The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868
"LEIGH, a parish and market town in the hundred of West Derby, county Lancaster, 7 miles S. of Bolton, 15 from Manchester, and 193¼ from London. It has two stations --one at Leigh, the other at Atherton, on the Bolton and Kenyon branch of the London and North-Western railway. The parish is situated in the S. parliamentary division of the county, and is intersected by the Wigan and Leigh branch of the Leeds and Bridgwater canal. It is of large extent, comprising the townships of Astley, Atherton, Bedford, Pennington, and West Leigh, which two last form the town of Leigh. The growth of this town has been extremely rapid, the population having more than doubled in the decennial period from 1851 to 1861: at the former census the inhabitants were returned at 5,206, and at the latter at 10,621. The streets are regularly laid out, and most of the houses of recent erection. The town is well paved, and lighted with gas. The principal public institutions are the townhall, erected in 1840; union poorhouse; offices of the Warrington division of the county constabulary, which has its head-quarters here; a mechanics' institute, with library containing 1,200 volumes, established in 1842; a branch bank; market-place; new cemetery, opened in October, 1856, for the rest of the parish, except the township of Atherton, which has a cemetery of its own, formed in 1857. There are also extensive silk and cotton factories, maltings, corn-mills, a brewery, andiron foundries; and, in the adjoining township of Atherton, establishments for the manufacture of nails and bolts. One weekly newspaper, the Leigh Chronicle, is published in the town on Saturday. In the vicinity of the town are collieries, stone quarries, and brickfields. The soil is clayey, on a subsoil of sandstone. The chief crops are wheat, oats, potatoes, and in the township of Atherton grass and vegetables. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester, value £263. The parish church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient stone structure, with a tower and two mortuary chapels attached. There is also a chapel-of-ease at West Leigh, erected in 1855. There are district churches at Astley, Atherton, Bedford, and Pennington, the livings of all which are perpetual curacies, varying in value from £100 to £250. The church of St. Stephen, at Astley, is a brick building with a square embattled tower containing one bell, and was restored in 1852. The church of St. John, at Atherton, was erected in 1810, and has a tower containing a clock and one bell. The church of St. Thomas, at Bedford, is a new brick building with a tower. The church called Christ Church, at Pennington, is of stone, erected in 1854. There are places of worship belonging to Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Independents, Baptists, and Unitarians; also a Roman Catholic church in the suburban township of Bedford, erected in 1855 at the cost of £4,000. The free grammar school is situated in the township of Astley. There are besides several National, Sunday, and infant schools, in connection with the several district churches. Leigh is the head of a Poor-law Union embracing the above-mentioned townships, with the townships of Culcheth, Golborne, Kenyon, and Lawton, in the adjoining parish of Winwick. The board of guardians meet every Thursday at the union workhouse. It is also the head of superintendent registry and new County Court districts-the latter is held monthly at the townhall. Petty sessions are held on alternate Mondays at Leigh and Atherton, both in this parish. Lord Lilford is lord of the manors of Leigh and Atherton; Malcolm Nugent Ross, Esq., of the manor of Astley; and the Earl of Ellesmere, of Bedford. Saturday is market day. Fairs are held at Leigh on the 24th and 25th April for cattle and live stock, on the 7th and 8th December for pedlery and pleasure, and at Atherton on the last Thursday in March for cattle, and pleasure fairs on the 29th June and 24th August."