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Prestwich Clough house

[many thanks to Peter Corbally for some of the content and tipping me off on the Travis grave]

Watch a video of the area developing over time.

The census of 1841 lists the following families as resident in Prestwich Clough:(with no reference to Prestwich Clough house itself)

James Hilton Agricultural labourer, with family of 4
Alfred Leak tenant farmer, with family of 8

From the 1845 map we can see that Prestwich Clough house was set back from the bleachworks, and had a garden with a pond to to the front. A track lead up form the bleachworks towards Well bank.

The bleachworks themselves are believed to be one of the oldest bleachworks in Prestwich, dating from 1762, when a Mr John Travis was listed as a whitster and proprietor of Prestwich Clough Dye Works. John and his wife Ester, lived at Prestwich Wood. John was also listed as a Whitster at the baptism of his son John in 1754.

Clough Lane 1844

The route from Prestwich Wood to Prestwich Clough was Clough Lane

Whitster A whitster, or whitner, removed the impurities such as seeds shell and waxes from cloth by dipping and stirring the cloth in large containers of alkali, a mix of potash and lime ((bowking). Once bleached, the cloth could then be dyed, but first would be laid out, or hung up on tenter frames (secured with tenter hooks) to dry in communal or private bleaching crofts. This practice led to names that live on today, such as Whittaker.As chemical replacements for natural substances (such as urine) were discovered the Whitsters became Bleachers, and machinery was introduce to the industry.

The Bleaching Ground,Max Liebermann

John Travis died:1788, but the stone dates from 1779.[St Mary D Section]

The above stone uncovered by volunteers in 2021, records John, his wife Esther, and their son Richard. John appears to have been baptised in Chadderton in 1733/4.

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Travis slab dated 1821 [St Mary D Section]

Next to the broken slab from 1779 is a further Travis plot, recording Richard's son, also Richard, along with the children of Richard's other son, John. This stone mentions that John and his wife Mary, were "of Prestwich Clough" (1850), and the records show that John had followed the family occupation of Whitster.

The gravestone of the John Travis mentioned in 1850 above, lies not far away, having been cut & reused into the pathway near the tower John and his son John, both died in 1824. The stone records that John was of "Prestwich Clough" however the burial record shows they lived at Prestwich Wood.

John Travis slab (dates from 1824)

A further stone dates from 1787, and seems to belong to another branch of the family descended from John & Esther Travis of Prestwich Wood.

Travis Stone from 1787

A much older gravestone, shows a John Travis, who died 1675, unfortunately it gives no clues of other family relatives, as the rest of the stone lists the Bowker family.

John Travis died:1675

Thorpe, the WhitsterA whitster called Issachar Thorpe was another local person to step up to bleaching on an industrial scale in his bleach works at the bottom of Prestwich Clough in about 1772. Issachar Thorpe had Dams Head Lodge built to supply his bleach works and dashwheels with water. Thorpeā€™s premises later became Wardleworths (famous for its Turkey Red dyes) and then turned into the Waterdale Bleachworks. Though St Mary's baptismal registers record Whitsters back to 1678.

John Travis was listed as church warden in 1770 (this is likely John from Prestwich Wood) and a second John appointed in 1816 ( his grandson), and then the role was adopted by Richard appointed in 1823 & 1832 - presenting Rev Lyon with a silver salver upon the 50th year of his incumbency.John Travis was also a member of the committee responsible for the detection and prosecution of felons and receivers of stolen goods in the local area. In 1830 Esther, the daughter of John & Esther Travis married John Consterdine, yeoman of Prestwich at St Mary's church. The Consterdine family were a long standing family of both Prestwich and Blackley

By 1845 the Prestwich Clough Dye Works was owned by Richard Travis, great grandson of John & Esther of Prestwich Wood. In the1841 census, shows Richard and two of his sisters, living next door to the Church Inn on Church Lane. Prestwich Wood was now occupied by Rev Nathaniel Milne. His son Oswald Milne, in 1847 sold Prestwich Wood and 59 acres of land to allow the construction of what became Prestwich Hospital.

It consisted of six lodges filled with water diverted from the stream in Prestwich Clough. This would have made the works more resilient to the variations in the flow of the stream. The stream itself had been culverted and re-routed in front of Prestwich Clough house some time earlier. As chemicals, sulphuric acid at first and then chloride, and machinery was introduced to the bleaching process, the whitsters became known as bleachers, and the large amounts of water stored would have allowed for steam machinery to be introduced.

A section of curved brickwork which made up the culvert that the stream passed through, still remains along the base of the stream as it passes under todays path. Most of the culvert has been dismantled/washed away and the down-stream section is littered with brick and stone work as a result.

Culvert remains

Culvert under Bury New road - similar to what would have existed at the Buckley works

Prior to its taming, the stream would have followed its general direction Westwards down past the dyeworks and the water treatment plant which was constructed in the late 19th century, and on into the river Irwell. The redirection of the stream allowed for it (along with streams from Butterstile and Hilton Lane) to also supply the pond in Drinkwater Park, which had been dammed and in turn may have supplied the Tudor water mill, believed to be located along the banks of the Irwell at Drinkwater.

Manual drainage channels are suggested in the field pattern to the South of the bleachworks that can be seen on the maps, this would have allowed for the fields to be used for the drying of the bleached cloth. These fields sat in a sheltered area below a U shaped bank to the east that went up toward Wellbank and Diggle Fold/Prestwich Hills This had been carved out by the Irwell when it had a more meandering nature. The area was used as a landfill tip in the 20th century so bears little resemblance today.


The Travis family continued as proprietors of the Dye Works for 40 years, before it passed to Robert Leak then to John Rylance before passing to the Buckley family.

The census of 1851 lists the following families as resident in Prestwich Clough:
(with no reference to Prestwich Clough house)

James Hilton, agricultural labourer, with John Barnes bleacher
Mary Entwistle, weaver, with 2 daughters living in a cottage
Richard Rayner, Farmer of 63 acres,employing 4 labourers, with a family of 6.
Thomas Grimshaw, a finisher, living with his wife
Benjamin Blackley, book keeper, living with his wife.

In 1854, there is a registration of the burial of Fredrick son of John Buckley, and John is also listed as Churchwarden from 1855 to 1862. John Buckley, a bleacher of Prestwich was appointed in 1856 to the grand jury of the Salford Assizes, and in 1859 he donated towards the foundation of a Volunteer Rifle Corps, headed up by the Earl of Wilton.

Countess Wilton

In 1858, John Buckley rode in the ninth coach of the cortege for the funeral of Mary Margaret Egerton (nee Stanley) Countess of Wilton, who had died of typhoid fever. The cortege formed at Heaton Hall and lead to St Mary's where she was placed in the family vault with great mourning shown throughout the local community.


We finally see the Buckley family present in the census of 1861, with John (born Cheshire, 1803), listed as a cotton manufacturer and bleacher. John, aged 57, was a widow, living with his 4 children (Mary, Anne, Edmund and Hannah) and Mary Shawcross, his niece, with 2 servants to help them out. John had also committed his efforts to the locality of Prestwich, and was listed as one of the 12 members of the first board of Guardians in 1867. They went straight to work as the summer of that year had been a drought, with no rains for 16 weeks, the lodges of the Parish had dried up, they re-opened recently closed wells, and employed water carts to travel the tracks through Prestwich, delivering water to rate payers. Although the rest of their work regarding buildings and infrastructure was reported to have been a bit hap-hazard.

In 1866, John complained about the state of the path coming down from Ramsbottom Row (at Green Gate) serving the dye works.

In 1869, John Buckley (aged 66), son of Joseph of Prestwich Clough was buried in the family vault at St Mary's. By 1871 James Buckley (born 1846) and now master bleacher was head of the household, living with his wife, 2 sisters, 1 cousin, and 2 servants. However the family vault shows that in 1873 they lost a son Edward, aged just 2 days.


[In 1871 an Edward Buckley, a bleacher dyer and finisher lived at Beech Wood House on Bury New Road - near Sedgley Mount]

In 1876 John was summoned for charges of employing young children.

The Buckley Vault in St Mary's graveyard records the death of John's son, Joseph in 1881, aged 38.
[There was a Joseph born 1843 listed in Prestwich Asylum in the 1871 census]

By 1881, James was listed as employing 103 hands, and now had 4 children. He also had 2 servants and a coachman. By 1891 James was living with his wife and 3 children. Florence (b:1872), James (b:1875), May (b:1878), and his cousin Mary Shawcross (b:1825) was still living with the family. James retired from the local board of governors in 1894. Buckleys was just one of three or four bleach and dye works in Prestwich in the 19th century.

[as well as two dye works in Prestwich Clough and Waterdale, there were also works established in Spring Vale adjacent to Hilton Lane and at Kersal Moorside,on the Singleton Brook in the George Street area of Sedgley]


The map of 1891 shows how the bleachworks had expanded with additional lodges in the small clough running down from The Hospital Annex. A lodge on Buckley Lane had been built upon and the lane itself had been straightened as it passed between the Bleachworks & the water works. There has also been some management of the stream as it enters the works with a water channel (leet) constructed to the North of the stream (circled - still visible today).

Water channel to the lodges

It also shows how the garden area of Prestwich Clough house stretched over the covered stream, giving the water feature you see in the photo of the house (top of page). The house was bounded off and reached from the West by a path, footbridge and ford, the banks of the boundary can be seen in the woodland today.A further path from the East lead up towards Wellbank.

The Prestwich Archaeological group investigated the site of Prestwich Clough house, and the water feature was found to have included some carved stonework which, although out of context, is thought to be of medieval period, and possibly from older stages of St Mary's Church.


Buckleys works

This photo shows the works looking down towards Waterdale, with a large shed (circled) now added on the right just before the stream, and a row of the original works buildings, that were shown on the 1845 map, along the left hand side of the track. In the distance (click to enlarge) photo you can make out the curved edge of the third lodge. This embankment was flattened and deposited on the right hand side of the path during drainage work after the floods in 2012.

Buckleys works

This photo looks back up the clough from the dye works, you can make out the shadow of the shed on the left, and a brick wall to the right which would have blocked off access to the rear of Prestwich Clough house.

In 1900, John's daughter, May, married Arthur Seal Blackwell M.D. of Kensington Mansions London, the ceremony taking place at ST Mary's, she died two years later in 1910 aged 32, with her abode listed as Monaco.

The 1901 census then refers to Prestwich Clough house as being occupied by Thomas Grimshaw, a caterer, but shows it as a refreshment/coffee house so is clearly the Clough Tea Rooms further up the Clough. However James Buckley is present at "Prestwich Clough" living with his wife and employing his son James as clerk at the bleachworks.

Back on track in 1911, the census lists James (aged 65) Bleacher Of Cotton And Linen Goods, with his wife Ada, and sister in law. By the 1939 census young James had become Company Director living at Prestwich Clough house, with the Grimshaw's still at the cafe.

The Buckley family vault shows Ada died in 1927 aged 79 and James (son of John) died in 1943 aged 97.

Family Vault

Family Vault


The map of 1915 shows some of the lodges up towards the Hospital annex were no longer in use. The entrance to the culvert (circled) was capped by 3 circular stones which can still be found discarded nearby.

WWII shelter

Along the path South of the ruins you can still find a WWII shelter with blast wall to the front. It's been suggest that it was a shelter for a barrage balloon crew, protecting the factories from enemy bombers, or an ammo store for an AA gun.

1950 - ridge up towards Wellbank in the background


The Bleachworks and Prestwich Clough House fell into disuse in the 1930's, but some buildings survived as a paint works into the 1950-60s.


[you can also make out the WWII shelter with blast wall along the footpath to the south - still standing today]

For more WW2 sites around Prestwich see this map...

WWII Sites of Prestwich

Album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Z5mrBxboQJtMMUiz5




Not far from the entrance at Buckley Lane, various brick structures, cobbled paths and gateposts remain today, mostly hidden in the trees and undergrowth. Of Clough House itself a curve cellar wall and garden steps remain visible amongst piles of bricks and slates. Other features to spot on the North side of the stream are the retaining walls that made up some of the the water reservoirs used by the works and the feeder channel that captured water from the stream into the reservoirs. You can explore the ruined foundations and cobbled pathways of the Buckley Bleach & Dye works. These earthworks are regionally significant to the understanding of early industry, however have been damaged by recent flood repair works(2012).

Prestwich Clough House Ruins

Bleachworks Ruins

collapsed storage tanks

Watch this video exploration of the ruins of Buckleys, and Prestwich Clough House