John Birch Commonplace Book

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 914
  • Dates of Creation
      late 17th to early 18th Century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      144 x 93 mm. 1 volume (123 folios);
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Commonplace book of John Birch, containing miscellaneous notes and a number of extracts from Sessions Records, including copies of a licence for Edmund Trafford, recusant, to travel to Buxton, Derbyshire (1679) and of an authorisation to levy a tax for the erection of stocks and a rogues' post in Eccles, Lancashire (1687). It also contains a number of recipes of cures for various ailments, particularly for the treatment of horses. Examples of treatments include: dressing sores; curing strains; administering purges; 'how to manage mad young horse' (ff. 9-10); 'when grease is fallen into the legs' (f. 22); as well as a 'description of a well shap’d horse' (f. 21v); and 'to keep horse cloths from moths' (f. 5r). Folios 38-42 and 44-103 are blank.

On folio 121v is a note that James Birch son of John Birch of Samlesbury was born on 2 July and baptized on 24 July 1682.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Birch estate in Rusholme, Manchester, descended from about 1260 until 1743 in a family who took their name from it. Several members are said to have distinguished themselves in the French wars of the fifteenth century. The most notable member of the family was Colonel Thomas Birch (bap. 1608, d. 1678), a Puritan and Parliamentarian who played an active role in the Civil Wars in Lancashire and was MP for Liverpool from 1649 to 1658. A cadet branch of the family, the Birches of Ardwick, produced Colonel John Birch (1615-1691), who also served with the Parliamentary forces, and sat in the Cavalier and Exclusion parliaments.

It has not been possible to identify the John Birch who was the original owner of the present volume. The inscription on folio 20 implies that he was still living in 1715, precluding Colonel John Birch.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the John Rylands Library by Reginald Sharpe France esq. in August 1938.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow, Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, with reference to:

  • John Booker, A history of the ancient chapel of Birch, in Manchester parish, Chetham Society, Old Series, vol. 47 (1859);
  • William Farrer and J. Brownbill (eds), The Victoria history of the county of Lancaster, volume 4 (London: Constable, 1911), pp. 303-9.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of Additions to the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 914).

Custodial History

Former owners: John Birch (inscriptions on folios 122v and 1r); John Lowe: inscription on folio 20r: This book was given me by old Officer Birch 12th January 1715 and ye receipts therein being of his owne hand writeing were in great esteem by many of ye Gent. (his friends) abt. Stretford [Lancashire], some of which he kept secrett (particulerly yt for throwing of an horse) & never did discover ye same till such tyme as he gave me this Book. J. Lowe.


John Booker, A history of the ancient chapel of Birch, in Manchester parish, Chetham Society, Old Series, vol. 47 (1859).

Geographical Names