Farnworth is a township in the Bolton Union, and forms part of the ancient parish of Deane. It lies on the highroad from Bolton to Manchester, and overlooks the winding and picturesque valley of the river Irwell.
In 1860 the Barnes family donated part of their Birch Hall estate, as a park for the local population to enjoy in perpetuaity. The park was officially opened in 1864 by the Right Honorable W E Gladstone – Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time – this is his opening speech; complimented with a very warm reception from the 100,000 strong crowd:
Farnworth Park – Mr Gladstone’s Oration – 12th Oct 1864
Mr. Alfred Barnes, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that my first and formal duty imposed upon me by the appointed order of proceeding is to declare in your presence that this Park is now once and for ever opened and dedicated to the public good (cheers). As respects the gift of the Park, it has been made in the hearing of witnesses sufficiently numerous by our friend Mr. Barnes (cheers); and as regards the acceptance of the Park, I ask any of those who have witnessed the spectacle of to-day, who have seen the whole population, young and old, rich and poor, and not only the whole population of this place, but a goodly auxiliary force from all the country round (hear, hear), and I can only say that if that does not constitute an acceptance of the Park, I don’t know what does (cheers and laughter). Now, Mr. Barnes, in compliance with the religious and wise custom which prevails, it has been usual that solemn prayer should be offered to Almighty God on occasions like this. We have learned why, through the absence mainly of the Bishop, it has been impossible that we should externally comply with that honoured practice; but as respects the sentiment within the breast of every one of us, I am sure that none who have listened to the heart-stirring accounts of the Psalm just sung, can doubt that it is the belief and conviction of this vast assemblage that all our works, in order to bring a blessing with them, must be begun, continued, and ended in the fear and in the love of God (hear, hear).
I pass on, therefore, ladies and gentlemen, to speak to you as the time and circumstances will permit, upon the character of the occasion that is now before us. The presentation of this Park by Mr. Barnes is happily not an isolated act (hear, hear); it is part of a great system, part of a great movement. He is, indeed, the representative, and the honoured representative of a principle, and a tendency which is among the very best characteristics of the age (hear, hear). In this busy, stirring, critical, industrious, enterprising, money-making, money accumulating age, it is well that while these pursuits have full scope given them, it should not be forgotten that there are other wants and other interests – and, in particular, I call Mr. Barnes on this occasion the representative of the deep and growing conviction with respect to the relations that ought to prevail, and that happily now do to a very great extent prevail, between the employers of labour and the labouring population of the land (cheers). I think, ladies and gentlemen, it was about 30 years ago that a gentleman of high character and of great ability, employed in the public service in Ireland, created very considerable alarm and apprehension by putting forth in a concise and telling form what was thought the somewhat revolutionary doctrine that property had its duties as well as its rights (hear, hear). That doctrine was received by many, perhaps more from want of use and reflection, than from any ill intention, as if it had been some monstrous conception aiming at the breaking up of the very foundation of society (laughter). But that dreaded monster, for such it was, has now become a domesticated idea – it has entered, we may say, into our very house; and it lies by our firesides as if it were a favourite dog or cat of the family (hear, and laughter).
Property has its duties as well as its rights (hear); and the relation of the man who employs labour to the man who gives labour never can be permanently satisfactory or secure if the exercise and practical form of that relation is confined to the mere settling of the cash account of the wages of the man (applause). It is doing violence to the principles of human nature; it is running up a score against ourselves; it is offending against the will and the designs of Divine Providence, if we refuse to recognise the fact that moral associations and social and endearing ties of affection belong to, and ought never to be severed from, the relation between the master and the workman (hear). Now, ladies and gentlemen, circumstances brought about a result which at first did not appear to be satisfactory to the manufacturing districts of this country, but which I believe was a matter calling for your deepest thankfulness; I mean tills; the relation of employer and labourer never had been in this country thoroughly and carefully examined until it came to be examined in the case of the factory system.
Excerpt from Proceedings at the Opening of Farnworth Park – 1864
Document containing the full speech – on page 24
Further Reading and External Links
Farnworth Park Archive Pictures