We will go to Bramhall today, it’s not all about the big hall there. If walk through the centre of the village towards the station, Hillbrook Grange lies to our left between the station and Ack Lane. Neil Buckley suggested the house, and I am grateful for the tip.
Except in 1882 it was not called Hillbrook, but Higher Bank House, it changed its name soon after. The house was built in the mid 19th century for John Carr and covered seven acres.
John Carr was born in 1817 in Wetton near Leek in Staffordshire to Thomas and Ann. He married a local girl, Ann and they moved to Denshaw in Saddleworth, Yorkshire where they lived until 1850 when they moved to Hawthorne Cottage in Levenshulme.
John was a cotton yarn winder, and his wealth had now risen rapidly enough to commission Higher Bank House in Bramhall. In 1860 his seventh child, Ellen was born there. Ann died at the house in 1862 and John married once more, to Esther Roylance in 1864. They continued to live at the house until after 1881 after which the family retired to Duke Street in Southport where John died on 14 August 1899, Esther died four years later in 1903.
We next meet Thomas Addyman (1857-1901). Thomas was the second son of Thomas Addyman, a Harrogate leather merchant, and he went to school at Belmont College in the town, followed by study at Wesley College in Sheffield.
He served as an engineering apprentice at Hopkins, Gilkes & Company at the Tees Engine works in Middlesborough from 1874 until 1880. This company is probably best forgotten, as they were the ones that built the first Tay Bridge, which spectacularly failed during a storm in 1879, killing 75 passengers on a train¹. Poor foundry practice was a contributory factor and the company closed in 1880, when Thomas moved to Frank Pearn & Company of Gorton.
Here he rose to the position of Managing Director in 1893. His tenure here was rather more successful and the company manufactured and licensed the manufacture of universal boring, milling and tapping machines for railway construction. They also supplied the pumps for various waterworks around the country including those in Wilmslow.
We find Thomas in Levenshulme in 1881, boarding with the Mitacherlick family, however the following year he married Helen Douglas Wilson in Keighley on January 11th and the couple first lived in Levenshulme before they moved to Higher Bank House around 1886. Helen and Thomas had two daughters and two sons, and by 1891 they are living comfortably at Hilltop with two servants and a governess.
However, tragically Helen died on the 24th January 1893 at the newly renamed Hilltop Grange, after giving birth to a son just a fortnight earlier. Thomas, aged 36 was left a widower, and employed a new governess to look after his young child, Grace Winder, aged just 21, the daughter of a wealthy local stockbroker, John Edward Winder.
Two years later he cemented the relationship by marrying Grace, and they lived happily until Thomas died, also young, aged 44 on 26 February 1901. Thomas’s son James Wilson Addyman succeeded his father at Pearn & Co and moved to Sedgeley Park in Prestwich with his wife. Grace married Fred Farrar, a school teacher in 1909 and they went to live in comfort on Dudley Road in Whalley Range with her two daughters by Thomas, Joyce Mary and Margaret.
Thomas Rowbotham (1851-1939) next moved into the house with his wife Elizabeth. Thomas was of humble stock, the son of a farm labourer, born on 1 May 1851 at Greave Fold in Romiley. He attended the Sunday School there and began work at ten years old in the local mill earning 2/6d per week (12.5p).
Three years later he was apprenticed to a blacksmith, at Gee Cross in Hyde², and began to attend the local Wesleyan Chapel where he became a preacher. In the 1880s he invented a new type of wheel, The Rowbotham Wheel, this was used on trucks in coal mines and allowed for improved lubrication, creating great economies. It was used in mines all over the world, particularly South Africa.
He moved to Stockport in 1887 and set up an Engineering Works to produce the patent wheel, but soon expanded to the Victoria Works in Portwood. He was also an excellent businessman, and his acumen saved the Broadstone Spinning Company in Reddish from bankrupcy. He managed to wipe out a deficit of £90,000 and sell the mill as a going concern in 1920 for £1m, saving countless local jobs.
Over the years he became a partner in Leah & Rowbotham, Iron Merchants, Chairman of Jackson’s Hatters and Shoemakers, Robinsons Tobacco Makers and other companies. He remained chairman of his own company for 27 years and served as Mayor of Stockport between 1916 and 1918. He was also chairman of the first education committee in Stockport, pushing through the provisions of the 1896 Education Act against much local opposition³.
He was knighted in 1921, and received the Freedom of Stockport in 1932#. In 1920 he was sufficiently wealthy to purchase the Mansion House and Gardens at Woodbank and present it to the town in honoured Memory of the men of Stockport who fought and died for their country in the Great War of 1914 – 1918.
Thomas and Elizabeth lived at Hillbrook until his death in 1939, and Florence (1875-1964), his daughter gifted the house to the Bramhall and Woodford Old People’s Welfare Committee for use as a residential home in 1951 as a memorial to her parents. The house is still in use today as an old people’s home, run as a charity, and adminstered by local directors.
Florence died on 27 December 1964 in Bramhall, a spinster, she left £75,000 in her will. She was buried at Bramhall Baptist Church alongside her father the following February.
¹ And inspiring one of the most infamous poems in English literature.
² He claimed his wages soared to 4d per week here.
³ In grateful recognition he was one of the attendees at the opening of Stockport School in 1938, and one of the form houses was named after him. I was a Kay man myself.
# The second person after Sir Joseph Leigh to receive such an honour
The Story Of Stockport School, W J Colclough: Old Vicarage Publications 1979.
© Allan Russell 2020