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Congleton in 1837

A market town and borough in the county of Cheshire. It is in the parish of Astbury, in the eastern extremity of the hundred of Northwich, on the Staffordshire border ; 42 miles nearly due east from Chester in a straight line, and 162 NNW from London. It appears to be a place of great antiquity, and is supposed to have been a Roman military station. The present town is a mile in length, and contains many of the ancient houses of Cheshire, which are constructed entirely of a timber frame-work and plaster. It is beautifully situated in a deep and picturesque valley on the banks of the river Dane. At the west end are numerous detached mansions of the opulent manufacturers of the place, surrounded with shrubbery’s and ornamental gardens. In the ancient part is the guildhall, a commodious brick building, with a piazza for those who attend the market. The general appearance of the town is neat and respectable, and it bears a character for remarkable healthiness. The Macclesfield canal, and the great road from Lichfield and Stafford to Manchester, pass through it. The population in 1831 was 9,352, of whom 4,474 were males, and 4,878 were female. At this time there were 27 families employed in agriculture, and 1,664 families employed in the silk manufacture, which of late years has greatly increased. The silk-mills erected on the banks of the river are very extensive. Ormerod, in his History of Cheshire, speaks of 28 in the year 1819, for ribands, and other kinds of silk fabric. The manufacture of Congleton is almost wholly confined to black silks. In thrown-silks it exceeds the manufacture of Macclesfield, though in fancy-silks, and in the whole amount of business, it is much inferior. It is observed in the ‘Report on the Municipal Corporations’ (1835), that no new works have been erected since 1825, and that the state of the manufacture is not such as to offer encouragement to any additional speculations. It is added that the silk goods are greatly exposed to depredations ; detection being difficult in consequence of the smallness of the bulk in proportion to the value. There is no cotton manufactory within the boundary of the borough, but there are several immediately beyond it. There are also some tanneries and some manufactures of leather. This town was formerly celebrated for tagged leather laces, called Congleton points. The borough of Congleton is co-extensive with the township of Congleton, which is one of several which constitute the parish of Astbury. It is divided into three wards, with six aldermen and eighteen councillors.

The living is a perpetual curacy subordinate to the rectory of Astbury ; but though the chapelry extends over an area of 2,500 acres, the stipend is only about £140 a year. The dissenting chapels are numerously attended, including one of Catholics. The Methodists and Independents have schools each, with several hundred scholars. There is a free grammar-school, with sixty-eight scholars, who are taught Latin and Greek ; also several Sunday-schools, an infant-school, and several endowed charities.

The licensed public-houses are very numerous - there are 50, and 52 beer-shops within the space of 300 yards. The market-day is on Saturday ; and fairs are held on Thursday before Shrovetide, May 12, July 5, and November 22, for cattle and pedlars’ wares.