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The Kerrich Family

The Kerrrich Family Grave

The Kerrich family grave at St Mary's Church in Prestwich is notable for two reasons. Firstly, unlike the majority of pre-WWII graves, it retains its original iron railings. The iron surrounds of many graves, along with the railings along the boundary wall, and the main gates on Church Lane, were removed in 1940 for the war effort.

The War Effort

Field Marshall Goering was the first to start the collection of ironwork for recycling into war materials in Germany. The UK Defence (General) Regulations of 1939 soon followed, and allowed for approved contractors to remove iron railings with a receipt for the weight removed so the owner could claim compensation.


Firstly this aimed to secure employment, and to compensate for the reduced supply from USA through loss of trans-Atlantic shipping space to armaments and soldiers. It was soon discovered that it also had benefits for morale.

Despite a formal approval process for the appointment of contractors, removal via sledge hammer was reported and complaints came in. By 1942 contractors were instructed to make good any damage when resources allowed, with repair gangs to follow up behind the removal gangs, but only as there was a war on... resources were scarce, and so were any repairs.

The graveyard before the removal of the Ironwork

[See more images of Prestwich from the Bury Archives]

By 1942 some 200,000 tons of railings had been collected, by 1943 this had risen to 532,000 tons. The patriotic vigour behind the collection was unexpected and the deliveries to the furnesses could not keep up. As a result, the iron languished in scrap heaps around the country. Rumours said that some was dumped in the sea or river estuaries, but the fact remains that scrap iron (wrought or cast) was still worth something. Wrought iron could be re-used directly depending on the quality, while cast iron needed to be converted through "puddling". Most likely the iron found its way to the furnesses, just a little bit later than expected.

The 1827 Gates, lost to the War Effort

The inscription records the burials of four Kerrich adults, Amelia Jane (1831-1895), Andalusia (1835-1887), Anna Maria Theresa (1838-1914), and the Rev. John Kerrich (1841-1918). They were four of the twelve children of John Kerrich Esq, who had been born in 1798, and his wife Mary Eleanor who had been born in 1805.

Andalusia was the first to be buried in the plot in 1887

The Kerrich family originated from Geldeston Hall in Norfolk and were the Lords of the Manor of Stockton-with-the-Soke and successful brewers and farmers owning at least 40 pubs.

The family fortunes improved even further when John married Mary Eleanor Fitzgerald whose mother was one of the richest commoners in Britain during the 19th Century. In 1823, Mary's parents, John and Mary Fitzgerald had erected an obelisk to mark the site of the battle of Naseby.

The Naseby Obelisk (Historic England Archive ~1920)

John Fitzgerald had been born John Purcell(1775), and had assumed the name and arms of his wife's family in 1818. His children used the surname Purcell-Fitzgerald. Through this inheritance the family home Geldeston Hall in Norfolk, which had been built in the 1770s, along with a vast estate in Pendleton, Salford passed to John Fitzgerald and his family.

Township of Pendleton

In 1261, the township was granted to the Priory of St. Thomas the Martyr and remained so until the Dissolution. Pendleton was then granted in 1539 to the Bishop of Lichfield and subsequently passed to his nephew, Bryan Fowler, after which it remained in possession of the Fowler family until the beginning of the 18th century, when it was bequeathed to the Fitzgerald family.

John commissioned Robert Stephenson (b 1788), elder brother of George Stephenson, "The Father of Railways" (he designed "Locomotion" and his son Robert designed "Rocket"), to commence coal-mining on his Lancashire estate. The Fitzgerald estate included coal mines in Pendleton, and Robert Stephenson supervised the operations as manager and engineer until his death in 1837.

In 1826 was a busy year, John Fitzgerald bought a property in Seaford, Sussex so he could stand for Parliament. He was elected as Tory Member of Parliament for Seaford that year, and held the seat until it's abolition in the Reform Act of 1832.

Castle Irwell

John then built Castle Irwell in the same year as a northern family home, though it had just six bedrooms, it quite small considering his wealth. In December of the same year, his daughter Mary Eleanore, married John Kerrich in St Marylebone, in Westminster.

Also in 1826, he paid for the construction of a 144 feet (44 m) suspension bridge across the River Irwell between Lower Broughton and Pendleton. The lane that crossed the bridge was called Suspension Road, later it became Gerald's Lane (as in Fitz-Gerald's). The bridge avoided the use of the Broughton Ford river crossing, which when in flood would have resulted in longer trips via either Agecroft Bridge or the Crescent. It connected not only Fitzgerald's Castle Irwell to Broughton and onwards, but also continued on to Fitzgerald's Pendleton colliery.

Pendleton Colliery, Castle Irwell, Suspension Bridge

Fitzgerald aimed to recoup his outlay charging all users of the bridge a toll to cross. The bridge was the only means of communication between the townships of Broughton and Pendleton and a source of great local pride, as the Menai Suspension Bridge had opened that same year and suspension bridges were then considered the "new wonder of the age".

On 12 April 1831, John's son,Lieutenant Percy Slingsby Fitzgerald commanded the 60th Rifle Corps as they carried out an exercise on Kersal Moor. A famous event happened as they returned to Barracks...

Military Camp on kersal Moor (undated)


"As a detachment of 74 men returned to barracks on Regent Road in Salford they crossed over the bridge, the soldiers, who were marching four abreast, felt it begin to vibrate in time with their footsteps. Finding the vibration amusing, some of them started to whistle a marching tune, and to "humour it by the manner in which they stepped", causing the bridge to vibrate even more. The head of the column had almost reached the Pendleton side when they heard "a sound resembling an irregular discharge of firearms". Immediately, one of the iron columns supporting the suspension chains on the Broughton side of the river fell towards the bridge, carrying with it a large stone from the pier to which it had been bolted. The corner of the bridge, no longer supported, then fell 16 or 18 feet (4.9 or 5.5 m) into the river, throwing about forty of the soldiers into the water or against the chains. The river was low and the water only about two feet (60 cm) deep at that point. None of the men were killed, but twenty were injured, including six who suffered severe injuries including broken arms and legs, severe bruising, and contusions to the head."

Broughton Suspension Bridge (replacement)

The British Army issued the order to all troops to break step when crossing bridges. The French had a similar experience with the collapse of the Angers suspension bridge in 1850 despite breaking step, with the loss of 226 (mainly soldiers). The Broughton suspension bridge failure was traced to a poor retaining bolt, it was rebuilt and strengthened, with extra support supplied if crowds were expected. Then in 1924 the bridge was replaced by the truss footbridge which is still in use today.

Pendleton Colliery

In 1834 a shaft at the Pendleton mine was closed after it flooded, but John leased nearby land from the Duchy of Lancaster and established Pendleton Colliery on Whit Lane, with Robert Stephenson as Director. In 1836, the colliery supplied at least 215,000 tons of coal to Manchester by road, 24 per cent of the city's total demand. With continued flooding made worse by the closure of neighbouring mines (and the lack of their pumping out of water), the pits closed in 1843 and a celebration procession passed through the streets of Manchester when they finally reopened in 1847. However the closure had ruined the investors, making the Pendleton Colliery venture unsuccessful. His son recorded in 1843: "besides losses by everlasting rogues, runaway agents, etc" suggesting fraudulent activities also impacted hi father's business. John was forced to file for bankruptcy, and declared bankrupt on December 28, 1848 with liabilities stated to be about £198,000 (£25m today!). His son recorded: "So end the hopes of eighteen years; and he is near seventy, left without his only hobby! ... [H]e is come to the end of his purse."

Lt. Col. John Fitzgerald (1775-1852)

John FitzGerald obtained the rank of Lt. Colonel, and died at Regent's Park Terrace, Camden Town, in 1852. That same year the colliery land of 280 acres with mineral rights was leased to Andrew Knowles & Sons. John's eldest son John Purcell FitzGerald inherited the estate in Pendleton, and refused to renew a lease on the Racecourse "for just and Christian reasons" when this 20 year lease expired in 1867. John P Fitzgerald was described by Robert Bernard Martin, in relation to his siblings as "easily the most eccentric of a peculiar lot".

Manchester Racecourse (1847-1867)

He died in 1879, and by 1898 the Castle Irwell land had been bought by the Manchester Race Committee from his executors, they razed the Castle and Knoll and expanded the old race course, which had been laid North of Castle Irwell with a 1000 seater stand, to now take up the whole headland in the curve of the river Irwell. The races returned from a course at New Barns, Weaste, to the Kersal site in 1902.

Manchester Racecourse (1915))

Manchester RacesThe first reference to the Manchester Races "On Carsall Moore" was in 1687, and had been stopped in 1746, (with the help of a campaign by John Byrom ). Regular races began again in 1759 through to 1846, when they moved to News Barns and then Castle Irwell. The nearby Agecroft Bridge Railway Station was opened just for the Manchester Races at Kersal, even though it had closed to passengers in 1838. The North side of the racetrack on the moor can still be walked along today.The pub was thought to have originally been known as the Running Horses(1776), then as the Racehorse, the Turf Tavern and the Griffin & Turf Tavern. It was described as having a bowling green, archery grounds, gardens, and it had booths that were rented out to Manchester shopkeepers on race day. Read about the Kersal Moor Riots of 1842

Kersal Races ,1830

In 1827, the Earl of Wilton at Heaton Park opened a race course in his grounds (after marrying the daughter of the 12th Earl of Derby - after whom Epson Derby is named). By 1829 the Heaton Park Races were extended to 3 days, and the final Manchester Cup was held in 1838. The last winner, the Earl of Wilton's "Jagger" was ridden by Captain Becher who had won it the year before on "Cowboy". The name of the jockey lives on in the Grand National race today, the next year the races had switched to Liverpool

Heaton Park Races

There was a popular belief that Irwell Castle had been built on an ancient castle site, as it occupied a pretty, wooded knoll by the river Irwell called Hylewood, but no evidence was found/mentioned when the Castle was demolished to make way for The Manchester race course between 1898 & 1902. More recent archaeology ahead of the installation of the Kersal Wetlands also found no conclusive evidence, but hinted at the defensive benefits of the knoll over the nearby river crossings.

Another of John Fitzgerald's sons was a notable poet called Edward Fitzgerald. He was famed for his translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam from Persian into English.

Edward Fitzgerald (nee Purcell)

Edward Fitzgerald

Edward (1809 – 1883) was an English poet and writer and born Edward Purcell at Bredfield House in Bredfield, Suffolk. Needing no employment, Edward lived quietly in Suffolk, never leaving the county for more than a week or two. Until 1835, the Purcell-Fitzgerald's lived in Wherstead, then moved until 1853 to a cottage in the grounds of Boulge Hall, near Woodbridge, to which his parents had moved. In 1860, he again moved with his family to Farlingay Hall, where they stayed until in 1873. Their final move was to Woodbridge, where Edward resided at his own house close by called Little Grange.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam This was the title give to Fitzgerald's 1859 translation from Persian to English of a selection of quatrains (rubāʿiyāt) attributed to Omar Khayyam (1048–1131), dubbed "the Astronomer-Poet of Persia". The book was slow to succeeded but by 1880's had become very popular. Whether the poems belonged to Khayyam or not is debatable as he was foremost an Astronomer, and was only later described as a poet, some decades after his death.

Mary Eleanor had been Edward's favourite sister, and he is known to have visited Castle Irwell in 1832 and 1835. Mary died in 1863, and Edward left her son Walter his estate and a large bequest upon his death in 1883. John Kerrich died in 1871. and his son Walter spent his inheritances on the complete remodelling of the family home Geldeston Hall and gardens in Norfolk. But strangely he did not move back in when the work was completed, instead remained in a smaller house they had moved to during the renovations at nearby Dunburgh. The family memorials are in Geldeston Church which Walter had also repaired and extended in the 19th Century.


The name of Fitzgerald still lives on in "Fitzgerald way" with Salford Shopping Precinct.

The census of 1881 shows John Kerrich (b:1841) a clerk at a paper manufacturer, living with three of his sisters at Riversdale, which stood on Gerald Rd, on the Broughton side of the present day footbridge.

As mentioned, the first of the children of John Kerrich (b:1798) to be buried at St Mary's was Andalusia on 23rd Dec. 1887, with Amelia Jane buried 8 years later. In 1861 Andalusia had been living at Sussex Gardens, Paddington. Both burials were presided by a minister of The Church of The Ascension, on Clarence Street, Lower Broughton, C.T.Watson.

The Church of The Ascension

The church was built in 1869. It was used as an Anglican church, and contained memorials from World War I and World War II. It suffered a fire in 2017 but has recently undergone restoration.

Both Kerrich daughters had not married and lived at Riversdale. Their church was just a 5 minute walk away, but did not have a burial ground attached, so it's presumed that the family sought a nearby graveyard, and chose one of the best and most renowned, that of St Mary's in Prestwich. Gerald Road in Broughton is now called St Boniface Road - after the Roman Catholic Church that was built opposite Riversdale in 1892, but also to avoid confusion with the same road on the Pendleton side of the bridge.

Broughton Suspension Bridge

If you look to the left of the replacement Suspension Bridge above, you can see Riversdale, now replaced by housing. Anna Maria Theresa Kerrich was next to enter the grave in 1914 and she was living at Riversdale (26 Gerald's Rd. Broughton).

Finally, four years later, John Kerrich, who had become a Clerk in Holy Orders (in Bootle), of 11 Vernon St Salford was laid to rest in the grave at St Mary's.

Volunteers help maintain the ancient churchyard of St Marys. They Meet on Tuesday Mornings from 9a.m. or you can help by donating

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