Bridgewater Canal in Worsley,
with the Packet House in the background
|Worsley and Eccles South|
Worsley is a town in Lancashire that forms a suburb of Salford. The population of the town at the 2011 census was 10,035. It lies along the course of Worsley Brook, 5¾ miles west of Manchester. From the 11th century, Worsley formed a township in the ancient parish of Eccles.
Worsley has provided evidence of Roman and Anglo-Saxon activity, including two Roman roads. The completion in 1761 of the Bridgewater Canal allowed Worsley to expand from a small village of cottage industries to an important town based upon cotton manufacture, iron-working, brick-making and extensive coal mining. Later expansion came after the First and Second World Wars, when large urban estates were built in the region.
Today, Worsley is under consideration to be made a World Heritage Site, including Worsley Delph, a scheduled monument. A significant part of the town's historic centre is now a conservation area.
Worsley is first mentioned in a Pipe roll of 1195–96 as Werkesleia, in the claim of a Hugh Putrell to a part of the fee of two knights in nearby Barton-upon-Irwell and Worsley. There are many variations on the name; Werkesleia, 1195; Wyrkedele, 1212; Whurkedeleye, c. 1220; Worketley, 1254; Worcotesley, Workedesle, 1276; Wrkesley, Wrkedeley, Workedeley, 1292; Wyrkeslegh, Workesley, 1301; Worsley, 1444; and "Workdisley alias Workesley alias Worseley", 1581. The spelling of the name in early documents, suggests a Saxon origin. Ge-Weore, the Old English form of the name, means "the cleared place which was cultivated or settled." The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contain no references to Worsley.
Two Roman roads run through the area. Connecting Mamucium (Manchester) with Coccium (Wigan), one passes through Worsley near Drywood, and over Mosley Common. The present-day A6 road follows part of the course of another Roman road, which passes through the northern part of the area near Walkden and Little Hulton. In 1947 a hoard of 550 Roman coins was found near a quarry in Boothstown, dated to between AD 250 and 275, and in 1958 the head of a man was found on Worsley Moss. Named "Worsley man", and originally thought to be no more than 20 years old, upon the discovery of Lindow Man it was re-examined and dated to approximately the 2nd century AD, in the Romano-British period.
Worsley later fell under the control of the Anglo-Saxons, who controlled much of the area around Manchester and who also defeated the British at the Battle of Chester in AD 615. Edward the Elder rebuilt the fortifications at Manchester, and in AD 924 captured all the land between the rivers Mersey and Irwell, making it demesne in the Kingdom of Wessex. During the Middle Ages the area was covered with forests and marshlands. Thinly populated by craftsmen and serfs, Worsley grew as a settlement adjoining an ancient corn mill, close to the location of the present-day Worsley Road Bridge. Most farms throughout Lancashire were small with their tenants dependent upon secondary employment, however in 1719 a John Kay of Worsley had five stirks, two bulls, 17 cows, "young cattle upon the moors", and a "cow at hire", all valued at £97 5s. Marl was commonly used as a fertiliser, and is recorded in use in 1719. Wheeler's Manchester: Its Political, Social and Commercial History, Ancient and Modern (1836) states that about one-fifth of the land around Worsley, Astley and Tyldesley was in tillage, lower on average than the surrounding areas.
Worsley was, originally, the largest manor of the seven ancient manors of the Bridgewater Estates. It was created by William I and held for him by the Barton family in thegnage, and for them by a Norman knight named Elias, who fought in the crusades. On his death in Rhodes, the manor remained with Elias' son, whose family had by that time adopted the name of the village as its family name. On 23 June 1311 a substantial part of the Manor of Hulton was granted to the Worsleys. The family held both manors until the late 14th century, whereon they passed to the Massey family of Tatton, and then in the 16th century to the Brereton family of Malpas, Cheshire. The Brereton family added the Manor of Bedford (a small area of land to the west of Worsley) to the estate. Richard Brereton later married Dorothy Egerton, and upon his death the estates passed into the Egerton family.
In 1617 John Egerton, son of Sir Thomas Egerton, became Earl of Bridgewater. The Egerton family was descended from Sir Richard Egerton of Ridley, Cheshire. His illegitimate son, Thomas Egerton, was a prominent lawyer who served as Master of the Rolls from 1594 to 1603, and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal from 1596 to 1617 and also as Lord High Chancellor of England. John Egerton succeeded to Worsley in 1639, and died in 1649. He was succeeded by the second and third Earls of Bridgewater. The title of Duke of Bridgewater was first given to Scroop Egerton in 1720. He devised a navigation system for Worsley which was not carried out. His son, the third Duke of Bridgewater Francis Egerton, was to build the Bridgewater Canal.
The Duke purchased the Manor of Pemberton (near Wigan) in 1758, the Manor of Hindley in 1765, and the Manor of Cadishead in 1776. Upon his death in 1803 he was succeeded by George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland. In 1833 the estate was inherited by Gower's son, Francis Leveson-Gower who changed his surname to Egerton, and in 1846 became the Earl of Ellesmere. In 1836 he purchased the Manor of Tyldesley. He is recorded as saying that he found Worsley to be "a God-forsaken place, full of drunken, rude people with deplorable morals".
Worsley New Hall, designed by Edward Blore, was built in 1846 for Francis Egerton the First Earl of Ellesmere. The plans are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Queen Victoria visited the hall in 1851 and 1857; Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited when Edward was Prince of Wales in 1869, and on 6 July 1909. The hall was used as a hospital in World War I and in World War II housed Dunkirk evacuees, American soldiers preparing for D-Day and the Lancashire Fusiliers. In 1943 the hall was badly damaged by fire and demolished in 1949.
Coal has been mined around Worsley from as long ago as 1376, originally in bell pits. The coal seams in the area tend to be fairly thin, slanting downwards from north to south, and so deeper mining became necessary during the 17th century.
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the growing use of steam power, there was a rapid increase in the demand for coal. The Duke's mines were among those supplying the surrounding districts but transport was both inefficient and expensive, and the mines also suffered from persistent flooding. His solution to these problems was to build a canal from Worsley to Salford, and an underground canal into the mines from Worsley Delph. The canal boats would carry 30 tons at a time, – more than ten times the amount of cargo per horse that was possible with a cart. The Duke and his estate manager obtained an Act of Parliament empowering them to begin construction on a planned route directly to Salford, avoiding the River Irwell.
James Brindley was brought in for his technical expertise and suggested varying the route of the proposed canal away from Salford and across the Irwell into Manchester. A second Act was secured for this variance, which included an aqueduct to cross the Irwell. This was built relatively quickly for the time; work commenced in September 1760 and the first boat crossed on 17 July 1761. The canal opened in 1761 and along with the stone aqueduct at Barton-upon-Irwell, was considered a major engineering achievement. One writer said that when finished, it "will be the most extraordanary thing in the kingdom, if not in Europe. The boats in some places are to go underground, and in other places over a navigable river, without communicating with its waters ..."
Worsley Delph, now a scheduled monument, was the entrance to the Duke's underground mines. Two entrances, built years apart, allowed access to the Starvationer boats, the largest of which could carry 12 tons of coal. The entrances allow access to 46 miles of underground canal on four levels, linked by inclined planes.
The burgeoning village became a hub of commercial activity. The Duke employed craftsmen to service a wide range of industries including boat-making, plastering, blacksmithing and mining. A local quarry supplied limestone, for which a kiln was constructed at the junction of Barton Road (B5211) and Stableford Road. A quarry at the Delph supplied building materials for the region, including the stone used to construct Brindley's aqueduct. To accommodate the workers needed for these industries the Duke built extra housing and cottages. In a diary entry of 1773, Josiah Wedgwood wrote of the area "We next visited Worsley which has the appearance of a considerable Seaport Town. His Grace has built some hundreds of houses, & is every year adding considerably to their number." Worsley Green became a thriving centre of industry.
With the death of the Duke in 1803, his estates were inherited by his nephew, George Leveson-Gower, who later became the Duke of Sutherland. The canal and coal estates were placed under the control of the Bridgewater Trust, and in 1833 the rest of the estates were inherited by the Duke of Sutherland's son, Francis Leveson-Gower who changed his surname to Egerton, and in 1846 became the Earl of Ellesmere. The mines ceased production in 1887, and with the expiration of the Bridgewater Trust in 1903 the village began to change; the Duke's warehouse and the works on what is now Worsley Green were demolished. Worsley Brook was culverted, and a memorial fountain to the Duke was built from the bricks of the works' chimney.
Although much of the industry that dominated Worsley was in decline, in 1937 Sir Montague Maurice Burton opened a clothing factory along the East Lancashire Road. Built in the Art Deco style, in 1938 the factory employed 3,000 people.
Under the Housing Act 1919, large overspill estates were built by the council for veterans of the First World War, but a larger change to the area came after the end of the Second World War, when the City of Salford was forced to rehouse many of its inhabitants. With little land left, 4,518 new houses were built in the district by the Worsley Project. 18,000 people were rehoused under the scheme, which included new facilities, shops and schools. Another housing estate was built during the 1970s to the north of Worsley Green.
In 1944, during World War II, a flying bomb landed on a house near Worsley Dam. An Anti Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) was built in the 1950s. Although unused the building still exists, in wooded land to the west of the town, on the site of the former Worsley New Hall.
Worsley stands about 206 ft above sea level. Sheltered at the foot of a middle coal measure running approximately northwest and southeast across the area, the village lies along the course of Worsley Brook, which cuts through the ridge. The ridge also forms part of the northern edge of the Irwell Valley. The area is bordered on the north by the East Lancashire Road, and on the south by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and part of the Bridgewater Canal. The larger towns of Swinton and Eccles lie to the east and southeast respectively, and to the west the area is largely bordered by Chat Moss, open fields, and forest. The M60 and M62 motorways cut directly through the area.
The underlying measures of coal have proved important for the development of the area; it was around Worsley Delph that the settlement first began to grow. Parts of the area are within an indicated floodplain.
One of Worsley's early industries was weaving. A cottage industry, cotton would be spun on spinning wheels and hand-operated looms in people's homes to produce cloth. Merchants would then purchase this cloth, selling it at the Bridgewater Hotel, then known as the Old Grapes Inn.
Worsley now has little industry, and is in the main a tourist destination and commuter town. The area has two large hotels; a Novotel and a Marriott. Worsley Old Hall is now a public house and restaurant in the Brunning and Price chain, part of the Restaurant Group.
Worsley Village was in 1969 designated as a conservation area by the former Lancashire County Council. Bisected by the A572 Worsley Road, the area covered about 34¼ acres of land and included 40 listed buildings, such as the Packet House, a telephone kiosk, and the Delph sluice gates, but this list has since increased to 48 listed buildings. Much of the area around the canal and Worsley Delph was restored and landscaped between 1966 and 1967 by the Worsley Civic Trust and the local council, ready for a visit by Elizabeth II on 17 May 1968. As the canal passes through Worsley, iron oxide from the mines has, for many years, stained the water bright orange. The removal of this colouration is currently the subject of a £2.5 million remedial scheme.
Wardley Hall is an early mediæval manor house and a Grade I listed building in Wardley. The current hall dates from around 1500 but was extensively rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries. Worsley Old Hall is a Grade II listed building near Walkden Road. The Post-Mediæval building is said to have been moated, but no signs of the moat now remain.
Following an Act of Parliament of 1861, in 1864 the Eccles, Tyldesley and Wigan branch line was opened by the London and North Western Railway, along with a station at Worsley which required the demolition of six cottages. The first sod had been cut by the Earl of Ellesmere. An additional branch line to Bolton was opened in 1870, branching from the Tyldesley Loopline line at Roe Green. A railway station at Monton Green was opened in 1887 to cater mainly for commuters into Manchester. The lines were important thoroughfares for the transport of coal in the area, including Mosley Common Colliery. Both lines were closed under the Beeching Axe]in 1969, and have since been partially reclaimed by Salford City Council as recreational pathways.
Early public transport included the Farnworth horse-bus service, with a terminus at the nearby Stocks Hotel in 1885. An electric tram service was founded in 1903 by the South Lancashire Tramways Company.
Ellenbrook Chapel, the first church in Worsley was built in 1209 by the Worsley family. Methodism was first practised in the area in 1784, by the notable preacher Matthew Mayer. Later services were held in various locations around the area, and in 1801 a Methodist chapel was built along Barton Road. The foundation stone for St Mark's Church was laid on 14 June 1844 by George Granville Francis Egerton, the son of Francis Egerton. Designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott, the church was consecrated on 2 July 1846 by the Bishop of Chester, John Bird Sumner. The church tower is now home to the mechanism for the Bridgewater Clock from the Bridgewater workshops at Worsley Green. The clock strikes 13 times at 1 pm, originally so that workmen did not miss the end of their dinner break. Many gravestones in the churchyard were cut from rock sourced at Worsley Delph. Following a proposed hotel development in 1981 the area around the church and vicarage was designated a conservation area.
Worsley Golf Club was founded in 1894 on part of the Earl of Ellesmere's estate at Broadoak Park. The area has a clay pigeon shooting club, west of the M60. A racecourse development proposed on land near Boothstown was the subject of a public inquiry and rejected by the local council after a sustained campaign by local councillors.
Notable people from Worsley include the actress Helen Cherry, and television commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme. Statistician Harry Campion, who played a leading role in the development of official statistics after the Second World War, was born in Kearsley in May 1905 and brought up in Worsley. Arthur Thomas Doodson was a mathematician and oceanographer born in Boothstown in March 1890. Footballer Ryan Giggs caused controversy in the mid-2000s when he bought a Victorian mansion on the outskirts of the village for £1.9 million and demolished it to build a new house which cost up to £4 million.
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