Until the nineteenth century Whitefield existed only as part of the Manor of Pilkington,which covered not only Whitefield but also Outwood, Ringley and Unsworth. Over the centuries hamlets grew up in the Lily Hill district, at Besses o’ th' Barn, at Park Lane, at Moss Lane and at Stand. These hamlets, together with Stand Lane (now part of Radcliffe), were united as the township of Whitefield in 1866.
In Elizabethan times Whitefield was only a barren moor, but Stand Hall was the Manor House of Pilkington. Apart from the story of the Pilkington family of Stand there is little to recount until the seventeenth century. Even at that time Pilkington was in the ecclesiastical parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham.
How the hamlet came by the name of Whitefield is uncertain. ‘Field’ means a clearing in a forested area (Whitefield was on the edge of Rossendale Forest), but the derivation of ‘White’ is doubtful. The name existed before the Flemings settled at Bury so it does not come from the woollens being tentered upon the field to be bleached. It may be derived from a field of white flowers, hence the name Lily Hill Street; or it may be a derivation of ‘Wheatfield’.
The history of Whitefield starts at Stand where Stand Hall had been the seat of the Pilkington family for centuries. They were here before the Noman Conquest. The name 'Stand’ is derived from a hunting stand, from which the country could be scanned for game.
The descent of the Pilkington family can be traced from Leonard de Pilkington, Lord of the Manor of Pilkington, who fought under Harold at the Battle of Hastings. His descendant, Sir John Pilkington, with his son John and their retainers went to France with Henry V and fought at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. At Agincourt the retinue of Sir John was John Kay, Roger Kay and William Lee. His men consisted of ten lances and forty-five archers. In order to pay his troops Henry pledged some of his jewels and plate to the younger John Pilkington. They were not redeemed until 1431.
At the time of the Conquest the seat of the Pilkingtons was at Stand Hall. This, the original Stand Hall, was probably on the site of the building which is now known as Stand Old Hall, an Ringley Road just beyond Old Hall Road. Later, probably in the 13th century, another Hall was built opposite the top of Stand Lane. Much confusion has arisen because a part of the medieval Hall survived until recent times and some referred to it as 'The Old Hall’, to distinguish it from the Victorian Stand Hall which, at that time stood less than one hundred yards behind it. In this narrative the name Stand Old Hall refers to the building that stands near Old Hall Road. The medieval building is referred to as Stand Hall or ‘the old barn’.
Some time later the Pilkington family came into possession of the Manor of Bury, after which Bury became the principal residence of the family. Bury Castle was fortified and castellated in the reign or Edward IV. It has been stated that Edward also gave a licence to Sir Thoman Pilkington to kernel and castellate his manor house at Stand, but it is doubtful if the work was carried out.
Sir Thomas Pilkington fought for Richarcd III at the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard was killed and his opponent, Henry Tudor became king. As a result, Henry VII confiscated all Sir Thomas’s lands and gave them to Sir Thomas Stanley, whom he created Earl of Derby. The property included land at Nether Kellet, Haleworth, Salmesbury, Pilklngton, Bury, Cheetham, Cheetwood, Haliwell, Undesworth (Unsworth), Salford, Shuttleworth, Middleton, Shippelbotham, Smethills, Tottington, Bolton in Furness, Broughton-in-Furness, Urswick and elsewhere. Sir Thomas’s lands were therefore extensive and well-spread.
Shortly afterwards, Bury Castle was razed to the ground but the Hall at Stand opposite Stand Lane was only partly demolished. A portion of the original buildings right on the edge of Ringley Road, was for many years used as a barn. The ‘barn’ was built in the reign of Henry V. A Ministry of Housing and Local Government Report made in the middle of the 20th century stated that it was a remarkable example of an elaborate timber-framed medieval Great Hall. It contained some very fine timbers with quatrefoil decorations, and had two square-headed, four-light windows with 14th Century tracery. It has been suggested that the building was constructed from material brought from the Old Church at Manchester when it was re-built in 1442, but this is unlikely. After the Second War steps were being taken to have the barn preserved as an ancient monument but, just as arrangements were nearing completion, the roof fell in. Attempts to preserve the building were then abandoned. It was finally demolished in the 196O’s when all the land belonging to Stand Hall was cleared to make way for a housing estate now bounded by Ringley Road, Ringley Drive and Ten Acre Drive.
Harland says that Sir Thome Pilkington was killed whilst fighting for Lambert Simnel at the Battle of Stoke. On the other hand, the Victoria County History of Lancashire states that he was not killed there and that he was pardoned in 1506; but this seems unlikely as it is stated that his son Roger died in 1501 and that Roger had no son so what was left of his estate was divided between Roger's six daughters. It seems probable that Sir Thomas was at Urswick when he joined Simnel, for Simnel landed at Piel Castle in Furness and rallied his forces on Swarthmoor, which is not far from Urswick.
Later in the sixteenth century, the Derby family built a new Stand Hall for their residence on the site of the old one. This building was destroyed by fire within a few years, so yet another was built. This house was demolished about 1840 and another built. This the last Stand Hall, was demolished in the 1960’s when the Willan Family sold it to speculative builders.
The Hearth Tax Returns for 1666 state that Whitefield had 135 hearths, Outwood 70 and Unsworth 40. It must be remembered that at that time Whitefield included Stand Lane as far as Radcliffe Bridge.
The residents of Whitefield who paid the Hearth Tax were:
|Margaret Sergeant of Stand||  8|
|Nathan Wallwork||  4|
|Jo. Sidall Jun.||  4|
|Geo. Syddall||  3|
|Hen. Coulborne||  3|
|Ja. Wilson & Mater||  3|
|Wm. Walker||  5|
Mrs. Margaret Sergeant also contributed 2/6d to the collection in Prestwich Church made in 1678 for the re-building of St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London.
An inventory of the possessions left by James Buckley of Whitefield, gentleman, dated 1608 included:
|Steaves and heffers||13||0||0|
|A mare, a folle and a fillye||4||0||0|
|2 Sadles and a calff skine||0||4||0|
|1 Square table and a wheelbed||0||10||0|
The following were taken from the Lancashire Quarter Sessions Records:
In 1657 Jane Asmall, a Whitefield widow who had been evicted, petitioned the Justices to order the church-wardens and overseers of Prestwich to provide her with a cottage.
In October 1649, Grace Hardman, a widow of Pilkington applied to the Justices of the Peace in the following tems:
‘That upon the eighth day of September last past there happened a most suddayne and lamentable fire which utterly consumed to the ground the dwelling house where your petticioner dwelled with all her goods and apparell and having five children whereof three of them can not help themselves, the extreme want and necessitye with the coldness of the season of the years approaching emboldeneth your petticioner humbly to crave and implore your worshipps favour in her distresse: and grant your petticioner libertye under your hands to ask and receave the benevolence of the well disposed people in severall congregations within the hundred of Salfford towards the helping of her and her children to apparrell and other necessaryes which they are utterly destitute of. And your petticioner shall ever praye for your Worshipps health and happiness’.
In July 1657 six inhabitants of Whitefield certified ‘Wee whose names are hereunder written doe certify unto the justissess of the peace and others whom it doth or may concerne that James Kershaw of Whitefield is able to keepe and maintaine or contribute towards the maintaineing of a child of his sonne John Kershawes, rather than the said child should be chargeable and burdensome to the parish, the said James Kershaw beinge its naturell grandfather’.
Clerk of the Peace’s note. ‘To take and keep the child under pains of 20s. a month.’
One wonders had the six people a spite against James Kershaw or were they only trying to save themselves money?
On 30th April 1691, John Collinge of Whitefield petitioned:
‘The humble peticion of John Collinge of Whitefield within Pilkington in the parish of Prestwich, husbandman, Humbly sheweth That your poor petitioner lying under the sad and deplorable distemper of the palsy and continueirig sometimes five or six hours together in such manner as he is insensible of anything and at all times in a weak and languishing condition, that he is unable to maintain his family being a wife and three small children and those few goods they had one Gilbert Haddock has taken and will take for two years rent of his house which your distressed petitioner is not able to pay in moneys. Therefore does humbly beg that your good worshipps would bee pleased to grant your order for the allowance of sixpence a week for the help and assistance of your petitioners poor family’.
Clerk of the Peace's note.. ‘Referred to the Overseers’
Even though Pilkington was in Prestwich parish, there is evidence that between 1649 and 1655 the following families resident in Pilkington regularly attended Radcliffe Parish Church. They probably lived in and around Stand Lane. The families of Thomas Fletcher, Lawrence Carter, Mary Radcliffe, Peter Walker, Roger Walker, James Walker, Henry Siddall, Richard Walker Snr., Richard Walker Jnr., John Blakelowes, John Crompton, William Barlow, Richard Ramsthorne, James Scholefield, John Davenport and Margaret Davenport, widow.
Through all these years Whitefield remained a small hamlet, and life was comparatively uneventful. But things were moving in Stand. . The Five Mile Act, passed in 1665, made it an offence punishable by transportation for more than five persons to assemble for worship other than in the manner allowed by the Church of England, and for any nonconformist to minister within five miles of any parish of which he had been the parson. Stand was six miles from Mancliester, six miles from Bury and six miles from Bolton, so it was a most convenient place for nonconformists to meet. In 1689, the Toleration Act gave freedom of worship to most dissenters on their own premises.
It seems that the Presbyterian congregation at Stand began when Thomas Pike was ejected from the living of Radcliffe because of his Puritan leanings. Though he went to Blackley, those who agreed with his views began to meet at Stand.
It was in 1689 that, under the will of Henry Siddall, a tailor of Whitefield, 41 acres of land were bought for a school 'to teach little boys to read Fnglish'. This land was on and around the present site of Stand Unitarian Chapel. Henry Siddall was married at Prestwich Church and was buried there in 1676.
His will stated: ‘This is the will of Henry Siddall of Whitefield, tailor, in which he bequeaths his pocket watch to Roger Walker of Radeliffe, butcher, his best suit of apparel to John Siddall, a broadcloth suit to Edward Siddall also his messuage and tenement in
Whitefield to his wife Alice for life - afterwards the profits are to be employed to some
pious use’. This pious use was later decided to be the payment of the salary of the Master
of Stand Grammr School. Alice was the daughter of Abdy Schofield, churchwarden of Prestwich.
The total value of Henry Siddall’s possessions came to £34.14.5d. This list included:
|A pocket watch||1||0||0|
|In apparel for his body etc.||2||10||0|
Probably the first nonconformist meetings were hold at the house of Thomas Sergeant of the Old Hall, Stand, for he belonged to an old Puritan family. Among the signatories of a parchment roll dated February 1636, dealing with a Church rate levied on the whole parish of Prestwich is Thomas Sergeante of Pillkington. The Sergeant family lived at the Old Hall for four generations. Until the late nineteenth century the road leading from the Old Hall to Molyneaux was called Sergeant’s Lane. Thanks to the efforts of the Rev. Leonard Smith, the present Minister of the Unitarian Chapel, the name has been revived on the new housing estate behind the Old Hall. It is known that a trustee of the Unitarian Chapel, Joshua Crompton, formerly of Heaton, Prestwich, lived at the Old Hall in 1693.
In 1672 the barn belonging to the house of William Walker was licensed for preaching. There is documentary evidence that in that year the Rev. Robert Eaton, M.A., ejected Minister of Daresbury, near Warrington, was preaching there. In 1693 he became the first Minister of Stand Chapel. William Walker’s house was almost certainly the Broxups in Higher Lane, then a farm. Walker's grandson waa living there in 1736.
The will of William Walker of Stand within Pilkington, dated 1709, states that he assigns his messuage and tenement in Stand Lane called Rawsthorns to his son Daniel in trust for the use of his son William. After various bequests to his relatives and friends he left forty shillings to the poor of Pilkington and twenty shillings to the poor of Radcliffe Parish. An inventory of his possessions included the following:
£ s d Two horses one mare and one colt 12 5 0 Five cows, a twinter, a sterk and two calves 20 16 8 Carts, wheels, horse gears husbandry & looms 5 7 0 Four swine and three stone troughs 0 19 8 Barley, oats and hay 29 16 0 Looms , gears and warping walls in the loomhouse 1 7 4 In the parlor three tables and carpets 12chairs and a landskip (landscape painting) 2 16 0 In bacon, cheese and potatoes 2 16 6 Wheat, malt and oatmeal 7 4 1 Six silver spoons 3 0 0 In linnens and the decendent’s aparell 4 3 6 In wool, cloth and debts owing to the decedent 68 19 0 The total value was 198 19 4 1/2 (NOT TOO SURE WHERE THE 1/2 CAME FROM!)
This William Walker was the grandfather of Peter Walker who gave the land on which the Independent Chapel in Stand Lane was built, and great-grandfather of William Walker, master of Stand Grammarr School.
In 1711, Gilbert Haddock of Pilkington, blacksmith, desired to build a smithy of two bays on part of the waste land in Whitefield. A number of inhabitants of Pilkington signed his petition. The Commissioners for the Countess Dowager of Derby, Lady of the manor of Pilkington gave the necessary licence. Her Ladyship's Bailiff to decide on the site. This was probably the Gilbert Haddock to whom the Churchwardens of Prestwich paid seven shilling and four pence in 1665 for ‘bands and mendinge the lockes of the arke’, and who distrained on John Collinge for his rent.
In 1693 a lease was obtained from the Trustees of Stand Gramar School and a chapel built on the plot of land now occupied by the existing chapel. The School was held in the chapel on weekdays. The earliest known master of the school was Isaac Antrobus. In 1729 a separate room was built to be used for the school. William Walker died in 1770 after having been master of the school for 48 years. His predecessor as Master, a man named Watson, died in 1721. Some of the boys were boarders and lodged with the school-master’s father at the Old Hall. Until he was ten years old Robert Clive (Lord Clive of Plassey), was at the school during Walkerts headmastership. It is thought that he may have been a day boy and, about 1733, rode from Clifton each day. In that case he would ford the Irwell at Bradley Fold, where the brook from Mere Clough joins the Irwell. Alternatively he may have been a boarder at the Old Hall. At that time his uncle lived at Clifton Hall. Clive was the grandson of a trustee of Stand Chapel, Nathaniel Gaskell, who married Sarah, daughter of James Wilson of Poppythorn, Prestwich. Their elder daughter was Robert Clive’s mother. Nathaniel Gaskell was the son of Daniel Gaskell, also a trustee of the Chapel and a Prestwich landowner. Nathaniel also worshipped at the Unitarian Chapel on the corner of Marble Street and Mosley Street, Manchester. William Gaskell, pastor of the Cross Street Chapel and husband of Mrs. Gaskell, the novelist, was a descendant of Nathaniel.
In 1769 John Pope, Minister of Blackley Chapel was headmaster. No scholars were taught free. The endowment was to provide a residence for the Master. Mr. Pope taught Greek, Latin, French, Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra, English language, Pronunciation, Reading, Geography and History. The syllabus was , therefore, much wider than in the Public Schools of that time. He advertised that boys could be boarded at Mr. Walker’s, the former Master; Mr. Bond’s and also at the Old Hall where Mr. Pope lived. A writing master also attended the school.
It was not all peace in those years. Dissenters usually supported the Hanoverian monarchy so were a target for the Jacobites. On 21st June 1715 there was a Jacobite riot at Stand. About forty or fifty people broke the windows of the Chapel with stones, pulled down the seats and pews, broke and pulled down the pulpit, the sounding board and the belfry and took away the bell. The bell was later recovered and still hangs in the belfry. Eleven days earlier, on the birthday of the Old Pretender, Tom Syddall had led a Jacobite mob which wrecked Cross Street Chapel, Manchester. This was the first act of the 1715 Rebellion. The doors and windows were smashed in, the pulpit and pews pulled down and everything portable carried away so that only the badly damaged walls remained. After the 1715 Rebellion had been suppressed Tom Sydall was hanged at Manchester and his head impaled on the Market Cross.
In 1788 Stand Parsonage was given to the congregation by a relation of Mr. Kay of Stand House, this was probably Peter Walker, who at one time also lived at Stand House. The Rev. Leonard Smith in his researches has discovered that the house was used as a Parsonage as early as 1740.
The Sunday School at Stand started in 1808. At first it was held in the Chapel, and it was not until 1893 that a separate building with a house for the caretaker was built on the opposite side of Ringley Road on the corner of Ton Acre Lane (now Ten Acre Drive). In the 1970’s the building became unsafe and was demolished to male way for flats. A new Sunday School was built behind the Chapel.
It is difficult to understand how the name Stand Old Hall came into being. It seems certain that the original building was on the site of the present Old Hall, which is comparatively modern. It is possible that round about the time of the Norman Conquest the Pilkingtons lived in a building where the Old Hall now stands and that they built a new Hall opposite Stand Lane a few centuries later. To make things more confusing, in nineteenth century directories the hamlet behind the Old Hall is described as ‘Old Hall’, and it is sometimes difficult to be certain who was living in the Old Hall itself at a given time.
Richard Kay, a Bury surgeon, says in his diary on 1lth November, 1745: ‘This day, in the afternoon, I took off Joseph Allen’s wife (sic) leg at Old Hall near Stand, being bad for some years past; father, brother Robert, Mr. Nightingale, apprentice to Mr. Clough in Bolton, Mr. William Walker, schoolmaster at Stand and Mr. Braddock (Minister of Bury Chapel), were present.' Probably the Minister prayed before and after the operation. The operation may have been at a cottage in the hamlet.
A gravestone formerly in the burial ground of Stand Chapel bore two names, Ellen, wife of William Walker of Pilkington, died 2nd May 1775 and Mary, wife of William Walker died 19th October 1775. Thus, he buried two wives within six months, and before the year was out had married a third. He was a handloom weaver who lived at Goat’s Gate. It was said of him that 'he had two dead wives and one wick ‘un while he were on t’ same nankeen out.' His third wife died in 1804 and he himself died in 1815. He was 31 years old in the year his wives died.
There is a story that in the middle of the eighteenth century a dispute arose between a Prestwich man and an Unsworth man concerning which of them could produce the most gold coin. The trial was made at Unsworth village inn. The Prestwich men came in a procession, the central figure being a beautiful well-dressed girl on a white palfrey, attended by a bodyguard of mounted yeomen in Lincoln green. Despite this display, to his chagrin, the Prestwich man lost. This event came to be known as the Unsworth Guilding.The following population statistics are of interest:
1714 1789 1792 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 Whitefield 740 2455 2780 } 5786 7353 8976 11006 11186 12862 Unsworth No Return 575 755 } Outwood 315 780 915 }
In the first three years given, the population of Whitefield alone was nearly double that of Prestwich and greater than that of Prestwich and the Heatons combined. Thereafter, the combined population of Whitefield, Unsworth and Outwood for the period under review was always more than double that of Prestwich and the Heatons.
In 1776, at Snape Hill, died John Taylor, grandfather of John Edward Taylor, founder and first editor of the ‘Manchester Guardian’. He was a Unitarian and worshipped at the Chapel, where in 1789, the Rev. R. Aubrey decided to follow that form of religion. The transition to the Unitarian doctrine was gradual, for two of his predecessors were Arians. Disagreeing with the Unitarians., part of the congregation, led by Peter Walker, who had been a benefactor of the Chapel, formed Stand Independent Chapel in Stand Lane. It was illegal to call one-self a Unitarian until 1813.
John Taylor's eldest son, James was the grandfather of Mark Taylor of Poppythorn, Prestwich. The Taylors and Scotts were already closely related before John Edward Taylor married his cousin, Sophia Russell Scott, one of whose nephews was Charles Prestwich Scott, the famous editor of the 'Manchester Guardian’. A number of John Edward Taylor’s friends invested £1,100 to set him up with a paper of his own, i.e. the ‘Manchester Guardian’. Among the subscribers were George Phillips and Robert Philips, of whom more will be told later. Thomas Hughes the author of ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays was a contributor to the ‘Guardian’s’ London Letter.
The Mason Family were connected with the Chapel for several generations and their tomb is still in the Chapel burial ground. Samuel Mason of Poppythorn, Prestwich left a manuscript diary which gives interesting insights into the life of a farmer in this district in the early part of the nineteenth century. His son rented a farm in Philips Park. Samuel brought his manure (possibly nightsoil), up the Irwell by boat from Manchester to near the farm in Whitefield and carted some of it to Prestwich. Much of his produce he sold in Rochdale. Samuel suffered from frequent agonising headaches. From his diary it is evident that he was a great worrier, so possibly he suffered from migraine. He died in 1829. One of his ancestors, Richard Mason, born 1693, lived to be ninety-one years old.
The Unitarian Chapel was re-built in 1818. After 1839 it became possible for weddings to take place there. Baptisms and burials had always been legal.
The first step towards modern Whitefield made when Bury Old Road was constructed in 1755. Soon, cottages began to be built on either side of the road, for it was the main road between Manchester and Bury. By 1792 the population was 2,780. Even so, there were only a dozen tenements at Besses o’ th’ Barn, though in a newspaper of 19th January, 1746 there is an advertisement concerning a meeting of creditors at 'Bessy’s o’ th' Barn". It seems that the hamlet derived its name from an inn with a barn adjoining which stood on the ground where the Ambulance Station is now, the name of the landlady being Bess. The inn was demolished in the first half of the twentieth century. John F Wilson remembers changing in the inn when playing rugby for the Prestwich Club on a ground in Thatch Leach Lane, now covered by houses.
Even in the middle of the nineteenth century the district was also known as Stone Pale. Originally the Junction Hotel was known as Stone Pale Tavern. It bore that name in the 1780s. Some people believe that it was so-called because it was surround by stone paling fences. It is more probable that it got its name from the district, a name that came from the stone peles or lookout towers built by the Romans. Besses is quite near the old Roman Road and there may have been a pale nearby. The hotel was originally a farmhouse dating from 1580. The farm covered the present Jewish Burial Ground.
Part of the village of old Whitefield was on the road between Whitefield and Bury, nearer to Whitefield than Lily Hill. These cottages were thatched with straw and were occupied by hand-loom weavers and small tradesmen. Probably about the only men of any substance in Whitefield were the farmers. It is certain that the farm labourers would be extremely poor and that, following a bad harvest, many would be starving.
About 1800, a string band was founded at Besses o’ th’ Barn. It was the forerunner of the brass band which became world famous.
As one considers early Whitefield, certain points come to mind. It is puzzling that, unlike most Manors, there was no church near the Manor House, Stand Hall; the Hall lying in the Parish of Prestwich.
The Lily Hill area probably developed because of its proximity to the old Roman Road from Manchester to Ribehester, whereas the Four Lane Ends district probably developed because it was a cross-road where the lane from Prestwich to Bury intersected with a lane from Unsworthand another lane to Higher Lane, part of the Roman Road. This lane contained the pinfold where stray cattle were penned because it was convenient for all the nearby hamlets.
Whitefield probably developed by the two hamlets at Four Lane Ends and at Lily Hill extending until they met. Later the hamlets at Four Lane Ends and Besses would meet in a similar way.
When Whitefield Local Board of Health District was carved out of Pillkington in 1866, Stand was a residential area and Stand lane a thriving industrial area. Why, then, was the district named Whitefield and not Stand? All Saints Church built in 1829 was called Stand Church. The probable reason is that the hamlet of Whitefield lay on the main road to Bury and was a much busier area than Stand. Whitefield had more shops, more public houses and was more central for the new township than Stand, which lay on one of the boundaries.