The prestigious Assheton of Middleton estate archive collection, which has been acquired by Manchester City Council, will now find a permanent abode in the Greater Manchester County Record Office at Manchester Central Library. This ensures that both the residents of Greater Manchester and beyond will have continued access to this remarkable local history collection.
The archive provides a glimpse into local life during the medieval and early modern eras, filling the gap between Greater Manchester’s more well-known Roman and industrial revolution narratives.
It stands as an exceptional example of a medieval family archive, boasting nationally significant items related to the English Civil War, the Middleton Bowmen, the Black Knight, and the royal court of the Plantagenets. Additionally, it holds unique local historical sources documenting the population of Middleton.
The acquisition of these 1400 items was made possible through generous funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The V&A Purchase Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and the Manchester Central Library Development Trust.
The collection contains a myriad of fascinating items, including the earliest surviving written document, the 1197 Articles of Agreement. This document divided lands within the Assheton estate between Roger de Middleton and William de Radcliffe in the Greater Manchester area. It was witnessed by ‘Adam, parson of Middleton,’ making it the earliest evidence of a church in Middleton.
The Heritage Fund grant, made possible by National Lottery players, will also enable Archives+ to invest in the collection. This includes the development of an educational and outreach program aimed at schools and local communities in Middleton, Rochdale, and Manchester.
Councillor John Hacking, Executive Member for Skills, Employment, and Leisure at Manchester City Council, expressed:
“After many years of behind-the-scenes efforts, we are thrilled to have finally secured the future of this nationally significant archive for the greater benefit of Greater Manchester. It is gratifying to provide it with a permanent home at the Greater Manchester County Record Office in Manchester Central Library. This captivating and extensive collection of documents offers vivid glimpses into medieval English life and constitutes a vital part of Greater Manchester’s early heritage.”
Councillor Janet Emsley, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Equity, Safety, and Reform at Rochdale Borough Council, added:
“We are absolutely thrilled that the Assheton Archive has been preserved for future generations to cherish. The historical significance of this collection of unique documents not only sheds light on the importance of the Assheton family in Middleton but throughout the entire country. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all the funders and staff who have worked tirelessly to secure this marvelous collection of documents.”
Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, commented:
“We are delighted that, thanks to the funds raised by National Lottery players, this significant collection will now have a permanent home in Manchester Central Library and be safeguarded for years to come. It is thrilling to know that local residents will have the opportunity to explore the archive and gain insights into Greater Manchester’s lesser-known but rich medieval history. This connection to their local heritage will foster a sense of pride and unity within the community.”