Leek and Lowe parish is of very considerable extent, containing the townships of Bradnop, Endon, Heaton, Leek-frith, Onecote, Rushton-James, Rushton-Spencer, and Tittisworth in North Totmanslow hundred, and the township of Rudyard and Caudery, in Totmanslow South. This parish contains 1,446 houses, 1,477 families; 3,660 males, 3,968 females: total of inhabitants 7,628.
In a parish of such extent there is a great variety of soil and surface, but the lands in general are not very fertile. Leek-edge is a new inclosure, north of the town of Leek, and is part of the great waste of Morredge. Part of this land has been planted with a variety of trees by the Earl of Macclesfield, who is lord of the manor; and by Dr. Hulme, of Ball-Haye; and Thomas Mills, Esq. of Barlaston; so that the term Moorlands, as applied to this tract, may soon give place to the more significant epithet of Woodlands. Oats have been sown on part of this enclosed ground, but with little produce, and a part of it has been more successfully improved into pasturage.
Ladder-edge is another new inclosure of land to the south-west of Leek; and though the situation is high, and the soil stony, it has already, by judicious cultivation, and the free use of lime, produced some good grain and turnips. The fences are generally of stone. The Caldon Canal, which comes within half a mile of Leek, is the medium for an abundant supply of lime-stone, which, when burnt into lime, facilitates the improvement of the cold soil, and the purposes of building.
Leek is the principal market-town of Totmanslow North. It is situated on a pleasant eminence near the river Churnet, and contains thirteen streets and lanes. The streets are wide, well paved, and clean; many of the shops large, and several houses of the silk-manufacturers, and professional men, are elegant mansions. There are three large inns in Leek, and several ale-houses. A weekly market is held on Wednesday, and there are seven annual fairs, chiefly for cattle and pedlars' goods. They are held on the Wednesday before Candlemas, Easter-Wednesday, May the 18th, Whit-Wednesday, July 3d, July the 28th, and November the 13th. Leek has been indebted for much of its present prosperity to the silk-manufactures, which have been successfully carried on in this town for at least half a century, and the population has rapidly increased.
This town, including Leek-Frith township, contains 954 houses, 972 families; 2,023 males, 2,390 females: total of inhabitants 4,413. About two-thirds of the men, women, and children, in Leek, are employed in various branches of the silk-manufacture, which consist principally of shawls, handkerchiefs, ribbons, ferrets, twist, and sewing silks.
The Church of Leek is an ancient Gothic structure of stone with two aisles, and a square tower, which contains a clock and six bells. In the year 1816, eight pinnacles were added to the tower, several parts of the exterior of the edifice were decorated with ornaments in the Gothic style: the interior also underwent a thorough repair. It is asserted that almost as much money was expended on repairs as would have built a new church. There is a mural monument of white marble in the chancel, to the memory of John Daintry, vicar of this church, who died on the 23d of August, 1758, aged 58, and several other individuals of that family. Leek church is a vicarage in the patronage of the Earl of Macclesfield: the Rev. Thomas Bentley is the present minister.
William Badnall, of Leek, silk-dyer, left by will, dated the 11th of January, 1806, one thousand pounds in the public funds, the interest of which is to be annually laid out in bedding, clothing, or other necessaries, to be distributed among twenty poor widows resident in Leek, who are not less than 60 years of age.
In the church-yard are the remains of an ancient stone pyramid, without an inscription, the origin of which rests entirely upon conjecture. Among other instances of longevity recorded on the tomb-stones in this church-yard, is one of an individual aged 95, and another aged 90 years.
There are three other places of worship in Leek besides the Church; namely, a meeting-house for Calvinists, a Quaker's meeting-house, and a large meeting-house for Methodists. There are two Sunday-schools, one supported by the friends of the Established Church, and the other by the Methodists.
An alms-house, for eight poor widows, was endowed in the year 1696, by Elizabeth Ash, widow, of this town. The building is a curious piece of Gothic architecture, situated in the Compton. Each widow is allowed two shillings per week, fuel, and a new gown once in two years.
Leek gave birth to Thomas Parker, the first Earl of Macclesfield, who was the son of Thomas Parker, attorney, of this town. He was born at Leek in the year 1666, and after a grammatical education, applied himself to the study of the law, under the direction of his father. He became so eminent as a barrister, that he was appointed one of Queen Anne's Counsel, and was exalted to the degree of Serjeant-at-Law, and had the honour of knighthood conferred on him on the 8th of June, 1705. He was a representative in Parliament for the town of Derby from 1705 to 1708. In 1710, he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, and, on the death of the Queen, he was one of the Lords Justices till the arrival of George the First from Hanover. On the 10th of March, 1716, he was created a Baron of England, by the title of Lord Parker, Baron of Macclesfield; and on the 5th of November, 1721, he was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Macclesfield.
In consequence of some notorious mal-practices, his Lordship was impeached by the House of Peers on charges of corruption, tried at the bar of the House, and pronounced guilty, in consequence of which he was removed from his offices, and fined £30,000. Of this accomplished, but unfortunate Earl, Mr. Noble writes as follows: "This every way distinguished character was the son of Thomas Parker, an attorney at Leek, in Staffordshire, in the chancel of which church I have read the inscription on his grave-stone. He left his son about £100 per annum. He received the Great Seal, May 11th, 1709, which he held till January 4th, 1724-5.
It was an extraordinary event, that Lord Macclesfield, one of the great ornaments of the Peerage, who had so long presided at the administration of justice, should himself be arraigned as a criminal, be convicted of mal-practices, and sentenced to pay a fine of £30,000 as a punishment for his offence; that a second Lord Chancellor of England should be impeached by the Grand Inquest of the nation, for corruption of office; and be, like his great predecessor, Lord St. Albans, found guilty of the charge. The prosecution was carried on with great virulence; and though rigid justice, indeed, demanded a severe sentence, yet party zeal and personal animosity were supposed to have had their weight in that which was passed upon him. The whole fine was exacted, and actually paid by his Lordship and his son, notwithstanding the favourable disposition that was shewn in a certain quarter to relieve him in part by a considerable donation. It is certain, there had been gross mismanagement in the offices of the Masters in Chancery, by which the suitors had been great sufferers; and it appeared that those places had been sometimes conferred upon persons, who had evidently paid for them a valuable consideration. The public cry against corruption in high stations was loud and long; and it was not thought prudent to stay proceedings against the supreme Judge in the kingdom.
The statute on which the Chancellor was impeached had, indeed, grown into disuse, but it was still a law; a breach of it was proved, and the consequence was inevitable. Lord Macclesfield was a man of learning, and a patron of it. Bishop Pearce, of Rochester, among others, owed his first introduction to preferment to his Lordship's encouragement. He was also very eminent for his skill in his profession; but rather great than amiable in his general character. He was austere, and not deemed sufficiently attentive to the gentlemen of his Court, to whom his manners are represented to have been harsh and ungracious, unlike the mild and complacent behaviour of his predecessor, Lord Cowper. His Lordship passed the remainder of his life in a learned retirement, much devoted to the studies of religion, of which he had always been a strict and uniform observer."
His Lordship married Janet, daughter of Charles Carrier, Esq. of Wirksworth, in Derbyshire, by whom he had issue, George, the second Earl of Macclesfield, and Lady Elizabeth. He died at his son's house, in Soho-square, April 28th, 1732, in the 66th year of his age.
On Tuesday, the 3d of December, OS 1745, the Scotch rebel army, commanded by Charles Edward Stuart, and the Dukes of Perth, Athol, etc. marched through Leek on their way to Derby, and returned on the Saturday following. Ball Haye, the elegant residence of Dr. Hulme, may be seen to great advantage from the northern side of Leek church-yard.