Middleton, Lancashire Family History Guide

Middleton is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Lancashire.

Other places in the parish include: Thornham, Pilsworth, Midddleton with Rhodes, Hopwood, and Great Lever.

Alternative names: Middleton near Manchester

Parish church: St. Leonard

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1541
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1609

Separate registers exist for Great Lever

  • Parish registers: 1851
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: None

Nonconformists include: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Countess of Huntingdon Methodist, Independent/Congregational, Primitive Methodist, Swedenborgian/New Jerusalem/New Church, Wesleyan Methodist, and Wesleyan Methodist Association.

Adjacent Parishes

Parish History

A Topographical Dictionary of England 1848

MIDDLETON (St. Leonard), a market-town and parish, in the hundred of Salford, S. division of Lancashire; containing, with the chapelries of Ainsworth and Ashworth, and the townships of Birtle cum Bamford, Hopwood, Great Lever, Pilsworth, and Thornham, 15,488 inhabitants, of whom 7740 are in the town, 6 miles (N. N. E.) from Manchester, 55 (S. E. by S.) from Lancaster, and 192 (N. N. W.) from London. The manor of Middleton belonged at a very remote period to the powerful family of de Lacy, earls of Lincoln, and afterwards passed by marriage to Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster; to both of these great families, the local family of Middleton were for a long time feodary. It would appear that the manor subsequently passed to the Kydales and the Bartons; and by the marriage of Sir Ralph Assheton, commonly called the “Black Knight of Ashton,” with the last heiress of the Bartons, it was conveyed to the Assheton family. Sir Ralph was successively knight-marshal, and vice-constable of England, the latter office having been conferred upon him for his gallant services under Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III.; and his devoted attachment to the house of York was rewarded by that sovereign with the grant of divers manors confiscated from the adherents of the house of Lancaster. His grandson, Sir Richard Assheton, was one of the heroes of Flodden-Field, and led to the attack in that memorable battle a body of Middleton bowmen, which formed part of the left wing under the command of Sir Edward Stanley; for his valour on the occasion, he received the honour of knighthood from Henry VIII., and various important privileges were conferred upon his manor of Middleton.

In the 17th century, Ralph Assheton, of Middleton, represented the county of Lancaster in the Long parliament; and commanded, first as colonel and afterwards as general, in the Lancashire forces under the Commonwealth. He led the Middleton club-men against the royalists in the engagement at Bolton-le-Moors; and after the defeat of Charles II. and the Earl of Derby at the battle of Worcester in 1651, the king’s troops under Leslie and Middleton, returning into Lancashire, were defeated by Lilburne and Harrison at Middleton, where the royalist generals were taken prisoners. General Assheton, who died in 1650, was succeeded by his son, Ralph Assheton, Esq., who, adopting the course taken by his relative, Sir George Booth, Bart., espoused the cause of Charles II., and was created a baronet after the Restoration. He was succeeded in his title and estates by his son, Ralph, whose nephew, of the same name, succeeded in 1716, and was the last of the male line of this remarkable family. Of his two coheiresses, Mary and Eleanor, the former married Harbord Harbord, Esq., afterwards first lord Suffield; and the manor now belongs to his lordship’s grandson, the present peer.

The town is supposed to have derived its name, Middle-town, from its situation midway between Manchester and Rochdale. It is agreeably situated on the road between those places, and is well watered by two confluent streams which have their rise in the immediate neighbourhood. The cotton manufacture, of which this is one of the principal seats, is carried on in its various branches of spinning, weaving, bleaching, and printing; and since the erection of the first cotton-mill, by Mr. John Mercer, about fifty years ago, the importance of the town and the number of its population have rapidly increased. The manufacture of nankeens, ginghams, and check handkerchiefs, is also considerable; and there are manufactories of silk, chiefly for plain sarsnets; and extensive dye-works. Middleton Hall, the ancient seat of the Asshetons, was pulled down in 1845, and on its site large cotton-mills have been erected. In 1846 an act was obtained for lighting the town and vicinity with gas. The Rochdale canal passes about a mile and a half east of Middleton, and the Manchester and Leeds railway runs in the same direction, but nearer to the town; a branch line from the latter, about half a mile in length, extends into the market-place. A royal grant for holding a market on Friday was obtained in 1791, by Lord Suffield, who built a handsome market-house, with commodious shambles for general market purposes and the sale of merchandise. Courts leet are regularly held twice a year, in April and October. In 1812, Middleton, like many other manufacturing towns, suffered much from the spirit of Luddism that then prevailed in Lancashire and the neighbouring counties; serious riots occurred in the town, and the frame-breakers committed many outrages upon the property of the mill-owners. The greatest sufferers by these lawless acts were Messrs. Burton and Sons, whose house was set on fire, and whose mill was very near sharing the same fate. For one whole day, the rioters held the mill in a state of absolute blockade, the ammunition of the soldiery (a company of the Royal Cumberland militia) intrenched within its walls, having been entirely expended; and there was every probability of its soon falling a prey to the fury of the assailants, when by the timely arrival of a troop of the Scots Greys, the premises were saved, and the mob was dispersed in all directions.

The parish comprises about 8000 acres, of which upwards of 2000 are in the township of Middleton, where the surface of the land is undulated. The soil is various, being in some parts a strong clay, and in others a light sandy loam; but whether for corn or pasture, it is considered in every respect excellent: the proportion of arable land to pasture is about four acres to twenty; the crops mostly grown are oats and potatoes. There is an abundance of coal, of which the principal mines are in Thornham and Hopwood. The rivers connected with the parish are, the Irk, anciently written “Yrke,” the Roch, the Nadin, the Bradshaw, and the Sudden. Several gentlemen’s seats are interspersed through the townships; among those in Middleton township is Langley Hall, once of stone, now a brick pile, to the west of the town. Rhodes Green was the seat of a younger branch of the Hopwoods; the house is a low plain building, at present divided into cottages. Parkfield is the residence of Thomas Ashton, Esq., one of the magistrates of the county.

The living is a rectory, valued in the king’s books at £36. 3. 11½.; net income, about £1000 per annum; patron, Lord Suffield. The church is of great antiquity, but there is no record of the period of its erection; the aisles bear the date 1554: it stands on a gently rising hill, with a fine plantation of trees adjoining. The tower, which is low, is surmounted with an awkward addition of wood. The windows are richly adorned with painted glass, and in the north window are figures representing persons formerly of note in the neighbourhood: the east window was renewed by the rector in 1846. Of the several monuments, the most prominent are those of the Assheton family. At Ainsworth, Ashworth, Birch, and Birtle are separate incumbencies. There are places of worship for Independents, Primitive Methodists, Wesleyans, the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, and Swedenborgians. One of the earliest and most important charitable institutions of Middleton, is Queen Elizabeth’s free grammar school, founded and endowed by Alexander Nowell, D.D., Dean of St. Paul’s, in 1572. Dr. Nowell also founded thirteen small scholarships in Brasenose College, Oxford, for the benefit of this and other schools in the county; these scholarships have lately been reduced to two good ones. The school is also entitled to share in two scholarships founded in the same college by Samuel Radcliffe, D.D., in 1648. President Bradshaw, who sat in judgment on Charles I., received a part of his education in Middleton school, to which he bequeathed £500, to be laid out in the purchase of an annuity for increasing the salaries of the master and usher. In the town and parish are numerous day and Sunday schools for all denominations. For the relief of the poor are, Guest’s, Stock’s, Catherine Hopwood’s, Buckley’s, Cook’s, Richardson’s, and other charities. Dr. William Assheton, prebendary of York and rector of Beckenham, was born at Middleton in 1641: he was the author of several works of great merit, chiefly of a religious and controversial character; and his learning recommended him for an Irish bishopric, and the mastership of Brasenose College, Oxford, both which he refused. Samuel Bamford, the “Lancashire Poet,” is also a native of this place.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1848

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County: Lancashire Civil Registration District: Oldham Probate Court: Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory) Diocese: Manchester Rural Deanery: Bury Poor Law Union: Oldham Hundred: Salford Province: York