John Worth

of Haughton and Bugsworth

The long-serving Wharfinger at Bugsworth Basin
John Worth, the son of Charles Worth and Elizabeth (or Elisabeth), was born on the 19 April 1834 and he was baptised on the 1 June 1834 at Denton Chapel (St Lawrence's Church) by the Rev. William Parr Greswell. At the time of the baptism, Charles Worth was recorded as a Hatter by occupation. It is possible that Charles Worth married Elizabeth Adamson at St Michael's Church, Ashton-under-Lyne, on the 19 February 1828. By the time of the 1841 census Charles was a Tenant Farmer, the farm being situated down Worth's Lane, Haughton Green, Haughton, Lancashire, the lane taking its name from the Worth family. At this time, the Hyde Clarke family probably owned the land and their family seat, Hyde Hall, was on the other side of the river Tame in Hyde, Cheshire. George Hyde Clarke was a promoter and major shareholder of the Peak Forest Canal Company. Later in the 19th century James Walton, a Yorkshire entrepreneur, became the landowner. James Walton was the owner of Haughton Dale Mills (the Wireworks) and benefactor of the Church of St Mary the Virgin (1876), built between Meadow Lane and Worth's Lane, and its associated rectory (1882) on Meadow Lane. Nearby, to the north of the farm, the Clinker Pit was mining coal from the Lancashire Coalfield.

Close to the centre of Haughton Green, on Haughton Green Road, the Bay Horse public house opened in 1831 and its first publican was John Worth, who was possibly another member of the family. The public house was named after a favourite pit pony working in the Nibble and Clink Pit, which stood immediately behind the public house.

By the time of the 1841 census, Charles and Elizabeth had six surviving children, William (12), Charles (9), John (7), Elizabeth (5), James (4) and Daniel (1). The birth and baptism details all seven children of Charles and Elizabeth are shown in the table below. All the baptisms were at Denton Chapel (St Lawrence's Church).

NameBornBaptisedBaptised by:
William15 May 182921 Jun 1829Rev. F H Greswell (possibly)
Mary Anne¹22 Nov 18302 Jan 1831Rev. William Parr Greswell
Charles19 Nov 183213 Jan 1833Ditto
John19 Apr 18341 Jun 1834Ditto
Elizabeth²6 Feb 18363 Apr 1836Ditto
James7 Jul 1837
(DEN/1/1)³
6 Aug 1837Ditto
Daniel1839
(DEN/2/25)
17 Nov 1839Ditto

¹Mary Anne died in 1833 and she was buried at St George's Church, Hyde, on the 14 August 1833.
²Or 'Elisabeth'.
³Birth registered on the first page of the first register in the Denton Civil Registration District under the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1836.

Soon after the 1841 census, disaster struck the family when both parents died. Elizabeth died in 1841, aged 33 years, and she was buried at St George's Church, Hyde, on the 11 November 1841 and then Charles died in 1844, aged 44 years, and he too was buried at St George's Church on the 25 April 1844. Another blow came in 1850 when their daughter Elizabeth died, aged 14 years, and she was buried at St George's Church on the 18 June 1850. The 1851 census shows how the resilient Worth family coped with their unfortunate situation.

Their eldest son, William, had become the head of the family and he was both a Shopkeeper (Grocer) and Farmer of nine acres. His brothers, John and James, were assisting him in his work, whereas Charles was a Power Loom Weaver in a Cotton Mill. At 11-years old, Daniel was considered too young to be working. To assist them; the family had engaged the 24-year old Mary Ann Cropley as their Housekeeper.

At some point over the following decade there was a crucial change in John Worth's situation and by 1861 he had moved from Haughton Green to Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, where he was boarding with Charles Walton, a Grocer, of Market Street. Here his occupation was recorded as a Bookkeeper but the name of his employer is unknown. On this single occasion, an error was made on the census return in that his place of birth was given as Hyde, Cheshire instead of Haughton, Lancashire. The circumstances surrounding his move from Haughton Green to Chapel-en-le-Frith will never be known but they were certainly fortuitous. Here he met the lady who was to become his wife, Mary Fletcher, and the couple were married at Hayfield, Derbyshire, in 1862.

Following their marriage, John and Mary moved to the Townend district of Chapel-en-le-Frith and by 1871 they had a family of three children, John (8), Elizabeth Ann (7) and Francis (4). By occupation, John was now a Canal Agent. This meant that he was employed by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, which was then the owner of the Peak Forest Canal Company. Because of his location at Townend, his work was involved with the management of the Peak Forest Tramway, which had a complex of sidings, warehouses and workshops there. Townend lay at the foot of the Chapel-en-le-Frith inclined plane, which raised the tramway to its upper level and connection with the limestone quarries at Dove Holes.

At some point over the following decade was appointed as the Canal Wharfinger (Manager) of Bugsworth Basin at the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal and by 1881 he was living in the Canal House and Office at Bugsworth Basin. His son, John (18) was described as a Merchandise Porter, whereas Elizabeth Ann (16) and Francis (14) were both still Scholars. It was during the 1880s that he received his soubriquet of 'Owd' Worth.

Canal House and Office, Bugsworth Basin, 1920s.

Minute Book of the Peak Forest Canal Company for Monday, 26 June 1837:

‘Plans and Estimates of the proposed improvements at Bugsworth having been laid before this Meeting. Resolved that a new House and Office be erected and a New Brook Course Branch Canal and Weirs constructed with as little delay as possible under the direction of Mr Meadows and according to the Plans produced.’

This Minute shows that the present building was constructed in 1837. The New Brook Course Branch Canal (aka the 'New Drop') is now known as the Lower Basin. The ‘Weirs’ referred to is the weir across the Black Brook alongside the Lower Basin. This was constructed to provide a head of water to power the waterwheel at Bugsworth Mill. The mill is on the far left in the photo and the mill pond is visible behind and between Canal House and Bugsworth Mill. Mr Meadows was James Meadows Junior who was the Joint Principal Agent of the Ashton and Peak Forest Canal Companies.

Above Canal House, on the hillside, there is a small building with a chimney. In 1907 the Buxton Lime Firms Co sank a shaft here and from this levels were driven below Bugsworth Hall Estate for coal extraction from the Yard Mine (seam). The workings extended to the south of Bottoms Hall near Bridgemont.

The 1891 census shows he was still living at the Canal House and Office at Bugsworth Basin but he had reverted to his original occupational title of Canal Agent. His son, John (28), was a Canal Labourer and son, Francis (24), was a Railway Clerk. This suggests that Francis was better placed in the employ of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company than was his brother. Elizabeth Ann Worth was not at home, possibly she was away visiting or had got married, although the record of a marriage (or death) has not been found. The 1891 census also records the arrival of John and Mary's last child, Mary Annie, who was born in 1883.

Son, Francis Worth, married Margaret Hannah Stanfield at St Bartholomew's Church, Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1899 and at the time of the 1901 census they were living with Margaret's father, Richard Stanfield, a Farmer, at The Firs, Dean Row, Wilmslow. Francis Worth died at Wilmslow in 1924, aged 75 years. As will be seen, it is of interest to note that Richard Stanfield was born at Rainow, Cheshire.

On the other hand, son, John Worth Junior, married the twice-widowed Maria Lowe Brocklehurst late Hawley formerly (?) in 1899 and by the 1901 census he was living at Leaden Knowl, Chinley, Bugsworth and Brownside. In this census, John's occupation was then a Railway Labourer (on the Peak Forest Tramway). Living with the couple were John's two stepsons, James William Hawley (13) and George Samuel Brocklehurst (8) and two boarders, John Holland (40) and John Westby (27). John Worth Junior died at Rainow, aged 61 years, in 1924.

On the 1 August 1897 the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company changed its name to the Great Central Railway Company and henceforth John Worth was the Canal Agent (Wharfinger) at Bugsworth for this company.

The 1901 census shows that John Worth (67) was still the Canal Agent at Bugsworth and his younger daughter Mary Annie (18) was at home, employed as a Milliner's Assistant. Mary Annie Worth went on to marry Charles Lowe at Macclesfield in 1904.

John Worth was by now thinking about retirement and on the 1 December 1903 he was succeeded by John Chappell who had the unenviable task of overseeing the rapid decline of limestone, gritstone and lime traffic through Bugsworth Basin. John Chappell also witnessed the demise of the Great Central Railway Company when it merged with other railway companies to form the London and North Eastern Railway Company (LNER Co) on the 1 January 1923. The final blow came on the 31 July 1925 when the LNER Co received the Royal Assent for a Private Bill before Parliament. A clause in this Bill allowed the railway company to legally abandon the Peak Forest Tramway, which, in turn, precipitated the closure of Bugsworth Basin. As a result of the loss of all traffic through Bugsworth Basin, John Chappell transferred to the canal office at Marple on the 20 August 1926.

Meanwhile, John Worth and his wife moved out of the Canal House and Office at Bugsworth Basin and journeyed over the hills, via Whaley Bridge and Kettleshulme, to settle in their retirement home at Rainow, Macclesfield. It can, surely, be no coincidence that they retired at Rainow, which was where the father-in-law of their son, Francis, was born.

Considering that it was in the early years of the 20th century, John and Mary enjoyed a fairly lengthy retirement together. John died at Rainow in 1912, aged 78 years, and Mary died at Rainow in 1919, also aged 78 years.

One of John Worth Junior's duties was to operate the unique mobile waggon tipplers at Bugsworth Basin. There were four of these, one in the Lower Basin, one in the Middle Basin, by Chinley Road Bridge, and two in the Upper Basin. As their name implies, the purpose of these tipplers was to empty stone from loaded mineral waggons onto the wharfs below from where it was shovelled into boats. It was also recorded that Isaac Worth, believed to be John Worth Junior's son, was the last person to operate a waggon tippler prior to the closure of the Peak Forest Tramway and Bugsworth Basin but, unfortunately, it has not been possible to verify this.

Mrs Martha Barnes (6 April 1871-1970), a Bugsworth resident, recorded in her Memoirs that John 'Jack' Worth operated the waggon tipplers. She also mentioned that he was a cripple with one leg shorter than the other and she suggested that he might have had polio.

Regarding John Worth's four brothers: In 1871 William was a Grocer and Farmer of 14 acres employing one man and a girl. His farm was on Ryding (or Riding) Lane, Haughton Green. The name 'Ryding Lane' is no longer used and it is possible that this was the earlier name of Worth's Lane. William died in 1880, aged 51 years. Charles became the Caretaker of Haughton Green Conservative Club on Haughton Green Road. He died in 1901, aged 68 years. James became a Grocer on Haughton Green Road and he died in 1901, aged 64 years. Daniel became a Coal Dealer on Penny Lane, Heaton Norris, Stockport, and he died in 1906, aged 66 years.