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PRESCOT (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of West Derby, S. division of the county of Lancaster; containing 35,902 inhabitants, of whom 5451 are in the town, 8 miles (E. N. E.) from Liverpool, 51 (S.) from Lancaster, and 197 (N. W.) from London. This town, which covers 186 acres, stands on an eminence, on the road from Liverpool to Manchester, and commands an extensive view of the surrounding country, the Cheshire hills, and the Welsh mountains. It lies principally on a substratum of coal, several mines of which are excavated to its very edge; and the collieries not only furnish abundant employment to the labouring class, but supply fuel at a cheap rate to the inhabitants, and essentially promote the manufacturing interest of the district. The watch-making business is a chief pursuit in the town and its vicinity, where there are a great number of master watch-makers, who employ several hundred workmen: this branch of trade was introduced about the year 1730, by Mr. John Miller, of Yorkshire, and the district has long been noted for the superior construction of watch-tools and motion-work, viz.: springs, wheels, hands, and all the minute and delicate parts of the mechanism. The drawing of pinion wire, extending to 50 different sizes, and remarkable for its adaptation to the requisite purposes, originated here; and small files, considered to be of unparalleled excellence, are exported in large quantities. The manufacture of coarse earthenware, especially sugar moulds, has been established for a very long period, the clay of the neighbourhood being peculiarly adapted to that purpose; and a few persons are employed in the cotton business; the manufacture of glass bottles is likewise carried on. The Liverpool and Manchester railway passes about one mile south of the town. Among the public buildings and institutions of Prescot, are, a town-hall, erected in 1765; a mechanics' institute, in 1839; a sessions-house; a prison, built in 1811; and some gas-works, in 1834. A charter for a market and fair was granted in the 7th of Edward III.: there are now two markets, on Tuesday and Saturday; also a fair every fortnight for cattle, from Shrove-Tuesday to the first Tuesday in May. The inhabitants have, since the time of Henry VII., claimed exemption from serving on juries, except within the manor, also from the payment of all tolls to public markets, with divers other privileges. A court baron is held six times a year; and a court leet on the festival of Corpus Christi, when a coroner for the manor and liberty is appointed. There is a court of requests, for the recovery of debts to any amount, at which the steward of the manor presides; and petty-sessions for the Prescot division of the hundred take place once a month. The parish consists of the chapelries of Farnworth, Rainford, St. Helen's, and Great Sankey, and the townships of Bold, Cronton, Cuerdley, Ditton, Eccleston, Parr, Penketh, Prescot, Rainhill, Sutton, Whiston, Widness, and Windle. It comprises by measurement 36,000 acres of land; the soil is generally a rich, sandy, vegetable loam, principally in pasture, but yielding also potatoes and grain in abundance. The Mersey winds along the southern verge of the parish; and at Cuerdley Marsh, a little below the point at which it receives the river Sankey, it opens into a wide arm. To the south of Widness, the Mersey is contracted into a confined passage, denominated Runcorn-Gap, where (on the Cheshire side) the Duke of Bridgewater's canal terminates, and where the Sankey canal, and the St. Helen's and Runcorn-Gap railway, communicate with the river. The Sankey, rising on Rainford Moss in two branches, and passing on the south of St. Helen's, whence it is accompanied by the Sankey canal, is lost in the Mersey a little to the south of Sankey Bridges, at the east-southeast extremity of the parish. East of St. Helen's it is increased by a brook from Billinge, on the north, and by another from Rainhill, on the south; and flows eastward for some distance, when it winds directly south under a magnificent viaduct of the Manchester railway. The principal old mansions in the parish are, Bold Hall; Peel, in Widness; Eccleston Hall; and Halsnead, in Whiston, a large mansion of brick, standing on the margin of the town, yet overlooking a noble expanse of country, the seat of Richard Willis, Esq. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £24. 10.; net income, about £1500; patrons and impropriators, the Provost and Fellows of King's College, Cambridge. The church is an ancient edifice, of which the old steeple was, in 1789, struck by lightning, and replaced by an elegant tower and spire, 156 feet high. The interior is very beautiful, and the roof constructed of noble timber arches; an eastern window of painted glass, representing the Four Evangelists, was inserted in 1846, by Miss Chorley, at a cost of £300. Of numerous monuments, are, one of great elegance, by Westmacott, to William Atherton, Esq.; and a curious one, of Captain Ogle, who is represented standing erect, against the chancel wall, near the altar: he was one of the officers who defended Lathom House. There are churches at Eccleston, Farnworth, Parr, Rainford, Rainhill, St. Helen's, Great Sankey, and Sutton. The Unitarians, Primitive Methodists, and Wesleyans, have places of worship in the town; and at Portico, a mile and a half on the east, is a Roman Catholic chapel, a plain structure, built in 1790, at a cost of £1500, and dedicated to St. Nicholas: the priest has a house, and 10 Cheshire acres of land. The free grammar school, which is of somewhat uncertain foundation, was endowed by various benefactors, and in 1759 the present schoolhouse was built by subscription: the income is estimated at £159. It has a preference to seven fellowships in Brasenose College, Oxford; and two exhibitions to the same college, for natives of Prescot, educated in the school. In 1824, Mrs. Jane Chorley bequeathed the sum of £2000, for establishing a girls' school; and there are some almshouses founded and endowed originally by Oliver Lyme, to which several additions have been made. Among the numerous other benefactions to the parish are funds for apprenticing children, and schools are supported at various places. The poor-law union embraces 20 townships, and contains a population of 43,739: part of the parish is in the union of Warrington. The celebrated tragedian, John Philip Kemble, was born here in 1757.
From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 605-609. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51222 Date accessed: 20 July 2010.
Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.
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Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Lancashire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.
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