Gorton is known to have existed in the late middle ages, with records showing Gorton as rich agricultural lands during the reign of Plantagenet king Edward I. The farms and rural estates that made up Gorton remained all the way up to the Industrial Revolution when manufacturing brought locomotion and Manchester’s overspill of workers to the area. Here are a collection of old maps of Gorton that show the change in the area over the years:
This 1836 map of Gorton shows the minerals that could be found beneath the area – Light Blue, covering what is now known as West Gorton, shows Lime Stone, while Dark grey shows Slate Coal. The map identifies Gorton Lane, a winding country lane which still exists today, with Gorton Hall (no longer standing) and Gorton House both included. Though Gore Brook, which continues to babble through present day Gorton, is drawn on the brook is unnamed, however, Gorton Brook, which courses through the northern tip of Gorton is clearly named, though the brook has since been built over. Other points of interest in the area are ‘Holland Moor‘ just south of Hyde Road as well as Aspinal Smithy and Sand Fold.
Starting at present-day West Gorton, this 1845 map shows several sites of rural industry including a large Bleach Green, near to a Bleach and Dye Works, Chemical Works, Gorton Brook Potteries and ‘Bottom of Gorton‘ – a collection of rural brick houses and outbuildings, which acted as the centre of the hamlet. Though the boundary between Gorton and Openshaw is now defined by the railway tracks, this map shows the old brook (now built over) as the boundary – known here as Corn Brook. The rest of West Gorton is made up of farms and rural estates including Rose Cottage, Poplar Grove, Hope Farm, Bankfield Cottage and Yew Tree Farm, the latter two clustered around what is today known as Gorton Lane, but titled here as Gorton Old Road.
What is largely considered the centre of Gorton today, appears to have been the same in 1845 with a crowd of buildings centred around the cross-section between Far Lane and Hyde Road. Leading from West Gorton, Gorton Old Road sweeps past Gorton Field Cottage (today’s Gorton Meadows on Gorton Lane and Taylor Street), a National School, (today’s St. James’ C of E), St. Thomas’ Church (present-day St James’ Church), and a long row of ‘Chapel Houses’, Chapel House Inn and Gorton Villa all surrounding a large expanse of grass. The lane meets what is still to this day known as Cross Lane and continues down past Old School and a row of houses at John Street, a Baptist Chapel, Ashton Fold and the Plough Inn (roughly in the same spot as today). Areas named on this map, which still exist today include Bottom o’ th’ Brow (where Far Lane meets Sunny Brow park), Wagon and Horses Inn, Tannery row and High Bank. Other notes include Winning Hill or Rider Brow (today’s Ryder Brow) so called because of a battle that took place there, Gorton Hall (only the entrance lodge remains today), Sunny Brow (now a park), Whitley Cottage and Whitley Farm, Higher Catsknowl and Lower Catsknowl, Fox Fold, Briton’s Row and Gorton Cotton Mills.
South of Bottom o’ th’ Brow are paddocks and fields interspersed with small lakes and ponds. A large Race Course is shown just north of Pink Bank Lane (a road of the same name exists today but in a different location), with the infamous Nico Ditch also illustrated in the bottom right corner of the map – a ditch believed to have been dug between the 5th and 11th centuries as a defensive fortification.
Moving south-west around the map shows Belle Vue Gardens, which opened 11 years prior to the making of this map finally closing for good in 1987. Included here are a number of cottages and houses including Hunters Cottage, Kirkmanshulme House, Newton Cottage, Knutsford Vale House and the aptly named Farm. Also included here is ‘Longsight Station‘, which does not exist today. Though today Gorton is separated from Longsight by the railway tracks, in 1845 this map shows that a small portion of Gorton continues with a cluster of Victorian villas listed under ‘Gorton‘, though the rest of this area is listed as Longsight.
Just over fifty years later this map from 1896 shows the dramatic change that has taken place in Gorton and the Manchester area. Much of the agricultural fields and paddocks are gone, replaced by housing, with fields only remaining in the south of Gorton and pockets throughout the north. Belle vue’s Zoological Gardens remain, as do the reservoirs at Debdale Park (still present today), with some remaining locations noted including the chapel of St Thomas (now St James’ Church) and Nico Ditch. This map now shows Belle Vue station (still in operation today) and Abbey Hey, an area of Gorton at the North-East tip meeting Droylsden, as well as Brookfield Church, so built at the expense of Richard Peacock.