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A brief history of Bury


Landscape view of Bury

The name Bury, Buri and Byri comes from the Saxon and means "a stronghold". In ancient times it is thought that the whole area was probably forest, marsh and moorland inhabited by nomadic herdsmen.   A barrow or funeral mound probably from the Bronze Age was discovered at Whitelow Hill, Ramsbottom some years ago. A number of urns unearthed there are on display in Bury Museum.   The Romans certainly came to Bury and Gnaeus Julius Agricola Governor of Britain from AD78 to AD87, made a fortress town of Mancunium (Manchester) and built roads out from the town. One of these roads (Watling Street) crossed right through the Borough, running in a straight line through Prestwich, fording the Irwell at Radcliffe and continuing through Starling and Affetside towards the Roman town of Ribchester.

Parts of the road are still visible today particularly around Affetside where there is a "cross".  This may or may not be a Roman relic. It is said by some to mark the halfway spot between London and Edinburgh.  Its true age is unknown but a plaque lists the stone as an Ancient Monument. Mystery also surrounds the Roman stronghold of Coccium never truly located.  It has been suggested that the village of Ainsworth may be near to or the site of Roman Coccium as the place has always been known by the nickname "Cockey Moor".   A century ago a Roman urn was discovered at Throstle Hill, Walmersley, containing five to seven hundred bronze coins, silver bracelets, armlets and rings. The heads of various Roman Emperors were on the coins which were dated between AD253 and AD282.
 

Barge on canal

During medieval times most of the area was held by the Lords of the Manor of Tottington, the De Montbegons. This barony was held on the Honour of Lancaster which had been granted by the King to Roger De Poictou at the end of the 11th century. From 1193 to 1219 Adam De Bury held the manor as "one knight's fee of ancient tenure".   In the 14th century, Alice De Bury married Roger Pilkington, and the manor therefore passed into the possession of the Pilkington family until 1485 when the lands of Sir Thomas Pilkington were forfeited because of his allegiance to Richard III. The new King, Henry, granted them to one of his staunchest supporters, Thomas, Lord Stanley, who for his services was created Earl of Derby. The Stanley family have been Lords of the Manor ever since.   In the south of the area most of the land was acquired by purchase of Lord Grey de Winton and his successor, the Earl of Wilton, is still the present owner.

Lancashire Fusiliers headquarters

In the Middle Ages the "Black Death" led to a shortage of labour. Land previously ploughed fell into decay. Large areas were turned into pastures and sheep were reared. It was at this time that Bury appears to have become a centre for wool and woollen cloth. Little changed in Bury until the beginning of the 18th century, when a change in the textile world commenced. John Kay, born at Walmersley, Bury, invested his famous "picking peg" in 1733, which made the shuttle in his hand loom move more quickly. It became known as the "Flying Shuttle" and revolutionised cotton weaving.   The Industrial Revolution was soon in full swing, and mills were built almost overnight, relying on the area's abundant soft water and the plentiful supplies of American cotton brought in from the port of Liverpool. The town of Bury and the surrounding area grew at an astonishing rate.


 In 1791 a company called the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Company was formed, and five years later coal was brought to the town by barges. The canal was used on Sundays and at fair time for very popular passenger trips to Bolton. It is still in existence, although now reduced in length, and the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Society are achieving excellent restoration work around Radcliffe. Canal trips are now possible once more.   The area has always had a military connection with the Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment (later "The Fusiliers") based at their headquarters on Bolton Road. Since their founding 300 years ago they have many battle honours including Gallipoli (Turkey) in the First World War when although winning six Victoria Crosses they also lost many men, the majority recruited locally.     The Second World War left Bury relatively unscathed although a German Flying bomb destroyed a row of cottages in Tottington in 1944 killing several people The nineteen fifties and sixties saw a great decline in the cotton industry but Bury's diversified other industry helped the area weather the storm.
The paper industry had also grown in the area since the last century and had brought much wealth and prosperity.  Even today there are still successful paper mills particularly in Radcliffe and Ramsbottom which place Bury among the most important paper making centres in Europe.