Farnworth – 1860



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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.

The name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Fearn or fern, on account of the quantity and variety of those beautiful plants with which the neighbourhood formerly abounded – and worth – a plot of ground elevated above water; a protected enclosed homestead; a nook of land, generally, a nook between two rivers.

Presentation of the Park to the Town

Commemorative Monument within Farnworth ParkOn the 8th December, [1860], the only son of Mr. Thomas Barnes attained his majority. The event was celebrated by a large gathering of the workpeople employed by the firm and of friends of the family, to the number of 1,300, at a banquet in one of the large rooms of the Dixon Green Mill. On that occasion Mr. Barnes made known his intention to present a park for recreative purposes to the people of his native township, in the following terms:

“I have looked with considerable interest on the extension of trade; but, while I have seen two or three mills erected yearly, cottages springing up on every hand, and the price of land rising from three farthings to twopence or threepence per yard, I have felt some uneasiness as to the future state of the place and of the health of the people; and I have asked myself whether it was right that we should have every inch of ground built over and not a single place left, where the tired and weary artisan could resort, to breath the fresh air. With children growing up, with the increase of population which is taking place, I have asked myself the question, shall there not be some place for the little ones to play in safely – someplace for recreative purposes? And I have made up mind – and I now make the declaration – in commemoration of my son’s coming of age and in memory of his grandfather, to lay out a portion of the Birch Hall estate as a park, and to dedicate it for these purposes, and present it to the people of Farnworth for their benefit for ever.

Of course, I must have some security that the land will be held in perpetuity for the enjoyment and recreation of the people, and for no other purposes. And here arises a difficulty. We have no public body that can give such an undertaking. If we had a mayor and corporation it might at once be given over to them for the benefit of the people. I can only promise, therefore, that a deed shall be executed, as soon as there is power in the township to appoint proper management, to secure the land for the free use of the people for ever. And, I can truly say, that it will give me pleasure, and I hope I may say of those of my family who may come after me, that it will give them pleasure, to see the people of Farnworth heartily enjoying themselves in the park, when all the adjacent ground is covered with bricks and mortar.”

Shortly after the above announcement was made, Mr. Barnes placed the Birch Hall estate in the hands of Mr. Henderson, landscape gardener, of Birkenhead, who laid out the grounds in a most tasteful and effective manner, and the public were allowed to use them as far as possible, before they were formally presented.

In [1863], Farnworth adopted the Local Government Act, and on the election of a Local Board it was found, that under the 74th section of the Public Health Act, it could legally receive the Park and enter into the necessary agreements for its custody and proper use. The Park was accepted by the Local Board on behalf of the township, July 1st, [1864].

At once preparations began to be made for its formal opening. Mr. Barnes desired that this should be done in the quietest and most unostentatious manner; but the Local Board, influential gentlemen in the neighbourhood, and the general public were unanimous in the opinion that the event should be marked by some fitting public ceremonial.

The Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was invited to be present and to deliver an address on the occasion. The High Sheriff of the county palatine of Lancaster, Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, Bart.; the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, several members of Parliament, and influential residents of the neighbouring city and towns were also invited, with the local magistracy, and the Mayor and Town Council of Bolton, to honour the Local Board with their presence. The event excited an interest and enthusiasm rarely evoked. The day was kept as a general holiday in Farnworth and the neighbouring towns. Visitors from all parts of the country were present. Not less than 100,000 were congregated together on the occasion. Never before was such a day witnessed, and never before were such events recorded in the annals of the locality. The rich and the poor met together, animated by one feeling, and participating in a common joy.

Excerpt from Proceedings at the Opening of Farnworth Park – 1864


Further Reading and External Links

Farnworth Park Archive Pictures 

Richard Bancroft – Archbishop of Canterbury