The Buckleys of Grottonhead, in Saddleworth by C.E. Higson
Reprinted from the Oldham Standard, February 1930

The popular tradition that Saddleworth was formerly included in the county of Lancaster is, so far, entirely unsupported by evidence. It is reasonable to believe. therefore, that the township has formed part of the county of York ever since the far distant past when England gradually became divided into shires, to facilitate the administration of justice arid to extend the power of the Sovereign throughout the length and breadth of the land.

Being cut off from the rest of the county by a tract of wild and desolate moorland, Saddleworth was apparently drawn into closer communion with the neighbouring county of Lancaster, especially in ecclesiastical affairs. Among the surnames borne by families of long standing in the district, several undoubtedly betray a Lancashire origin. For the time-honoured name of Buckley, of Grottonhead, Saddleworth is indebted to the Buckleys, of Buckley Hall, in the parish of Rochdale, as may be proved by reference to the documents of that ancient family.

In 1603 died Gilbert Buckley, of Grotton, husbandman, and he is the first member of the local branch of whom any record exists. An abstract of his will is given in the papers of the late Canon Raines. Subject to the payment of one-third of their annual value to Anne, his wife, during her natural life, he left his lands to his eldest son, Richard Buckley; to Thomas and Francis, his sons, he gave one cow and one ewe; and to twenty children to whom he was both godfather and grandfather, two shillings apiece. He ordered the great table and the dishboard in the house at Grotton to be kept as heirlooms, and lastly, he appointed Edmund and Thomas, his sons, and his son-in-law, Thomas Lees, executors and overseers of his will, which he signed in the presence of John Morres, clerk. He also recorded that his daughter Whitehead owed him thirteen shillings for ploughing her land.

Richard Buckley, the next representative of the family, is described as of Grottonhead, "yeoman", from which it may be inferred that his worldly affairs had prospered. His father was a husbandman, or tenant paying rent for the farm he occupied, but he himself, being a yeoman, must have owned some part, at least, of the land he cultivated, and this is borne out by his will, proved at Chester in 1635.

Therein he directs the new land with the edifices standing thereon, lately purchased from the Rt. Worshipful Sir George Booth and Mr. William Booth, to be equally divided among his four sons, John, Richard, Thomas and Edmund, as the same had already been conveyed to them by deed and covenant. To John Buckley, his eldest son, he gave as heirlooms an ark, a table, a dishboard, a chest, a coffer, and a feather bed, together with all his husbandry gear. To his sons, John and Thomas, he gave twenty pounds. The remainder of his goods being divided into two equal parts, he bequeathed one part to his four sons, and the other part, after payment of his funeral expenses, to his three sons Richard, Thomas and Edmund, who also were to receive ten pounds from their eldest brother, John, for his share of the new land already mentioned. Finally, John and Thomas, his sons, were appointed executors. On the 7th September, 1635, "Richardus Buckley" was interred at Saddleworth Church.

John Buckley, the next owner of the estate, rebuilt the ancient farmhouse at Grottonhead. The lintel over the door is inscribed "M.B." with "I.B. 1656 x" underneath. The initials refer to John Buckley and his wife, presumably Mary, but as both died intestate this cannot now be determined. In the Saddleworth register the record of his burial reads, "John Buckley, de grotton head, senr., 15 June, 1681".

John Buckley, the younger, succeeded his father, and considerably enlarged the family possessions. From two engraved stones still existing on the house, it is not improbable that he was the original builder of the mansion now known as Grotton Hall, and which he extended a few .years later. He and Mary, his wife, are commemorated by the inscriptions "B.I.M.1678" and B.I.M. 1686", the latter being on the porch facing south-west. In 1712 "Mr. John Buckley de Grotton-head" paid a yearly chief rent of two shillings and sixpence for Hollingreave, and also one penny per annum for New Land at Crowshaw Bent.

Like his father, John Buckley died intestate. He was interred at Saddleworth Church, 23rd August, 1723, in his 83rd year, and there also Mary, his wife, was buried 31st October, 1724, in the 83rd year of her age.

They had at least five children, viz., John, William, Mary, Sarah and Patience. William and Mary died in childhood. Sarah, on the 12th February, 1690, became the wife of Nicholas Saxon, of Audenshaw, whilst Patience was married twice, her first husband being John Beswick, of Cheetwood, and her second, Edward Walker, of Openshaw.

Unlike her husband, Mary Buckley, of Grottonhead, made a will. By it, she bequeathed one hundred pounds to her grandson. John Beswick, having already given a similar amount to her grand-daughter, Sarah Saxon.

She also gave the sum of ten pounds to each of the following relatives, William, Richard and John Buckley, children of her only son, John Buckley; her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Buckley, and her grandchildren, Mary Saxon, Sarah Saxon, Patience, wife of James Buckley, Susan Saxon, John Saxon and John Beswick.

One drawer, one table, and two arks she reserved for her son, John Buckley, and one silver tankard for her daughter, Sarah Saxon.

John Beswick and Sarah Saxon, two of her aforesaid grandchildren, were nominated executors of her will, and were empowered to share the rest of her household goods equally between them.

The will, proved 8th May, 1738, of John Beswick, of Birchen Bower, in Chadderton, gentleman, the above-named grandson and executor, contains references to various members of the family. Among many legacies bequeathed in his will are fifty pounds each to his cousins Richard and John Buckley, sons of his uncle, John Buckley, of Grottonhead, gentleman, a like sum to each of his cousins, Sarah, wife of John Kershaw, of Chadderton, yeoman, and Patience, wife of James Buckley, of Staleywood, yeoman; to his kinsman, John Saxon, of Audenshaw, sixty pounds, and forty pounds to Francis, son of his cousin, Mary Ogden, wife of James Ogden of Blakeley. His leasehold estate called Cheetwood, in Cheetham, he granted to his sister, Hannah Beswick, and her assigns. His freehold estates called Birchen Bower and Claytons, and housing and smithy at Bradley Bent, all in Chadderton; his freehold estate called Taunton in Ashton-under-Lyne, his freehold land at Chapel-en-le-Frith, and his copyhold land at Bradford, within the Honour of Wakefield, he gave to his said sister Hannah, for her life, and afterwards to her eldest son, on reaching the age of twenty-one years. If, however, a1l her children died under age leaving no issue, his sister might dispose of all the said lands, with the exception of Taunton, in any way she thought fit. But in that case he gave to his kinsman, John Saxon, of Audenshaw, and his heirs, for ever, the said estate, called Taunton, subject to the payment of five hundred pounds to his sister, Hannah Beswick, if she so directed.

Hannah, his sister, Robert Radclyffe, of Foxdenton, esq., and John Saxon, of Audenshaw, yeoman, were named as executors of the will, but Robert Radclyffe renounced the position.

Hannah, daughter of John Beswick, of Cheetwood, and sister of John Beswick, of Birchen Bower, inherited all her brother's freehold estates, except Taunton. As she never married, the estates became her own absolutely.

It has often been asserted that she had a morbid fear of being buried alive while in a trance, and also that she arranged with Dr. Charles White, of Manchester, in case of her decease, to keep her body above ground until assured that death had really taken place. Be this as it may, at her death in 1757, the doctor embalmed her body, and placed it in an oaken case, which allowed the face to be seen. At a much later date it was sent to the rooms of the Manchester Natural History Society in Peter-street, where it was exhibited. and generally known as "The Manchester Mummy." On the 22nd July, 1868, one hundred and eleven years after her death, the body of Madam Beswick was reverently buried at Harpurhey Cemetery.

During the lifetime of his parents, who, as before stated, died in 1723 and 1724 respectively, John Buckley, their only son, resided at Derker, in Oldham, and there his four children, John, William, Richard, and a second John, were born, and all baptised at Oldham Church. The first two died in infancy, and were buried at Saddleworth. On leaving Derker and returning to Grottonhead, he at once began to enlarge the hall, and a memorial stone, with "B.I.K., 1725", graven upon it, gives the initials of himself and Katherine, his wife, together with the year of their undertaking. A little later, according to "B.I.K. 1731" on the lintel of the door, the farmhouse at Grotton was re-built.

Having assumed the rank and style of gentleman he, in 1728, as befitting the dignity of his position, acquired the privilege of erecting, at his own cost and charges, a small gallery over the north door in Saddleworth Church, together with a staircase leading thereto, on the outside of the church wall. The gallery was to be reserved for the use of himself, his family, and his successors, "for standing, sitting, kneeling, and hearing divine service and sermons therein".

In due course the gallery was built, and soon became known as the Grottonhead Loft.
In 1732 John Buckley, of Grottonhead, gentleman, made his will, of which the following abstract was taken from Canon Raines' papers before mentioned.
All his capital messuage called Grottonhead, his lands in Grotton, Crawshaw-bent, Coverhill, Thornlee, Thornlee Green, The Park, Hollingreave, and a rent charge of eight pounds per annum from Castleshaw, all lying in Quick and Saddleworth, together with his lands in Denton, and a rent charge of ten pounds per annum from premises at Fouleach in Oldham, he devised to his elder son, Richard Buckley, at the age of twenty-one or marriage, but charged with forty shillings a year for ever to the poor inhabitants of Quick, secured on the rent charge of Castleshaw, to be paid by his said son Richard to the overseers of the poor of Quick to be laid out in oatmeal on Christinas Day at Grottonhead, according to the discretion of his said son and his heirs, the first payment to be made on the Christmas Day next after the testator's decease.

All his lands called Derker and Pitbank, in Oldham, a farm in Quick, and another at Matley, in Cheshire, which by his marriage settlement had been conveyed in trust for the benefit of Katherine, his wife, to his father-in-law, William Norton, Esq., William Norton, his son, John Shaw and Nicholas Saxon, he devised as follows:

To Richard, his son, he gave the lands at Shelderslow and Newhouses, and to John, his younger son, Derker, Pitbank, and Matley, and land in Knott Lanes in the parish of Ashton. To his son Richard he also gave forty pounds, being a mortgage on Castleshaw. To Katherine, his wife, he bequeathed one-third of his personalty in interest, with power to dispose of it by will, and he appointed his said wife and Richard, his son, executors.

According to the report of the Charity Commissioners, the dole of oatmeal was regularly distributed each Christmas Day at Grottonhead, until eventually the buildings at Castleshaw, from which the income was derived, fell into ruin. The rent charge was no longer paid, and the Buckley Charity became a thing of the past.
John Buckley, gentleman, died 23rd December, 1738, aged 72 years, and Katherine, his wife, died at Stockport, 31st August, 1750, aged 66 years. Both were interred at Saddleworth.
Richard Buckley, their elder son, though born at Derker, spent most of his life at Stockport. He did not, however, neglect his Saddleworth property. During his ownership lie re-built the farmhouse at Load Hill Platting, according to "B.B. 1745" over the doorway. Two years later he erected a second dwelling at Grotton, as may be seen from "B.B.1747" on a stone inserted in the newer portion of the building. Both these undertakings seem to have been completed before his marriage, otherwise his wife's initials might have appeared alongside his own.

In 1764, Richard Buckley, then of Stockport, gentleman, made his will. First, he gave to Mary, his wife, for her natural life, the use of all his household goods, plate, and furniture, and, after her decease, he gave the same to his eldest son, John. Subject to an annuity of seventy pounds for the benefit of his wife, he gave to his father-in-law, Robert Thorpe, his brother, John Buckley, his cousin, John Saxon the elder, and Buckley Bower, of Stockport, all his real estate in the counties York and Lancaster, in trust for 1,000 years, to apply part of the income thereof, not exceeding twenty-five pounds apiece, for the maintenance and education of all his children, until the youngest should attain the age of twenty-one years, and afterwards, by levying or mortgaging the said real estate, to raise one thousand pounds apiece for all his younger children. The residue of his real estate he devised to his eldest son, John, his heirs and assigns for ever.

His personal estate he charged with a legacy of twenty pounds to his wife, and empowered his trustees to use sufficient of the remainder to place out his children in any trade, profession, or business, such money to be considered as part of the portion of one thousand pounds already ordered to be provided for them. The rest of his personal estate he bequeathed to his son, John Buckley. The four trustees were also appointed executors of his will.

Richard Buckley died at Stockport, 12th January, 1764, aged 41 years, and was buried at Saddleworth, where also was interred Mary, his wife, who died at Chester, 5th July, 1789, aged 55 years.

John Buckley, brother of Richard, who had inherited a share of the Grottonhead estates, also resided at Stockport. By his will, all his real and personal property was given, subject to the payment of certain legacies, to his nephew and name-sake, John Buckley, then a minor, if he lived to attain the age of twenty-one years, but if he died under age, the same was given to his kinsman, John Kershaw, of Hollinwood, gentleman.

He nominated the said John Kershaw. Richard Arden, of Stockport; Esq., and William Bertles, of the same place, gentleman, to be his executors, and to receive fifty pounds apiece, as an acknowledgment of their services, but Richard Arden declined to act.
"Mr. John Buckley, gentleman, Stockport", aged 43 years, was buried at Saddleworth, 1st January, 1767. Thus the two parts of the family estates were again united in possession of John Buckley, who settled in Chester. He married the daughter and heiress of Leonard Fosbrooke, of Shardlow, in the county of Derby, gentleman, and of the city of Chester, where he died 7th December, 1801.

Soon after entering upon his inheritance the new owner had a book of elaborate plans prepared containing a description of all the farms left to him by his father and uncle. The name of every close of land is given, together with its area in statute, Lancashire, and Cheshire measures, and also the names of the various tenants.

The farms included are
Grottonhead, 31 closes, area 74a. 3r. 9p. statute measure.
Crowshaw Bent, 12 closes, area 29a. 3r. 16p.
Coverhill, 7 closes, area 7a. 0r. 4p.
Grotton, 11 closes, area 24a. 2r. 5p.
Loadhill Platting, 7 closes, area l5a. 3r. 2p.
Claytons, 17 closes, area 30a. 2r. 17p.
Thornlee, 9 closes, area 11a. 2r. 23p.
Hollingreave, 16 closes, area 27a. 0r. 16p.
Derker, 14 closes, area 43a. 3r. 28p.
Pitbank, 12 closes, area 21a. lr. 32p.
Croft End, in Ashton parish, 15 closes, area 36a 3r. 28p.
Denton, 3 closes, area 32a. 2r. 19p.
Mottram, 26 closes, area 104a. 2r. 30p.
The total area is 458a. 3r. 29p. statute measure.

On the title page of the book is printed: "Wood�Fecit and Scrip. Estates in the several Counties of York, Lancaster, and Chester, belonging to John Buckley Esq., Surveyed by Ra. Wood, 1779."

A few years later a successful effort was made to build a chapel-of-ease at Lydgate. For the nominal sum of fifteen guineas a plot of land containing 1,562 square yards was purchased from the said John Buckley, then a lieutenant in His Majesty's Royal Regiment of Horse Guards, but previously of the city of Chester. On part of this plot, enclosed from the High Field attached to Crowshaw Bent Farm, the Chapel of St.
Anne was erected, and, on 15th August, 1788, was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester.

John Buckley, of Chester, died 6th August, 1805, and was succeeded by his son, Richard Fosbrooke Buckley.

This gentleman, who died at Stanley Place, Chester, on the 10th March, 1862, aged 66 years, was the last of the original stock of Buckleys to own the Grottonhead estates.
About twenty years before his decease, he disposed of the home of his ancestors, when it was purchased by Edmund Buckley, of Higher Ardwick, coal and iron merchant, a native of Saddleworth.

Edmund Buckley was descended from a line of yeomen, or small landowners, possessed for several generations of an estate adjoining that of the Buckleys of Grottonhead, from which family they were probably an offshoot.

Their freehold farm at Lydgate was named Pikelow, so called from a knoll of graceful outline known as the Pike Low. Certain closes on the slopes of this hill are the Pikelow Fields, others form the Pikelow Bent, whilst the bend of the lane leading to Burnedge is still called the Pikelow, or in common parlance, the Pikeley Corner.

The earliest mention of any member of this branch of the family is found in the Saddleworth registers, wherein it is stated that John Buckley had a son baptized John, on the 12th March 1677.

In due course the younger John succeeded his father on the farm and was described as John Buckley, of "Lidyate", yeoman. He died 1st December, 1757, in his 80th year, and Anne, his wife, 30th October, 1752, aged 67 years.

Edmund Buckley, younger son of the above John and Anne, made his will in 1775. First, he bequeathed the sum of ten pounds yearly to Sarah, his wife, during her natural life, chargeable on all his messuages, lands, and premises. He also gave her all the goods and furniture then standing in the little parlour of the house wherein he dwelt. He devised to his elder son, William, all his interest in a leasehold tenement known as Broad Oak, in Ashton-under-Line, subject to the payment of eight pounds yearly to his said wife, Sarah. To his younger son, John, he devised all his interest in a leasehold dwelling also in Ashton-under-Line. He further devised to his son, John, and his heirs for ever, but charged with forty shillings yearly to his aforesaid wife, all his freehold estate in Saddleworth, known by the name of Pike Loe. To his, daughter, Anne Lees, he gave one shilling sterling. Lastly, he nominated his two sons, William Buckley and John Buckley, executors of his will, and gave the rest of his personal estate to be divided equally between them.

Edmund Buckley survived the making of his will fourteen years. He died on the 21st September, 1789, in the 71st year of his age. Sarah, his wife, died 27th October, 1800, aged 76 years.

John Buckler, their younger son, was the next owner of Pikelow. He was also engaged in the woollen trade, at that time the staple industry of Saddleworth; as well as of the adjacent parts of Lancashire. But the work was largely carried on with handlooms, then rapidly being displaced by steam-power and more modern machinery. Those who declined to avail themselves of the new inventions quickly lost their all, and, unfortunately, John Buckley clung to the old patriarchal ways. His lands, so dearly prized, the inheritance of generations, were bit by bit sold; the old homestead was let, and the head of the family became an agent of a canal company.

Edmund Buckley, his son, born at Lydgate on Christmas Day, 1780, did not lose heart at his father's reverses. He joined a well-known firm of carriers between Manchester and Hull, in whose service he rose to be a partner, and at length became head of the firm. He also embarked in the iron trade with great energy and success. The result was he bought back, acre by acre, the old family lands, and the home of his fathers became his once more. He also purchased the Grottonhead estates from the elder branch of the local Buckley family.

His father, John Buckley, did not live to witness the flood-tide of his son's success. He died on the 6th January, 1808, in his 58th year, and Mary, his wife, on the 29th December, 1825, in the 64th year of her age.

Immediately after Edmund Buckley's acquisition of the Grottonhead estates, the buildings were put in thorough repair by their new owner. To commemorate his work a stone bearing the Buckley crest and coat of arms, together with "E.B., 1844" was placed in the south-eastern gable of Grotton Hall, and another stone with the same initials, but 15 dated a year later, on a gable of the buildings overlooking Platting-road.

Edmund Buckley, of Higher Ardwick, and later of Grottonhead also, was made a magistrate for Lancashire, Derbyshire, and Merionethshire, of which last-named county he held the office of High Sheriff in. 1858. He was Boroughreeve of Manchester in 1834-5, before the town was incorporated, and in June, 1841, was elected Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme, being returned at the head of the poll. Declining to seek re-election, he retired in August, 1847.

His elder son afterwards became Member for the same constituency.

"On the 4th of April. 1862, license was granted by the Queen to Edmund Peck, of Dinas Mawddwy, in the county of Merioneth, Esquire, and his issue, to take the name of Buckley instead of Peck, and to bear the arms of Buckley." So ran a public announcement referring to a natural son of Edmund Buckley, of Higher Ardwick. This son afterwards became Sir Edmund Buckley, Bart., and represented Newcastle-under-Lyme in Parliament.

Edmund Buckley, the elder, still continued to prosper in business. Early in 1861 a long and detailed account was compiled of all his possessions. This was arranged under three heads - estates, shares, and loans, and the capital value, and net annual income were given in every case.

The three separate totals were as follows:

Invested           Received yearly

Estates           �384,619         �20,252 7s. 8d.

Shares            �41,435           �2,109 2s. 7d.

Loans             �16,758           �827 18s 8d

Grand total      �442,812         �23,189 8s 11d

The control of so much wealth, the reward of his own industry and intelligent devotion to work, did not render him haughty or overbearing. He was of a genial and benevolent disposition, and generous in his treatment of those in his employ, whose respect and esteem he fully earned. By his friends and neighbours he was affectionately regarded as a fine old English gentleman, and very general regret was shown when, on the 21st January, 1867, he passed away at Ardwick, in the 87th year of his age. He was interred in his native Saddleworth.

The following Sunday the mourners attended service at the Cathedral in Manchester, where he had been a worshipper for over half-a-century.

On the 16th December, 1868, the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of a new school at Lydgate was performed by Lady Buckley, of Grotton Hall, and Plas Dinas Mawddwy, Merionethshire, the school being the gift of her husband, also present on the occasion.

The building, of pleasing appearance, bears the inscription, "Lydgate Trustees School, Rebuilt by Sir Edmund Bucklev, Bart.. M.P., 1869."

For many years the local agent for the Grottonhead estates was James Lees, of Ardwick, Esq., a kinsman of Sir Edmund Buckley, their fathers being cousins. On his retirement from the position he received a handsome silver cup, as an acknowledgment of his courteous dealing with the tenants on the estate.

The cup, of chaste design, is inscribed, "Presented to James Lees, Esq.. by the Saddleworth tenants of Sir Edmund Buckley, Bart., M.P., as a token of their regard and good feeling, January, 1870. May he live long to enjoy it."

The late Major William Lees, of Heywood and Manchester, the owner of the Roman Camp at Castleshaw, was the fourth son of the above James Lees. Both are interred in Ardwick Cemetery.

Sir Edmund Buckley died in 1910, aged 75 years, and was buried at Rhosigwaliau Church, near Bala. On his tombstone may be seen:
"In memory of Sir Edmund Buckley (First Baronet)
Born April 19, 1834, Died March 21, 1910."

And on an adjacent stone:
"In memory of William Buckley, 2nd Son of Sir Edmund Buckley, Bart.
Born January 10th, 1863, Died November 17th, 1907."

Edmund, elder brother of the above William Buckley, was the second baronet.
Soon after he succeeded to the title, an agreement signed by his late father was carried into effect. On the 23rd July, 1912, in fulfilment of this contract, the whole of the Buckley estate in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire, was divided into thirty-two lots, and disposed of by public auction in Manchester.

Sir Edmund died on the 20th January, 1919, aged 58 years. His only son, Lieut.
Maurice Buckley, was killed in 1917, at Suvla Bay Landing in Gallipoli. The baronetcy became extinct, and thus ended the direct male line of this ancient Saddleworth family.

Charles E. Higson, Leesfield, Lees, 1st February, 1930.
Copyright Julian Hunt 2017