A Brief History of Kersal

A painting of Kersal Moor, 1832. The original painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1852 and is in the Royal Collection.


The Early Origins of Kersal

KERSAL was in 1142 given to the priory of Lenton, (The grant of the 'hermitage of Kersal' was confirmed by Henry II about thirty years later) and a small cell called St. Leonard's was established there. On the suppression of monasteries it was in 1540 sold by Henry VIII to Baldwin Willoughby, for 165 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence. A settlement was in 1543 made by Baldwin Willoughby and Joan his wife of the manor and cell called Kersal, with twenty messuages, a water-mill, 1,000 acres of land, and 20s. rent; the remainder was to Ralph Sacheverell and Philippa his wife, and the heirs of Philippa. Some eight years afterwards it was sold to Ralph Kenyon, apparently acting for himself and for James Chetham and Richard Siddall. As soon as Kenyon had purchased Kersal he transferred one-third to James Chetham of Crumpsall and another third to Richard Siddall of Withington (indenture of 10 Sept. 1548). Each paid Kenyon £132. From this deed it appears that parts of the land had been sold to Richard Radcliffe of Langley and Robert Ravald of Kersal.



Lenton Priory. Quarterly or and azure a Calvary cross of the first fimbriated sable standing on steps of the last.



The Kenyon Share

The Kenyon third descended in that family for some time. It included the cell or monastic buildings. The king in November 1548 granted to Sir John Byron the custody of a third part of the third part of the manor of Kersal, 6 acres in Manchester, and 14s. 4d. rent in Ashton, the estate of Ralph Kenyon deceased, whose son and heir George was a minor; George's wardship and marriage were included; Duchy of Lanc. Misc. Bks. xxiii, 60 d. A settlement of messuages and lands in Kersal with a third part of the mill, and 4s. 9d. rent in Oakenshaw, was made by George Kenyon in 1581. George Kenyon and Robert Ravald were in 1582 charged by Ralph Byrom and Adam Pilkington with depriving the queen's tenants of Salford of their common pasture in Kersal Wood, stated to be 100 acres. George Kenyon died in 1613 holding a third part of the manor or cell of Kersal, a third of the mill and wood, and various messuages and lands; George his son and heir was thirty years of age. A settlement had been made in 1590 by the father in favour of George the son and Ellen his wife, daughter of Richard Whitworth, with remainders to Ralph younger son of George; to Hugh brother of George the elder, and his son Ralph; Earwaker MSS. The Smethurst fields and Bradshaw meadow are named. In 1623 George Kenyon sold the middle Michael meadow and a lane from Madgewell to the Moorgate to William Lever of Kersal. In 1624 he made a settlement on the marriage of George his son and heir apparent with Katherine daughter of John Trevett of Middlewich, mercer. Of these Georges the elder died between 1659 and 1664; the younger in the latter year made a conveyance of his capital messuage and lands in Kersal and Audenshaw to Leonard Egerton of Shaw and John Ashton of Shepley; Thomas Kenyon, his son, joined in the conveyance. Thomas Kenyon of Kersal had in 1692 a lease of a cottage there for the lives of himself, Jane his wife, and Anne his daughter, Edward Byrom being the grantor. The lease was surrendered in 1709.

The Kenyon third was about the year 1660 alienated to the Byroms of Manchester. Edward the son of Lawrence in 1626 purchased lands in Hanging Ditch. He adhered to the Parliament's side in the Civil War. One of his sons, John, was accidentally killed in 1642 while serving with the Parliamentary forces, and the eldest son, William, was active on the same side, being a member of the Manchester classis. William married Rebecca daughter of Captain John Beswick. It was his younger brother Edward who acquired Kersal and dying in 1688 left two sons, Edward of Kersal, who purchased the estate of the Byroms of Salford, and Joseph, who acquired that of the Byroms of Byrom. Edward's son was the John Byrom. He married his cousin, Elizabeth daughter of Joseph Byrom, and their son Edward by the will of his uncle Edward (son and heir of Joseph) received Byrom Hall. Edward Byrom the younger was a banker in Manchester, residing in Quay Street, and built and endowed St. John's Church there. Ann, his daughter, married Henry Atherton, and their daughters and coheirs were Eleanora, unmarried, and Lucy wife of Richard Willis of Halsnead, who had no issue. Thus their line terminated in the death of Miss Eleanora Atherton on 12 September 1870. The family had one famous memberr— John Byrom of Kersal, Jacobite, hymn-writer, and shorthand inventor; he was born in 1692, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow, and died at Manchester in 1763.


The Siddall Share

Richard Siddall died in 1558, leaving a son and heir Edward, who died in 1588 holding a third part of Kersal Manor and wood, with various lands and houses there, his son George being the heir; it was held of the queen by the twelfth part of a knight's fee. The Siddall third was alienated in 1616 to William Lever of Darcy Lever.William Lever, who married a daughter of George Kenyon of Kersal, died in 1646, and was succeeded by a son William, who died in 1661, leaving as his heir his son Rawsthorne Lever. Rawsthorne married Alice, daughter of Edward Chetham of Smedley, but died without issue (18 October 1689); by his will he gave all his messuages, lands, in Kersal to trustees, until Henry son of Thomas Greenhalgh of Brandlesholme should pay £300, on which Henry was to have the estate. The money was paid in Dec. 1689. This part was purchased by Samuel Clowes in 1775. The Greenhalgh estate in Kersal appears to have come into the hands of the Hopwoods of Hopwood by a foreclosure, and was in 1775 sold as the 'lands, messuages, and tenements late belonging to Anne Greenhalgh' to Joseph Matthews, who at once sold them to Samuel and John Clowes for £4,260, as 'one undivided third part of the manor or lordship of Kersal, and the whole of the capital messuage called Kersal Hall, with the appurtenances belonging,' with third parts of the moor and mill. Samuel Clowes at the same time conveyed a moiety of an undivided third part of the manor to Elizabeth widow of John Byrom, M.A.


The Chetham Share

The Chetham third had already come into the hands of the Clowes family, whose descendants retain their estate in Kersal (at 1911)..





A Descrption Of Kersal In 1848

BROUGHTON-cum-Kersal, a township, and ecclesiastical district, in the parish of Manchester, union and hundred of Salford, S. division of the county of Lancaster, 2 miles (N. N. W.) from Manchester, on the new road to Bury; containing 3794 inhabitants. This is a wealthy suburb of Manchester, abounding in villas, good streets, and elegant ranges of houses, chiefly the residences of the merchants of that town, and nearly all built within the last fifteen years. The surface of the township is undulated, the soil gravel, sand, and clay, and the scenery picturesque: the river Irwell passes through. The Manchester races take place here. Kersal Hall and Kersal Cell are old mansions, the latter belonging to Miss Atherton. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rev. John Clowes, of Broughton Hall, and others; net income, £400, with a house. The great tithes have been commuted for £100. The church, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, and in the debased perpendicular style, was completed in 1839, at an expense of about £7000: a chancel, in the decorated style, with painted windows by Hardman of Birmingham, was added by the present incumbent in 1846. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. A day school near the church was built in 1845.
Broughton, or Barrow-Town (St. Mary)

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)



Kersal Hall

North of Kersal Cell, facing west towards the road, is Kersal Hall, a two-story gabled timber building, the front of which has been rebuilt in brick and painted black and white. The back of the house, however, shows the original timber construction above a lower story of brick with stone mullioned windows. The house preserves the central hall type of plan with passage and porch at the north end, and has north and south wings. It is a picturesque building with stone slated roof and brick chimneys. The hall has three windows to the front, and in the lower room of the south wing is some good 17th-century panelling.



In 1836–9 St. John the Evangelist's was built for the worship of the Established Church. St. Paul's, Kersal Moor, followed in 1852, and to these have been added the churches of the Ascension, Lower Broughton, in 1869, St. James, Higher Broughton, in 1879 and St. Clement, Lower Broughton, in 1881. The residence of the Bishops of Manchester, known as Bishop's Court, was fixed in Broughton by Bishop Fraser.

The Wesleyan Methodists have four churches in Higher and Lower Broughton, the Primitive Methodists one, and the Methodist New Connexion also one, called Salem. The Baptists have a church in Great Clowes Street, 1868, and the Congregationalists one in Broughton Park, an offshoot of Richmond Chapel, Salford, in 1874–5. The Presbyterian Church of England has a place of worship in Higher Broughton, founded in 1874. The Unitarians have a school chapel. The Swedenborgians have a New Jerusalem Church in Bury New Road.

For Roman Catholic worship there are the churches of St. Boniface in Lower Broughton, and St Thomas of Canterbury in Higher Broughton. The latter mission, which includes Cheetham, was founded in 1879; the present church dates from 1901.

There is a Greek church in Bury New Road, founded in 1860.

A Jewish synagogue was opened in 1907 in Duncan Street.

Details from: 'Townships: Broughton', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4 (1911)


Kersal Cell

The house now called Kersal Cell occupies the site of the old religious house. It is a small two-story building of timber and plaster, much altered from time to time, but probably dating from the middle or end of the 16th century. It stands on low ground near a bend of the River Irwell, facing south, with the heights of Broughton and Kersal Moor immediately to the north and east. In more recent times a large brick addition has been made on the north, and extensions have also been made on the east in a style meant to harmonize with the timber front of the older part. The original house, which possibly is only a fragment of a larger building, has a frontage of about 56 ft. and consists of a centre with a projecting wing at each end. The west wing has a bay window in each floor, but the east wing has an eight-light window and entrance doorway on the ground floor and a slightly projecting bay above. Both wings have gables with barge boards and hip knobs, but the timber construction is only real up to the height of the eaves, the black and white work in the gables being paint on plaster. This is also the case with the east end and the whole of the front of the later extension on the same side. The roofs are covered with modern blue slates, and the west end is faced with rough-cast. The general appearance at a distance is picturesque, but at close view the house is too much modernized to be wholly satisfactory, and it is dominated by the brick building on the north, whose roof stands high above that of the older portion.


Byrom of Manchester. Argent a cheveron between three hedgehogs sable, a canton azure.




Details from: 'Townships: Broughton', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4 (1911)


In the interior, however, Kersal Cell preserves some interesting features, many of the rooms being panelled in oak and some good plaster-work remaining. The ground floor is now below the level of the garden, the ground apparently having risen something like 3 ft. The plan has been a good deal altered to suit modern requirements, but preserves a centre apartment or hall about 18 ft. long with a seat against its west wall, which is oak-panelled for 6 ft., and has an ornamental plaster frieze. The lower room in the east wing has oak panelling all round to a height of 7 ft., and in one of the upper lights of the window is a circular piece of heraldic glass with the arms and name of Avnesworthe. The lower room in the west wing has a bay window 8 ft. 8 in. across and 5 ft. 6 in. deep. The lead lights in this and in other rooms of the house are of good geometrical patterns, and in one of the upper lights of the bay is an interesting glass sundial so fixed that the shadow is visible from the inside. The staircase is of Jacobean date with square oak newels and open twisted balusters, now varnished. It goes up to the top of the house, which in the centre has an attic. The most interesting room, however, is that usually called the chapel, on the first floor at the west end. It is a small room about 18 ft. long and 13 ft. wide with a five-light window facing west. It occupies the rear portion of the west wing, the room in front with its bay window being sometimes known as the priest's room. What authority there is for these names does not appear, and at present the only indication of the back room having been used for religious purposes is a small square of 17th-century glass in the window depicting the crucifixion. The two side lights of the window are plain, but the three centre ones contain fragments of 16th-century heraldic glass. In the second light is a shield, with the arms of Ainsworth, with helm, crest, and mantling. The centre light has two small diamond quarries in brown stain, over the crucifixion already mentioned. On a beam in front of the window is an elaborate plaster frieze with three shields of arms, somewhat similar to those at Slade Hall, Rusholme. The centre shield bears the royal arms (France quartered with England) with crown and supporters, dexter a lion, sinister a dragon. The left-hand shield is of six quarterings, encircled by a garter, and originally with crest and supporters, but the dexter support and the crest have been cut away, when the plaster panel over the angle fireplace was inserted. The arms are those of Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex, who quartered FitzWalter, Burnel, Botetourt, Lucy, and Multon of Egremont with his paternal coat.
The right-hand shield has the arms of Stanley, Earl of Derby, encircled by a garter, with crest (eagle and child) and supporters. There is a frieze in the south wall apparently of the same date with Tudor roses and fleurs-de-lys. Over the angle fireplace is a plaster panel of later date, with a shield bearing the arms of Byrom (a cheveron between three hedgehogs) with crest (a hedgehog), and the initials E. B. over. On each side of the shield is a fleur-de-lys, and below is the date 1692. The south and part of the north wall are panelled to the height of 6 ft. in oak, and the door is set across the south-east angle, balancing the fireplace. There is a tradition that Dr. Byrom wrote 'Christians, Awake' in Kersal Cell, and that it was first sung in front of the house on Christmas Eve 1750, but both events are more likely to have taken place at Byrom's house in Manchester.






In the immediate neighbourhood of large cities and towns ancient residences are only few; old churches and other ecclesiastical buildings may be seen in n almost every locality. But the march of modern progress with constantly extending railways and other wonderful and progressive achievements make ancestral residences, when the moderniser has so decided, to instantly disappear.

Ancient buildings, whether ecclesiastic or civic, are always interesting and when there is no difficulty in in getting to tee them, are an immense attraction. “Old London” at the “Fisheries” “Inventions” etc, draw 100’s of spectators. The continuous and anxious inquiry of friends being “Have you seen Old London?” But “Old London” á ces expositions was not a reality, it was a copy, an imitation. Old London had long ago disappeared and this was a repetition, the work of modern ingenuity, which had been made to attract, to draw, to please; yet there are ancient habitations now, some almost in our midst. One of these is Kersal Cell, at Higher Broughton, hear Manchester, which was originally built on the site of an old monastery of Cluny monks, which being one of the richest monastic establishments in Lancashire was sequestered, with many other by King Henry the Eighth. It was rebuilt in the year 1600, and is now used as a ladies’ boarding school, under the direction of Mrs Mary BARBOUR.

Kersal Cell is within four miles of Manchester Royal Exchange, yet its rural surroundings make the distance very deceptive. The boarders, however, have the advantage in their juvenility of the rural surroundings and as this ancient building is the centre of an area of six acres of garden and meadow land, with dairy farm, the produce of which is for the use of the school, the pupils have an additional advantage. As we are writing of the Cell as we found it, its olden history is best told in the following lines:

Dear famous, time-worn Kersal Cell,

That nestling lay in woodland dell

For years, far4 more than we can tell,

When monks of Kirkshaw loved it well,

And under these ancestral trees,

Feasting on mead, black bread and cheese,

Spent far more time than on their knees.

Here scarce three hundred years ago

Brave cavaliers marched to and fro

To guard these homes from Roundhead foe.

And Bonnie Charlie Scotland’s pride,

His royal head came here to hide,

In Kersal Cell, when fortune’s tide,

Scattered his followers far and wide,

Some on the clock, other in dungeons died.


Kersal Cell has even now an attractive appearance. It’s bland and white, seems to be of special interest to photographers, who doubtless well know what is pleasing to their friends and the public; but the greatest attraction is the inside, which although it has in many places been modernised by the introduction of gas, etc, there is sufficient left of the Cell to make it interesting. The house contains thirty rooms, the entrance hall having a staircase that we much admired. It reaches to the top of the house; the hand rail and twisted balusters, the colour of which indicates old age, are particularly interesting; their polished and well preserved condition struck us very much. This entrance hall is well filled with old furniture, which although it had no connection with the house, is nevertheless remarkable for its antiquity. An old clock commands attention the oaken case of which bears the following motto: “Lose no time,” with a carved bird indicative of the flight of time, George and ye dragon, etc. The small chapel, however, which is very interesting is perhaps the most antiquated part of the house. In it may be seen on the walls the armorial bearing of a Prince of Wales (period unknown), the arms of the STANLEY family, those of Byrom, and also of the REDCLIFFE families, and on one side of this sanctuary may be seen the place where stood the altar. The oak and other rooms contain old bedsteads, the property of the present occupier, and although not connected with the Cell, as they are in a building of antiquity, are in a very suitable place. It is here where the late John Byrom, Esq, M.A., F.R.S., formerly fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, resided during his late years, and whose poems and system of shorthand have given a well-earned celebrity to his name:

This poet, whose carol sung round the earth -

Did he claim the Cell as the place of his birth ? –

Will rouse us for aye with his “Christian Awake,”

Till eternity’s morn on the ransomed shall break.

 Te extent of Mr Byrom’s library may be learned by the perusal of a catalogue of 249 pages, small quarto, which was printed in the year 1848, for “private distribution”, a copy of which may be seen in the Kind-street Free Reference Library, at Manchester, press mark 299, E79. As this catalogues states the library is in the possession of his lenient descendant and is preserved at Kersal Cell, Lancashire. We think it well to say that it was removed or dispersed on the death, about seventeen years ago of the late Miss ATHERTON, a descendant of the BYROM family. At the commencement of this catalogue we learn that it was prepared under the superintendence of Mr RODD, as the library was ”thought so curious and valuable as a transcript of his (Mr Byrom’s) mind studies, and many of his books contained in it are now seldom to be found, even in the most extensive libraries, that a catalogue of them has been prepared of which w view copies are now printed for the private distribution. Perhaps a more appropriate tribute could not be paid to the memory of one who was so learned, gifted, and benevolent than by exhibition to the world the varied stories from whence he drew the cultivation of his mind, the formation of his character, and the inspirations of his genius.” The catalogue is printed by Compton and Richie, Middle-street, Cloth Fair, London. A capital engraving of the Cell is given, but without the modern addition. (Here Charles Henry Stott lists many of the books kept in the library.

Byrom, we are told in Lancashire Worthies, by Francis ESPINNAGE, died in ripe old age on the 9th September, 1766 and was buried in what is now the Byrom Chapel of Manchester Cathedral.

But to return to the present of the Cell. Being surrounded with curiosities, Mrs BARBER seems to have acquired a taste for things that were current in the past, and which, when seen, make us almost imperceptible exclaim, Nous avons change tout cela! As, in addition to the old furniture, the ancient bedsteads, etc, this lady, the present tenant of Kersal Cell, has collected several hundred pieces of old china, and as each piece belongs to past ages, it is in itself full of interest, but to admirers of antiquity, what may seem to be a mistake may be seen in the drawing-room, where the old china is kept.

It is some work in oil, the operations of Mrs Barber’s former pupils, who have painted on the oak floor of this room a border illustrating well known nursery rhymes, but although this work does credit to the pupils, and is worth inspection, some people may liken it to gilding gold. At some distance from the house there is a notice board, with the words “No Road,” but we have no doubt that those who have a particular desire to see this ancient residence, and to know some thing more of it than that which we have written, on a suitable application by letter, would obtain the requisite permission to view the place.

Mrs Barber, we may add, has made a very creditable translation from the French of Geraldine, un incident de la Revolution Anglaise, petit drame en deux actes pour la heuness, which we have had much pleasure in reading, and which we can recommend to managers of high schools and ladies’ colleges from dramatic entertainments, either in the English or the French language. It contains part of six young ladies and three boys.

It may not be without interest to say that Mrs Barber, to whom the school belongs, is the mother of the late Doctor Barbe3r, who list his life in the Transvaal war a few years ago, and which at the time caused much sensation. The doctor4, who, with his assistant, was on his way to the field, under the auspices of the Red Cross, to attend to the wounded after the battle of Majuba, was arrested as an English spy, and was shot by an escort of the Boers.


From an article written by Charles Henry Stott for the Oldham Express some time in the 1870s.