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IN THE 45,








Didisburye in the '45.



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IN THE '45.




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- Frontispiece




" Love thou thy land with love
Far brought from out the storied past."

OVE thou thy land : the land in our case being
that bit of old England called Didsbury, and the
storied past being that small speck on the ocean
of the eternity that is past, the end of the year
called 1745.

The interest aroused in the history of Didsbury by the Legends
and Reminiscences already published has encouraged me to write
more on the same subject, and as it was a surprise and pleasure
to me to find when collecting those legends how many of them
related to the year 1745 (the fatal '45 as it has been called), I
have hunted up anything I could find referring to that period ; and
as at this lapse of time it is difficult, if not impossible, to know
what is true and what is not true, I have embodied the details in

a narrative which will to some extent show the manners and customs


of the period, and of which, though the subsidiary parts are imaginative,
the main details are historical and strictly true.

The frontispiece of this book a drawing of the Church and
surrounding old houses is an attempt to depict them according to the
old descriptions, all that is left of that period being part of the tower.
The ornaments now on the tower were erected about 1804, and the
clock was added many years after that date.

The parish of Didsbury in 1745 included all the township of
Heaton up to Stockport the market town, also Reddish, Levenshulme,
Ladybarn, Fallowfield, a part of Moss Side, a small part of Longsight,
Burnage, Withington, and Didsbury. Barlow Moor and Heaton Mersey
were not separate townships ; they are simply the names of modern

The spelling of the name has altered so often that it was very
doubtful which was the correct spelling at any time previous to the
last hundred years.

Since writing the historical sketches of Didsbury, I have found the
following mention of the place. It is dated from the reign of Philip
and Mary: Thomas Cholleton, chyrchreeve of y e chapell of Dyddes-
burye, sworne and examyned, deposeth and sayeth y l there y s ij lytcll
bells specyfied in y c said sedule yett remayning at y e said chapell, w ch
were seased to th' use of our late souraigne lorde Kynge Edwarde y e
vi th by auctorytie of y c said form cornyss. This shows that about 1555
the official form of spelling was Dyddesburye. By another official
mention of the name we learn that it was Diddesbury in 1650. The
registers of the Church spell it Didisburie in 1599. Then it is Didis-


burye, Didisburie, or Didsburie for some time, according to the fancy of
the writer. Our hurrying life may perhaps cause us to contract the
name still further and call it Bids. Of the various forms used about
1745, I think Didisburye is the most picturesque; and here I should
like to mention some rampant criticism of my suggested derivation of
the word, for it is very amusing. I have been gravely informed that the
word Didsbury is derived from a great battle having been fought by
some Saxon Dukes on Duke's hillock, and that after the battle they
Did Bury the dead there and made the hillock, " and the brooks ran red
with the blood of the slain." The fact of the title Duke not being a
Saxon title is a minor matter to our village critics ; but the idea of
Didsbury being derived from the fact that they Did bury them is
sublime in its simplicity.

There is an error in my work on Didsbury, in the description of the
old part of the Church. The oldest stone-work is at the south-west
(not north-west) corner near to the tower.

I have been sorry to find the churchwardens' accounts for the year
1745 are missing. They were safe not very long since, but a warden or
sidesman has had the old documents away from the Church for months,
and now that I particularly wished for the wardens' accounts for the '45
they are not to be found.

There are very few houses now standing in the parish that were
standing in 1745. The middle part of the old Parsonage would be
one of these exceptions, and the old part of Lawnhurst, that is even
now being taken down. Several of the farmhouses and cottages
are of older date, and though, as usually happens, the farmsteads


change the least, the old-fashioned thatched roofs are so much
more expensive, now that labour is dear and there is a value in
straw, that even the old buildings have in some cases modern roofs
of slate.

The oldest houses (a few of which remain in the neighbourhood)
were made by rearing up two roughly-shaped trunks of trees with
their ends on the ground about twelve feet apart, and their tops
joined, thereby forming the gable end ; something like a gothic arch.
Then the wooden framework was completed, being generally composed
of oaken beams pegged together, and the spaces were filled in by
wattle and daub, that is, wicker-work and clay, or, in later years, by
bricks, the whole being well thatched. In many respects thatch is the best
roof a house can have, for it is warm in winter, and cool in summer,
but it is now expensive and old-fashioned. The floors were then of
mud, or of bricks, and the windows were very small, the poorer houses
being without glass altogether.

The names of the people in the imaginary dialogues are the names
of families who were living in the parish of Didsbury in 1745, and as
some of their descendants are still living in the neighbourhood, I
hope they will not be aggrieved at anything I have written, for I
merely wish to describe the place and men as I conceive them
to have been.

The only criticism at all adverse to my book on Didsbury that is
worth noticing is to the effect that it is rather hard on certain persons,
and rather too much of a family history. As this book may be liable to
the same complaint, I will merely ask how can it be otherwise? If



anyone writes history, is he to write the truth or to write "smooth
things" only? In my former book, acting under legal advice, I
suppressed several facts very disparaging to dignitaries of the parish.
But if too much is suppressed the book would be emasculated and
not true. Also, if there are facts in the history of Didsbury relating to
myself or to my family, it is simply recording the history to relate them,
and it would not have been complete in many cases without them.
The amount of people who have been interested in the pedigree of
the Fletchers is surprising. People I had known for years, and others
I had never heard of, have asked me for further particulars. If Fletcher
was not the name of the enquirer, it had been the maiden name of
his mother, or of his wife, or of his mother-in-law. One old friend
claimed relationship because his grandmother had been a Chorlton,
and he had noticed the record of a marriage between a John Fletcher
and a Joane Chorleton. I said to him, " But that marriage was about
1600, and your grandmother could not have been living then." "Oh,"
said he, "that does not matter, it's only a bit further back." There
is no lack of poor relations for a many of us, and poverty is no crime,
though it is sometimes inconvenient. An unsavoury Irish woman
calling herself Mrs. Smith, and whose thirst was not for knowledge
only, called and claimed relationship ; but a line had to be drawn
somewhere, and the old advertisement ending with the phrase, " No
Irish need apply," suggested where a stand might be made. It may
interest some of the pedigree hunters to know that the earliest
authentic record of the name of ffletcher that I can find in the district
is of the date 1386. In the Raines MSS. there is a copy of a deed, as


follows: "J le ffletcher capell ded Ric fil Rob le Hunt omnia burg
tenem in Manchester, &c. 9 Ric. II." The translation being, "John
the fletcher (or arrower), priest, gave to Richard the son of Robert
the Hunt all that burgage or house or tenement in Manchester, &c.
Witnessed by Ralph de Radclif, John de Ashton, Richard de Holland,
Hugh de Moston, Richard de Redish." As the gentleman was a priest,
he should not have left any descendants; but as I have signed the name
of John Fletcher many many thousands of times, after a lapse of five
hundred years and in the same town, it is interesting to me to republish
the small document, and doubtless will be so to others of the name
of Fletcher.

The long connection of our family with the corn and provision
trades will enable me to give some original information about the food
of the people in former times. The food was generally such as no
ordinary working man would eat to-day. It mainly consisted of barley
bread or oatcake, with skim-dick cheese or reisty bacon as a treat.
Wheaten bread was only for the richer folk, and in wet seasons they
had to go without it, for the simple reason that in a wet harvest or cold
wet summer the wheat in our district does not ripen, and the flour made
from it will not make bread. The bread is simply sticky dough that will
not rise, and the crumb of a loaf shrinks up into a lump and rattles about
inside the crust, like a corpse does in a coffin, the old women used to
say. This I have known several times in my lifetime, the two worst
years being 1860 and 1879. If similar wet harvests and wet summers
had occurred a hundred years since, there would have been a grievous
famine, and the poor would have had to eat bread made of acorns or


even beech mast mixed with their oatmeal. Cattle and pigs were never
fit to kill excepting in the autumn, for they were "bags of bones" in the
spring, gradually fattening with a favourable summer, and at the
approach of winter all were killed that were not reserved for breeding.
As salt was scarce and dear they were not all salted, but were hung
in the smoke and dried, and some of this hung beef was like
mahogany. If a cow or calf was killed to save its life in the
spring or summer, the family or neighbours would live on it till it
was finished.

As another bit of family history relates to this important matter of
the food for the people, I may here mention that about the beginning
of this century my grandfather Fletcher had a shop and warehouse at
New Cross, Manchester, where on one Saturday afternoon they scaled
out (that is, they weighed in retail quantities on the scales) forty loads of
barley meal that was bought for food by poor people. It was in the
cellars of this warehouse that he hid his children, my mother being the
youngest of them, when the place was besieged during bread riots or on
the day of Peterloo.

I now have a sales book from there, showing the prices of flour and
other things for some years. About 1812 was the dearest time. Flour
was then 6 to 7 per sack, oatmeal nearly the same, bread fourteen
pence the loaf, and probably such bread as no one would eat nowadays.
Who would eat barley meal now, or even oatmeal? and yet oatmeal
was largely sold in the trade thirty years since. The "yallow male" or
Indian corn meal came into use for a time at the Irish famine, and was
used during the high prices of the Crimean war time; but, excepting in


workhouses, there is very little oatmeal, or Indy meal, or " yallovv male,"
as the Irish call it, used now, and in the workhouse the two meals have
to be mixed or the inmates object.

I might also explain that the word ale formerly meant the
beverage produced mainly from good malted barley ; it was stronger,
richer, and better in every way than the beer, which was the inferior
quality, thinner and sourer, such as would cause the ordinary Man-
chester police sergeant of the present day to lose a stone in weight
in a week. The good old nut-brown ale was the special drink of the
Tories ; the swipey beer, or whistle bally vengeance, as it was
technically termed, was supposed to be good enough for the Whigs ;
in wet seasons it was often thin and tart, inasmuch as it was some-
times used as a remedy for worms, the afflicted patient being told,
"If thou willt only tak enoo of it, if it doesn't kill th' worms it
will kill thee."

The consumption of ale at the village festivals was enormous,
though it is probable the consumption of intoxicating liquor on the
whole was not so great then as it is now, for spirits were seldom taken.
The labourer or working man worked for longer hours and for less
wages than he does now; the wages were also given to him at fewer
times; therefore he very seldom had any money, and he seldom had
any time to go on the spree. When the opportunity carne, as at The
Wakes, The Harvest Home, Christmas, or other feasts, then he often
drank deep; but experience has shown that the more modern fashion of
continual soaking on small nips is infinitely more injurious than the
older fashion of a good burst at intervals. The harvest home was


formerly the next great annual festival to the wakes. It was a feast
given by the gentry or farmers to their servants at the end of the
harvest. The feast consisted of a good meat supper with ale, and songs
afterwards. Roast goose and stuffing, with plenty of beef, were the chief
dishes. In our time, when the harvest festival consists of a tea in the
schoolroom, with tickets at so much per head, and a sermon in church
with the inevitable collection, the British workman sighs for the time he
has known or heard of, when he had plenty of goose and plenty of beef,
with nut-brown ale brought in to the tune of

Nimble Ned comes dancing in
With a jug of ale so brown and prim;
Come fill your glasses to the brim,
To welcome Harvest Home, Home, Home,
To welcome Harvest Home.

Life was not all beer and skittles for the men in those days. Their
clothes mainly consisted of leather breeches and a smock frock, with a
strong pair of boots. Shirts and stockings were not common ; collars
and ties were unknown ; even caps or hats were not always worn by the
farm labourers. Their clothes were sometimes put on and never taken
off until they began to tumble in pieces. I have known a man in
Didsbury working in a coarse ragged shirt, who told me "he should
ne'er tak it off as long as it would howd togither." A good pair of
leather breeches were really supposed to pass from father to son as an
heirloom. The test of a good pair was to try if they would stand
upright of themselves when nobody was in them ; if they would do so
they were good, strong stuff, and likely to last for a many years. My
father remembered a 'prentice lad coming to his father, whose fond


mother had provided htm with such a pair, and they were the means of
a "vast of fun" in a game that is unknown in these days, that is, for the
boys to set the breeches upright and then jump into them without
touching them with the hands. It was probably a pair of these stiff
leather breeches that the Windsor boy was wearing when George III.
asked him if he did not know he was the king. " Yes," said the boy.
" Then why don't you go on your knees, and you might kiss the king's
hand (or his foot)?" said the king. " Because I'd spoil my breeches,"
said the boy. In those days they liked their breeches as they liked
their slices of beef when I went to school, " some that wouldn't bend."
There is no doubt that a groom or gardener in the present day is better
dressed and better fed than a yeoman or gentleman was in the days of
our great grandfathers, that is, in the middle of last century. The
dress had to be strong and also well cared for, or the servants
would have been naked, for the men living in the house only got
5 a year wages, the women servants only the half of that amount,
and the boys or girls received nothing excepting perhaps some

In concluding this preface, I wish the reader to understand that
any obsolete or archaic word or idiom is written down as I have
heard it spoken, the spelling being phonetic. Also that I have
purposely abstained from consulting any glossary, or giving any
explanation of the meaning of words, and therefore the words are
given with as much of their original native meaning as they can have.
For the information of anyone studying the dialect, I had better
mention that Didsbury is on the border of Cheshire, and I consider


the dialect to be more appertaining to Cheshire than to Lancashire.
At the beginning of my former work on the legends, &c., of the place,
I advanced as a probable theory that the original Saxon settlers of
Deddesbur'h came from Eddisbury, the great Saxon settlement in
Cheshire. The market town and the court town for the district was
always Stockport, not Manchester, and the dialect of the natives has
always seemed to me a Cheshire " talk."



A quart of ale is a dish for a king. Autolycus.

I me a quart o' ale, if yo pleasen, missus, and a mon
to threeup wi."

" Yo may soon have the ale ; and as for a mon
to threeup wi, there's old John Rudd yonder, coming
across th' shooting butts, he'll threeup wi ye till
th' cows come up."

"He wunna threeup sense; some folk talken such rubbitch and such
a lot on it ; gi me a mon whose disscourse is instructive-like, not one o'
them who talken an talken an talken, so as other folk canna get a word
in edgeways ; they'd moyther a growing tree wi their talk."

"Well, there's the old moudywarp man in th' kitchen. I hear tell
that last time clerk Wood paid him for the moudywarps he'd fetcht, he
marked some wi a pin and thrut em on th' esshole unbeknownst to old


Tippetymew, and the force old beggar fetcht em off again and tried to
get pay twice over for the same moudywarps, but he got cotcht."*

" Well, well, there's roguery in aw trades but oursen."

"There's a voyager just coming in; he favvers a black Jesuit more
than owt else. Will he suit you ?"

" Happen he will. Let's see what he's after."

The above interesting conversation between Mistress Twyford, the
hostess of the " Cock," and her customer, was here interrupted by the
sudden entry of the church cleaner, Betty Gaskill, who was a prolific
woman with a large appetite and a continual thirst.

" Lorjus me!"-f- she exclaimed, " what d'ye think? When we was
clearing th' ould rushes from th' church there came a skinny black-
looking chap, who flops down on his knees up at th' top end of the
church by the communion table, and stays there prayin and crossin
hissel, and doesn't tak a bit o' notice o' any on us. We got Wood's
lads to get some brick ends to pelt him wi when he came out, but,
somehow they were fair gloppent, as if he'd bin a frightenin or a
boggut. Here comes th' ould ."

" Can I have a little food and rest here awhile?" said the stranger.

"Aye, you can have such as the house provides, and welcome,"
said the hostess, "and there's a very worthy man here, a horse-leech
by profession, who's just been aksin for some one to hold him in

*In olden times the clerks paid for all moles, sparrows, &c., &c., that were supposed to
be vermin, and were brought to him killed. About this time, in a neighbouring parish, one
thousand three hundred and twenty moles were paid for in one year, 11.

t" Lorjus me," or "Lorjus mercy," was an old-fashioned exclamation, being a con-
traction of " Lord Jesus, have mercy on me."


disscoorse. What would you like in the way of food ? That that's
handiest is oaten cake and cheese. Of course there's other things
pig's head, black puddings, and the like, but the cheese is made i' th'
parish,* and there's no better i' aw Cheshire, for a bit o' the parish is in
Cheshire, yo may know, and th' best cheese i' th' world comes fro there,
that nice blue mould ; and as for th' ale, I brews it myself, and, though
I says it as shouldn't, there's "

"Aye, she does," put in the old horse-leech; "she brews just the same
measures o' mawt whether she fills hafe a dozen hogsheads or as many
kilderkins. Aw the empties a got to be filled, chus how mony there is."

" Ne'er heed him, he must be joking."

" The cheese and oaten cake are abundance for me," said the
stranger, "and if you will let me have some of your best ale, also,
perhaps this gentleman will join me."

"Aye, that will I, and welcome. I'll tak another quart, and thank
ye; one canner properly tell from th' first quart what it's like, and
missus dunna swilker it. Here's my respects."

"To whom have I the honour of speaking?" said the stranger.

" Oh, my name's ffletcher, George ffletcher, but they caw me Dicky
for short, cos there's so mony on us. There's old George, o' th' Wood-
house, him as is lately dead, and there's his son George, and there's me
and a young George from the Fould who's living in Manchester, and
there's others, and heaps o' Johns and Toms; we're a rare breed for
breeding, though they're mostly wenches that's come lately."

* There is now a large stone in the garden of the old parsonage that was formerly used as
a cheese press in Didsbury.


"Then the George ffletcher, of Heaton Wood, who was church-
warden, is dead, is he?"

" Well, they buried him on spec a year or two sin ; he lies i' th' middle
ally near th' chancel. You've bin i' th' Church, may be ; it's cleaning
day to-day, when they cleans for aw the year and puts fresh rushes

"Yes, this is the anniversary of the martyrdom of the blessed
Saint Oswald. His fame has spread to many lands, and the scene of
his martyrdom by the heathen is only a few miles from here."

"I know nowt about blessed saints or martyrs; we caw it th' rush
cart neet."

" Then, how do you keep the festival, my friend ?"

" Oh, we've plenty o' ale, an currant chuck, an tripe, an aw sorts o'
cakes, an th' vestry's called, an the cess is cessed, and the new rushes
fetcht, an folk come fro aw the country side an meeten their friends an
relatives next Sunday, that's Wakes Sunday, and they stayen two or
three days for the wakes; an there'll be shows, an races, an bull baiting,
an cockfeghting, an aw manner o' things. There'll be the best main o'
cocks as ever yo see; sixteen cocks a side against Stoppurt an Cheddle
to be fought out as long as there's any cocks left, a Welsh main some
folk ca it. I should like to take the shine out o them Cheddle chaps,
for they're the swaggeringstest set as ever I see. We'n gotten some
rare birds; shanner yo stop an see it?"

" I would rather see the people and their customs. Perhaps you
can tell me something about them."

"Well, there's th' parson yonder, Parson Twyford, he's akin to her


as keeps this house; he lives o'er yon, just across the cockpit at th' back
o' the inn; 'then the church is t'other side his garden. Aw these places
lie handy like, close together, so as they can aw help one another yo
know. Th' parson's son has just wed th' steward's daughter.* Then
they can keep th' living in the family. Catch them for not knowing
which side their bread's buttered. Mony a man has been hanged for
less schaming than they'n done. That's the steward o'er the green,
yonder; he's as force as an owd dog fox. Just watch the crafty owd
devil going about them booths and shows ; he'll get aw as he can ;
he will have what's reet, an as much more as he can get. Sir John
Eland's his lord now, but he's a spreeing chap as never meddles
with nothin' so long as he's some money to be goin on wi. There's a
deal o' folk comin across the green now, an there'll be a sight more
before neet. Vender's Tom Syddall, him as his feyther's head wur
gibbeted on th' cross in Manchester Market Place."

A sudden gleam lit up the pale ascetic face of the stranger, and

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