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The Reverend Charles Burton – A biography of Manchester’s forgotten man of the cloth

By Matthew Wells

From Harton Books, North End Cottage, Scrayingham, York, YO41 1JD.

ISBN: 978-0-9927944-0-8 - Recommended Retail Price: £20.00


The 24th March 2014 saw the publication of the first ever biography of the Reverend Doctor Charles Burton DCL FLS, one of Manchester’s most prominent 19th century clergymen, who was born at Rhodes House, Middleton on 18th January 1793.

Charles Burton was the youngest son of Daniel Burton, who moved to Rhodes near Middleton in 1784 to open a new dyeing and bleaching works. Around 1800 Daniel bought John Jackson’s Mill in Wood Street, Middleton where, in April 1812, some of the bloodiest Luddite Riots took place.

In this completely new biography, author Matthew Wells looks Burton's early life at Rhodes and his family’s involvement in the Luddite Riots, going on to explore many other aspects of his life and achievements, including:



The Reverend Doctor Charles Burton, by Matthew Wells The construction of All Saints Church in 1820;

His family’s involvement in the infamous Middleton Luddite Riots of 1812;

The time he spent in London’s notorious Fleet Prison for Debtors;

His attempts at writing serious poetry, including The Bardiad published in 1823;

His religious philosophy;

His conflicting beliefs in Creationism and Science; and

His continuing efforts to improve the social and environmental condition of industrial Manchester.

This biography is Burton’s story, told through his own words and experience. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to get a better understanding of early and mid-19th century thinking on religion, science and social issues as experienced by someone who lived through the tumultuous years of Manchester’s industrial revolution.


The book normally retails at £20 but Middletonia readers can purchase copies at a discounted price of £5.00 plus £2.50 post and packing online at The Middleton Collection.

Further Information

Since his death in 1866 Burton has been largely forgotten and this biography attempts to bring him back to life and is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about his life and times and his contribution to 19th Century Manchester life.

In 1820 Burton built at his own expense All Saints Church in Grosvenor Square in Chorlton on Medlock, once a village on the southern edge of Manchester. The church was demolished in 1948, following damage sustained in the Second World War, and the large open space now known as Grosvenor Square, remains as Burton’s lasting legacy to the city of Manchester.

Apart from the building of his own church, this biography also explores the many other events that occurred in Burton’s life. For example, in 1812 he witnessed the infamous Middleton Luddite Riots, which occurred at his father’s cotton mill in Middleton; in 1823 he published The Bardiad, a detailed anthology of poetry ancient and modern at the time; in 1834 he spent a month; in London’s notorious Fleet Prison for Debtors.

Throughout his life Burton wrote and delivered an enormous number of sermons covering all sorts of different subjects including the lessons to be learned by the young from the execution, aged just 20, of Joseph Dale in 1824 for murder; his views on Roman Catholicism which today might raise a few eyebrows; and how he overcame his beliefs as a Creationist against his interest in science. There is not a little irony in the fact that some years after he was made a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1827 (for discovering a new plant species on Anglesey), Charles Darwin was also made a Fellow for his work on the theory of evolution.

About the author

Matthew Wells was born in Buckinghamshire in 1954. He has had an interest in family history since first hearing his own family’s legends as a boy. TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are and Heir Hunters, revived interest in recent years and he has had a number of articles published in the family history press. He was inspired to write Charles Burton’s story after discovering that Charles’ grandson Charles Tertius Burton married his great aunt, Rebecca Wells, in 1888. The more Matthew learnt about the Burtons, the more he realised there was a story to be told about a man who, since his death in 1866, seems to have been largely forgotten.

You can contact Matthew Wells by email at rolfemwells@gmail.com or by telephone on 07708 698007.

Submitted by Matthew Wells
March 2014







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