Thursday, 11 May 2017

Chorlton farmers ............. Mr and Mrs Bancroft farming at Park Brow from 1841

Now I don’t have a picture of James Bancroft, but given that he was born in 1802 and spent his life at the plough I doubt he would have had the time or the inclination “to sit and be done in oils.”

The gravestone of James and Betty Bancroft
But I know a bit about him and it is enough to take the story of Park Brow Farm into another chapter.

In 1851 he was farming 60 acres of land and living with his wife Elizabeth and their six children in the eight roomed farmhouse on the corner of what is now Sandy Lane and St Werburgh’s Road.

I can’t be sure but I think the family will have moved into the tenancy sometime between 1838 and 1841.

They were originally from Stretford and their last child was born in Stretford in 1838 but three years later they appear on the census return at Park Brow.

And there the family stayed well into the 1880s, by which time James and Elizabeth were dead and the farm was run by their two unmarried daughters.

As Chorlton farms go Park Brow was at the top end of the middling farms.  The very big ones like Barlow Hall Farm at 300 acres and Hough End Hall and Dog House Farm at 240 were big, but there were plenty more that were much smaller and the majority of land holdings were between just 1 to nine acres.

At which point it is worth saying that Hough End Hal and Dog House were actually in Withington not Chorlton.

60 acres  would have made Mr and Mrs Bancroft respectable farmers whose land was split between arable and meadow land.

In 1851 they employed four agricultural labourers of which three lived with them and like the family had all been born in Stretford.

“Living in” was still a common practice in the middle decades of the 19th century and while the labourers got paid less their board, and lodging came free and usually they could expect their clothes to be washed and mended.

Park Brow Farm in 1845
In most cases the agreement lasted for a full year and it was a system which suited both farmer and worker and tended to apply particularly to young employees.

The farmer got the guarantee of a labourer for the year and the farm worker was assured somewhere to stay which was especially important when as was often the case they were still quite young.

So of our three living in labourers in 1851 one was 20, the second 17, and the third just 15 and a decade later the carter Edward Cook and the cowman Isaac Evans were both 17.

Like most of the farms in the township the land belonging to the farm was spread out and so while the Bancroft’s rented land along the north side of what is now Sandy Lane it was interspersed with fields farmed by Thomas Cookson and George Lunt and the rest of the Park Bow fields were off to the south beyond Chorlton Brook.

In time I will go looking for the rest of the family but for now I shall just leave you with that sombre fact that James and Elizabeth’s gravestone in the old parish churchyard survived the developers and can still be seen today.

Location; Park Brow Farm, Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture, gravestone of James and Elizabeth Bancroft, Chorlton parish church Yard, 2009, and Park Brow 1845 from the Tithe Map from the collections of Andrew Simpson and Philip Lloyd

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