Macclesfield - Encyclopedia

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MACCLESFIELD, a market town and municipal borough in the Macclesfield parliamentary division of Cheshire, England, 166 m. N.W. by N. of London, on the London & North-Western, North Staffordshire and Great Central railways. Pop. (1901), 34,624. It lies on and above the small river Bollin, the valley of which is flanked by high ground to east and west, the eastern hills rising sharply to heights above l000 ft. The bleak upland country retains its ancient name of Macclesfield Forest. The church of St Michael, standing high, was founded by Eleanor, queen of Edward I., in 1278, and in 1740 was partly rebuilt and greatly enlarged. The lofty steeple by which its massive tower was formerly surmounted was battered down by the Parliamentary forces during the Civil War. Connected with the church there are two chapels, one of which, Rivers Chapel, belonged to a college of secular priests founded in 1501 by Thomas Savage, afterwards archbishop of York. Both the church and chapels contain several ancient monuments. The free grammar school, originally founded in 1502 by Sir John Percival, was refounded in 1552 by Edward VI., and a commercial school was erected in 1840 out of its funds. The county lunatic asylum is situated here. The town-hall is a handsome modern building with a Grecian frontage on two sides. Originally the trade of Macclesfield was principally in twist and silk buttons, but this has developed into the manufacture of all kinds of silk. Besides this staple trade, there are various textile manufactures and extensive breweries; while stone and slate quarries, as well as coal-mines, are worked in the neighbourhood. Recreation grounds include Victoria Park and Peel Park, in which are preserved the old market cross and stocks. Water communication is provided by the Macclesfield canal. The borough is under a mayor, 12 aldermen and 36 councillors. Area, 3214 acres. The populous suburb of Sutton, extending S.S.E. of the town, is partly included in the borough.

Previous to the Conquest, Macclesfield (Makesfeld, Mackerfeld, Macclesfeld, Meulefeld, Maxfield) was held by Edwin, earl of Mercia; and at the time of the Domesday Survey it formed a part of the lands of the earl of Chester. The entry speaks of seven hedged enclosures, and there is evidence of fortification in the 13th century, to which the names Jordangate, Chestergate and Wallgate still bear witness. In the 15th century Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, had a fortified manor-house here, traces of which remain. There is a tradition, supported by a reference on a plea roll, that Randle, earl of Chester (1181-1232) made Macclesfield a free borough, but the earliest charter extant is that granted by Edward, prince of Wales and earl of Chester, in 1261, constituting Macclesfield a free borough with a merchant gild, and according certain privileges in the royal forest of Macclesfield to the burgesses. This charter was confirmed by Edward III. in 1334, by Richard II. in 1389, by Edward IV. in 1466 and by Elizabeth in 1564. In 1595 Elizabeth issued a new charter to the town, confirmed by James I. in 1605 and Charles II. in 1666, laying down a formal borough constitution under a mayor, 2 aldermen, 24 capital burgesses and a high steward. In 1684 Charles II. issued a new charter, under which the borough was governed until the Municipal Reform Act 1835. The earliest mention of a market is in a grant by James I. to Charles, prince of Wales and earl of Chester, in 1617. In the charter of 1666 a market is included among the privileges confirmed to the borough as those which had been granted in 1605, or by any previous kings and queens of England. The charter of Elizabeth in 1595 granted an annual fair in June, and this was supplemented by Charles II. in 1684 by a grant of fairs in April and September. Except during the three winter months fairs are now held monthly, the chief being "Barnaby" in June, when the town keeps a week's holiday. Macclesfield borough sent two members to parliament in 1832 for the first time. In 1880 it was disfranchised for bribery, and in 1885 the borough was merged in the county division of Macclesfield. The manufacture of silkcovered buttons began in the 16th century, and flourished until the early 18th. The first silk mill was erected about 1755, and silk manufacture on a large scale was introduced about 1790. The manufacture of cotton began in Macclesfield about 1785.

See J. Corry, History of Macclesfield (1817).

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