The Cart and Horses is a public house in Astley, owned by the Joseph Holt Brewery Company. The pub looks like a typical nineteenth century building, if not a little grand for an everyday pub. This post will explore the hidden history and the former life of the Cart and Horses, Astley.

The Cart and Horses (formerly The Farnworths), 2015 (Source: Own Photograph, 2015)

Town Lane House

The Cart and Horses is an old pub, in fact it has existed since the mid-nineteenth century. It exists in the part of Astley which was historically known as Town Lane, but today it would be more commonly known locally as part of Blackmoor. The pub however was actually located across the road from its current location until 1920. The large detached building in which the pub is currently located was once a private house, known as “The Farnworths” after the very wealthy and influential local family who resided there.

The house, which sometimes is described as Town Lane House, is a detached brick-built property which looks to date from the early nineteenth century. It features a Flemish Bond façade  with a stone sill band underneath the upper-storey windows. The three first floor windows on the front of the property are two-over-two sash windows with stone lintels and sills which again comply to the plain, symmetrical late-Georgian style of architecture. The ground floor façade has been heavily altered over time, including a large ornate entrance porch with wrought iron decoration which was added in the late nineteenth century and is visible on maps from the 1890s onwards. The bay windows were likely added during the conversion from house to pub in the 1920s.

The Farnworth Family

The house was inhabited by the Farnworth family. The head of the family was fustian manufacturer-turned-farmer John Farnworth (1778-1845). He resided there with his wife Rachel (nee Peters) (1780-1853) and their children; Elizabeth (1806), Arnold (1808), Peter (1812), John (1813), Thomas (1816).

The Farnworth family had their roots in Astley in the eighteenth century, Arnold Farnworth (the father of John) appears in the 1794 trade directory for Astley under the “Gentry” section. John Farnworth himself was an influential member of society in Astley. In 1822 he and several other prominent residents of Astley signed a petition against the appointment of Rev. Thomas Birkett as the new curate of Astley.  The Vicar of Leigh, Rev. Hodgkinson met with the local people, who formed “the committee of action”, at the Fleece Inn where they held an election for a new vicar. Their candidate won 287 votes compared to Thomas Birkett’s 16 votes. Hodgkinson pushed ahead with his decision regardless and this led to the famous Chapel Riot. In July 1822 Birkett was greeted by a crowd, around a thousand persons strong, who tried to bar his entry to the Church.

Farnworth’s trade and social links also extended into Bedford, which later became a part of Leigh in 1875. In 1823 Farnworth founded the Bedford Brewery with Richard Guest, although Farnworth later withdrew from the partnership. He was a good friend of John Guest, the surgeon of Pennington and was one of the executors of Guest’s will. In his own will (which was written in 1816 but updated shortly before his death in 1845), Farnworth left items which John Guest had bequest to him, back to the Guest family.

The census reveals the wealthy Farnworth’s employ four servants; Richard Smith and Henry Brimelow are agricultural servants whereas Susan Brimelow and Margaret Unsworth are domestic servants.

The next census of 1851 reveals more about the family’s fortune. Now a widow and aged 75, Rachel Farnworth is recorded as a landed proprietor, as is her daughter Elizabeth. Three of her sons who still live at home; Arnold, Peter and Thomas have not followed their father’s footsteps in farming and instead they have their own cotton spinning mill, employing 120 people. Again there are two domestic servants living with the family, Rachel and Mary Peters.

The lives of the Farnworth children would prove instrumental in the development of both Astley and Leigh, even over a century after they died. This next part of the blog post will look at the lives of some of the former residents of The Farnworths.

The Farnworth Brothers

Arnold Farnworth ran the small family farm of 4 acres after the death of his father. His two brothers, Thomas and Peter Farnworth went into the cotton manufacturing business (the other brother, John, died in 1849 aged 35). Their mill, Union Mill, was situated off Chapel Street in Bedford, Leigh. The mill, which was supplied with water from the Bedford Brook, held 14,500 spindles and featured a card room, scutching room, warehouse, mechanics workshop and smith’s shops.

According to John Lunn, the mill caused some disruption between the two brothers. On Manchester Road (opposite The Farnworths) one brother built a row of cottages, which led the other brother to build a row of cottages adjacent to these with the intention of spoiling the view. These cottages were known locally as “Triangle Row” and stood until 1960 as a testament to the rivalry between the Farnworth brothers.

4 Nov 1865
“LOST, on Tuesday Evening last, the 31st October, 1865, a small YELLOW DOG, answers to the name of “Terrey.” – Any person bringing him to THOMAS FARNWORTH, Astley, will be rewarded.” (Source: Leigh Chronicle, 4 November 1865, p.2)

Arnold Farnworth died in 1868, shortly after his death the house stood unoccupied. On 10th August that year four young men; Thomas Marsh, Timothy Walshaw, James Pendleton and Alan Lythoge broke into the property around 11pm at night. They then began drinking and smashing the windows. The four men were caught and ordered to pay 35 shillings each and an addition 5 shillings and costs.

Peter Farnworth married Ellen Faulkner in 1855 and moved to Galzebrook, he died in 1871. In 1883 after the death of Thomas Farnworth, Union Mill was sold by the executors of his estate. In the following years the mill was demolished and Alder Mill built in its place. However the legacy of the Farnworth family still exists in Bedford today; Farnworth Street, Thomas Street, Peter Street, Battersby Street, Lingard Street and Astley Street are all names and locations associated with the Farnworth family.

Elizabeth Farnworth

Elizabeth Farnworth was the only daughter and after the death of her brother Arnold she lived alone at The Farnworth’s along with two maids. Elizabeth was a very wealthy lady, the 1871 census records her occupation as “income from land, houses etc” as her father had divided his estate equally among his five children at the time of his death. Her wealthy background meant Elizabeth was part of a minority of women in nineteenth century Britain who retained some of their own personal autonomy. The cost of this independence was that Elizabeth and many of her contemporaries would never marry (although there of course would be many reasons behind this).

Until 1882, a married couple were seen as a one person under British law and married women in the United Kingdom (including all Ireland at this time) would surrender all their legal rights and property to their husband upon marriage. Any personal property a woman acquired during her marriage; from houses and land to clothes and crockery automatically belonged to her husband, as did any children.  In contrast unmarried women like Elizabeth retained full control of their property, finances and any inheritance. This archaic system was changed by the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act which created more of an equal balance between the sexes.

The Farnworth family grave, located at St. George’s churchyard, Tyldesley (Source: Own Photograph, 2015)

Elizabeth died at The Farnworths in October 1886, her estate was valued at £4162 6s 3d (£408,900 in modern terms). Her estate proved controversial as she had no appointed next of kin and several second cousins came forward to make their claim, which eventually made its way to court. Elizabeth appointed her sister-in-law Mary Ann Farnworth and her solicitor Mr Widdows as the executors of her will. In her will, Elizabeth a specific bequest:

“If at any time in the period twenty-one years from my death an infirmary or public hospital shall be established at Leigh, in the country of Lancaster, and be fit for the reception of patients then I direct my trustees to pay the sum of one thousand pounds out of such part of my personal estate as may by law be bequeathed for charitable purposes.”

By the time Leigh Infirmary was established in 1905, the value of her bequest had doubled in value. Leigh Infirmary is still widely used today and undoubtedly this is due to the charitable nature of Elizabeth Farnworth.

Mary Ann Farnworth

After the death of Elizabeth, her sister-in-law Mary Ann Farnworth moved into The Farnworths. Thomas Farnworth married Mary Ann Battersby in December 1860 at St. Stephen’s, Astley. At the time of marriage, Thomas was 44 years old and Mary Ann was aged 22.

Mary Ann had already had a hard life, despite her young age. She was the daughter of Peter Cocker, a silk agent and she had come from a relatively humble working class background in Leigh. She married her first husband, Thomas Battersby, a cotton manufacturer in 1855. They had three children; James in 1856 and twins Mary and Thomas in 1858. Their daughter Mary sadly died in December 1858 and the younger son, Thomas passed aged 10 weeks in February 1859 and his father then died in May 1859.  Mary Ann’s eldest child, James died in February 1860 aged 3. It is unimaginable the loss Mary Ann must have felt to lose her entire family in just over a year. After her second marriage, Thomas and Mary Ann Farnworth, who had no children themselves, lived at The Lingards in Astley (located behind The Farnworths).

In November 1886, Mary Ann arranged for a two-day auction of furniture and fittings at The Farnworths. The house consisted of an entrance hall, parlour, dining room, morning room, kitchen, pantry, five bedrooms, a dressing room and a wash house. Among the items auctioned were: a walnut sideboard with marble slab, a chandelier, a mahogany eight-day clock, two rocking chairs, carpets, rugs, two four-post beds, oak desk, night commode, 14 linen sheets (white and coloured), butlers tray, 10 cut glass decanters, custard glasses, china tea service in gold, 196 piece dinner service in blue, a stone cheese press and a copy of the Bible dating from 1593.

20 october 1911
Advertisement for a new maid at The Farnworths. (Source: Leigh Chronicle, 20 October 1911, p.1)

After she moved to The Farnworths Mary Ann took charge of her young niece, Hannah Barnes Barrow (b.1873). During the 1880s Hannah’s father’s business took an unfortunate turn and her parents must have sent her to Astley for a better start in life. Mary Ann, like her sister-in-law before her, was an extremely wealthy lady. She had inherited land and property from both marriages in Astley, Glazebrook, Bedford and Westleigh and by the early 1900s terraced houses were starting to be built on the land, proving to be a prosperous venture for Mary Ann Farnworth. The living situation proved successful as Hannah stayed living with her aunt for over a decade until her marriage to Frank Arrowsmith in 1906. Her husband was the heir to the Arrowsmith family of Astley, the only mill owners in the area and acquaintances of Mary Ann’s. The local newspaper The Leigh Chronicle provided a description of the bride and the wedding:

” The bride looked well in hydrangea blue taffeta silk with white hat and feathers, and carried a bouquet of pink roses, and wore a sapphire and diamond brooch, the gift of the bridegroom… Mrs Farnworth was attired in black silk and chenille with lace bonnet ornamented with pink flowers, and carried a bouquet of yellow daisies…Subsequently a reception was held at Mrs Farnworth’s house, and Mrs and Mrs Arrowsmith afterwards left for Scotland, where the honeymoon will be spent.”

By 1911 Mary Ann was living in the eleven-roomed house with her two maids, 22 year old Elizabeth Smith and 16 year old Lois Lyons. Mary Ann seems to have had trouble finding suitable maids as she advertises the position consecutively in 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912. Next door to The Farnworths stands a single story cottage, this was purpose-built by Mary Ann Farnworth for Edward Shuttleworth and his family. Shuttleworth had worked as a coachman and gardener for Mary Ann for decades and had lived in “Farnworth Lodge” since at least 1891.

Mary Ann Farnworth was also involved in charitable projects in Astley and the wider area, she donated toys and gifts each Christmas to the patients at Astley Sanatorium. Mary Ann died in 1920 at the ages of 82, her estate was valued at £62,993 (which in modern terms would make her a millionaire at £2.2 million).

“Farnworth Lodge” – home to the coachman and gardener in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (Source: Own Photograph, 2015)

The Cart and Horses

The property was purchased by the Joseph Holt Brewery Company in 1920 and they subsequently transferred the license of their pub, The Cart and Horses, to the former dwelling house after which the old building used by The Cart and Horses was then demolished. The pub was an old institution dating back to at least 1835 when it was ran by a Mr John Peters. In 1841 John Porter is recorded at the pub, he also works as a joiner. In 1851 Richard and Betty Stott are landlords followed by George and Lucy Grundy in 1871.

The decorative vestibule door at The Cart and Horses featuring etched glass. (Source: Own Photograph, 2015)

The Cart and Horses still runs from The Farnworths to this day and it retains original features incorporating the building’s history as both a house and as a pub of the early twentieth century. The building was home to residents who played an important part in the development of Astley and Leigh and as a public house, the building continues to play an important role in the local community today.

Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath



  • John Lunn, A Short History of the Township of Astley (Manchester: Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited, 1968) pp.68-71 p.101
  • Bolton Chronicle, 14 November 1835, p.1
  • Leigh Chronicle, 4 November 1865, p.2
  • Leigh Chronicle, 22 August 1868, p.3
  • Leigh Chronicle, 21 September 1883, p.4
  • Leigh Chronicle, 12 November 1886, p.4
  • Leigh Chronicle, 27 May 1887, p.5
  • Leigh Chronicle, 1 January 1904 p.8
  • Leigh Chronicle, 8 January 1904, p.8
  • Leigh Chronicle, 5 May 1905, p.6
  • Leigh Chronicle, 31 August 1906, p.5
  • Leigh Chronicle, 4 December 1908, p.5
  • Leigh Chronicle, 20 October 1911, p.1