William became a successful woollen merchant and by 1800 was one of the
eight main employers
of hand-loom weavers in Rochdale. In 1802, he formed a business partnership
at Hanging Road Mill, Wardleworth with two fellow Quakers. William bought
land and buildings including a large house, cottages, barn and crofts between
Turn Hill and Fish Bridge# in 1805. He bought Buersill Farm and
the 'Broomy Turnhill' meadows from James Hamer in 1807, these having previously
been owned by the Taylors. In 1810, he added the Fish Bridge Estate, bringing
his estate to over 160 acres. It included '4 orchards, 2 barns, 2 stables,
40 acres of land, 30 acres of meadow, 30 acres of moor, 30 acres of moss
and common turbary' and it extended to Badger Lane".
Click here for a Word Document in a zipped file of the Quaker Midgleys' of Rochdale..
FROM WOOL TO COTTON.
"Quaker Diaries record that William had a mill by Buersill Fold. In 1811, Samuel Crompton prepared a petition to Parliament for a grant in recognition of his invention of the spinning mule. In support of this he compiled a list of mill owners using his mules. William Midgley was one of only seven in Rochdale and he had 1,932 of Crompton's mules2.
Background to the
Lancashire Cotton Industry
In 1764 James Hargreaves [b. Standhill
nr. Blackburn, d. 1778] invented the "Spinning Jenny" . This machine
had the effect of increasing the spinning production of yarn which had fallen
behind the rate of weaving since the invention of Kay's "Flying-shuttle".
Hargreave's house, "The Hall-in-the -Wood", was set on fire
by weavers concerned about their livelihoods and he had to flee to Nottingham.
Shortly after the invention of the Spinning Jenny, Richard Arkwright of
Preston in 1769 invented the "Water Frame".
His cotton spinning mill was on Sudden Brook, near where Robert Hartley's Cart & Wagon Works and then Butterworths Joiners were later sited. William's son, John, was in charge of the mill in1818. Rakewood Cotton Mill was built in 1814 by William and John Midgley. Their 43 employees worked six 12-hour days per week.3 The Midgleys also bought Tenterhouse Mills at Norden for fulling and bleaching. William was a well known figure in Rochdale, having been the largest subscriber to the building of the new Rochdale Friends Meeting House in 1808. He was a close friend of fellow Quakers, Jacob and John Bright and James King of Moss Mill. He laid out £4,000 in a mortgage on the 1825 Manchester and Austerlands Turnpike (Oldham Road) and also had shares in the Rochdale and Lancaster canals.
As a woollen merchant, William employed 600 hands who made a total of around
pieces a week. His weaving was given out mainly to 'little farmers' and
he also farmed his Buersill Estate. Being one of the major merchants he exported
the finished pieces direct from the port of Liverpool. In 1812, he petitioned
Parliament on behalf of his workers.4 Wages had fallen by 30%
and the cost of food had risen. Workers were surviving on oatcake, oatmeal
porridge (oats being a popular crop in Rochdale, not needing much sun!)
and potatoes and they hardly ever saw meat. He urged Parliament to send
relief to ease their hardship. He had 7,000 pieces of flannel, valued at
£20,000, stockpiled in his warehouse at Turn Hill because business
had declined due to the Napoleonic War trade embargoes and other factors.
He referred to Buersill as the 'village' and would give out sixpences as
a gesture of kindness rather than buy drinks, which was against his Quaker
principles. He was known as a generous man but his wife, formerly Alice
Butterworth of Moorbank Farm, was very thrifty".
Note: The Butterworths' of Belfield had the Butterworth arms in chief dexter. The Buerdsall ["Birdshill"] coat of arms is in chief which is represented by three bird bolts, the inclusion of which, resulted from the marriage of Barnard Butterworth to Elizabeth Buerdsall.
Notes by Joseph Wood, a Yorkshire Quaker 1750-1821, which make numerous mentions of William Midgley of Buersil and his son James of Springhill here: PDF Transcribed by Pamela Coosey.
In it the woollen pieces were laid on long tables for inspection by the overlookers and then stored according to length of fleece. One large room was divided into great stalls with a narrow walkway along the bottom. Wool was often piled high to the ceiling and every stall had a trap door, opening from above, down which the wool could be shot. This room was the children's favourite! They would jump through the trap door upon the wool, rioting among it and sliding down onto the floor below. If uncle John caught them he would turn a blind eye but not Uncle William!
At Spring Hill, there were chimneys and skylights above the servants' rooms and attics. The glass topped coach-houses at the rear appeared to pre-date the house, suggesting that William built on the site of a previous house. A spring bubbled up into a stone trough in the floor of the extensive cellars and at first this was the only water supply for the house. Servants toiled up the steps with jugs of water. James farmed the Spring Hill Estate and a barn inscribed 'W M (?) 1817' was built along with a shippon at Turn Hill. David Pollitt's drawing of 1961 [right] captures something of the atmosphere of the former Buersill and Spring Hill estates. By 1850, there was a water pump and other wells in the fields near what later became Crompton Avenue. There was also an important 'Well House' in the middle of what is now Craiglands. Remains of the old flag wall by the path which led to it are still visible between the playing fields and the first houses of Craiglands.
William Midgley died a wealthy man in 1834, but sadly his will became a source of contention. As eldest son, James was to have inherited the Buersill Estate, John to have had Spring Hill and Thomas and William the Tenterhouse Mills, Tenterhouse House, 5 cottages and property by 'Doctor Dam', Norden (the fifth son, Joseph, had died aged 10). There were also major bequests to his wife and only surviving daughter, Lucy. This was William's 'will' and it seemed fair enough but difficult to implement, due to a clause stating that if any son got more than a quarter of the property it was to be 'charged and chargeable' and two valuations had to be obtained for the three main lots. John, who had married Mary Holt and farmed 31 acres at Deeplish Hill, formerly owned by the Holts, chose to contest the proposed settlement and persuaded his younger brothers to support him. Brothers Thomas and William also worked in the family mills. According to James's descendants, William's sons John, Thomas and William were 'all more or less unsatisfactory, and addicted to company and amusements, more fond of foxhunting and coursing than business and would give up whatever they were about to follow the hounds when they came near Rochdale'.
James Midgley (drawn by his son Henry) appeared to have been badly served by lawyers and was about to forgo the Buersill Estate to John, when the latter died suddenly in 1836. William junior carried on the fight on behalf of John's family but he died in 1838. In 1839, the Tenterhouse lot was up for sale with enquiries to Mr. Midgley of Spring Hill and Thomas Midgley of Buersill House. John Midgley's son, William Holt Midgley inherited the Buersill Estate on his 21st birthday in 1847. James was saddened by the dispute but stayed on at Spring Hill, where his family were settled. He was keen to see a railway pass through Buersill and in 1845 had subscribed £13,200 in an unsuccessful bid to form the Rochdale, Heywood and Manchester Atmospheric Railway.
James Midgley, James King and Richard Hurst all had carriages in the huge procession to celebrate the passing of the Bill repealing the Corn Laws on 8th July 1846. The procession took 1 hour 35 minutes to pass any one point, having started at 10 a.m. from John Bright's factories at Cronkeyshaw. In 1849, James's daughter Martha married John Cash and six carriages left Spring Hill in procession for the Friends Meeting House (reference in Kershaw Diary). James's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was a well known Quaker minister and the last of the family to leave Spring Hill, selling it to Richard Hurst in 1862. James Midgley's extensive collection of rare early Quaker books and tracts is on permanent loan to the John Rylands Library Manchester University.
The Midgleys were important figures in Buersill, but they were by no means the only flannel manufacturers or merchants, nor were all the local people weaving for them. The Day Book of Crimble Mill recorded weavers doing 'piece work' for them in Buersill in 1789. Mary Hart and Benjamin Dawson were flannel manufacturers of Buersill Grove in 1844, as was James Taylor in 1858. Abraham Butterworth was a fustian cutter and James Greenhalgh a fustian jacket maker".
Text file of Midgley
of Rochdale I.G.I.
Midgley of Rochdale 1881 census [text file1]
Midgley of Rochdale 1881 census [text file 2]
8. Gregson's Fragments, 1824, p. 291.
* Copies of this book can be purchased by making enquiries to :
|Hannah M. Haynes
Rochdale, Lancashire OL164RD
The Arthur Midgley loving cup
* Shuttleworth Hall, Altham: Shuttleworth Hall was listed as a Yeoman Farmers house of the early 1600's. George and Martha Haworth of Shuttleworth Hall emigrated to Philadelphia in Pennsylvania,USA, where there is a recording of their son John Haworth's marriage to Mary Norton on the 17th November 1772.