Townships: Openshaw

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

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'Townships: Openshaw', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 287-288. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

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Openshawe, 1276.

This township stretches for over 2 miles along the Ashton Old Road, a long straight road leading east from Manchester to Ashton; it has an area of 579½ acres. The hearth tax return of 1666 shows that the dwellings then were few and small, the total number of hearths being only twenty. (fn. 1) The district is now urban, though a little open land remains on the northern border. The population was in 1901 numbered with Ardwick. The hamlet called Little Droylsden in the extreme eastern end was added to Openshaw in 1889. (fn. 2)

The Great Central Railway Company's line from Manchester to Ashton runs along the southern border, and has a station near the centre named Gorton. A branch line to Stockport separates near the western end of the township. A branch of the Manchester and Ashton Canal crosses the centre, going south to the Mersey at Stockport.

The great engineering works of Armstrong, Whitworth, and Company, and others, are in this township. Seventy years ago the people were 'chiefly hatters.' (fn. 3)

A local board was established in 1863, (fn. 4) but in 1890 the township became part of the city of Manchester, and in 1896 was absorbed into the new township of South Manchester. Handsome buildings, including a public hall, free library, and baths, were opened in 1894. (fn. 5)

According to an old proverb, 'The constable of Openshaw sets beggars in the stocks at Manchester,' a gibe at the waste of time and trouble involved in the administration of past ages. (fn. 6)


In 1276 Robert Grelley, lord of Manchester, had a park at OPENSHAW, (fn. 7) and after his death in 1282 it was found that 2 oxgangs of land in Openshaw paid a rent of 8s., while a plat of land by the cross was worth 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 8) Some further particulars are supplied by the extents of 1320–2, at which time there were 4 oxgangs of land in Openshaw, worth 53s. 3d., (fn. 9) also 100 acres of moor and turbary in which the tenants of Gorton, Openshaw, and Ardwick had common rights, and the lord of Ancoats also. (fn. 10) John La Warre in 1331 granted a messuage and an oxgang of land to William the Couper, his wife, and children, for eleven years at a rent of 13s. 4d.; the various services and customs were those usual in the manor of Manchester. (fn. 11) In 1357 Openshaw was included in Roger La Warre's grant of Bradford to Thomas de Booth of Barton, and descended in the same way as Bradford until the division of the Booth estates. (fn. 12) It became the portion of Anne, one of the daughters and co-heirs of John Booth, (fn. 13) and in 1798 J. G. Legh was the chief landowner. (fn. 14) It does not at any time appear to have been considered a manor.

William Hulton of Farnworth had land in Openshaw in 1556, (fn. 15) and Thurstan Tyldesley in 1561. (fn. 16)

Ambrose Birch of Openshaw was a juror in 1608; (fn. 17) he was ancestor of the Birches of Ardwick. A Dyson family occurs in 1656. (fn. 18)

John Ellor of Openshaw, a life tenant under Sir John Booth, complained in 1506 of wrongs done him by Ralph Holland of Clayton and John Gilliam of Failsworth. (fn. 19)

The constables of Openshaw are mentioned in 1616. (fn. 20)

For the Established Church St. Barnabas's was consecrated in 1839, (fn. 21) and St. Clement's, Higher Openshaw, in 1881; (fn. 22) in the former there is a monument to Serjeant Brett, killed in Hyde Road at the rescue of the Fenian leaders in 1867. The incumbents, styled rectors, are presented by trustees.

The Wesleyan Methodists and United Free Church have each two places of worship, the New Connexion and Primitive Methodists each one. The Baptists have a church at Higher Openshaw. The Congregationalists have three churches. Preaching began about 1820, but no regular services were held till 1864, when an old chapel was purchased from the Wesleyans. (fn. 23) There are two meeting-places for the Salvation Army.

St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church, Higher Openshaw, was opened in 1883; the mission was begun in 1849. St. Vincent's followed in 1896.


  • 1. Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9.
  • 2. Local Govt. Bd. Order 22623.
  • 3. E. Butterworth.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 8 Dec. 1863.
  • 5. Provided jointly by the corporation and the legatees of Sir Joseph Whitworth. The baths had been opened in 1890.
  • 6. N. and Q. (Ser. 4), xii, 388, 524.
  • 7. John de Byron, Henry his brother, and others in that year broke the park and rescued the animals of Reynold the Flecher; De Banco R. 15, m. 62 d.
  • 8. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 245, 244.
  • 9. Mamecestre (Chet. Soc.), ii, 364. There were also four messuages; ibid. 365. The tenants were bound to grind at Manchester mill; ibid. 281.
  • 10. Ibid. ii, 293; the value was annually decreasing, and it was expected that the peat would soon be exhausted. Sir John de Byron had taken 40 acres from the moor, without leave, to the lord's disseisin.
  • 11. Manchester Corporation D.
  • 12. See the accounts of Bradford and Barton.
  • 13. From an old abstract of the Legh title (in the possession of W. Farrer) it appears that the partition was made in or before 1587, in which year a settlement was made by George Legh and Anne (Booth) his wife of the old hall of Barton and lands, &c., in Openshaw, Grindlow, Blackstake, and Manchester. See also Manch. Ct. Leet Rec. ii, 322. For the pedigree see Ormerod, Ches. (ed. Helsby), i, 462.
  • 14. His contribution to the land tax was £15 out of £21 raised. Other owners were Thomas Nadin, Thomas Tipping, Lord Kenyon, &c.
  • 15. Manch. Ct. Leet Rec. i, 33.
  • 16. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 22, m. 39; 23, m. 52; he sold a messuage, &c., in Openshaw and Gorton to Thomas Ashton of Shepley. See also Manch. Ct. Leet Rec. i, 100.
  • 17. Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 115.
  • 18. Manch. Ct. Leet Rec. iv, 158.
  • 19. Duchy Plead. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 25–7. The defence was that John Ellor had encroached on the moor.
  • 20. Manch. Sessions (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 3.
  • 21. A district was assigned to it in 1844; Lond. Gaz. 4 Mar. 1864. There is a mission church.
  • 22. For the district see Lond. Gaz. 2 Sept. 1881.
  • 23. Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. v, 62–5. The chapel mentioned in the text was in Lower Openshaw; it was sold in 1890, and a new school chapel built in 1892. Work at Higher Openshaw was begun in 1865, where a school chapel was built in 1871. The Central Church was founded in 1889, a building previously used by the Methodist Free Church being purchased.