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Interesting Roytonians

Ann(e) Buckley 1788 - 1880

Ann(e)* Buckley holds a special place in Royton history. Born in 1788, the third daughter of Thomas Kay of Sandy Lane, a local cotton manufacturer, she lived into her nineties, preserving much local history in her retentive mind. Many of her memories were recorded by her nephew, Thomas Kay, who wrote under the penname ‘Alpha’.

Through her grandparents she could claim a link with Royton’s first historian of sorts, the antiquarian Thomas Percival of Royton Hall. She recalled :- “I’ve heard my mother say that, in 1745, the Manchester and Scotch rebels came to Royton, and there was great consternation among the old Radicals in consequence. It was about this time that Royton Hall was new fronted, and my ‘Granny Lees’ was a servant at the Hall. She was generally called ‘Newton’ because her husband (John Lees) had lived with a person of that name at Bank House in Crompton. He was working at the Hall as a joiner and assisted in the making of the present stairs (which are well worth seeing now). He had two children at this time, and 4 shillings per week as wages, besides living at the Hall, his wife acting as servant, and during these alterations a third child was born to him, and when he informed Mr Percival, the then owner of Royton Hall, of this addition to his family he kindly said, “Then you’ll be wanting more wages, Newton” and therefore raised his wages to 4 shillings and sixpence per week.”

Not only does this give us a homely picture of kindly Mr Percival but it also illustrates the cosy familiarity and the use of alternative names. The rate books and church records of the period do indeed sometimes refer to John Lees, joiner, as ‘Newton’.

When Ann was six, the riot known as the Royton Races broke out round her house at the bottom of Sandy Lane (opposite the present Park Lane House). Army recruits and ‘Church and King’ loyalists stormed the Light Horseman Public House next door and, assisted by cavalry, broke up an outdoor meeting of pro-French Revolution ‘Jacobin’ reformers in the fields behind. She recalled the Jacobins fleeing though her father’s house and garden to escape the mob. She later became involved in radical politics herself and in 1819 walked in her ‘slippers’ when the Peterloo affair was “agate”. Thomas Kay also became one of the later radical political activists. Indeed, it was through Anne that the bugle of the Royton contingent at Peterloo was saved for posterity. It had been in the keeping of Tom Bluett, the ex-army bugler who sounded the assembly for the Royton reformers drilling on Tandle hills, and was part of the band of music accompanying the marchers to Manchester on that fatal day. Tom, along with other leaders of the Royton group had to go into hiding, reportedly at one point temporarily in St Paul’s Church (where Ann’s husband, Thomas Scholes Buckley, was a long-time churchwarden). The bugle was still in her possession in 1878.

Ann’s recollections of Royton life and characters, it’s self-made men, home-taught mathematicians, botanists, poets, political reformers and musicians formed the basis of Alpha’s ‘Notes on Old Royton’, serialised in the Oldham Chronicle in 1878. They are an invaluable source of inside information which otherwise would have been lost.

The ‘much respected and regretted Anne’ passed away, at her house in Fleet Street (Middleton Road) on January 20, 1880.

Sources: Obituary, Oldham Chronicle 24 January, 31 January 1880; Alpha- Notes on old Royton.

Michael Higgins

*Ann(e) Buckley's gravestone has her name spelt as Ann (without the final 'e'). The newspaper obituary has her name with the ‘e’. One hopes that the gravestone engraver got the right spelling but you never know! To ascertain the correct spelling we needed to check the baptismal and burial registers but unfortunately did not have time to do this before going to print