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Blackley


Districts of Manchester

Blackley (pronounced Blake -ley, and not Black-ley as outsiders understandably, though mistakenly, call it) comes from Old English words meaning "clearing in a dark wood", and lies to the north of Manchester. In medieval times the area was dense woodland with deer and wolves - a popular local hunting venue. Dues for cutting timber or for hunting deer in Blackley were payable directly to the monarch. Similarly, Boggart Hole Clough and the River Irk which runs through the area was a popular spot for catching eels or hunting rabbits. A boggart is an old local word for a ghost or evil spirit. Contemporary eyewitnesses to its existence were many, though it seems to have deserted the landscape in recent years.
Blackley is located about 2½ miles north of Manchester city centre. It is on the east side of Rochdale Road just south of Boggart Hole Clough. Rochdale Road is a major route from the Manchester to the north and the M60 orbital motorway about 1½ miles away.
Blackley Hall stood at the junction of Rochdale Road and Middleton Road from Tudor times, and was the home of the Assheton family, local wealthy landowners and philanthropists. It had also belonged to the Legh family (of Lyme Hall in Disley). It was demolished some time shortly before 1815.
Blackley estate had been purchased by the Byrom family from the De la Warre family, who had been the Lords of the Manor of Manchester in medieval times. The poet Lord Byron had been a member of this family.
Its convenient distance from Manchester meant that Blackley escaped the worst ravages of the Industrial Revolution and even until the early 20th century it was essentially rural with a solitary corn water driven mill on the River Irk. Middleton Road saw the arrival of French émigrés escaping religious persecution - they brought linen weaving skills to the district.
640 acres of Blackley were to be lost to the building of Heaton Park for the Egerton family in 1772. Now incorporated into the City of Manchester, it is the City's biggest park.
The 1930s saw considerable redevelopment in Blackley as a housing boom was in full flood, and its early 20th century farms and fields disappeared into suburban overspill sprawl. Its former rural nature is only hinted at now in placenames like Meadows School, Plant Hill and French Barn Lane.
More recently, the final 2000 completed link in the M60 Orbital Motorway which skirts its north-eastern boundary, has disturbed what remained of its rural idyll, and Blackley can no longer be in any doubt that it has been well and truly incorporated into the Greater Manchester conurbation.
The nearby North Manchester Business Park is a recent venture aimed at boosting the local economy and creating new career, training and job opportunities in the district.

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NOTE:
We have made reference to several sources in compiling this web page, but must make special mention of the Breedon Books' "Illustrated History of Manchester's Suburbs" by Glynis Cooper, of which we made particular use. Information about this book can be found on our Books About Manchester webpage.

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This page last updated 10 Mar 09.