A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 7, Leek and the Moorlands. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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Heaton was formerly a township in Leek parish and later a civil parish 2,689 a. (1,088 ha.) in area. (fn. 1) It is pasture, with a hamlet in the centre and Swythamley Hall in parkland in the northeast part. The northern boundary with Cheshire is formed by the river Dane. The boundary with Leekfrith on the south-east runs over a hill called Gun.
The hamlet of Heaton, an Old English name meaning a high settlement, (fn. 2) stands at 800 ft. (244 m.), and to the east the land on Gun rises to 1,000 ft. (305 m.). Beside the Dane it lies at 503 ft. (153 m.) on the west side of the township and 617 ft. (188 m.) in the north-east at Danebridge. There are two valleys, one in the north-east part of the township and the other south of Heaton hamlet; both are formed by streams which flow into the Dane. The underlying rock is sandstone of the Millstone Grit series. It is overlain by Boulder Clay, and the soil is mostly fine loam and clay. (fn. 3)
Ten people in Heaton were assessed for tax in 1327, (fn. 4) and forty-two were assessed for hearth tax in 1666. (fn. 5) In 1751 there were 179 people aged over 16 in the township. (fn. 6) In 1801 the population was 343, rising to 391 by 1821 and 430 by 1841. It had fallen to 405 by 1851 and 361 by 1871, and in 1881 it was 328. An increase to 371 in 1891 was followed by a further decline, to 359 in 1901 and 349 in 1911. The population was 355 in 1921 and 345 in 1931. It was 307 in 1951, 295 in 1961, 297 in 1971, 285 in 1981, and 274 in 1991. (fn. 7)
Part of an Anglo-Saxon circular cross shaft stands in a field north-east of Heaton hamlet. (fn. 8) The hamlet itself lies where a road from Rushton Spencer crossed a road which ran south to the main area of common waste in the township and north to the Dane. (fn. 9) Ivy Farm is of the 17th century, but most other houses in the hamlet are of the 19th century. By 1834 there was an inn, the Black Horse, still recorded in 1871. (fn. 10) Heaton Hall Farm, so called by 1851, stands west of the hamlet on a site occupied by 1775 and was rebuilt in the 1860s. (fn. 11) When the waste was inclosed in 1820, a new road was laid out bypassing the hamlet. (fn. 12) Heaton House Farm at the west end of the inclosure road has a date stone of 1824, retained when the house was rebuilt in the 1840s, evidently for James Robins, a surgeon, who was living there in 1851. (fn. 13)
The earliest settlements outside the hamlet were mostly in the north part of the township. Wormhough Farm and Wormhill Farm on the north-western boundary stand in an area called Wurnuldealth in the late 1240s. (fn. 14) There was a house there by the earlier 16th century, (fn. 15) possibly on the site of the present Wormhough Farm. Wormhill Farm is of the 19th century but probably replaced what was called the New House in 1702. (fn. 16) Brandy Lee Farm to the east, taking its name from words meaning a place in woodland cleared by burning, was an occupied site by the earlier 16th century. (fn. 17) At the same date there was a house to the north at Flashcroft beside the Dane. (fn. 18) East of Brandy Lee there were houses on the sites of Heaton Lowe and Hollinhall Farm by the earlier 16th century. (fn. 19) Heaton Lowe has a porch, ornamented with slender pyramids, which carries the date 1651 and the initials of William Nabs, joint lord of Heaton manor in 1654. Hollinhall Farm was largely rebuilt in 1896. (fn. 20)
There were houses in 1340 at a place called Berdeholm in the valley north-east of Heaton hamlet, where there was a mill possibly by 1327. (fn. 21) Bearda Farm on the north side of the valley retains the parlour wing of a 17th-century house, owned in 1666 by the Tunnicliffe family and then assessed for tax on five hearths. (fn. 22) The site of Hannel Farm on the south side of the valley was occupied by 1617. (fn. 23)
Swythamley Hall in the north-east part of the township derives its name from an Old Norse word (svitha) meaning land cleared by burning and another Old Norse word (holmr), or its English equivalent, meaning raised ground in marsh land. (fn. 24) The hall, which stands on or near the site of a grange belonging to Dieulacres abbey by 1291, dates mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries and stands in parkland. (fn. 25) Hillylees Farm south of the hall was an occupied site by the earlier 16th century, (fn. 26) and Hangingstone Farm north of the hall, which takes its name from a rock perched on the nearby hillside, is of the 17th century. Part of Snipe Cottage, on the west side of Swythamley park and called Snipe Hall in 1756, (fn. 27) is possibly also of the 17th century. There was a house at the river crossing at Danebridge by 1708. (fn. 28) A hamlet which developed there in the late 18th and early 19th century in association with a cotton mill had a population of just over 50 in 1841. (fn. 29)
Hawksley Farm east of Heaton hamlet retains some fabric from a 17th-century house, as does the nearby Tofthall Farm. The latter was the home in 1741 of William Armett, sheriff of Staffordshire in 1764; he improved the house and laid out a walled garden. Known as Toft Hall in 1775, the house was remodelled and extended to the south in the mid 19th century. (fn. 30) Overhouses Farm south of Tofthall Farm is dated 1853 and stands west of a house of the same name in existence by 1656. (fn. 31) By 1291 Dieulacres abbey had a grange at Fairboroughs in the south part of the township. (fn. 32) The name means 'fair hills' and was perhaps coined by the monks. (fn. 33)
A medieval route between Leek and Macclesfield ran through the east side of the township over Gun, crossing the Dane into Cheshire at Danebridge. The crossing was recorded c. 1190 as Scliderford, meaning 'slippery ford'. (fn. 34) There was a bridge by 1357, known as Sliderford bridge in 1545. Rebuilt as a stone bridge of two arches in the early 17th century, it was washed away by a flood in 1631 and replaced the next year by a single-arch bridge. (fn. 35) The present bridge is dated 1869. The road formerly ran past Snipe Cottage and there was a steep descent to the river crossing. The present, more gentle route to the west existed by 1831 and may have been laid out primarily to serve traffic from the cotton mill at Danebridge. (fn. 36) In 1611 there was a ford on the west side of the township at Barleigh ford. There was a bridge there by 1752. (fn. 37)
A feeder for Rudyard Lake was constructed c. 1811, leaving the Dane half-way along its course in Heaton. It ran through Rushton Spencer and entered the lake at its north end in Rushton James. (fn. 38)
Heaton association for the prosecution of felons was formed in 1801. (fn. 39) The village hall on the east side of the township was converted from a school in 1982, and a post office was opened in an extension in 1985. (fn. 40) Heaton was connected to a mains water supply in the earlier 1970s. (fn. 41)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
What became the manor of HEATON was probably included in the grant of Leek manor by Ranulph, earl of Chester, to Dieulacres abbey in 1232. (fn. 42) The abbey had granges at Fairboroughs and Swythamley by 1291, and in 1535 it held what was called the manor of Heaton. (fn. 43) After the Dissolution the Crown retained the manor until 1614 when it was sold to William Tunnicliffe of Bearda Farm and William Plant, also of Heaton. They sold it in 1629 to George Thorley of Heaton, from whom it was bought in 1631 by Francis Gibson of Wormhough. In 1654 Gibson sold the manor to William Trafford of Swythamley and William Nabs of Heaton Lowe. (fn. 44) One moiety then descended with the Swythamley estate. The other, still held by a member of the Nabs family in 1704, was later held by George Hunt (d. 1762), whose executors sold it to George Smith of Kingsley. In 1794 Smith sold his moiety to Edward Nicholls of Swythamley, and the reunited manor then descended with the Swythamley estate. (fn. 45)
Dieulacres abbey had a grange at FAIRBOROUGHS by 1291. (fn. 46) In 1546 the Crown sold the estate to William Fynney, who was succeeded in 1584 or 1585 by his son, also William. The younger William was succeeded in 1595 by his daughter Ann, widow of William Colmore of Birmingham, and Ann in 1598 by her son William. (fn. 47) In 1618 William Colmore sold the estate to George Thorley. (fn. 48) In the 1640s the house was occupied by John Pott. A man of the same name was living there in 1666, and his initials appear on a stone dated 1673, which survives on the front of the present house. (fn. 49) Another John Pott died at Fairboroughs in 1748. (fn. 50) John Potts of Fairboroughs (d. 1798) sold part of his estate to the earl of Macclesfield in 1757, (fn. 51) and in the later 1860s a 159-a. farm at Fairboroughs was held as part of the earl of Macclesfield's Rudyard estate. (fn. 52) That estate was broken up in 1919, and after passing through various hands Fairboroughs farm was bought in 1966 by W. J. Lowe. His son Robert owned it in 1991. (fn. 53) The present house, which possibly contains part of a 16thcentury house, was extended in 1673 and refronted in the mid 19th century.
Dieulacres abbey had a grange at SWYTHAMLEY possibly by 1246 (fn. 54) and certainly by 1291. (fn. 55) In 1540 the Crown granted the estate to William Trafford of Wilmslow (Ches.), who was succeeded in or shortly before 1559 by his son Christopher. (fn. 56) Christopher was succeeded in 1572 by his brother Philip, Philip in 1621 by his son William, and William in 1627 by his son, also William. (fn. 57) The younger William, who was sheriff of Staffordshire in 1694, was succeeded in 1697 by his son William, sheriff in 1706. (fn. 58) His son, another William, succeeded in 1726 and died in 1762, leaving as his heir a daughter Sarah, widow of William Nicholls. She was succeeded in 1785 by her son Edward, sheriff in 1818. (fn. 59) By 1828 Edward had taken the surname Trafford. (fn. 60)
In 1832 Trafford sold what was by then called Swythamley Hall to John Brocklehurst of Macclesfield, in Prestbury (Ches.). (fn. 61) John was succeeded in 1839 by his son William, who died childless in 1859 and was succeeded by his nephew Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst. (fn. 62) Created a baronet in 1903, Philip was succeeded in 1904 by his son, also Philip. The latter was succeeded in 1975 by his sister's grandson, John van Haeften, who broke up the estate in 1977. (fn. 63) The hall, with its parkland, was bought by the World Government for the Age of Enlightenment, followers of an Indian mystic, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and was opened as a training centre for teachers of Transcendental Meditation. It was sold in 1987 to Mr. R. M. Naylor. (fn. 64)
Assessed for tax on eight hearths in 1666, the house at Swythamley was possibly remodelled in the 1690s. (fn. 65) A section of wall incorporated in the present west front is probably from the 17th-century house, and it appears to have formed the south-west corner of what by the late 18th century was an irregular double-pile house. The 17th-century part of the house was damaged by fire in 1813, but a part recently added by Edward Nicholls survived. (fn. 66) The house was later enlarged by the Brocklehursts, and by 1862 a canted bay had been added to the room at the south-west corner and there was a billiard room at the north end. (fn. 67) The billiard room stood on the west side of what had been an open courtyard, on whose other sides were service quarters. The courtyard was covered over by Philip Brocklehurst c. 1860 for use as a dining room and ballroom by the tenantry at the twice-yearly estate audit. (fn. 68) The service quarters were removed in the early 20th century, when a large two-storeyed porch was added to the west front. (fn. 69) The outbuildings north-east of the house include a late 18th-century stable block, enlarged in 1860 to enclose a yard, and a tenants' hall of 1888. (fn. 70) After its purchase by Mr. Naylor in 1987, the house and outbuildings were divided into a number of separate residential units.
The house stands in parkland, which covered 80 a. in 1831 and was then stocked with deer. (fn. 71) In the later 18th century the approach was from the south, along a road which ran in front of the house and then along the north side of the park to Snipe Cottage. By 1831 there was also a road along the south side of the park. (fn. 72) The present drive across the park existed by the later 19th century. (fn. 73) West Lodge at the west end of the drive is dated 1892, and the smaller South Lodge on the east side of the park was built probably c. 1905 in connexion with the nearby church. (fn. 74) An Anglo-Saxon circular cross shaft north-west of the house was brought from Wincle, in Prestbury (Ches.), c. 1874. (fn. 75)
Besides its granges at Fairboroughs and Swythamley, Dieulacres abbey owned other land in the township. Henry of Ford, son of Ligulf of Heaton, gave it 2½ bovates in the 1240s and Henry son of Adam of Tittesworth gave land at Wurnuldehalth (later Wormhough) in the late 1240s; (fn. 76) Robert of Heaton gave land in or before 1315. (fn. 77) At the Dissolution the abbey's property in Heaton included farms attached to houses at Bearda, Brandy Lee, Flashcroft, Heaton Lowe, Hillylees, and Hollinhall. (fn. 78)
Dieulacres abbey's grange at Swythamley comprised 2 carucates of land with meadow and its grange at Fairboroughs 1 carucate in 1291. (fn. 79) By the 1490s the abbey's cattle were managed from Swythamley, using land there and in the 'forest' in Leekfrith as pasture. In 1490 the herd consisted of 17 cows and a bull, 118 steers, heifers, and stirks, and 72 oxen and cows. The abbey also kept 10 draught oxen at Swythamley in the 1490s. (fn. 80) Payments and services owed to the abbey by free tenants in Heaton in the earlier 16th century comprised a money rent, the payment of two capons worth 6d., one day's ploughing worth 3d., and one day's reaping worth 3d. (fn. 81) The abbey probably had a tithe barn in the township: one mentioned in the sale of Heaton manor in 1614 probably stood on the road west of Heaton hamlet, where there was a house called Tithe Barn in 1820. (fn. 82)
The common waste lay south and east of Heaton hamlet. (fn. 83) Although parts had been inclosed by the earlier 17th century, (fn. 84) 476 a. of waste remained in 1820, when it was inclosed under an Act of 1816. (fn. 85)
Of the 706 ha. of farmland returned for the civil parish in 1988, grassland covered 601.4 ha. and there were 44.3 ha. of rough grazing. The farming was dairy and sheep, with 1,040 head of cattle and 1,304 sheep and lambs. There were also 10,550 hens. Of the 27 farms returned, 25 were under 50 ha. in size and 2 were between 50 and 99 ha. Woodland covered 39.8 ha. (fn. 86)
A miller recorded at Heaton in 1327 (fn. 87) may have held a mill on the stream which runs into the Dane near Bearda Farm: Dieulacres abbey had a mill at Bearda in the earlier 16th century. (fn. 88) Bearda mill ceased working apparently in the mid 1890s. (fn. 89)
There was a corn mill at Danebridge by 1652. It became a cotton mill evidently in or soon after 1783. (fn. 90)
Trade and Industry.
A tanhouse was recorded at Heaton in 1640. It probably stood on the north-western boundary, where a tanyard was recorded in the earlier 19th century. (fn. 91)
By 1652 there was a paper mill on the Dane at Danebridge. It still existed in 1729 and apparently in 1742. It had ceased to operate by 1754, possibly having been replaced by the paper mill which by 1775 stood further downstream in Wincle on the Cheshire side of the river. (fn. 92) In 1671 there was also a fulling mill at Danebridge. It still existed in 1715 but not in 1742. (fn. 93)
The corn mill at Danebridge was let in 1783 to John Routh, a cotton manufacturer. It was presumably converted into a cotton mill, which existed there by 1829. (fn. 94) John and James Berresford were listed as cotton spinners at Danebridge in 1834, and in 1841 nine cotton workers were living near the mill. (fn. 95) By 1849 the mill had been closed, (fn. 96) but it was open again in 1851, when John Bennett, a pattern designer, lived at Danebridge cotton mill. The mill appears to have been closed again by 1861. (fn. 97) It was reopened in the 1870s by John Birch, the owner of a dyeworks at Froghall, in Ipstones, and of a carpet manufactory at Wildboarclough, in Prestbury (Ches.). In 1876 his son Joseph used the Danebridge mill to make colours for the silk trade. The business was already in decline by the time of Joseph's death in 1898, and the mill was later used as a smithy. The building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1976. (fn. 98)
By the earlier 14th century Heaton was a tithing of Leek manor and sent a frankpledge to the twice-yearly view. It was still part of the manor in 1820, when the court appointed a headborough for the township. (fn. 103)
There was a view of frankpledge for Heaton in 1797, when it was stated that court records existed from 1697. (fn. 104) A court held in the mid 19th century by the owner of the Swythamley estate as lord of Heaton had been discontinued by 1874. (fn. 105) By the late 1870s a pinfold stood on the west side of Heaton hamlet, (fn. 106) where it survived in 1991.
The township was part of the Leekfrith quarter of Leek parish, and in the 1660s its poor were relieved by the quarter's overseer. The township had its own overseer by 1713. (fn. 107) A workhouse was built by the township at Danebridge in 1829. The intention may have been to accommodate unemployed workers from the cotton mill there. The upkeep of the workhouse was soon found to be too expensive, and in 1833 the township sold it to John Brocklehurst of Swythamley. (fn. 108) Heaton became part of Leek poor-law union in 1837. (fn. 109)
From the 18th century and presumably earlier people from Heaton attended St. Lawrence's church in Rushton Spencer. (fn. 110)
A plan by Philip Brocklehurst in the late 1870s to build a chapel near Swythamley Hall was abortive. Revived shortly before his death in 1904, the project was continued by his widow Annie and a memorial church licensed for services was completed in 1905. It was closed in 1977 and later converted into a house. (fn. 111) The church had a carillon worked by water power. (fn. 112)
A Methodist service held at Danebridge on alternate Sundays in 1798 took place in the cotton mill in 1806. (fn. 113) A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was opened at Danebridge in 1834, and on Census Sunday 1851 the attendance was 80 in the afternoon, besides Sunday school children, and 120 in the evening. (fn. 114) The chapel was known as Danebridge Methodist church in 1991. A Wesleyan chapel opened in 1816 on the township's western boundary was replaced by one in Rushton Spencer in 1899 and was later converted into a house. (fn. 115)
A Primitive Methodist chapel was built on the east side of the township in 1864. (fn. 116) It was closed in the late 1960s and was converted in 1985 into a private residence called Gun End House. (fn. 117)
William Trafford (d. 1762) of Swythamley asked in his will that a school should be built on common land in Heaton. (fn. 118) There is no evidence that his request was fulfilled. In the earlier 1830s there were two schools in the township, one with 21 boys and the other with 25 girls. (fn. 119) A schoolmaster living at Heaton Lowe in 1851 may have taught in the township, (fn. 120) as may a schoolmistress who lived near Gun in 1871. (fn. 121) The Wesleyan Methodist Sunday school had an attendance of 45 on Census Sunday 1851. (fn. 122)
In 1902 a school was opened on the east side of the township to commemorate Edward VII's coronation. The site was given by Philip Brocklehurst of Swythamley, and the building was erected and furnished by Brocklehurst and his wife. (fn. 123) It was a Church of England elementary school until 1921, when it became Swythamley council school. (fn. 124) From 1931 it was a junior school, senior children going to Rushton Spencer until 1940 and thereafter to Leek. (fn. 125) The school, which was rebuilt in 1960-1, was closed in 1981, and the building was converted into a village hall. (fn. 126)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
Sarah Nicholls (d. 1785) of Swythamley left the interest on £200 for distribution in woollen cloth, half to the poor of Heaton and half to the poor of Leekfrith. The recipients were to be chosen by Sarah's daughters, and after their deaths by the owner of the Swythamley estate. In 1788 the annual income was £10. By the earlier 1820s distributions each of 12 gowns and 12 coats for Heaton and Leekfrith were made once every three years. (fn. 127) The distribution ceased in 1940 but was revived in 1974. The charity was amalgamated that year with one established by Sir Philip Brocklehurst (d. 1904), who left the interest on £300 to be distributed in blankets and woollen clothing to needy tenants on the Swythamley estate. (fn. 128) A Scheme of 1981 provided for the income of what was then called the Nicholls and Brocklehurst charity to be distributed either in kind or in money equally among beneficiaries in Heaton and Leekfrith. In 1991 there was a cash distribution of £140. (fn. 129)