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Macclesfield in 1839

MACCLESFIELD, a market-town and borough, in the county palatine of Cheshire, is situated in the hundred of Macclesfield and parish of Prestbury. Under the Municipal Corporation Act it is divided into six wards, with twelve aldermen and thirty-six councillors. By the Reform Act the townships of Sutton and Hurdsfield were annexed to the parliamentary borough, which sends two members to parliament. The population of Macclesfield in 1801 was 8,743 ; in 1811 it amounted to 12,999 ; in 1821 to 17,746 ; and in 1831 to 23,129. The number of inhabited houses in 1831 was 4,543; of families, 4,740, of whom 4,366 were employed in trade and manufactures. Sutton contained 5,856 inhabitants, and Hurdsfield 3,083. The united population of Macclesfield, Sutton, and Hurdsfield was at that time 32,068, and is now computed to be 40,000. Macclesfield is 168 miles north-north-west from London, and 19 from Manchester.

The son of Henry III, as earl of Chester, made Macclesfield, in 1260, a free borough, consisting of 120 burgesses. Various advantages were afterwards granted to the burgesses by Edward III, Richard II, Edward IV, Elizabeth, and Charles II.

The town of Macclesfield is now the chief seat in the island of the silk-throwing trade, which progressively advanced from 1808 to 1825, when it attained its greatest prosperity. From this prosperity it rapidly declined, and in 1832 there were only forty-one mills at work out of seventy two. In 1824 not fewer than 10,229 throwsters or spinners were employed : but so many were thrown out of work that the number was reduced to 3,622 in 1832. This valuable trade of spinning raw silk flourished in consequence of the protection it received against the introduction of thrown silks from France and Italy. Some notion of the growth of the silk-trade in Macclesfield may be formed, when it is considered that every variety of silk article is now produced in this town, from the narrowest ribbon to the different kinds of sarsnets, plain and figured gros de Naples, satin, silk vestings, and velvets. It is likewise the chief place for the manufacture of silk handkerchiefs of every description, although it suffers from the competition of bandana handkerchiefs from India. This last circumstance, combined with the introduction of the broad silks from the Continent, has reduced wages in Macclesfield more than one-half, and occasionally involves the silk-weavers in the greatest distress.

Macclesfield is situated on the west side and at the base of a range of high land which is on the borders of Cheshire and Derbyshire, and is a part of the mountain-region of the latter county. The Bollen, an affluent of the Mersey runs through the town, the lower part of which is called the Waters. A canal which unites the Grand Trunk and Peak Forest canals passes close to Macclesfield, and thus opens a water communication with most parts of England.

Macclesfield contains four principal streets, diverging from the market place in various directions ; and there are four chief entrances from London, Chester, Manchester, and Buxton. The town-hall is a good building, designed by Goodwin, and decorated with great taste, and the public room is well adapted for concerts and meetings. A subscription library, founded in 1770, contains nearly 20,000 volumes, and is also a depository of the public records. The butchers'-market is a very neat, compact, and suitable range of buildings adjoining the general market. The court-house and gaol for the hundred of Macclesfield are also situated in the market-place. The town is supplied with water conducted in pipes from the adjoining hills, and the money paid for it goes to the borough fund. There are two fire-engines, and the town is lighted with gas. The various factories are situated on the Bollen. One of the cotton-factories cost £30,000, and some of the silk factories £14,000 ; but the value of the latter has been much depressed by the deterioration of the silk-trade. The common at the foot of the range of hills on the east side of the town has been enclosed in consequence of an act passed for that purpose in 1791 ; it is now partly built upon, and the rest highly cultivated. There is an excellent steam-mill for grinding corn in this part of the town. There are two banking establishments, and a branch from the Imperial Bank of Man-chester. The corn and butchers' markets take place on Tuesday and Saturday. The fairs for cattle, cloth, toys, &c., are, May 6th, June 22nd, July 11th, October 4th, and November 11.

The dispensary, erected in 1814, has one physician, three honorary surgeons, and one house-surgeon, with a salary of £100 per annum. There is one savings'-bank, eight benefit societies for males, each consisting of 400 or 500 members, and four for females, of about 300 to 400 members each. There are many trusts for charitable purposes. The free grammar-school was endowed with lands in 1502 by Sir John Percyval, sometime lord-mayor of London, who is said to have been born in this city. It afterwards fell into the hands of the crown, and in April 26th, 6th year of the reign of king Edward VI, a new foundation took place. The annual revenue now amounts to £1,300 per annum. By act of parliament (1838) four exhibitions of £50 each for Oxford and Cambridge are established, and a commercial school is to be connected with the grammar-school.

St. Michael's church was founded by Eleanor, queen of Edward I, in 1278. Its architecture is partly Gothic ; the chancel end, which has been rebuilt, contains a painted window representing our Saviour, the four Evangelists, and Moses delivering the Ten Commandments. There are two chapels adjoining this church ; one belonged to Thomas Savage, archbishop of York, whose heart was buried here in 1508 : this chapel now belongs to the marquis of Cholmondeley. The other chapel belongs to the Legh family of Lyme, one of whose ancestors, as appears from a brass plate in it, served king Edward III and his son the Black Prince, during all their wars in France, and the estate of Lyme was given him for recovering a standard at the battle of Cressy. He afterwards served Richard II, and was beheaded at Chester. Sir Peers, the son of Perkins, served Henry V, and was slain at the battle of Agincourt.

Christ Church was built by Charles Roe, Esq., who acquired a fortune in the silk trade, and was among the first to establish it. The two churches of St. Michael and St. George have sittings for 4,500. St. George’s church, Sutton, and Trinity church, Hurdsfield, have 1,300 seats.There are various meeting-houses belonging to the different classes of Dissenters.

A mechanics' institution was formed a few years ago by one of the principal manufacturers or this town, with the view of encouraging the efforts of some young men who had already been associated for scientific purposes. Various branches of the arts and sciences are now taught to 150 members, and the musical class has made such progress as to treat the town with a concert, which was attended by 1,500 persons. When the Factory Commissions first visited Macclesfield, a census was taken by the manufacturers of the state of education of the children in their employment, and it was found that 96 per cent. could read : the inability of the remaining four parts was accounted for by the circumstance of their belonging to families newly arrived from the country, and their wanting such dress as they thought
necessary for appearing at school.

The following was the state of education as ascertained in June, 1838. The whole number of schools was 52, which contained 2,109 scholars. Of this number of pupils 1,106 also attend Sunday-schools ; 1,003 frequent only day-schools ; 469 are under five years of age, 1,586 between five and fifteen, and 54 above fifteen years old. The monitorial system is adopted in only two of the 38 common day-schools, which are attended by 1,219 scholars. The number of Sunday-scholars amounts to 7,842. Of these 149 are under five years of age, 5,7l6 between five and fifteen, and 1,977 are above fifteen. The Established Church has two Sunday-schools and 770 scholars : union of church and Dissenters 2,129, the Wesleyan Methodists three schools and 1,175 scholars, Primitive Methodists 585, New Connexion Methodists 1,248, Independents 871, Baptists 490, Catholics 594. The average attendance of children on each Sunday is 5,639.