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Extracts from the Preston Guilds
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Extracts from the Preston Guilds
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Plasterer Giles Green, 1737
Giles lived in his six roomed house, where he died in 1737. Everything he had he gave to his wife to support herself, the grandchildren and the family "provided they could live lovingly and quietly together." And if his wife remained in pure widowhood, she could dispose of £30 of his estate at her death. A daughter Martha had married Comelius Latchford and another Isaac Birchall. Among his home effects were pictures, a warming pan and a half headed bed in the parlour. He had £65 out at interest and his other goods lifted his total to £89.

Joseph Birchall of Coldalhurst, 1737
This landmark estate came to the Birchalls with the marriage of Esther Wright into that family. In 1737 died Joseph Birchall and his will gives his brother Miles and three sisters Abigail, Elizabeth and Alice. He left Coldaihurst and the cottage known as Berrys to Miles, but Abigail and Elizabeth were to be allowed to live in the shop at Coldalhurst and enjoy the full profits of the Orchard, Bigger Robcroft and the Half Acre, as long as they lived. Alice had an annuity, which if it did not keep her, then she was to have it made up out of the lands of Coldalhurst. Birchall was able to write a fine signature on his will.

The Straits, 1744
Here lived widow Martha Street, who shared the house with her sister Ann, wife of Richard Heys. Another sister was Lydia Ford. Martha had another house in Astley tenanted by Ralph Cleworth, which she gave to her niece Tabitha Cleworth. About this time the Street family disappear locally, but the name corrupted somewhat still attaches itself to the topography. Ann Heys, who died in 1751, held the lease of a house in Astley tenanted by herself, Thomas Piercey and Martha Agusman which she gave to her son Adam and when he took possession he had to pay £13 to Lydia.

Hindleys Smithy, 1744
The smithy on the main Kings highway was well known and had from time whereof the memory of man ran not to the contrary been the home of the Hindleys, who were industriously occupied there. Charles Hindley, blacksmith, advanced in years had been tenant for a long time, when he died in 1747. His wife was Mary and his issue, Charles, Mary, Henry, Arm, Elizabeth and James. Longevity had consumed much of his substance and he left only £24 8s. He had a liking for maps, and had five of them. He used six teapots of Delft ware with two plates and a bason of the same status manufacture. Should the wife live longer than his lease, some of his goods were to be sold to help her maintenance. She died in 1751 and her son James, who had gone before her left many debts unpaid, which she said, should be discharged out of his share, before his children could have anything. Mary Hindley was proud of her clothes; she had treasured and tended them. To her daughter-in-law Anne she gave a black and white gown, a side cloak, one that was brown, another quilted, a laced cap, a silk hood with Love' on it and a' lambletie.' And her silver buckles she gave to daughter Elizabeth. Charles her son died in early manhood in 1757, leaving five young children, William, Adam, Eve, Ellen and George. He was disturbed about their uncertain future and before he died he thought of ways and means to leave them something. He said a man should work the smithy and over and above his wage the rest should go for the children. His other properties besides the smithy held under Thomas Sutton were Whitecroft in Bedford and the Barn in Astley.

Thomas Sutton's court day, November 10th 1746
The last of the series of court rolls ends on this day. The call book was read aloud by the steward and 33 free suitors, 19 free tenants, 110 householders and 26 cottagers answered respectfully to their names. Some were excused and nine were fined for not coming. From these numbers one may judge the session to have comprised been appropriated to various landowners by the Enclosure Award of 1768. The contemporary name 'vení to these grants all of which are numbered and rectangular in boundaries mossrooms. With the great increase of population in Manchester this area of limited utility acquired a new and important value. Manchester city bought from various owners great tracts of the boglands in order to find tipping facilities for all the night soil and refuse the city had to dispose of. By this means areas of the moss were fertilised and brought under cultivation. The corporation built many farmsteads and crops grew where once was sterile scrub. In 1884 the city offered to buy the whole entire moss belonging to Astley Hall, but the price asked was too big. Three years later Peter Love of London offered to rent the moss at £27 per acre. In his proposal letter he wrote of his operations on the Cambridge and Bowness mosses, outlined his plans for litter to supply 150,000 horses in Manchester and Liverpool and among his guarantees were the conversion of fifteen acres a year to meadowland, to raise at least 30,000 tons of peat a year and to pay a royalty of not less than £250 per annum.

Hewlett's diaries
Hewlett worked methodically. He divided the township into districts over which he set a visitor to keep an eye on each household. Reports they gave to him he kept in a 'mirror' which showed him at once the strength and weakness of each home. Of every person, churchgoer or no, he knew his sins and virtues. Throughout an entire life, he wrote up daily a diary-, a foolscap blue page recorded the events of one week and these sheets he later had bound together. When his family was grown up and dispersed over the kingdom, this single weekly page was posted to son and daughter, read by them in turn and by the last sent back to Astley to be carefully kept. In this way his diary served to keep his family abreast of his varied doings. Unfortunately all diaries have not survived; some volumes were destroyed in the air attack upon Canterbury in the 1939-45 war.

The lone exile, 1884
An Astley youth, who left Corless Fold for a new life in Australia was John Pilkington. He had been a porter on Astley station and in Perth in Western Australia worked on the railways there. He sustained in all his exile a searching interest in much that happened in the village of his youth, writing with regularity to his friends William Howcroft and Allan Prescott. In 1916 he returned on a visit: as late as 1933 he was still alive in Bayswater, Western Australia; then the impenetrable deep silence of the great subcontinent swallowed him up.

Simeon takes a lease, 1885
In 1885 Simeon Higginbotham and his brother Jonathan took a twenty-one years lease of virgin mossland beyond Astley Station from George Wetherall. Simeon had been unable to make headway as a greengrocer in Boothstown and his brother, an engine minder of Henfold, Tyldesley, threw in his lot with him. They built a primitive dwelling of wood and outbuildings for the stock to match. Their rent was £2 2s. for the first three years, £9 2s. for the next seven and the remainder of the term £15 8s. In no one did the puritan fire of religious dissent bum fiercer than in Simeon. He became well known as a local preacher and in the long portraiture of Astley village worthies has claimed his place alongside tape weaver Abraham Bowker and patriarchal Richard Green.

The black year of the Morts, 1885
Three descendants of that great Adam Mort, Katharine Wetherall, George Nugent Ross Wetherall and Henry Augustus Wetherall in this year were in direst straits of penury. A solicitor Joseph Guedalla of London was asked to bring some semblance of solvency into the financial chaos of the estate and the preamble of a deed made December 17, 1885, speaks herewith its own language:

"Whereas the said George Nugent Ross Wetherall and his brother Henry Augustus Wetherall having incurred debts and liabilities to divers persons and for very large amounts including in many cases liability for interest calculated at extraordinary high rates and including liabilities on acceptances over due and being pressed by their creditors and actually sued by several of them lately requested and employed the said Joseph Guedalia to negotiate and arrange with the creditors by whom they were being pressed for an adjustment or settlement of their respective demands upon the footing of payments in full or on account or by way of composition being made to them in cases where a course should seem to the said Joseph Guedalia to be expedient and time being given for the payment of liabilities not discharged by payment."

Guedalia succeeded in staving off litigation. He lent £11,050 and held £2,300 promissory notes of George Nugent as endorsee. So in 1885 this was the low estate of the once rich banking family of the Mortís of Astley. Was it riotous living or the effects of insidious inflation or bad management of a large estate or competition from the vast prairie lands of the new world, which made farming so difficult in a small country like England? Whatever the true cause, it was clear such a state of affairs could not go on for much longer. The end and with it the great and lamentable consequences came four years later.

Appointment of a receiver, November 26, 1886
On this date Mrs. C. M. Champagne, one of the principal Mortgagees of Astley Hall appointed under powers Atherton Selby as receiver of all the profits of the estate. Soon after, it was discovered that the Astley and Tyldesley Coal Co. Ltd. had for a long time paid no way leave rents for the right to wind coal to the surface through Wetherall's land. The matter was brought to their notice and a compromise agreement of £962 was agreed upon. This omission reflects in some measure the laxity with which the estate management was run. It was a grave mistake this dependence on Tyldesley for such services as water, gas and purification. It led to endless dispute and was a mistake for which Astley townsfolk paid dearly in the years that followed.

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