Mottram and District 1795

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

This parish comprehends all the remaining part of the north-eastern extremity of Macclesfield hundred. It consists of the parochial town of Mottram, and a number of small villages and hamlets, and contains one chapel of ease, that of Wood-head, besides the parish church. Mottram, with a considerable part of the neighbourhood, and extensive moors up Longdendale, belong to the Hon. Wilbraham Tollemache, brother to the Earl of Dysart. As lord of the manor he holds a court leet by his steward, at the court-house in Mottram, to which the tenants are summoned to pay their rents.

Mottram is situated twelve miles from Manchester and seven for Stockport, on a high eminence one mile to the west of the Mersey, from which the river ground begins to rise; half the way being so steep as to make it difficult to access. It forms a long street well paved both in the town and some distance on the roads. It contains 127 houses, which are for the most part built of a thick flag stone, and covered with a thick, heavy slate, of nearly the same quality, no other covering being able to endure the strong blasts of wind which occasionally occur. Of late, many of the houses in the skirts of the town are built of brick. About fifty years ago, the houses were few in number, and principally situated on top of the hill, adjoining the church-yard, where is an ancient cross, and at a small distance the parsonage house, now gone much to decay and occupied by working people. It is only of late years that the town has had any considerable increase, which has been chiefly at the bottom of the hill, but some latterly on the top. Many of the houses are occupied by shopkeepers of various kinds, for the accommodation of the town and the neighbourhood, to which it serves as a sort of market. There are also eight public houses, which, with twenty-eight more in the vicinity, are certainly many more than can be wanted, and form no small nuisance by the encouragment they offer to tippling and idleness. The cotton trade is the principal source of employment to the young people of the town, and the surrounding district. Within a small circuit in this neighbourhood there are twelve large cotton machines worked by water, besides a great number of smaller ones, turned by horse, or by small streams.

The church at Mottram is a large stately building, of immemorial antiquity. It is built of a coarse grey stone, full of small pebbles or flints of a most durable quality, every stone being as perfect as when first laid in. The stone is supposed to come from a rock called Tinsell-Norr, which is of similar quality. It can easily be cut in the quarry, but becomes nearly as hard as flint when exposed to the air.

In the church is a very ancient and rude monument, called old Roe and his wife. The figures have their hands elevated in prayer. He is in armour, with a pointed helmut, a collar of S. S. about his neck, and a sword by his side. The dress of both is that of the 15th century, and each has an animal at the feet. There is neither date nor inscription on the monument, and many fabulous stories concerning them are handed down by tradition among the inhabitants. But, Mr Thomas Barrett of Manchester conjectures the effigies to be those of Ralph Stealey and his wife. Tradition says, that the person interred came the Stealey road to Mottram, and stopped at a cross on the way, called Row-cross, probably Road-cross; and Mr Barrett supposes that all memory relative to the monument being lost except that of this Row-cross, the effigy has derived its name from thence.

The church has a gallery on the south side, lately new pewed, at the end of which is the singer's gallery. It has a fine ring of bells. the ascent from the town is by a flight of steps; the hill being steep and difficult. The living, value about 100 pounds is in the gift of the Bishop of Chester the present incumbent is the Rev, James Turner, who this year succeeded the Rev. Mr Kinder, deceased. The church-yard is spacious, and so full of tombs, that this must soon be enlarged. A neat methodist chapel was lately erected, which is well attended. Adjoining the church-yard is an ancient free-school, with a small house for the master. This for many years has been of little use to the inhabitants, partly owing to the great age of the late master, Mr Wardleworth, who died last year. It is now in the possession of the rector Mr Turner, assisted by the Rev. Mr Monkhouse, and it is to be hoped will for the future answer the beneficial purposed of its institution. The neglect in the management of this school obliged the inhabitants some years ago to build another on Wedneshough Green at a small distance, which has been well attended since its commencment by Mr Heathcote, and has been filled with scholars, while the free school at Mottram became a sinecure.

Mottram is supplied with water by springs. There is one fine well at the very top of the hill, and two others on different sides of it, from whence pipes might be conveyed to the lower parts of the town as a small expense. Most of the hills in this neighbourhood have springs on the sides, and some on the tops, all of which are of soft water.

Formerly there was not sufficient business in Mottram for one butcher but few sheep were killed; and seldom more than one cow in a week, except at the wake, which festival is to this day kept up, with all the ceremony of dressing up rush carts, and strewing the church and pews with rushes. At present the town affords a tolerable livelihood for five butchers, and not a week passes without the slaughter of sheep and oxen, which are chiefly brought from Huddersfield, Barnsley and Sheffield. Tea has almost expelled the good old dish of the country, thick porridge, though this is still continued in some families, who find it makes a much more substantial breakfast, and, as they say, "wears better". Oat cakes, leavened and baked thick, are the principal bread of the place, though wheaten loaves are also common.

From the summit of the hill in Mottram is a delightful prospect up Longdendale to the Wood-head, including beautiful windings of the Mersey, with the high Derbyshire hills on the east, gradually rising from it, among the scattered villages of Hadfield, Padfield, Whitfield and Charlesworth; and on the west the Cheshire hills, which as well as the Derbyshire are, with the villages of Tintwistle and Arnfield, pastured to their tops. The valley is tolerably well wooded with trees of various kinds, but rather stinted in their growth. On the other side are extensive prospects into Lancashire and as afar as the Welsh mountains. Notwithstanding the elevated situation of Mottram, it is surrounded by eminences much higher, from which the church and the town are viewed far below. The chief of these hills are Charlesworth-neck, Mouselow-castle, Werneth Low, Tinsell Norr, Wild-bank and Harrop Edge. The latter affords a peculiarly fine prospect of the surrounding country.

On the summit of Mottram-hill is a neat house called Whitegate-house-built and occupied by Mr Solomon Lowe. Near it, his son has built a cotton factory in a deep valley, concealed from the sight by an oak wood. From Whitegate-house is a steep descent of near a mile to Broad-bottom-bridge, which crosses the Mersey, in a most delighful and romantic situation. The bridge was built in 1683, both its ends rest on rock. The arch is a fine one, built with stone, and kept in good repair. In the background is a large cotton factory on the Derbyshire side of the river, lately erected by Messrs. Kelsall and Marsland. This pile of building has much injured the picturesque beauty of the view, concealing a fine wood, in which the river loses itself. This spot almost equals Matlock in its romatic scenery. The Cat Torr on the Cheshire side, and well wooded on the Derbyshire, with the river hurrying between, over its rugged and rocky bottom, afford a solemn and striking spectacle.

The Cat Torr, is a perpendicular precipice of eighty feet, overhung with vast rocks at the top, on which, and on the side, oak trees grow, threatening destruction to all below. Its face consists of various strata of rock, coal, or slaty matter, and free-stone at bottom, all laid as regularly as by the hand of the mason. The height of the summit of Mottram-hill above that of the Cat Torr is about 450 feet. Below the bridge is Broadbottom, a house belonging to Mr Bostock, in a vey lonely, but pleasing situation, surrounded by fine meadow ground, which is partly encircled by the Mersey.

The neighbourhood of Mottram was formerly famous for the number of halls occupied by their owners, who resided on their own estates, most of which are now in the possession of farmers. A few of them we shall mention.

Hollingworth-hall, or as it is now generally called, the Old Hall, is a very ancient, strong stone building, situated by the side of the moors about half a mile from Mottram. It is surrounded with gardens and excellent meadow land, and enjoys a pleasant prospect. It still belongs to the family of that name, but is now in the occupation of Henry Cardwell Esq. a very useful and active member of society.

Somewhat further, on the edge of the same moors, stood Thorncliffe-hall, belonging to the family of Bretlands. It was the most considerable building in these parts, but a few years ago much of it was taken down and the materials sold. A considerable pile is still standing converted into a farm-house. The estates belonging to this family were large; and the extensive range called Werneth-low was part of them. The whole is now the property of William Egerton Esq. of Tatton, by purchase.

Still further, on the very boundary of the moors is another Hollingworth-hall, the property the residence of John Whittle Esq. It is a large stone building, with spacious rooms in the antique style, and provided with extensive and commodious out-houses.

Half a mile from Mottram, on the road to the Wood-head, are Wedneshough Green and Treacle Street, these two places have of late increased very much, owing to the lands being freehold, and sold for building on. It is chiefly the property of Mr Egerton of Tatton.

On the other side of Mottram, half a mile on the Stockport Road, is Hattersley, which contains a few straggling farm houses, and a small hamlet called Brittomley-mill.

Two miles from Mottram on the same road, is the very ancient village of Tintwistle or Tinsell, containing thrity-five houses and a dissenting chapel. It is entireley built of thick free-stone, got on the spot. Tradition reports this to have been a borough in former times.

Half a mile to the left is Arnfield, a small village of straggling houses, built like the former and probably as ancient, there being leases in some of the families dated about 500 years since, and couched in a few lines. It is built on the sides of two steep hills parted by a brook, and is the last village adjoining the moors.

Betwixt Tintwistle and the Wood-head stands on the road side Wood-head Chapel, surrounded with a small burial ground. It has a single bell to call to service the surrounding inhabitants, who are thinly scattered on the sides of these moors. There is not a house within a considerable distance. The duty is performed by the Rev. Mr Broadhurst., twice a day from the Sunday before Holy Thursday to the middle of October, once a day for the rest of the year.

The Wood-head, seven miles from Mottram, is a place well known to the weary travellers who have crossed the hills above in their way from Yorkshire. It consists of three public and a few private houses. The Mersey even at this place is a very powerful stream in winter, pouring down with great rapidity, and sometimes overflowing the meadows on its banks. It rises from different springs about one mile from the inn called Salter's-brook-house, within the West Riding of Yorkkshire, and rather more than four miles above Wood-head, and it is joined in its course to Mottram by several rivulets which take their rise from these barren hills and moors. large tracts of which scarcely yield a blade of grass for the half-starved sheep.

The land in the neighbourhood of Mottram is mostly meadow and pasturage.. Some wheat and oats are grown, and potatoes are cultivated. Garden vegetables are scarce. The soil generally is of a loamy or clayey nature, and marl is found in several places. The farms are commonly small; from 10 pounds to 30 pounds, few exceed 50 pounds. The smaller ones are let very high; nor could the tenant pay such prices but for the industry of himself and family, who are in general weavers, hatters or cotton spinners, and sometimes all in the same house. The chief article of the farm is a roomy house, and their two to three cows produce milk and butter for family use, with a little to spare for making up the rent. On the commencement of the present war and failure of trade, many of the small farmers were ruined, and their little all sold off. The old farm houses are nearly all built of stone, with heavy flag-slate roofs.

The climate is cold and inclement, owing to the currents of wind from the hills, and the vast quantity of rain which falls, keeping the low grounds for a great part of the year a perfect puddle. The roads are seldom dry except of July and August. It almost daily happens that persons on the top of the hill are deluged with rain, while those in the valley are dry; and, on the other hand, that clouds sail up a valley and drench it, whilst the surrounding eminences enjoy fair weather.

The manure for the land is chiefly lime, of which a considerable amount is required; unless the tenant can afford to lay it on, his herbage becomes sour and turns to rushes. The lime is brought from Chapel-le-Frith on the backs of small Welch horses, which run up and down the hills with as sure a foot as goats, and have little other food than they can pick up by the road on their return, while the drivers take refreshment. The lime generally costs at Mottram 1s. and 6d. per load, which is only a small sack. The Peak-forest canal, which will come within four miles of Mottram, is expected to reduce the price nearly one half; and there are some thoughts of having a small canal from the above to run up Longdendale, upon Dr Anderson's plan, which may be made for less than a turnpike road. This would be of the greatest utility to the country, as it would promote the cultivation of the moors to a great extent, and would cause a demand for its mineral products, of which little is now got, on account of the expense of land carriage.

The vast rock at Tinsell-Norr consists of solid blocks of durable stone already described as the material of Mottram church. It is well calculated for uses in which beauty is not the object, as ordinary buildings, kirb stones and posts etc. Under Bretland-edge is a quarry of flag stone, lately discovered by Mr Boar of the Wood-head, who has obtained a lease of the same. The stone is got six feet in length, and proportionally broad. Near the top of the hill is a good stone for building, softer and better quality than any other in the neighbourhood, and nothing prevents its use but the difficulty of convenyance.

Coals of an indifferent quality are occasionally got at Mottram, and on the Derbyshire side in different places.

On the top of Tinsell-Norr, Wood-head, and other high hills, are deep and thick peat mosses, in which fuel is got by the poor, and trees are occasionally found in situations where it would be scarcely possible to make them grow at present. These peat bogs have sometimes been set on fire in the summer, and have long continued to burn in one grand body of flame.

During the summer, men, women and children are constantly employed in cutting and burning fern on the sides of the moors, the ashes of which are sold to the soap-boilers.

Cranberriesand cloudberries grow on these moors, the latter of which (Rubus Chaemorus) is a delicate fruit, little known and rare. Whinberries grow in great abundance about Tinsell-Norr, and the surrounding rocks, which are in many places covered with stunted trees, which do not attain a greater height than six feet. Moor-game or red grouse frequent these moors in great numbers, the different lords of the manors are at considerable expense to preserve them from the poachers.

Salmon swim a great way up the Mersey, and their young, called brood, and already mentioned under Manchester, run up the rivulets among the moors to an incredible height, and are easily caught in the shallow water by persons skilled in groping. Trout is also plentiful in these streams, and is occasionally sold at sixpence per pound. They are generally caught with a rod and line. These, and a few eels, are the only fish in this part of the Mersey.

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