Wednesday 2 December 2020

Turton Council Offices, Bromley Cross

This report appeared in the Bolton Journal and Guardian on 17th April 1936, as part of a series named "Our Notable Buildings".

Turton Council Offices, Bromley Cross
Turton Council Offices, Bromley Cross

Administrative Centre of Area Larger than the Borough

The Urban District of Turton, with its area of 17,334 acres - greater than that of Bolton borough - has no real geographical centre.  If this wide area may be said to have any focal point at all that point has been for many years the District Council Offices at Bromley Cross.

This is still true, for although Council and committee meeting have been held at Turton Tower for the past two years, the Clerk, Mr. Alban Baldwin, and his staff still have their headquarters at Bromley Cross.

Until 1973 the overseers of the township were the legislative body, having taken over authority from the obsolete courts-leet and the lords of the manor, the last of which was held in Turton about 1850.  Before 1873 the area had been divided, for administrative purposes, into a higher and lower division.

On May 23rd of that year a meeting of rate-payers, over whom Mr. Ashworth presided, was held at Walmsley Church School, and it was decided to adopt the Local Government Act, but owing to some formality a second meeting had to be held August 8th.  The Act as adopted once more, Mr Ashworth again presiding.

In the following year an Inquiry was held at Walmsley School to consider a petition to the Local Government Board for the division of Turton into three wards.  This would involve the division of the lower division into two wards.  Each of the three wards was to send three members to the Local Board.

The petition was granted, and an Order was issued dividing the district into South, Middle and North Wards,  These wards represented what are now the Egerton, Eagley, Bromley Cross and Chapeltown Wards.

The elections were held and the first meeting of the Board was held of May 29th 1873, in the upper room of the National School, the first board being constituted as follows:- South Ward, R. M. Knowles (Ousel Nest), Arthur Greg (Sandbanks), Samuel Kay (Toppings); Middle Ward, Edmund Ashworth (Egerton Hall), Edmund Ashworth, junr. (Egerton House), Isaac Bentley (Cross Guns); North Ward, James Parkinson (Edgworth), James Kay (Turton Tower), James Booth (Chapeltown).

Mr E. Ashworth, sen., was appointed chairman and Mr Thomas Dawson, who had been assistant overseer for Turton for about 32 years, was appointed Clerk.  Dr John Robinson was appointed Medical Officer in October of the same year.

The Board held its meetings on the last Thursday of each month at the old Birtenshaw School until June 1878, when they transferred to a room over the offices of John Ashworth and Sons of Rose Hill.

In 1880 the Local Government Board agreed to the increase in the members of the Local Board from nine to eighteen.

The Council Offices at Bromley Cross were erected in 1885 at a cost of £800.  The builders were a Dunscar firm.   Although the offices are unpretentious they are well equipped and not unpleasing to the eye.  The old Council Chamber - not used for this purpose since the Council accepted Turton Tower from Lady Nina Knowles, was a handsome room, well-appointed and eminently suited to its purpose.  Its only drawback was that it was on the small side and that more room was needed in the building for office accommodation.

In half a century the amount of business has naturally grown and it is not surprising that the building should now be inadequate but it is obvious that the £800 spent on it in the first place was a good investment.  After 50 years, the exterior stone-work is still pleasant and the interior is well kept, the oak panelling being particularly noteworthy.

The first meeting held in the new offices was held in October, 1885.

There have only been three Clerks since 1873, viz.: Mr T. Dawson, Mr J. B. Goulbourn and Mr A. Baldwin.

Although the consciousness of local government developed more slowly in Turton than in Bolton it gathered together earnest local legislators, notably members of the Ashworth family, and affairs progressed well, if slowly, until 1898.  In that year Turton successfully made out a case for the extension of its own boundaries by the inclusion of the neighbouring townships of Belmont, Bradshaw, Edgworth, Entwistle, Harwood, Longworth and Quarlton.  The urban district thus grew at a bound from less than 5,000 acres to its present size of more than 17,000 acres.