BURNAGE - As it used to be


Many years ago an old woman in Mauldeth Road, who had evidently tramped out from Hulme on her way to Stockport, asked the way to Burnage "where all that waste land is". She was apparently ignorant of any use to which land can be put, other than for building purposes.

In a way she was speaking more truly than she realised, for in the year 1085, the Domesday Book records all this South side of Manchester as 'wasteland'. In fact, all Burnage; Levenshulme; Rusholme; Longsight; Choriton-cum-Hardy; Didsbury; Withington; and the Heaton areas constituted a wilderness of marsh, bog and forest inhabited by wild boar; wolf; fox; eagle; hawk; and heron. Many modern place names are reminiscent of this wild past. 'Rusholme' - a place of rushes; 'Wythenshawe' - where 'wyths', now known as willows grew; 'Moss Side' which is self explanatory, as is Moor End (near Bramhall). After the Norman conquest, William granted large tracts of land to his barons, on condition that they rendered military service to the Crown.

When the Barony of Mamcestre was formed, 'Wythington' was a large district which included the areas now known as Burnage; Chorlton-cum-Hardy; Rusholme; Fallowfield; Levenshulme; and Didsbury. The Lord of Mamcestre taxed this, in total, at 1-11 shillings per year. (In 1300, the rent on three acres of land, for six months, was one and a half old pence).

Burnage has no Manor House. It was evidently never a village, being first just a hamlet and later a township. In neighbouring Levenshulme, inhabitants referred to their residential area as 'the village', up to relatively modern times. In 1724, Manchester was described as 'the largest, most rich, populous and busy village in England, having 2,400 families, with great trade.'

In its rural past, such lanes as were paved were set with cobbles, known as 'petrified kidneys'. The only drainage was through pipes, uncemented and without traps, from houses to nearby brooks. Rats were common and large, in such conditions. A pump, in the residence of 'Oakleigh' was valued as a source of drinking water and paths led to it from cottages in Moorton Avenue and 'High Lane' (now 'Crossley Road'), through the land belonging to 'Oakleigh'. No charge was made for this public access. At Green End, the only water supply was a roadside well. It was populated by snails, but locals took this in their stride, as well as in their tea. No night illumination was available, beyond what nature or individuals provided. The one educational establishment was a dame's school, conducted by Mrs. Choriton in one of the cottages at Green End. This was before the Education Act of 1872, so attendance was optional. Later, the Burnage Congregational Sunday School was established.

In Fog Lane, a row of tall cottages was known as 'Cotton Shops'. It was the centre for a cottage industry of handloom weaving, finished pieces being traded with local merchants. Similar work was pursued at a cottage named 'Barcicroft', near Green End, by John Watt and his sons. They later established the firm of S. & J. Watts, in a warehouse in Portland Street, Manchester. One son, Samuel, lived at Burnage Hall. Published by kind permission of the United Reform Church Green End was once a village green, with a picturesque, tumble-down signpost, at the conjunction of three lanes. The site of Burnage Elementary School was once occupied by the residence of a local eccentric, named Dyer. It was called 'The Acacias'. He added a tower structure, intended as his mausoleum, but objections by neighbours prevented its use in this manner and it was later demolished. A company named Malcolm ran a horse omnibus service, from Burnage to Manchester. The Malcolms were evidently public spirited, as the service was free. Later, a horse-drawn train service was established, running from Levenshulme to Manchester. However, it was still common for shoppers to walk the journey, both ways. The wealthier, such as the Watts, travelled by private gig. The 'Bazaar', later Kendal Milne's pre-war Manchester site, was a popular destination for out-of-town shoppers.


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