Chairman of Westhoughton Local Board: 1879-81 (Conservative)
Born: Hindley Grove, Hindley, Lancashire 25 March 1824
Died: Westhoughton 17 April 1902
Educated: Ormskirk Grammar School
After leaving school, 'Mr Peter', as he was familiarly known, helped his father in his cotton spinning business at the Union Mill, Westhoughton. During Chartist riots he spoke to the mob outside the mill and calmed the situation. He continued to run the mill after the death of his father in 1854. He retired from active business in 1870 but the mill was worked with varying success by his family and other manufacturers until it closed and was demolished in 1899.
He was a Member of the Board of Guardians, an Overseer of the Poor and a member of the Burial Board from 1857. He also served as a Member of the old Highways Board. These various boards were the only governing bodies in Westhoughton before 1872. Peter Ditchfield and others were the initiators of the campaign for better local government, the main motive being the improvement of sanitary conditions.
Elected to Westhoughton Local Board 1878. He was elected Chairman in 1879 but afterwards he did not again seek office.
He held the office of Churchwarden of Westhoughton from 1861 to 1862 and again in 1870 when the new church was consecrated. He was a school manager for many years, the local representative to the Manchester Diocesan Conference and a Trustee of the Westhoughton Church Sick Society. During the greater part of his life he was the friend and advisor to successive Vicars of Westhoughton.
He was one of the founders and the first President of the Westhoughton Mechanics Institute, established in 1858.
On his marriage to Mary Elizabeth Hampson he went to live in Sunny Bank, Market Street, which was "built to bring his bride to". The house adjoining, South View, was built as a house for some aunts of Mrs Ditchfield. Sunny Bank eventually became part of the town's War memorial scheme, the house being converted into a Maternity and Child Welfare Clinic. The Council purchased and equipped a motor ambulance, bought Sunny Bank and on the space among the trees in front of the building, erected a Cornish granite cross with the names of the fallen on the base.
He also leased the land opposite his house as a garden, so that the view from Sunny Bank would remain uninterrupted, and this is now laid out as a small park.
His son, Peter Hampson Ditchfield (1854-1930), achieved national and international fame as a writer and is one of Westhoughton's most famous sons. He was a Church of England clergyman - the Rector of Barkham in Berkshire - but he also wrote and edited over 60 books on archaeology, folklore, old customs etc, for the ordinary reader. He was known as the Historian of the English Village. Many of his books are still in print and some are standard works on the subject, for example, Old English Sports (Pastimes and Customs), published 1891.
There is a collection of his books in Westhoughton Library.
A full account of the Ditchfield family can be found in Memorials of the Ditchfield Family of Westhoughton compiled by Robert Walmsley (Privately printed 1941).