CONGLETON, an incorporated market-town, a chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Astbury, having separate jurisdiction, locally in the hundred of Northwich, S. division of the county of Chester, 31 miles (E. by S.) from Chester, and 161 (N. W. by W.) from London; containing 9222 inhabitants. Some writers have considered this the site of Condate, an aboriginal settlement of the Cornavii; but Whitaker, in his History of Manchester, has convincingly refuted this opinion, and fixed that station at Kinderton. The place is noticed in the Domesday survey, under the designation of Cogletone; but its origin has not been satisfactorily ascertained. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, a free charter was bestowed upon it by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, who in 1282 had procured the grant of a weekly market. In the reign of Henry VI., an inundation having done considerable damage to the town, the inhabitants obtained permission to divert the course of the river; and subsequently they had a grant of the king's mills, which stood on its banks. The town is situated in a valley embosomed in richly-wooded hills, on the south bank of the river Daven or Dane, over which a bridge was built in 1782, and, notwithstanding some recent improvements, consists of narrow and irregularly formed streets. The houses in the eastern part are old, and chiefly of timber and brick-work; those in the western part are in general modern and of handsome appearance. The inhabitants are supplied with water from springs, and from the rivulet Howtey or Howey, which intersects the town; in 1833, an act was obtained for lighting the streets with gas. The environs abound with scenery beautifully diversified by the windings of the river, on the banks of which are numerous elegant mansions and villas.
The manufacture of gloves, and of leather laces called Congleton Points, for which the town was celebrated, has given place to the throwing of silk, the spinning of waste silk and of cotton, and the manufacture of ribbons, handkerchiefs, and other silk goods. Forty mills for silk have been erected since 1753, when that branch of manufacture was introduced by Mr. Pattison, of London, who built the first mill here, an edifice now comprising five stories, 480 feet in length, and of proportionate width, and which is considered in point of extent the second in the kingdom. In this mill, ribbons and handkerchiefs are made to a great extent by the power-loom, a thousand hands being employed; it is the property of Samuel Pearson and Son, and is the second mill built in England, one having been built previously at Derby. A canal from Marple to join the Grand Trunk canal at Lawton, has been constructed, which, passing within a quarter of a mile of the town, materially facilitates its trade; and an act was passed in 1846 for a railway from Macclesfield, by Congleton, to the Potteries. The market is on Saturday; the fairs, chiefly for cattle, are on the Thursday before Shrovetide, May 12th, July 12th, and Nov. 22nd. The market-house, in High-street, a neat and commodious structure containing a handsome assembly-room, was built in 1822, at the expense of Sir Edmund Antrobus, Bart.; the market-place has recently been enlarged by the corporation, and is one of the best in the county.
The government, by charter of incorporation granted by James I., in 1625, was vested in a mayor, 8 aldermen, 16 capital burgesses, a high steward, town-clerk, and subordinate officers. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation now consists of a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors; the borough is divided into three wards, being co-extensive with the township of Congleton; and the number of magistrates is nine. The corporation formerly held quarterly courts of sessions for trying prisoners charged with misdemeanors and felonies not capital; and courts of record are still held for the recovery of debts to any amount, by the high steward, an officer appointed by the corporation. A court leet, also, is held in August, at which the high steward, or his deputy, presides. The county debt-court of Congleton, established in 1847, has jurisdiction over the registration-district of Congleton. The guildhall, a neat brick building, was built in 1805.
The township comprises 2380 acres, the soil of which is loam and sand. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £147; patrons and impropriators, the Mayor and Corporation. The chapel, dedicated to St. Peter, was rebuilt of brick, in 1740; a square tower of stone was added to it in 1786, and it was enlarged by the addition of two galleries in 1840, when the churchyard was also extended: the chapel stands on elevated ground, and commands a fine prospect. There was formerly another chapel at the end of the bridge, on the opposite side of the river Dane, which, having long since become desecrated, was appropriated to the reception of the poor; it was pulled down in 1810. At Congleton Moss, a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was erected in 1845, at a cost of £1500, raised by public grants and by subscription, on a site given by the Rev. James Brierley, M.A.: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rector of Astbury; income, £100. Two districts or ecclesiastical parishes have been formed under Sir Robert Peel's act: in the one, St. Stephen's district, a chapel has been purchased from the dissenters, and licensed by the bishop; in the other, St. James', a church has been erected on a site given by Edward Lowndes Mallabar, Esq. The first stone of the church was laid on the 29th of May, 1847: the building is in the style which prevailed in the latter part of the 13th century, and cost about £3500, exclusively of the tower, which it is proposed to add hereafter at an expense of £2000. St. James' district was the first formed in the kingdom under the act. The livings of both the districts are perpetual curacies, in the gift of the Crown and the Bishop of Chester, alternately. The tithes of the township have been commuted for £252. There are places of worship for Independents, Primitive Methodists, Wesleyans, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. The grammar school is of uncertain foundation, but it existed prior to 1590, and was endowed with a house and garden and an acre and a half of land; a new schoolroom was erected in 1834. Five schools in connexion with the Church have been established within the last seven years: attached to the church of the Holy Trinity are excellent schools; and in St. James' district is also a large school. The poor law union of Congleton comprises 32 parishes or places, of which 31 are in the county of Chester, and one in that of Stafford; and contains a population, according to the census of 1841, of 29,040. John Bradshaw, chief justice of Chester, and president of the tribunal that passed sentence of death on Charles I., was articled to an attorney in this town, of which he became mayor in 1637, and was subsequently appointed high steward. John Whitehurst, a celebrated mechanic, and author of a treatise on the Theory of the Earth, was born here in 1713. The place conferred the title of Baron on Sir Henry Parnell, who was created Baron Congleton in 1841, and whose son is the present peer.