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ATHERTON, or Chowbent, an urban district in the Leigh
parliamentary division of Lancashire, England, 13 m. W.N.W.
of Manchester on the London & North-Western and Lancashire
& Yorkshire railways. Pop. (1901) 16,211. The cotton factories
are the principal source of industry; there are also iron-works
and collieries. The manor was held by the local family of
Atherton from John’s reign to 1738, when it passed by marriage
to Robert Gwillym, who assumed that name. In 1797 his
eldest daughter and co-heiress married Thomas Powys, afterwards
the second Lord Lilford. Up to 1891 the lord of the manor
held a court-leet and court-baron annually in November, but
in that year Lord Lilford sold to the local board the market
tolls, stallages and pickages, and since this sale the courts have
lapsed. The earliest manufactures were iron and cotton. Silk-weaving,
formerly an extensive industry, has now almost
entirely decayed. The first chapel or church was built in 1645.
James Wood, who became Nonconformist minister in the chapel
at Atherton in 1691, earned fame and the familiar title of
“General” by raising a force from his congregation, uncouthly
armed, to fight against the troops of the Pretender (1715).
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