1868 - The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland
"MIDDLETON, a parish and market town in the hundred of Salford, county Lancaster, 4 miles W. of Oldham, 5 S. of Rochdale, and 6 N. of Manchester. It is a station on the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway, and the Manchester and Rochdale canal passes within a mile of the town. The parish, which is extensive, comprises the townships of Ainsworth, Ashworth, Birtle-cum-Bamford, Great Lever, Hopwood, Middleton, Pilsworth, and Thornham. The manor was in early times in possession of the Bartons, and passed by marriage to the family of Assheton, to which belonged Sir Richard Assheton, who commanded the Middleton archers at the battle of Flodden. It is now chiefly the property of William Wagstaff, Esq., who is the present lord of the manor, and who holds courts leet and baron in October. In the time of the Commonwealth the parish is said to have contained 500 inhabitants, and till the end of the last century was only a small village, but since 1791, when it obtained a charter for holding a weekly market, it has rapidly risen into an important manufacturing town. It is situated in a fertile vale on the Irk, and extends into the parish of Prestwiekcum-Old-ham. It is nearly a mile in length along the road from Manchester to Rochdale, and is well paved, drained, and lighted with gas. It is supplied with water from the Heywood waterworks. The affairs of the town are managed by a board of commissioners under a special local Act. Petty sessions are held fortnightly on Wednesdays at the sessions room. The chief trade of the town and neighbourhood is silk weaving, chiefly for the Manchester and Spitalfields houses; also cotton spinning, weaving, and bleaching; there are also extensive dye works, including the calico-printing works of Silas Schwabe and Co.: these last are some of the largest in England, employing upwards of 1,000 hands. Iron founding and machine making are carried on, and in the adjoining townships of Hopwood and Thornham are extensive collieries. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Manchester, value £950. The church, dedicated to St. Leonard, is a venerable structure with a low square tower. The more modern part was built in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton and his wife Anne. In the interior is a wooden screen divided into seven compartments, in which are carved the shields and armorial bearings of several families connected by marriage with the Asshetons, the ancient lords of Middleton, whose burial-place was the S. aisle; there are also several brasses, an ancient font, and S. and N. windows in the chancel, decorated with ancient stained glass. In addition to the parish church there are two churches in the town-Holy Trinity, Parkfield, and Rhodes chapel-of-ease. In the parish are also the following district churches, viz: at Ainsworth or Cockey, Ashworth, Birch, Birkle, and Great Lever, the livings of which are all perpetual curacies, varying in value from £136 to £33. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyans, Baptists, Primitive Methodists, Swedenborgians, and Lady Huntingdon's Connexion. The grammar school was established under royal charter dated August 11th, 1572, by Alexander Nowell, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's, London, who founded and endowed thirteen scholarships in Brazenose College, Oxford, for the benefit of this and other schools in the county. Two additional scholarships were subsequently founded in the same college by Samuel Radcliffe, D.D. There are also three National and three infant schools in connection with the Church of England, besides denominational and Sunday schools attached to the several places of worship. The annual wakes are held on the last Monday but one in August, a horticultural show on the same day, and an agricultural show is held in September yearly. Friday is market day."