Drawings by John Moss
Religion in Manchester
James Fraser was Bishop of Manchester
Cathedral from 1870-1885. He was born in Prestbury in Gloucestershire
in 1818, into a poor home, and one of seven children. His father
had lost a family fortune in bad investments in mining. He won
a scholarship to Lincoln College in Oxford, and graduated from
there in 1840, at which time he was elected a Fellow of Oriel
College, where he remained until 1848. He entered the priesthood
in 1847, and a year later took up the post of Rector of Cholderton
in Wiltshire, and later, in 1860, moving to Ufton Nervet in
Prime Minister Gladstone selected Fraser to the bishopric of
Manchester to be its second Bishop in 1870. Fraser had grave
reservations, having lived most of his life in the rural countryside,
and faced with charge of a relatively new parish in a great
industrial city, populated largely by Nonconformist chapel-goers.
However, he threw himself into the work with energy and dedication,
refusing to live in Mauldeth Hall, as his predecessor had done,
as it lay outside the city, and he felt that he needed to be,
and to be seen to be nearer to his parishioners. He found a
house which suited his purpose, on Bury New Road at Higher Broughton.
The house became known as "Bishop's Court", (the house and name
is still in use today, and remains the home of the Bishop of
Manchester), and he lived there with his mother and an aunt.
Gladstone appointment of Fraser to Manchester was to prove providential,
as many new Educational Reform laws were under consideration,
and Fraser had already served on a Royal Commission into education
in 1858. His knowledge and expertise were to prove useful. Fraser's
work with the poor and underprivileged and his pressure for
social and educational reform were to eventually endear him
to the people of Manchester.
During his bishopric, Fraser saw 99 new churches consecrated
and 20 rebuilt, he set up and created over 100 new district
parishes to serve the growing city, and founded the Bishop's
Fund for poorer parishes. He also acted as mediator in several
Trades Union disputes, encouraged the co-operative movement
and was deeply involved in work with the poor. Fraser married
Agnes Duncan in 1880 when he was already 62 years old, but he
died unexpectedly 5 years later.
He was buried at Ufton Nervet, though a huge funeral procession
took place in Manchester out of the respect that the city held
for him. Dignitaries from all over the region were in attendance,
and thousands flanked the processional route.
A statue to Fraser stands in Albert Square outside the Town
Hall, and there is a chapel in Manchester
Cathedral dedicated to his memory.
Ashton Lever of Alkrington
Born on the 5th March 1729 of Lady Darcy Lever of Alkrington,
and baptised at Middleton Church, Ashton Lever was born into
landed gentry and occupants of Akrington Hall - a family of
considerable local wealth and power. His father, Darcy had,
since student days, been a close friend of John Byrom of Manchester
and had also served as High Sheriff of Lancashire. Sir Darcy
died in 1742 when Ashton was just 13, and he was educated by
the Reverend John Clayton at St. Cyprians in Salford - one of
his classmates was Charles White.
Lever's predilection for horse racing led him to be active in
re-establishing the Manchester Races at Kersal Moor in 1761.
Lacking the firm hand of a father, in his youth Ashton was somewhat
of a wastrel, such that his courtship of Mary Assheton, the
eldest daughter and heiress of Sir Ralph Assheton of Middleton
came to nothing when her father refused consent to their marriage.
In the event, at age 35 he married the 18 year old Frances Bayley
of Withington, at Prestwich Church in 1764.
Ashton's interests also included ornithology, and he pursued
this interest until he had collected nearly four thousand live
birds. He also collected stuffed specimens and held a public
display of his collection was made in 1766 at the King's Arms
in Manchester. His extensive collections of the rare and exotic
included a squirrel monkey, the arctic fox, the flamingo, bird
of paradise, saw fish, corals, tomahawks, scalping knives and
other weapons. These became the basis of the museum which he
established at Alkrington Hall in 1772. Later were added 1000s
of medals, plaster casts, more than 200 drawings, and over 200
"warlike instruments - over 3,000 glass cases in all. Later,
plants and insects were added. Ashton's obsession with the museum
did not preclude an involvement in public life.
In 1766 he became a Justice of the Peace for the Salford Division,
he served on the Grand Jury at the Lancaster Assizes in 1766
and again in 1786, and in 1771 he served his term as High Sheriff
of the county. He was also a Freemason of the Unanimity Lodge
at Manchester which then met at Crompton's Coffee House.
He also prospected for coal on his Alkrington estate, and found
several seams of inferior quality and had established Alkrington
Coal Pits by June 1772. They were closed in 1841. Public recognition
of his work as a collector came in 1778, when Ashton's Museum
was visited by the Royal Family. The following week, King George
III bestowed a knighthood on Ashton. By this time his museum
was regarded as second only to the British Museum in London.
Sir Ashton became the first President of the Toxophilite Society
, a position he held until his death.
By 1784 the museum collection amounted to a total of 26,662
exhibits of which 2,654 were birds contained in 1,972 glass
cases. Rising costs saw years of appeals for finance, a national
lottery, and one government enquiry and a bill before parliament.
Meanwhile, at Alkrington, Ashton lived for just a few more years,
and died of a chill a few weeks before his fifty ninth birthday.
His funeral was held at Prestwich.
The Lever connection with Alkrington came to an end in 1845,
when the hall and estate were sold to the Lees brothers of Clarksfield,
Oldham, for £57,550.
Lawrence Vaux was the last Roman Catholic warden of the Collegiate
Church at Manchester (now the Cathedral). Born in Blackrod,
in the ancient parish of Bolton-le-Moors, he presided over the
Cathedral during a period of religious and political turmoil
and strife. He was educated at the Manchester Grammar School,
after which he studied at Queens and Corpus Christi Colleges
at Oxford University.
He was first ordained a priest at the Collegiate Church in 1542,
and was a Fellow of the College, until it was dissolved and
he was reduced to the status of curate with a salary of £12
9s 6d per annum (now £12.47). In the meantime he had devoted
himself to the study of theology and in 1556 was awarded the
degree of Bachelor of Divinity by Oxford.
The accession of Queen Mary to the throne of England caused
a turn in his fortunes, when the Collegiate Church was restored
and Vaux was appointed as Warden in 1558. He was popular and
much admired by his parishioners. When Elizabeth I acceded to
the throne it was to mark the beginning of his bad fortune.
Her Act of Uniformity in 1559 required all Catholics to conform
to the Anglican service and to take an oath of loyalty to her
as head of the Church of England, which Vaux refused to do.
He fled to Ireland, taking all the church's silver and gold
plate, the vestments and deeds. He had many of these hidden
by sympathisers at Standish in Lancashire, and made legal provision
for their return when the church was restored to the Catholic
faith. From Ireland he went to Louvain in France, where there
existed a number of English Catholic exiles like himself, and
he took to teaching, writing and publishing.
His first catechism in English proved a most successful publication.
Some 300 or more copies had been smuggled into England, and
were in use by underground Catholic worshippers. When aged 53,
Vaux was admitted to the Augustine order, and within a few years
was made sub-prior. He also made two clandestine visits back
to England, one about 1566 to give support and encouragement
to beleaguered Catholic families, and again in 1580, when an
abortive attempt to enter the country resulted in his arrest
and imprisonment at Rochester in Kent.
Later moved to the Gatehouse Prison in Westminster in London,
and then to the Clink at Southwark. He died in this prison in
1585, no charges ever having been brought against him.
William Allen, born in 1532 at Rossall near Fleetwood in Lancashire,
went on to become a leading Cardinal and spiritual leader of
English Catholics during the Elizabethan period and at a time
of great Catholic persecution in England. He was educated at
Oriel College, Oxford, which he left in 1561 to go to the English
College in Douai, Rome, to play an important role in the founding
of seminaries for the training of Roman Catholic missionaries.
As well as his own controversial writings he inspired and was
involved in the translation of the Douai-Rheims Bible between
1582 and 1609, a Roman Catholic version of the Scriptures in
He was also principal of St Mary's Hall, Oxford, but, Elizabeth
I acceded to the throne, he went into exile rather than take
the oath of supremacy, which all Englishmen were bound by law
to take on severe penalty. Old Lancashire gentry frequently
sent their children to the continent to be educated in the Catholic
In 1561 he joined the exiles in Louvain, and in the following
year he returned to England, where he made Oxford his base,
from which he spent around two years roaming the countryside
arguing the Catholic case and boosting Catholic morale.
He was made cardinal in 1587 and supported the Spanish Armada
in 1588, a decision that adversely affected his influence among
many English Roman Catholics. He spent his last years at the
college which he had founded in Rome.
Joseph Livesey, Lancashire social reformer and temperance advocate,
was born in Walton le Dale near Preston on 5 March 1794. Orphaned
at the age of seven he was raised by his grandparents who, by
all accounts, were a poor family of small farming stock. By
the age of 21 Joseph worked winding bobbins; eventually he became
a handloom weaver, working in the cellar of his grandparents
house for a wage of 6 shillings (about 30 pence) a week. Joseph
went on to ply several different trades and professions: by
the late 1820s he was established as a cheese maker in Preston
and during the 1830s he was to be found in business printing
pamphlets, handbills and major temperance journals. In 1844
he established the Preston Guardian the forerunner of the present
Lancashire Evening Post.
In 1816 Livesey moved to live in Preston, where he became
a celebrated temperance reformer and advocated abstinence from
alcoholic drinks. By 1838, the Liveseys were living above a
shop in Church Street, Preston. Joseph and his wife produced
thirteen children, four of whom died in infancy. He also lived
at Toad House Lane (subsequently Todd Lane) in Walton. In his
memoirs he left a graphic description of village life during
his childhood, and his estate constitutes a detailed and comprehensive
portfolio showing the everyday life of the region at that time
- as such it is a major research resource. John Livesey became
a major local manufacturer and employer. The row of weavers'
step houses where the family lived survives today - Livesey
is believed to have lived in at least three of them before his
marriage. He had a warehouse and warping mill in the village
and used many local weavers as outworkers. When
he died in 1884 he left an estate valued at £21,500.