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James Turner (1807 – 1879)

James Turner was a cotton mill operative working in mills owned by the Greg family. A significant part of his life was spent in Bollington and some of his children and grandchildren remained here after their parents had moved away. One of his great great grandsons is John Medley who has been doing lots of family research and written it up. We are most grateful to John for making his story available for publication. Here is his story …

I was interested to note information in the ‘Old Bollington’ Facebook page concerning potential conservation status to the Lowerhouse mill and cottages. I have a personal interest, and can claim with some justification that I owe my very existence to the Greg family and to Lowerhouse Mill.

My great great grandfather, one James Turner, was born in Caton near Lancaster in 1807.  As a young man he worked at the local cotton mill which I now know to have been operated by the Greg family. In 1832, he married Ann Metcalf of Ingleton, Yorkshire, in Lancaster and a son, John, was born in 1833. In or around 1834 he moved with his family to Bollington (a daughter, Mary, was born in Bollington in 1835) and began work at Lowerhouse. The Greg family page on the Happy Valley website was extremely useful in helping tie things together and, in particular, the link to Samuel Greg’s letters. Having taken on the mill in 1832, and after two years refurbishment, they began to recruit the necessary workers. In his letters, Samuel says: “In doing this, we endeavoured as far as possible to find such families as we knew to be respectable, or thought likely to be so, and who we hoped, if they were made comfortable, would remain and settle upon the place; thus finding and making themselves a home, and losing by degrees that restless and migratory spirit, which is one of the peculiar characteristics of the manufacturing population, and perhaps the greatest of all obstacles in the way of permanent improvement among them.” I can only assume that James was seen as one of those ‘respectable’ people and known to the Greg family. It would be interesting to know by what means he was encouraged, persuaded or bribed to get him to up-sticks and travel to a small Cheshire village that he could not possibly have heard of.

In 1841 his address on the Census is ‘Goldenthal’ – Samuel Greg’s ‘Happy Valley’. He did settle permanently in Bollington, but by 1851, he had moved to Church Street and subsequently to Ingersley Road, presumably because he was then working at one of the mills at the east end of the village, and over the years he was variously described as a ‘Gas Maker’; ‘Engineer’ and ‘Labourer’. It is possible, perhaps likely, that he left Lowerhouse in the mid 1840s as a result of the strikes and disruption caused by the introduction of new machinery, but there is no way this is likely to be proved. All of James’ six children married into established Bollington families. In the late 1870s, James and his wife moved to Oldham where two of their sons were then living, and he was employed as a watchman in a local cotton mill. James died in Oldham in 1879.

The children of James and Ann were:

    • John (1833-1903) who married Eliza Worsencroft (1837-1918) of Bollington at St Michael’s, Macclesfield in 1857. John and family moved to Manchester and he died there in 1903.
    • Mary (1835-1917) who married Benjamin Bunting (1835-1885) of Bollington at St Michael’s, Macclesfield in 1860. Benjamin was a ‘carter and coal carrier’ operating his business from 30 Palmerston Street. Mary and her family continued running the business after Benjamin’s death. The couple had eight children, all bar the youngest living and dying in Bollington.
    • George (1837-1901) who married Mary Morley (1837-1882) of Bollington at St Michael’s, Macclesfield in 1858. George and family left Bollington and settled in Oldham.
    • Margaret Elizabeth (1841-1915) who married James Fieldstead (1838-1888) of Bollington at St Michael’s, Macclesfield in 1858. Margaret and family left Bollington to live in Burnley, but a son, John George Fieldstead (1859-1923), returned permanently to Bollington with sons James (1886-1976) and John (1888-1952).
    • Alice (1845-1886) (picture right) who married James Bradley (1844-1888) of Orme’s Smithy, a shoemaker and the son of John Bradley, shoemaker, also of Orme’s Smithy. The family lived in a cottage on Mill Lane, off Ingersley Road, but after the death of their parents, five of the younger daughters moved into the village and in 1901 were living at 26 & 28 Palmerston Street next door to their aunt, Mary Bunting.
    • James William (1851- ?) who married Jane Gilless (1863- ?) of Bollington at St Peter’s, Prestbury in 1871. It is understood that after moving to Oldham, the family emigrated to Canada.

John Medley © 2021