Prestwich is a town and residential suburb of Manchester within the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies close to the River Irwell, north of Salford, to the north-northwest of the city of Manchester, and south of Bury.
Historically a part of Lancashire, Prestwich's early history is marked by its status as the seat of the ancient parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham, in the hundred of Salfordshire. The Church of St Mary the Virgin—a Grade I listed building—has lain at the centre of the community for centuries.
The oldest part of Prestwich developed around what is now, Bury New Road and is known locally as "Prestwich Village". There is a large Jewish community in Prestwich, bordering with Broughton Park in Salford to form the second-largest Orthodox Jewish community in the United Kingdom.
The name Prestwich is possibly of Saxon origin, derived from Priest Wic, which in Saxon translates to the priest's farmed land. Another possible derivation of the town's name is Priest's Retreat. Wich and wych are names used to denote brine springs or wells in England. Originally derived from the Latin vicus (place) by the 11th century, use of the 'wich' suffix in placenames was usually associated with towns involved with salt production.
The early history of Prestwich is inextricably linked with the church. Prestwich itself has very ancient origins, and at least for the early parts of its history, the fortunes of the village seem to have followed the fortunes of its parish church. It is known that a Rector of Prestwich existed by at least 1200. The present Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin stands at the end of Church Lane in the village centre. Parts of the building date from around 1500, although the last extensions were made at the end of the 19th century. It was the centre of the vast ancient ecclesiastical parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham. For a time in the 19th century, the church was referred to locally as St Bartholomew's, which could be attributed either to the unpopularity of the Blessed Virgin at the time, or to sheer ignorance. The Church Wakes were traditionally held around St Bartholomew's Day, and this could have reinforced the error.
In the 17th and 18th centuries local government was based on the parish structure away from the towns. The lord of the manor administered land tenure and inheritance, but law and order was kept by the constables appointed by the parish, assisted by the church wardens. The local Justices sat in a room called the "Star Chamber" in the Ostrich Inn, now the Church Inn, close to the parish church. The Justice's seat can still be seen in the Church Inn in the area opposite the main bar.
In 1849, St Margaret's Church was erected near the gates of Heaton Park, originally as a chapel of ease to the parish church, but since 1885 as a parish church in its own right. The church was extended many times in the 19th century, in 1863, 1871, 1884, 1888 and 1899. A particular feature of St Margaret's Church, is the splendid Arts and Crafts Movement oak carving (including reredos, choir stalls, rood screen, panelling, pulpit, bishop's chair, altar rails, etc.) by Arthur Simpson of Kendal, widely believed to be the finest collection of his ecclesiastical work.
The Roman Catholic Church in Prestwich began to reappear in late Victorian times. Mass was celebrated in 1889 for the first time since the Reformation. The present Catholic church, dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, was opened in 1931 and consecrated in 1956. There are two local Methodist churches, Heaton Park Methodist Church and Prestwich Methodist Church.
In more recent times, the migration of Jewish families, mainly from Cheetham area of Manchester and Broughton Park in Salford, and later arrival of Muslims into this thriving urban area of Greater Manchester, resulted in the additional presence of synagogues and mosques, alongside Christian places of worship.
Rectors from 1900:
The living of Prestwich was suspended by the Diocese of Manchester in 2002. A priest-in-charge, The Revd. Bryan Hackett residing in the Rectory, was appointed.
Prestwich is a part of Bury South Parliamentary constituency, which has been represented by Labour MP Ivan Lewis since 1997. Since the year 2007 Prestwich has had a Mayor to help Ivan Lewis with his duties in and around Prestwich. The current mayor of Prestwich is Mr Frank Hindle, a life time resident.
Prestwich is bounded on the north by Whitefield on the east by Heaton Park, to the west by the Prestwich Forest Park and the Irwell Valley (Agecroft and Clifton) and to the south by the City of Salford. The two main north-south roads passing from central Manchester to Bury, Bury New Road (A56) and Bury Old Road, traverse the district.
Districts of Prestwich include:
The nature of Prestwich village changed massively in the 1970s, with the erection of the Longfield Shopping Centre. The construction of the motorways near Prestwich also altered the life and habits of the townspeople.
The area of south Prestwich known as Sedgley Park, has a sizeable Jewish population and is served by five synagogues. There are many Jewish businesses, specialist shops and delicatessens along King's Road, Bury New Road and Bury old Road.
There is also a large Irish Catholic community in Prestwich and the surrounding area, served by St Monica's RC High School Specialist Language College, located alongside Bury Old Road, and Our Lady of Grace Primary School on Willow Road.
Prestwich has a wide range of traditional and superstore shopping. The shops of the Jewish community in Prestwich give it a particular distinction.
Prestwich is served by four tram stations on the Metrolink line from Manchester to Bury -
Bury Old Road and Bury New Road both run north-south through the town and there are several east-west routes, including Sheepfoot Lane, Scholes Lane and Hilton Lane.
Prestwich Forest Park consists of 200 hectares of land on the western side of Prestwich incorporating:
While much of the area of the present park was industrialised during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it has mostly now been returned to a more natural state with extensive woodlands, reservoirs and grasslands. While this area has become a haven for wildlife there are still remnants to be found of the area's industrial past. Philips Park, Prestwich Clough and Waterdale Meadow are described in excellent downloadable illustrated leaflets produced by the Metropolitan Borough of Bury Environmental Services Department describing the history, wildlife and points of interest. Drinkwater Park is described in a separate Wikipedia article. Philips park has been designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Prestwich Clough as s Site of Biological Importance (SBI) due to the important contribution they make to the wildlife heritage of Greater Manchester. The Irwell Sculpture Trail, The Irwell Valley Way and a National Cycle Route all pass through the Park. The Friends of Prestwich Forest Park and the BTCV coordinate volunteer activities and events such as the Prestwich Clough Centenary Celebrations. The BTCV have a permanent base in the renovated Philips Park Barn which has become a major environmental education and countryside centre for the borough.
Richard Broxton (1786-1865) Botanist, was born at Sedgeley Hall Farm.
The comedienne Victoria Wood was born in Prestwich.
The band Elbow, from Bury, live in Prestwich.
Actress Amanda Noar was born in Prestwich in 1962.
Dr Montagu Lomax, who was an assistant medical officer at the Prestwich Asylum from 1917 - 1919, exposed the inhuman, custodial and antitherapeutic practices there in a book which led to a Royal Commission, increased central control and ultimately the Mental Treatment Act of 1930. However, much of what Lomax described could still be seen in parts of Prestwich Hospital in the 1960s and 1970s.
The amateur astronomer Michael Oates, who resides in Prestwich, has discovered 144 comets using images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and for almost 5 years, held the world record for the greatest number of comet discoveries by an individual. One other notable resident of the area was the German-born model and singer, Nico, who famously performed on the Velvet Underground's album in 1967, the Velvet Underground and Nico.
Julie Stevens (British actress), who appeared regularly in early episodes of TV series The Avengers and was a mainstay of younger children's TV shows Playschool and Playaway, was born in Prestwich in 1936.
Actress/Director Noreen Kershaw (Albion Market, Brookside, Watching, Hearbeat, Shameless, Life on Mars etc) lives in Prestwich.