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Visitors To Manchester

Over the coming months we intend to publish copies of documents written by various visitors to Manchester England covering the years 1540 to 1870 and beyond. The first is published below.

John Leland.


Although John Leland was born in London, he was probably descended from a Lancashire family. Some time between 1535 and 1543 Leland found his way to the small Lancashire market town of Manchester and wrote the earliest known visitor's description of the town.

"Mancestre on the south side of lrwel river stondith in Salfordshiret, (1) and is the fairest, best buildid, quikkest and most populus tounne of al Lancastreshire; yet is in hit but one paroch chirch, but is a college and almost thoroughowt doble ilyd equadrato lapide durissimo, whereof a goodly quarre (2) is hard by the towne. Ther be divers stone bridgis in the toune, but the best of it arches is over Irwel, cawllid Salford bridge. (3) This bridge devidith Manchestre from Salford, the wich is as a large suburbe to Manchestre. On this bridge is a praty litle chapel. (4) The next is the bridge that is over Hirke river, on the wich the fair builded (college) standith as in the veri point of the mouth of hit. For hard therby it renneth into Wyver. (5) On Hirk river be divers fair milles that serve the toune.(6)In the towne be it fair marketplacys. (7) And almost ii flyte shottes withowt the towne (8) beneth on the same side of Irwel yet be seene the dikes and fundations of Old Man Castel 9) yn a ground now inclosid. The stones of the ruines castel wer translatid toward making of bridgges for the tounne. (10) It is no long season sins the chirch of Manchestre was collegiatid. (11) The toun of Manchestre stondith on a hard rokke of stone, (12) els liwel, as wel apperith in the west ripe, had been notful to the toune. Irwel is not navigable but in sum places for vady(13) and rokkes. "

Leland echoed an old local tradition that "Edward the Sunne of Alfred (14)repaired Manchestre defaced by the Danes Warre." This continued to fuel the legend that Manchester had been laid waste by a raid in pre-Norman Viking times.

John Leland died in 1552,allegedly after a period of insanity induced by the labours of his long studies, and was buried at St Michael Ie Querne Church in London. This church was destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt.

Notes
This text is taken from "The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535 to 1543" ( 1909) , ed from the MSS by Lucy Toulmin-Smith, IV, 5-6.

1) "Salfordshiret" refers to the administrative area of the Salford Hundred.
2) These were the sandstone quarries at Collyhurst, the stone from which was used to build the Collegiate Church and the College.
3) This bridge dated from the fourteenth century and was demolished in 1839 and replaced by the present Victoria Bridge.
4) This chapel, located on the bridge itself, was first built in the mid-fourteenth century and rebuilt in 1505, when it was converted into a dungeon.
5) "Wyver" simply means the river - either the Irk or the Irwell.
6) These mills were situated on the banks of the Irk and included the Lord of the Manor's corn mill and also a fulling mill dating from at least the late thirteenth century.
7) These were the Old Market Place (now Shambles Square) and Acresfield. The latter was the site of an annual autumn market dating from 1223. The area is now indicated by St Ann's Square.
8) This means "at a distance of two arrow shots from the town",
9) This was the remains of the Roman fort at Castlefield which was then amidst the woods of Aldport Park, the site of which is now the area between Quay Street and Knott Mill.
10) The only possible survivor of these bridges is the remains of the fourteenth century Hanging Bridge off Cateaton Street, near the south entrance of the Cathedral.
11) Manchester' s parish church was designated as a collegiate foundation in 1421 and received cathedral status in 1847.
12) Here, Leland. is alluding to the fact (difficult to appreciate today) that Manchester was built on a small but rocky cliff, and this protected it from floods.
13) "Vadys" means "fords". Leland states that the river was only partially navigable, because of the number of fords and rocks a long its course.
14) This refers to King Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, who ordered the rebuilding of Manchester c923.

 
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