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Chatterton, James Shepley

The Milestone King

Poem: White Nancy | Poem: Another Milestone | White Nancy | Wallpaper pics 

James Shepley Chatterton was born on 12th March 1839 at 4.20am in the cottage attached to Adshead Barn Farm House (referred to in the poem below), at the top of Lord Street, Kerridge [these top two houses are in Kerridge, the rest of Lord Street is in Bollington]. James also had a brother, John (b.1841 Bollington), and a sister, Frances (b.1848 Bollington). John married Phoebe Ann Barnes in 1862 and Frances married Wood Deane Snape in 1866.

James married for the first time at St John’s Church, Bollington, to either a Hannah Leigh or Mary Bowyer, we think!

After his father, Joseph Chatterton a cotton carder, died in 1848 his wife, Hannah Cheadle Chatterton (nee Shepley) moved to a cottage in the village. James went to Bury and found work as a carrier or carter with a horse and cart between Bury and Manchester.

After his first wife died James Chatterton married Eliza Hayes [pictured left] in Prestbury in 1868. They had eleven children of whom three died in infancy. My grandfather was his youngest son, Harold. Two of his sons, John and Ernest, emigrated to Providence, Rhode Island, USA and James visited them there in 1906.

James became known as the ‘Milestone King‘. He was so called because each year on his birthday a poem appeared in the Bury Times marking a milestone in his life. He submitted his last poem [below] at the age of almost 90 as he lay on his deathbed. He gave instructions that if he lived until his birthday it was to be published. If not it was to be destroyed. He died on his ninetieth birthday and I believe that it was printed.

Although living in Bury, James made regular visits to Bollington and climbed Kerridge Hill to White Nancy. He wrote a lovely poem about Nancy (below) for one of his birthday milestones.

He retired to Greenmount, Bury, at the age of 60. Both he and Eliza are buried in the United Reform Church graveyard in Bury.

The poems below are transcribed from an old typewritten copy of my great grandfather’s words that may have been his original. Some words may be wrongly spelt, others may be contemporary or dialect words that don’t mean anything to us today, but the meaning is clear in the context.

Sue Williams
Great granddaughter


A James Chatterton is noted on one of the foundation stones of the Methodist chapel at Whiteley Green. These were laid on 25th June 1904. I believe it to be the same James Chatterton, the subject of this page, because he laid the stone ‘on behalf of Mrs Davies of Bury.’ James then lived in retirement in Bury but remained a regular visitor to Bollington and district.

Family tree


WHITE NANCY

J S Chatterton, Greenmount, Bury

Once a year I have climbed this hill for years past. I climbed it again on July 8th 1919 when the following lines were suggested.

Once again I have called on Miss Nancy
Once again I have climbed up this hill
And although my age is oe’r eighty
I have the strength to climb it still.
It’s years since I left this dear village 
Yet sometimes I visit it still
And climb up this hill to see Nancy
Dear Nancy on top of the hill

As I sit on Miss Nancy’s doorstep
I can hear the church bells chime
And looking across the valley
There’s a scene that’s almost sublime.
Before me is the Vale of Ingle
On my right are the Rainow Hills
And along the beautiful valley
Are meadows and murmuring rills.

On my left is the dear little cottage 
Where my eyes first saw the light
And the mill where I went top labour
From early morning ’til late at night.
I can see the place where a battle
I fought with a village lad
And the fields where happy hours
Were spent with my mother and dad

I can see the hill called Beston
Higher up the hill called Nab
And away in the distance Pot Shrigley
Where the bluebells are to be had.
Then again I see Billinge and Harrop
With their rustic and rural life
Far away from the noise of the village
With its struggles and daily strife

It’s a pretty stiff climb up to Nancy
But you’re amply repaid when you’re there
For I think a more beautiful picture
There cannot be found anywhere.
As I look on the scene before me
What memories each scene revives
Scenes where the dramas of life were acted
But of the actors but few survives.

Now as I sit upon Nancy’s doorstep
And thing that this visit may be
The last I may pay to Nancy
And the last of these views I shall see
And I feel just a tinge of sorrow
And imagine I hear the refrain
That some day this dear old Nancy
Will be only remembered by name

For she in the course of nature
Will one day just crumble and fall
For the signs of decay are upon her
And she’s going the way of us all
But I’m sorry she’s so much neglected
While standing up here in the cold
I think she deserves better treatment
If only because she is old.

J S Chatterton, Greenmount, Bury

Look at the picture of Nancy taken in 1925 and you will see why James Chatterton was so concerned about her condition!


ANOTHER MILESTONE

J S Chatterton, Greenmount, Bury

Ninety miles I have come on my journey
Another mile to the past has now gone
And the next – ah the next – if I reach it
Will be the milestone of life ninety-one

The last mile it has been rather trying
And has put all my strength to the test
But I’ll stay here awhile by the milestone
And take some refreshment and rest

I wonder sometimes how much further
On life’s journey I still have to go
But I can’t lift the veil of the future
For that is God’s secret you know

I know I can’t trip it so lightly
As I could at my three score and ten
For I’ve had to bear some heavy trials
And I’ve been to the furnace since then

But I’ve weathered the storms and survived them
For there’s always been one by my side
Who has promised He never will leave me
And strength for each day will provide

Yea! I’ve braved many storms on my journey
But old oak is beginning to bend
And I look for the light in the window
And I ling for the rest in the end

For when my life’s journey is ended
A new life to me will be given
A life not measured in milestones
For there are no milestones in heaven.

J S Chatterton
Written for his 90th birthday milestone, 12th March 1929, the day he passed away.


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