William the Conqueror's survey in 1086 made reference to two churches of Manchester, St. Mary and St. Michael. It is thought that St. Mary was the possible predecessor of the present Cathedral.
Gorton was part of the parish of Manchester which formed part of the Salford Hundred. The parish of Manchester at the end of the 13th. century covered an area of 60 square miles. According to the records held in Manchester the name Gorton appears in documents as far back as the year 1282 (6). This corresponds with the 'Higsons' (a local historical record) of there being such a village township in the parish of Manchester.
In the year 1309 a Thomas Crelly, Baron of Manchester, gifted a John De La Warre a knight and his wife Joan, the Manor of Manchester (1). Records show that once he had come into possession of the manor he gave it away along with other family property, to the Cistercian Abbey of Dore, but retained the title Lord of Manchester. So for sixteen years the real manorial lords were an Abbot and a Monastery of white monks in Hertfordshire. This may explain the names Geoffrey and Hugh of the Abbey (1). Who may have received grants at this time, or have been sent from Dore. This would account for the latter name Abbey Hey. They each held one dwelling with outbuildings and land in Gorton, at a rent of 4s 5d a year. The 'Harland' record suggests that the mill at Manchester granted by Robert Grelly, second Baron to Swineshead nearly two hundred years earlier was the water-driven mill in Gorton and that this gave rise to the name Abbey Hey (1), but this historian goes on to say that this appellation of the Abbey seems hardly likely to have persisted all this time.
On the death of John De la Warre the heir to the manor of Manchester was a Thomas De La Warre, brother to John. Thomas was a priest and conceived the plan of forming a college under the authority of the bishop. Thomas handed over his manor house to be the home of the collegiate body and in the 17th. century became the school founded by Humphrey Chetham. Today its the Cheetham School of Music and the Cathedral draws it's choir boys from this famous school (3).
Originally Gorton was sub-divided into four hamlets, Gorton Village, Abbey Hey, Gorton Brook (known as bottom O'Gorton) and Longsight. The atmosphere of the district is cold, especially Abbey Hey and Winning Hill, arising from their elevated position. The former hamlet being at least l5Oft. higher than the town of Manchester. The nature of the soil is clay and the locality is a healthy one, proof of longevity can be found in the Chapel yards. Although the age of longevity has increased in general with benefits of modern medicine, people who live in the eastern parts of Gorton may not live any longer than other people, but I am sure they will agree and will tell you that the temperature in winter is always that few degrees colder at the eastern end of Gorton especially in Abbey Hey (4).
In 1422 the Collegiate Church talked about erecting Chapel's of Ease in the Manchester area, Gorton Chapel was one of these Chapels. This was a black and white building and was so low at its northern end that a grown person could touch the eaves. It had an earthen floor covered in Rushes which were renewed annually on wakes Sunday held then and now on the first Sunday in September.
Rushbearing always took place on the Friday before the first Sunday in September. The cart was usually built outside one of the many hostelries in the district. The Lord Nelson in Fox Fold, or the Waggon and Horses on Gorton Lane (The latter was renamed the Chapel House)(8) which has been demolished.
The people of Denton St. Lawrence's Chapel, worshipped at Gorton Chapel previous to their Chapel being erected in 1531-1532. From this we can assume that Gorton Chapel was in existence in the late 1400s (4).
Confusion is not difficult when talking about Gorton Chapel. Especially in the year 1703 when Gorton had two Chapels. In a bi-centenary pamphlet, the Reverend George Evans M.A. a minister of Brookfield Church, tells us that at that time there was religious turmoil in the area and a few people in the village, were dissatisfied with the tenants of the State Church. They openly dissented from its teachings and would not attend the Parish Church. They met in secret in an upper room of a house near the top of Cross Lane, just where it joined Abbey Hey Lane (5).
'Higson' tells us that the house was a thatched cottage where old George Aveyard resided who was a sexton at the lower chapel.
A dissenting Chapel was built and opened for worship in 1703 approximately, in an area known as Gorton Vale. This was the building where the fore fathers of Brookfield Church met to worship God each Sunday. The Reverend Joseph Ramsbotham accepted the ministry about July 1801 and established a day school, which he taught in dissenting, selected young men from his congregation as teachers. Then opened a Sunday School in the cottage adjoining their Chapel.
Another pamphlet on the history of Gorton Chapel tells us more about the first Chapel and about an incident which relates to the Chapel. The Chapel was built in the Ancient custom of 'Raddel and Dawb'. Transverse pieces of wood and between them inter-sections, these being interwoven with brambles and under wood filled with clay. The pulpit was situated midway in the Chapel and was fitted with a sound board. The congregation sat on benches and forms with their feet in rushes which were re-placed on the first Sunday after Rushbearing. There was a small gallery on the north side, raised a little above the rest of the Chapel, and was known as Chetham's loft. Humphrey Chetham, his family and servants came from Clayton Hall on horseback and worshipped at Gorton Chapel. He died in 1653 but in his will he left a chained library for the edification of the people of Gorton which had to contain such books as Calvins, Prestons, and perthing works, comments or annotations upon the Bible (7). The chained library has now been placed in the care of the 'Cheethams School of Music' next to Manchester Cathedral.
In 1745 a Mr. Green and two other men, all butchers, were doing their rounds of the farms when they were approached by a man from Goose Green, who informed them that the rebels were in the vicinity. Not wanting to lose their houses they made off towards Stockport down Hall Street (Which is now Hengist Street) and over Maidens Bridge into open country. There they were seen by a servant girl from Sunny Brow Farm, who taking them for rebels grabbed a rifle off the wall and ran into the fields where some crofters were working. She ran to a man called Joseph Taylor and told him these men on horseback were rebels. Joseph Taylor took aim and brought one down, hitting him on the thigh, the other two got away. He died four days after being shot. At a trial on the death of the butcher, it was brought in as accidental death being done from a patriotic standpoint. Joseph Taylor was a warden at Gorton Chapel. He died on the 20th. January 1800 and was buried in Gorton Chapel (7). Previous to his death he built Britton row, a row of terraced houses running between the Lord Nelson and the Vale Cottage public houses. The Johnson map of 1820 shows us Goose Green marked in a position off Abbey Hey Lane where Abbey Hey school is now (9).
In 1755 the original Gorton Chapel was replaced by a new one, which was referred to as St. Thomas Chapel. It has been officially stated that there never has been a church or Chapel in the Parish dedicated to St. Thomas. This Chapel was a brick building and stood in what is now the Church Yard. The bricks came from Gorton brickyard and Harrison's of Droylsden. They were carted on horseback, 50 at a time, the roads were impassable any other way. his Chapel had a gallery on the North, South, and West sides. The spot is clearly indicated by the graves. The ministers were supplied by the Collegiate Church (8).
Records show that on the site of St. James Parish Church Gorton (which was the area of Gorton green), another two Chapels have stood. The present church of St. James was built in 1871 (8). The chapels were under the protection of the college authorities of Manchester, which corresponds to the Cathedral Chapter now.
1946 saw the 75th. anniversary of the present church of St. James Gorton and a souvenir programme of the celebration takes us through the history of the Parish Church.
The Lord Nelson still stands, the front door is now the back door and if you find time to take a look you will still see the sign on the wall FOX FOLD. The Rushes were first perambulated around the village and teemed down at the entrance to the Chapel. The old ones from the previous year being removed on the Sunday following Rushbearing. The Rushcart festival was revived in Gorton by the Gorton Morris Men during 1980 and appreciated by the residents. Many dancers took part from Guildford, Lincoln, Clitheroe, Poynton, Failsworth and Stockport. The last recorded festival in Gorton is said to have been in 1824 (16).
Stan Clarke 1991
942.743 Th. Gorton Library.
History of Manchester to 1852 by W H Thompson B.A.
(late history master William Hulme Crammer).
1st. published 1966 W H Thomson 1966
Manchester Public Libraries 80-661407
Publisher, John Sherratt and Son, Altrincham
942.733 Vol.l 80-58563. Manchester Streets and Manchester Men by T Swindells.
Manchester Cathedral. by Conon Hedley Hodkin. Pitkin Pictorials. Page 8.
'Higsons' Gorton Historical Recorder.
A Short History of Gorton Chapel (now Brookfield Church) by C. Evans.
A Bi-Centenary Celebration Pamphlet of the opening of the old Gorton Chapel in the
year 1703 approx. Manchester Central Library.
942.733938. M S C The Local History Department Manchester Central Library.
History of Gorton Chapel from 1500. Pamphlet from St. James Gorton.
Gorton History, souvenir and programme of celebrations.
Gorton Parish Church. (St. James) 75th Anniversary of the present church. 1871-1946.
Longsight Past and Present by Gay Sussex. Librarian Longsight Library.
Local History, Gorton Library, 941RI A HANDBOOK FOR BEGINNERS by Philip Riden.
ISBN 0 7134 3870 3. Published Batford Academic and Educational Ltd.
4 Fritzharding St. London WlH OAH.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
1. Great Britian-History, Local
ISBN 0-7134-3871-1 Pbk
F942 .7389 M79 VOL.12 P.78
Manchester Central Library Local History Department.
Taken from the Manchester Times (weekly) about 7-11-1890
Victoria County History
Ref. Gorton q 942 733938 T U 1
Local History Department. Manchester Library. (pamphlet)
Title: The Turn of the Century. An exhibition at Gorton Library. 2-7-1979.
Published to commemorate the opening of Gorton Library in 1901.
East Manchester Reporter 24-8-1979. Words A. Renshaw.
The Toll Bars of Manchester by S.W. Partington with sketches by F.L. Tavere.
First published in 1920 by Sherratt and Hughes, Manchester.
Reprinted in 1983 by Neil Richardson, 375 Chorley Road, Swinton, Manchester.
ISBN 0 907511 24 4
East Manchester Reporter 19-8-1990.
Manchester Evening News 10-6-1980.
Manchester City News 21-12-1901. Cutting held in Gorton Library.
The opening of the John Buckley Library Gorton 14-12-1901.
Pamphlet held in Gorton Library.
Gorton and Openshaw Reporter 11-4-1975.
The disappearing face of Gorton. by A. Renshaw.
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