The parish of Eccles in its greatest extent from east to west is about nine miles long. Its greatest breadth from north to south extends four miles. It is a vicarage in the gift of the crown. The church, which stands in the village of Eccles, distant from Manchester four miles and a half, is ancient and large. It formerly (with the parish of Dean) belonged to Whalley Abbey in this county; but at the dissolution of the monasteries it was made parochial; the great tythes were taken from it, and after passing through many lay impropriators, they are now nearly all sold to the owners of the several estates in the parish. From these a small reserved payment, and the glebe, with the dues, form the vicar's stipend.
There is nothing peculiar in the climate or soil of this parish, except its containing Chat moss, and Trafford moss, and other smaller portions of morassy ground, which there is now a reasonable prospect of reclaiming, by the spirited and judicious exertions of Mr. Wakefield of Liverpool.
The agriculture of the parish is chiefly confined to grazing, and would be more materially benefited by draining : but the tax upon brick, a most essential article in this process, has been a very great hindrance to it. The use of lime (imported from Wales, and brought by the inland navigations to the neighbourhood of our collieries) has become very general in the improvement of the meadow and pasture lands; experience proves its great efficacy in improving the quality of the grass on all kinds of soil, where it is laid on in sufficient quantities; and on lands properly drained, it nearly has superseded the use of marle. The roads in this, as in all other counties, are become an object of very general and serious concern. To make and preserve these in as perfect a manner as possible, is indispensable for the interests of agriculture and commerce. Much labour, and a very great expense of money, have been expended on the roads of this parish; but they still remain in a very indifferent state, and from one plain and obvious cause, the immoderate weights drawn in waggons and carts. To prevent this, vain and useless are all the regulations of weighing machines; and the encouragement of broad and rolling wheels still increases the evil, which must soon destroy all the best roads of Great Britian, and by their irresistible crush exhaust all the ballast or gravel, materials required to repair the mischiefs they occasion.
It is the duty of the legislature not only to authorize and require good roads to be made throughout the kingdom, but also to enact such regulations as may preserve them when made; and it is now proved that this can only be done by "such a construction of carriages as will ablige them to carry light loads, and not enable them to carry heavy ones". In short, by encouraging or enforcing the use of short teams, or one horse carts. Almost all the reports of counties to the Board of Agriculture agree in this important fact.
The bills of mortality will shew the extent and increase of the population of the parish of Eccles, which is the effect of the great demand for hands in our manufactures.
The invention and improvements of machines to shorten labour, has had a surprising influence to extend our trade, and also to call in hands from all parts, especially children for the cotton mills. It is the wife plan of Providence, that in this life there shall be no good without its attendant inconvenience. There are many which are too obvious in these cotton mills, and similar factories, which counteract that increase of population usually consequent on the improved facility of labour. In these, children of very tender age are employed; many of them collected from workhouses in London and Westminster, and transported in crowds, as apprentices to masters resident many hundred miles distant, where they serve unknown, unprotected, and forgotten by those to whose care nature or the laws had consigned them. These children are usually too long confined to work in close rooms, often during the whole night : the air they breathe from the oil, &c., employed in the machinery, and other circumstances, is injurious; little regard is paid to their cleanliness and frequent change from warm and dense to a cold and thin atmosphere, are predisposing causes to sickness and disability, and particularly to the epidemic fever which so generally is to be met with in these factories. It is also much to be questioned, if society does not receive detriment from the manner in which children are thus employed during their years. They are not generally strong to labour, or capable of pursuing any other branch of business, when the term of their apprenticeship expires. The females are wholly uninstructed in sewing, knitting, and other domestic affairs, requisite to make them notable and frugal wives and mothers. This is a very great misfortune to them and the public, as is sadly proved by a comparison of the families of laboures in husbandry, and those of manufacturers in general. In the former we meet with neatness, cleaniness, and comfort; in the latter with filth, rags, and poverty; although their wages may be nearly double to those of the husbandman. It must be added, that the want of early religious instruction and example, and the numerous and undiscriminate association in these building, are very unfavourable to their future conduct in life. To mention these grievances, is to point out their remedies; and in many factories they have been adopted with true benevolence and much success. But in all cases "The public have a right to see that its members are not wantonly injured, or carelessly lost."
The advance of population in the parish of Eccles has been attended with a due care respecting public worship, and the religious education of children. Two new chapels of ease have been built since 1775 at Pendleton and Swinton, with competent salaries for the clergymen from seat rents. In this mode of providing the ministers stipend in new - erected churches and chapels, there does not appear a sufficient recollection of the decreasing value of money, or a requisite provision to obviate its effects, by a clause in the consecration deeds, to authorise a proper advance of the stipend as the circumstance may require, by the direction of the bishop, or otherwise.
The excellent institutions of Sunday schools were early patronized in Eccles parish, and continue to receive the steady and liberal support of the parishioners. There are now, it is calculated, near one thousand children regularly taught in these schools, and with every considerable improvement.
In the last twenty - five years only two have been added to the number of alehouses in this parish.
Accurate bills of mortality for Eccles parish have been yearly printed ever since 1776, from which the following extracts are made.-
It is to be observed, that the dissenters of all sorts are included in the general enumeration of families and persons, though not generally in the lists of births and burials.
From the parish register before the bills were kept in the new form the following lists are made, in which the average numbers during periods of ten years each, are stated
|1700 - 1710||118||89||1740 - 1750||194||138|
|1710 - 1720||120||106||1750 - 1760||178||151|
|1720 - 1730||152||197||1760 - 1770||229||177|
|1730 - 1740||168||134||1770 - 1776||321||223|
An uncommon and very valuable article in the new bills, is an anual statement of the population of the whole parish, from which we shall copy a few periods to show the gradual increase.
|Pendleton, Pendlebury and Clifton||391||2256|
|Pendleton, Pendlebury and Clifton||390||2170|
|Pendleton, Pendlebury and Clifton||437||2717|
|Pendleton, Pendlebury and Clifton||542||3118|
|Pendleton, Pendlebury and Clifton||634||3926|
(4) A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester 1795.