Samuel Lewis - A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831)


STOCKPORT, a parish, in the hundred of MACCLESFIELD, county palatine of CHESTER, comprising the market-town of Stockport, the chapelries of Disley, Marple, and Norbury, and the townships of Bramhall, Bredbury, Brinnington, Duckinfield, Hyde, Offerton,Romilly, Torkington, Wernith, and part of that of Etchells, and containing, according to the last census, 44,957 inhabitants (since greatly increased), of which number, 21,726 are in the town of Stockport, 39 miles (N. E. by E.) from Chester, and 179 (N. W. by N.) from London.

This place, from its situation near a common centre from which several Roman roads diverged, is supposed to have been a Roman military station, and the fort to have occupied the summit of Castle hill, on the site of which the Saxons subsequently erected a baronial castle; from which, expressive of its situation in the woods, the town derived its name, Stokeport, or Stockport. Though not mentioned in Domesday-book, it is of considerable antiquity, and, till the Conquest, was a military station of some importance, most probably one of those laid waste by the Normans on their conquest of the island. In confirmation of this opinion may be adduced the name of an adjacent vill, called Portwood, also omitted in the survey, the first notice of it occurring in the records of the lands of the Baron of Dunham, under the name of Brinnington, or the burnt town. In 1173, the castle of Stokeport was held by Geoffrey de Costentyn, against Henry II., but whether in his own right or not, is uncertain. The first baron appears, from the best authority, to have been Ranulph le Dapifer, the progenitor of the family of the De Spencers, front whom it passed to Robert de Stokeport, who, in the reign of Henry III., made the town a free borough. In 1260, it obtained the grant of an annual fair for seven days, commencing on the festival of St. Wilfrid, and a weekly market on Friday. It is not distinguished by many events of historical importance; during the parliamentary war, it was garrisoned for the parliament but Prince Rupert advancing against it with a party of the royal troops, expelled the garrison, and took possession of it for the king; it was subsequently retaken by the parliamentarians, who retained it till the termination of the war. In 1745, Stockport was twice visited by the troops under the Pretender, on their approach to Derby, and in their retreat: on the latter occasion, the bridge over the Mersey was destroyed, and the rebels, with Prince Charles, were compelled to wade through the river, in order to effect their escape. Of the ancient castle not a vestige can be traced; a circular brick building was erected on the site, by the late Sir George Warren, as a hall for the sale of muslin, for which article of manufacture it was his wish to make this town a mart; but since the failure of that project, the building has been converted into an inn.

Stockport is romantically situated on elevated ground of irregular and precipitous ascent, on the south bank of the river Mersey, which here sweeps round its eastern and northern boundary, and is joined by the Tame: from the banks of the former the houses rise in successive tiers round the sides of the hill, from the base to the summit, and the numerous extensive factories elevated above each other, and spreading over the extent of the town, present, when lighted during the winter months, an appearance strikingly impressive. The most ancient part surrounds the church and market-place, on the high ground overlooking the Mersey, from the bank of which several steep streets, ascending the acclivity, lead into the market-place, whence various other streets diverge in different directions; many of the houses at the base of the hill have apartments excavated in the rock, which is of soft red sand-stone. The principal street, here called the Underbank, follows the direction of the old Roman road, leading southward to Buxton, and contains an ancient timber and brick mansion, formerly occupied by the family of Arderne of Harden and Alyanley, now a banking house. On the summit of the hill is a range of houses surrounding the market-place, and to the north of the church is the site of the ancient castle, and of the Roman military works. The town extends, on the south-east, a very great distance along the road to Chester; and on the north-east, by a bridge over the Mersey, to Portwood; on the west towards Cheadle,and towards Manchester by another bridge across the Mersey on the north, on which side of the river is the township of Heaton-Norris, forming part of this town, though in the county of Lancaster. To prevent the inconvenience and delay of travelling through the narrow and hilly part of the town, the trustees of the Manchester and Buxton turnpike-roads applied, in 1824,for an act of parliament to empower them to construe a new line of road from Heaton-Norris chapel, on the north side of the Mersey, to Bramhall-lane, at the southern extremity of the town, through an open and airy situation, affording eligible sites for the erection of houses, and an admirable opportunity for improving and extending the town. This important work was commenced in the same year, and completed under the superintendence of Mr, Thomas Broadhurst, general surveyor and architect for the trustees. Its especial object was, to cross the river without the necessity of descending from the high grounds on each side to the level of the vale of the Mersey, which has been accomplished by the construction of a noble bridge, of eleven arches, across the valley and the river, of which nine are on the Cheshire, and two on the Lancashire, side of the Mersey. The arch over the river has a span of more than ninety feet, and an elevation of forty feet above the water, and is built of hard white stone from the Saddleworth and Runcorn quarries; the two arches on the Lancashire side are of brick, each nine yards in span; those on the Cheshire side are carried over several of the streets, the thoroughfare being continued underneath, and others are closed up, forming commodious warehouses. From the last of them the road is carried for a considerable distance over an artificial embankment, formed of earth cut from the hill through which it passes, to its junction with the Warrington road, near which it again joins the old road at Heaviley, at the distance of three miles from its commencement. The whole expense of this work, which was completed in less than two years, was £40,000: the road throughout is twenty-four yards in width, and it was opened to the public in 1826, with a splendid procession, on the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, in reference to which event it has been called the Wellington road. Between this and the Lancashire bridge, a foot bridge, termed Vernon bridge, over the Mersey, forming an intermediate and more direct communication between the town and the township of Heaton- Norris, has been built by subscription, the first stone having been laid in 1828.

The town is well paved, and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. An act of parliament for incorporating a gas company, and another for the construction of water-works, were obtained in 1828, and in the following year an act for the general improvement of the town was passed, under which commissioners are appointed for that purpose. A handsome library and news-room was erected, in 1830, by Mr. W. Turner; this institution, which combines the two subscription libraries formerly established, is liberally supported by numerous proprietary subscribers; there is also a neat theatre, which is open for four months during the winter. The surrounding scenery is richly diversified with hill and dale, wood and water. The winding and throwing of silk, for which mills were first established here upon the Italian plan, have been nearly superseded by the introduction of the cotton manufacture, which has for some years been the staple trade of the town; of the former there are still some respectable factories; but the latter, since its introduction, has been rapidly increasing, and has attained, both for its extent and the perfection to which it has been brought, a very high degree of celebrity. There are within the town, including Heaton-Norris and Portwood, not less than fifty cotton factories, worked by sixty-five steam-engines, of the aggregate power of one thousand nine hundred and eighty horses, and by water-wheels; and in the manufacture of the different cottons and calicos, six thousand three hundred and fifty power-looms are constantly employed; the printing of calico is carried on to a very great extent, and there are many large establishments and dye-houses in the vicinity. Of these the most extensive, belonging to Messrs. Marsland and Son, which is also connected with the blue dye-works, has paid to Government duties in one year amounting to more than £100,000. The weaving of calico has spread over all the neighbouring villages, which in some instances have become virtually a part of the town. The manufacture of hats has been long established, and is carried on to a very considerable extent for the supply of the London, and many of the principal country, markets. The manufacture of a very superior kind of woollen cloth, equal in the smoothness of its texture and the silkiness of its surface to the best cloths of France, was established by the late Peter Marsland, Esq. with great success, and is deservedly encouraged; there are also several extensive thread manufactories. Connected with the various branches of manufacture the construction of machinery affords employment to a great number of persons, and of several additional steam-engines, others again being used in grinding corn and for other purposes. The importance of Stockport, as a manufacturing town, has been materially promoted by the facility and the abundance of its supply of coal from Poynton, Worth, and Norbury, and the neighbouring districts on the line of the Manchester and Ashton canal, which joins the Peak Forest canal, a branch of the latter extending to this town, and affords also a direct communication with the principal towns in the kingdom. The market, on Friday, is more abundantly supplied with corn, meal, and cheese, than any other market in the county: in the higher part of the town (the Hillgate), extensive and convenient shambles, covering an area of two thousand square yards, have been built for the inhabitants of the vicinity. The fairs are March 4th and 25th, May 1st, and October 23rd, for cattle. Stockport was anciently incorporated: it still retains the office of mayor, which, however, is merely nominal, and it is now within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who sit daily at the court-house, and hold a petty session every alternate week. The police is regulated by commissioners appointed by act of parliament in 1826, for this and the general improvement of the town. Courts leet and baron are held twice in the year; at the Michaelmas court the mayor is chosen, by the jury, from four burgesses, nominated by the lord of the manor, who appoints two constables and other officers, to the number of fifty, who are sworn into office at an adjourned court. The churchwardens are appointed by the four lords of the manors of Bramhall, Bredbury, Brinnington, and Norbury, who from time immemorial have represented the parish in ecclesiastical matters. The ancient court baron, for the recovery of debts under 40s., has fallen into disuse; and a court for the recovery of debts not exceeding £5 has been established, by an act passed in the 46th of George III., the jurisdiction of which extends over the townships of Stockport and Brinnington, and the hamlets of Edgeley and Brinksway.

The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester, rated in the king's books at £ 70. 6. 8., endowed with £200 private benefaction, and £200 royal bounty, and in the patronage of the Hon. Frances Maria Warren. The ancient church, dedicated to St. Mary, and supposed to have been erected in the fourteenth century, having been built of the soft red sand-stone in the neighbourhood, and fallen to decay, was, with the exception of the chancel, rebuilt, at an expense of £30,000, by act of parliament passed in the 50th of George III., and an extensive cemetery added to it. The present structure, situated on the eastern side of the market-place, is a handsome building in the later style of English architecture, with a lofty square tower, crowned with a pierced parapet and pinnacles; the pillars of the nave are carried up to the roof, producing an unusual, but impressive, effect from the loftiness of their elevation (an arrangement affording ample accommodation for galleries, which the increasing population of the parish rendered highly necessary). The chancel, which was in the decorated style of English architecture, has undergone considerable alteration, but still retains some of the ancient stone stalls, which are of elegant design, and the original window has been removed only within the last few years. Several of the ancient monuments have been preserved, and are distributed in various parts of the church. St. Peter's chapel, a neat edifice of brick, was erected in 1768, at the sole expense of William Wright, Esq., of Mottram, St. Andrew, to whom a handsome mural monument has been erected in the centre of the north aisle. The living is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £120 per annum, arising from lands in Mobberley, £200 private benefaction, and £200 royal bounty, and in the patronage of Lawrence Wright, Esq. The church dedicated to St. Thomas, containing one thousand nine hundred and ninety-two sittings, of which nine hundred and seventy-two are free, was erected in 1825, by grant from the parliamentary commissioners, at an expense of £14,555.13.: it is a handsome structure, in the Grecian style of architecture, with a tower surmounted by a cupola; the principal entrance is at the east end, through a noble portico of six lofty Ionic pillars; the interior is handsomely decorated; from the panelled pedestals that support the galleries rises a beautiful range of fluted Corinthian columns, sustaining the roof, corresponding with which is a series of pilasters of the same order, supporting a handsome entablature and cornice the ceilings are panelled in large compartments; and above the altar, which occupies the whole central breadth, is a pediment, resting on Ionic pillars, and surmounted on the apex by a gilt cross. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Hon. Frances Maria Warren. There are three places of worship for Independents, three for Wesleyan Methodists, and one each for the Society of Friends, Primitive Methodists, Methodists of the New Connexion, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics.

The free grammar school was founded, in 1482, by Sir Edmund Shaa, or Shaw, citizen and goldsmith of London, who endowed it with £10 per annum, to which several subsequent benefactions have been added. The Goldsmiths' Company, who are patrons, have erected, on the Wellington road, a handsome and extensive schoolroom, with a house for the master, in the later style of English architecture, at an expense of £4000, on a site of land comprising seven hundred and fifty square yards, presented for that purpose by the Hon. Frances Maria Warren, Lady Vernon. The National school was established in 1826, and is supported by subscription; the school-rooms are a handsome and spacious edifice of brick, fronted with stone, and well adapted to the purpose there are two thousand five hundred children of both sexes instructed in this establishment. A school upon a very extensive and comprehensive plan, admitting children of all denominations, was established in 1805, and a very extensive building of brick, four stories high, was erected for its use, at an expense of £10,000, raised by subscription; there are four thousand children belonging to this institution, who are instructed by three hundred gratuitous teachers; attached to it are four branch schools, in the vicinity of the town, erected at an expense of £ 6000, in which one thousand five hundred children are taught, who cannot conveniently attend the parent establishment. These and some others, all supported by subscription, afford instruction to more than ten thousand children. Sunday schools are also supported in connexion with the established church and the several dissenting congregations. On the eastern side of the old churchyard are six almshouses, founded by an ancestor of the late Sir George Warren, in 1685, for six aged men. The allowance was augmented to £1.5. by Humphrey Warren, Esq., who died in the middle of the last century, and the late Lady Bulkeley bequeathed £1200, vesting it in trustees, for the same purpose, and £1000 for the poor of Stockport. A dispensary was established, and a commodious building erected, by subscription, in 1797, to which nine fever wards were added in 1799: it is liberally supported, and affords relief to two thousand patients annually. There is a bequest by Mr. Wright, for apprenticing four children, besides some other bequests for distribution among the poor.


[From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of England  (1831) ©Mel Lockie]