William Camden is acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of English local history. His publication of Britannia in 1586 and subsequent additions was the first chorography of the British Isles, notably England and Wales and presents a county by county description of the realm.

William Camden was born in London in 1551, and attended Christ’s Hospital, St Paul’s School and Oxford University. From 1575 he taught at Westminster School but spent holidays travelling for antiquarian research. The first edition Britannia was published in Latin in 1586 and he became headmaster of Westminster in 1593 and Clarenceux King of Arms, a senior officer of the College of Arms, in 1597. He died in 1623.


This is his description of our region as part of his chapter on Durham, Lancashire and Westmorland:-

“On the South part, it is separated from Cheshire with the river Mersey, which, springing forth of the midland hilles having passed a little from his head, becommeth a bound to distinguish the Shires, and with a slow current runneth Westward, calling as it were other rivers (to use the words of the Poet) into his skie-coloured and Azure lappe , and forthwith gladly biddeth welcome unto Irwell from the North, which river bringeth along with him all the rivers of this Eastern part. Among these, Roch is of greatest name, which hath standing upon it in the Vale Rochdale, a mercate towne well frequented, like as Irwell it selfe hath situate upon it Bury, a mercate towne nothing inferiour to the other, and hard by, whiles I carefully sought for Coccium, mentioned by Antonine the Emperour, I saw Cockley, a chappell built of timber, beset round about with trees.  Also Turton Chapell among very steepe downfalls and overgrowen unpleasant places, Turton towre, and Entweissel a proper faire house, which had in times past Gentlemen of that name, as Turton is the seate at this day of the right ancient family of Orell. But where Irke and Irwell meet together, on the left bank, raised of a reddish kind of ston, scarce three miles from Mersey, flourished that town of right great antiquity which we now call Manchester, and Antonine the Emperour called Mancunum and Manucium, according to the variety of the Copies. This, retaining the first part of his ancient name, farre excelleth the townes lying round about it for the beautifull shew it carieth, for resort unto it, and for clothing, in regard also of the mercate place, the faire Church, and Colledge founded by Thomas Lord De-la-ware, a priest (the last heire male of his family) and summoned to the Parliament among the Lords temporall by the name of Magister Thomas De-la-ware. For he descended from the Greleies, who were the ancient Lords of this towne, and by Joane sister of the said Sir Thomas it came to Wests, now Lords De-la-ware. But in the foregoing age this towne was of farre greater account both for certain wollen clothes there wrought and in great request, commonly called Manchester Cottons, and also for the libertie of a Sanctuary, which under King Henrie the Eighth was by Parlamentary authority translated to Chester. In a parke of the Earle of Derbies neare adjoining called Alparke, where the brooke Medlocke entreth into Irwell, I saw the plot and ground worke of an ancient Fortresse built foure square, commonly called Mancastle, which I will not in any wise say was that ancientMancunium, it is contained in so narrow a peece of ground, but rather the Fort of Mancunium and station of the Romans where they kept watch and ward, at which I saw this ancient inscription in a long stone to the memorie of Candidus a Centurion:”


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