People and places of Middleton
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A history of Alkrington and Tonge

Alkrington and Tonge Most of the rivers and brooks that made up the boundaries of the ancient manor of Alkrington, which included the area known as Tonge, are still there, bounded on the north-west by the river Irk, the north-east by Wince brook, and on the west by Boardman brook, which also provided a portion of the southern boundary.

The only border I am not sure of is in the south-east, where there may have been another brook or brooks that got swallowed up by the Rochdale canal.

There is believed to have been a much older hall on the site of the present Alkrington Hall.


England, after the conquest, was divided up between King William’s Barons. The Barons then granted the manors to their knights who had accompanied them. These knights then proceeded to sub-let portions of their manors.

This area of England was probably completely unaware of the battle of Hastings for some time, and it was not until William passed through Middleton in the winter of 1077, that they became fully aware of the situation. Alkrington was part of the lands, as was Middleton, which was granted to Roger de Poictou, who was followed by the Montbegons and Barons of Hornby.

These lands were later alienated to the de Lacys, Earls of Lincoln. Then to Henry, Earl of Lancashire, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancashire and thence to the crown. As the residents of the area had stayed away from Hastings in 1066 (they were busy getting the harvest in), it is likely that occupiers of the actual Manors (such as Middleton and Alkrington) retained their Manors and it was only the big overlords who got evicted.

The first real mention of Alkrington is in the Pipe roles of 1193/94, when Robert de Prestwich held four oxgangs or bovates there. An oxgang was an ancient Saxon measurement of flat land, being the amount a pair or gang of oxen could be expected to plough in a year – approximately 20 acres.

At this time, surnames were few and far between, and the adding of “de Prestwich” to Robert’s name was to distinguish him from other Roberts in the vicinity, and indicate he lived at Prestwich, or was “of Prestwich”, and consequently, held that manor as well. These additional names (or surnames) continued to be used by the descendents and accounts for people having what are termed ‘territorial’ names today. It would appear that Robert also held a large portion, if not all of Heaton.

In the 1212 survey, Adam de Prestwich (Robert’s son) is given as holding these 4 oxgangs of land by thanage, and 4 shillings. Thanage is an ancient Saxon term meaning knight’s service. The next holder or tenant was Thomas de Prestwich but it is unknown how he was related Adam.

In 1276, Alkrington was held by Thomas’s son, Adam, when he had to defend his right to certain land in Alkrington, to which Robert Grelley laid claim. The Grelleys were Norman and connected to the Earls of Manchester. This Adam de Prestwich had family problems, which resulted in family feuds and court cases that lasted for over a hundred years, and created large problems for anybody trying to interpret the family history.

Adam was married twice; before her death in about 1292, his first wife, Agnes de Trafford, produced two sons, John and Henry, and a number of daughters. Then in about 1298, Adam remarried an Alice de Wooley, daughter of Richard, son of Master Henry de Pontefract. This Master Henry de Pontefract was some sort of Government Official in Pontefract. His title of “Master” indicates that he had a university education and the wording of deeds would make it appear that he was descended from Robert de Pendlebury, who died about 1200, and was Master Sergeant of Salford.

In 1298, Adam named his eldest son, John, and Emota, his wife, and the heirs of their bodies, lawfully begotten as his heirs to Alkrington and Prestwich, while his younger son, Henry, was granted Wickleswick (Trafford).

In 1311, Adam de Prestwich was returned as holding the manor of Alkrington from the Earl of Lincoln by the service of the twenty-fourth part of a knight's fee, and suit to the court; In the same year there was a fine levied at Westminster, which seems to indicate that Adam’s eldest son, John, had died, and the Manors of Prestwich, Alkrington and Pendlebury were now to go to the children Adam had produced with his second wife, Alice. Why there is no mention of John’s children is a mystery because he certainly had some. The clue to this may be in the phrase of the deed “and the heirs of their bodies lawfully begotten” Which could indicate that John’s children were illegitimate.

A ‘Fine’ was the old system of registering land ownership or holdings and consequently, the King of the time getting money for this. In the de Lacy inquisition of the same year, Adam is again, given as holding Alkrington by one twenty-fourth part of a knight’s fee.

The 1311 Fine appears to have caused problems with his first family because there was another Fine levied at Westminster in 1313. This amounted to what might be considered a cleverly worded entailed will, drawn up by Thomas de Wooley, a Pontefract lawyer, and Adam’s brother-in-law, in which the manors were, after his death, to go to his widow, Alice, and then in order to their children. In 1319, Adam de Prestwich had died and that was when Thomas, son of John de Prestwich, released all rights he held in Prestwich to Alice de Prestwich.

In 1324, Alice, widow of Adam de Prestwich, claimed that the Kings men, while she was resident in Chester, had entered her manors of Prestwich and Alcrington and so depleted them, so that she could no longer support herself. At this time she was said to hold half a plough-land in Alkrington by the service of 12d. a year. Alice died in 1332 and the manors passed to her eldest son, Thomas de Prestwich. Where this Thomas was living and what he was doing is unknown; because in that year he leased his manors in the following deed;

“Let all present and future know that I, Thomas, son of Adam de Prestwich and Alice de Wolueley, have given and granted to Richard, son of William de Radcliffe, my manors of Prestwich, Alcrinton and Pennebury with their appurtenances”. This was the first of the family rows because Pendlebury was not his to grant but had been granted in the 1313 Fine to his younger brother Robert.
*De Lacy Inq. of 1311 (Chet. Soc.); p. 19. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, a cousin of Edward II, had inherited the Lancaster Estates from his father-in-law Hugh de Lacy. Edward blamed Thomas for the murder of his friend, Piers Gaveston and as a result Thomas was captured and executed by Edward II; Edward’s army then proceeding to ransack the manors.

John of Gaunt In 1334, another deed whereby Thomas, son of Adam de Prestwych, entails on John, son of Richard de Radeclyff, and Joan, his wife, and John, son of Agnes de Legh, and their respective rightful heirs and on the rightful heirs of John, son of Richard de Radeclyff, all his land in Alkrinton' save that which Jordan de Tettelowe holds of him. Witnessed by Roger de Pylkynton, Richard, son of William de Radeclyff, William son of Robert de Radeclyff, Thurstan de Holand and Robert capellano de Prestwych.

In 1346, Thomas de Prestwich died, leaving a natural son, Henry, to whom he granted a portion of Alkrington called Tonge, (whether he was in fact entitled to do this, lead to another family row) and this left Thomas’s legitimate heirs; two daughters; Margaret and Agnes to inherit the Manors.

These two girls, being underage, now became wards of Henry, 4th Duke of Lancaster, who, according to custom, appointed a guardian for them. This was Richard de Radcliffe, who still occupied Prestwich and Alkrington. Richard de Radcliffe then hit on a cunning plan. He would gain half the manors for his son, John, by marrying him to one of the Prestwich daughters. It would appear that Margaret, the eldest, muttered something like, “Over my dead body, I’d rather become a nun” or “Sorry, but I rather fancy Robert de Holland down the road.” Whatever was said, she found herself in a Benedictine Convent at Seton in Cumberland in 1350. Radcliffe then proceeded to marry his son, John, to the youngest daughter, Agnes, who was obviously a bit more amenable.

However, there was more to it than this, as a nun cannot inherit or own any property; the Radcliffe’s could now claim full title to Alkrington and Prestwich after the death of Thomas’s widow, Alice, which occurred in February 1356/7. In this plan however, they were thwarted, as Agnes died in 1362 without issue, so in accordance with the remainder clause of the 1311 fine, the manors passed to the person next in line, namely her first cousin, Joanna, daughter of Alice de Prestwich and Jordan de Tetlow, who was married to Richard de Longeleghe or de Longley of Middleton. Richard and Joanna de Langley now reached an agreement with Richard and Isabella de Radcliffe that they could continue with the occupancy of Alkrington for their lives.

On 13 November, 1362, Richard, son of John de Radeclif, gave to Henry, the son of Roger the chaplain, all his land and tenements in Alkrington (again, not sure who these people were). In 1368 or 1369, before he had to go off to fight in France, Richard de Langley married his son and heir, Roger, to Margaret del Booth. Roger was only about 9 years old at the time but marriages as young as this were common at the time, for the purposes of holding land, and would mean the powerful Booths of Barton would be around to safeguard his interests should anything happen to Richard while he was in France, which it did, as a deed records that as a widow, Alice de Langley/de Tetlow, on October 21st, 1369, granted lands in Alcryngton to her son, Roger, and Margerie, his wife.

In 1371, a fresh family row broke out. Margaret de Prestwich (the nun) appeared, claiming she had left the convent, had married Richard de Holland, and was now claiming her inheritance, namely Prestwich and Alkrington. The Radcliffe's believed her and quit the manors in favour of her and her husband. Shortly afterwards, Isabella de Radcliffe, now widowed, realised they had made a mistake and entered into a bond with the young Roger de Langley for the payment of 100 marks. She agreed to compound this over the next seven years or remit entirely if Roger could protect her from loss as a result of the manors being occupied by Robert and Margaret de Holland, or better still, get Margaret canonically recalled to her convent at Seton in Cumberland.
*(Extract from Agecroft deed #14)

The relationships in the Radcliffe family are complicated. Some people believe these deeds refer to different aspects, one to the land and the other to the actual manor house. These Radcliffe's are confusing; I will have to do more work on this family.

In 1374, Richard de Longley’s widow, Joan de Langley, died and John de Botiller, Sheriff of Lancashire, took control of the estates on behalf of the Duke of Lancaster on account of the minority of Roger, who is recorded as being in France at the time in the custody of his Overlord, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. However, to quote the legend;

“On the morning of the Feast of Ascension in 1374, the villainous Robert de Holland with many others assembled with him, armed in breast plates and with swords, and bows and arrows, by force took possession of the said Lordship of the Duke, in defiance of the Sheriff, and to the contempt of the Lord Duke".

Babes in the Wood There are many versions of the story handed down, that two Langley's (brother and sister), were kidnapped by Holland and managed to escape, or that they got away before Holland arrived.

“Young Langley and his sister escaped to the shelter of the forest which covered the slopes of the Irwell valley, cared for by loyal retainers until Lancaster rescued them.” In the modern day pantomime, “Babes in the Wood”, which folklorists believe is based on the above event; the credit for their rescue is given to Robin Hood. The “John of Gaunt Window” in Agecroft Hall, which Roger later built, is said to have been placed there as a tribute to Lancaster for his help.

In 1393, Roger de Langley died and was succeeded by his eldest son, Robert. Robert was married to Katherine Atherton who was underage at the time of his father’s death, and seems to have been a ward John of Gaunt, like his father had been. It would also appear from the wording of deeds that Robert was involved with his second cousin, Thomas de Langley (The Cardinal) in the Bolingbroke uprising against Richard II, and the setting up of Bolingbroke as King Henry IV.

In December of 1401, after further court cases, Robert de Holland surrendered to Robert de Langley, all claims on the manors of Prestwich, Alkrington and Pendlebury. He also agreed to hand over the deeds in exchange for 5 marks a year for life, which would continue for the lives of his four sons if they did the same.

In 1401 on the 11th November, was a lease for 24 years by Robert de Longelegh to Richard de Smetheley of a third part of all his lands and tenements in Alghrynton; rent, a red rose yearly for the first 4 years, if demanded, and 26s. 8d per annum for the remaining 20, and rendering 40d per annum to the chief lord of the fee for all service; if Robert recover the other third of the said lands, etc. from John de Radclyf, Richard shall have it for the same term at a yearly rent of 26s. 8d; with provision respecting the taking of timber.

On the 10th June, 1412, there was a letter of attorney from John de Radclif of Ordessale to Alexander de Longley, to deliver to Thurstan de Longley and John de Longley, a seisin of a moiety of the manor of Alkryngton with appurtenances.

For over 50 years, members of the Holland and Prestwich families kept claiming that they held lands in Alkrington. This resulted in long running feuds and legal battles. Finally they recognised that they were not entitled to these lands and in 1416 Thurstan, son of John de Prestwich acknowledged these lands to be the property of Robert de Longley, and this was done the following year by Peter de Holond, granting his interest to John de Workesley, chaplain, (probably as trustee) and John de Longley.

In 1427, an exchange of lands was made in Alkrington, Prestwich and Oldham, between Robert de Longley and Thomas de Longley, his son and heir, and his wife Margaret. About this time, Margaret, widow of Roger Langley and mother of Robert, was still alive and holding portion in socage, rendering 12d. a year; she said she held it by joint feoffment and showed a charter; Duchy of Lanc. Knights' Fees. In explanation of this, the inquisition taken in 1447 after the death of Robert Langley of Agecroft states that he had held a moiety of the manor of Alkrington of the king as Duke of Lancaster in socage by a rent of 20d., and that he had enfeoffed Thomas, his son, and Margery, his wife, of two parts of the said moiety;
*(extract from The Dark River - Cyril Bracegirdle - ISBN 0 8542 7033 7)

In 1447, Thomas Langley inherited the manors upon the death of his father Robert. Thomas was married to Margaret de Assheton, daughter of Sir John de Assheton of Middleton, and half sister to “The Black Knight”. After the death of Thomas Langley, twenty-five years later, he was said to have held nine messuages and tenements, ‘parcel of the manor of Alkrington,' by the twentieth part of a knight's fee, the manor being held by knight's service and a rent of 20d.

In 1472, John Langley inherited the manors upon the death of his father, Thomas, and married Maud Radcliffe, a descendant of the Radcliffe's, already mentioned, and who had lived at Prestwich. In 1481, there was a Declaration under the hand and sign manual of Henry Rainford, clerk, public notary, as to certain evidence given in the church of Prestwich on behalf of John Langley and Robert, his son, relating to houses in Tonge in Alkrington on the 30th September.

In 1482, an agreement between John Langley, Esq. and Richard Tonge lead to an action in the King’s Court at Lancaster concerning messuages, lands etc in Alkrington. The next holder was John’s son, Robert, born in 1462, and he married Eleanor Radcliffe of Ordsall. He participated at the battle of Bosworth Field for which (whatever he got up to) he was granted a pension from the Crown. Their son, Thomas, died young, and the next holder of Alkrington was Robert’s grandson, another Robert, married to Cecily Trafford.

Thomas Legh of Lyme This Robert died in September of 1561, leaving his property divided between his four daughters. The manor of Alkrington went to his daughter, Katherine, who married Thomas Legh of Lyme, but she died in about 1591, apparently without issue and leaving Alkrington to her sisters. The Leghs, however, appear to have retained the manor, for it was sold in 1627 by Thomas Legh, Alice, his wife, and John Legh, to Robert and John Lever. Obviously some agreement must have been made between the two families.

Who these later Leghs were is debatable. Some claim that Thomas may have remarried, as a family tree published in 1613 gives his sons as: Robert, John, Roger and Thomas. There is also a suggestion that they were illegitimate. An extract from Thomas’s will dated 22nd of October, 1597, recites an indenture of 25 March 1596–7 between himself and Edmund Trafford of Trafford, that the latter was to pay him £700. Of this sum, £300 was left to Thomas Legh, 'my reputed son', while John and Roger Legh, two other reputed sons, had £400 between them. He also names his daughters, Creature and Margaret Legh, and Elizabeth, reputed daughter of his son Robert Legh. Brother James Legh was to have a dapple dunn nagge and son Robert Legh his gold chain. The executrix was his wife, Katherine, who was guardian of the children, with his loving brother-in-law, Sir Richard Shuttleworth. Probate was dated at Chester on the 7th of February, 1597. And so Alkrington descended down through the Lever family who had the current Alkrington Hall built.


Originally, TONGE seems to have been a part of Alkrington, and is not called a manor. It was, therefore, part of the Prestwich lands and does not come into notice for some time after these lands had descended to the Langleys of Agecroft. In 1390, a Henry de Alkrington died, holding of the king by knight's service two messuages and certain lands in Alkrington called Tonge. From the inquisition and subsequent pleadings, it appears that Henry was descended from Thomas, the son of Adam de Prestwich, whose daughters and heirs left no legitimate offspring and it would appear that this Thomas had a natural son named Henry for whom he made provision by granting this outlying part of his manor of Alkrington. Henry's son Henry died, as stated in 1390, leaving a son Henry, only eighteen months old. He proved his age in 1412 and had livery of his lands; afterwards he took Tonge as his surname, and his descendants continued in possession until the 18th century.

Henry de Tonge in 1437–8 laid claim to the Prestwich inheritance, but illegitimacy was asserted as a defence. He died before 1470, when his son Richard had to claim his inheritance against Thomas Langley of Agecroft, who had expelled him. The suit was still proceeding in 1482, when John Langley and Richard Tonge stated their claims.

In 1498, Richard assigned a portion of his lands in Tonge to feoffees in view of the marriage of his son, Thomas, with Margaret, daughter of Thomas Newton; he died two years afterwards, holding various lands of the king as Duke of Lancaster, by knight's service. His son and heir, Thomas, was then eighteen years of age.

Thomas duly proved his age in 1504. Three years later, it was awarded that Robert Langley and his tenants in Alkrington should enjoy common of pasture in Tonge Moor, but turbary was denied, except to certain tenants named. In 1527 Thomas Tonge granted to Robert Langley a part of the moor, with common of pasture, turbary and marl. The next of the family known is John Tonge, the son of Thomas, who died in 1551, holding various lands in Tonge of the king by the hundredth part of a knight's fee; Richard, his son and heir, was only two years of age. Richard died at the end of 1568, being still in wardship; he left a son Christopher, two years of age, about whose legitimacy there was some doubt, and apart from whom the heirs were Richard's sisters Ellen, Jane, and Dorothy, aged twenty-one, nineteen, and nineteen years.

The custody of two messuages called Tonge in Alkrington was, in 1401, granted to William del Dam and Margery, his wife.


Bradshaw Hall lies in the north-east part of the township, in a plot cut off from the main area by Wince Brook. It was anciently part of the lands of the 'Hospitallers', and was afterwards granted to the Earls of Derby, of whom it was held in the early part of the 17th century by a branch of the Chadderton family. Robert Chadderton, yeoman, died 8th March, 1638-9, holding a messuage and land called Bradshaw in Alkrington. Thomas Chadderton of Alkrington paid to the land tax in 1787.

Submitted by Peter Langley, May 2014.

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