Institute. (fn. 18)

The Wesleyans had a chapel at Wrigley Head, built in 1787; it is now a workshop. (fn. 19) The Methodist New Connexion, which appeared in 1797, has a chapel called Bethel, built in 1811. (fn. 20) The Swedenborgians opened a cottage for services in 1841; the present church, the fifth used, was built in 1889. (fn. 21)

In 1662 John Walker was ejected from the chapel of Newton, and he and his successors ministered to the Nonconformists in the neighbourhood. Newton chapel itself seems to have been the usual meeting place, but about 1698 Dob Lane Chapel, on the Failsworth side of the boundary, was erected. It was sacked in 1715 by the 'Church and King' rioters. The present chapel was built in 1878–9 on the site of the old one. The congregation has been Unitarian for more than a century. (fn. 22)

The Roman Catholic church of the Immaculate Conception was opened in 1865. (fn. 23)


  • 1. 1,072 acres, including 15 of inland water; Census Rep. 1901.
  • 2. Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9.
  • 3. Lond. Gaz. 20 Nov. 1863.
  • 4. A book of local sketches entitled Failsworth Folk, by Mr. Percival Percival, was published at Manchester in 1901.
  • 5. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 6. Crofton, Newton (Chet. Soc.), ii, 228, 265.
  • 7. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 67.
  • 8. Ibid. i, 56. Robert Grelley's charter granting two oxgangs of land in Failsworth, and other lands, to Robert de Byron is in the Record Office; Trans. Hist. Soc. (new ser.), xvii, 41. The Byron holding was thus raised to half a knight's fee, as recorded in 1212.
  • 9. Thomas Grelley (1230–62) granted to Richard de Byron all his land of Failsworth, to wit, the whole moiety of Failsworth, which his father Robert Grelley bought from Robert de Heap, being of the king's fee, at a rent of 7s., to be paid yearly at the four terms; Byron Chartul. (Towneley MS.), no 2. This moiety must, therefore, have passed from Gilbert de Notton to Robert de Heap between 1212 and 1230. The Prestwich family had no further concern with it, though in 1292 Adam de Prestwich claimed arrears of services from John de Byron for a tenement in Prestwich; Assize R. 408, m. 25. He was nonsuited, but the claim probably referred to the 4s. due from Failsworth to the lord of Prestwich. In 1346 the service due from the lord of Prestwich to the Earl of Lancaster was 20s., instead of 24s., as in 1212; Add. MS. 32103, fol. 146.
  • 10. It is scarcely ever mentioned separately, but is included in Byron feoffments; e.g. Dep. Keeper's Rep. xl, App. 543; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 44, m. 223 (being called a manor); 71, m. 2. The charter quoted in the preceding note explains the rent of 7s. due to the lord of Manchester for the manor of Clayton; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. iii, 48. In 1826 2s. 8d. was claimed by Sir Oswald Mosley and 5s. 8d. at Michaelmas, as a township quit-rent; Crofton, Newton Chaplry (Chet. Soc.), ii, 366.
  • 11. Humph. Chetham (Chet. Soc.), 19, 243. Failsworth, on partition, became part of the estate of Alice daughter of Edward Chetham of Nuthurst, who married Adam Bland; see the account of Turton, and E. Axon, Chet. Gen. (Chet. Soc.), 63.
  • 12. Among the Clowes deeds are a number relating to Failsworth. From these it appears that Sir John Byron in 1610 and 1616 sold lands in Failsworth to Edmund Chadderton of Nuthurst, who in 1619 sold to Theophilus Ashton. The last-named had in 1609 given land in Failsworth to Catherine widow of Francis Holt of Gristlehurst, and she in 1623 sold to John Hardman of Heywood. John Shacklock of Moston in 1632 sold land to John Hardman; Henry Hardman, who had sons, John and William, sold to Sandford in 1665, and Samuel Sandford soon afterwards sold to Edward Chetham. The Jenkinsons of Nuthurst had land in Failsworth. Some of these families are noticed in the account of Moston. The Byrons in 1615 sold land to John Dunkerley of Failsworth, including closes called Oldham Field, Brown Knoll, Yarncroft, Little Pingot, &c., with freedom of turbary in a moss room or moss dale on Droylsden Moor. These lands seem to have been acquired by Nathan and Samuel Jenkinson not long afterwards. See Manch. Free Lib. D. no. 59, 64–9. William Clough died in 1639, holding a messuage, &c., in Failsworth of Edward Mosley as of his manor of Manchester; John, his son and heir, was thirty years of age; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xxx, 27. The following are from the inquisitions in Towneley's MS. C 8. 13 (Chet. Lib.):— Charles Beswick died in 1631, holding a messuage and land of the lord of Manchester; John his son and heir was thirty years of age in 1638; p. 78. Hugh Clayton, who died in 1635, had a similar tenement: Richard his son and heir was fifty-two or more; p. 260. Adam Holland of Newton (d. 1624) had lands in Failsworth also; p. 502. Nicholas Kempe, who died in 1621, held a messuage and lands of the lord of Manchester; Henry, his son and heir, was fifty-one years of age in 1638; p. 723. John Thorpe, who died in 1633, held a similar tenement; Ralph, his son and heir, was forty-three years old in 1638; p. 1190. Thomas Turner held similarly; he died in 1635, leaving as heir his brother John, who was thirty years old in 1638; p. 1191.
  • 13. Robert de Byron granted the abbot and canons the place of his 'herdwick' upon Mossbrook, lying between two cloughs going down to the said brook, for the souls of himself and his wife; Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 708. Cecily, the wife of Robert, added all the land of the clough coming from Mossden between the aforesaid land and Ralph's assart, as far as another clough on the eastern side, up to the oxgangs of the vill (i.e. the town fields); ibid. Robert the son of Robert and Cecily confirmed the grants; ibid. 709. The date of the charters is about 1200. Roger, Abbot of Cockersand, gave this land to John son of Robert de Byron, at a rent of 12d.; Byron Chartul. no. 1. Nicholas Byron held it by the same rent in 1461; Cockersand Chartul. iv, 1238.
  • 14. Returns at Preston.
  • 15. The second part of vol. ii deals with Failsworth; Chet. Soc. (new ser.), liv, 213–95. The houses are arranged in alphabetical order; among the chief are: Booth Fold (p. 215), Fletcher Fold (p. 233), Hardman Fold (p. 234), Lime Yate (p. 241), Lord Lane (p. 244), The Pole (p. 250), Wrigley Head (pp. 261, 263, 381), which is named in the Manchester boundaries in 1320; Mamecestre, ii, 277.
  • 16. Newton Chapelry ii, 367–78; the names of owners, tenants, and fields are given.
  • 17. For district and endowment see Lond. Gaz. 22 Oct. 1844, 21 Aug. 1874, 3 Aug. 1877. Also Crofton, op. cit. 204–8.
  • 18. Ibid. 212, 213.
  • 19. Ibid. 210. A new chapel was built in Oldham Road in 1867 in place of it; ibid. 353.
  • 20. Ibid. 210, 352.
  • 21. Ibid. 210–12, 361.
  • 22. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. v, 38–50; a view of the old building is given. It is stated that 'long before the highway from Manchester to Oldham was made, Doblane was only reached by a bridle path through the fields, the chapel itself lying secluded among the trees, and the lane, a very narrow one between hedges, continued up to Watchcote, Failsworth' (p. 46). Depositions respecting the 1715 riots are printed ibid. 43. The Rev. Lewis Loyd, afterwards a banker, father of Lord Overstone, at one time was minister. There is a History of Dob Lane Chapel by the Rev. Alex. Gordon. See also Crofton, op. cit. 185–204.
  • 23. The mission was begun in 1846 by Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The community appears to have dissolved, but one priest remained as a secular. Building began in 1855, and the church (not completed) was opened in 1865; it has since been finished; Crofton, op. cit. 208–10.