Despite having a charter since 1220, Stockport never had a town hall before the present one. There are mentions of a town hall in the 1830s, but no indication of what this building was, or where it was situated. It certainly was not a town hall that councillors could occupy in their pomp and regalia. Councillors met in public buildings such as the White Lion, or Warren Bulkeley, and latterly in the Courthouse on Vernon Street.
At the same meeting in 1841 that the council adopted a plan to make a public park at Vernon, they also passed a motion to plan a town hall and public baths, at a cost of £5,000 (£640,000 in 2020), and it was to be constructed on St Peter’s Square. The cost of the building was to be met by a share issue.
The scheme was to put the baths on the lower part of the building, and the second storey was to have offices and a large room with a capacity of 4,000 people, which could be let to shareholders for public meetings. Although there was interest, the project never did get off the ground.
By the end of the 19th century, the clamour again grew for the construction of a hall. The ratepayers were not happy, as they knew that they would have to foot the bill, and a petition against signed by 2,000 was presented to the Mayor at the meeting which passed the motion to build a town hall.
The council ignored the wishes of the ratepayers. It was determined that the budget should not exceed £60,000 (2020 £7.8m). After much discussion and a vote it was however conceded that construction could not proceed until the ratepayers had been consulted in a poll.
They must have had a satisfactory result, or just ignored the need for a poll, for in 1902 a competition was announced for architects to submit plans to build a town hall on the site of the National Schools, opposite The Stockport Infirmary.
Five prizes for the best designs were announced, ranging from £50 to the first prize of £250. The original budget of £60,000 was held, and the new hall was to have a public hall which could seat 2,000, with a small stage and galleries to the end and sides. There was also to be a council chamber, three committee rooms, a mayors parlour and departmental offices. The front was to be built in stone.
The winning architect was Alfred Brumwell Thomas, it is fair to say he had a style, and I hope it is not too much of a spoiler to show you his other designs.
Having selected the architect, the builder was then chosen and William Pownall submitted the lowest bid at £54,496 to build it in Portland Stone (Crossland Stone came in cheaper at £53,776, the council chose Portland). On October 15 1904 the foundation stone was laid by the Mayor, Alderman Giles Atherton, to the sound of a procession that passed down Warren Street, Bridge Street, Heaton Lane and up Wellington Road.
As with all public works, the construction did not go to budget, and the actual expenditure came in nearly 60% over at £95,875-13s (£11.7m in 2020). Most of this appears to arise from additional expenditure required on departmental offices, a committee suite and the council chamber, plus £1,500 for stained glass, £400 for private telephones, and £300 for electric clocks. Brumwell Thomas was not too concerned, he was knighted that year.
On the 12 July 1907 the topstone was laid by brave councillors acting as steeplejacks. The stone, one ton in weight contained in its cavity, a leaden casket which held a scroll signed by all members of the committee, corporation documents, newspapers and some gold coins added by the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Ferns. It was hauled into position by electric crane and Alderman Hamnett and Councillor Coupe then climbed a ladder and assisted in the final positioning.
The following March, Sir Alfred and the gentlemen of the press were afforded the privilege of a visit to the nearly completed building. The following week, the departments moved in. The building was heated by fires, central heating radiators and ventilated using the Plenum system.
All that was left now was the grand opening, and for that Stockport had the honour of its first ever official royal visit, and for that the Prince and Princess of Wales travelled from Eaton Hall in Chester to Stockport on 7 July 1908 to take part in the celebrations and open the Town Hall.
The Royal Party arrived at Tiviot Dale Station, having left Chester at 2:20 pm that afternoon, on a special train containing their royal saloon, being accompanied by their hosts at Eaton Hall, the Duke and Duchess of Westminster, Sir Arthur Bigge, the Prince’s private secretary, Lord Crichton, his aide de camp, Colonel Wilford Lloyd, the standard bearer of the Gentlemen at Arms and Prince Francis Of Teck, his brother in law.
At Tiviot Dale the party was greeted by the Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs Bell. The morning rain had stopped and the Prince inspected the guard of honour, then entered his coach, at which point 4,000 schoolchildren burst out singing God Bless the Prince of Wales, and waved their flags, whilst the party made its way to the Town Hall.
The Mayor, Mayoress and Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas were on hand to greet them at the new Town Hall, and Sir Alfred presented the Prince with a key to the main door. The Royal Party proceeded to a platform in the Assembly Room and listened to the assembled dignatories make speeches, before the Prince gave his return address and officially declared the Town Hall open.
The Prince and Princess then returned to Tiviot Dale for the journey back, and arrived at the station at 5:35pm, boarding the train to Chester, and thence being chauffeured back to Eaton Hall in motor cars.
During his visit, the Prince of Wales pointed out to the Mayor an error in His Coat of Arms on the West Window, which was corrected the following year. The whole ceremony was reported widely, even making a full page feature in the Illustrated London News a few days later:
The clock tower has neither chime nor bells, in consideration of the patients at the Infirmary across the road. It is a rather beautiful building, known locally as the Wedding Cake. Pevsner considered the tower a little too high and too heavy for the rest of the structure.
The part of Heaton Lane from Tiviot Dale to Wellington Road was renamed Prince’s Street in honour of The Royal Visit. In 1915, the rather unfortunately named Alfred Birch, aged 11, of Karn Street in Stockport took to the pillars of the building with a small hammer and caused £5 worth of damage. For this he received six strokes of the birch rod.
The Buildings of England, Cheshire, Niklaus Pevnser: Penguin, 1971.
Lyme Handley is first mentioned in the late 14th century. In 1346 the Cheshire Cavalry were engaged under Edward, the Black Prince at the battle of Crecy. Thomas Danyers distinguished himself above all others on rescuing the Standard and capturing, Tankerville, Chamberlain of France, and for this he was awarded an annuity of 40 marks per annum until a convenient grant of land could be made. Thomas died before this but Richard II granted the manor of Lyme Handley to Margaret Danyers, his daughter.
Margaret married Piers Leigh (her third husband) Soon after he became Sir Piers, being a favourite of the king. However, not so favoured by the Duke Of Lancaster who had him beheaded in Chester on August 10 1399, and his head fixed on the East Gate. He was eventually interred in Macclesfield.
Margaret lived on for 30 more years. The son and heir, Sir Peter Legh fought at Agincourt in 1415 but died in Paris in 1422, and was buried in Macclesfield. He married Joan, the daughter of Gilbert De Haydock and his son Peter (1415-1478), succeeded to the estate on reaching his majority.
His son Piers (1456-1527) succeeded in the estate, and married into the Savage dynasty. He took holy orders and died at Lyme. Peter, his son (1488-1541) succeeded him. On his death the Lyme Handley estate measured 40 acres of meadow, 1,000 of wood and 2,000 of moor, with 35 properties.
The line descended to Peter’s (1488-1541) great grandson, Sir Peter (1572-1635) who served as High Sherrif of Chester and married secondly, Dorothy, the daughter of Sir Richard Egerton, and widow of Richard Brereton of Tatton and Worsley. His son Peter, displeased his father in marrying Anne Howley, the daughter of the First Lord Saville of Pontefract, and their son Peter, being under age on the death of his grandfather, Anne had to obtain the custody, wardship and marriage of her son by paying the Earl of Chester £2,000.
Peter served as MP for Newton, but fought a duel in London in 1642, and was fatally wounded. It was his uncle Francis who succeeded him, but only for a short while as he died in 1643 and the estate passed to his nephew, Richard, the son of the Reverend Thomas Legh of Sefton and Walton. He was MP for Cheshire and would have fought in the Cheshire Rising of 1658 to restore the monarchy, but was thrown into York Prison.
His son Peter succeeded him, but was accused of treason in wishing to restore James II, and imprisoned at Chester. He was discharged without trial, and founded Warrington Holy Trinity Church in 1709. His only son and heir Piers died in 1725 and Peter died in 1734.
He was therefore succeeded by his nephew Fleetwood Legh, who died without male issue, being succeeded by his brother, Peter. This Peter died at Lyme in 1792, aged 85, but again a lack of male issue meant that the estate passed to his eldest nephew, Thomas Peter Legh (1753-1796), who died suddenly in Edinburgh and to his son Thomas, who carried out the first survey of Petra, then to William John Legh (1828-1898).
William John’s son, Thomas (1857-1942) was an MP and was succeeded by Richard Legh (1888-1960) who donated Lyme to the National Trust.
Lyme Hall is the largest country house in Cheshire, and the current building dates back to the 16th century. It was further altered in the 19th and 20th centuries. The previous building is first mentioned in 1465 but that was demolished when the current house was built.
It is without a doubt the best known of the Halls, and many will have been there°, so let us experience a visit from 1842, as described in the Buxton Herald.
(The drive from Buxton is ) a remarkable ride, and affords a wonderful change of scenery… over the loftiest hills in Derbyshire and then descending into the rich vales of Cheshire and Lancashire, accompanied with a most commanding view of one of the richest and most populous districts perhaps in the world. Before descending the last steps of the millstone grit just beyond Disley, and near the turn to Lyme Hall this view is obtained, and appears almost boundless, except to the east, which is bounded by the English Appenine, but to the north and west the only boundary line appears to be the blue heavens, comprehending a magnificent view of a beautiful champaign country, stretching towards Lancaster, fifty or sixty miles distant to the north, and far beyond Liverpool to the sea westward. But we anticipate.
The road from Buxton to Manchester leads over the lowest point of Combe’s Moss, the top of which towers to our right, and the lofty summit of Axe Edge may be seen to our left, upon which the Macclesfield road winds. At the top of the long road (as it is called), nearly two miles from Buxton, we attain an elevation of seventeen hundred feet above the sea level. Here scarcely anything but bleak moors meet the eye of the spectator. Goyte Moss which bounds the valley of that name is most conspicuous. From hence there is a delightful run down the inclined plain of the valley of the Goyte, for full five miles, till reaching Whaley Bridge, where, on passing the stream, we enter Cheshire, and leave the bleak and dark heathy hills for the rich plains already noticed.
The transition is striking and deeply interesting. The whole valley forward on the right appears filled with cotton, dying and bleaching mills; and here too commences the immense Manchester coalfield.
The ride to Disley (four miles further) is very pretty. The elegant church of New Mills is seen to the left before reaching this place, and the road is excellent. We were charmed with the situation of Disley and its beautiful lake, ancient church and sweet scenery. Here good accommodation may be obtained for parties at the Ram’s Head Inn, kept by as worthy a Boniface as ever lived, Mr Atkinson, who has the privilege of supplying his friends with tickets to view the Hall, the distance to which from his hostelry is about a mile and a half. The situation of Lyme Hall from the Manchester Road appears dreary, and the park which is stocked with red deer, is more like an uncultivated waste; the house however is a noble structure and the materials with which it is stored are of the deepest interest., which will well repay the visiter for the distance he has come. The building is quadrangular and handsome, the stone used in its erection is a white coloured gritstone, no doubt originally obtained from quarries in the neighbourhood: it is ornamented with colossal and other figures of the same material; and whether taken for the beauty of its architecture, or its general noble and majestic appearance, it cannot fail to excite the imagination of the beholder.
The more ancient part was built about the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth. The south and west fronts are of the ionic order, from a design by Leoni. A spacious terrace neatly flagged, guarded by immense iron railings with gates, and a porter’s lodge, indicates principal entrance or archway leading into the inner square or courtyard. He we obeyed the order to “ring” and a very respectable middle aged female soon made her appearance and led us across the square, up a flight of steps to the Great Hall, which we found well lined with paintings by ancient and modern artists, and adorned with curious specimens of armour amongst which is part of that worn by Sir Perkin Legh at the famous battle of Crecy, AD 1346; for his valour on which occasion Edward the Third knighted him, and gave him this estate.
The most curious object is a full length picture of the Black Prince in complete armour, There are also two of the said Sir Perkin Legh; one isn his armour, the other in a Court Dress. The more modern are those of the Colonel and the present Mr Legh.
The Drawing room is exceedingly handsome: the rich and antique carved work of the sides, mantel piece and ceiling – the drapery and furniture both bespeaking bygone days – are well adapted to the whole; the windows are of richly stained glass, in amongst other devices are represented the Knights of the Garter of Henry the Eighth; all these combined to give a mystic splendour to the scene not easily described.
In one of the chambers the walls are lined with ancient tapestry, still very fresh and perfect. The subject is Leander and Hero. One side of this room represents the former swimming across the Hellespont to pay his devotions to the latter.
Another, where he has fallen a victim to his romantic attachment – Cupid from a rock near appears to be mourning over his hapless fate. The broken bow and quiver are beautifully conceived emblems of despair. The other sides pourtray the rest of this historical fable.
In another room is a most singular article of antique furniture – a very curiously carved four-post bed said to be that in which the Black Prince slept during his stay at Lyme: which reckoning only from the death of the brave Plantagenet would make it above four hundred and sixty two years old! – yet it appears as free from decay as when it turned from the joiner’s hands; and being kept bright resembles ebony.
The Picture Gallery contains a variety of subjects, some of which are from the Heathen Mythology. – The Library, Music Room &c are all worthy of the stranger’s attention. – The Servants’ Hall contains an extraordinary son of Nimrod, who lived to a great age, and could boast of having “gone out” with five generations of the Legh family.
Parties might turn out of their way to see Lyme Hall, on their way to the north, if time permitted, but the drive back to Buxton will be found exceedingly interesting.
In 1947 after Lyme was gifted to the National Trust in 1946 the National Coal Board eyed up the estate for open cast mining. Fortunately this was seen off. This was not a light threat. In what was effectively a war of spite against the land owners of the day, the NCB commenced such a mine at the Wentworth Woodhouse Estate near Rotherham, which continued up to the early 1950s, causing the loss of woodland and subsidence in the building. This was despite the Fitzwilliam family being generally seen as good employers and the local Yorkshire branch of the NUM threatening to strike if the plan progressed.
Fortunately the Hall and grounds survive in the hands of the National Trust and we can visit today
°Except I’m ashamed to say, me.
Cheshire Notes and Queries, The Advertiser Office, 1888
We will stay in Heaton Mersey, and meet perhaps my favourite of all the characters we have encountered in our tour of Stockport – John Hall.
Mersey Bank House stood in that select little rich group of houses at the top of Didsbury Road, at the top of the hill overlooking the Cheshire Plain and the River Mersey, well away from the pollution in the valley.
Thanks, to the early deaths of the first two inhabitants we have a description and a good idea of when it was built – 1840.
In the Manchester Courier of 11 April 1843, Mersey Bank is described as a mansion with pleasure grounds, lying 5 miles from Manchester (I suspect the auctioneers were being a little liberal with the definition of Manchester centre) and 1½ miles from Stockport centre and Heaton Norris (newly renamed from Stockport, as the Edgeley station had just been opened on the other side of the viaduct) station – which had trains departing every hour.
On the ground floor there was an entrance hall with a stone staircase and dome light dining room, a drawing room, breakfast room and study, as well as kitchens and a butler’s pantry. The principal kitchen was 19 feet square (that does seem a little cramped at 1.76m² ) We will return to the kitchen next time and find out some of the dishes that were cooked there. From the kitchen there was a back staircase for servants’ access.
Upstairs there were five bedrooms, three of which had attached dressing rooms, the two largest bedrooms each a comfortable 23 feet by 18 feet (38m²). The house was well equipped as there was not only a store room and water closet but also a bath with hot and cold running water, quite well provided for 1840.
There were also cellars and wash houses but also a large conservatory heated by hot water, this was truly cutting edge as this technology had only begun in the 1830s, and radiators did not reach mass market (that is a comfortably off mass market) until Franz San Galli invented his radiator in St Petersburg around 1855. The heating was probably fired by a wood or coal boiler.
Outside there was a coach house, with stabling for five horses, and the gardens were southern facing, with good soil, choice fruit trees and the house itself was situated in one of the most salubrious neighbourhoods in Manchester with views over the Mersey and Alderley Edge. The grounds covered 15,198 square yards (12700 m² or 3.1 acres) and was surrounded by a fence.
Having seen a description of the house, let us meet the first inhabitants. George Bowring and his wife, Sarah Milnes. George was born on 22 November 1777 in Edensor, and baptised in the Parish Church there six days later.
The Bowrings were a Derbyshire family who can be traced back to the 1600s . In the 1700s they were living in Edensor near Chatsworth in Derbyshire. George was the son of William Bowring and Ann Marple. WIlliam and Anne had nine children and he was one of perhaps two children from the family who left the area. In 1810 we find him in Stockport where he married Sarah Milnes (1781-1849) and became an Innkeeper at the Robin Hood Tavern on Higher Hillgate. His brother, William (b 1775) , followed him to Stockport and in late 1813 William fell foul of John Lloyd, the Stockport Solicitor when he was heard to utter Damnation to the House of Brunswick and a speedy downfall to it whilst making a toast in a local public house.
Charles Prescott, the magistrate committed him to Chester Castle to stand trial, as his brother refused to bail him. The matter was reported by the snickety Mr Lloyd to the Home Office in a letter to the Home Office highlighting the seditious language. New Mills is obviously not one of Mr Lloyd’s chosen destinations.
I have the honor to transmit to you copies of Informations taken against a man of the name of .. Bowring some little time ago respecting some seditious Expressions uttered by him at a public house in this Town, and which, owing to the presence of military characters, it cou’d not and ought not to be overlooked. He was consequently taken up under a Warrant obtained from the revd. C. Prescot, our resident magistrate, who directed him to find Bail – and not being able to do so, he was committed to Chester Castle where he now remains; and, if you direct it, may be indicted at the next Assizes, or required by the may consent in court to enter into Recognizance for his future good behaviour, but certainly some notice must be taken and the reasons I have stated. I was aware it wou’d be required of me to state further circumstances for you to form your Judgement upon, and I have therefore made such enquiries, as struck me to be necessary. Bowring followed the Trade of a master Butcher in a small way, at a populous village in Derbyshire called New Mills 8 miles from this Town — a place notorious for profligacy of manners and formerly for disaffection to the Government. (but which latter I shod hope cannot generally now prevail even there.)—I have been informed he has been in the habit of drinking the Toast charged agt him altho’ he has been cautioned & warned of the impropriety & the consequences—It seems he had hitherto been encouraged by the impunity—He has a Brother, keeping a public house here who refused to bail him He (the Prisr) is not a very drunken man—but was somewhat in liquor at the time he uttered the words—however he was at that time cautioned by those present that anticipated the words of the intended Toast to be seditious; and upon the whole I have found that he is an object for chastisement — and shod the great Government Law Officers not recommend the prosecution at the public expence I will take some steps to keep him under alarm, till with a view to his being placed under a Recognizance at least. I have the honor²
Apart from this setback George appears to have done well from his trade as a landlord and in 1841 he is to be found retired, living at the newly built Mersey Bank House, on Independent means. Sarah died on 16 November 1849, and in 1851 George was living on Chestergate. He died on 2 January 1858 and was buried at St Peter, along with Sarah and their children.
His brother William possibly moved to Pendleton after this, although the details are hazy.
George and Sarah had four boys, William (1813-1839), Robert (1814-1815), John (1810-1816) and George (1818-1902).
William seemed destined for high things, obtaining an MA at Queen’s College, Oxford in 1831 then in 1835 he was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. However he died in 1839 and is buried along with his parents.
George is the one who made his mark on history. He was born on 17 February 1818 in Stockport, and attended grammar school in Bradford. He studied medicine and became around 1842 the surgeon at the Salford and Pendleton Royal Hospital, followed by some time at King’s College Hospital in London. He moved back to Manchester where he was the Dispensary Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary in Piccadilly (MRI) , and around 1850 he is said to have been the first surgeon to adminster chloroform as an anaesthetic during an operation in the North West.
He lived first at 7 Clifford Street off Oxford Road in Manchester, and on 30 July 1864 he married Frances Walmsley (1836-1864) – the daughter of a Stockport Corn dealer, William Walmsley, at St Mary in Stockport and they moved to 324 Oxford Road where they spent the next years. During this time he became an FCRS, and consulting surgeon to the MRI.
In 1871 he visited his roots in Edensor and took Frances to stay at the Peacock Hotel, Baslow along with Frances’ sister, Emma Walmsley. The hotel still stands and even in those days it was a prestigious place to stay. Their five children remained at the family house on 324 Oxford Street looked after by the family nanny.
George also served as a churchwarden for Manchester Cathedral, and in 1870 in recognisance of his service his head was carved at the base of one of the arches of the east nave.
By his death he was the medical officer to the Workhouse, and also the Surgeon to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. He passed away in Manchester on 3 March 1902 and was buried at St Peter in Stockport with his wife in the family tomb.
Next along we have John Hall, or more precisely John Halls IV and V, who were descended from a long line of John Halls. For convenience we will start with John Hall I (the son of a JH, but let’s ignore that).
JH1 was born between 1712 and 1761 in Scarborough, and like his son, JH II, was a mariner. JH II married Mary Atkinson at Scarborough Parish Church, and they had around ten children, the youngest of which John Hall III (1773-1834) came to Manchester and settled in Rusholme and married Mary Dobson on 4 June 1800. In 1812 John Hall III founded an iron merchants.
This firm continues to the present day as Hall and Pickles, steel stockholders and processors with a HQ in Poynton. It is the only UK steel company never to have been nationalised.
John Hall III died in July 1834 on Cavendish Street, Manchester and was buried at the Rusholme Road Cemetery, Mary survived him by 21 years and passed away in July 1853.
John III and Mary had eleven children John Hall IV was a resident of Mersey Bank but let’s first look at some of their other children. There were five daughters: Anne (b 1805), Mary (1809-1873), Jane (1811-1862), Sarah (b 1812) and Elizabeth (b 1816). None of these married, and they lived with their mother in and around Rusholme eventually buying a property on Park Crescent a prime location in Victoria Park, Rusholme, living amongst such luminaries as Richard Cobden, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Halle, and Emmeline & Richard Pankhurst.
Anne perhaps came the closest to marrying, she had been courted for some time by Mr Swanwick of the Bank of Manchester, but on listening to the advice of their uncle Andrew, in July 1836 John Hall IV pointed out to Anne the impropriety of such a connection, and the relationship was abruptly terminated, why such a relationship was unsuitable we do not know, but it may have something to do with Mr Swanwick writing to JH IV the previous June and raising the heaviness of the balance against me, upwards of £5000. John went to see him the following day and noted after clearing the matter: this is the first such complaint made to me of this kind, and very much annoyed me. John Hall III also suffered losses from a bank failure, and perhaps the family generally became wary of bankers in general.
William Hall (1803-1864) lived in Whalley Range and married Mary Elizabeth Bancks, the daughter of a Manchester Surgeon. His brother, Robert Atkinson Hall (1807-1840) lived on Greenwood Street in Manchester and traded as a Corn Dealer, John Hall IV reported in his diary of 1835 that his business did not do well. Andrew Hall (1817-1818) died in infancy. George Dobson Hall (1820-1894) married Frances James.
The two sons of JH III that did well were Sir Charles Hall (1814-1883) who trained in Manchester as a solicitor. His brother John Hall IV arranged for him to have an allowance of £280 pa (£36,000 in 2020) to support him in his studies, and he went to London in 1835 to read for the bar, entering Middle Temple where he worked under Lewis Duval, marrying his niece Sarah, and inheriting both his practice and fortune in good time, living at Duval’s House, 8 Bayswater Hill.
He became an authority on real property law and in 1873 rose to Vice Chancellor and was knighted. On walking home in June 1882 he had a stroke and resigned his Judgeship, dying on 12 December 1883. His son, Charles, also called to the bar, became a QC in 1871 and Attorney General to the Prince of Wales between 1877 and 1892. He was MP for Chesterton, Cambridgeshire between 1885 and 1892, and Finsbury from 1895 to his death in 1900. He never married, and spoke little in parliament.
Finally we come to John Hall IV. He was born on 8 April 1801 at the family residence of King Street, Salford. and baptised at Cross Street Chapel the same year.
He took a keen interest in his father’s iron trade, touring the country taking in sites and enjoying the scenery. In June 1824 he travelled to Dublin, Newry, Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway, returning via Holyhead and watching the Chain Bridge being built on the Menai straits. The next year he travelled he attended an Iron Master’s metting in Wolverhampton.
On 17 November 1825 he married Elizabeth Byfield at the Collegiate Church in Manchester. Not only was he a keen businessman, he was an avid reader, his diaries are full of notes about the books he has read. He established a reading circle with fellow residents of his street, Bloomsbury Terrace in Rusholme, Manchester.
He entered a partnership with Joseph Yates as Iron Merchants. Joseph was his brother in law having married Elizabeth Byfield’s sister, Mary, and he and his brother William were to cause him a great deal of grief over the next few years.
This partnership was dissolved in 1830 and he carried on trading from a property at 46 Port Street Manchester, but in 1833 became interested in the purchase of a warehouse at number 64 Port Street¹ from his old partner Joseph Yates and offered him £1,100 to buy it. The offer was accepted a few days later, on the 6 December with £275 payable immediately and the balance in installments over the next year and a half. The next day Yates came round to his house asking for the money due.
John paid him the amount owing the following week and asked him to sign for the sale of the warehouse. Four months later in April 1834 the sale had still not been completed and his solicitor Mr Aston, of Kay, Barlow & Aston of King Street, Manchester, urged him not to pay any more money until he had a signed contract.
Later in June, the issue was still troubling him, and he had long conversations with his solicitors and other parties. He was still determined to get the property and bought a lease for a wharf and buildings to the canal at Port Street for £100.
Perhaps the delays had made people suspect he was short of money to complete the purchase, and Mr Owen in June 1834 offered to lend him £800 at 5%, which he refused, only to have Owen’s brother James offer Whether his reputation had suffered because as he had an unsolicited offer for a further £200 from his brother James, he discussed the matter with his father, noting in his diary
Mr Owens offer of a loan had not been my seeking but merely to accomodate himself I felt very indignant at this way of putting the matter…. I showed the letter to my father and took several days to consider my answer as I felt aftaid of being much too intemperate.
He replied, restraining his language a few days later, and declined the offer.
Nevertheless he was doing well, and on 30 June 1834 he drew up his books and showed a £3,000 (£385,000 in 2020) profit for the year.
On a personal basis he had other worries at the time, as his father was ailing and on 4 July he noted that he was increasingly indisposed with little chance of recovery, by 14 July his father had been fastened to his bed, and was in a violent state of delerium, the whole family began to return to Manchester to make their farewells, and he breathed his last at 6:35 PM on 17 July 1834.
As head of the family, he now had to arrange his father’s affairs and interpret his will. He was advised to keep the money in trust until the youngest child (George) came of age.
In August the second payment on the warehouse fell due, and James resolved not to make it until the deeds were ready. Yates needed the money – he was considering buying another property on Great Bridgewater Street – however had to give up the idea because no further funds were forthcoming.
Still Yates came to him with more schemes, offering him for sale, 200 tons of pig iron in October, discovering five days later that the iron did not belong to him, but Mr Higgins, Yates’ brother William’s partner in Liverpool, and furthermore the furnace was out of order until after Christmas.
Yates’ cheek knew little bounds, he asked John if he could help him gain employment via John’s brother in law, perhaps as a confidential clerk.
Joseph Yates had some other properties on Princess Street and Union Street in Manchester that John wanted, and John offered £500 (subject to other monies already advanced, and mortgages for them) at the end of October. Yates agreed to this, and even promised to paint the premises for him. John had big plans for these buildings, including demolition of one of these buildings to improve access. Even this hit problems, as the tenant was given notice to quit, and refused as his lease had not expired.
He spent most of January in discussions with Kay, Barlow and Aston, over the Port Street Purchase, the solicitors informed him much was John’s fault as he had released funds, making Yates indifferent to progress, most of March is taken up with John in constant contact with Yates, trying in vain to get him to sign the deeds, at one point Yates suggests he lend him £500 to pay back his clerk, from whom he borrowed the same, so he could fire him and employ someone else. John notes I did not take the hint.
Yet in April, John paid over net balance of funds due, providing Yates use it to redeem the mortgages he had on the Princess Street properties. Again a few days later he found that the sums had not been paid over, and he called on Mr Yates, who had the funds in his pocket, and had spent the day endeavouring in vain to find Mr Robinson to whom the money was owed.
This finally worked and on 16 April 1835 the interest was paid and the conveyance signed. John’s diary has a telling note. Remember never again to pay for any purchase, before the deeds are signed.
Now the purchase of the Port Street property was settled, John confided his dream of one day being rich enough to build himself a house (which he nearly did in buying Mersey Bank) He looked at properties on Nelson Street, Upper Brook Street, and even as far out as Platt, near Withington in Manchester, where he was offered the land for a peppercorn of one penny, provided that the chief rents were kept by the owner and good houses were built. This offer he took up. He leased the land the following February at £5 per acre, a significant profit.
That 30 June he once more drew up his accounts, and found himself good to the value of £4,786 16s 11d (£612,000 in 2020) a substantial increase on his wealth of a year earlier.
By October, he has managed to seal the purchase of the Princess Street properties and celebrates by buying a silver service for £160 (£20,000 today) a dozen of champagne and some sherry, and throwing a 10th wedding anniversary celebration with his relations.
On February 3rd 1836, William Yates called upon John, and gave an explanation for his treatment at the hands of his brother.
Mr Yates’ haughtiness (to use the mildest term for it) to those around him during his prosperity cannot be fairly attributed to any one but himself and he is now sufffering for it in the “culls direct” and scoffs of those over whom he used to tryranize. His every word shows that he now very severely feels it. He certainly spoke to and of every one of the neigbouring iron masters as very much beneath him. They are now generally returning the compliment. This was the first time in his life that he had ever treated me with civility, and in consequence of his repeated enquiries concerning my family I invited him to my house , where he slept. In the evening, he again entered into long explanations in the presence of my wife and said that his conduct to me had been entirely owing to the statements of his brother who had always accounted for his losses in the iron trade to my incapacity. He had repeatedly said I was only fit to stand behind a counter, and had notions which totally prevented the profitability of our doing anything beyond a paltry retail trade. He had, however, found immediately on the dissolution between Joseph Yates and I that I increased the business twofold and he asked Joe for an explanation of his oft repeated accusations of me. He and his brother Joe are not on terms, but he appeared to wish to make me the mediator and requested I would , if opportunity offer explain matters to Joe. He denies that Joe lost much money by his loan….. and would not have lost any had he not been grossly stupid…… Very many other things came out, which strongly corroborated any previous conviction that I had been very shamelessly misrepresented.
The works on the warehouse were completed in March and April 1836 and on 28 April 1836 he hoisted his flag upon the warehouse. Yates however has not gone away, and on 2 July he discovers he has been trying to borrow money from John’s uncle, with whom he has a quiet word not to lend the money.
As well as being successful in business, John was a cultured and travelled man with a fine sense of humour. He notes of a visit to Southport on 6 June 1833:
Southport appears to me to answer the following description of a watering place sundry barren shingly sandy spots upon the coast, disfigured with frail lash and plaster bay windowed tenements, which being supplied with scanty white dainty curtains, a few rickety chairs and tables and some knotty featherly featherbeds are considered to be furnished. Hither numbers resort during the six weeks of an English summer, to ride in an improved species of wheelbarrow, drawn by jaded donkies or ponies, to sit on the pebbles and pelt them into the sea, to catch cold by walking on wet sands, to lose money in raffles – to enjoy at least one pleasant morning – that on which they return home.
That September he travelled wildly in the Peak District, visiting Chapel, Buxton and Bakewell taking particular notice of Arkwright’s home and his spinning machinery, which he considered insignificant compared to what was now in use in Manchester. He then crossed the moors over pretty scenery to visit a steel works and cutlery showrooms, and proceeding to Doncaster where he watched the St Leger, travelling on to Fountains Abbey.
In January 1834 he took the Rover to London, arriving three hours late as the wheels had caught fire at Stafford ( vastly superior to leaves on the line for an excuse).
He visited the docks tunnel and remarked on Brunel’s curious arches
That evening he attended the theatre in Covent Garden. The next day he was however disappointed with Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster, and sailed from there to London Bridge, dining at Dolly’s Chop House and visiting the theatre at Drury Lane, returning the following evening at 8pm after a 24 hour journey home.
He notes in his diary of 23 February 1834 that he saw Mr Gaskell preach at Rusholme. In June he visited his family in Scarborough, seeing his sister there. He was there for five days, perhaps it was not a good visit, as he notes on the ride back:
Left at 3pm, arrived home 6am the following day. Never so exhausted as this, rode box all way. My wife observed she never was at any town where there appeared to be so many attorneys and there were so many bad smells. Are either of these the cause of effect of the other?
Nevertheless he returned to Scarborough on 4 July, walking as far as he could on the rocks at Filey with Elizabeth, who fell whilst trying to keep up with him, returning on the 10th as his father was ailing.
He was back in Scarborough again in August, to shoot sea birds off Flamborough Head, who he notes were very plentiful and very easily shot¹. Returning on the 16th with his daughter Elizabeth, spending a day in York, visiting the Minster.
A minor family crisis arose in October when his sister Jane visited and informed him that she had converted to the Church of England, and intended attending service soon. John managed to keep this revelation secret from their mother, a staunch Presbyterian as were all the rest of the family.
On 18 November 1834 at 9pm his son John (V) was born, with Mr Cooper the surgeon, Elizabeth Lea, nurse Mrs Mayfield and Ann Brotherton in attendance, John was baptised at home by Mr Gaskell on the 23rd.
In January 1835 he read with disgust the takings at Westminster Abbey from amounts charged to visitors – upwards of £1,600 pa, which he notes is a disgrace to the nation. I dread to think what he would think of today’s charges. That May he also commented on the boy racers of the day:
I saw one of those foolhardy feats which men sometimes perform from bravado in the success of which there must necessarily be much of what is called luck, although they are by the public generally, set down as marks of first rate abilities, : this was ; a stage coach drawn by eight horses, driven from the box from Rochdale through the principal streets of the town , laden with passengers, and turned into Lacy’s gateway, at the rate of at least, nine miles an hour.
His opinion on the medical profession was not much higher, writing a week later:
Consulted Dr Richardson, who as far as I could see was in much to great a hurry to pocket his fee, even to know what was the complaint of his patient
In June 1835 he and Elizabeth once more set out to London, this time on the Bee Hive they once more visited Drury Lane and saw La Gazza Ladra, by Rossini. The performers were Ivanhoff, Tamburini, Lablache, Grisi, Caselli and Brambilla. They visited Covent Garden for the Opera the next evening as well as spending the day at London Zoo and on the 9th went to see Don Feliz in the Wonder, a comedy by Susannah Centilivre at the Haymarket, with Charles Kemble in the title role².
The next day there was another visit to Drury Lane to see the same company perform Puritani. More sightseeing followed with visits to Windsor Castle and a full day in the British Museum, travelling home via Oxford and Blenheim, which he considered to be in a sad state of delapidation.
In 1836 he bought a Grand Piano Forte, which possibly went to Mersey Bank, to rival the existing instrument owned by Samuel Oldknow at Heaton House next to the Bleachworks.
His sights now started turning towards Heaton Norris and Stockport, in 1841 he became a magistrate for the town, and spoke the same year at the opening of Stockport Unitarian Church, for which he had supplied the land. It is around now that he may have moved to Mersey Bank.
Unfortunately the only mention we have of him at the house, is his will, and a death notice on 1 October 1843, he was at the time once more on his travels, and died at Great Malvern in Worcestershire, aged 42.
He left all his possessions to his wife, Elizabeth, and his estate was valued at £25,000 (£3.2m in 2020).
After John’s death Elizabeth moved back to Brighton Place in Rusholme where she died on 21 July 1853. We have her handwritten recipe book which will have been used at Mersey Bank for cooking.
It is full of Mrs Beeton type recipes for curing a haunch of mutton, stewing beefsteak, fishcakes, mackerel au gratin, ginger pudding, toffy, soda cake and Prince Albert pudding. Her recipe for horseradish sauce is below:
2 tablespoons of grated horseradish, two teaspoonfuls of mustard, one of sugar. Mix together. Two tablespoonfuls of vinegar with a little cream to make it like salad sauce.
Both John and Elizabeth were buried at Rusholme Road Cemetery.
They had four children who survived, at least one other was stillborn. Elizabeth Byfield Hall, 1826-1912, lived out her days with her sister Mary Byfield Hall (1829-1921) who married William Thomas Marriott, a colliery owner from Wakefield. They lived at Sandal Grange, Sandal Magna, Wakefield.
William Byfield Hall (1836-1855) died at the tender age of 18 and was buried at Rusholme Road.
John Hall V (1834-1895) carried on the iron merchant business at Port Street. He married Katherine Heald. We have met the Healds via Robert Parker, Thomas Coates and even seen them in their home town of Chapel with Henry Kirk. they went to live at The Grange in Hale.
Whilst his father aspired to building his own house and only owned Mersey Bank, John Hall V had the Grange built to his specifications.
John Hall VI (1870-1930) was so trusted by the directors of the Midland Bank that this tale is recorded in the Charles Brehmer Healds family history in the Rylands archive: John Hall VI was asked about the balance against him by the directors, however, unlike with the unfortunate Mr Swanwick, the Halls came out firmly on top.
Gentlemen, I owe you £50,000 today, I am quite prepared to pay but would infinitely prefer to borrow an extra £50,000 from you for another twelve months.
Surprisingly , perhaps, the directors agreed at once. Thus began some 30 years of the special relationship between John Hall and the Midland Bank. Until his death, he was a unique client in that they would lend him any money he asked for with no security other than his own word that he would repay. The bank, it is said, still has a copy of his last loan of £50,000, and in the column headed “security” there is only his signature.
After the Halls moved out we see Sir Ralph Pendlebury at Mersey Bank, and after him, James Sidebottom.
James Sidebottom (1805-1873) was born into humble stock in Manchester. He was an example of the Victorian self made man. His first job was as an errand boy in the Kershaw Leese and Callender warehouse at India Mills on Heaton Lane in Heaton Norris.
He was a hard worker and worked long hours rapidly climbing up the corporate ladder, by his own admission his working day was from 6am until 8pm. His ambition coupled with his autodidacticism gave him the skills to become an office clerk then a sales representative and he rose to become the best cotton buyer at the Manchester Exchange. On 21 December 1842, on the retirement of Nathaniel Barr (the father of James Roby Barr), he entered into the partnership of Leese, Kershaw and Sidebottom and in 1852 they were able to commission new premises on Portland Street in Manchester.
At the same time, in keeping with his status he moved into Mersey Bank after Sir Ralph Pendlebury with his wife Mary Ann. She may have been one of James Kershaw’s sisters¹, however sources are confused on this, and her name may have been Slater or Bennett, alternatively she may have been widowed.
James Kershaw (1796-1864) was certainly a good business partner and contact. A Saddleworth man and being the principal in the cotton firm, he became Mayor of Manchester in 1842, and sat as the liberal MP for Stockport between 1847 and 1864. He died in the Manor House, Streatham, Surrey and is buried at West Norwood Cemetery in Lambeth, in a tomb designed by Alfred Waterhouse.
After James Kershaw’s death James Sidebottom was seriously considered as his replacement at Westminster. However, this did not come to pass.
James was an enthusiastic Congregationalist, and close friends with the Watts family in Heaton Mersey, he opened many such churches across the country, including on 28 October 1869, laying the foundation stone for St Peter’s Hill Church in Grantham, where later a young Margaret Roberts was to worshop, before she married Denis Thatcher. He was so prolific at laying such stones that he kept an unrivalled collection of presentation trowels on display in his house which he enjoyed showing to visitors.
By 1861 he was firmly established at Mersey Bank along with his wife and children and he lived there until his death on 17 November 1873, he was buried at Harpurhey Cemetery in Manchester. He left £12,000 in his will (£1.4m in 2020).
James and Mary Ann had seven children, the eldest, Mary Ann Sidebottom (1832-1878) married John Job Howell, a Liverpool cotton broker, and they lived on Lance Lane in Wavertree.
James Sidebottom Jr (1840 -c 1870) married Samuel Watts’ daughter Elizabeth (1836-1873) and he ran Spring Bank Mill in Stockport. Elizabeth and James lived at Southcliffe in Reddish , Stockport (which is now the home of Reddish Vale Golf Club). They had two children, Eliza Watts Sidebottom and James Alfred Watts Sidebottom. Of this family, all but Eliza Watts Sidebottom were dead by 1873. Eliza Watts Sidebottom lived to a ripe old age, dying on 12 November 1955 at Oakleigh in Burnage. Because of her family connections she became something of an authority on the history of Burnage and delivered lectures on the subject.
Their third child, William Roby Sidebottom (1842-1908) married Jane Buckley, another Saddleworth girl, and the daughter of John Smith Buckley of West Bank, and he was clearly named for William Roby Barr, of Heaton Lodge. William was also a cotton spinner and they lived on Wilmslow Park in Cheshire.
George Isaac Sidebottom was born in 1844 and further cemented the ties with the Buckley family by marrying Eliza Ann Buckley (1840-1915). He continued in the family firm of Kershaw Leese and Company, they initially went to live at 67 Albert Road in Meols, but in the mid 1880s his mental health appears to have declined and he is found on the 1891 census at Bilton Garth in Knaresborough under the care of a doctor, and in 1901 at the Retreat in York, which specialised in the treatment of mental health patients. He died there in 1912
In 1920 the case of Sidebottom v Kershaw Leese and Co was heard. Obstensibly this was to remove the threat of competition from GI Sidebottom & Co which had broken ties to it in 1900 but still held a minority shareholding interest. The case is an important precedent that a company may change its articles of association in order to defend itself against competition, but given the health of George, I wonder if there were more to it.
Elizabeth died in 1915 at the Willows, Poulton Le Fylde, she left £6,955, three years after George’s death an inheritance of £16,347 had been severely depleted.
Robert Sidebottom, born 1847 appears to have died around 1878 and Alfred Sidebottom only lived between 1850 and 1862.
Henry Sidebottom (1851-1932) was the only family member to have a long and healthy life. He apprenticed with his father and in 1876 married Fanny Elizabeth Booth (1853-1943) the daughter of a Rochdale cotton spinner. The couple moved to Davenport and then Syddal Park in Bramhall, Stockport. He initially enjoyed the fruits of his father’s labour and in 1881 was describing himself as retired, he was still indolent in 1911 and living on his own means in Southport.
However, by 1911, he appears to have taken up the reins again, after the death and incapacity of his brothers he is described as the chairman of a cotton spinning company. Both Henry and Fanny died at Sherwood, Sydall Park, in Bramhall.
We have met the next resident, William Leigh’s nephew, Sir Joseph Leigh before. William entered the family cotton business, lived just down the road from Sir Joseph, and also like him rose to become Mayor of Stockport and a JP.
The Leigh family, as we have seen with a lot of succesful Heaton Mersey clans have their roots in Chapel En Le Frith. His father Thomas was born there around 1784. As a young man he came to Stockport, marrying Ann Bowes in 1807 and founding a cotton mill.
Ann passed away around 1850 and he married once more to Ann Ashmore in Mottram in Longendale. At this time they were living in Brinnington, Stockport, and he can describe himeelf as a gentleman on the marriage papers. He died in 1858 in Brinnington.
He had five children with his first wife. Thomas Baines Leigh (1811-1857) was Sir Joseph’s father, and together with his brother James Leigh (1822-1894) he founded T&J Leigh Cotton Spinners, who operated from the Beehive and Alligator Mills in Stockport, before commissioning under Sir Joseph, the Meadow Mills.
The Beehive and Alligator Mills were a group of seven mills which occupied the space on which Tesco now stands Stockport.
Thomas and Ann Leigh had two daughters, Ann (b 1809) and Catherine (b 1815) who do not appear to have married.
Their youngest son was William Leigh, who was born in 1824. He entered T&J Leigh as a cotton agent, and married Sarah Bailey on 4 August 1853. They went to live in Heaton Moor at Stoneleigh Cottage, on Parsonage Road.
He rose to a high position at T&J Leigh and by 1881 he was describing himself as a master Cotton Spinner. In 1885 he was Mayor of Stockport and a Justice of the Peace.
The family moved to Mersey Bank around 1885, where he died on 15 October 1892, leaving £40, 871 (2020 £5.2m) in his will. Sarah lived on at Mersey Bank until her death on 28 March 1903.
William and Sarah had five children, the first three were daughters, Catherine Pendlebury (1856-1935) Mary Howard (1858-1937)and Alice (1861-1948). The girls lived on at Mersey Bank until Mary’s death in 1937. None of them married.
William Bailey Leigh (1864-1935) we met at Poolstock. Thomas Bowes Leigh (1867-1947) was the youngest son. He married Martha Minna Louise Marie Podeus (c 1876-1957) in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany in 1897, the couple lived at Eastholme in Heaton Chapel. Thomas was called to the Bar in in 1901 and practised as a barrister in Manchester, rising to county court judge and moving to Riversdale in Wilmslow. He also became president of the Stockport Cricket Club. He reminds me somewhat of Bertie Wooster here, although Jeeves would certainly have had something to say about the moustache.
Thomas and Martha had four children, the youngest of which , Rupert Henry Archibald Lee rose to Air Commodore in the RAF. In 1939 he was Flight Commander at the central flying school at Upavon and on the 18th October that year he tested Douglas Bader to assess his capability for flying duties, the test was carried out in a plane equipped with toe brakes, which Leigh operated for him, knowing that in a Spitfire, which Bader would be flying, there were hand operated brakes, which would cause no issue for Bader’s artificial limbs. Leigh received five mentions in despatches during the war.
After the Leigh family moved away the properties at West Bank, Mersey Bank and Poolstock were taken over by the Catholic Church who founded Mersey Bank School and Convent there, which over time became St Winifred’s Primary School and Convent.
Mersey Bank appears not to have left a trace on the photographic record, I can find no images in the archives, so apart from maps, we can only picture this grand house from a for sale advert in 1843, and recipe books from that time. Perhaps the first residence in Heaton Mersey to have central heating is lost to us.
However, in this picture of West Bank, and we can just see Mersey Bank peeping out at the right.
¹ I guess this predates it being a bird sanctuary.
² The original performance of the play was David Garrick’s swansong role.
We return to the Heatons for a look at another old house, and it is another Parr building. This one stood next to Highfield and appears on the 1848 Tithe Map.
The first mention is in April 1836, when Samuel Sims of Stockport was returning from an evening at John Slack’s house at Parr’s Mount, when he was confronted by a man who immediately set upon him with a stick, beating him. The assailant was joined by his accomplice and they forced him into the hedge, threatening to knife him if he didn’t hand over his possessions, he gave up his pocket watch, a gold chain, two gold keys, and five shillings, and the men made off. Fortunately Samuel caught up with a watchman, and they pursued the criminals, catching one of them, William Furness, a known villain. He was committed to the next assizes, where he was sentenced to death, with the likelihood that the sentence would be commuted to 14 years transportation. After living at Parr’s Mount, he moved to Brinnington House and finally Bowden Hall, Chapel En Le Frith.
Samuel Sims (1793-1839) served as borough treasurer until 9 November 1839, dying of typhus two days later. His business partner was Alexander Henry Shawe, who married Thomas Claye’s daughter.
John Slack was a Justice of the Peace and served under Jonathan Thornhill as the deputy chairman of the Stockport Poor Law Union in 1836. He was one of the founders of the Stockport Gasworks in 1820.
The next inhabitant was John Monk, he married Harriett Ryle at the Collegiate Church in Manchester in 1834, and there is a sale notice in the Stockport Advertiser in 1842 advertising the house to let, being in the possession of the said John Monk.
The house and outbuildings as we can see on the map, and as described in the advertisement are very much the same today, only the outbuildings have been converted to cottages. John Monk (b c 1806) was a barrister at law, and in 1841 he is in Ormskirk, visiting the Ridgeway family. The Monk and Lingard families were closely connected. Mary Monk, the daughter of The Reverend George Monk,the Chaplain of St Paul in Liverpool married Roger Rowson Lingard. John was from a separate branch of the family.
The house was then occupied by James Williamson and his wife Hannah, nee Yarwood. and their two children Edward (1841-1923) and Sarah (1843-1914). James had been a publican on Hillgate in Stockport in 1841, but by now was styling himself a gentleman, and had renamed the house, Williamson’s Yard. James has died by 1861, and his widow has remarried to James Berry who is now living at the house working as a master shuttlemaker.
However, by 1871 James Berry is also dead and Edward, the son of James Williamson and Hannah is now head of the household, living with his widowed mother. For the next two census returns, he describes himself as a solicitor’s clerk, but by 1891 he has become an accountant.
It is also notable that the Yarwood family have moved into the adjoining cottages by 1871 and are employed in calico bleaching, in 1881 Edward has employed Martha Yarwood as his servant. Edward is living alone at the house, on his own means in 1901 and still there in 1911. He died at the house in late 1923, never having married, and having lived there for most of his life.
Meanwhile, Sarah, Edward’s sister, had married James Clarke a Stockport House Painter and Decorator, and they had a son, Edward Williamson Clarke (1874-1943). They lived initially in Salford but moved back to Didsbury around 1891, Sarah and Edward William eventually moved back into Parr’s Mount by 1911. Edward Williamson Clarke inherited the house after his uncle’s death, and lived on there until he too died in 1943. Jessie May Clarke (b 1869), Edward’s sister was staying at Parr’s Mount in 1891, and along with her son, Frank Davidson, inherited the property from Edward
One family occupied the house for nearly 100 years. The house is still standing today, let’s see some pictures.
Stockport Ancient & Modern, Henry Heginbotham: Sampson, Low, Marston, 1892
Thomas Claye was born in Black Abbey near Bradford. He was the son of James Claye, a Wakefield solicitor, and served his apprenticeship with John Gill in Wakefield.
He came to Stockport in 1803 to run a printers on Underbank in Stockport which had been managed by the widow North. This was an old established Stockport business. He married Ellen Baker on 2 February 1812 at St Mary in Stockport. Not only did he run the a printers that stayed in the family nearly 150 years, he also was the first secretary of the Stockport Gasworks in 1820, having used a rudimentary gas light in his shop window since 1815 to attract passing trade. A man used to being on the cutting edge of technology, he also had the distinction of being one of passengers on the first train on the Stockton & Darlington Railway.
He became chairman of the Stockport Bank, but his main business was printing and selling patent medicines for which there were many endorsements in the newspapers of the day extolling their propensity for relief from scrobutic affections, which appeared to have very unfortunate symptoms.
Ellen Baker died in 1828 and three years later he married Mary Needham of Worsley. Thomas had five children with Ellen and one with Ellen. He lived on Hall Street in Stockport with Mary.
His daughter Mary married Alexander Henry Shaw (1814-1885) the daughter of a chemist, Gabriel Shaw (who no doubt supplied the patent medicines) and their son was Thomas Claye Shaw (1841-1927) who became a specialist in the study of mental illness, publishing groundbreaking articles on the subject, however he did not appear quite so stable in his private life, being fiercely mysogonistic on the subject of the modern woman, and criticising the mentality of the German elite during World War I.
Of his sons Thomas followed him into the printing business as did William. William (1833-1891) was the son of the second marriage to Mary Needham. In 1858 he married Annie Elizabeth Turton in Stockport, and his father was by this time wealthy enough to purchase him a house, which was Caxton Place on Offerton Lane in Stockport. The couple went on to have 13 children. Thomas Clay (1869-1941) carried on in his grandfathers print business on Underbank in Stockport. Arthur Needham Clay (1863-1956) became a curate in Macclesfield.
In 1885 William and his son Herbert Sandford Claye (1861-1943) bought the Macclesfield Express which had been founded in 1811. Herbert saw service in World War One, rising to the rank of Major, and serving as a Court Martial Officer and Judge Advocate in Palestine and Syria after the war. He retired to Gunn Cottage in Goodleigh, and was a lay reader at the Church of the Holy name there.
Caxton Place has now gone, and Offerton Health centre stands today on the site.
Jill Trumble’s notes on Stockport Heritage Facebook Group
Stockport Ancient & Modern, Henry Heginbotham: Sampson Low Marston, 1892
Lives Of The Fellows, Royal College of Physicians, 2017.
Northern Echo 29 January 2020, Letter from Tim Claye.
Belmont in Cheadle stands not far from Bruntwood. It dates back to at least the 1830s.
We first find Joseph and Mary Lane living there in 1833. Joseph was a partner in Ebeneezer and Lane, silk merchants of Manchester. They had at least two children who married whilst they were at Belmont, Joseph (b 1807) who married Sarah Elizabeth, the daughter of William Moseley Heginbotham, a Manchester Cotton Spinner on 26 September 1833 at St Mary in Stockport, and Francis Elizabeth Lane who married William Forsyth Smith, and went to live in Liscard on the Wirral. Joseph’s first wife Mary died aged 59 in 1834, and he married once more to the widow Gray, nee Hardie in 1836.
Belmont does appear to be a liability for Joseph, as he tries to sell it a number of times, in 1834 after his wife’s death, again in 1838 after his children have married and once more in 1842 when it is a forced sale as he is adjudged bankrupt. The property is sold alongside his cotton factory at New Bridge Lane Mill.
We have a description from the time: there is ample land with shrubberies, melon pits, hothouses and meadows covering 21 acres. On the ground floor we were offered a modern hot air stove and stone staircase. There was a breakfast room, with adjoining conservatory, various servant and butlers rooms. The kitchen boasted a fire proof laundry. Upstairs, there were seven bedrooms, two dressing rooms, a study and a water closet. The front of the property occupied 500 yards of the main Manchester to Wilmslow Road, and should it be required there was ample space for further houses to be built without detriment to the main mansion. Joseph, or his son may have gone to Leigh to manage the factory of Ebeneezer Robert LeMare, as a Lane was in partnership with him in 1850.
It was Ebeneezer Robert LeMare (1797-1881), his partner who took possession of the property.
The Lemare family had been active in the silk industry since the mid 18th century when Robert LeMare (1734-1794) was admitted to the Weavers’ Company. Ebeneezer was the third generation of LeMares in the industry. He was one of three brothers born to Samuel LeMare. In 1829 he moved to Manchester from London to establish a silk business. By 1840 he had warehouses on York Street and Spring Gardens. The company began to grow and in 1848 he opened a factory in Leigh, and a throwing mill in Macclesfield.
Ebeneezer was active in Manchester society, becoming a JP a member of many societies and the treasurer and vice president of the Manchester Royal Infirmary. He lived at Belmont between 1849 and 1851.
He is found in a Cliff Clayburn like letter to the Kentish Gazette in July 1850, expressing his joy that Postal workers can now attend worship on Sunday as they had been excused Sunday labour, counting 75 postmen walking to Church on the sabbath in Manchester. Ebeneezer married Easter Hammond Vigers in London on 9 January 1823 and died in 1881 in Bedminster, Somerset. They had six daughters and two sons. Neither of his sons followed him into the silk business, Ebeneezer (1831-1845) died of scarlet fever at Rossall Hall School in Fleetwood, and Joshua (1833-1881) went into the paper trade, living for a while in Tokyo.
By 1853 Belmont is once more put up for let, and by 1859 a familiar face, James Milne is living there with his children. He is not far from his partner Thomas Kendal at Heath Bank, the Cheadle air obviously being of appeal, as well as the chance to hobnob with erstwhile boss, James Watts at Abney.
James Milne (1806-1866) was born in Thornton, Lancashire to John and Isabella Milne, and baptised at St Michael On Wyre in Elswick. He married Ellen Dewhurst (1821-1895), the daughter of a Skipton cotton merchant in September 1843, and we first see the couple living on Park Crescent in Victoria Park.
With his partners, Kendal and Faulkner he took over Kendal Milne from James Watts, and the story can be read in the Abney and Heath Bank pages. Like his partners he had other irons in the fire, and he was on the board also of the National Guardian Assurance Society. Like all suburban householders, he appears also to have performed work on his drive in 1859, laying down a granite path, or similar.
Ellen and James had four sons and two daughters. Two of the sons, John Dewhurst Milne and James Herbert Milne continued in partnership with the Kendals at the store. James Herbert Milne (1851-1908) married Emily Hodgkinson, and continued to live at Belmont until his death in 1908. After this it was John Dewhurst Milne and Samuel Kendal in charge until the sale to Harrods in 1919.
In 1920 the Committee of the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls refuges was looking for a property to build a children’s garden village in the suburbs, and purchased Belmont from the Milne family for £5,700. On Saturday October 2nd 1920 worthy guests were guided around the property and grounds prior to opening, admiring a Jacobean carved fireplace. The house having been newly decorated throughout and thoroughly cleaned showcasing the neat playrooms and dormitories. Forty destitute girls were to be housed in the building.
The Chairman of the Trust, Harry E Gaddum, highlighted the difference between the grounds and house and the slum districts of Manchester, and praised the economies which could be reaped by living here – they had sold the Manchester refuge for £18,000, giving them much more funds to spend on the upkeep and wellbeing of their charges.
The house was officially opened by the Earl of Stamford whose remarks were cut short by a sudden downpour, and the assembled multitude sought shelter and refreshment in the marquee, where plans were outlined to convert the coach house and stables into a recreation room and gymnasium.
The Milne family stayed closely associated with the property, making regular donations and gifts for the children and in 1927 endowed a sanatorium, in memory of John Dewhurst Milne, who lived and died at Belmont. This continued in use until 1954 when it was converted into a children’s home, then in 1963 used as classrooms. It was demolished in the 1970s. The Boys and Girls refuge charity evolved into the Together Trust, and they sold the property in 1983
It then became a care home, which was closed down in 2017, but happily the building still survives to this day.
William John Battersby (1839-1915) was born on 4 May 1839 in Stockport and christened at St Mary on 30 June that year at St Mary. His parents were William Battersby (c1797-1851), a Stockport born shopkeeper , and Sarah Norfolk (b 1806) of Calver in Derbyshire. He appears to be the second William Battersby, an infant was born a couple of years earlier but died aged about nine months.
The family lived on Edward Street in Stockport with his sister, Sarah, who attended Stockport Sunday School, as did William himself a few years later. In 1851 William and Sarah have had two further children, Elizabeth and George and Sarah’s widowed father, Samuel (b 1773) a tailor, is living with them. William senior died a few months later in August, and was buried at St Thomas in Stockport.
William went to work at Christy’s hats and became a trusted employee, so much so that he was sent to the London factory to learn more about the trade. On his return he planned to marry a Christy’s factory girl, Mary Oldham (1840-1909), but he had been asked to accompany Christy to America. William refused to move his wedding date, and relations deteriorated, so much so that he left Christy’s to work at Shelmerdines Hatters for the not inconsiderable salary of £6 per week. (£44,000 in 2020). William was encouraged by a London buyer to set up on his own account, and decided to do so, founding a business with a local man called Woodham.
Eventually the business got off the ground, and William differentiated his product by striving for quality over quantity. By 1868 the business was sound enough for him to move to new premises, at Hope’s Carr. William and his mother moved to Angel Street by 1861 and he married Mary in 1863, and they moved to the quaintly named Cottage in the Garden, which was next to the Upper Brook Street Dye works in Stockport and in 1871 they are living there with their four children, William, Mary, George and Frederick.
Mary was been a great support to William during this time, James MacQueen, the London Agent of Walkers of Denton offered to invest £10,000 in the firm on the premise that the new firm be called MacQueen & Company alongside his other partner, Mead, she insisted the Battersby’s name must appear: Gentlemen, if my husband’s name does not appear in the firm there will be no partnership! A 14 year partnership was established for MacQueen, Battersby & Mead.
James MacQueens health began to fail towards the end of the partnership, and the business recorded trading losses. This was eventually pinned down to Mead’s management of the warehouse and at the end of the partnership in 1886 the buildings and plant were sold off, and a new factory was established on his own account in Offerton.
William went into business on his own account at his new factory and his reputation before him, started winning international recognitions at trade exhibitions as far apart as Paris, Chicago and Japan.
However, William was now wealthy enough to commission a house for his family, and in the 1870s he had Strathclyde built on Offerton Lane near to his new factory. William and Mary went on to have eleven children, and lived at Strathclyde. The sons followed their father into the family business, being trained and monitored by him from the factory floor upwards so that they learnt all aspects of the business. In 1906 he expanded into France, buying a factory there at Conty, south of Amiens. There was a fine house attached to it for the family to stay whilst they managed the factory.
On 22 May 1906 the Offerton Lane factory suffered a devastating fire which completely destroyed it. The damage was exacerbated by low pressure from hoses, caused by damage to the hydrants, which meant that water was not able to reach the upper stories of the building. There was a second major fire not as damaging in 1912 and as a result, a water tower was constructed as an integral feature.
Mary died on 5 March 1909, and in her memory her grieving husband donated a stained glass window to St George’s, where the incumbent, the Reverend John Thorpe was a good friend¹. William died on 22 February 1915 at Strathclyde, and was buried at St Thomas. He left a fortune of £59,626 (£6.2m in 2020)
His son Edgar joined the British Army in 1915, paying for a private operation to have varicose veins removed, which had meant an earlier rejection. He went to France the following November and was lost in the Battle of Arras in 1917 whilst working as a stretcher bearer. Mary Battersby married Tom Sykes, the son of Ellis Sykes, wholesale ironmongers, of Stockport.
After the war it was just the youngest Edith who remained in the house, as the brothers had married and moved elsewhere. Battersby Hats continued in their popularity.
The family sold Strathclyde in 1932 to Stockport Council, who own it to this day it was first a children’s home and is now used for social housing. Battersby’s merged with four other companies² to form the Associated British Hat Manufacturers in 1966. The factory is under redevelopment to build 144 affordable houses, keeping the external structure of the building as far as possible.
Grateful thanks to Rupert Battersby who allowed me to use his photographs. Most of the material above is extracted from his book, Battersby Hats of Stockport, which contains a much more detailed account of the Battersby story.
¹ The Grandfather of Jeremy Thorpe.
² Christy & Co, Joseph Wilson & Sons, Battersbys, J Moores & sons, T&W Lees.
Battersby Hats Of Stockport: An Illustrated History, Rupert Battersby: Amberley, 2016
Samuel Oldknow had larger plans. Not only did he want to produce cotton, he wanted to control the community, becoming a benevolent despot. Mellor was the place he chose to carry out these plans, as he could build from the bottom up.
He did this by gradually buying up small estates in the area, and first of all he bought the Bottoms estate from Thomas Cheetham and Samuel Cooper in 1787. The old farm known as Bottoms Hall was used as his farm and an apprentice house.
The estate was more valuable, he built a factory, diverted the Goyt to increase power and constructed dams and reservoirs, he then set about buying up the adjoining estates, Goit Cliff Torr and Chapel House. He now had land right up to Strines Hall, to fund this he borrowed a further £12,000 from Richard Arkwright at 5%.
On this land he built Mellor Mill between 1790 and 1793, whilst this was being build he resided at Hyde Bank Hall, but at the same time was building Mellor Lodge for his own occupation.
Under Oldknow the population of Marple and Mellor grew nearly fourfold, new people came into a previously rural area as it industrialised. In 1791 he employed 204 people to build the mill and divert the Goyt, many of whom were ex lead miners from the Peak District where resources had dried up. By the next year there were and extra 81 people working for him, half of whom were women as the factory was coming onstream. As the mill became more operational the demand for skilled male workers decreased as women and children could be employed more cheaply. The men had to decide whether to leave the area or stay and let their families be employed, whilst they looked further afield for work. Some were employed on Samuel’s road and bridge building enterprises.
A family of husband, wife and four children could make around 27 shillings (£1.35) per week if all were working for Oldknow. The Quarter Sessions in Oxfordshire had established a minimum necessary wage of nine shillings a week, so people here were relatively comfortably off if in employment.
Notwithstanding that, he needed a supply of low paid workers to work in his mills and in 1795 he negotiated with Clerkenwell in London for 70 boys and girls to come work with him as apprentices. Even though there was increasing pressure not to employ child labour, he still had 38 children in 1812.
Oldknow was a relatively good employer by the standards of the day, contemporary reports say that his children were well fed with apples and good meat pies from the farm, the factories worked shorter hours, and they were well dressed on Sundays when they attended church with their employer. In the words of one millhand no one ever had owt to complain of at Mellor.
Mill workers were paid in Oldknow’s own currency and bills and promissory notes drawn upon himself¹. Whilst this does look to the modern eye a manifestation of the truck system it should be remembered that banking services were non existent in rural areas, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to obtain credit, and the ability for discretionary spend was somewhat small anyway. Whilst the bills were drawn on his shop, it was possible for workers to take them elsewhere for discount (and bills were issued for change if someone did not wish to settle an entire one at the shop, but go elsewhere). In effect his workers became amateur bankers carrying around promissory notes with no certain maturity date, which would be settled whenever Samuel received funds from his customers.
Once the mill was running he occupied himself with the Peak Forest Canal and road building. He started by improving the main road from Marple to Stockport, and became chief promoter and chairman of the Peak Forest Canal, which was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1794. The canal was to connect with the Ashton and Rochdale canals and canal involved one of the greatest engineering feats of the day – the Marple Acqueduct, the tallest masonry acqueduct in the UK. It was built by Benjamin Outram and opened in 1800.
He built the locks at Marple between 1803 and 1804. Samuel Oldknow died at Mellor Lodge on September 18 1828, having made a tremendous impact on the area. He was buried at Marple Church (also built by him) in a funeral attended by 3,000 people, many from the local area.
Richard Simpson (b 1792) and his wife Jane, nee Beard, are the next to live at the Lodge. Richard was born at Hart Hill in Salford and married Jane, the daughter of Thomas Beard of Gorton House in 1815. Richard also had a property, at the Cliffe in Douglas on the Isle of Man. He was a magistrate for Cheshire and Derbyshire, where he mainly lived. The Simpson family had run Arkwrights Mill on Miller Street in Manchester (on the site of the new Coop Building) and although they sold the mill in Manchester, they rented Mellor Lodge from Richard Arkwright Junior in 1828².
The mill continued to be run and owned by the Arkwrights and in 1860 a drought necessitated the installation of engines and a chimney to supplement the waterwheels, these were installed by Benjamin Goodfellow of Hyde, this was followed by a celebratory meal for managers, overlookers and employees at the Navigation Inn, Marple.
After Peter Arkwright’s death, the entire Mellor estate, including the mill was put up for sale (without success) in 1867, the mill at the time being run by John Clayton & Co, and the Lodge, being suitable for a gentleman, being just ten minute’s walk from Marple Railway station.
In 1871 we see Thomas Parkes (1821-) and his wife Mary, nee Chapman (1821-1876) at the Lodge. Thomas was the accountant for the Mellor Mill, in the employ of Claytons. In 1875 he entrusted Elizabeth Middleton, aged just ten, with the counting house wages of six shillings, only to find that the money did not reach its destination and the girl had bought a doll instead. On questioning the girl said she had been given the doll, and so was hauled off to the local jail where she languished for a week. At the proceedings, it was felt he was foolish to trust someone so young with the money and the case was dismissed.
Although the Claytons ran the factory it appears that the Arkwrights still owned the estates and in 1875 the Marple and Mellor Estate Company was formed with a capital of £80,000, to acquire the late Peter Arkwright’s lands. Captain Arkwright was a trustee, along with Samuel Swire of Southport and J T Arkwright of Warwick. Thomas Parkes was named as one of the directors. They still could not dispose of the estate.
In 1881 the Lodge housed a ladies’ boarding school, run by Miss Louisa Allen. This establishment stayed there until 1898. Miss Allen used to greet visitors in the middle of winter at the front door, wielding a red hot poker. Her brother appears to have been from the same mould. In 1881 he describes himself as a commission merchant, but by 1891 he is an undertaker. All in all they have three pupils in 1881, and five in 1891. They did however, admit day pupils.
It will not have been terribly reassuring to the ladies of the college that Mellor Mill was totally destroyed by fire on 17 November 1892, throwing 200 people out of work. The ruins remain today and are currently in the process of excavation.
It was fortunate that Edwin Furness, the mill manager struck on the idea the following month of opening the mill up to tourism, saying:
What shall I do now? We’ll soon have cleared up what we can at the mill. Mr Arkwright won’t want me after Easter. I’ve been thinking about that. You know, pleasure parks are becoming popular. Couldn’t you have one here? Well, maybe! I suppose we could use the millponds for boating. You need a good name. Why not call them the Roman Lakes. People aren’t to know that they weren’t dug by the Romans. I think Arkwright would lease me the land. It’s not worth much.
Thus were born the Roman Lakes at Marple, Arkwright was indeed happy finally to offload some of his land, and a tourist attraction commenced.
Meanwhile, back at the Lodge in 1901 the Lenthall family moved in. George Lenthall had a millinery warehouse at 30 Tib Street in Manchester, George Lenthall & Sons. The family had lived in Marple Lodge, but were forced to move out when a landslide nearly toppled the house. After a few moves they settled for a while at Mellor Lodge, but had moved once more to Goyt Lodge by 1911. Interestingly, although they were nearby at the time of the mill fire, the family slept through it undisturbed until the next morning.
They were followed by Thomas and Ellen Richardson who had moved with their family from Didsbury. Thomas was a cotton agent, and his sons assisted in the business. In the 1930s the Lodge was once more used as a girl’s school but fell victim to disrepair and vandalism during the war and was demolished in 1949
¹ Both the British Linen Bank and Brooks Cunliffe started out as cotton concerns who had to find some way to pay their employees, issuing their own currency, which became more widely accepted in the locality.
² You can read more about the Simpsons, Arkwright and oldest cotton mill in Manchester here.
Samuel Oldknow & The Arkwrights, George Unwin: The University Press, 1924
A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain, John Burke: Colburn, 1834
Heath Bank House stood not far from Abney Hall, which is not surprising. Alfred Orrell built Abney Hall to be next door to his father, Ralph who had moved from Nicholson’s House.
Ralph was living there in 1836, as he attended a grand fancy dress ball in the Theatre Royal in Manchester in September that year, he was dressed as an old English Gentleman, at aged 46, whilst his second wife Mary Pickin (1801-1878) was in court dress and his daughters and his daughters in fancy dress. At 2s 6d (12.5p) a ticket in the afternoon and 1s (5p) in the evening, there were 640 afternoon visitors and 4,660 later on, raising a total of £313 (2020 £36,000) for good causes. The ball was held as part of the Manchester Musical Festival of 1836, and all in all the festival raised £5,000 (£0.6m in 2020) for charitable causes.
There was in such a large throng some thefts, and pockets were picked, and four members of what were found to be notorious thieves and members of the swell mob fraternity of London were apprehended and sentenced to four months on the treadmill.
Ralph died the following year on 17 April, and his widow lived on there until the 1850s. In 1851 she is living at Heath Bank with her nephew Joseph Pickin, and her granddaughter, Mary Brooks who had married John Marshall Brooks of Crawshaw Hall in Rossendale. John’s father had built the entire mineral tramway network linking quarries in the area, and his cousin was Samuel Cunliffe Brooks who we met at Cheadle Moseley Hall. Mary died in 1879 at Bagueley House in Bowdon.
After the Orrells we meet Thomas Kendal (1808-1891) and wife his family. Thomas was a silk merchant from Westmorland. You will know him better as the Kendal in Kendal, Milne & Company, and it is no surprise he should choose to live near the Abney Hall residence of James Watts, who had sold him, James Milne and Adam Faulkner the enterprise.
Thomas had trained as a draper in London, and he had worked for James Watts until 1835 when the three bought the premises. He married Mary Bradley (d 1851) on 12 April 1836 in Manchester and they had six children. After Mary’s death he married Mary Rachel Timson (1833-1863).
The three men immediately went about making the establishment on Deansgate an attraction for shoppers, installing a front window 42 feet wide by 12 feet high in 1844, at a cost of £600 (2020 £77,000), and they were prepared to deliver nationwide (using the services of Messrs Pickfords).
There was a delivery fleet of horses, with stables on Wood Street and they added gas lighting to the store. After Adam Faulkner (1804-1862) they traded as Kendal, Milne & Company, expanding further adding a furniture department across the road (which was linked eventually by a tunnel under Deansgate).
Thomas retired from the business in 1884, leaving his sons, Samuel and Thomas Herbert to run the store alongside James Milne’s sons. and Samuel and John Milne managed the store until it was sold in 1919 to Harrods stores, who initally traded under their own name, before reverting to Kendal Milne & Co.
Thomas died on 3 July 1891 at Haw Bank in Cheadle, and was buried at Heaton Mersey Congregational Church, where he was a worshipper alongside the Watts family.
After Thomas moved to Haw Bank Paul (1825-1880) and Mary Tambaci (1824-1900) were the next residents. Paul was born in the Ionian Islands and came to England becoming a naturalised citizen in 1863. He ran the Prince’s Restaurant at 7 Oxford Street in Manchester as well as the Atlantic Restaurant at 1 Newmarket, Manchester as well as carrying on an import export business to Calcutta, Baghdad and Turkey. He traded in Cotton, hardware and manufactured goods.
In 1882 the Tambaci empire collapsed, and their son Calamboros had to face the music. The total debts in 1882 were £114,227 (£13.8m in 2020), including one creditor of £43,385 (£5.3m in 2020). The business was wound up. Mary managed well enough and was seen visiting the Goldsmith family on Plymouth Grove in 1891, living on an annuity, and Calamboros was still trading comfortably from Upper Brook Street in 1886, with his wife Eliza Farlow whom he has married at St James in Calcutta. The family had moved to the Isle of Man by the turn of the century.
The house itself was put up for auction as building land in 1892, and houses were built on Parkway in Cheadle. In 1922 Cheadle Heath Sewage works was built on most of the remaining site and the M60 now cuts even further through it. The house is gone, but you can see the shape of the estate in this composite of the 1897 Bartholemew Map and Bing from the National Library of Scotland.
The house is also just visible (I think) on this Britain from the Air picture of 1929.
The Second Grand Musical Festival in Manchester: Wheeler, 1836