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Heaton Mill




Heaton MIll 1845

The two Heaton townships (Little Heaton & Great Heaton) were part of the Parish of Prestwich, but had been divided by various deals and inheritances over the centuries, see Heaton House . The resulting disjointed sections of each Township are shown in the below map.


Great Heaton (495) and Little Heaton(494)



Little Heaton (Fallowfield) Little Heaton, also known as Heaton Fallowfield covered 531 acres and by 1212 was held by William de Radcliffe, and from him by Gilbert de Notton, of Barton. The Holland family then gained the estate in the early 17th century through the Heywood family, who lived at Heaton Old Hall (which was reached by the pathway beside the Three Arrows Pub). The Old Hall had been home to the Heaton family in the 13th Century and from them it had passed to the Hollands until the early 17th century.

They had held the land of Heaton through generations, and another branch of the Hollands had also held the Manor of Prestwich (by force) for 14 years (1374-1389).

Read about the Holland and Heywood families of Heaton here


Great HeatonGreat Heaton (later also known as Over Hetaon or Heaton Reddish, covered 866 acres.It stretched from Rooden Lane on it's Western edge, and Lands End at it's eastern edge. In 1212 it was held by Adam de Prestwich and from him by Adam de Heaton. It passed from the Prestwich family to the Langleys, Lords of the Manor of Prestwich, and then passed to the Reddish, Coke, and Drinkwater families) Read more aboutThe Lords of the Manor of Prestwich

Heaton Mill, despite it's name, was not in either of the two Heaton townships in the Parish of Prestwich. It stood on the far side of the River Irk, opposite what was the Three Arrows pub on the Eastern boundary of Prestwich.

The river Irk (though has been diverted and tamed over the centuries) was the old boundary between Prestwich and Blackley. The western bank and the river, along with any fords, bridges or weirs, belonged to Great Heaton. The Eastern bank belonged to Blackley, in the Parish of Manchester. The Mill and its cottages, stood on land now covered by a large supermarket, and its expansive carpark. Today there are only small echoes that the water mill was ever there, such as the location of the weir on the river, and a row of houses called Cawley Terrace.


Weir on the Irk

The earliest mention of a mill in Heaton was in about 1200, when a grant to Cockersand Abbey (near Cockerham, Lancashire) by Alexander son of Edward de Prestwich, with the assent of Adam his heir, gave an acre and toft (homestead) of his land in Heaton, between Terebrook and Mereshaw, next to his mill. By 13th century deeds, Alexander son of Adam de Heaton had granted part of his land to Christiana daughter of Alan de Harwood; "the bounds touched Sandyford, Teribrook, the ancient mill-site, Ithek, Mereshawbrook, and the great road"

The "water corn mill" of Blackley was first mentioned in 1610, when Sir John Byron "resolved to sacrifice a portion of the family estates to save the rest", and Blackley was sold off.

Prestwich ManorAt least one of the parcels of land sold by Sir John was bought by James Assheton, who had married Dorothy Langley in 1561. Dorothy was co-heiress of the Prestwich Manor. Read more aboutThe Lords of the Manor of Prestwich


As part of this sell-off, in 1610 “one water corn mylne,” known as Blackley Old Mill, along with other properties, were bought by the Consterdine family from the Byrons for £124, and for over a century the Consterdine family ran the Corn Mill.

[Ref : British-History.ac.uk]

The Consterdines were a long standing local family, Sir John Byron, Steward of Manchester, Lieutenant of Sherwood Forest, and trusted advisor of Henry VIII, had taken Elizabeth the daughter of John Costerdine of Blackley, first as his mistress and later as his second wife. He was also appointed Sheriff of Nottingham four times during the 16th century.

John Byron (1488–1567) of Nottinghamshire, had no issue through his first wife, and he had lived in open adultery with Elizabeth who at the time, was also still married to her first husband George Halgh, of Hough Hall in Moston. John and Elizabeth had a child together, their illegitimate son, who later became Sir John Byron (1526 – 1600) also known as Little Sir John with the Great Beard

John also held lands in Kersal


Little Sir John with the Great Beard

In 1593 Sir John, the little one with the great beard, gave land in Blackley to Charles Nuttall for good and faithfull service [ with the cover that he was to have nothing during the lives of John and Elizabeth Samond...something going on there ?], and in 1598, the Manor of Blackley, consisting of seventy dwelling houses with outbuildings and land, two fulling mills, a water mill (which became Heaton Mill at a later date) and 1,000 acres of land was mortgaged by Sir John Byron to Richard and William Assheton (see Prestwich Manor above)

Fullingfulling, also known as walking or tucking is the cleaning of cloth to remove impurities - which lead to the Bleach mills such as the ones at Buckleys in the Clough and Waterdale. This occupation lives on in the surnames of Fuller, Walker and Tucker.



The link between Heaton Mill and Heaton itself is hinted at by the will of William Heywood, dated December 15th 1692.

"William Heawood of Heaton super ffallowfield, yeoman, leaves to his eldest son, Edmund Heawood and his heirs a mill and tenter croft situate in Blackley and Heaton."

The mention of a tenter croft indicates that the Mill had at least started to switch from corn production to the industry of dyeing as argicultural trades started to be swept aside across Lancashire by the rise of Industry (the shape of things to come). The mention of "Blackley and Heaton" suggests that the mill and its land resided in both townships.



Tenter HooksOnce bleached, cloth could be dyed, but first would be laid out, or hung up on tenter frames (secured with tenter hooks) to dry in communal or private bleching crofts.



In 1623, 30 years after his ancestor Charles had been granted land by Sir John Byron (the little one with the great beard), John Nuttall the son of Francis who had died in 1619, leased lands in Blackley to Edward Holland of (Little) Heaton for 299 years. Among the field-names mentioned are Howgate Meadow ('hillgate meadow'), Blackfield, and Gladen Croft ('Lilly Croft'). It's presumed that this lease brought the mill into the hands of the Hollands and from them to the Heywoods, and also that this lease (or some other similar transfer of land) led to the mill taking its new name of Heaton Mill.

In 1726, an agreement between William Broome of Chorlton (gentleman) and Mary his wife, Joseph Consterdine of Manchester (miller) and Sarah his wife, and Abraham Howarth of Manchester (linen draper) stated that Willam Broome, for the sum of £800, "grants, releases, and confirms to the said Abraham Howarth all those messuages and tenements, one water cornmill and one kilne, formerly the property of Joseph Consterdine"

This ended over 120 years of Consterdine ownership of the Mill and in 1727 the property was leased to William Allen of Chetham (miller) for £20 per annum, over a lease of seven years.

Joseph Consterdine married Sarah TaylorJoseph (of Blackley) and Sarah (of Chethamhill) were married at St Mary's in Prestwich in August 1698.



Joseph's son, james contested the foreclosure of the mortgage on the Mill, but was imprisoned in Lancaster Castle as a false claimant. James offered to sign a release of right to the Mill, to secure a speedy release, claiming that "not being able to support himself with necessaries in this his present confinement, he must inevitably be starved to death unless released."

A survey in 1727 records the estate as just over 10 acres, with the following areas named:

"The Furthest Field, The Weir Field, The Brick Kilne Close, The Damme Croft, The Yam Croft, The Field at the back of the House, The New Chapel Field, The Old House Green Field or The Oak Croft, The Orchard at the back of the House, The Orchard at the Bame, The Three-cornered Piece, The Clough, The Lane at the Damside. "

1st Earl of Wilton In 1769 the first Earl of Wilton, Thomas Egerton married Eleanor, daughter and coheiress of Sir Ralph Assheton. The Assheton family had previously married into the Langley family in 1561(see above).

This marriage brought more of Blackley township into the Wilton Estate. By the 20th Century over a third of Blackley belonged to the Earl of WIlton, after being bolstered by purchases from Hon. Edward Perceval.

Sir Thomas Orey Egerton of Heaton, baronet, married Katharine Copely and their child Sir Thomas Egerton was created Baron Grey de Wilton in 1784, and Viscount Grey de Wilton and Earl of Wilton in 1801.


1st Earl of Wilton (7th Baronet)



In 1784 William "Heawood", for the consideration of £500, sold the estate to Abraham Howarth of Manchester (merchant).

By 1823 Samuel Bell was operating Heaton Mills, as a corn mill, and he had a chance conversation with a tipsy master dyer in The White Hart (possibly the White Lion?), in Long Millgate Manchester. This led to the recovery of a stolen gold watch...


The rear of the White Lion, 1820


Samuel Bell recovers a stolen watch


Great Heaton tithe map 1839 (Heaton Park to the top left, Blackley to the bottom)

Heaton Mill is omitted from the tithe map of Great Heaton as it stood in Blackley, but it shows the weir on the River Irk, which captured the water to fill the lodges and channels that supplied the water to the dyers and the wheel of the old mill. Also on the map (left hand side) are the octagonal Smithy Lodge at the entrance to Heaton Park along with the Smithy Bridge over the Irk, where traffic enters the supermarket today, though over a much stronger modern bridge.

To the bottom middle of the map is Lands End, located in Great Heaton, this was a bleaching mill owned by Otho Dudson of Prestwich. The Bulls Head which is now the site of the Wilton Arms, is shown to be in Little Heaton.

The tithe map of 1839 shows just one field (111) at Heaton Mill on the far side of the Irk, residing in Great Heaton by that time. It also shows an island of 4 fields (87-90) on the right side of the map, surrounded by the land of Little Heaton on 3 sides, and the township of Middleton to its East. Note also the winding natural course of the river before being tamed, this led to one field in Blakeley ending up on the Prestwich side of the Irk on the 1848 map (see below). Perhaps this was the "furthest field" mentioned in the survey of 1727.


Smithy Bridge & the octagonal Smithy Lodge

Despite moving on from the Mill in 1726, the Consterdine family were still a prominent local family of Blackley in the 19th century when in 1842, John Consterdine laid the foundation stone of a school in Crab Lane, the site had been donated by the 4th Earl of Wilton, Seymour Egerton. The Consterdine family had a branch in Prestwich as well as Blackley, with John Consterdine, yeoman, marrying the daughter of another prominent man, John Travis. John Travis was a churchwarden of St Mary's in Prestwich, and along with his wife Esther, lived at Prestwich Wood. John is believed to have established 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.

The 1841 census of Blackley records that Samuel Bell (60) was living at Heaton Mills, with his wife Nancy and children Hannah,Samuel and Nancy. Samuel's wife Elizabeth nee Jackson and his brother Holt were also residing at the Mill, and 4 other Millers/Labourers were also present.

When Samuel and Elizabeth got married in 1831 at St Mary's in Prestwich, they listed their abode as Little Heaton.


Heaton Mill 1848

The 1848 map indicates some land is in use as an "Osiery", an osier is a kind of willow tree. Osier grows well in wetlands, and provide long flexible shoots used in the weaving of items such as baskets. The river has been tamed and the "furthest field" now lies on hte Eastern side of the river.

By the 1851 census of Blackley, the mill is being used to grind logwood, with Samuel Bell the son of Samuel, now head of the house, living with his mother, 3 sisters, a brother, a neice, an uncle, a miller, an agricultural labourer and a house servant (to tidy up after them all !).

His father Samuel had died in December the previous year and was buried in the family plot at St Mary's in Prestwich. The family plot dates from 1840 and was started for the burial of two do their children who died in that year: daughter Jane Amelia (28) and his son John (33). It is also recorded that two of his daughters died in St Petersberg, Russia (1852 & 1858), and another son Thomas died in Boston USA (1855). Nancy died in 1861, aged 95, and joined her husband at St Mary's. In total 11 names are recorded on the headstone & flagstone upon this plot.


The Bell family plot

Sadly the headstone was hit by a falling tree during a storm in 2021.


Storm damage, 2021

Samuel and Nancy had baptised seven of their children at St Mary's, listing their abode as Great Heaton (1796 to 1812), using the Parish church of Prestwich, rather than that of Manchester. Nancy's place of birth was Prestwich, and for their children it was listed as Great Heaton.

The 1848 map above shows the Mill in the Manchester Parish, on the Eastern side of the river Irk, with the dot/dashed line showing the border. It can be seen that the border does wander away from the river course at a couple of sections, probably due to all the purchases and inheritances mentioned above, or maybe respecting the old river course that has long since moved.

In 1869 Samuel Wolstencroft was operating the logwood mill when he was appointed as a Guardian for the Prestwich Union. However, by 1871, James Mellor, dyer and guardian of the poor in Little Heaton, had been operating the mill, which he continued for 6 years more, up to 1877, when he liquidated the business with liabilities of £1000. By 1879, John Leatham and Thomas Ridings, bleachers and finishers had given it a go too, disolving their partnership at the mill.


Heaton Mill 1889

But even by the map of 1889, though the mill had expanded, there doesn't appear to be any buldings of note on the Prestwich side of the river, and by 1891 it is confirmed that the Mill had changed hands, and operations, running as Heaton Mills Bleaching Co, owned by the Cawley Brothers.


Heaton Mill 1906

The 1906 map finally shows the mill has expanded onto the Prestwich side of the river, and the Cawley Brothers had also built a terrace of 12 houses along Heaton Park Road (which still stand today)


Cawley Terrace



Heaton Mills 1927 (Britain from Above)

The white cottages on the above photo are some of the original cottages, and the Old Water Mill would have been stood between them and where the chimney stood.

So it's still not clear why Samuel was claiming his abode to be Great Heaton. We could assume that perhaps the family was living elsewhere in Great Heaton during the years that they baptised their children at St Mary's. (1796 to 1812). The family had then moved to the Mill during the census years of 1841 onwards, and that Samuel moved back to Great Heaton before his death.

Or, based on William Heywood's will of 1692, the family's estate lay across the border of both Blackley and Great Heaton, and that the family had affinity to Great Heaton, maybe telling a slight untruth at the Church, perhaps qualifying for a lower ceremonial fee, or just to be recorded where they wanted to be. Like holding multiple passports today.