Prestwich, a village and township in the parish of
Prestwich-cum-Oldham, is four miles N.W. from Manchester, and five miles S.S.E.
from Bury. The population of the township in 1801 was 1,811; in 1811, 2,175; in
1821, 2,724; in 1831, 2,941; in 1841, 3,180; and in 1851 it amounted to 4,070
persons. The gross value of Prestwich in 1850 was £15,115. 9s. 10d. and the
rateable value £12,530. The area of the township is about 750 statute acres. The
manorial rights belong to the Earl of Wilton. Though this is one of the most
extensive parishes in Lancashire, yet no mention is made in the Domesday survey
of any church existing here at that period,- but two centuries afterwards it is
proved to have a parish church; and in the papal return made at that time,
Oldham is not mentioned. This circumstance, therefore, seems decisive of the
proper designation of the parish – awarding the precedency to Prestwich, and
showing that when in connexion the name should be written Prestwich-cum-Oldham,
as it stands in the parliamentary population return of 1841, and not
Oldham-cum-Prestwich as it stood in that by which it was preceded. Mr. Whitaker,
the historian of Manchester, speaks of a church being at Prestwich in Saxon
times, but there is no conclusive evidence that such was the fact. The present
Church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a stately Gothic structure, with a tower which
is 85 feet in height, containing a peal of six bells. The date of its erection
is fixed by several antiquarians about the year 1420. The Church may be said to
overhang a rich and lovely valley, luxuriantly wooded, and presenting some rich
and highly picturesque scenery, dotted with pleasant villages and populous
towns,- while Manchester, more distant, is seen in a line of murky dignity,
towering over all. The interior of the church, chiefly formed of solid oak, is
in an excellent state of preservation. In the Wilton Chapel, which stands to the
right of the alter, are several handsome monuments commemorative of various
members of the noble house of Wilton. The living is a rectory, in the gift of
the Marquis of Westminster, and incumbency of the Rev. Henry Mildred Birch, M.A.
St. Margaret’s Church, Hodge lane, is a neat stone
edifice, the first stone of which was laid on the 3rd of March, 1849,
by the Duchess of Cambridge. It cost £2,500, raised by subscription. It is in
the pointed Gothic style of architecture, opened in 1851, and consecrated in the
early part of the present year (1852), by the Bishop of Manchester.
The County Lunatic Asylum is a spacious range of
buildings of brick, with stone facings, erected in 1851. The number of inmates
is limited to 500. In connexion with this well arranged institution is a neat
Chapel for the use of the inmates. Adjacent to the village, and fronting the
Bury New road, is a Jewish Cemetery, a very peculiar building, erected in 1841.
The house attached to it is occupied by Simon Henry Lazarus.
Manufactures spreading from Manchester have made considerable progress here, though much less than in that part of the parish which comes within the divison of Oldham. The weaving of cotton and silk, checks, ginghams, and smallwares, chiefly for the Manchester houses, occupy many of the inhabitants of this and the neighbouring townships. The parish of Prestwich is about fifteen miles in length and four in breadth; a great part of the land is in pasture, and to the produce of the dairies Manchester is beholden for a large proportion of its daily supplies. The air of Prestwich and its immediate vicinity is remarkably pure, and the township is noted for the longevity of many of its inhabitants. In the year 1747, the ages of seven persons amounted in the aggregate to 558 years, namely – Dr. Goodwin, the rector, 70; Mr. Scholes, the curate, 78; Ralph Guest, churchwarden, 85; Robert Diggle, parish clerk, 85; Ann Diggle, his wife, 78; Edmund Berry, sexton, 76; and Mary Berry, his wife, 86. In 1821, according to the census then taken, there were found in the parish no fewer than forty-five persons between the ages of 80 and 90, and two between the ages of 90 and 100 years.
(1) Whellan & Co.’s Directory 1853