Dukinfield 1795

The following is an extract taken from Aikin's Book "Forty Miles around Manchester", 1795

Dukinfield - is a small township in the barony and parish of Stockport. The village is pleasantly situated upon an eminence commanding an extensive prospect over a populous, varied and plentiful country. Its name in the Anglo-Saxon dialect was Dockenweldt. The river Tame separates it from the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne, in Lancashire, on the north and west sides. This river, in the time of the heptarchy, was the boundary of the two kingdoms, which will account for the strong outworks of the castle or the old hall of Ashton, opposed by equally strong fortifications on this side. These were situated somewhere on the grounds now occupied by the lodge; and the mansion, formerley the seat of the Dukinfield family, thus defended, stood on a place called Hall-green. No traces of it remain but the name. The hall now bearing the family name was erected in its stead. This family of Dukinfields have resided here since the time of the Conqueror till of late years, when the estate, by marriage, came into the possession of the late John Astley, Esq. His son, a minor, is now lord of the manor.

Dukinfield-hall is an ancient building of a venerable experience. A chapel of more modern erection forms one wing of it, in which are buried some of the later branches of the Dukinfield family, under large tomb-stones with inscriptions still perfect; but the place itself is only used as a lumber room. The memory of the family is still much respected by the ancient inhabitants.

Dukinfield-lodge, the new seat built by the late Mr Astley, is delightfully situated on an eminence above the Tame. It contains a fine octagon room with painted windows. Most of the others are small, but elegant, and are decorated with pictures chiefly by the hand of Mr Astley, who had been a painter by profession. The whole building was never finished. It has a fine hot-house, and a large open bath with a dressing room. In the front of the house is a terrace, affording a very pleasant view; and the precipitous rock descending from it has been cloathed with evergreens and other trees and shrubs. A fine wood occupies the space between it an the river, through which are cut several retired walks. The seat is now occupied by William Robert Hay, Esq. who married Mr Astley's widow. Its beauties have given rise to a descriptive piece written by a young poet, Mr William Hampson, and published at the request of Mr Hay and his lady.

Mr Astley, upon coming to the estate, among other improvements, put the roads in good repair, and built two good stone bridges across the Tame, one at Staley-bridge, and the other leading from the lodge to Ashton. At the end of it there are two good houses, affording one of the most pleasing situations in the neighbourhood. At this bridge three canals will meet, viz. the Manchester and Ashton, the Peak Forest, and the Huddersfield, the latter of which will pass by a tunnel through the large deep sand bank.

On the summit above Dukinfield-lodge stands a very ancient dissenters chapel, built of stone, and surrounded with a burying ground planted with firs. It has a large congregation, noted for fine singers, and was long under the care of the Rev. Mr Buckley. Here lie buried some of the Dukinfield family. The chapel is a fine station for an extensive prospect, and itself a striking object in the vicinity. Adjoining to it Mr Astley built a large and commodious inn, which used to be much frequented by parties from Manchester. Near to this place he erected a handsome circus of houses for the occupation of industrious inhabitants, which were filled as soon as finished. The buildings are of brick, and the road divides it into two half circles. From the water engine which he built in the Tame for the use of the lodge, the water is forced up to a reservoir, whence the circus and most of the town is supplied.

The township of Dukinfield is very valuable, abounding in mines and quarries that yield a considerable revenue. The coal-pits are from 60 to 105 yards in depth, according to the bearing of the strata. Iron ore is found in great abundance, and the smelting of iron seems to have been carried on here at a remote period; for in a field called Brun Yorth ( a provincial pronunciation of Burnt Earth) the scoriae of iron have been met in considerable quantity: also the ore of the mines has been found wanting, while the other strata remained in their regular position. Among Mr Astley's projects was that of the erection of an iron foundry upon the estate which, from the number of hands employed, greatly increased its population. But after a great deal of money spent in building works and houses, he gave up his concern in it, and let it to a company in Manchester, who likewise, after a short trial, abandoned it; the foundry was then pulled down, and a large cotton factory is erected in its place, the wheel of which is turned by the same stream. It is the property of Mr Ollivant of Manchester. Above the bridge is another work of the same kind. The cotton trade introduced here, while it affords employment to all ages, has debilitated the constitutions and retarded the growth of many, and made an alarming increase in the mortality. This effect is greatly attributed to the pernicious custom, properley reprobated by Dr Percival and other physicians, of making the children in the mills work night and day, one fet getting out of bed when another goes into the same, thus never allowing the rooms to be well ventilated. the length of life must formerly have been remarkable here, if we may judge by the following complaint of the shortness of days in an epitaph on a person aged seventy one buried in the chapel-yard:

All ye that do behold this stone,
Pray think how quickly I was gone;
Make haste, repent, no time delay,
Lest Death as soon snatch you away

The number of families in this town in 1794, was 252.

One mile from hence in Newton Moor, under which coals have been got for ages at different depths. The water is pumped out and the coals raised by steam engines, which are now generally taking the place of the former horse-machines. On one side of the moor is a new-built row of houses inhabited by weavers, called Muslin Street, erected from the savings of their industry.

Round many of the old coal pits hereabouts, where nothing else would grow, Mr Astley planted fir trees, which have thriven well, and now form little woods, which have a pleasing appearance, and in time may be profitable - a practice worthy of imitation!

The greater part of the Dukinfield estate is good pasture and meadow land rich above ground as well as below ground. The manure is principally lime, with marl on lighter grounds. The Peak-forest canal passing through it will be of great advantage. The inhabitants are principally supplied with provisions from the Ashton market.

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