OS Grid Reference – 370300E 400000N (SJ703400)
13km W of Manchester, 9km S of Bolton and 5km E of Leigh
The earliest document referring to Astley is in 1210 when Hugh of Astley granted land in Astley to God and St Mary of Cockersands. Hugh Tyldesley, also known as ‘Hugh the Pious’ was lord of manors of Astley and Tyldesley and was recorded as tenant in Damhouse in 1212. Damhouse, although standing just inside the Tyldesley boundary, was the manor house for Astley. The Tyldesley family continued at the Astley manor until April 1353 when Richard Radcliff acquired the manor for the sum of 100 marks.
The Radcliff family association with Astley continued to 1561 when William Radcliff died leaving no issue, the land passed to his half sister Anne Radcliff, who having married Gilbert Gerrard, now made Gilbert Gerrard the lord of the manor.
In 1595 Adam Mort purchased the manor house and land in Astley, Adam Mort was prosperous and during his lifetime built a chapel and established a free grammar school for the poor. He stipulated the children of the poor could attend the school for free, however those with more wealthy parents had to pay for their own instructions. Hence the first chapel of Ease was built, this being consecrated on August 3rd 1631, unfortunately Adam Mort did not see his chapel completed, as he died earlier the same year. The grammar school stood for over 200 years, until 1833 when it was pulled down and rebuilt. The following provides more information about the Mort Family
Astley stayed a quiet sleepy village for many years, relying on a cottage industry of weavers and farming in order to exist. The cutting of the canal in the 1760’s and the railway of 1830 changed very little. The railway was part on the Manchester and Liverpool line, where on 12 September 1830, Robert Stevenson held trials with his engine ’The Rocket’. Initially the railway did not have a station at Astley and passengers would tell the driver where to stop so they could alight. Later a station was built and then rebuilt closer to the village, even the newer station was over a mile to the south of the village. Due to the land being made up mostly of moss land, the railway was built on a floating raft of twigs and cotton bales used as a platform for the sleepers.
The 19th century was the start of major changes for Astley, in 1820 William Grundy started to put out work for other to weave, the first cotton mill, built in 1833 signalled the end of the cottage weaver. For years the villagers had used the moss land to gather wood and peat, however by the middle of this century coal was discovered under this land. Early mining was by sloping shafts, the Gin Pit was sunk followed by Cross-Hillock Pit and in 1908 the Astley Green pit was sunk. All this brought new inhabitants to the village, population in the early 17th century was estimated at 500-600, in 1821 there were 1,882 and by 1901 2,823 inhabitants. The mining displaced the agricultural nature of the village, not only by villagers changing occupations but also due to many acres of land becoming unfarmable due to subsidence, a problem, which is still in existence to this day. This increase in population also brought about a growth of new religions within the Astley boundaries.
In the early 20th century a new road was built from Manchester to Liverpool, the East Lancashire Road, however again just as the railway line seemed to stay clear of the village to the south, this new road stayed clear of the village to the north.
Eventually all the pits closed, the last one being Astley Green in April 1970. Once more Astley village reverted to a quiet village cut off on one side by the East Lancashire road and the other sides by the moss. Not so for the land of Astley, north of the East Lancashire Road, this location being easy commutable distance of Manchester and the network of motorways which has built up has resulted in vast expansion of housing in the area, so much that the boundary between Tyldesley and Astley has become undefined, it is more fashionable for people from south of Tyldesley to say they live in Astley.