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Stockport in 1842

STOCKPORT, an important manufacturing town and parliamentary and municipal borough, on the river Mersey, partly in the parish of Manchester, in the hundred of Salford, in the county of Lancaster, but chiefly in the hundred of Macclesfield, in the county of Chester, 180 miles north-west from the General Post-office, London, by the coach (formerly mail) road, through Barnet, St. Albans, Northampton, Leicester, Derby, Ashbourn, Leek, and Macclesfield, and about seven miles south-east from Manchester.

Stockport, anciently called Stokeporte and Stocport, was made free borough by Robert de Stokeporte, with the permission of Edward I, as earl of Chester : the same Robert had the grant of a market and an annual fair. There was an ancient castle at Stokeporte, of which not a vestige now remains. The town was garrisoned by the Parliamentarians in the great civil war, and was taken in 1644 by the Royalists, under Prince Rupert, who had previously repulsed the garrison, 3000 in number, when they marched out to attack him : the Parliamentarians subsequently recovered the place. Stockport-bridge was blown up in 1745, to prevent the retreat of the rebels after their advance to Derby; and they were in consequence obliged to wade through the river.

The parish of Stockport, which is wholly in Cheshire, comprehends an area of 24,810 acres, with a population of 66,610 : it is divided into fourteen chapelries or townships, of which the township of Stockport (which coincided with the ancient borough) had an area of 1,740 acres, with a population of 25,469 ; but the town having extended beyond the township, and across the Mersey, into Lancashire, the parliamentary boundaries were, by the Boundary Act, were made to comprehend in addition the most populous parts of the township of Heaton Norris (in Manchester parish), part of the township of Brinnington, in Stockport parish, and the hamlets of Brinksway and Edgeley, in the townships of Cheadle Bulkeley and Cheadle Moseley, in Cheadle parish ; the whole having a population of about 43,000. The town stands at the junction of the rivers Tame and Mersey, and consists of a number of streets irregularly laid out, with a large open market-place in the centre. It is well paved under the provisions of the general Highway Act, and is lighted with gas under a local act. The principal part of the town is built on a steep and irregular hill of soft red-sandstone, rising in some parts precipitously from the south bank of the Mersey. The market-place and the parish church are on a tolerably extensive level on the summit of the hill ; the streets leading to them are steep and narrow. There are four bridges in or near the town, over the Mersey, and one over the Tame. The ‘old-bridge’ over the Mersey, near the market-place, is of one arch, built high above the river to avoid the inconvenience caused by the sudden and violent swelling of the stream, and having its abutments built on the solid rock which here lines the banks of the river. Below the ‘old-bridge’ is another bridge, of eleven arches, crossing not only the river, but its valley, at an elevation of 40 feet above the water. The arch over the river is of 90 feet span ; most of the dry arches are on the Cheshire side. This bridge was built that the Manchester and Buxton turnpike-road might avoid the ascent and descent caused by the uneven site of the town.

The parish church is, for the most part, modern, having been rebuilt early in the present century, in the perpendicular style of architecture. It has a tower with pinnacles and pierced battlements, a nave with side aisles, and a chancel. The chancel is the sole remaining part of the former building, but it has been much altered. It had a fine east window of decorated English character, but much decayed, the old church having been built of soft red-sandstone : there were also some fine stone stalls in the south wall of the chancel. There are three other places of worship of the establishment in the borough, viz., St. Thomas’s church, built in 1825, a handsome building of Grecian architecture, with a tower surmounted by a cupola ; St. Peter’s chapel, a neat brick building, erected about the middle of the last century ; and a district chapel of modern erection in Heaton Norris. Besides these, there are a number of dissenting meeting-houses of different persuasions. There were in 1834, three for Independents, three for Methodists, and one each for Baptists, Unitarians, Roman Catholics, and Quakers. There are some very large Sunday-school rooms, built by subscription at a cost of above £6,500 ; a grammar-school, lately rebuilt by the Goldsmiths’ Company of London ; a very large national school, an infirmary, which is a very ornamental building, and a small theatre.

Stockport is one of the principal seats of the cotton manufacture. Pigott’s ‘Directory’ for 1834 enumerates nearly one hundred and twenty firms in Stockport and Heaton Norris engaged in different branches of this manufacture ; there are also three cotton-printing establishments, two bleaching establishments, and several dye-houses. To the cotton manufacture, which is the staple of the town, may be added the manufacture of silk goods, thread, hats, brushes, spindles, and shuttles. About 4,500 men were, in 1831, engaged in manufactures in and around the town. There are several breweries, a distillery, several iron and brass foundries in the town, and a great number of bricks are made in the neighbourhood. There are three banking establishments. A branch canal communicates with the Manchester and Ashton canal, and the town is on the line of the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, which has been opened between Manchester and Stockport. The market is on Friday, and is the most important in Cheshire for corn, oatmeal, and cheese. There are four yearly fairs, chiefly for cattle.

Stockport was formerly incorporated, but the corporation, previously to the late Municipal Reform Act, had gone to decay ; a mayor was chosen at court leet and baron of the manor ; but his office was merely nominal, the jurisdiction of the town being in the hands of the county magistrates. By the Reform Act Stockport was made a parliamentary borough to return two members ; the boundaries of the borough have been already described. The number of voters in 1835-6, was 1,137 ; in 1839-40, 1,279. By the Municipal Reform Act the parliamentary boundaries were adopted for municipal purposes, the borough was divided into seven wards, a number which the revising barristers reduced to six ; the town council consists of fourteen aldermen and forty-two councillors, and the town has a commission of the peace.

Stockport has an auxiliary Bible society, a news-room, and a subscription library. Two newspapers, ‘The Stockport Advertiser’ and ‘Stockport Chronicle’, are published in the town.

The living of Stockport is a rectory, in the rural deanery of Macclesfield, and in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester, of the clear yearly value of £1,882, with a glebe-house. The chapelries of St. Thomas and St. Peter are curacies, of the clear yearly value of £110 and £220 respectively ; Heaton Norris is a chapelry, in the parish and rural deanery of Manchester and in the same archdeaconry and diocese as Stockport ; its clear yearly value is £116. The townships of Stockport, Brinnington, Heaton Norris, Cheadle Bulkeley, and Cheadle Moseley, which are wholly or partly in the borough, had the following number of schools in 1833 :-

Stockport :
50 day schools with 1,962 scholars
8 Sunday schools with 7,259 scholars

Brinnington :
2 day schools with 114 scholars
0 Sunday schools

Heaton Norris :
9 day schools with 481 scholars
4 Sunday schools with 1,141 scholars

Cheadle Bulkeley :
9 day schools with 336 scholars
3 Sunday schools with 653 scholars

Cheadle Moseley :
4 day schools with 163 scholars
1 Sunday school with 345 scholars

TOTAL 74 day schools with 3,056 scholars
TOTAL 16 Sunday schools 9,398 scholars

One of the day-schools at Stockport is an endowed grammar-school, under the patronage of the Goldsmiths’ Company of London. It had in 1833, 150 boys ; another was a national-school, with 235 boys and 170 girls. One of the Sunday-schools ‘the Stockport Sunday-school,’ was not exclusively connected with any denomination. The Bible was used as the school book, and the children were taken alternately to church and to dissenting places of worship. This school, with four branches, had, in 1833, 5,244 scholars, about half of each sex. It was supported by subscription, and was under the management of a committee elected from among the subscribers of a guinea and upwards, and of visitors chosen from among the persons actively engaged in the school. There were two libraries, a teachers’ library of 850 volumes, and a scholars’ library of 1,700. There were connected with the school a religious tract society which circulated yearly 30,000 tracts, and a Bible association which distributed yearly about 400 copies of the Scriptures. There were no paid officers connected with the institution.