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Bury Town Hall (2).jpg
Bury Town Hall
Grid reference: SD805105
Location: 53°35’35"N, 2°17’53"W
Population: 60,718
Post town: Bury
Postcode: BL9 & BL8 & BL0
Dialling code: 0161 / 01706 / 01204
Local Government
Council: Bury
Bury North

Bury is a large town in Lancashire; one of the industrialised towns close in with the contiguous townscape of the south of the county.

Bury stands on the River Irwell, 5½ miles east of Bolton, six miles west-south-west of Rochdale, and eight miles north-north-west of the city of Manchester. It is surrounded by several smaller towns and villages.

Bury emerged during the Industrial Revolution as a mill town centred, like much of South Lancashire, on textile manufacture.

Bury is regionally notable for its open-air market, Bury Market, and its popularity has been increased since the introduction of the Manchester Metrolink tram system, which terminates in the town. The market is known for its supply of a local traditional dish - black pudding, served hot or cold and can be eaten either as a takeaway snack, or more commonly as an accompaniment or main ingredient of a meal starter or main course.

One of Bury's most notable residents was Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and founder of the Metropolitan Police Service and of the Conservative Party. A monument to Peel is outside Bury parish church and another, the austere Peel Monument, stands on a hill overlooking the locality.


Early history

Bury was formed around the ancient market place but even prior to this there is evidence of activity dating back to the period of Roman occupation. Bury Museum has a Roman Urn containing a number of small bronze coins dated for AD 253-282 and found north of what is now the town centre.[1] Under Agricola]] the road building programme included a route from the fort]] at Manchester (Mamucium) to the fort at Ribchester (Bremetennacum) that ran through Radcliffe and Affetside. The modern Watling Street, that serves the Seddons Farm estate on the west side of town, follows the approximate line of the route.

The most imposing early building in the town in days gone by would have been Bury Castle,[2][3] a mediæval fortified manor house. The castle was built in 1469 by Sir Thomas Pilkington, lord of the manors of Pilkington and Bury and a powerful member of Lancashire's gentry. It sat in a good defensive position on high ground overlooking the Irwell Valley. At that time the Pilkingtons had been lords of Bury for nearly a century, having inherited the manor from a family named de Bury.

Bury Parish Church

The Pilkington family suffered badly in the Wars of the Roses when, despite the geography they supported the House of York. When Richard III was slain at Bosworth Field, in 1485, Thomas Pilkington was captured and later executed. The victor of the battle was Henry Earl of Richmond, henceforth Henry VII, and later in his reign he granted the confiscated Pilkington estate in Bury to his supporter Thomas Stanley, who had rendered invaluable assistance in suppressing a rebellion.

The ancestral home of the Earls of Derby is Knowsley Hall on the outskirts of Liverpool. The family maintains a connection with Bury in various ways - the Derby High School is named after them. When the school opened in 1959 the Earl of Derby was patron and the school's badge is based on the Earl's coat of arms.

For many years the castle remains were buried beneath the streets outside the Castle Armoury. From time to time it was the subject of archaeological excavations. These established that there was an earlier manor house on the site. In 2000 the castle site was properly excavated as a focal point in the town centre. The remains of the old walls are now displayed in Castle Square.

Between 1801 and 1830 the population of the town more than doubled from 7072 to 15086. This was the time when the factories, mines and foundries began to dominate the landscape with their spinning machines and steam engines.

Industrial Revolution

Probate evidence from the 17th century and the remains of 18th century weavers' cottages in Elton, on the west side of Bury, indicate that domestic textile production was an important factor of the local economy at a time when Bury's textile industry was dominated by woollens and based upon the domestic production of yarn and cloth as well as water-powered fulling mills.[4][5]

Development was swift in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The establishment of Brooksbottom Mill, in Summerseat north of the town, as a calico printing works in 1773 by the family of Sir Robert Peel marked the beginning of the cotton industry in Bury. By the early 19th century cotton was the predominant textile industry with the River Roch and River Irwell providing power for spinning mills and processing water for the finishing trades. Development was further promoted when the town was linked to the national canal network by the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, fully opened in 1808. The canal is provided with water from Elton Reservoir, fed by aqueducts from a weir on the River Irwell, north of what is now the Burrs Country Park. The Burrs is also the site of another mill developed by the Peel family, first founded in 1790. The remains are displayed for the public. There were seven cotton mills in Bury by 1818 and the population grew from 9,152 in 1801 to 58,029 in 1901.

Following this, railways opened, linking the town from Bury Bolton Street railway station to Manchester, Radcliffe, Rawtenstall and Accrington and from the old Knowsley Street railway station to the neighbouring mill towns of Bolton, Heywood and Rochdale. As well as the many cotton mills other industries which thrived included paper–making, calico printing and some light engineering. The town expanded to incorporate the former townships of Elton, Walmersley and Heap and rows of terraced housing encircled the town centre by the turn of the 19th century. Districts such as Freetown, Fishpool and Pimhole were transformed from farmers' fields to rows of terraced housing, beside the factories and mills.

The houses were of the most limited kind without basic facilities, sewers or proper streets. The result was the rapid spread of disease and high mortality rates in crowded areas. In 1838 out of 1,058 working class houses in Bury investigated by the Manchester Statistical Society 733 had 3-4 people in each bed, 207 had 4-5 and 76 had 5-6.[6] Social reformers locally and nationally were concerned about such issues, including Edwin Chadwick. One report that prepared the ground for the reform of public health matters, commissioned by then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, asked local doctors for information. King Street, Bury was highlighted. It had 10 houses, each with one bedroom, and a population of 69. The average age of death in Bury was 13.8 years. Towns like Bury were likened to 'camps'[7] where newcomers sought work in mill, mine or forge. Many, often from Ireland found shelter in lodging houses. 38 in Bury were surveyed.[8] 73% had men and women sharing beds indiscriminately, 81% were filthy and the average was 5.5 persons to a bed.

Although Bury had few of the classic late 19th century spinning mills that were such a feature of other Lancashire towns a group, known as Peel Mills, are still in use at Castlecroft Road, immediately north of the town centre, their name another reminder of the link with the Peel family.

Lancashire Fusiliers

Lancashire Fusiliers War Memorial

According to writer Geoffrey Moorhouse, a history of Bury is not complete without reference to its role as the regimental town of the Lancashire Fusiliers.[9]

In 1688 Colonel Sir Robert Peyton raised a Regiment containing six independent companies in the Exeter area to aid Prince William of Orange (soon to be King William III after his landing at Brixham, Devon, ion 5 November that year. In 1782 the title of the regiment was changed to the XX or East Devon Regiment of Foot and from 1 July 1881 became the XX The Lancashire Fusiliers. The link with Bury and the Fusiliers started at this time when, following successful recruiting in Lancashire a Regimental Depot was established in Bury, Wellington Barracks, in 1881. Wellington Barracks became XX The Lancashire Fusiliers Regimental Headquarters in 1961.

The regiment has been involved in many campaigns and peace keeping duties including the Jacobite uprising, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, the Indian Mutiny and both world wars. Since moving to Bury the Lancashire Fusiliers were part, in 1898, of the force that relieved Khartoum and fought in the Battle of Omdurman and in 1899–1902 during the Boer War took part in the battles of Spion Kop and the Tugela Heights, leading up to the Relief of Ladysmith.

In 1914, the regiment was 4th Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force, the first force to enter France against the Germans. On 24 April 1915 the taking of W beach at Gallipoli six men were each awarded the Victoria Cross. The six were chosen by their comrades for the 'action before breakfast'; this gave rise to the local phrase "Six VCs before breakfast" in reference to the event.

The losses in the Dardanelles had a sharp impact on the town. They were all the more pronounced because many of those killed and wounded were from the regiment's Territorial Battalion based in the town. Like the Pals battalions, it recruited from a small area. It also consisted largely of part-time soldiers who had volunteered for regular service at the outbreak of war and who therefore had strong community ties. They were literally, the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker - who had wives and children resident in the town.

As a consequence, for many years afterwards Gallipoli Day was as much a part of the town's mourning for First World War dead as Armistice Day or latterly Remembrance Sunday.

During Second World War the regiment fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino, where Fusilier Jefferson won a VC in July 1943. They were also involved in the D-Day landings, with a successful attack on Villers-Bocage in July 1944. Subsequently they were involved in Burma, at the Suez Canal and Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau rebellion.

In 1968 four fusiliers regiments, the Lancashire, Royal Northumberland, Royal Warwickshire and Royal Fusiliers were amalgamated to create the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The bringing together of the various regiments saw the demise of the Lancashire regiment's distinctive primrose hackle - the yellow feathers worn above the cap badge. In its place all the battalions adopted the red and white emblem of the Northumberland Fusiliers who were the senior (oldest) regiment to be absorbed into the newly created Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

After the end of national service, with less need to recruit and train soldiers most of Wellington Barracks was redeveloped for housing and playing fields. Parts of the perimeter wall are still visible but the only part of the site still in military use is the Regimental Headquarters and social club. Sited in Elton on the west side of Bury the barracks fronted Bolton Road, the A58 at the corner with Haig Road. This and other local streets in the estate opposite, including Kitchener, Connaught, White, Buller and Powell Streets were named after prominent army figures.

A memorial to the Lancashire Fusiliers who died in the First World War was placed at the front of the former barracks. Designed by Edwin Lutyens, architect of the Whitehall cenotaph, the memorial is a Grade II listed monument. Because his father and great uncle had been officers in the regiment Lutyens declined a fee for his work. The monument, 19.3 feet high and built of Portland stone, was unveiled in April 1922.[10] In 2009, and after some local controversy, the memorial was moved to Bury town centre where in now stands adjacent to a new regimental museum.

In 1859, the 8th Lancashire (Bury) Rifle Volunteer Corps was formed and a new drill hall was proposed. In 1868 the drill hall, or Castle Armoury, was built on the historical site of Bury Castle. To reflect the 'castle' the drill hall has a fortified style with castellations, gargoyles, turrets, towers, arrow slits and other Norman architectural features on the façade. Above the main gate, with a large semi-circular arch, is a large coat of arms incorporating the Lancashire Fusiliers' badge and motto "Omnia Audax", translating to "Dare Anything". Three plaques on the east wall of the drill hall commemorate those who fell in two world wars and the Boer War.

A platoon of Fusiliers still resides at Castle Armoury. It is also HQ East Lancashire Wing of the Air Training Corps and the Bury Detachment of the Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force and accommodates G Squadron of 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital (Volunteers).

The front of the Castle Armoury building has been used regularly as the fictional entrance to 'HMP Weatherfield' in the soap opera Coronation Street.

Recent history

Terraced housing in Bury 1958

In the post-war period, there was a major decline in the cotton industry, and in common with many neighbouring towns, Bury's skyline was soon very different, with countless factory chimneys being pulled down and the associated mills closing their doors forever. The old shopping area around Princess Street and Union Square was demolished in the late 1960s, and a concrete precinct emerged to replace it. This development was replaced by the Mill Gate Shopping Centre in the late 1990s.

Another large shopping area is located around the Rock. The main street is populated mainly by independent shops and food outlets. At the top end of the street, however, is a modern shopping area.

The town centre is still famous for its traditional market, with its "world famous" black pudding stalls. Bury Market was also once famous for its tripe, although this has declined in the past few decades. The Bury Black Pudding Co provides black pudding to retailers such as Harrods as well as supermarkets and the Market is a haven for people from all over the Manchester conurbation and beyond. The last 30 years have seen the town developing into an important commuter town for neighbouring Manchester. Large scale housing development has taken place around Unsworth, Redvales, Sunnybank, Brandlesholme, Limefield, Chesham and Elton. The old railway line to Manchester Victoria closed in 1990, and was replaced by the light rapid transit system Metrolink in 1992. The town was also linked to the M66 motorway network, opening in 1978, accessed from the east side of the town.

Sights of the town

  • The East Lancashire Railway, a heritage railway which runs from the town to Heywood, Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. Based at Bury Bolton Street railway station.
  • Bury Art Museum, containing the Wrigley collection of paintings including works by Turner, Cox and De Wint.
  • Bury Castle, a fortified manor house built in the mid 13th century by Sir Thomas Pilkington and is now protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument; the foundations have been excavated and have been open to the public since 2000.[2][3]
  • Bury's 'World Famous' Market, which has been on the same site for nearly 600 years; the original licence for a market was granted in 1444. In 2006, out of 1,150 markets in the UK, Bury Market was voted the best 'British Market of the Year' by the National Association of British Market Authorities. The market was also selected as Radio 4's Food and Farming Awards Market of the Year in 2008. It receives over 1,000 coachloads of visitors every year.[11]
  • Castlesteads, an ancient promontory fort and scheduled monument.
  • The regimental museum of the Lancashire Fusiliers has now moved to a new museum on Moss Street in Bury.[12]
  • Peel Tower, Harcles Hill, built in remembrance of Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who was born in Bury. Hundreds of people climb to the tower each year on Good Friday. Historically this gathering was a principally religious observance.
  • Bury Parish Church, the Church of St Mary the Virgin, on the Market Place in the centre of the town.[13]
  • Silver Street and environs contain many examples of mid-Victorian architecture, using York stone, from the pre-Gothic revival period.


  • Football: Bury FC

Black pudding

Bury is known for its black puddings[14] so much so, that it is not uncommon to see it as "Bury Black Pudding" on a menu. Bury simnel cake is also a variant of the cake originating in Bury. Bury is also notable for tripe, though there is less demand for this in modern times.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bury)


  1. Dobb, Arthur J (1970), 1846 Before and After - A Historical Guide to the Ancient Parish of Bury, Bircle Parish Church Council 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bury Castle, Bury Educational Schools Net, http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/tcsc/millennium2/Castle/Bury_Castle.htm, retrieved 4 January 2008 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bury Castle, Pastscape.org.uk, http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45189, retrieved 4 January 2008 
  4. Spinning the Web
  5. McNeil, Robina; Nevell M. (2000), A guide to the industrial archaeology of Greater Manchester, Association for Industrial Archaeology, ISBN 978-0-9528930-3-5 
  6. Bannister, Jean (1974), From Parish to Metro - Two Centuries of Local Government in a Lancashire Town, Bury Times, ISBN 978-0-9504263-0-3 
  7. Smellie, Kingsley Bryce (1946), A history of local government, G. Allen & Unwin ltd, ISBN 0-04-352016-2 
  8. Health of Towns Commission, 1844
  9. Moorhouse, Geoffrey (1992), Hell's Foundations - A Town, Its Myths and Gallipoli, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-43044-6 
  10. Wyke, Terry; Cocks, Harry (2004), Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-0-85323-567-5 
  11. www.burymarket.com
  12. Fusiliers' Museum, Lancashire
  13. National Heritage List 1067236: Parish Church of St Mary, Bury
  14. Bentley, James (2 February 2006), Bury Market: best in UK, BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2006/02/02/020206_bury_market_award_feature.shtml, retrieved 1 August 2009