Archives: “there is something about the smell and feel of a one hundred and twenty year old piece of paper..”

 Bolt Label Stickers

Greetings to all the readers. My name is Dennis Bourne and I am a second year history student at the Manchester Metropolitan University. I have had the pleasure of working with the staff at Bury archive for the past 3 to 4 months; and have been blessed with the opportunity to do some research work on the Bealey archives. Myself and my research partner Ashley Parkes ( whose blog you may have already read) have been tasked with finding out as much as we can about the Bealey bleach works and the trade marks they used.

Bolt Label Stickers

One of the colourful images which were stuck onto wrapped bolts of cloth for export.

This has been a blessing as we have had the chance to gain access to a wealth of original documents, which you just don’t get to access at university, unless they are online. Trust me, there is something about the smell and feel of a one hundred and twenty year old piece of paper which a computer screen will never replace. One of things I found most interesting were the large leather bound catalogue books of what we believe to be Trade Marks, Combination Marks and Bolt labels. Here is a sample of some of the designs contained in one of the catalogues.

One of the catalogues was in a really bad state when it was presented to the archives, and had to be sent for repair and restoration. This gave us the opportunity to meet Nic in the conservation department at Greater Manchester County Records Office (Nic you’re a legend!!); see some of the designs in the damaged volume; and learn about some of the techniques in restoration (I now know how to bind a book).

Bolt Label Stickers

I won’t ramble, but I would like to thank Joanne, Gill, Karen, Kirsty and Donna at Bury for making us feel at home, and hopefully (or maybe not) you will hear from me again soon. Goodbye readers.


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Cataloguing and arrangement, what goes where and why?

You may have been wondering what I’ve been upto for the past six months or so. Well, after having shuffled around a lot of boxes and complied various lists, I got down to the task of arranging and cataloguing the papers for real.

Example documents

There can be thousands of documents in a collection which need to be arranged and catalogued so that researchers can find the information that they need.

So, how hard can that be? Well, firstly my job is to catalogue the papers so that people can find them and use them. Cataloguing also gives each item a unique reference number so that they can be identified and kept secure. We don’t want to lose any do we?

  The papers are stored in boxes on shelves in what is called a “rolling stack” and without a good cataloguing system, all the boxes look the same and nobody would be able to find anything!

The rollong stacks.

The boxes are stored on shelves which can be moved backwards and forwards by turning the handles at the end of the row.

Another, really important consideration is that I have to try and keep the papers, or records as they are called in archive terms, in the original order that they were produced by whoever created them. If I don’t, some of the information about their background, meaning or the context in which they were created may be lost and I could mislead researchers by putting them together in an order which could give them a different meaning. Hmm, tricky stuff!

Items which aren't part of collection.

Many items can be stored in a box, some are from completely different collections.


As the papers seem to have been reorganised a few times in the past, the original order is sometimes not very clear and a little detective work was needed to match up the handwriting, dates, bleaching process or the subject concerned.  Occasionally, it took a while to sort out material which wasn’t part of the collection at all.

The picture on the right shows a plan of cemetery plots bought by new owners and arraged alphabetically. It is stored in box 1588 with some Bealey plans and drawings. As it is not catalogued in another collection yet, after some deep thought and head scratching, I finally concluded that the Bealey’s were not involved in this particular venture.

After that, it was time to start entering information about the papers onto the archive management software system called Calm. Unlike the entries in a library catalogue, each individual item in an archive collection is unique and has a relationship to other items in the collection (remember, the original order should be kept) and so when it is catalogued, to show this relationship, a heirarchical structure is produced which looks a bit like a tree.

Cataloguing heirarchical structure

This is a diagram of the heirarchical cataloguing structure which was passed on to me by my colleague Anna Watson, who recently received an MBE, at the County Record Office in Preston when I was a student and volunteer archive assistant. It helps to explain what goes where on the tree.

 This all sounds a bit complicated (an it can be!) but it is really basically about the groups that the records are put into. Starting at the top, all of the papers are in a collection or “fonds”. The diagram to the left should help to explain the different levels down through sub-fonds, series, subseries, file and finally down to an individual item.


And below, this is what it looks like for me as I catalogued on the Calm screen – the tree is on the left.

Calm screen shot

The tree looks complicated but it shows how all of the records relate to each other. Each little box with a + will open another level down in the heirarchy. The documents we are using as an example are for the Creams paper factory which can be found in box 1447. Click on the image to enlarge.

And this is what it looks like on the online catalogue which is available at

Opac screen for catalogue entry

This is the online version of the same catalogue entry for the Creams paper factory which is the view that researchers see. It shows the heirarchy of the "tree" and the relationship between this item and all of the others in the collection. Click on the image to enlarge.

Example document with ref no

This is the reverse of a Sun Fire Insurance policy sent to Mary Bealey in September 1844. Note the penny red stamp, the red wax seal and the catalogue reference number in the bottom right.


The heirarchy of the tree also creates the reference number, BBY/1/1/3/1/1/9 which in this case is quite long. The BBY bit refers to the collection, Richard Bealey & Co., and then the number after each slash indicates the next level down until the item number is reached at the end, which for this record is number 9. If you look closely at the entry, you will be able to see that this is 1 bundle of 18 closely related documents. It is still called “an item” though!

The cataloguing of the Bealey collection is now almost complete and I have catalogued 6168 items! Whew, that’s an awful lot of reference numbers…and this is not a very big collection!

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1856, a year in the life of Mary Bealey as told by her cheques.

Among the Bealey papers I found a mysterious brown paper packet tied up with string.

Mary Bealey Cheques

The brown paper packet containing the cheque stubs and cheques of Mary Bealey.

Inside were some early bank cheque stubs or counterfoils, which were drawn on Mary Bealey’s private account and are interesting because they are accompanied by the corresponding cheques.

Mary Bealey wrote these cheques between January 1856 and April 1857 and they can tell us a little about what was happening in her daily life at that time.

She withdrew £20.00 per week for herself and in March 1856 she spent £5.00 on insurance. In early April she spent £6.00 on coals, bought some furniture for £25.00 and spent £105 6/- on carriage for goods and furniture.

Mary Bealey Cheque

A cheque written in February 1856 drawn upon Mary Bealey's personal account at the bank of Messrs. Smith, Payne & Smiths of 1 Lombard Street, London.

Then, in April she wrote a cheque to R.J. Harrison Esq. for £500, which is a very large sum of money. Is this related to 1841-1847 note, and its subsequent renewal, for £1000 as security to Dixons & Wandell jointly from Mary Bealey & Matthew Harrison?  The Bealey papers also holds a letter from Mr Harrison expressing his gratitude to Mrs Bealey for the help of her security (presumably the note) as a loan which he is now able to pay off. Was Mary Bealey still helping out the Harrison family in some way ten years later?

During the summer of 1856, Mary seems to devote her time to decorating (spending about £200), buying furniture (spending about £250), glass for the house, plants, fences, stone and a gardener (spending about £150). She also pays her parochial rates and a half year’s rent.

Mary Bealey Cheque

This cheque was written in February 1856. The cheque has been returned to Mary Bealey after the bank has processed it (note the heavy ink marks over her signature to show that it had been processed by the bank) and we can see that it is authentic because the cut marks match up with the counterfoil. Perforated cheques had not been introduced to cheque books or stamps in 1856 and so they had to be individually cut by hand. Each cheque was cut differently which also acted as a primitive security system, if the cut on the cheque doesn't match the stub, it must be fake!

From this evidence, it seems that she has either moved house or is having what we would call today a “make-over”. The amount of money which she spends shows that her income was stable and substantial – she even increases her weekly personal drawings to £50 and writes a cheque for £52.16.6 “for Adam” who may be her son Dr Adam Bealey aged about 44.

The cheque had its origins in the ancient banking system, in which bankers would issue orders at the request of their customers, to pay money to identified payees. Such an order was referred to as a bill of exchange. The use of bills of exchange facilitated trade by eliminating the need for merchants to carry large quantities of currency (e.g. gold) to purchase goods and services.

“Cheque” is the original spelling but it was also spelled ‘check’, ‘checque’ and ‘cheque’ which also referred to the counterfoil or stub used to check against forgery and alterations.

J. W. Gilbart in 1828 (A practical treatise on banking, 2nd ed, 1828, Effingham Wilson, London) explains in a footnote “Most writers spell it check. I have adopted the above form because it is free from ambiguity and is analogous to the ex-chequer, the royal treasury. It is also used by the Bank of England “Cheque Office.”‘ According to Holden, the spelling ‘check’ survived in some English text-books into the 1920s and is the spelling still used in the US.

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Mary Bealey’s Methodist Chapel

Close Methodist Chapel large
Mary Bealey’s Close Methodist Chapel.

In 1839, Mary Bealey saw the completion of the Close Methodist Chapel, a project which was accomplished entirely at her behest.

If you have any photographs or memories of the original Close Methodist Chapel, please contact  Gilly Paxton the Bealey Project Archivist.

Adam Bealey, Mary’s late husband, had introduced Methodism into the Radcliffe Hall area in 1800 when he started to hold religious services and a Sunday school in a large room in the Bealey’s works.  These services were well attended with preachers such as Sammy Hick and Billy Dawson drawing in the crowds. This continued for the next 39 years until the Close Methodist Chapel was completed.

For many years, Mary Bealey’s efforts to purchase land to build a chapel had been thwarted by the landowner, the Earl of Wilton and the Rector. However, not to be beaten, she bought a  beer house on Church Green near to the Parish church gate at auction and threatened to demolish it and build her new chapel on the site. It seems that alternative land was quickly offered on the site where the new church, built when the original one was demolished in 1973, now stands.

Close Wesleyan Chapel

Close Wesleyan Chapel not long after it opened in 1839.


As you can see from the pictures, the chapel was not a small building and as a writer said in 1844, it was “a very handsome modern edifice, appropriated to the purpose of the Wesleyan Methodists, the elegance of which is more noticeable from being in the midst of buildings of an ordinary, not to say mean, appearance.”

The crenelated stone columns which stand between the railings are the only part of this impressive building which survive and are still imposing in their size and quality to the passer-by today.

The Bealey Papers contain some of the very first documents relating to the building of the chapel [These can be found at reference BBY/2/2]. This agreement engages Thomas Hall to clear the ground for the building of the chapel which had to be finished and ready for the foundation ceremony on Saturday 28 April 1838.  For this, he was to be paid £5 10/-

Chapel land clearance for foundation stone ceremony.

Agreement between Mary Bealey and Thomas Hall dated 10th April 1838. Click on the image to enlarge.

Chapel Building Committee

Mary Bealey's request for permission to erect a chapel at Radcliffe Close which was submitted to the Chapel Building Committee. Click on the image to enlarge.

Before any work could start on the chapel at Radcliffe,  Mary Bealey had to get permission from the Manchester Chapel Building Committee. This is the document which specified the size of the building, how many people attended the Methodist services, the cost of the land, the cost of the building, the value of subscriptions which would help to pay for the chapel, the value of seat rents which would be chargeable and that there was to be a side gallery and an end gallery. The proposal was passed with the stipulation that a Sunday school was to be established with the chapel.
Chapel building tenders & bills 002

Tenders from tradesmen and bills for the work carried out for the building of the chapel. Click on the image to enlarge.

Some of the accounts for the building work have also survived, including bills for extra work which brought the overall cost of the chapel to over £5,000, a huge sum in 1839.
On Sunday 22nd September 1839, the opening services were heard with some of the most popular and well-known preachers of the day conducting the morning, afternoon and evening services. These included the Rev’s. Thomas Jackson, George Morley, William M. Bunting, Daniel Walton, Robert Newton and Dr. Fletcher.
The original Sunday school which was held in the Bealey’s works was very popular with scholars coming from as far afield as Cockey Moor and Unsworth. When the new chapel was built, it appears to have had a school room built underneath which held classes for 600 children. By the turn of the century, there were 450 Sunday school pupils, the number having dropped due to the establishment of several other schools which were more convenient for the children to attend.
Close Day School Teachers

The teachers of Close Day School who tought the different classes to the children of the Bealey's works.

 Later, an infant school was built and about 35 years after that, a large school-room was erected at a cost of £1600. In 1898, the number of scholars in the day school had reached 639 with an average attendance of 281.
By the turn of the century, there were 450 Sunday school pupils, the number having dropped due to the establishment of several other schools which were more convenient for the children to attend.
Close Wesleyan Harrier Team

Gradually, other activities were included for the children of the chapel and school. These are the Close Wesleyan Harrier Team in 1902.

The Bealey papers also have some records which tell us about the finances of both the chapel and the school which were administered by a group of Trustees, such as Charity Commission Returns, cheque books and an account book.
Another collection of documents held at Bury Archives are from the Radcliffe Close Methodist Church [These can be found in the collection catalogued under the letters CRC].
The documents held in this collection include Wesleyan Missionary Society records, Foreign Missionary Society records, teachers’ attendance registers, scholars’ roll / admission register  from 1846 to 1913 which gives both the school roll at various intervals, and the names of pupils admitted in between times – boys and girls are registered separately,  day school log books, and sunday school attendance registers  from 1955 to 1970.
Did you or your ancestors attend either of these schools? If you have any photographs or memories of the Chapel’s Sunday or day schools, please contact Gilly Paxton, the Bealey Project Archivist.
Photo credits for the pictures other than the documents for this blog go to Christine North.
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Great plans for the future…but what are they?

Plan ID

As with all of the images on this blog, click on the picture to enlarge and then click on the enlarged image to zoom in even more.

Can anyone help us identify several machinery and building plans or drawings which we have in the Bealey collection but so far have been unable to identify.

Plan ID05

Does anyone know what this is or what it was used for?


Some seem to be sketches, while others are obviously detailed drawings but they have no title and give no clue as to what they are about!

Plan ID 006

This blueprint tells us that these were purifiers, but we don't know what they were for or how they fitted into the overall manufacturing or bleaching processes of the factory.


We urgently need some technical advice to identify these drawings and plans. Can you tell us the processes involved in bleaching or manufacturing alkali?

If you think you can help, or know of anyone with a knowledge of the bleaching industry or who may have worked for Bealey’s, please contact Gilly Paxton, The Bealey Archivist at Bury archives on 0161 253 6782 or email

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Lest we forget…the Bealey’s and the Great War part 3

soldierSo far I have told you about the members of the Bealey family who died in WWI but now I’m going to tell you a bit about some of the men from the Bealey’s bleach and chemical works who also fought, some returned but sadly, some never came home again.


A 1914 recruitment poster depicting Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener above the words "YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU" was one of the most famous images used in the British Army recruitment campaign of WWI.

At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Prime Minister Asquith appointed Kitchener as Secretary for War. He was the first member of the military to hold the post and was given the task of recruiting a large army to fight Germany.


Another of the Kitchener recruiting posters from WWI.

With the help of the war poster that featured his mustachioed face, pointing finger, and the words: ‘Join Your Country’s Army’, over 2,000,000 men volunteered in the first two years of the war.

WWI infantry unit

A WWI infantry unit marching off to fight abroad.

We know how many men from the bleachworks responded to this call to arms from four battered black books which have survived and are among the Bealey Papers collection [reference number BBY/1/1/4/9].

WWI payment book

The four WWI wages allowance books in the Bealey Papers collection which give the details of the soldiers who left Bealey's to fight.

These books start on 21 August 1914 and finish with the last entry of 14 November 1919 and are entitled “War allowance paid in respect of …” with the name of the employee at the top and a list of dates and signatures for payment from their next of kin or dependant. I’m not sure whether this was an official type of payment which all businesses paid or whether it was something which the Bealey’s did for the families of the men they employed.

WWI war allowance

A page from the payment book. Most pages are entitled "Wages allowance" but this one is labelled "War allowance"

From these books, it seems that there were initially 54 men who joined up in 1914-1915. Some of them did not stay in the army for very long. Robert Anderton who joined on 11 September 1914 was discharged on 16 October and resumed work on 13 November of the same year.


Robert Anderton seems to have been lucky to have served and come back home so soon, although we don't know whether his injuries had long-term effects.

Sadly, the first casualty from the Bealey’s works seems to be of Fred Hough who was killed in the Dardanelles on 5 Jun 1915.

Fred Hough

The entry for Fred Hough with the information about his death.

Fred Hough

A photograph of Fred Hough in his military uniform.

We have been able to find out more about Fred from the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Memorial Book for August 1914 to December 1915. This and the one for 1916 are available in the main library at Bury [reference A 67.8 (P) SAI which are shelved in the basement].

Fred's entry

The entry for Fred in the Sailors' & Soldiers' Memorial Book.

On the 7 August 1915, Robert Lomas went missing in action, and William H. Holland was killed in the Dardanelles on the same day. Thomas Hayes was also killed in the Dardanelles on 12 November 1915.

Robert Lomas

Robert Lomas' entry in the Bealey war allowance book.

Robert Lomas

Robert Lomas in his uniform


Robert Lomas

William Henry Holland

William Henry Holland in his uniform

William Henry Holland

Thomas Hayes

Thomas Hayes in his uniform

Thomas Hayes

Thomas Hayes

Thomas Hayes' entry in the Bealey's wages allowance book.

Details from a war memorial plaque which was erected at the bleachworks in Dummers Lane show that there were 160 men from Bealey’s who served in the Great War. 133 of them returned home but sadly 27 men, including Fred, Robert, William and Thomas, lost their lives in “the war to end all wars”.

We found this information about the plaque on the United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials website which can be found at

Men working at Bealey’s were exempt from being called-up as this document from the Bleachers’ Association collection which is at Quarry Bank Mill shows.

Bleachers' Quary Bank Mill 074

A letter from the Director of National Service, dated 14 August 1918, confirming that the call-up of men from the bleachers, dyers & finishers was to be suspended until 9 September 1918.

As the letter also explains, some men on the list of Certified Occupations were erroneously called up for medical examination which seems to have happened at Bealey’s. In these cases, the medical examination was to stand but the men were, in all other respects, to be treated as though they had not been called up for a medical at all.

The following pages are documents from the same  Bleachers’ Association collection, which give the name, year of birth, occupation and medical grading of 80 men working at Bealey’s in 1918.

Bleachers' Quary Bank Mill 078 Medical

Bleachers' Quary bank Mill 079 medical

Finally, for anyone wondering whether one of their relatives from the Radcliffe area died in WWI, they are all listed on the Radcliffe War Memorial and some further information is available on the “Roll of Honour” website at


Radcliffe War Memorial as seen on the "Roll of Honour" site compled by Laura Vizard.

Special thanks need to go to Kirsty Riley who kindly volunteered to photograph the documents for me and to Donna Hardman who found the United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials website and the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Memorial Book. Gilly Paxton, Project Archivist.

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Lest we forget…the Bealey’s and the Great War part 2

Their name liveth for evermore

Each of the Commonwealth cemeteries has a large Stone of Remembrance and they all carry the same inscription devised by Rudyard Kipling: “Their Name Liveth For Evermore”.

As in the previous blog, this one is about a member of the Bealey family, Adam Crompton Bealey Jr. who was the youngest brother of Herbert Bealey, the last member of the family to be involved in the family business.

Adam Crompton Bealey was born on 24 August 1873 and named after his father, the owner of Bealey’s bleach and chemical works in Radcliffe. He was educated from the age of 14 at the Leys School in Cambridgeshire where it is reported that he was a gifted musician, and then went up to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Boer War Scroll

This is the Boer War Scroll which members of the XXth Lancashire Fusiliers 3rd Voluntary Company, including Adam, received in their return home.

Adam  joined the XXth Lancashire Fusiliers as a Lieutenant 3rd Vol Company 2nd Batallion and fought in the Second Anglo Boer War, 1899-1902. Many of these British soldiers were physically unprepared for the environment and poorly trained for the tactical conditions they faced. As a result, British losses were high due to both disease and combat but Adam survived.

He joined his father and brother Herbert for a brief time in the company bleaching and chemical business at Radcliffe but he doesn’t seem to have stayed there for very long. Evidence which we have in the archive papers in the form of a declaration from Adam Crompton Bealey Junior, says that he “received from A.C. Bealey and Sons, the sum of £825.16.11 as payment for the discharge of his share of the capital of the firm and interest thereon to 30 September 1906, being the day he retired from the firm.”

Retiring to Somerset, Adam married Jessie Galbrath on 25 September 1907, a few months after his father’s tragic death in April of that year. His daughter Mary was born on 31 July 1908.


Badge of the Somerset Light Infantry 3 & 4 Btn (Prince Albert) 1908/1922

When war broke out in 1914, Adam joined the Somerset Light Infantry 2nd/4th Battalion where he served with distinction in the Middle East, reaching the rank of Staff Captain.

Jerusalem cemetery

Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel where Adam Crompton Bealey lies.

On 22 November 1917, at the age of 44, Adam died of wounds he received in action at Kut-el-Enab which is about 5 miles west of Jerusalem. He is buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery in Israel, grave number P.10. I found a photograph of his grave on an excellent website called The War Graves Photographic Project There is also a photograph of the grave of Frederick Arthur Harold Bealey, who I blogged about yesterday.

A.C. Bealey

Adam Crompton Bealey's grave in the Jerusalem War Cemetery.

Although the bodies of the fallen were not brought back home, many were commemorated on family graves and an inscription for Adam can be found on the family vault in the Prestwich Parish Church graveyard.

Prestwich A C Bealey Jr

Adam Crompton Bealey Jr. is remembered on the gravestone of his mother Lydia and brother Samuel.

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