powered by FreeFind





Bury in 1836

BURY, a market town in the county palatine of Lancaster, made a borough in 1832 under the Reform Act, with the privilege of sending one member to parliament. It is 195 miles N.N.W. of London, 9 N.N.W. of Manchester, 6 E.N.E. of Bolton, 7 W.S.W. of Rochdale, 16 S.E. of Blackburn, 9 S. of Haslingden, and 48 S.E. by S. of Lancaster.

The parish comprises the town of Bury, the towns of Elton and Walmersley, including Shuttleworth, and the chapelries of Higher Tottington and Lower Tottington, and Heap, including Heywood, all in the hundred of Salford ; and the towns of Coupe-Lench-cum-Newhall Ley-cum-Hall Carr, Henheads, and Musbury in the hundred of Blackburn. The population of the parish has more than doubled since 1801, as the following table will show:










Coupe-Lench, New Hall Hey-cum Hall Carr




















Tottington (Higher)





Tottington (Lower)





Walmersley & Shuttleworth










The annual value of the parish presents a still greater proportionate augmentation during the period of which we have returns, viz.:-






Coupe-Lench &c.






Heap &c.






Tottington (Higher)



Tottington (Lower)









The town of Bury has been very much enlarged and improved within the last few years. The street are now lighted with gas ; and more attention is paid than formerly to the paving and cleansing of the streets. There are no waterworks, but the inhabitants are well supplied with water by means of pumps. Though the town stand on rising ground, it seems relatively low, from the hills which surround it on the N. and E. The river Irwell, which does not take this name till it reaches Bury, flows through the west end of the town, and is joined by the Roche about two miles to the south. In ancient times one of the twelve baronial castles of the county stood close to this town, not far from the parish church, on the banks of what was then the course of the Irwell ; but the river now takes a more north-westerly course and leaves a fertile tract of land in the valley between its present and its ancient bed. The time and the cause of this change are not known. It has been conjectured to be owing to the works of the besiegers in 1644, when the town was attacked by the parliamentary troops, and the ruins of the castle were entirely demolished. Nothing now remains to mark the former existence of this fortress but fragments of stone, which are occasionally dug out of its ancient foundations. In Leland's time part of the ruin remained, as he alludes to them in his description of the place. ‘Byri on Irwel water, four or five miles from Manchester, but a poore market. There is a ruine of a castel by the paroch church yn the towne. It longgid with the towne sumtime to the Pilkentons, now to the Erles of Darby.’ The place where it stood is still called Castle Croft, from which may be seen Castle Steads, the name of the spot, in the adjoining township of Walmersley, where the besiegers threw up an intrenchment which enabled them to effect their purpose of battering down the walls of the castle. The name of the town has its origin, according to some antiquaries, from this feudal building, Byri signifying, in Saxon, a castle or fortified place. According to other authorities, Bury was a Roman station, in the vicinity of Coccium, if not that celebrated place itself : but this opinion is now generally allowed to be unsupported both by geographical and antiquarian evidence, no remains of Roman antiquity having been discovered in the town or immediate neighbourhood.

The history of the manor of Bury is unknown prior to the reign of Henry II. It was then, along with some adjoining manors, according to the Townley manuscripts, in the possession of John de Lacy. The family of Henry de Bury afterwards became the owners of the lordship of Bury, and they were succeeded by the Pilkingtons, a family of note, whose residence, in Leland's time, was about three miles distant from Bury, at Pilkington Park. It remained in the possession of the Pilkington family until, by the attainder of Sir Thomas Pilkington, in tile reign of Henry VII, his estates being confiscated and given to the Stanleys, the manor went along with them. Since that time the manorial rights have belonged to the Earl of Derby.

The population of Bury was no doubt originally composed of such persons as were required near a baronial residence of such importance as the castle above described. In process of time, as the feudal baronies decayed, new settlers introduced new occupations, and in this manner the manufacture of woollen cloth became a staple article of trade in this place, so far back as the fourteenth century, and flourished to such an extent that in the reign of Elizabeth one of her aulnagers was stationed in the town to stamp the cloth. Up to a much later date than this, woollens were almost the sole manufacture of the place ; but upon the introduction of the cotton trade into the county many of the inhabitants became weavers of cotton fabrics, and the woollen trade has been gradually retiring into Yorkshire and other parts of the country where the cotton manufacture is less paramount. The number however still employed in this town in manufacturing flannel, baize, blankets, coating, &c. is estimated at 4,000.

But a still larger proportion of the population are engaged in the different branches of the cotton trade, which, owing to the vicinity of Bury to the Manchester market, and the abundant supply of coal and water, are carried on to a considerable and increasing extent in this and the adjoining township. The mills for the spinning of cotton are large and numerous, and employ a great number of the inhabitants.

Several important improvements in the cotton manufacture took their rise in this place. A new method of throwing the shuttle by means of the picking-peg instead of the hand, and thence called the fly shuttle, was invented by John Kay, a native of the town : and in 1760 his son, Robert Kay, invented the drop-box, by means of which the weaver can at will use any one of three shuttles, - an invention which led to the introduction of various colours into the same fabric, and made it almost as easy to produce a fabric consisting of different colours as a common cloth of only one. Bury is indebted for one branch of its present trade to the late Sir Robert Peel, who established his extensive printing works on the banks of the Irwell, near this town. He resided at Chamber Hall, in the immediate vicinity, where the present Sir Robert was born. Besides these different branches of the cotton and woollen manufacture, there are extensive bleaching-grounds and iron-foundries. The manufacture of hats and hat-bodies is also carried on to a considerable extent.

A branch of the Manchester, Bolton, and Bury canal, constructed under an act of parliament in 1791, furnishes a ready communication by means of a packet-boat with those places, as well as by the common boats for tonnage to all parts of the kingdom. There is no lock on this canal between Bury and Bolton ; but the fall into the river Irwell at Manchester is 95ft.

The public officers of the town consist of three constables, who are appointed at a court-leet held at Whitsuntide, which is summoned by the agent of the Earl of Derby : a deputy constable holds his office for life, acts under these officers. Two other court-leets are held in April and October, under the same nobleman, for the nomination of a court baron which is held every third week for the recovery of debts under 40s. The jurisdiction of all these officers extends over the whole parish. Petty sessions for the division are held weekly. There is a weekly market on Saturday which is well supplied; but that which was formerly held, according to the charter, on Thursday, has been long discontinued. The three annual fairs are held on March 5th, May 3rd, and September 18th.

The living of Bury is a rectory in the deanery of Manchester, and in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester, returned in 1835 as of the net annual value of £1,937, of which the Earl of Derby is patron. The value of the living was very considerably augmented by an act of parliament passed in 1764, empowering the rector for the time being to grant building-leases of the glebe land for ninety-nine years, renewable at any period in the interim. The glebe land occupies nearly one-half of the town. The church to which this living belongs is dedicated to St. Mary. It was formerly a Gothic structure; but in 1776 it was rebuilt, all but the steeple, and in a different style of architecture, as it is probable that the steeple, which has a short spire upon it, was of more recent date than the ancient edifice. St. John's chapel, in Stanley Street, erected in 1770, is a neat building in the patronage of the rector, who has also the presentation to all the episcopal chapels in the parish. The living of St. John's is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £600 of private benefaction, £400 royal bounty, and £1,500 parliamentary grant.

The Dissenting places of worship in the town are numerous. The oldest is the Presbyterian chapel in Silver Street, belonging to the Unitarians, which, during a period of 105 years after it was erected, had only three ministers. The Independents have two chapels, one in the New Road, erected in 1792, and the other called Bethel Chapel, in Henry Street, erected in 1807. The Methodists of the new connexion, the Wesleyans, and the Primitive Methodists have separate meeting-houses. The Roman Catholics have also a chapel.

To all the churches and chapels are attached Sunday-schools, which afford instruction to 4,224 children. In connexion with the Established Church 1,013 are educated ; Independents, 900; Methodists, 1,304 ; Unitarians, 330 ; Roman Catholics, 155; and in factory schools, 522. (Report of Statistical Society in Bury.)

The public charities and institutions in Bury consist of a free grammar-school, a good building near the church. This school was founded in 1726, by the Rev. Roger Kay, and endowed with estates which now yield a revenue of £438, 15 shillings and 3 pence. It is divided under two masters into two schools, the upper and lower. In the upper school, besides a number of boarders which the head master is allowed to take, about twenty boys are educated on the foundation ; and fifty boys in the lower school. The course of instruction in the upper school is classical and mathematical, no boy being admitted who is not competent to commence reading an easy Latin author. Before admission into the lower school, the boys are required to read well, and they are taught, in addition to reading, writing, and accounts, English grammar, geography, and English history ; and if a boy intends to advance to the upper school, he is taught the Latin grammar; but very few boys go to the upper from the lower school. The terms in the upper school are 5 shillings on entrance, and 5 shillings at Shrovetide, Midsummer, and Christmas. Half this sum is paid by the boys in the lower school. There are two annual exhibitions on this foundation for seven years to either of the two universities. The management of the school is vested in thirteen trustees, seven of whom must be benefited clergymen residing within ten miles of the town, and six laymen.

A charity school for the instruction of eighty boys and thirty girls was founded in 1748, by the Hon. and Rev. John Stanley, formerly rector. In 1815, the funds of the charity having been much augmented by annual subscriptions, it was converted into a national school; and a spacious building was erected, two stories in height, the upper room being used for girls, and the lower room for boys. It now provides for the education of 280 children, of which number about sixty of the boys and forty of the girls are clothed in pursuance of the will of the founder. There are two infant schools, containing 240 children, chiefly supported by the weekly contributions of twopence each.

A dispensary and lying-in charity are supported by annual subscriptions. There are several small charities for the distribution of linen cloth among the poor of the town of Bury, viz. Guest’s charity, 10 shillings a-year ; Banks’s charity, £3 a-year ; Rothwell’s charity, 10 shillings a-year ; and Waring's charity, £1, 1 shilling a-year. Besides these, Shepherd’s charity furnishes £9 for annual distribution among the poor; and Yates’s charity £16, 3 shillings for the relief of aged persons.

There are also other charities belonging to the parish, which altogether form only a small amount.

A savings' bank was established in Bury in 1822. There is a public subscription library, a news room, a mechanics' library, a medical library, and a billiard room.