The Bentcliffe Hall estate, located at the western end of the turnpike road from Pendleton to Eccles (now the A576), straddled  the townships of Pendleton and neighbouring Barton upon Irwell. Sloping down from the turnpike road to the River Irwell the estate, estimated to have been around 65 acres, witnessed changes of use and ownership throughout its long history. In close proximity to the village of Eccles, the Bentcliffe estate benefitted from good soil, a pure spring, several large stretches of water as well as the nearby River Irwell making it an ideal location for settlement, agriculture, husbandry and early textile manufacture and tanning. 

Early ownership of the land can be traced from the mid sixteenth century through documents relating to the Valentine family who held the Bentcliffe estate for at least 300 years. Valentine wills and inventories include references to farming, corn milling, linen weaving, bleaching and leather tanning and to the ‘capital messuage’ Bentcliffe Hall. They also provide the names of those indebted financially to the Valentines either through loans or rental debts. Many of those mentioned would have lived locally in Eccles or in the Broomhouse hamlet adjacent to the Bentcliffe estate. Some may have come from further afield in Manchester and Salford where the Valentines had business and family connections.

The name Bentcliffe has had several alternative spellings over the centuries. These include Beaucliffe, Bencliffe and Beaneclyffe making researching the estate demanding. So far it has proved difficult to uncover any substantial early history of the land along Eccles Old Road before 1750 and detailed maps are only available from 1848. The Bentcliffe estate, however, is the single exception to this, offering up a rich, almost continuous history tied to nearby Eccles and its parish church of St Mary where many Valentine family members are interred. The major sources of information for the history that follows has been pieced together from documents in Salford and Lancashire archives including wills, indentures, land tax records, sale documents and inventories.  

A box of Bentcliffe deeds, indentures, wills and documents archived by Andrew Cross, Salford City Archivist in the 1970s

The Salford Bentcliffe Archives We are grateful for access to the Bentcliffe documents preserved in the Salford City Archives. Together they give an almost unbroken 350 year history of the land at Bentcliffe, revealing a large number of residents and manufacturers previously unmentioned in Salford’s history. The provenance of these archives is in itself interesting. Six large boxes of documents provide significant material relating to the history of Pendleton and Barton upon Irwell in the parish of Eccles. The documents, acquired in 1978 from the British Records Association and archived by Andrew Cross, the former Salford City archivist, reveal the chronological development of Bentcliffe and the complexities of land ownership and use. The names of those associated with the Bentcliffe estate include the Valentine, Partington, Bentley and Watkins families, to name but a few. Further research throws up additional material such as the existence of a tannery on the land operated by the Barlow family for around 200 years, an hitherto unknown history. The emigration of several members of the Valentine family to Boston, Massachusetts and their descendants subsequent inheritance of the Bentcliffe lands in Pendleton and Eccles in 1765 reveals documents of American origin and a branch of the family in the USA. Why these documents, of such an extensive range of date and origin, have come together is the result of a court case of 1879 which necessitated their retrieval. Placed with the British Records Association they eventually made their way to Salford archives where they have been cared for ever since.

One small group of Valentine documents in the Salford archives

The Valentine Family Bentcliffe’s early history is associated with the Valentine family who owned the estate from at least the 1500s to the end of the eighteenth century after which the land changed hands and was eventually divided up as industry and housing developments impacted. Valentine connections spread far and wide including Salford, Manchester, Lancaster, County Sligo and Boston, Massachusetts.

Evidence of a Valentine family in Lancashire appeared early in the late 13th century. Whilst details are scant they confirm that Valentines were early landowners in Flixton.  Documents record that In 1292 William Valentine secured from Richard de Urmston and Siegrith his wife a third part of two messuages and two oxgangs in Flixton. Later in 1308 Richard Valentine obtained from William Valentine an acknowledgement of his title to certain messuages and lands also in Flixton. A Richard Valentine was a Flixton tenant in 1320, and Richard and Robert his sons were landholders in Flixton by 1338. In 1352 the Valentines held 80 acres of land in Flixton and by 1395, when John Valentine died, a land holding called the Shaw in Flixton was left to his fourteen year old grandson John, son of Richard Valentine. Whether the Flixton Valentines are directly related to the Pendleton/Eccles Valentines requires further research.

However, from the mid sixteenth century a series of wills in Lancashire Records Office confirm the Valentines connection with the Bentcliffe estate in the parish of Eccles. The 1550 will of Thomas Valentyne, gentleman of Bentcliffe, Eccles is accompanied with an inventory. His son and executor Richard inherited the estate. Similarly that of Thomas Valentine whose will is dated November 22, 1614 also has an inventory as does that of his wife Doritie Valentine who died in 1617 and is buried in Eccles churchyard.

Information relating to the Valentines can be found in an indenture of February 20 1665 (below). Made between John Valentine gentleman of Beaucliffe and his son Thomas Valentine also ‘gentleman of Beaucliffe’. The indenture, relating to the Beaucliffe estate then in the occupation of John Valentine, gives a full description of what is, unsurprisingly, a rural estate which includes buildings, barns, stables, yards, gardens, lands, tenements, demesne and demesne lands. The indenture also mentions meadows, closes, pastures, woods, ways and waters, water courses and turbery and other hereditaments and their ‘appurtenances belonging to the capital messuage‘ ie Bentcliffe Hall. The indenture confirms that the estate relates to land in Eccles, Barton-upon-Irwell, Pendleton and Worsley and also gives the names of tenants viz John Hollincroft, Edward Hampson, Mary Stringer and Edward Howton and mentions tan pits and farms. In Pendleton John Valentine’s tenants include John Strettle, Thomas Barlow, Richard Burton, Ralph Baguley, Robert Clarkson, Thomas Houldon, Robert Cash, James Bradshaw, Thomas Whittacre, Ellis Pollitt, John Leach, Richard Irlam and Edward Hampson. It is likely that many of the Pendleton tenants are living along Broomhouse Lane, the early name for the western end of Eccles Old Road. 

A  petition of 1685 gives further evidence about the Valentine family. Lodged by Martha Rylands at the Manchester Quarter Sessions the petition relates to the maintenance of her grandchildren Thomas, Martha and Elizabeth, the children of Francis Valentine, a merchant of Salford, and Martha Ryland’s deceased daughter Mary. The petition results in Martha Rylands being awarded financial recompense for the upkeep of the children whilst under her care. Thomas Valentine, her grandson, who is nine years old at the time of the petition is to become a significant figure in the future destiny of the Bentcliffe estate which he inherits in 1714 on the death of his cousin Richard Valentine (born 1675 and appointed sheriff of Lancashire in 1712). Numerous documents from the time of Richard Valentine can be found in the Salford archives showing that he mortgaged the estate on more than one occasion and also leased out land and buildings at Bentcliffe.

Thomas Valentine, Richard’s legatee, had a long life dying in 1765 at the age of 90. A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin he later became an Anglican clerk in Frankfort, County Sligo now in the Republic of Ireland. We don’t know whether he ever visited his extensive estate at Bentcliffe but the Salford archives reveal numerous documents and transactions during his ownership showing that the Bentcliffe estate was subject to many leases and indentures until his death in 1765. Earnings from the Bentcliffe land accounted for his considerable wealth at death. His will, proved in 1762 details many bequests to his wife, family and friends as well as to good causes such as supporting apprenticeships, poor houses, orphan children and distressed widows in his Irish parish. The most significant bequest, however, is the Bentcliffe estate which he leaves to his relatives ‘beyond the seas’. These were the descendants of John Valentine who emigrated from Eccles to Boston, New England around 1675. The conveyance of the estate to Thomas Valentine’s relatives, now citizens of the USA, required several affidavits and assurances from American officials which are to be found in the Salford archives. The most important, a deed of bargain and sale witnessed by Thomas Valentine of Freetown and Arthur Fenner, Governor of the state of Rhode Island, is dated July 8 1794. when the Valentines sold the Bentcliffe Estate’s seventy acres to John Partington for £1,800. So ended the Valentine’s long association with Bentcliffe in Pendleton. Further details about the Valentine family members can be found on the people pages.

In 1782 Robert Booth advertised the sale of timber from the Bentcliffe estate. It’s possible Booth and others oversaw the management of the estate in the years between 1765 and 1794 when Bentcliffe belonged to the American branch of the Valentines..

After the Valentines John Partington was an established and experienced dyer and bleacher of Garratt Hall in Manchester when he bought Bentcliffe in 1794.  As well as Bentcliffe House there were ten additional cottages with barns, gardens, orchards, pastures, meadows, two water born mills and a pigeon house. The Bentcliffe estate offered him the opportunity to provide a semi-rural home for his family but one with the distinguished provenance of the Valentine family.  With its ‘capital messuage’, unpolluted stretches of water and open fields, the adjacent turnpike road, and the River Irwell, both providing access to Manchester and Warrington and the near-by village of Eccles, Bentcliffe was a desirable residence of status for a gentleman and his family. 

Two early twentieth century photographs of an identical derelict building on the Bentcliffe Estate, captioned the Old Mill (top image). There were several mills mentioned at Bentcliffe throughout its history including a corn mill, snuff mill and logwood mill.

Archive documents show that under his ownership Partington engaged in many agreements, leasing out fields and ‘messuages and tenements on the Bentcliffe estate‘ The estate had a corn mill, a bark mill and/or logwood mill. These, with the tan pits and brick kiln, would have provided him with a regular rental income.  He also extended the estate by five acres by purchasing the Hewitt and Travis meadows alongside the Irwell for £2500 from Daniel Willis. Further research reveals that Willis owned 220 acres of land in Eccles, including Monks Hall, originally purchased by the Willis family from the Minshulls. The Willis family of Prescot sold their Eccles holdings, including Monks Hall, in a sale at the Cross Keys Inn, Eccles in 1846.

The Travis and Hewitt fields were significant additions to the Bentcliffe estate in Barton upon Irwell. Situated alongside the Irwell, Partington possibly saw the potential for textile manufacture, especially bleaching and dyeing of which he already had considerable expertise. Several deeds dated 1812, just before his death, indicate that Partington was negotiating mortgages on the Travis and Hewitt meadows with Manchester textile merchants, their bleaching concerns put up as surety. Partington also leased over an acre of land from the Duchy of Lancaster, the seal attached to the deed of 1803 is still intact in the Salford archives.  On his death in 1813 Partington left a detailed will with many instructions ensuring the financial future of family members including his four daughters, under age sons and grandchildren. Mary, his wife received a sizeable bequest and retained Bentcliffe House, its lands, pleasure gardens and ‘appurtenances’ as her main residence and responsibility for the education of her young children. The option allowing Partington’s trustees to sell and convert the proceeds of his estate into government bonds resulted in the major part of Bentcliffe estate being auctioned in lots in 1815. 

Lower Bentcliffe House rebuilt by John Partington around 1806 replaced an earlier house mentioned in many early Valentine wills and indentures. The image is from Edward Twycross’s The Mansions of England and Wales (1847). According to the Eccles Journal the 1806 house was demolished around 1974.
Bentcliffe House in relation to the Silk mill and dye works in 1848. The dotted line marks the boundary between the townships of Pendleton and Barton-upon-Irwell. Salters Lane is clearly marked
Bentcliffe House in 1890 appears to have changed little over 40 years.

The sale document of 21 June 1815 in the  Manchester Mercury gives a full description of the house and the 42 plus acres at Bentcliffe up for sale. The house differs substantially from that described in the earlier Valentine wills and is ‘a commodious, substantially erected and elegant mansion called Bencliffe House delightfully situated near the parish church of Eccles, 3 miles from Manchester on the new turnpike road and thence to Warrington’. With a spacious entrance hall, dining and drawing rooms, breakfast room, china closet, servants hall, kitchen, back kitchen well supplied with spring water, lodging room, dressing rooms and a large room in the attic, wine and ale cellars the house dated from 1806. Together with good barns stables, shippons, gardens well stocked with fruit trees in full bearing, hot house, pleasure ground, shrubberies and plantations and two cottages the land also came with a pew in the parish church at Eccles. Also included in the sale was the Lower Bentcliffe water mill and an extensive reservoir. The valuable and commodious Tan Yard with tan pits and bark mill in the occupation of Thomas Barlow, a reservoir and a logwood mill amounted to 13 acres. The estate benefitted from  a daily passage along the Irwell to Manchester, Warrington and Runcorn. The sale also included Partington’s land in Manchester including The Garrat Inn and his partnership in the printing and dyeing works in Chorlton on Medlock from which he had amassed his fortune.

Whilst the sale notice in the Manchester Mercury reveals detailed information about the extent of Partington’s land ownership at Bentcliffe including field names and acreage, nowhere does it mention manufacturing buildings other than the mills and tan pits. This was about to change, however. The 1815  sale witnessed the breaking up of the Bentcliffe estate into its two distinct zones Higher and Lower Bentcliffe.

Lower Bentcliffe: the beginnings of industrial development In July 1817 Bentcliffe Hall and the Travis and Hewitt meadows near to the Irwell were acquired from the Partington estate by Bolton textile manufacturers: David Bentley, his brother in law, Peter Ainsworth and James Fogg. The agreement with the Partington Trustees included Bentcliffe Hall, outbuildings, cottage, closes, fields and parcels of land in the parish of Eccles for £7450. So began the division of the ancient Valentine estate into two separate entities: Higher and Lower Bentcliffe. David Bentley moved his family into Bentcliffe Hall and the partners set about establishing a large bleaching concern. An insurance certificate dated 12 September 1818 shows how quickly they established their bleaching business at Bentcliffe which included a callendering house, washing house, bowking shed, cart sheds, chemical house and engine house with a 24 horse power engine and associated gearing together with five brick and thatched houses for their workers. Also insured was their warehouse in Police Street, Manchester. So began the industrial development of the Bentcliffe land along the edge of the Irwell.

Unfortunately, Ainsworth, Bentley and Fogg’s endeavour turned out ultimately to be a financial disaster. Problems started with the death in 1823 of Peter Ainsworth who left his share of the Bentcliffe bleach works to Bentley. Embarking on expansion at Bentcliffe, Bentley negotiated a mortgage from Thomas Watkins of Manchester. Eventually amounting to over £10,000 Bentley was unable to meet the mortgage repayments. On Watkins death in 1826, his Trustees served an injunction on Bentley taking possession of the bleaching business and recouping their money by repossessing the stock in trade of the business and its equipment and buildings including ‘messuages and dwellings and also the several erections together with the steam engine and engine house, millwright, works and gearing erected and built up by Peter Ainsworth and David Bentley of Messrs Ainsworth, Bentley and Fogg with all the land, barns, woods, water, water courses and privileges’. 

Thomas Watkin’s Trustees documented the management of Watkin’s considerble land holdings which included the Bentcliffe Estate in this large ledger held by Salford Archives.

Two inventories of 1824 and 1827, also preserved in the Salford archives, give a detailed insight into a bleaching and dyeing operation in the early decades of the nineteenth century and the extent of Bentley’s investment. Meanwhile the bankruptcy added the Bentcliffe bleach works to the already considerable Trust of Thomas Watkins which included the rental income from several warehouses in central Manchester, a brewery and a group of high value genteel residences at Ardwick Green. These provided a steady income, of which Bentcliffe was by far the major contributor of income for Watkin’s widow, nieces and nephews until 1893 when the Watkins Trust was wound up. But not before a family feud over inheritance ended up in court the outcome of which was the collection of Bentcliffe documents now housed in Salford archives. 

The second sale catalogue documenting the contents of the bleachworks established by Bentley Ainsworth and Fogg at Lower Bentcliffe. The sale realised around £26,000 exclusive of buildings.
The contents sale included a detailed inventory of each item in the bleachworks from carts and mares, candles and grates, in the counting house to the £1000 30 horse power steam engine, the most expensive single item.

During his decade of involvement with the estate Bentley lived with his family at Partington’s Bentcliffe Hall. Described as ‘a modern built capital messuage’ in 1826 it still came with a pew in the parish church of Eccles, surrounding pleasure grounds and hot houses with a view over to Trafford and beyond. Edward Baines noted in 1836 that the ‘old house’ , the Valentines ancestral home, had been demolished around 1806 ie under John Partington’s tenure and replaced by two houses which became known as Lower and Higher Bentcliffe. However a later date of 1816 based on the comments of John Gibson Whittaker to a 1826 Parliamentary enquiry is a most likely date for Higher Bentcliffe house (below). This would seem likely as Higher Bentcliffe house is not mentioned in the 1815 Partington sale when the Bentcliffe estate was still intact nor is it included on an 1815 township map.

The Bentcliffe bleachworks sale in 1827 realised a final amount of £2576.19s from over 300 items.

In the decades after his bankruptcy both Bentley and his daughters referred to him as ‘David Bentley of Bentcliffe.’ However, despite the unfortunate start Bentley’s story ultimately had a prosperous ending when he invented and patented a new type of calendar bowl, revolutionising the bleaching process. This and other inventions made David Bentley a wealthy man.  Poignantly witnessing his 1853 will with a single cross at the age of 79, Bentley probably had suffered a stroke as earlier legal documents show an assured signature. Bentley’s unmarried daughters, recipients of his estate, lived their lives out in the comfort of Southport as annuitants. Meanwhile David Bentley and Son was successfully carried on by Bentley’s grandsons. Located at Nortons Court in the Greengage area of Salford the business survived until at least 1961. David Bentley’s outstanding loan of £10,700, however, was recorded in the Watkin’s Trust accounts each year from 1826 up to 1893 when the trust was wound up.

After the failure of Ainsworth, Bentley and Fogg Thomas Watkins’ trustees placed adverts for the sale of the Bentcliffe Bleach works in the  Manchester press. In 1827 John and Thomas Leeming, prominent textile spinners of Water Street Manchester and resident at Adelphi House on the Crescent, Salford agreed to buy the estate for £10,500 including the steam boiler, gearing, shafting, millwright’s workshop, utensils and articles in the 1824 inventory:-

An agreement for the sale and purchase of the Bencliffe hall estate and bleach works near Eccles. Bencliffe to be bought by John Leeming  including the mansion known as Bencliffe including the barns stables, shippon, gardens, hothouse, pleasure grounds, shrubberies and plantation now in the possession of the trustees of Thomas Watkins. Also included in the sale is the pew appertaining to the mansion house in the parish church of Eccles on the south side of the church’.

The sale document gives acreages revealing the additional 12 acre investment taken on by David Bentley in the 1820s. Included in the sale was ‘a cottage with adjoining reservoir, several closes or fields, named in the document as the Highgate and Woodfield, Lower mill dam (6a2r29p) The Potter meadow ((1a26p) the Copy (2r39p) the Ford Mouth (1a36p) the Peel field (2a1r13p) the Travis eye (1a23p) the last two formerly in one, the Hewitt meadow (2a2r). Also a cottage in Eccles formerly in two cottages called Turner’s cottage. Also two messuages adjoining the Peel field and the garden formerly in the occupation of James Turner and Charles Smith of 2a3r13p. Also several erections and steam engine and millwright works, gearing works and engine house built by Messrs Ainsworth and Bentley and used by them for bleaching and calendaring. Plus also all the other tenements and hereditaments granted by lease and release of 29/30 March 1824 lately in the occupation of Bentley and Fogg and now in the ownership of the trustees of Thomas Watkins’.

Henry Taylor promoted his silk and worsted dye works with this business card. It shows the extent of the development of buildings at Lower Bentcliffe around 1841 seen from the Irwell, the banks of which are in the foreground. Salters Lane can be seen on the right of the image. These buildings were later leased by Ermen and Engels for their spinning enterprise. Lower Bentcliffe was now a fully fledged industrialised area which it remains to this day.

The deal with John Leeming must have fallen through because in June 1829 the Bleach works et al were once more on the market. It is unclear how long the bleach works and the adjoining land remained unoccupied but we know that a Thomas Hobson was paid by the Watkins Trustees to maintain the site as well as preparing foundations for a new building. We pick up the story in 1841 when Henry Taylor, a silk and worsted dyer originally from Mansfield, and his now business partner Thomas Hobson leased this building from Watkins’ trustees. Taylor’s lithographic plate of his business card is indistinct but it gives an impression of the complex of industrial buildings taking shape on the banks of the Irwell by mid century. In 1847 the four storey mill under lease to Hobson and Taylor was severely damaged by fire throwing 300 men out of work. In 1852 Taylor took out a seven year lease for £650 per annum with Watkins trustees around the same time as selling a large lot of textile machinery and equipment at a public sale, including 17 silk looms. It is possible that Taylor was abandoning weaving for dyeing as the 1861 census shows that Taylor was still in business as a silk and worsted dyer employing a small workforce of sixteen men and three boys and living nearby at Salters Lane. Taylor died intestate in 1865 when his wealth was calculated as £1000. 

Cloth dyeing from an illustration of c1840.

Ermen & Engels Taylor wasn’t  the only textile manufacturer at Lower Bentcliffe during the 1850s.  In 1855 Peter Jacob Godfrey Ermen and Frederick Engels entered into an eight year lease with the Watkins trustees  at £700 per annum. Ermen and Engels, spinners and dyers of sewing thread and knitting cotton, were successful manufacturers usually associated with the Victoria mill in the Weaste area of Pendleton. In the 1840s Engels had been sent from his birthplace of Barmen, Prussia to oversee his father’s investments in Ermen’s and Engels’ Weaste business. The Bentcliffe lease was renewed a second time but in August 1869 the partnership was dissolved and Engels moved permanently to London. Ermen continued to lease the mill which was seriously damaged by yet another fire in 1871 at a cost of around £20,000, resulting in a reduction in the lease to £275 a year. Newspaper descriptions of the fire reveal that the building of four storeys and fifteen windows by six broad was probably that built by the Watkins trustees circa 1841 and was being used by Ermen as a spinning mill. An estimated 700/800 inhabitants of the ‘village’ of  Eccles were employed at the time of the fire.

The plan on the reverse of the lease taken out by Ermen and Engels in 1855 showing the extensive range of buildings they rented from the Watkins Trustees. Salters Lane is on the right of the image. The plan corresponds to the 1848 OS map above.
Ermen and Engels sealing the 1855 lease of the mill at Lower Bentcliffe (above) The notification in the London Gazette of 1869 ending the partnership at Bentcliffe (below).

Watkins’ trustees also owned the nearby Bentcliffe Hall and at least seven cottages. In 1839 Robert Bousfield Clegg had taken out a 14 year lease on the house with its three acre estate. The detailed lease documents tell us that the house had the three reception rooms, a closet, butler’s pantry and three kitchens, a bathroom and wine cellars and three bedrooms originally built for John Partington. There were also stables, shippon and hothouses together with an additional cottage. Clegg, a timber merchant with premises in  Manchester and houses on Frederick Street in Pendleton died in 1846 at the age of 46 and was buried at Eccles.  In 1858  Mrs Worrall was living at Bentcliffe House, which included a gatehouse, offices, shippon, stables and surrounding pleasure gardens which she also leased from Watkins trustees for £250 per annum, with an additional freehold croft for £1. 

Watkin’s trustees must have been relieved when in 1877 they sold a large piece of Lower Bentcliffe land for £6,860 to Joseph Moon, a cattle dealer. Moon borrowed the money from William Houlton Worrall and John Platt, engineer of Salford, and then sublet some of the land to local people including Peter Daley and Thomas Haymon in 1878,  Peter Somerville milk dealer of Eccles in 1885, William Tomlinson joiner in 1887, Edward Barnsley police officer in 1887 and  William Scott and Charles Taylor in 1889. Moon lived at Bentcliffe Hall, probably included in the 1877 sale, until his death in 1890 when his estate was sold to Titus Fletcher a successful bleacher of Brindle Heath, Pendleton. Fletcher most likely saw the potential of the land for worker’s housing.  What we do know is that Fletcher conveyed land adjacent to Somerville St and Fletcher Ave (Tomlinson Street) Eccles, ‘situate on a growing district on the Lower Bentcliffe estate‘ to the  Rev Frederick Daustini Cremer for use as a mission hall for St Mary’s, Eccles. The mission was opened in December 1903 and cost £1,100 built to accommodate the growing population of Eccles, attracted by the local jobs in several mills including those at Bentcliffe.

In 1888 Watkins Trustees also conveyed around eight acres of Bentcliffe land to the Manchester Ship Canal Company for £2750 on the edge of the River Irwell. The conveyance, witnessed by the common seal of the Company, included surface clay, gravel and stone as well as timber and buildings. 

The Bentcliffe bleach works, meanwhile became known as the Eccles Bleaching Company. Under the direction of George Norris Midwood the company became part of the Amalgamated Bleachers Association, an organisation formed in 1900 which brought together a consortium of sixty bleachers, most of them located in Lancashire. The Bleacher’s administrative headquarters, a prestigious and iconic building of Portland stone designed  by Harry S Fairhurst ARIBA, still stands at the junction of Blackfriars Street and Parsonage Manchester. 

A full inventory and valuation of the Bentcliffe Bleach works dated 1907 can be found in the Greater Manchester Archives together with plans of the works and long service awards of several Eccles employees. A valuation of 1900 amounted to £70,493. Over £20,000 of the valuation was for water rights.

Some Bentcliffe Bleach works employees A leather-bound volume in the Manchester Archives records the long service records of Bleachers Association employees. These include:

Mrs Martha Ann Hanson (55 years employment); Herbert Watkins (51 years employment); Robert Rheubottom (41 years employment); Thomas Lidgett (57 years employment); Thomas Shepherd (47 years employment); John Parker (44 years employment); William Entwistle (41 years employment); Henry Robinson (40 years employment).

HIgher Bentcliffe In 1826, at the same time as textile manufacturing was taking off at Lower Bentcliffe the estate was being surveyed for Stephenson’s Liverpool to Manchester railway which would cross the Bentcliffe Estate. The resulting  parliamentary enquiry of 1830 considered the views of objectors, including William Whitaker who had purchased 42 acres of Bentcliffe land most probably at the 1815 Partington sale. Now living at Higher Bentcliffe house which was built around 1816, Whitaker was represented at the parliamentary enquiry by his brother John Gibson Whitaker, an officer in the 8th Hussars. The cross examination he faced revealed his brother’s intentions to build villa residences at Higher Bentcliffe, the success of which was, according to J G Whitaker, threatened by the railway. One aspect of the estate, a tannery operated by the Barlow family for at least 200 years, was the subject of some discussion at the enquiry. It appears William Whitaker had taken action to shield his Higher Bentcliffe view of the tan pits by planting trees around the pits and sheds. At the time of the inquiry Whitaker had served notice on the Barlow family, allowing a period of grace of 2 years in order for them to work out the leather in the pits. However, the decision by the Barlows to cease production was perhaps influenced by the mechanisation of tanning from the mid-nineteenth century. Unsurprisingly the Barlow’s tan pits were located on Tan Pit Lane as was their farm house, rented from Whitaker for £265 per annum at the time. 

Before being fully industrialised and centralised tan yards such as these were ubiquitous across the country. Before industrialisation tan yards were traditionally open to the elements. Sunken pits were used to process hides using tannin, extracted from tree bark, roots and branches which were processed and stored in bark mills. At Bentcliffe the Barlows worked the tan pits for at least two centuries until the 1820s passing down their knowledge from generation to generation. Tan Pit Lane can be seen on early maps of the area.
The bark mill at Bentcliffe was used to processe the bark from various trees used during the tanning process. 1764.
A currier scraping down the skins.

William Whitaker (1777-1843) was a self-made man, working his way up in the cotton industry from humble beginnings to running his own textile business from Manchester’s Ducie Place. Alongside Whitaker, Pendleton landowners James Touchet of Broomhouse and John Bradshaw of Weaste also lodged objections to the railway, also scheduled to cross their land. They too were said to be buying up land adjacent to their estates for housing aimed at the merchant class of Manchester. Whether the three landowners achieved any compensation as a result of the enquiry requires further research. However, despite providing plans of his proposed villa development to the enquiry and the accompanying lengthy discussions, we know from the 1848 OS map that Whitaker’s plans for his Upper Bentcliffe estate never materialised. As late as 1866 the potential for villa residences at Upper Bentcliffe was noted in a sale document in the Manchester Courier, the adjacent Liverpool to Manchester line now heralded as a local transport asset. Upper Bentcliffe house however, retained its isolated position surrounded by the ancient field system and the villas had to wait until 1881 when the first of these appeared on the newly laid out Devonshire Road.

The Liverpool & Manchester railway, here crossing the Bridgewater Canal at Patricroft, Eccles, impacted on the Upper Bentcliffe Estate. A parliamentary enquiry of 1826 gives details of the land ownership in Pendleton including that at Bentcliffe. The railway carriages depicted in the illustration have been subjected to artistic license.

Bentcliffe Snuff Mill In 1834 an exhibition about the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was mounted at galleries in Baker Street, Portman Square, London (entry one shilling). Models of the locomotives and several lithographic illustrations ‘taken on the spot by Artists of acknowledged Talent’ were included.  Places along the railway’s route depicted in the catalogue included Water Street, Manchester and Ordsall Lane, Salford as was Bentcliffe snuff mill (below) The mill, then in the ownership of Clay Hall and John Mabbot, a Manchester tobacconist, was located adjacent to the railway line passing over Bentcliffe land. The scene below, depicting a hamlet of buildings and lanes, gives a unique view of Bentcliffe in the early 1820s. The absence of early maps for the area means that it is impossible to give an exact location with absolute certainty but the 1848 Ordnance survey depicts the most likely location for the snuff mill, although by 1845, when the land was surveyed, the mill was then being used as a corn mill. Water power was used for grinding the tobacco leaves which were combined with herbs etc and aged in barrels.

Snuff was used by the elite in society to distinguish themselves from the pipe smoking hoi polloi. This unflattering satirical image illustrates the appropriate snuff taking etiquette in the early nineteenth century.
Snuff mills processed and blended tobacco leaves for inhaling into the nose. Image drawn by H West and printed by E Colyer of Fenchurch Street.
The 1848 Ordnance Survey map shows the Liverpool & Manchester Railway crossing the Bentcliffe Estate. The dotted line indicates the boundary between the Pendleton and Barton-upon-Irwell townships.

Many changes were to take place on the former Bentcliffe estate during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The most intrusive development, however, was the construction of the M602 which radically impacted on the area, sweeping away the footprint of many early buildings, roads and lanes, including the historic White Horse inn, several reservoirs, early cottages, mills and farm buildings. Meanwhile the land adjacent to the River Irwell/Manchester Ship Canal, initially associated with the early textile manufacture developed into a centre of silk weaving, bleaching, dyeing and ultimately chemical manufacture employing many local residents over several generations housed in adjacent terraced streets.

to be continued