Little is known of the pre history of the area. This would appear to be due to the archaeologists in the past not looking for evidence either by survey or excavation. The only items to be found of any early period was a 3 lb stone axe found in a bank of gravel near Shawe Hall in Flixton in 1846; and a dug-out canoe found during the digging of the Manchester Ship Canal ( both now in Manchester museum).
Some fragments of Roman pottery were found during emergency excavations at the site of Urmston hall in 1983 in Manor avenue by the church of St Clement. It is thought that there could have been a Roman settlement in the area, possibly on the piece of land now occupied by Urmston cemetery. The A56 runs along the route of the Roman Road "Watling Street" which was then the main North-South road. Carr ditch which ran for some distance through the middle of the Area following the line of Moorside Road was thought to have been a defensive ditch put there in Roman times.
Recent archaeological digs at several points along its length have now ruled this out. It has been suggested that Carr ditch served both as an administrative boundary and a drainage ditch during the medieval and early modern period. The name "Carr" means "marshland".After the Romans left in AD 410 (to defend their own lands from invasion), the area would probably been invaded by the Anglo-Saxons from Northumbria in the seventh century and then by the Danes (Vikings) in the ninth.
The area must have been of some strategic importance, being bound by the rivers Irwell (now largely incorporated into the Manchester Ship Canal) which in Roman Times was used for communication between Manchester and their station near Warrington) and the Mersey (which was at a much higher level then than now) and which in AD878 was established as the boundary between the Anglo-Saxons to the West and the Danes to the East. Indeed it has been suggested that the name Flixton is a hybrid between Flix a Danish personal name and the old English word "tun", meaning village or farmstead.
In the period 1069-1070 William the Conqueror led a ruthless campaign in the area against the Saxon Earl Edwin and subsequently gave his kinsman, Roger de Poictou, all the lands set between the rivers Mersey and Ribble. Part of these lands was given to Albert de Greslet, who in turn during the reign of King John (1199-1216) bestowed as much land as a team of oxen could plough in one year (one caracute) upon Orme, the son of Edward Aylward. This area became know as Orme's Tun (dwelling) and subsequently, Orme Eston, Ormeston and finally Urmston. Nevertheless Flixton, which has been spelt as Fleece-Town, Fflxton, Fluxton, Flyxton, was the most important village in the area and remained so for the next 700-800 years.
Flixon was founded by a Viking called 'Flikke' and the wall behind the alter at St. Michael's Church is the Original wall from the first church that was built by Flikke when he found Christianity. Thanks To Bill Outhwaite for this information.
The Church of Saint Michael was established here by the Normans in Ca. 1200 AD although the records of priests goes back to 900 AD, which indicates that there must have been a Saxon church in the area. The carving over the east window is typically Norman. Over the centuries the population of the area remained small, even in the 1801 census it was only approximately 800. The occupations were mainly that of farming, there were about 80 farms each one farming about 50 acres along with handloom weaving.
In medieval times there were four Halls established in the area by the local landlords, (Hall is rather a grand term, they were probably not much bigger than a 6-10 bed-roomed house, sadly with the exception of Urmston Hall no excavations have been carried out):
Shawe Hall - built originally about 1305 by the Valentine family in the area around the Roebuck hotel, and then rebuilt in the area around Shawe Hall Crescent in the early 1600's. The Hall was demolished in 1955 to make way for Housing.
Urmston Hall - built about 1350 by the de Ormeston family in the area around Manor Avenue was rebuilt towards the end of the sixteenth century .It later became a farm and was demolished in 1937.
Newcroft Hall - built in the Thirteenth Century it is thought by the de Trafford family in the area around Newcroft road. It was demolished in 1935.
Davyhulme Hall - built by the de Hulme family in about 1150-60 in the area now occupied by Davyhulme Golf Club. It has been suggested that the name Davyhulme is Danish in origin refering to the lonely position. Part of the land belonging to the Hall was given so that St. Mary's Church could be built in 1889. The Hall itself was demolished in 1888.
During most of the Middle Ages and later periods the area remained rural, occupied by cottages and farms and far from the centres of power, although the area slowly developed and communications improved.The Mile Road Bridge was built in the reign of Elizabeth 1 by Lady Carrington of Carrington Hall so that her tenants could attend the Church at Flixton. Originally a wooden structure, it was replaced by an iron bridge in 1840.
Urmston Lodge was built by the the de Trafford family in 1648 and enlarged in Georgian times. It boasted 22 rooms and was known as "Pineapple Hall" because of the distinctive three stone pineapples on the roof. It became victim of the building of the Motorway in 1957/8 as did Urmston Grange built in 1590-1630 which stood on Streford Road.
People from the area took part in some of the events in the wider world(see below) and the area was effected by the social changes elsewhere in the country e.g. the end of feudalism, the growth of capitalism and the slow movement towards democracy and the collapse of the powers of the local Squirearchy.
The Industrial Revolution started in Lancashire in the 1780's. This had initially a devastating effect on the area, the only industry up until this time had been hand weaving and this suffered a severe collapse in the early 1800's. The population of the area fell by up to 50% as people moved to the mills of Manchester.
A cotton mill was built in 1852 by the Stott family in the area at the corner of Flixton Road and Shawe Road. It proved to be a lifeline for the area, in its heyday it employed up to 300 people many coming from Irlam and Eccles to work. The mill closed in 1935. Although the area remained predominately rural, several large houses were built in the area during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the newly prosperous banking, manufacturing and merchant classes. For example (this is not a comprehensive list for further reading see below):
Auburn Lodge - built in 1740 by William Stevenson who owned land in Manchester and after who Stevenson Square in Manchester is named. It was demolished in 1964 for houses on Aurburn Drive.
Urmston Cottage - built in 1800. It was once the home of Sir Bosdin Leech, one time Lord Mayor of Manchester. It was pulled down in the Thirties to make way for housing on Humphrey Lane.
Greenfield House - built about 1800 and the home of the Royle-Higginson family stood on the site of the present day Urmston Post Office. The family established Urmston Market and it remains today one of the few privately-owned markets.
Flixton House - built in 1806 by Ralph Wright whose family had grown to be wealthy land owners in Flixton (partly at the expense of the Egerton family who owned Shawe Hall). In 1827 he closed several footpaths across the estate which the public had access to. He went before a court at Salford and had to give way. The ' National Footpaths Association' was born out of this dispute.
The character of the area changed dramatically with the coming of the Manchester to Liverpool railway in 1872 which passed through Urmston and Flixton and gave rise to a large increase in population, by 1891 it had grown to 4,402. As business men found that they could get away from the dirt and grime of Manchester and live in a rural setting, thus began the development of the surrounding area. St. Clements church was built in 1868 in response to the growth of population. It was built on land donated by Colonel Ridehalgh of Urmston Hall who was Lord of the Manor. The building of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1897 saw another increase.
When Trafford Park was built (the largest industrial estate in Europe) this brought many more people to live, by 1911 the population had grown to 8000 . As a result the farms and large old houses were swallowed up by housing and by the 1990s there were only a few small holdings left. The present day population is ca.30,000.
People from the Area and events in History
One of the owners of Shawe Hall, Sir Ralph Valentine, took 100 men to the battle of Bosworth in 1485, where he was killed.
Richard Radcliffe of Newcroft Hall, under orders from Elizabeth 1 took part in the Lancashire Regiments successful siege of the French at Leith in 1560 and opened the way for the triumph of Protestantism in Scotland.
In 1620 Leonard Asshawe, the owner of Shawe Hall refused a knighthood from Charles I, probably for religious reasons, as did John Hyde the owner of Urmston Hall. Leonard Asshawe's son in law, Peter Egerton, who inherited the estate in 1633 was definitely on the side of the Parliamentarians. In the subsequent civil war he joined in the defence of Manchester against the Royalists from Warrington in 1642. He served as a colonel under Farifax and later as a general. He had however, spent too much of his own money during the war and soon after the King was restored, his son Peter had to sell off parts of the estate to various tenants.
John Collier, the Lancashire poet known as Tom Bobbin, was born in Urmston in 1708.His father was a curate at either Stretford or Eccles, and also taught at the local schools of the area.
A Methodist society already existed in John Heywood's house in Davyhulme in 1746, a report at the time said that a meeting there was disrupted by a crowd of drunken men. John Wesley himself visited Davyhulme five times beginning in 1747. A chapel was built on Moorside Road in 1779, in an area known as "The Fold". One of the supporters of the Chapel was the famous missionary, Robert Moffat. He was a Scotsman who had moved into the area. His daughter Mary, married another young Scotsman, David Livingstone. The chapel was closed in about 1894 when the Flixton Wesleyan Chapel was built in Irlam Road.
A Scotsman named Charles Ewart based in Manchester with the 'Scots Greys' took part in the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and captured a French Standard. He retired to the area and lived for 16 years in a cottage in Bent Lanes. His wife is buried in Flixton Church.
Marshall Stevens, one of the founders of the Manchester Ship Canal, lived for some time in Highfield House on Moss Vale Road (the house was another casualty of the building of the Motorway). It was he who was instrumental in turning Trafford Park into an Industrial Estate after the Trafford Family began to sell the land off.
Roy Chadwick, designer of the World War Lancaster Bomber, went to St. Clements Church and lived on Westbourne Road.
Written with contributions from:
Wilson Carmicheal, John Howe and Alan Crossland
Looking Back at Urmston - by Alan Crossland
Urmston…A Nostalgic Look Back - by Wilson Carmichael
A History of Flixton Parish - edited by Rev. Jack Freeborn 1969