Photos by John & Gloria Moss unless otherwise credited
The Town & Borough of Bury
Bury is known regionally as a town whose thrice-weekly market, held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, draws crowds of shoppers from far and wide. Its popularity has also been recently enhanced by the Metrolink tram/train service which terminates at Bury, and the reopening of the East Lancashire Light Railway which runs daily from Bury (Bolton Street) to Rawtenstall. The town is famous also for paper-making, which has declined somewhat since its heyday, and the notorious Bury Black Pudding, a local delicacy, served boiling hot and eaten as a takeaway snack (available at the town’s market on market days)
Outside the parish church, at the end of The Rock, stands a monument to one of Bury’s most celebrated men, Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister, and founder of the Metropolitan Police Force Bury Town Hall is a striking modern (if rather bland) building, set around with pleasant gardens – it was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1954. In the past decade, much of the town centre has been developed as a large covered shopping mall – The Millgate Precinct. Some 5 miles distant on Holcombe Hill overlooking the borough, stands the monument to Sir Robert Peel – the austere Peel Tower.
The name Bury, (also earlier known as “Buri” and “Byri”) comes from a Saxon word, probably meaning “a stronghold”. In ancient times the whole area was almost certainly covered in woodland, marsh and moorland and was probably inhabited by nomadic herdsmen. A Bronze Age funeral barrow has been located at Whitelow Hill in nearby Ramsbottom. Several ceramic urns were unearthed here and are now on display in the Bury Museum.
The Romans are believed to have arrived in Bury around 78 AD and Agricola, the Governor of Britain built roads out from his new fortress as Mamuciam (the origin of Manchester), one of which, Watling Street, crossed the Borough through Prestwich across the River Irwell at Radcliffe and continuing on through Affetside towards to Ribchester. Parts of the road are still visible today particularly around Affetside. It has been suggested that the village of Ainsworth may be near to or the site of Roman Coccium as the place has always been known by the nickname “Cockey Moor”. During medieval times most of Bury was held by the the De Montbegons, Lords of the Manor of Tottington. This barony had been granted to Roger De Poitou at the end of the 11th century. By the 14th century, the manor had passed into the possession of the Pilkington family until 1485 when the lands of Sir Thomas Pilkington were forfeited because of his allegiance to Richard III. Later, under a new king, Henry, the lands were granted to one of his staunchest supporters, Thomas, Lord Stanley, who for his services was created Earl of Derby. The Stanley family have been Lords of the Manor ever since. In the south of the area most of the land was acquired by purchase of Lord Grey de Winton and his successor, the Earl of Wilton, is still the present owner. In the Middle Ages the “Black Death” led to a shortage of labour. Land previously ploughed fell into decay. Large areas were turned into pastures and sheep were reared. It was at this time that Bury appears to have become a centre for wool and woollen cloth. Little had changed in Bury until the beginning of the 18th century, when a revolution took place in the textile world. John Kay, born at Walmersley in Bury, developed the so-called “Flying Shuttle” and revolutionised cotton weaving, hastening the progress of weaving as a fully mechanised industrial process. During the Industrial Revolution the town of Bury grew at an astonishing rate. In 1791 called the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Company was formed, and thereafter coal was brought to the town by narrowboat directly from Worsley through the Bridgewater Canal and Castlefield Basin in Manchester. Little of the original canal is still in existence, but happily, the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society are systematically restoring the navigation around Radcliffe. Canal trips are now possible once more. The area has always had a military connection with the Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment (later “The Fusiliers”) based at their headquarters on Bolton Road. Since their founding 300 years ago they have many battle honours including Gallipoli in the Great War, winning six VCs. Paper manufacturing has been a major industry in the area since the last century and until relatively recent times had brought much wealth and prosperity to the town. Today there remain no more than a handful of the mills which once placed Bury among the most important paper making centres in Europe.Large paper manufacturing companies like Bibby and Baron, Ramsbottom’s Trinity Paper Mills, and the East Lancashire Paper Mills, produced much of the nation’s paper requirement until quite recent times. Sadly, East Lancs paper Mill, the last remaining in Radcliffe, closed down in 2001. Much of the world’s paper-making machinery was also manufactured in Bury. Courses on paper-making are still run at Bury College. Today, many of its surviving mills concentrate on processing recycled fibres, and the town is regaining some of its past pre-eminence in paper manufacture, with the Fort Sterling factory at Ramsbottom having recently invested �70 million in paper-making processing.