a Gorton in Olden Times

In an article dealing with Gorton Wakes celebrations, the old and the new, two extracts were given from some "Annals of Gorton," compiled by "Gortonian," and published in the Reporter 26 years ago. A fair amount of interest appears to have been taken in those extracts, and in the references to the old-time wakes celebrations. Several correspondents have written preferring the request that the "annals" shall be re-printed. They are not very lengthy, but they encompass events ranging from the years 930 to 1818. Some of the items are of historical value, some are merely whimsical and amusing, others are interesting as throwing side lights on the manners and conditions of "the good old times."

The first record gives the derivation of the name of the township. "About the year 920 a battle took place between the invading Danes and the Saxons, when the former were routed on Winning Hill. The stream running through the township was discoloured with blood, hence the name Gore Brook, from which the town Gore Town (Gorton) is derived." This statement is explicit and definite and apparently fully worthy of credence. "Gore Brook" runs through the township to-day. But where was Winning Hill? The "annals" go on


In 1291 the corn mill was at work

In 1422 the tithe barn was in existence

In 1428 the Bishop of Durham granted to Lord Delaware the hamlet of Gorton, charged with a chief rent

In 1433 Sir Robert Bothe and Duleta his wife conveyed the hamlets of Gorton and Grenslow Marsh (Longsight) to John Buron (Byrom) Knight.

In 1577 Gorton Chapel was marked on Saxtonžs Map of Lancashire (which is in the Chetham Library), but it had been in existence long before that date.

Brookfield Church, Gorton
Brookfield Unitarian Churh, Gorton
The old chapel here referred to has disappeared, but the Brookfield Schools and Church have come down in unbroken succession from the days of which mention is made.

The old chapel here referred to has disappeared, but the Brookfield Schools and Church have come down in unbroken succession from the days of which mention is made.

In 1608 twenty-seven of the Gortonians were tenants to Sir John Byrom, the ancestor of the celebrated lord of that name. The chief was afterwards transferred to Rowland Mosley, and in 1613-14, as they did not want to pay anyone, they had a fight in the court of the Duchy of Lancaster, but were beaten. In 1665 twenty-five of them subscribed three yearsž rental to defend any legal proceedings that might be taken against them, and in 1675 had another struggle against Lord Grey and Lady Katherine his wife, with the same result as before.

In July 1642, Richard Percival, a linen webster of Kirksmanhulme, was shot in a skirmish between Lord Strange and others. He was celebrated by having the honour to be the first that way distinguished during the civil war.

In 1654 Charles Worsley, of the Platt, was summoned by Oliver Cromwell, as their (and the whole parish) first member to Parliament.

In 1655 about £20 was contributed by the whole of Gorton, comprising 53 ratepayers, for the poor, the amounts ranging from £1 3s 10d to 4d.

On the 17th August, 1680, Sarah Taylor, spinster, died. The following lineswere inscribed on her tombstone:

  Who at this time And to this place
Did Freely Give to Church and Poore
A gift proceeding From her Grace
That Must from Age to Age Endure

However, when the money she left was afterwards lost, I understand the enraged Gortonians pulled her tomb down.

In 1694 Mary Birch was buried with her late husband in the summer-house of the garden at Longsight Hall. Is the Longsight Hall here referred to still standing? If not, can anyone point out the site on which it formerly stood?

Before 1705 the Nonconformists assembled for worship in the bedroom or garret of a house at Abbey Hey, where they pulled the ladder up when the service commenced, and let it down again when it was over.

In 1737, the young women not liking their ankles to be seen when crossing the ford over the Gore Brook, on the main road, the Maidenžs Bridge was erected.

In the same year the landlord of the George and Dragon was accidentally killed when playing at the "Deadmanžs Lift" by Strong Herod. The latter always carried his coal by a load at a time from Manchester to Abbey Hey. Some years after his death his thigh bones were dug up out of curiosity. They were of immense size, and were handed around from one to another until they at last got into the possession of a Manchester doctor.

In 1745 a crofter shot an unfortunate butcher from Stockport (who was crossing the Whiteley on horseback) mistaking him for a Scotch rebel.

In 1755 the old "raddle and daub" chapel being ruinous was pulled down and a fresh one built. The bricks were brought by fifties at a time on horseback from Greenside-lane, along roads where the mire was up to the horsesž bellies. After the place was finished, a meeting was held to decide what colour they must whitewash it.

This is another reference to the Gorton Chapel which was marked on Saxtonžs Map of Lancashire in 1577. The building erected in place of the one that was razed to the ground was, we believe, the school now standing at the rear of the Brookfield Church. The statement that "the bricks were brought by fifties at a time on horseback, from Greenside-lane (Droylsden) along roads where the mire was up to the horsesž bellies" enables us to conjure up a picture of what "travelling" meant in those days. Anyone now making the journey from Greenside-lane to Gorton might be tempted to exclaim with the enigmatical rhymster, who immortalised a officer and skilful engineer,

  If youžd seen these roads before they were made
Youžd lift up your hands and ideas General Wade

As to the accuracy of the last sentence in the paragraph we cannot say. "Gortonian" may have been giving vent to his humour in pointing it, but it is just possible that a meeting of the simple-minded villagers was called for the purpose named.

In 1763 John, the London wagoner, died.

In 1767 the overseers paid for clearing the snow in the Abbey Hey-lane, where it was a yard deep, to enable them to bury a corpse.

In 1787 Drunken Burgess made a practice of scratching up a skull in the church yard, and taking to the George and Dragon, where he drank the ale that anyone would put into it. In the same year a deserted child, whom they had christened Sally Stranger, was buried.

In 1788 Sir Ashton Lever, who had been a land speculator in the township, poisoned himself. In the same year, they broke up the Blue Pig Circulating Library in Audenshaw.

In 1789 they had a general illumination (7 farthing candles) because the King had recovered his senses.

On the 16th June 1790, they collected 2s 6d in base copper at the chapel. About this time the Nell Parlour, Chapel-yard, Town Croft, Bridge House Cottage, Green Stile, Hough Yate, Hall-lane, and Ridings Field were infested with boggarts and fearinž.

Putting o one side the statement that the place were "infested with boggarts and fearinž", whatever that may mean, one would like to know where Nell Parlour was located, and whether it was a building or merely a particular spot; where was the Town Croft; which was the Bridge House Cottage, the Green Stile, the Hough Yate ("Gate"); where Hall-lane was Ú would it be where the present Hall-street is situated?Ú and where Ridings Field lay and who Ridings was? As to the chapel yard, the name indicates its position. Corroborative evidence that it was "infested with boggarts and fearinž" it may be assumed, is given in a once-familiar poem, bearing the title of "The Boggart ož Gorton Chapelyard," and commencing something like this:

  There stood inside the chapel-yard
A little house and schoož
Wheere Billy Hardy thrashed the lads
He clarks and cobbled too

The Billy Hardy is probably the "village proprietor, who had taught and cobbled in the old school in the chapel-yard" whom "Gortonian" notes as having been buried in 1815. A copy of the poem referred to would be welcome.

In 1791 the brave reformers who attended a meeting at Boyson Hall were locked up in the stable, while the old sexton got dreadfully lugged by a band of Church and King women.

In 1796 they pulled the raddle and daub parsonage barn, on Gorton Green, down to save it from tumbling. It would not admit a cart, as they formerly had none.

In 1801 a farm servant was killed by a bull in a field at the Hall. Next day they revenged themselves by eating the animal.

In 1804 they kept up the wakes by baiting an unfortunate bear near Fox Field every three or four hours, commencing at six a.m., and had another bear, bull and badger amusements at the different public-houses.

In 1815 their village preceptor, who had taught and cobbled in the old school in the chapel yard, was buried.

In 1817 the annual pig race was in its glory. In the same year the Bishop of Chester refused to ordain their representative, whose looks had frightened him.

In 1818 they opposed the bill for making the road from Manchester to Hyde. This was said to be the first time that Gorton had been discovered.

Can anyone supplement "Gortonianžs" interesting data by supplying the information when and where the last bull baiting took place, where Treacle Row was, or if it now stands. It is interesting in these days of hurry and bustle and competition and the fierce struggle to live and to acquire wealth, to sometimes turn to the past and live in it for a brief period.

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