Bury Parish, principally situated in the Hundred of Salford, and partly in the Hundred of Blackburn, is divided into eight townships, four of which are chapelries, viz.- Heap, Tottington Higher, Tottington Lower, and Musbury; and the townships are Bury, Elton, Walmersley, and Coup Lench, with Newhall Hey, and Hall Car. It comprises an area of 22,240 statute acres; and its population in 1801 was 24,482; in 1811, 27,317; in 1821, 34,335; in 1831, 47,829; in 1841, 62,115; and according to the census of 1851, the parish numbered about 70,000. The population of the township of Bury in 1793, was only 2,900; in 1801, 7,072; in 1811, 8,762; in 1821, 10,583; in 1831, 15,086; in 1841, 20,710; and in 1851, 25,477. The parliamentary borough in 1851 contained 31,262 inhabitants. The Bury Poor Law Union is divided into the three districts of Bury, Pilkington, and Heap. The Bury district comprises the townships of Bury, Elton, Tottington Higher, Tottington Lower, and Walmersley. The Pilkington district includes the townships of Pilkington, Radcliffe, and Ainsworth; and the Heap district those of Heap, Birtle, Ashworth, Pilsworth, and Hopwood. The area of the union comprises 32,208 statute acres; and a population in the year 1851, of 88,797 persons. In the centre of this parish, embedded in the moss soil, trees as black as ebony have been frequently found, and an oak of extraordinary size was dug up at Redvales, where it had lain for probably thousands of years, accumulating firmness of texture without exhibiting any symptoms of decay. The district abounds with stone of excellent quality, and the flags and slate of Horncliffe are held in high repute.

Bury is a respectable and thriving market town and parliamentary borough, pleasantly situated at the junction of the East Lancashire with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, and in a fertile valley on the left bank of the Irwell, which runs close to the west side of the town and intersects the parish from north to south, and is joined by the stream of the Roach, which after watering the vale of the Heap, forms a junction with it at the southern extremity of the parishes of Bury and Radcliffe, about two miles from the former town. Bury is distant by railway from Manchester nine miles north, forty-one E.N.E. from Liverpool by way of Manchester, eight south from Rawtenstall, six E.N.E. from Bolton, ninety-five north from Birmingham, and 195 N.N.W. from London.

Though no doubt can exist of a emigrant Flemings having established themselves in this parish in the reign of Edward III., nor of their having fabricated their webs from the fleeces grown in the forest of Tottington, yet the first distinct notice we have of the manufactures of Bury is in the reign of Henry VIII., when Leland says, “Yerne sumtime made abowte Beri, a market towne on Irwell.” In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, an aulneger was appointed at Bury, by act of parliament, to stamp woollen cloth, for the purpose of preventing it from being unduly stretched on the tenders. The cotton manufacture has now, however, superseded that of woollen, though the latter, to a certain extent, is still carried on here; and being very favourably situated in the centre of the great coal fields of Lancashire, and on the banks of the Irwell, skirted by the Roach, the natural advantages of Bury as a manufacturing station can scarcely be excelled. Bury is indebted to John Kay, a native of the town, for his ingenuity in the invention of a new mode of throwing the shuttle, by means of the picking peg instead of the hand, hence called the fly-shuttle; and in 1760 his son Robert invented the drop-box, by which the weaver can use any one of three shuttles, and thereby weave a fabric of various colours with nearly the same facility as he can weave a common calico. It was formerly the practice, in the process of spinning, to stop the machine while the broken threads were united; but in the year 1791, Mr. Henry Whitehead, the late postmaster of Bury, obviated the necessity of this perpetually recurring interruption, by suggesting the method of pieceing the end while the machine continued in motion, which was adopted from that time. To the ingenious family of the Kays, and to this place, belong the important invention of setting cards by machinery.

Mr. Robert Peel (afterwards created b baronet), father of the late eminent statesman, stood at the head of an opulent and enterprising firm that successfully established printworks here, a circumstance which has contributed immensely to the commercial aggrandisement of Bury, and to its elevation to a great degree of pre-eminence as a seat of the cotton manufacture; and it is mainly owing to the perfection to which this company brought the art of calico printing that the wealth and importance of the town have been so considerably enhanced of late years, and by which they have not only contributed to the prosperity of the country, but have also enriched themselves.

Though the climate is humid, consequent on the great quantity of rain which annually falls here, in common with all the other places in the neighbourhood of those lofty mountain tracts which separate Yorkshire from Lancashire; yet the parish is considered healthy, and many of the inhabitants, particularly in the neighbourhood of Tottington, attain the age of eighty or ninety, and sometimes reach and even exceed the patriaechal age of 100 years.

Early History.- Bury is supposed by some writers to have been a Roman station. However this may be it is certainly a place of considerable antiquity, although its present importance is only of modern date. On the banks of the old course of the Irwell, in a field called Castlecroft, close to the town, the foundations of a castle that formerly stood here are frequently dug up, and where coins of the reigns of the Edwards, Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and the Stewarts, have been found. In 1644, during the civil wars which raged in Lancashire, this castle was battered by the cannon of the parliamentary army from an entrenchment called Castle Steads, in the adjoining township of Walmersley, and from that period the overthrow not only of this, but of a large number of the castles of this kingdom may be dated. Bury, at an early period, was one of the fees belonging to the royal manor of Tottington, which was held by the Lacys, who enjoyed this possession soon after the Conquest, along with the lordship of Blackburnshire. Robert de Lacy in the 22nd of Henry II. made a grant of certain lands in the parish, to which Geoffre dean of Whalley is witness. According to the Testa de Nevill, in the reign of Henry III., Adam de Buri held a knight’s fee here of the Earl of Lincoln, who held it of the Earl of Ferrers, the king’s tenant-in-chief, and Bury at that time was part of the Countess of Lincoln’s dowry. Adam de Beri, according to the enumeration of the fees of Roger de Montebogon, who died in the 9th of King John, held one knight’s fee by ancient tenure; and Robert Gredle, baron of Manchester, gave to another of this family, Robt. de Berri the elder, fourteen bovates of land, of his demesne of Manchester, to be held, according to Testa de Nevill, by the service of half a knight’s fee by himself and his heirs.

The manor of Bury, on the death of Henry de Lacy, passed to Thomas Earl of Lancaster, in right of his wife Alicia, the heiress of Lincoln. After the death of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, and on the erection of the duchy of Lancaster in 1351, Roger Pilkington is enumersted amongst the duchy tenants as holding one knight’s fee in Bury, which Adam de Buri formerly held of the honor of Lancaster. Edward IV. granted a license to Sir Thomas Pilkington, a devoted adherent of the house of York, to kernel and embattle his manor house at Stand, and this continued the family residence till the reign of Henry VII., when on the attainder of Sir Thomas Pilkington, the manor of Bury and the estates of the Pilkington family being forfeited, were granted by the crown under the great seal to Thomas Earl of Derby, and in the 13th Henry VIII. this is found in the possression of the house of Derby, in which family it still remains.

Camden, in the reign of Elizabeth, describes Bury as a market town, not less considerable than Rochdale. Until the middle of the 18th century, it does not appear that any material change took place, though the woollen business had been carried on for ages, and the cotton trade had begun to afford employment to a portion of the inhabitants. In the south part pf the township is an ancient mansion of the family of the Starkies, ancestors of Joseph Starkie, Esq high sheriff of the county of Lancaster in 1799.

A melancholy occurrence, which caused the greatest consternation in every part of the town, took place here on the night of the 4th July, 1787, when the theatre fell, and buried 300 of the audience in its ruins. Though a considerable number were speedily extricated from their perilous situation, yet 16 lives were lost, and upwards of 50 had their limbs broken and were otherwise dreadfully injuried. At a subsequent period, a still more melancholy catastrophe occurred, by which the inhabitants of Bury and the neighbourhood were thrown into a state of the greatest excitement. On the 27th of August, 1831, the Rothsay Castle steam-packet, when on an excursion of pleasure from Liverpool to Beaumaris, encountered a violent storm on her passage, and struck on Dutchman Bank, at the entrance to Braumaris Bay, about midnight, and before ten o’clock next morning became a complete wreck. No pen could adequately describe the horrors of the scene. Of the 150 persons on board, 22 only were saved, having escaped on fragments of the vessel; and of the 128 unfortunate sufferers who perished, 26 belonged to the parish of Bury.

Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, the parish church, dedicated to Saint Mary, had fallen into a state of dilapidation, and in 1773 the whole of the building, except the steeple, was taken down, and re-erected at a cost of about £3500, of which sum equal shares were paid by the manor of Bury, the manor of Tottington, and the rector of the parish. The living is a rectory, of which Roger de Poictou, soon after the Norman Conquest, was patron. Since the reformation the patronage of the rectory of Bury has been in the Derby family. In the year 1654, an Act of Parliament was passed, empowering the rector for the time being, to grant building leases for ninety-nine years, renewable at any period in the interim, which has been the cause of materially improving this living. In the re-erection of the church, amongst the old materials found, were a piece of timber, technically called a pan, upon which was inscribed the Roman numerals DCLXXV, which would carry the date of the church to the first introduction of Christianity into this country. It is said, however, that this date was a mere fabrication produced by the cupidity of the workmen employed in taking down the old building – that they imposed upon the credulity of a neighbouring gentleman who had promised a reward to the person who might discover some proof of the date of its original erection – by inscribing on a piece of the old timber, the letters in question, to which they contrived to give an appearance of antiquity.

The new structure is handsome and spacious, and the interior is well finished, and free from gloom. The nave is divided from the side aisles by plain columns. In the churchyard there are only two monuments of any peculiar interest, though it is literally paved with grave stones. One of the monuments is in memory of the Bamford family, of Bamford Hall, who, while employed in the expedition with Captain Franklin, in his attempt to explore the Polar regions, fell by the hand of an Indian. The other is in memory of Lieutenants George and Robert Hood, sons of one of the officiating ministers of this church. The following are the names of the rectors of Bury, from 1507 to the present time, with the dates of institution :- John Nabbes, Richard Smyth, October 21, 1596; Richard Johnes, February 4, 1557; Walter King, August 18, 1568; Thomas Dearden, Peter Shaw, 1599; Hugh Watmough, July 6, 1608; George Murray August 23, 1623; Peter Travers, March 16, 1633; William Rothwell, 1634; John Lightfoot, 1660; John Greenhalgh, Thomas Gipps, February 26, 1674; James Ranckes, March 5, 1712; John Stanley, July 19, 1753; Sir William Clarke, Bar.., February 6, 1778; Geoffrey Hornby, September 24, 1818; the present rector is the Rev. Edward James Hornby.

Exclusive of the parish church, there are eight Episcopal chapels in this parish, namely :- Saint John’s. Stanley street, St. Paul’s, Wash lane, St. James,s at Bury, at Heywood, Edenfield chapel, the chapel of Halcombe, and St. Ann’s, at Tottington Lower End. Bury also contains a Catholic church, dedicated to St. Marie, a neat building of stone, erected at a cost of £4006, in the Gothic style of architecture, of which the Rev. James Boardman is the priest; and twenty-two dissenting chapels, belonging to various denominations, eight of which are in Bury, five in Heywood, and nine in the other out-townships. Those of the earliest date are, the Presbyterian chapel, Bass lane, Walmersley, erected in 1664, and re-built 1797, and Dundee chapel, built about 1690; Silver street chapel, built in 1719, for the Presbyterians, which had only three ministers during a period of 105 years. A new Presbyterian chapel, erected on the site of a former one, in Bank street, at a cost of about £5000, was opened on Friday, the 22nd of October, in the present year (1852). The building is erected in the pointed or perpendicular style of ecclesiastical architecture, which prevailed in England during the 15th century. The structure consists of a nave, four bays in length, divided longitudinally by two rows of stone pillars, and pointed arches, into centre and side aisles; a chancel, two bays in length, similarly divided, and two transepts up the east and west sides opening into the nave near its junctionwith the chancel, by pointed arches of loftier and larger dimensions than the rest. The total length of the interior from north to south is 81 feet 6 inches, the total width of nave and chancel 48 feet 10 inches, and the width across the transepts is 68 feet 4 inches. The nave and chancel are of equal width and height, and externally the roof presents one unbroken line against the sky; but internally those two portions are divided by the arch above-mentioned. The Rev. Franklin Howarth is the present minister. A new Baptist chapel was erected in Spring street, in 1852, at a cost of £1200, raised by subscription. The building is of stone, in the Gothic style of architecture, and the Rev. Joseph Harvey is the present minister.

In the parish of Bury, the public charities are not so numerous or so important as in many other parts of Lancashire. The free school, founded by the Rev. Roger Kay, M.A., rector of Tittleton, in the county of Wilts, in 1726, stands pre-eminent amongst these parochial benevolent institutions. For the perpetual endowment of this school, he settled in trustees all his freehold estate called Chadwick Hall, or Chadwick, in the neighbouring parish of Rochdale, and a rent charge of £25 per annum, upon his estate of Ewood Hall, in the township of Haslingden, in the parish of Whalley. It is directed by the original statutes of this school, that the headmaster shall be paid the sum of £50 annually for his services, and £20 annually to the usher; but in consequence of the increased value of the property, the head master now receives £200 a year, with a house rent free, and the usher receives £100.

The Hon. and Rev. John Stanley, rector of this parish, and other inhabitants, founded a school here in 1748, for the education of 80 boys and 30 girls, which has since been converted into a national school. A spacious building was erected by subscription, as a school house at a cost of £1000, the land on which it stands being given by the Earl of Derby. The other charities belonging to the parish are Tottington school, erected in 1515, and endowed with £12 per annum, together with the interest of £200. James Lancashire, in 1737, bequeathed £50 to each of the schools of Unsworth chapel, Heywood chapel, and Walmersley. James Starkie, in 1749, bequeathed £30 for the use of Heywood school. Edenfield school is entitled to an annual income of £3 or £4. Baldingstone school, in Walmersley, is supported by the rent of a tenement called Bentley, augumented with the sum of £50. Ann Bamford, in 1778, bequeathed £30 a year, with premises for a free school, at Heywood, together with £1000 for the use of such Schools, to be laid out in land, but dying within twelve months from the date of her will, the statute of mortmain took effect, and the bequest became void. Robert Shepherd granted a rent charge of £9, subject to a deduction of £1 10s. to poor housekeepers, and William Yates, in 1810, bequeathed the interest of £400 to deserving persons of the same township. On the parish tablets are recorded several other bequests of small amount. A savings bank was established at Bury on the 1st of April, 1822, which is open on every Wednesday, from two till four, and on every Saturday, from two till four, and from six till eight. Mr Abraham Wood is treasurer, and Mr. John George Thomas Child, is the actuary.

Several new schools have recently been erected in this town and the surrounding townships. The Holy Trinity School, situate in Georgiana street, is a handsome stone edifice, in the Elizabethan style, erected in 1851, at a cost of £2000, raised by subscription, and a parliamentary grant. It is divided into three compartments, one for the accommodation of 150 boys, one for 200 girls, and one for infants, of whom 200 are generally in attendance. John Shaw and Amelia Rutter are the present teachers. St. Paul’s National School, situate in Taylor street, near Rochdale road, is a neat building of brick, erected by subscription in 1852, for the accommodation of 150 boys, and the same number of girls. The present teachers are George Henry Bowes. and Ellen Wood. Pimhole School, conducted on the National system, is a commodious edifice, situate at Pimhole, about one mile from Bury, and erected through the benevolence of Mr. Thomas Openshaw, an opulent cotton spinner, of the town, for the accommodation of 200 pupils. George and Theresa Wilson are the master and mistress. The Choristers School, in connexion with the Parish church, is situated in the Wylde, and was established in 1850, for the purpose of training about 20 boys for the musical service of the church. The course of instruction comprises a good plain education, and a thorough knowledge of music. This excellent institution is entirely supported by the rector. Mr. Edward Spark is the choir master. The Wesleyan School, opened in 1851, is a neat brick building, in Clerk street, erected by subscription, at a cost of £1000, and will accommodate 600 children.

The town of Bury has made rapid strides in the scale of improvement during the last twenty or thirty years. Many important alterations and improvements have been effected; old and dilapidated buildings have given place to handsome new erections, the streets are becoming spacious, and on every hand indications of growing prosperity, private enterprise, and public spirit, are manifested.

The establishment of a Dispensary for the recovery of the sick poor, situate in Moss street, may be noticed among the modern improvements, as well as a number of Sunday and Day schools for the instruction of poor children, together with the establishment of several newsrooms, a public library, a mechanic’s institute, and a horticultural society.

The town is governed by three constables, appointed at the annual court baron, held on Whit Monday, by the agent of the Earl of Derby, and the magistrates hold petty sessions every Monday and Friday, in the Town Hall, Market street, a neat stone building, recently erected by the Earl of Derby, and to which is attached the Derby Hotel, also built by his lordship. The acting magistrates are Richard Ashton, Esq., Edmund Grundy, Esq., Joseph Knowles, Esq., and James Harrison, Esq. The County Court, for the recovery of debts to any amount not exceeding £50, is likewise held in the Town Hall, John S. T. Greene, Esq., of Leigh is the judge. In addition to the cotton and woollen manufacturers, there are in the town and neighbourhood several large iron and brass foundries, extensive engineering establishments, and bleaching and dye works, which, with the numerous cotton mills and factories in the district, afford employment to a large portion of the inhabitants.

The neighbourhood abounds with valuable and inexhaustible coal mines, which with the plentiful supply of water from the several streams that meander through the town and its vicinity, in conjunction with the canal navigation, and subsequent railway advantages, have all combined to render Bury a flourishing seat of the cotton and other manufactures. The making of hats is also a branch of some importance here. The town is brilliantly lighted with gas, and the Waterworks Company, established in 1839, furnished it with an abundant supply of water.

In the centre of the Old Market place, opposite the Parish church, stands the Peel monument, erected by subscription in 1852, at a cost of £3000, in memory of the late eminent and lamented statesman, the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart., father of Mr. Frederick Peel, the present member for Bury. The pedestal on which the figure stands, is composed of Scotch granite, 12 feet 6 inches in height, enclosed within a strong iron palisading, having a gas lamp at each corner, and the figure by which the pedestal is surmounted, being 10 feet in height, gives to the whole a commanding appearance.

There are three annual fairs held at Bury, namely, on the 5th of March, the 3rd of May, and 18th of September, and the market, which was formerly held on Thursday, according to the charter, has long been discontinued, but custom has established a market on Saturday, which is well supplied with provisions. The Market Cross, an ancient stone column, bearing the date of 1659, having fallen into decay, was taken down in the year 1818, Marriages were proclaimed at this cross in the time of the Commonwealth.

  (1) Whellan & Co.’s Directory 1853