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Jack Priestley’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)



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ROBERT ASHWORTH was born in the parish of Radcliffe on the River Irwell, just SW of Bury. He was the third child of the collier Robert Ashworth and Dorothy Yates. [1]

Baptism. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1732 Sep 4   Rob son of Rob Ashworth

There was a large extended family of Ashworths in Radcliffe. Many were weavers, but there were also a number of colliers. Before the coming of steam engines in 1792, mining was mostly done in bell pits, excavated close under the surface.

Coal had been mined in Radcliffe since at least 1246, when Adam de Radeclyve was fined for digging de minera on common land.

Robert followed his father as a collier.

He was just short of 29 when he married.

 Radcliffe Bridge [2]


JANE HAMPSON. At the time of her marriage, Jane was said to be of Prestwich, 5 miles SE of Radcliffe. Her baptism has not been found there, but Prestwich families often used Radcliffe church.  The most likely baptism for her is in Radcliffe.

From the date of her marriage we should expect a birth date around 1736. There are two possible baptisms for her in Radcliffe.

Baptisms. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1736 Mar 23 Jeney daughter of Matthew Hampson
1739 Oct 7  Jane daughter of Richard Hampson jnr & Elizth of New House.

There is no record of either of these dying young

The first of these fits with our expected birth date. At the baptisms of her children, her name is given twice as Jenny and once as Jane. She was living at Prestwich at the time of her marriage and we know that Matthew Hampson and his family had moved there by 1735.

If this is so, then her father was a cloth maker and she was the youngest of five children


Marriage. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1761 Sep 1  Robert Ashworth of this parish and Jane Hampson (X) of the parish of Prestwich.

The marriage was by banns.
Robert signs his own name but Jane makes her mark.
The witnesses were John Yates and James Ashworth.

There were three daughters of this marriage.

Baptisms. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1764 Dec 9  Dorothy daughter of Robert Ashworth  & Jenny. Collier.
1767 Mar 8  Betty daughter of Robert Ashworth & Jane. Collier.
1772 Jul 5  Jenny daughter of Robert Ashworth  & Jenny. Collier.

Robert Ashworth appears to have been no ordinary collier.

In1772 the Swedish scientist and theologian Emmanuel Swedenborg died. He had written extensively about a series of visions of Jesus Christ which he said he had experienced over twenty-five years. He said he was taught that the Holy Trinity was present in the one figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was also no distinction between faith and a life of love and charity.
Groups met to read his writings, particularly in England. This led to the formation of the Church of New Jerusalem, or the New Church.
One such group met in Radcliffe.

“The Rev Mr Clowes, though disapproving of the movement to form separate Societies, yet regarded with kindness and encouragement the small companies that formed in several towns around Manchester, for those who feared the Lord spake often one to another. He visited them occasionally, and addressed them seated in a chair, either in a private house, a school-room or a barn, and from these visits occurring about once in six weeks, at some of the places our friends were denominated “six-weeks folk.” His visits in this way were always greatly prized at Radcliffe, Bolton, Ringley, Ramsbottom, and one or two other places, and remembered with admiration.” [3]

The Radcliffe Society was one of the earliest.

“In 1783, a Society was formed, and a few years afterwards a small place of worship was erected for Divine service, according to the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem. Mr. Robert Ashworth, of Radcliffe, Mr. Ogden, Mr. Pickstone, Mr. Bradshaw, Mr. Booth, and Mr. John Heywood, were among the promoters and steady supporters of the place; and a warm, zealous, brotherly affection distinguished the members one among another.
  Mr. Jones and Mr. Hodson supplied the pulpit alternately in the early days, and later, the missionaries of the Manchester Missionary Society, with James Booth as leader.
  The chapel would contain about two hundred people; there was a vestry behind, and a room over the vestry, from which the minister entered the pulpit through a door in the wall. The music was aided by violins, large and small, assisted by clarionets, and quite an effective band was produced. Half the congregation, probably, sometimes came from places three or four miles distant, often more, and that they might stay at both services they would bring some provision that would serve for dinner. The vestry was used for kitchen and dining-room. And, at their meal, they would often divide with one another, and so make a repast with variety. One old gentleman that came invariably from Ringley, whom I knew for years, and up to the age of ninety, old James Holt, always brought an apple-dumpling, usually formed of one apple. Great simplicity, kindliness, and intelligence prevailed among them, and frequently there was much interesting conversation.”  [4]

We have found no other adult Robert Ashworth of Radcliffe who could be this man.

The fact that he is the first on the list, and the only one whose residence is given, may mean that the early meetings were held at his house. At the end of his life he was a farmer. He may have had a barn suitable for meetings.

In the 18th century the designation ‘Mr’ was reserved for the gentry or the professions. Bailey is writing from a late 19th– century perspective, when the title was more widely used.

The 18th century also saw the Methodism of John and Charles Wesley sweeping the country, especially amongst working people. The Established Church had become formal and out of touch with them.

The Radcliffe Soceity built their church on Stand Lane, a road running through the middle of Radcliffe. The present church is the fourth on this site.

The New Jerusalem Church later had its own burial ground. Before that, adherents were buried at the parish church.

19th century New Jerusalem church [5]


The only burial for Jane we have found is in 1800.

Burial. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1800 Jan 22. Jane, wife of Robert Ashworth, Farmer.

Our first instinct is to assume that this must be another Robert Ashworth, because of the difference in occupation. But this is not necessarily so. It was quite common for men to farm a smallholding and supplement their income by working at a mine. We have another family where the father’s occupation varies from collier to husbandman over a series of baptisms.
‘Farmer’ usually denotes a larger holding than a husbandman. It is possible that Robert’s smallholding prospered, enabling him to move up to a larger farm and leave mining behind.
This would fit with the status implied by his leadership of the New Jerusalem Church.

If we have the right baptism, Jane was 71 when she died.

Though he was older than Jane, Robert outlived her by 18 years.

Burial. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1818 Mar 10   Robert Ashworth of Pilkington. Age 86.

Pilkington is a township of Prestwich parish, which was Jane’s parish of settlement when she married. It borders the River Irwell on the south side, with the parish of Radcliffe to the north.



[1] BMDs from Lancashire Online Parish Clerks. http://www.lan-opc.org.uk/Search/indexp.htm
[2] Familypedia. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Radcliffe_Bridge.jpg
[3] Rev Dr Jonathan Bailey, New Church Worthies, (James Speirs, London, 1884)
[4] Bailey, Ch XVIII. http://www.newchurchhistory.org/articles/jb1884/18_John_Heywood.php
[5] http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/LAN/Radcliffe/StandLaneNewJerusalem





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