100 Halls Around Manchester Part 65: The Woodlands, Offerton

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The Woodlands was built on land sold by Henry Marsland in 1850. It stood near the Woodbank Estate, and now forms part of a separate park. It can be seen on the bottom right of the map below.

The Woodlands, Cheshire X, 1882 © Ordnance Survey

It is unclear who the first inhabitant was, it may have been Richard Holroyd (1848-1901), who is sold the farm equipment of Woodlands in 1869. Richard was the son of Richard Holroyd (1797-1867) and Sarah Ellis (1816-1881). Richard senior was a Warp Sizer, amongst other professions, and seeing how the family moved they were reasonably well off. Richard junior married Margaret Ellen Clucas Bridson (1848-1893) and the couple moved to Cheadle Bulkley, then Adlington and ending up at Harold’s Tower, Douglas on the Isle of Man. Richard traded as a warp sizer, corn miller, dyer and bleacher so had his hand in several pies. He had plenty of time in the evenings however and the couple had 15 children.

Whether the house was there or just farmland is not certain, the advertisement makes no mention of a house. However, in 1871 we see Captain, later Major Henry Turner (1834-1905) and his wife Alice Woodstock Winstanley (1844-1928) living there. Henry was the son of James Aspinall Turner (1797-1867) and his wife Sarah Blackmore (b 1823). James was a cotton manufacture and Whig MP for Manchester between 1857 and 1865. He lived at Pendlebury House in Salford and founded the Manchester Field Naturalist Club and was a member of the Royal Entomoligical Society¹. He later moved to visit Pendlebury House in Salford.

The Captain followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Calico Printer in Stockport as well as Magistrate for Derbyshire and Stockport (one of his mills was in Hayfield). He was a member of the Royal Cheshire Militia and rose to the rank of Major. He married Alice in 1866 and moved into Woodlands sometime after that. Soon after that he was involved in the formation of the Grand Hotel and Safe Deposit Company which sought to raise funds to build a Hotel near Victoria Bridge in Manchester, as well as a safe deposit facility. He had experience in the Hotel trade, being a director of the Victoria Hotel Company of Southport.

This scheme was to incorporate two rooms in the basement, containing up to 6,000 safes, fire and burglar proof. The hotel was to have 400 guest rooms, a turkish bath, coffee room, smoking room and bodega as well as a restaurant and nine shops fronting Deansgate.

Whether the original scheme got off the ground is not clear, and in 1885 the Grand Hotel Company was struck off the register, the hotel, however, did get built and became the Grosvenor Hotel, which survived until 1970, being demolished in 1971.

The couple lived at Woodlands tending the farm and breeding horses (the Captain gets several mentions winning prizes for his livestock in the newspapers) until it was put up for sale in 1891, after which they moved to Cale Green and then Chad’s Well in Aighton. The Major died in 1905 in West Derby, the couple had no children.

Samuel Henry Moorhouse (1852-1910) and his wife Edith Maria Fleming were the next occupants. Samuel was the son of James Moorhouse and Mary Dickens. His father was a cotton manufacturer and Samuel built the business up. In 1871 he was under manager in a mill, manager 10 years later and by 1891 he ran cotton mills. Eventually he ran Brinksway Bank Mill, Weir Mill and the Vernon Spinning Company. Brinksway alone had 20,000 spindles. He became a founder director of the Fine Spinners and Doublers Association under Charles Scott Lings who we met at Heaton Lodge. He died at the Woodlands on 18 October 1910 of angina pectoris, after going out stag hunting. He too was a keen horseman and council member of the Polo and Pony Society.

He left £169,911 in his will (£20.5m in 2021). The couple had two children, Lieutentant Samuel Moorhouse (1880-1918) who joined the 21st Empress of India Lancers. In 1905 Samuel married Athleen Dennison Wardell of Dublin.

During World War I he served with distinction as a Major in the Argyll and Southern Highlanders. He died after the war on 11 December 1918 of influenza whilst convalescing on the Isle of Wight. His estate however was a mess, he left many debts and the matter was only closed when his mother offered five shillings in the pound compensation to creditors, which they had to (reluctantly) accept.

Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth (b 1878) married first Geoffrey Lionel Packard Cheston (b 1870) a stockjobber. However after two children, the couple divorced. Mary married again, Campbell Watson around 1912.

The house was once more put up for sale in 1911 and once more horses played their part.

Manchester Courier 8 April 1911

Moving in were Joseph Ramsden (1867-1946) and his wife Caroline Emily Armitage (1867-1940). Joseph’s father, William (1833-1904) owned Shakerley Collieries at Tyldesley which produced 90,000 tons of coal pa, and Joseph ran Manchester Collieries, which owned a number of mines in the Manchester area, including Agecroft. He also had a keen interest in horse racing and owned the Manchester Racecourse Company.

Joseph Ramsden with The Duke of York (later King George VI) visiting Gibfield Colliery from Atherton Collieries by Alun Davies, Amberley Publishing, 2009

He died after a brief illness on 13 December 1946 at the Woodlands, leaving £240,000 in his will (£10.3m in 2021), an amount no doubt bolstered by the imminent nationalisation of the mines a few days later.

The couple had three children, Hesketh Adair Ramsden MC (1899-1940). Hesketh served in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the First War, and was awarded the MC by King George V for action on the 27 March 1918 at Folies in France. Like his father he became director of several Colliery Companies between the wars. In World War II he served in Norway and was killed in action on 23 April 1940 at Lillehammer, after running after German soldiers, a revolver in one hand, and a stick in another. Although killed, the Germans staggered by his audacity, ran away abandoning their weapons. His widow Joan Passmore Edwards had a stained glass window installed in his memory at St Chad, Middlemore, Yorkshire.

Nancy Armitage Ramsden (1894-1989) married Commander Allan Robert Armitage MacDonald RN (1882-1942). Allan was born in Queensland, the son of an Immigration Agent. He joined the Royal Navy aged 15, and served in 1918 on the HMAS Australia when the German Fleet was interned at Scapa Flow. After the war he served at the Royal Naval Colleges in Dartmouth, Greenwich and Glasgow , retiring in 1929. The couple lived peacefully for the rest of their lives at the Lodge in Frampton On Severn.

Finally we come to Caroline Eckersley “Lena” Ramsden. The Guardian described her as one of the grandes horizontales sapphiques of her day. She insisted the perfect present for women she was courting was a trouser press, the Times said she held erotic cocktail parties in her bedroom for nice folks selected from the adult members of her community, telling one of her lovers she was a cave woman².

She was also very horsey. Along with winning many prizes for her horsewomanship, she wrote a number of books on the subject: Ladies in Racing, the 16th Century to the Present Day, Racing Without Tears, and A Farewell to Manchester Racecourse. Her memoirs were called, A View From Primrose Hill, not after the London landmark as you would expect, but after the house she was born in in Little Hulton.

During the second world war she came back to Woodlands to live with her father and the mansion was also used to house GIs³. She returned to London after the war and lived at Primrose Hill Studios in NW1. She died on 23 May 1985 aged 81.

After Joseph’s death, the house may have been temporarily used as an orphanage, but it was eventually demolished for Woodlands Park and Woodlands Drive Housing Estate.

Let’s see some pictures:

© Caroline Ramsden
Woodlands Park Bathing Pool

¹ The African gecko, Chondrodactylus turneri is named for him.

² Read the Times article.

³ Val Lloyd on the Stockport Heritage Facebook site says she remembers a lady who wore lots of makeup and was known as Aunty. Perhaps that was her….


Grosvenor Hotel

Joseph Ramsden at the Durham Mining Museum

The Guardian Daphne Du Maurier and her Sisters

The Times Those Free Loving Spirits

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 64: The Towers, Didsbury


The Towers was built between 1868-1872 for £50,000 (£5.8m in 2021) for John Edward Taylor (1830-1905), the second son of the founder of the Guardian, also John Edward Taylor (1791-1844). Setting a trend often seen with the Manchester Guardian, he never lived there but moved down south. It stands in Didsbury, near St James off the road towards Parr’s Wood.

The Towers, Lancashire CXI.SE 1895 © Ordnance Survey

John Edward Taylor senior was born on 11 September 1791 at Ilminster to John Taylor, a Unitarian minister and his second wife Mary Scott (1751-1793) a poet. After Mary’s death John and his children moved to Manchester where he joined a group of radical liberals.

John’s liberal circle was in favour of proportional representation, the abolition of rotten boroughs and Parliamentary representation of the industrialised towns of the North and Midlands.

Although a witness to Peterloo, he was unimpressed with its leaders, but was encouraged to found the Guardian in 1821.

He married first, Sophia Russell Scott (1793-1832) on 4 May 1824 in Portsmouth¹ and the couple had three boys and one girl.

John Edward Taylor junior was not meant to inherit the mantle of the Guardian, he only did so on the death of his elder brother, Russell Scott Taylor (1825-1848) that he took over the newspaper. The couple’s second son, John Edward Taylor (1828-1829) died in infancy and John Edward Taylor II was born on 2 February 1830. Their daughter, Sophia Russell Taylor (1826-1868) married Peter Allen (1815-1892) who joined the Guardian as manager and partner.

After Sophia’s death, John married once more to Harriet Acland Boyce (1802-1845) and had three more daughters. Sarah Acland Taylor (1837-1894), Harriet Ann Taylor (b 1838) and Mary Ann Taylor (b 1840). Each of these sisters married into the Jevons² family of Liverpool.

On taking over the Guardian, John E Taylor became editor and sole owner. He increased publication from its original weekly edition to a daily one and halved the price to one penny. He was one of the founders of the Press Association. In 1868 he bought the Manchester Evening News which he owned until his death. He was one of the guarantors of the 1857 Manchester Arts Treasures Exhibition He amassed a vast collection himself which took 12 days to sell in 1912, raising £358,499 (£42m in 2021), having already donated several to the Whitworth, including some Turners. He also donated a complete set of Turner’s sketches, Liber Studiorum to the British Museum (now in the Tate).

He married Martha Elizabeth Warner in 1861 and whilst the couple had no children, they adopted two girls, Charlotte and Sarah. After his death the Manchester Evening News passed to his nephews in the Allen family and the Guardian was sold to his cousin, the editor C P Scott.

He lived up until 1861 at Platt Cottage in Rusholme, and in 1868 he commissioned Thomas Worthington (1828-1909) to design a residence in Didsbury, The Towers. Thomas specialised in Gothic structures and also designed the Albert Memorial in Albert Square, the Police and Sessions Courts on Minshull Street and Kendal Railway station as well as many public baths and low cost housing. It was built by T Clay and Sons.

The Building News of 29 August 1873 provided an extensive description of the building, which can be read here. The house became known as the Calendar House, supposedly because it had 12 towers, 52 rooms and 365 windows.

However, failing health meant that he never occupied the building – he moved to live down south with his wife, and it was sold in 1874 to Daniel Adamson (1820-1890).

Daniel was born to Daniel Adamson and Nanny Gibson, the keepers of the Grey Horse Inn in Shildon, on 30 April 1820 near Durham. He was educated at the Edward Walton Quaker school and in May 1833 he started an apprenticeship at the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He and Mary Pickard (1822-1897) married in 1845 at Aysgarth, at which time he described himself as a farmer. However, a few years later he was working at the Hackworth Engineering works. The works were sold on the death of Timothy Hackworth in 1850, so Daniel moved to Stockport, where he became manager of the Heaton Foundry on Gordon Street in Heaton Norris. At this time Daniel and Mary were living on New Road in Heaton Norris.

Daniel was both successful and precocious, he left the Heaton Foundry to set up the Newton Moor Iron works and they move to Back Lane in Newton, near Ashton Under Lyne.

By 1871 he had a workforce of 250 men, and described himself as a civil and mechanical engineer, and in 1872 he relocated to Johnson Rook Road. He had patents on 19 improvements to boiler design and used steel when other manufacturers would not.

His wealth at this point allowed him to move to the Towers in Didsbury.

On 27 June 1882 a number of people, including Joseph Leigh (1841-1908) his son in law, and Daniel Adamson (a director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce by then) met at the Towers and agreed in principle to proceed with the building of a Manchester Ship Canal.

Daniel was elected chairman of the committee to promote the Ship Canal, and in the face of intense opposition from both the railway companies and the Port Of Liverpool – who would lose out on their monopolies, the Ship Canal Act was finally passed on 6 August 1885

The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette of 4 November 1882 sets out the economic case for the canal

While all (are) anxious to support the great railway interests which had done so much for them, yet they could not hide the fact that if they were to keep abreast of the times, they must possess means for carrying produce in bulk at the very lowest rates…. an Atlantic steamer carried 1,000 tons 1,000 miles at less cost than the railway for 100 miles, they had no fear the canal paying, if only it were made

On 8 August 1885 Daniel returned from Parliament to Didsbury to an enthusiastic reception at the Towers. It was arranged by the people of the village, bunting was festooned across the streets, an arch had been set up above the station holding a portrait of Daniel, with the inscription, A Well Deserved Success on one side, and Lancashire’s Future Greatness on the other. The Newton factory band played him in with See The Conquering Hero Comes the procession proceeded to the Didsbury Hotel, where a lorry was standing carrying a boat, The Daniel Adamson crewed by a boy and a girl in nautical clothing.

Daniel then proceeded to a rousing speech which drove the crowd wild. The Manchester Courier reported on 10 August 1885

I am rejoiced at this reception, because it will tell our Liverpool friends that it is an untruth to say that Lancashire is weary of the fight. If I may judge by what I see this day, Lancashire is only just beginning to fight. We have fought one of the greatest battles ever contested (Cheers) and won that battle in spite of the opposition of strong and powerful corporations. – a struggle prolonged for a period beyond all precedent (Cheers) Our opponents said that we could not find the money, but if they might judge from the demonstration the money could be found three times over (Cheers) Our Liverpool friends might at once take notice that the sixteen millions sterling which they have invested is in some danger. (Laughter). When we have got the money we want to construct the canal with, we should invite our Liverpool friends to sell to the Ship Canal Company their docks and warehouses. The property in which sixteen millions has been invested at Liverpool is not after the passing of the Canal Bill worth more than eight millions, and I shall not be prepared to offer more for it.

A prospectus was issued for 725,000 £10 shares at par in 1886 with Daniel as Chair of the Ship Canal Company and Joseph Leigh as a director.

1886 Prospectus, Illustrated London News

Unfortunately failing health meant that by 1887 Daniel had to retire and was unable to cut the first sod, nor did he see the canal completed. Daniel Adamson died on 13 January 1890 at the Towers, and is buried at Southern Cemetery. There is a blue plaque to Daniel on the Gatehouse to the Towers which can be seen from the main road.

The Towers was put up for sale or let in 1893, it was occupied by an M Winterbottom, of whom I can find no details³.

However, Joseph Leigh did see the canal completed and lived for a brief time until his death at the Towers. Let’s return to him. Joseph continued as a director and promoter of the Ship Canal Company, and was present at Eastham Ferry on 11 November 1887 when the first sod was cut for the Canal.

We met Joseph at Brinnington Hall and Bank Hall, he was the son of Thomas Baines Leigh and Mary Ann Linney. He started at the Beehive and Portwood Mills in Stockport, having had to cut his education because of his father’s failing health. He married Daniel Adamson’s daughter, Alice Ann Adamson (1834-1927) and served a record four times as mayor of Stockport.

Alice moved to St Anne’s On Sea after her husband died, and the Towers was sold to the British Cotton Industry Research Foundation in 1920, with a significant contribution by William Greenwood (1875-1925) who served as MP for Stockport from 1920-1925. He asked that the research institute be named after his daughter, Shirley, and so it became the Shirley Institute. Amongst innovations produced by the Shirley Institute is the Tog, which we all use nowadays when buying a duvet from Ikea. Today it is part of the British Textile Technology Group.

Pevsner called the Towers, the finest of all Manchester mansions, lets see some pictures:

¹ It is mildly curious that the Taylors although they settled in Mancunia, chose to marry people from the South, and live mainly there. Sophia Russell Scott was from Portsmouth, Harriet Acland from Tiverton, as was Peter Allen, and John’s wife Martha Warner from Norfolk. I have not been able to find where the Buxton / Taylor family of Clumber House fit into this picture, they were Stockport and Poynton people, if indeed they even are related. Additionally and perhaps even less worthy of curiousity is the fact that Sophia Russell Taylor went on to live at Cringle Villa in Burnage, an erstwhile home of the Watts family, and on my list of places to cover.

² The most famous of which was William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) an Economist who became professor of logic and mental and moral philosophy and professor of political economy at Owens College.

³ Help!


The Towers on Archiseek

Dictionary of National Biography John Edward Taylor

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 63: Longford Hall, Stretford

Halls Menu

Pevsner wasn’t over keen on Longford Hall, he said it was built in an indifferent Italianate style¹, but without any pretensions. It’s just as well really, as it was demolished in 1995.

The name may derive from Sir John and Lady Joan De Longford who were named in a survey of Manchester in 1320. That family lived at Longford Hall in Derbyshire. They did own land in Withington and their lands passed on to Sir Nicholas Mosley between 1579 and 1596.

Longford House was a minor asset owned by the Mosley family, they rented it out to various farmers. In 1781 Richard (b 1731-1792) and Folliot Powell (1734-1791) of Liverpool, sold some land, including Longford to Samuel Whitelegg a Manchester Fustian Manufacturer for £880. The Powell brothers were Merchant sons of Samuel Powell (1694-1745) and Elizabeth Richmond. Folliott was a Manchester Merchant and his brother Richard inherited then alienated the estate of Stanedge in Shropshire to one Richard Knight.

Elizabeth Folliott, Mrs Samuel Powell by Elizabeth Folliott Powell the sitters daughter, 1883 © The National Trust

The property then passed to Thomas Walker (1751-1817) and his wife Hannah (1747-1821). Thomas was the son of a Bristol merchant and initally rented Barlow Hall from Thomas Egerton, where we first met him.

He died at Longford Hall on 2 February 1817 and his son, Charles James Stanley Walker (1788-1875) inherited the property. In 1836 Charles demolished the farm buildings to rebuild a mansion and wooded park. This was known as Longford House and had a large walled garden to the north and an ornamental water feature running parallel to the north wall of the garden, with a pond at the eastern end.

Charles James Stanley Walker was named after his godfathers, Charles James Fox (1749-1806) and the Earl of Derby, Edward Smith Stanley (1752-1834). Fox was a whig statesman who was the arch rival of Pitt the Younger. Fox regarded George III as a tyrant and dressed in the colours of Washington’s army. He served as Britain’s first Foreign Secretary in 1782, but apart from that spent most of his time in opposition. Charles served as a magistrate for Manchester and up until 1851 is living comfortably at Longford House

He does appear to be doing well up until 1847, with directorships in many railway companies, serving as an Alderman and Magistrate. However money troubles seem to overcome him and he is forced to put Longford House up for sale in 1847, it not being sold until 1854. In the meantime he has to declare himself an insolvent debtor, and live out the rest of his days in reduced circumstances, lodging amongst the middle class clerks and merchants of Lloyd Street in Chorlton Upon Medlock, whilst still serving as a magistrate until the last few years of his life when illness made it difficult for him. His portrait is still in the collection of Manchester Town Hall, and it was commissioned by several well wishers² during the Lord Mayoralty of Robert Barnes.

Charles James Stanley Walker by George Patten © Manchester Town Hall

The property was bought by John Rylands (1801-1888) and his wife Martha Greenough (1806-1875). His first task was to demolish Charles’s building and erect his own, the new Longford Hall.

John Rylands was the son of Joseph Rylands (1761-1847) and Elizabeth Pilkington (1761-1829) and was born on 7 February 1801 in St Helens. Joseph’s father was a hand loom weaver and had a small busines. However, Joseph had bigger ideas and rapidly expanded the business, opening a drapers shop in town, where he sold not only his own produce, but the output from other mills.

Becoming more successful, Joseph moved to Manchester in 1822 where he established Joseph Rylands and Sons, linen and cotton manufacturers, bleachers and dyers on the New High Street. His son John had first started on his own account in St Helens but aged 18 entered into partnership with his brothers, Joseph (1796-1853) and Richard (1798-1863) as a travelling salesman, touring the North West soliciting orders for his brothers to fulfil. Their father saw the value of the business they were creating and invested in his sons’ enterprise.

They closed the Wigan drapers, but not before opening a larger shop in Manchester in 1824, having diverted their trade from serving Chester to Manchester, which they saw as a more lucrative market – building a warehouse on New Street from which they sold their wares. They expanded into dying and printing forging partnership with flax spinners in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Over time the operations on New High Street grew until they almost occupied every property. He was soon the largest trader in Manchester. He lived at first on Smedley Lane in Cheetham Hill before moving to Gorton Villa, near to where he had built a factory. After Gorton Villa he moved to Ardwick Green and finally Longford Hall.

His business continued to grow with factories in the surrounding towns – Gorton, Bolton, Wigan, Chorley, Swinton, Ainsworth, Chorlton on Medlock as well as several within Manchester on Water Street, Oxford Street, New High Street, Tib Street, Bread Street, Joiner Street, Market Street and Bridge Street as well as far afield as London and Liverpool.

John employed over 12,000 people and became the largest manufacturer in the United Kingdom. He was a generous philanthropist, congregationalist and liberal, but did not choose to enter politics, saying My good man, if you can afford to waste your words, I can’t afford to waste my time, it is very precious, worth in fact, nearly a guinea a minute.

He expanded into other interests, supporting the Manchester Ship Canal Company with an investment of £360,000. However rich he became, he retained his modesty, it is said that his shopwalkers were more elegantly dressed than he, and he ensured he did not lose attention to detail – even down to ensuring that individual cabbages in his gardens were properly accounted for in the books.

His brother Joseph retired in 1840, choosing to live on the fruits of his labour. Of his other siblings, Eleanor (1794-1819) married John Cross of Rainford. Richard (1798-1863) retired to run a farm in Upholland with his wife, Elizabeth Heyes (1792-1863). Richard died on 11 March 1863, and Elizabeth a fortnight later. Finally, Elizabeth Rylands (March 1806- July 1806) died in infancy.

He married three times, firstly to Dinah Raby (1802-1843) on 17 August 1825, with her he had three children, John Garthwaite Rylands (1826-1872), William Rylands (1828-1861) Emily and Eliza (1831-1832) Joseph (1829-1830) and Emily (1834-1834). John lived on his fathers money after marrying Hannah Birtenshaw (1824-1900), William entered his father’s trade but died young at the age of 33, leaving a widow and three young children.

After Dinah’s death in 1848 he married Martha Greenough (1806-1875) the daughter of Isaac (1771-1811), a wealthy brewer from Parr near Warrington, and Alice Rylands. Martha was a widow, who had been married to Richard Carden (1806-1841), a druggist from Winwick.

John Rylands

Martha and John lived for most of their lives at Longford. They had no children. At Longford Park he spent a great deal of effort building a home suitable for a wealthy merchant. The house was built in the Italianate style and he began to expand the wider estate, laying out new formal gardens in the style of Chatsworth. The estate was a working farm until 1912 and elaborate irrigation systems were built with subterranean piping to transport the water. He employed 19 gardeners and had 31 conservatories growing grapes, pineapples and other exotic fruit.

He was active in the community, building Union Church in Stretford ,the Public Hall and Longford Coffee House, employing his own personal architect, William Arthur Lofthouse (1847-1887) to carry out much of the work. He made sure that his staff were looked after, erecting Longford Cottages for his gardeners and Sunnyside Cottages for a home for aged Gentlewomen.

Longford Coffee House © Trafford Timelines

Martha took a ladies’ companion towards the end of her life, Enriqueta Augustina Tennant (1843-1908). Enriqueta was the daughter of Stephen Catteley Tennant (1800-1848) and Juana Camila Dalcour (1818-1855) Her father was a Leeds born merchant who had married in Cuba, where his daughter was born. He returned to England where he died in a tragic accident on 3 November 1848 when he fell between the wheels of an approaching train and the platform at Farnborough Railway station, despite efforts to cut him free he was crushed to death by the time he was extricated. His widow, Juana who was the daughter of a Cuban father and American wife, went on to marry Julian Ignace Fontana (1810-1869) who was a pianist, composer, journalist, author and close friend and promoter of Chopin. Juana died whilst pregnant with their second child in Paris.

Enriqueta became close friends with the Rylands and after Martha’s death, she married the 74 year old millionaire, whilst aged only 32, on 6 October 1875. She inherited his vast fortune of £2,574,922 on John’s death (£343m in 2021) on 11 December 1888.

She continued to live at Longford until the mid 1900s when she moved to Torquay for her health, together with two sisters who she and John had adopted, Fanny Sharman Huckett and Lucy Huckett. She died on 4 February 1908 at Fairholme in Torquay.

By this time the Rylands wealth had grown to £3,428,547 (£423m in 2021). In June 1908 the paintings and sculptures at Longford were auctioned off along with the building. Stretford council offered £25,000, but the building remained unsold.

In her will, she left £200,000 to the John Rylands Library on Deansgate and another £273,000 to other public institutions and charities, around £500,000 to various relations and servants, with the residue of the estate being shared equally between her nephews and nieces and Fanny Sharman Huckett.

The John Rylands library is the main memorial to her husband. She began the work soon after the death of her husband, buying land on Deansgate in 1889 and in 1892 she bought the Earl Of Spencer’s library for £250,000. The library opened to readers in 1900 and today has over 250,000 books and one million manuscripts.

Enriqueta worked to maintain John Rylands’ memory and was given the freedom of the City of Manchester in 1893. After her death, her brother Stephen Joseph Tennant (1843-1914) carried on her work supporting the library, we met him previously at Barlow Fold.

Stretford Council finally managed to buy the Hall and Estate in 1911 for £14,700 , considerably less than previously offered, but largely because chunks of the estate had already been sold off. The estate was opened as a park, but they had no idea what to do with the Hall until 1914 when Mr Hilditch, a local man, held a display of his Chinese and Japanese Art.

The first world war saw the Hall being used to house Belgian Refugees then as a convalescent hospital for limbless soldiers until 1921. War use did cause damage to the structure of the building, but work was carried out in the 1920s, installing a dance floor and reopening for functions and as a museum and art gallery.

A long period of decline followed the second world war, the conservatories were demolished and the bandstand was despatched to Crich tramway museum and in 1983 the Hall was closed for repairs.

It never reopened and fell into dereliction to be demolished in 1995. Quelle surprise.

Let’s see some pictures:

¹ Other sources say that he considered it to be the finest Italianate building in Manchester, but I can’t find that quote. Some of those sources are the ones that knocked the building down in the first place…

² For reasons I have not been able to ascertain CJSW was known to locals as Cabbage Walker, although his niece vehemently denied that in a letter to the Guardian in October 1875. Apparently she never heard him called that when she was in his company.


The Buildings of England, South Lancashire, Pevsner : Penguin 1969.

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain & Ireland, John Burke:Colburn, 1836

A History of the Ancient Chapel of Stretford in Manchester, Henry Crofton : Chetham Society, 1903

Longford Conservation Area Consultation Draft 2016: Trafford Council

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 62: Turton Tower, Blackburn.

Halls Menu

Turton is named after its manor house, meaning literally Tower Town. Some sources say that there was a building built in 1101, however the earliest records of the tower state that the manor of Turton was owned from 1212 by Henry de Torboc.

Turton Tower Lancashire LXXIX, 1850 © Ordnance Survey

The Torbocs were not local, they came from Tarbuck on Merseryside and paid feudal dues for Turton to the Barons of Manchester. In 1420 John De Torboc died, and his property was divided amongst Elizabeth, his daughter and the cousins. Elizabeth inherited Turton.

She married William Orrell and it was now that the current building started to emerge. Turton Tower is similar in construction to a Pele tower, but it is unlikely that Scottish Raiders were in mind during its construction, rather more a defence against the Torboc family. In 1533 Ralph Orrell built two sets of living accomodation at right angles to the stone tower. The Orrells owned the Tower until 1628 when the last Orrell to live there, another William, the son of John Orrell and Elizabeth Butler had borrowed £1,000 from Humphrey Cheetham¹ Debts mounted, and in 1628 Humphrey bought the Tower for £4,000. The expense of building the extensions had bankrupted the Orrell family.

Humphrey however lived mainly at Clayton Hall, although he used the Tower as a billet for Roundhead Troops in 1642. The Orrells continued to live there until 1648, when Humphrey passed the Tower to his nephew, George.

George was also a wealthy man, and he was also nearly 60. He had also like his uncle been a London Merchant. He equipped Turton with comfortable down mattresses and four poster beds. Even the servants had a degree of comfort. Tragically his son, Humphrey, died aged 23. Broken hearted he spent £170 on his funeral.

George himself died five years later in 1664 and the manor passed down through his son and grandsons and finally to Edward Cheetham who left no issue and by 1770 the Tower was being leased to Tenant farmers.

The property stayed in the Cheetham’s possession and the family were still Lords of the Manor. Ownership passed to Edward’s sister, Alice who married Adam Bland, the nephew of John of Hough End. Alice and Adam then passed the property to their daughter Mary who married Mordecai Greene, a Spanish Merchant, whose son James (1759-1814) MP for Arundel inherited after that.

James lived mainly at Raglan Tower. On his death the estate passed to his daughters, Charlotte Alice (1779-1847), Mary (1781-1846), Arabella Penelope Elizabeth (1778-1865) and Angelina Frances (1788-1846).

All the girls married well. Charlotte wed first to Richard Wilkins (1784-1817), a banker from Breconshire on St Valentine’s day 1816. He died the following January and she then married Commander Edward William Seymour RN (1791-1874) in 1821. After her death the naval man married two more times.

Mary Greene married Edward Frere (d 1847), the manager of Clydach Ironworks and the couple had 13 children. One, Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere (1815-1884) married Catherine Arthur, the daughter of the Governor of Bombay and became his father in law’s private secretary. He rose to Chief Commissioner of Sindh where he introduced a postal system mirrored on the English version which became the basis of the Indian Post. In 1862 he was appointed Governor of Bombay before returning to England whence he was despatched to Zanzibar to put an end to slave traffic. There is an inscription across the base of the font at Manchester Cathedral to Edward and Mary Frere.

Later he accompanied the Prince of Wales to India. A mission that was so successful that Lord Beaconsfield appointed him a Baronet and Queen Victoria a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Bath. He was not as successful in his next posting as the High Commissioner of South Africa, whence he returned home in disgrace and was facing charges when he died on 29 May 1884.

Sir Henry Bartle Frere, First Baronet GCB GCSI PC, © Vanity Fair

Arabella married Peter Richard Hoare, who we met at Clayton Hall, and Angelina married his brother George Matthew Hoare (1779-1852) who ran the family brewery Hoare & Company, which was eventually taken over by Bass Charrington. The Hoare Toby jug trademark was carried over into the new company. George also played cricket for Surrey, appearing five times for the county.

In 1835 the Tower was purchased by James Kay (1774-1857) for £27,475 (£3.6m in 2021) who had invented a wet spinning process for flax to produce the finest cotton yarns of the time.

James was born at Edge Fold Farm, Entwistle. In 1800 he moved to Chorley, Lancashire where he improved his spinning skills and two years later married Elizabeth Helm at St John in Preston. By 1820 he had a mill on Bridge Lane in Preston and in 1825 he was at Penny Bridge Flax Mill, Preston where he started selling yarn to Northern Ireland. He moved to Pendleton in 1830 and ran into a patent infringement battle with James Marshall of Leeds, who had adopted the same process.

He retired in 1835 and moved to Turton Tower, leaving his sons to run the business, concentrating on the refurbishment of the tower which he completed in 1845.

He was succeeded by his son, James (1803-1876) who married Anne Dunn of Scarborough (1820-1880) who lived the comfortable life of Lord of the Manor at Turton, and then by James and Anne’s son, James (1852-1889) who lived for a short time at the tower, before moving to Leamington Spa around 1883, with his wife, Frances Stevens (1855-1920) when the Tower was once more put up for rental. The couple had one son, James born on the 21 February 1887. James, his father, died on 13 March 1889 and it was decided to put the entire Turton estate was put up for auction as the heir at law was under three years old. The Tower did not reach its reserve price, but there were some valuable pickings to be had:

Dundee Evening Telegraph 27 September 1890

It was bought by Anne (1829-1901) and Elizabeth Appleton (1828-1903), the daughters of Thomas Appleton (1794-1870), owner of the nearby Horrobin Mills. Thomas was a banker who became a partner in the mills in 1850 and the family began to run the mill. After Thomas’s death the mill was run by his wife, Ann and then the sisters. Quite why they bought Turton Tower is a mystery as they do not appear to have lived there much, as they were on the census for 1891 and 1901 as living at Horobin House and working the mill.

The Tower was sold again in 1903 for £3,875 (£483,000 in 2021) by Lees Knowles (1857-1928) the son of John Knowles and Elizabeth Lees of Green Bank, Oldham. His father owned Andrew Knowles & Sons Collieries who had sunk the first mine at Agecroft . Lees sat as MP for Salford West from 1886-1906, after which he retired and wrote a number of books on the life of Napoleon. He married Lady Nina Oglivy Grant (1884-1951)

Although the couple owned Turton, their main residence was Westwood in Pendlebury. They had Turton as a weekend retreat. Lees Knowles died on 7 October 1928 and once more the contents were plundered for auction the following February

Scotsman 6 July 1927

There was the problem of what to do with the Hall. Manchester Council refused to buy it in 1932 and there were suggestions that it be transformed to a museum. However, there was a fear that it would go the same way as Agecroft Hall and cross the Atlantic, so Lady Knowles offered the Tower free of charge to Turton District Council on condition that it remain open to the public, as an extra protection for the Tower it was listed as an ancient monument in 1932.

The property was first used as chambers by Turton Council but in 1952 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s accession, Turton was one of the sites where the Royal Proclamation was read by the Chairman of the Council,

Lord Derby adding that in the County Palatine, the correct form of the Loyal Toast would be The Queen, Duke of Lancaster. It was Lord Derby who opened the Tower as a museum and it is still open to this day to visitors²

Let’s see some pictures:

© Visit Blackburn

¹ Not altogether wise, considering the fate of Lawrence Brownlow at Hall’I’Th’Wood.

² Well no, virus has shut it hopefully, temporarily.


Cotton Town – Blackburn & Darwen

The History of The County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster III, Edward Baines : Fisher, 1836

James Kay of Turton Tower: Inventor and Flax Spinner (1774-1857), Richard Horrocks, 2020

© Allan Russell 2021

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 61: Grotton Hall, Saddleworth

Halls Menu

Grotton Hall was the seat of the Buckleys of Saddleworth, it stands in Lydgate, overlooking Oldham.

Yortkshire 270, 1854 © Ordnance Survey

The current building was in the Buckley family for centuries. In 1656 John Buckley built or rebuilt part of the house. The Buckleys were originally tenants of Dunham Massey but they became wealthy in the early 17th century and in 1629 Richard Buckley bought part of Quick Moor in Saddleworth. He now described himself as a yeoman of Grotton Head.

John improved on his father’s landholdings, buying several farms in the area, as did his son and grandson after him, also called John.

In 1781 another John Buckley (1759-1805) inherited the hall. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and settled in Chester. He mortgaged the estate, and part of his farm was purchased to build Lydgate Church. The last of this line to own Grotton Hall was Richard Fosbrooke Buckley who sold the Hall to Sir Edmund Buckley (1780-1867) of Manchester, the son of John Buckley who built the White Hart Inn in Lydgate.

Edmund was a self made industrialist who operated as a canal carrier, coal merchant and manufacturer, by 1850 he was considered to be the richest man in Manchester. He sat as MP for Newcastle Under Lyme between 1841 and 1847, but never spoke in the House.

He was born on 24 December 1780 in Lydgate and started by working in the local cotton mills and also helped his father who became an agent for the Huddersfield Canal company. Working in the transport industry he entered the firm of Booth and Company who carried goods between Manchester and Hull and rose to be partner, renaming the company E Buckley & Co. Rising in wealth he entered into other industries and helped fund others in their endeavours. In later life he became a magistrate for Lancashire, Derbyshire and Merionethshire (where he had land) and also Chairman of the Manchester Insurance Company as well as director of the Rochdale Canal Company along with seats on a number of railway boards.

Grotton Hall was heavily modernised by Edmund Buckley in 1844, and the general opinion of the time is that he did not improve the building with his tinkering.

In his private life he was a keen racehorse owner and owned a large stud. He died on 21 January 1867 in Ardwick. He was succeeded by his illegitimate son, Edmund Peck (1834-1910) who was born out of wedlock to Sarah Peck.

Edmund had his name changed by royal warrant in 1864 to Buckley and inherited the estate, and the sizeable manufacturing empire of his father. He lived at Higher Ardwick and Grotton Hall and had control of his father’s Prussiate and Copperas factories in Manchester and Elland, a farm, a coal and lime company and slate quarry at Dinas Mawddwy and a Brick and Tile Company at Whitchurch.

He had also inherited his father’s seat at Dinas Mawddwy in Merionethshire and had been created the first Baronet in 1868. He sat as MP for Newcastle Under Lyne. He settled at Dinas Mawddwy marrying Sarah Peck (d 1883) and building a mansion he called Y Plas as well as a Hotel, the Buckley Arms, which is the oldest reinforced concrete building in Europe.

Despite all these advantages he misappropriated his father’s estate and took control of various legacies for himself and inevitably got caught out, his whole empire collapsing with debts of over £500,000 in 1876 (£59.2m in 2021). His brother, John Peck, emigrated to Australia with his wife Emma where they had two children, and John died there in 1869. Emma sued to make the trustees liable for the misappropriation of legacies. The plaintiffs subsequently discovered that the legacies had not been paid over, and that Edmund had not taken over the annuities provided in the will. Coupled with this his business empire also collapsed leaving him almost penniless.

In 1879 it was ordered that the estate was sold to the trustees to pay for the misapplied legacies, the final dividend was 7s in the £. He took the Chiltern Hundreds and retired to his Welsh home. Sarah died in 1883 and he married her cousin, Sarah Mysie Burton, nee Jenkins. He died on 21 March 1910, and was succeeded by his son, also Edmund (1861-1915) His son, Edmund (1888-1915) was killed in action in World War I.

Grotton Hall in the mean time passed to his aunt, Elizabeth Buckley (1795-1878), his father’s sister. Elizabeth married Captain Walter Whitehead¹ (1798-1862) of Saddleworth and the couple lived initially on Atherton Street in Liverpool where he owned ships. However around 1851 they moved back to Grotton Hall where they lived until their deaths. They had no children and were buried at St Chad in Saddleworth.

After the last of the Buckleys the Hall was first occupied by John and Elizabeth Smith and their nine children in 1881. John and many of his children farmed the property, but some were working in local cotton mills.

After the farmer, Grotton Hall was occupied by John Stocks (1840-1914), his wife Zillah Kathleen Simpson (1854-1907) and their children. John was born in Oldham in 1840 and married first Grace Mills (1841-1876) in 1864, with whom he had four children, Jackson William (1865-1928), Frank (1869-1871), John (1875-1946) and William (1876-1890). He worked as a cotton waste dealer and the couple lived on Radcliffe Street in Oldham. After Grace died he married an Irish girl from county Sligo, Zillah Simpson in 1878 and they had two more children, Zillah Rebecca (1881-1949) and Caleb Henry (b 1879). They briefly moved to Grotton Hall in the late 1880s, staying for around a decade, but after that found Radcliffe Street more attractive and moved back there, living at number 161 until their deaths.

Next to move into Grotton Hall were John Vernon James Hollingworth (1865-1944) and his wife, Stella Nayler (1864-1944). John was a draper born in Dukinfield. He married Stella in Doncaster in 1891 and they had two children, Stella Nayler (1892-1982) and Francis Vernon (1894-1983). In 1901 they were living on Old Street in Ashton, but moved in the mid 1900s to Grotton Hall, however they too saw the benefits of a return to their native town, and were soon back in Ashton Under Lyne, living on Newmarket Road.

In the 1930s Elias Wild (1862-1936) and his wife Sarah Harriett Taylor lived at the Hall. Elias was born in Whaley Bridge in 1862 but soon moved to Ashton Under Lyne and Stalybridge, where they lived on Stamford Street. He founded the building supplies merchant, Elias Wild & Sons,which survives to this day as part of the Travis Perkins Group.

Lastly for this story, we have Fruit Merchant, Richard Ernest Boardman (1872-1951) who was in the house during the second world war. He married Harriett Agnes Richbell (1868-1916) in 1895. Harriett died on 20 March 1916, and his son Alfred Henry Boardman (1896-1916) was killed in the Dardanelles whilst serving with the Royal Fusiliers. He mourned them both, and placed an advert every year in the Manchester Evening News to remember them, as did his other sons, Charles, Harry and Frederick.

The Hall is still occupied today, and a cottage in the grounds is available for holiday bookings.

Let’s see some pictures:

Grotton Hall © Jaggers Heritage

¹ It may be that he is related to the Whiteheads of Shaw Hall, I suspect so, but have no evidence.


Mapping Saddleworth : Saddleworth Historical Society 2007

Saddleworth Sketches, Joseph Bradbury: Hirst & Rennie, 1871.

The Palatine Notebook, J E Cornish: 1883

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 60: Shaw Hall, Saddleworth

Halls Menu

Shaw Hall stood in Grasscroft, where the Farrar’s Arms is today. It was built for the Shaw family around the time of Edward II’s reign. However, today nothing exists save for a few local place names, such as Shaw Hall Bank Road, alongside Greenfield Station. Shaw Hall also gave its name to the hamlet and a toll booth.

It was inherited in 1380 by Richard De Radcliffe, of the Radcliffe family. They possibly came into possession by marriage. Richard was the son of John De Radcliffe of Ordsall. The estate covered 80 acres and he gave the Hall to his second wife, Sibilia De Cliderow of Salebury.

Richard drowned in Rossendale Water in 1380. He left one son, John by his first wife. Sibilia married twice after this, firstly to Sir Richard Mauleverer then to Sir Roger de Fulthorp, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. Sir Roger tried to gain possession of the Hall, but this was thwarted by an inquisition. and the Hall continued to descend through the Radcliffes.

During Elizabeth I’s reign, Captain Robert Radcliffe owned the Hall. He was the third son of William Radcliffe of Chadderton and Foxdenton. Robert was at Cadiz when it was captured by the Earl Of Essex, who had an affair with a Spanish lady, who he took prisoner. However when set free, she begged to stay with him. Being the perfect English gentleman, he had to say he had a wife at home…


Will you hear of a Spanish Ladye

How she woo d an English man ….

As his prisoner then he kept her

In his hands her life did lie

…. At length there came an order

To set all Ladyes free

With their jewels gold and ornaments

Free from any injurie

Then said this Ladie mild

Full wo is me

Oh let me still enjoy my kind captivitie

Gallant Captain take some pity

… Why should thou fair Ladye love me

When thou know’st thy country’s foe

Thy fair words make me suspect thee

Serpents lie where flowers grow

….Of brave lovers you have plentye

Spain doth yield a gallant store

Spaniards fraught with jealousy we most often finde

But Englishmen throughout the world are counted kynde

….To maintain that pretty face And to travel is expensive

You must know in every place

….On the seas are frequent dangers

Many storms do there arise

Which are oft to Ladyes fatal

Stealing beautye dimming eyes

Well in truth I shall endure the worst extremitye

For I could find in my heart to love the storm for thee

….Here comes one to end this strife In England

I have got already A sweet woman for my Wife

I will not falsify my vow for gold nor gain

Nor yet for the fairest mayden that is in Spayn

Around 1700 the Hall passed into the Whitehead family through marriage. Radcliffe Whitehead (b c 1700) married Mary Corbishley at St Chad in Saddleworth. They had a son, also called Radcliffe who was born in 1728 and married Anne Kenworthy. Their son, Ralph Whitehead was born in 1758. Ralph was an Innkeeper, which suggests that he owned the Farrars Arms. On 22 August 1796 he was out on the surrounding moors grouse shooting, when James Harrop, his companion opened fire on a bird, missing the lucky fowl, but hitting Ralph in the shoulder, killing him instantly, leaving a widow and six children.

Little else is known of the house, Bradbury says it was demolished in the 1790s to make room for the Farrars arms (but he also suggests it was on the other side of the road). It may be the case, given that Ralph was an innkeeper that the Farrars is the site. The house had a large central hall, containing an oak bedstead. Kitchens stood to the left and the parlour to the right. It was built of stone with some timber and plaster supporting the roof. There were at least two halls, the latter one was built during James I’s reign.

This is the only picture of the Hall.

Shaw Hall, 1790 From Saddleworth Sketches
Elements of the Hall still possibly reflected in the Farrars Today © Google

¹ Whilst I have no reason to disbelieve the genealogical research by Lyman de Platt of Utah which I used to provide the lineage of the Radcliffes, I will leave you with notes of his interview with John Radcliffe of Ordsall.

The ancestry of John Radcliffe, Sr., through three generations where records are minimal, has been identified in two ways: 1) he (and his son John, Jr.) and four generations of his ancestors were born and lived at Shaw Hall. This large mansion was passed down from father to son. Captain Robert Radcliffe passed it on to his son Richard Radcliffe, who gave it to son Alexander Radcliffe, who to his son Alexander Radcliffe, and he to either his son John Radcliffe, Sr., or to John's brother Edmund; [12] either way both John and Edmund lived at Shaw Hall; 2) John Radcliffe, Sr. in a spiritual meeting with me (Lyman De Platt) said this pedigree was correct. John Radcliffe, Sr. is a very dynamic and positive individual. He had never spoken to anyone in the physical world since shortly after he died in the 1740s. He was very aware of what I was doing on the Radcliffe genealogy and felt that we had a lot in common, both physically and spiritually. The meeting tired him because he was unaccustomed to using energy in that way. Since this meeting we have also been able to identify the wives more fully. Another thing that he didn't explain, but which caused him great excitement, as if stars were exploding, was the mention of Cross [HALL]



Mapping Saddleworth : Saddleworth Historical Society 2007

Saddleworth Sketches, Joseph Bradbury: Hirst & Rennie, 1871.

The Palatine Notebook, J E Cornish: 1883

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 59: Kenyon Peel Hall, Little Hulton.

Halls Menu

Hulton is first mentioned around 1235. In time it became three townships, Little, Middle and Over Hulton. The manor was first held by the Barton and Worsley families. The district was split into several smaller parishes, including Wharton and Peel. Confusingly there were two Peel Halls in the area. We are going to look at the one known as Kenyon Peel Hall, or sometimes Old Peel Hall.

The confusion for the Victorian Postman can be seen on the Ordnance Survey map below, our Peel Hall is the one to the left, under the T of Little Hulton.

Kenyon Peel Hall was also referred to as Old Peel Hall, as it was believed to be the older of the two Peels, and Kenyon Hall, because of its association with the Kenyon family. For clarity I will refer to it as Kenyon Hall.

The Old Hall was possibly built on the site of a previous residence around the beginning of the 17th century, or it may be that there were substantial alterations made at that time to a 16th century building.

The earliest mention of an occupant was in 1595 when Alexander Rigby of Wigan lived there. He married Eleanor Shaw and in 1617 he modernised the hall. Alexander was Deputy Clerk of the Peace, in charge of recording the proceedings of Quarter Sessions. The Clerk in charge was his cousin, Roger Rigby, whose brother Edward, an attorney at Grey’s Inn had recently inherited the post of Clerk of the Crown for Lancashire. The Rigby family therefore had two of the three most important legal roles in Lancashire. Alexander himself was also educated at Gray’s Inn and had been a clerk to Sir Gilbert Gerard, Master of the Rolls. In February 1607 Roger purchased letters patent which gave him the right to pass this on to his own son, another Alexander, then to his grandson. However, he could not afford this and having other large creditors, he had to seek help from his son in law, James Winstanley. However, this agreement only paid off his two largest creditors and he ended up signing over his properties to James, and going into hiding.

Eventually Roger was found in York and began to believe that Winstanley and his cousin were defrauding him. The two men decided they would keep the properties, and did little about Roger’s debts, so legal proceedings were initiated.

Roger was tricked into signing an agreement which left most of his property, but none of his debts in Winstanley’s hands, and he begged his son Alexander to pay off the debts, resorting to stopping his allowance and then allowing him to be thrown into debtors jail. This ploy worked, and then Roger made provision for the clerkship to revert not to his son Alexander, but to his cousin Alexander (of Kenyon Hall) on his death.

in 1612 King James then signed letters patent giving Alexander of Wigan the clerkship for his lifetime and then to his eldest son. Roger Rigby attempted to get the letters back, but his debts forced him again into hiding allowing the action to lapse.

Alexander had a growing legal practice in Wigan, and despite paying out for the Clerkship now had a greatly increased income and significant wealth. He then bought another letter patent to guard against any forfeiture of the first, giving the Clerkship to his other sons, George Rigby (1602-1644) and Joseph (1600-1671).

Alexander died on 16 April 1621 at Kenyon, and having summoned a quorum of JPs he passed over the clerkship to his eldest son, Alexander in trust for George. The eldest son carried out a very honest job for his brother, properly accounting for the profits and also used the fees earned to put George and Joseph through Gray’s Inn.

George Rigby

George returned to Kenyon on 6 July 1627 and on this date the clerkship was handed over to him. He married Beatrice Hulton (d 1643) in 1630 and the couple had four daughters , Beatrice, Lucy, Katherine and Alice. Katherine died in September 1643 George died after a three month illness in July 1644. At the time the Civil War was raging through England, his brother Alexander (now an MP) was besieging Lathom House. George had passed the clerkship to a friend Richard Whitehead to carry it out for the benefit of his girls. Alexander was in no doubt that his brother had intended the proceeds of the clerkship to be for the benefit of George’s daughters but his brother Joseph was also asking for the clerkship, to apply it also for the benefit of the girls.

Beatrice was finding it hard to get by on a reduced income at the house, and to add to her grief, Lucy died in 1646. She was relying on her brother’s advice which led to her falling out with Alexander and he passed the clerkship over to his brother Joseph, on condition that if any law showed that any of George’s daughters were entitled to profits, they should receive them immediately.

Beatrice died in 1648 and the daughters were more attracted to the Hulton home, rather than the stern puritan environment of Alexander.

The legal battles continued and eventually judgement was given for the daughters, that they should have the office carried out on their behalf, and £200 compensation be paid to them. This was thwarted by parliament suppressing the court, leaving Joseph to enjoy the profits. Beatrice died in 1656 leaving only Alice alive, and therefore increased Joseph’s hopes that he could ride the problem out.

Alice was perhaps a little more canny as she married Roger Kenyon (1627-1698) on 17 June 1657. Roger was cut from an altogether different cloth. He saw the potential inheritance, moving into what now became in reality, Kenyon Hall, and the income stream from which he could benefit if he were a litigious. He was so.

He was also patient. He waited, and in 1660 his chance came. Charles II returned to London in 1660 and he immediately travelled south to tell the King his grievances. The King instructed his Chancellor, Lord Seymour to hear the case. The Rigbys heard of this an issued a counter petition, which was to be heard on the same date. It was decided that the office should go to Roger Kenyon on the death of Joseph Rigby.

Whilst this was a good victory in the long term, it was not such a good idea in the short term. Roger had spent by his reckoning £230 to secure the letters patent, and had to temporarily pawn the letters, for £100. Fortunately he was able to redeem the pledge.

Over the next months he returned to London to have the decisions enforced, and in 1661 after some hard slog through the courts he offered to place the matter in arbitration, but Rigby deliberately caused the arbitration to collapse. In 1662 Kenyon managed to get the case heard at the Lancaster Assizes, and took great trouble to gather witnesses from far and wide in his favour. The court however decided that it was the intent that the Rigbys held the office during their lifetime.

Kenyon was tenacious. He believed that the documents supporting the transfer from George Rigby were forgeries, and managed to prove this in court when a key witness broke down and admitted to perjury. Rigby had now to hand over all documentation to Kenyon. This was to prove also hard to do as he managed to evade Kenyon on visits to his properties, and even let it be known that the members of his household were armed, deterring Kenyon.

Eventually Kenyon got to the front door of Rigby’s house, but Joseph’s son, Alexander refused to bring his father to the door. However, Kenyon boxed clever and threw the decree on the floor of the hall, saying

since he could not come att his said Father to deliver itt, he thought he could not leave itt in a likelier place for him to find itt

Kenyon was not yet finished with his adversaries. He wanted compensation and he had meticulously noted all of his expenses to date, which bill he rendered to Joseph headed, An Account for Joseph Rigby:

For good measure he added the fact that his men had covered in this endeavour totalled £22,622. This too went to court, and judgement was granted for far less. However, again Rigby managed to avoid payment. Joseph Rigby had had the last laugh, he died on 7 November 1671 without having paid over any money. Roger Kenyon and his son had won the clerkship and Kenyon Hall, but it had cost them dearly.

Roger Kenyon

Roger and Alice’s eldest son, Roger (1660-1728) became a trader, and sailed to Barbados in 1681. He did not initially do well and wrote back that he was working as a teacher in a gentleman’s household when infact he was indentured to pay off his debts. He asked for money to return to England, which his father duly sent expecting his arrival back in Plymouth in 1684. He never arrived, having married Mary Ray (1667-1714) on Rhode Island in October 1683. Mary was the daughter of Simon Ray (1638-1737) a wealthy farmer who had emigrated from Suffolk, and his wife Mary Thomas.

Another son, Thomas (1668-1731) married Catherine Lloyd, the daughter of Luke Lloyd of Bryn in Flintshire. The Hall fell into the ownership of this family and remained in their possession until demolition. Their son Lloyd (1696-1773) inherited the Gredlington Estate in Flintshire from his grandfather Luke Lloyd – his son Lloyd (1732-1802) became the first Baron Kenyon, and served as Attorney General, Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls.

The Lord Kenyon after Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850) © Royal Collection

George Kenyon (1665-1728) succeeded his father in the Clerkship, and was educated at Manchester Grammar School, St John’s Cambridge and Gray’s Inn. Old enmities were however not far from the surface and he clashed with Sir Alexander Rigby MP for Preston and Joseph Rigby’s nephew and the Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard of Gawsworth) tried to stop him being appointed Wigan Recorder.

In 1698 he succeeded his father as Clerk and took up residence at Kenyon Hall. He married his cousin, Alice Kenyon at St Mary in Stockport in September 1696. In 1706 he became Vice Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and in 1713 was elected Tory MP for Wigan, which seat he held until 1715. However, he had made many enemies over the years, including the Rigbys who still bore grudges, and in 1715 he lost his Vice Chancellorship and moved from Kenyon Hall to Salford in 1718 to concentrate on his clerkship of the peace. He died on 1 December 1728 in Salford.

The Kenyons lived at the house until 1836 and the last family member to live there was Alice (d 1836).

After that the house was used as a farm. In 1881 James Roscoe¹ (1820-1890) is living there with his wife Mary Bennett (b 1821). James was the son of Roger Roscoe and Elizabeth Grundy of Farnworty. He began working as a miner in Astley and then moved to Leicester where he patented an automatic locomotive lubricator. This enabled him to invest in a mine in Little Hulton, where he started extracting the coal using horse and cart until the railways came.

Peel Hall Colliery © Hulton History

In 1872 he formed James Roscoe and sons, which continued until taken over by Peel Collieries in 1938. The mines however contributed to the downfall of Kenyon Hall. The Hall fell victim to settlement caused by the mines underneath and had to be restored in the 1880s. It was given a new blue slate roof to produce what was described as hard and glossy glitter in the place of picturesque decay.

The Kenyons retained their connection with the house and in the 1920s Lord Kenyon’s caretaker was living there. However, the house was falling into decay, Lord Kenyon offered to sell it to the council, but it was hard to raise the cash to do this. It was given a grant for restoration but when surveyed in 1958 it was beyond saving and demolished.

Let’s see some pictures:

The Gatehouse

There are some excellent pictures in Anne Monaghan‘s leaflet if you wish to follow the link.

¹ Although a colliery owner, he was still farming at the Hall.



Views of the Old Halls: Nathaniel George Philips : Henry Gray, 1822

The Halls of Little Hulton: Ann Monaghan : 2006

Old Halls In Lancashire & Cheshire, Henry Taylor : J Cornish, 1884

Burke’s Genealogy, Bernard Burke : Burke’s Peerage, 1885

Kenyon V Rigley, J J Bagley MA : 1954


Lost Houses of Britain, Anna Sproule: David & Charles 1982

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 58: Gawsworth Hall, Gawsworth.

Halls Menu

The Manor of Gawsworth lies around 3 miles South West of Macclesfield. It was given in the twelfth century by Randal de Meschines, Earl of Chester to Hugh, son of Bigod. Hugh took the name Gawsworth, together with the right to hold his own courts without pleading to Macclesfield. For this right he rendered annual one caparisoned horse to the Earl.

The original hall was built as a wooden Norman stockade in the middle of the Macclesfield forest. A manor house was built in 1480 and since then there have been numerous restorations.

The manor was subsequently granted to Herbert de Orreby in 1130 on condition that he find one man in time of war to assist with the defence of Aldford Castle. The Orreby family held the manor until 1316, when Thomas De Orreby died without a male heir and his daughter Isabella, having married Thomas Fitton, the manor came into the possession of the Fitton line. Thomas’ son, also Thomas (d 1397) had the chapel at built at Gawsworth. Prior to that, parishioners had to go to Prestbury.

Thomas’ son was Sir Lawrence Fitton (1375-1457) married Agnes Hesketh of Radford. He succeeded to the manor on the death of his father and held it for 60 years. In 1399 Richard II went to Ireland to avenge the death of Roger Mortimer (his heir presumptive), it was Sir Lawrence who raised an army of Macclesfield Archers to fight with the King. However, during Richard’s absence, Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt landed near Hull and took the Kingdom for himself.

The banish’d Bolingbroke repeals himself

And with uplifted arms is safe arrived

At Ravenspurgh

Richard II, William Shakespeare

Wales had been strongly aligned with Richard, and Owen Glendower rebelled against the new king, and in 1403 Henry commanded Lawrence to defend his Welsh possessions against Glendower. Lawrence died on 16 March 1457, and his son, Thomas having predeceased him, the estate descended on Lawrence’s grandson, Thomas (1432-1494 ). Thomas fought in the Wars of the Roses and defeated the Lancastrians at Bloreheath, where he was knighted by a grateful King. He married Ellen, the daughter of Peter Legh of Lyme. It was Thomas who had the Hall built at Gawsworth around 1480.

The couple had no issue and the estate passed to his brother, Edward (1434-1511 ) who was by then aged 60. He was succeeded by his son, John (1471-1525). John had a daughter, Elizabeth, and a daughter Helen as well as a son, Edward (d 1548).

More recently in 1981 Liz Howard (nee Fitton) who had worked for ICI Macclesfield, claimed that she was the reincarnation of Elizabeth Fitton. Her father was also John, and she has a brother Edward and sister Helen as well. Discussions with the current owners has shown that she knows many details about the house. The story has also been shown on BBC Television. I’ll leave you to read the book and decide.

Not quite Freddie Starr ate my Hamster, Daily Mirror 7 October 1994

Returning to the past via more conventional means, it was Edward who inherited the estate and then Edward’s son, also Edward (1527-1579).

This Edward married Anne Warburton (1527-1574) in 1539, when aged only 12. Anne was a month younger than her husband. Edward was despatched to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth to become First Lord President of the Council of Munster and Thomund. This was not necessarily a prime posting as the area was devastated by war, a contemporary description of his posting, also by a Cheshire man said:

The land itself which before those wars was populous well inhabited and rich in all the good blessings of God being plenteous of corn full of cattle well stored with fruits and sundry other good commodities is now become waste and barren yielding no fruits the pastures no cattle the fields no corn the air no birds the seas though full of fish yet to them yielding nothing Finally every way the curse of God was so great and the land so barren both of man and beast that whosoever did travel from one end unto the other he should not meet any man woman or child saving in towns and cities nor yet see any beast but they were wolves the foxes and other like ravenous beasts

He stayed there three years and on his return in 1572 he was promptly sent back the following year to Dublin to fill the post of Treasurer for the war and Vice Treasurer and Receiver General in Ireland. Tragically Anne died the following January and was buried in St Patrick’s Cathedral and Sir Edward died 3 July 1579 and was buried alongside her.

Edward and Anne’s son, Edward (1549-1606 ) inherited the Gawsworth estate. He also served in Ireland. He married Alice Holcroft. Edward had a pleasure garden built in 1590 with a long gravel path giving views over the Cheshire plain. There was also a maze and ornamental lake, possibly built with the intention of hosting water shows to entertain Queen Elizabeth. It also had space for a jousting arena. This garden was only rediscovered at recently as 1987. Elizabeth never did venture this far north. Edward died at Gawsworth and was buried there.

The couple had a daughter, Mary (1578-1647). Mary Fitton became maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth. She had several affairs with William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, Vice Admiral Sir Richard Leveson and is thought to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. She entered service with the Queen around 1595. Edward had put her in the care of Sir William Knollys, the Comptroller of the Queen’s household.

Sir William however had designs on Mary and despite promising that he will be as careful of her well doing as if I were her own true father, the 50 year old Knollys who was married made advance on her. This made him an object of ridicule in Court.

She was however by now a bolder woman, and at a masque to celebrate the marriage of Lady Anne Russell with Henry Somerset, Marquess of Worcester she became the mistress of the Earl of Pembroke and became pregnant by him. He admitted paternity, but refused to marry her, and was cast into Fleet Prison. The baby was born in 1601, but died almost immediately, probably from syphilis. Both Mary and Pembroke were banished from Court.

Seeing his chance, Knollys tried to woo her again, but she again refused him, and had an affair with VIce Admiral Leveson, bearing him two daughters. After this she had an affair with one of his officers, Captain William Polwhee. By this time her mother, Alice was scandalised and wrote such shame as never had a Cheshire woman, worse now than ever. Write no more to me of her.

Polwhee died in 1610 and continuing her penchant for sailors, she took up with Captain John Lougher a gentleman lawyer and former MP. He died in 1636 and she died in 1647, being buried at Gawsworth, where her ghost is said to walk the Hall.

It was suggested in 1890 that she was the Dark Lady, and many authors initailly took up this argument, saying that Mary had ruined Shakespeare’s life and he died broken hearted for her love, but more recently these claims have been doubted.

Gawsworth then fell to Mary’s brother Edward (1603-1643 ) He married first Jane Trevor of Denbighshire who died in 1638 and then married Felicia Sneyd of Keele, parading his second wife through Congleton on their first visit, as recorded in the Corporation Books of the town:

1638: Paid for an entertainment for Sir Edwd Fitton of Gawsworth his bride father and mother in law on their first coming through the town and divers other gentlemen who accompanied him and his bride on their going to Gawsworth to bring his lady He sent his barber two days before to the mayor and aldermen and the rest to entreat them to bid them welcome 12s 4d

Now were the years of the Civil war and Edward took up Charles’ fight at Edge Hill and Banbury, however the people of Congleton were not as keen as the Gawsworth men to fight as an entry in the town’s books shows:

1642 Wine gave to Colonel Fitton not to quarter 500 soldiers on the town 3s 4d

Not as much spent on keeping him out, as on celebrating his second marriage. Edward took part in the storming of Bristol, and when the town surrendered in 1643 he was left in charge of the Garrison, but died on July 27 1643 in the town, of consumption. He was carried back to Gawsworth to be buried, the council again shelled out:

Paid for carrying Sir Edwd Fitton through the town and for repairing Rood lane for the occasion 4s 0d

Edward left no issue. This caused his four sisters, Penelope, Anne, Jane and Frances to take possession of the estate, but this was thrown out in court by William Fitton, the son, of Alexander, who was second surviving son of Sir Edward Fitton, the Treasurer of Ireland. William claimed a deed signed by Edward had made him the rightful heir.

Penelope Fitton married Sir Charles Gerard of Halsall they had a son Sir Charles Gerard who became Lord Brandon in 1645 and Earl of Macclesfield in 1679. Charles was Gentleman of the Bedchamber in Court. He had a large residence in Soho – Gerard Street and Macclesfield Street. Charles’ wife was French and a gossip, she is mentioned in Pepys diary.

Charles also eventually managed to prove that the deed that passed the estate to William Fitton was a forgery, and had the inheritance reversed. Pepys was not a fan of Charles and wrote:

My cosen Roger Pepys he says showed me Grainger’s written confession of his being forced by imprisonment etc by my Lord Gerard most barbarously to confess his forging of a deed in behalf of Fitton in the great case between him and my Lord Gerard which business is under examination and is the foulest against my Lord Gerard that ever anything in the world was and will all do believe ruine him and I shall be glad of it

Alexander Fitton was sent to prison, and stayed there until James II ascended. James having embraced Catholicism made him Chancellor of Ireland, where he happily persecuted and seized the property of Protestants.

It was now the Gerard family who owned the Manor and Hall. Charles died in 1694 and his son, Charles, married Anne Mason but divorced her in 1698 after she had committed adultery with Richard Savage, the 4th Earl Rivers. One of the illegitimate children was Richard Savage (1697-1743) an English Poet, about whom Samuel Johnson wrote a Life. After his divorce, Charles was sent to Hanover to act as Ambassador, and died there on 5 November 1701.

Gawsworth passed then to Fitton Gerard, who died unmarried in 1702 and the line became extinct. This caused another inheritance battle. Fitton’s will passed the estate to his niece, Charlotte Mainwaring who had married Charles, Lord Mohan. Unfortunately this offended the Duke of Hamilton who had married another niece, Elizabeth.

The matter went to Chancery and during the hearing, Mr Whitworth, the former steward of the Macclesfields gave evidence and the Duke said that there was no truth or justice in Lord Mohan, to which the steward replied that he was an honest man and has as much truth as your grace. A little later when Mohan met with General McCartney and Colonel Churchill who had been removed from the army under command of the duke, he was persuaded to settle the matter by duel.

The two men met in Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park early on 15 November attended by their seconds, Colonel Hamilton a relative of the Duke and McCartney. Within minutes of crossing swords both men were quite dead. Their seconds even came to blows. McCartney fled to the continent but the Colonel was arrested. Hamilton attested that McCartney had delivered the fateful blow to the Duke and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He returned to face justice and was acquitted of murder, but found guilty of manslaughter. He was allowed to return to his regiment and found favour later with George I.

The estate now went to Lord Mohan’s second wife, Elizabeth Lawrence, the daughter of Thomas, physician to Queen Anne. Elizabeth held the property in trust, with the stipulation that on her death the property be sold and the proceeds go to her two daughters by her first husband, Elizabeth and Ann Griffith.

Ann was married to William Stanhope (1683-1756) who in 1729 became a peer in recognition of his military service, becoming Baron Harrington eventually becoming Earl of Harrington and Viscount Petersham in 1742. Although he had a seat at Elvaston he purchased the Gawsworth estate in 1727.

William Stanhope by James Wordsall

In 1773 a Samuel Johnson (1691-1773) was buried in the Gawsworth estate. This was not the Samuel Johnson of Boswell fame, but a Cheshire dancing master who had staged a play, Hurlothrumbo at the Haymarket Theatre in London in 1729. This saw great success having 50 performances despite being thrashed by the critics. Johnson gained an elevated view of himself saying I am so highly exalted with a celestial quill of an angel’s wing that I have leap’t up in extasies divine and dip’t my pen in heaven. The play had been funded by Lord Montague who took great pleasure in mocking the pretensions of Society, so was delighted to be able to back a play which was so awful that it became a cult.

Johnson himself acted in Hurlothrumbo, taking the role of Lord Flame. His character sang, took most of the curtain lines and even performed a scene on stilts. He was showy and the audiences loved it. After this success further ventures into theatre were not as successful and Lord Flame (he had taken the name offstage by now) was said to have fought with the audience at the first night of his All Alive and Merry in 1773. However, he did anticipate rejection, saying I have heard… if Homer was in London at this age and did write for the Playhouse he would be thrown away.

Just before he died he fired an arrow from the church spire into the air and asked to be buried where it landed. It landed amongst the trees and his wish was granted, the area now known as Maggoty’s Wood. Johnson also played a part in introducing Jiacomo Justerini to his nephew George Johnson who became the founder of what is now J&B Whisky.

Flame retired to Gawsworth where he became jester for Lord Stanhope and was given appartments Gawsworth New Hall. Whilst he was the darling of local gentry he was more Victor Meldrew to the lower orders, he was short tempered and argued with them, gaining the nickname of Old Maggoty. He even rallied to try and stage a compilation show of his greatest works shortly before his death.

The Hall was held by the Stanhopes until 1937. However, they had Elvaston as their main seat and stayed only occasionally at Gawsworth. They also had a town house in Kensington. For some of these years the Hall was let out to tenants.

In 1919 the last male owner of Gawsworth, Charles Joseph Leicester Stanhope (1887-1929), Lord Harrington put the estate up for sale. He allowed sitting tenants to make offers for their properties, and if the offer matched or exceeded the valuation, the property was to be sold to them at valuation. it was quite an extensive estate as can be seen from this advertisement in the Scotsman:

He did not get a buyer, and the house was occupied by Oliver Shimwell, a weaver who patented a superspeed shuttleless loom in conjunction with Platt Brothers of Oldham from 1920 to 1937.

In the meantime he married Margaret Trelwaney Seaton (1898-1952) in April 1919. She was a society beauty as can be seen by her pictures:

The couple had a son, Charles born on 19 January 1921, but he died four days later. There was now a real problem that if he did not produce a male heir, the Hall would pass to the second heir presumptive, Aubrey Stanhope. Aubrey had been special correspondent of the New York Herald on the outbreak of the First World War, but he went to Berlin and edited the Continental Times, a publication funded by the German Government as an English language propoganda vehicle. He was so reviled that in 1916 a German thrashed him publically in the Hotel Bristol in Unter den Linden, calling him a dirty English dog and rogue pummeling him with a stick and knocking him to the ground. He lived in luxury in the Wittenberg Platz, and was free during his time in Germany to walk around at will.

Fortunately the next year William Henry Leicester Stanhope was born (1922-2009) – pictured above with his mother – and the succession was safe. Sadly, Charles fell from his horse in November 1929 whilst out hunting in Derbyshire, and despite being attended by Dr Gordon Morrison who happened to be driving past, he died of massive head injuries within 20 minutes.

There was talk of the house being sold the nation in 1935 but instead it was bought for around £10,000 by Denis Sebastian Ziani De Ferranti (1908-1992) and his second wife Germaine De Courey Moore. Denis was the youngest son of Sebastian Ziani De Ferranti (1864-1930), the founder of Ferranti. Denis however fell out with his elder brother and started a company, Denis Ferranti Meters which now trades as the Denis Ferranti Group. He also set up a market garden company which traded from the Old Hall

Denis Sebastian Ziani De Ferranti © ferranti.me

During Ferranti’s time at the house, the Hall suffered from four fires, thought to be caused by the oil heating system which overheated and set fire to the joints, eventually the system was replaced.

In 1962, The hall was sold to Raymond Richards (1906-1978) for £30,000, a Cheshire Historian, and rescuer of old houses. He collected items from historic buildings that were being demolished in the 1960s, either incorporating them into the house or displaying them in the grounds. Over time he also amassed a collection of paintings, and worked hard to restore Gawsworth to its old glories.

He was born in Liverpool and his wealth came from tea and coffee. He married Monica Relf in 1941 and the couple worked hard to make Gawsworth a place to visit. From the late 1960s an annual Arts festival has been held at the Hall, with open air Shakespeare performances. The Hall was also made a popular tourist destination for parties and day trippers, Raymond would often guide the tourists himself around the grounds and hall.

Most adverts seemed to appear in the Liverpool Echo!

After he died, the Hall was inherited by his two sons, Timothy Raymond Roper Richards (1941-2016) and John Roper Richards. John sold out his share to his brother, and was a keen four in hand carriage driver, beating Prince Philip in competitions. A patriot through and through he headed a consortium in its unsuccessful bid to keep Rolls Royce in British hands.

His brother Timothy was also a close friend of Prince Philip and His Royal Highness often stayed at Gawsworth, it may not have tempted Elizabeth I, but Elizabeth II’s husband was a frequent visitor.

Let’s see some pictures:

The Hall Today

I would recommend if you do visit, to do it around the time of the Christmas tree festival at the church opposite. The setting is beautiful around the mill lake, and it is a far better show than we do in Stockport.


Gawsworth Hall 10th Edition 1977

History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Shropshire, Samuel Bagshaw: 1850

Nooks and Corners of Lancashire and Cheshire, James Croston : J Heywood 1882


Elizabeth Fitton of Gawsworth Hall, Liz Howard: CC Publishing 2018

The Stage 31 August 2000

© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 57 : Fern Cliff, Heaton Mersey


Perhaps the finest house still in private ownership in the Heatons. The Manchester Evening News mooted that it may be the biggest house in Greater Manchester, I doubt that, but it is probably the biggest in the Heatons. It was built in 1869, for whom is unclear, as the 1871 census shows the house to be empty, but by 1881 it is inhabited by John George Tiller (1835-1885) and his wife Selina Mickelwright (1843-1918).

Fern Cliff, Lancashire CXI. SE, 1911 © Ordnance Survey

John was born in in 1835 to Thomas and Elizabeth. His father was a joiner, but clearly rose in the world as in 1866 at his son’s wedding he described himself as an architect. John however, sought a different career, and he started out as an apprentice warehouseman in a Calico printers in 1851, and by 1871 he is living on Landsdowne Terrace in Moss Side an working as a Linen and Cotton Merchant. His star rose further by 1875 when he is a Director of the New Bailey’s Hotel in Blackpool, which continues today as the Grand Metropole Hotel. The hotel was founded in 1776 by Lawrence Bailey, a farmer and opened in 1785 with 34 bedrooms, three dining rooms and a coffee lounge. It is one of the few hotels in the town on the sea side of the promenade. He was also a director of the Piccadilly Hotel Company in Manchester, which was formed to develop the Clarence and Waterloo Hotels in town.

Hotel Metropole 1911. The train is delivering sand to the promenade.

John and Selina lived at Fern Cliff until his death on 30 June 1885. After that she moved with most of her children to Blackpool. She died in 1918 at her house on Boscombe Road in Blackpool. She appears to have had a comfortable middle class existence on her annuity, living with two of her sons, Thomas, a cotton merchant, and George, a bank clerk along with two daughters Florence and Elizabeth Selina. The four children living with her do not seem to have married.

Next along at Fern Ciff were Charles Cohen Wakefield (b 1842) and his wife Elizabeth (b 1853). Charles’ father, Joseph Colin Wakefield was born in England but travelled to make his fortune in Scotland. He was a partner in Inglis and Wakefield, Calico Printers, patron of Clydesdale Cricket Club and a keen gardener, closely involved with the Botanical Gardens in Glasgow.

The family lived at Eastwood Park House in Renfrewshire and Charles worked as a partner in the firm with his father, overseeing operations in the capital city of cotton. He and Elizabeth spent some twenty years in Manchester, living first on Wilbraham Road before moving to Fern Cliff in the late 1880s. The couple left Fern Cliff around 1892.

Joseph Colin Wakefield © Glasgow City Libraries

By 1901 Sir James Hoy (1837-1908) and his wife, Selina Hargreaves (1844-1915) had moved to the house. Sir James was born in modest circumstances but was keen to be educated. He studied first at Windmill Street School in Manchester and then took evening classes at the Mechanics institution and then the Working Man’s College. He married first, Hannah Hume in 1862 at St John in Deansgate, and after she died married Selina in 1882.

He set up as a shirt manufacturer, and at the same time pursued a life of public service, being elected to the city council in 1882, becoming an alderman in 1893. He maintained his interest in education and chaired the committee which ran the Technical School. He believed there was something lacking in the Technical education offered in the City, so after travelling through France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland to learn what could be offered he established the School of Technology (subsequently UMIST) in Whitworth Street in 1895 with a grant received from Sir Joseph Whitworth of £5,000. The building was completed in October 1902, during which time Joseph Hoy was Lord Mayor of Manchester and was opened by the Prime Minister, Mr Balfour who said:

This building is perhaps the greatest fruit of its kind.. of municipal enterprise in this country. Nobody can go over it, observe its equipment, study even in the most cursory manner the care which has been devoted to it. The Corporation of this great city have set a great example, worthy of the place they hold in Lancashire, worthy of the place they hold in Great Britain.

Also during his mayorality, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited the City to open the new Whitworth Hall at the University and he was awarded with a knighthood for his services to education, together with an honorary doctorate by the University.

He was a little less successful in his other dream, which was to amalgamate the two Cities of Manchester and Salford.

In 1902 with the new Education Act giving powers to Corporations as Local Education Authorities, Sir James became chairman of the Manchester Education Committee, only resigning when the council refused to sanction a training college at Platt Hall.

However, that did not stop him from his public service, he continued by chairing the Infirmary Site Committee, and adopted tentatice plans to build a complete Art Gallery and Library. He was succeeded at the Education Committee by Thomas Thornhill Shann. Many worthy men of Manchester honoured him on his death, C P Scott of the Guardian saying: I do not think any assembly of liberals should meet… without expressing a strong sense of the services which Sir James Hoy has rendered to this city and the whole community.

He also perhaps demonstrated a great deal of foresight in 1903 when addressing the annual dinner of the Old Millhillians School in Manchester he said it was contemptible that Football Clubs should exist as limited companies.. it was utterly wrong and degrading. However he was firmly put down by the Athletic News on this point who considered he had let his supercilious eloquence run away with his discretion.

Sir James Hoy in 1908

He lived with his wife at Fern Cliff fron the mid 1890s until his death in 1908. He died on 6 March that year and was buried four days later at Southern Cemetery, after which Selina moved to Park View on Wilmslow Road in Withington where she died on 22 April 1915.

After the Hoys we meet the Buck family at Fern Cliff. Edward Robinson Buck (1853-1912) and Mary Elizabeth Pattinson (1875-1924). Edward was the son of Robert Robinson Buck and Margaret Pattinson of Carlisle. He was born in Wigton. Robert Robinson Buck (1822-1897) was a fancy flannel manufacturer. He was born in Skipton but moved to the West Coast taking a job first with John and Samuel Heighway as a salesman following that with a post at Joseph Pattinson and Company, becoming a partner after three years. In 1863 he set up on his own account in Dalston making flannel shirtings. Edward started out working for his father, but he came down south to Stockport in 1879 to form E R Buck and son, who manufactured shorts for soldiers in the Boer War.

The following year Edward married a Cumbrian girl, Sarah Elizabeth Maxwell (1859-1896), and in 1881 he had diversified into athletic shirts. His company is better known by its brand name, Bukta. Bukta became synonymous with sportswear and as early as 1884 Nottingham Forest Football club was photographed in Bukta kit.

However, the firm was a heavy innovator – they were the first to produce uniforms for the Boy Scouts and made Hospital and tropical shirts for soldiers in the first world war. By 1891 the company had established a factory in Poynton, and the family lived at Oakfield there.

Sarah died in 1896 in Poynton, which triggered a move back to Manchester and in 1901 he is living with Mary Elizabeth Pattinson (1875-1924), his new wife at Burford House in Withington. He had married Mary on 8 September 1900 at St John in Peterborough, before setting off on a honeymoon in the Italian and Swiss Lakes. In 1908 the couple moved to Fern Cliff, but Edward died there on the 12 April 1912. Mary died in 1924.

The work in the firm was carried on by three of Edward and Sarah’s children, triplets, William Maxwell Buck (1883-1961), Edward Stanley Buck (1883-1956) and Robert Robinson Buck (1883-1969). They built on the Bukta brand and moved production from Poynton to Brinksway in Stockport in 1938. Bukta continued until 1982 under family ownership until it was bought out by Sir Hugh Fraser. In the 1960s it was the premier supplier of athletic kits to sporting teams.

© Graces Guide

In 1939 Henry Higham (1866-1948) , a home trade fancy drapery merchant is living at the house. Henry’s father, Thomas was a townsman for a finisher² and Henry started his life apprenticed to him becoming a drapery merchant. He moved first to Withington, then Didsbury and eventually Fern Cliff as he grew more successful. He married Annie Marsden (b 1874). She predeceased him and he died on 18 April 1948 at Fern Cliff.

Dr Geoffrey Hick (1917-2006) LMSSA, MB, ChB, DPH moved into Fern Cliff in Heaton Mersey the day after marrying his sweetheart, Margaret Beetham. She was a former nursing sister born in Askrigg but had worked in Stockport at Hyde House Nursing Home. They tied the knot at St Oswald in Askrigg, Wensleydale, and just managed to hold a reception at the Parkway Hotel in Leeds (the car ran out of petrol en route to the hotel).

Geoffrey was born on 19 March 1917 in Hunslet, Leeds. He studied medicine at Leeds University and during the war served in the Indian Medical Service rising to Lieutenant. For the next sixty years he lived happily at Fern Cliff, serving the community of the Heatons as a GP, as did his son, Dr Peter, who was at one point, my GP. His other daughter Margaret was also a nurse, so medicine ran in the family.

Dr Hick and his wife on their wedding day

The house was a very happy one for the next sixty odd years as the house stayed in the family. Many Heatonians will remember afternoon surgeries at the house.

Sadly, the house was sold a few years ago and I am told it’s future is in doubt, there are fears that it is being allowed to fall into disrepair so it can be demolished and the land built on, which would be a great tragedy.

Let’s see some pictures:

¹ Sadly these days it is owned by the Britannia Group.

² A travelling salesman, in manufactured goods



© Allan Russell 2021.

100 Halls Around Manchester Part 56: Smithills, Halliwell

Halls Menu

In A Chronological History of Bolton, a free supplement, specially compiled for the 1870 New Year’s Day Bolton Chronicle, we are told in a history of Bolton to 1871¹ (sic) that in the year 579 AD Smithills was a Royal Saxon Palace, occupied by Ella, King of the Deiri, and subsquently by many noble families. Ella or Aelle is mentioned by Bede and is widely believed to have been the first king of Yorkshire. James Clegg in his Chronogical History of Bolton of 1880 repeats this assertion, which a review in the Bolton Evening News of 10 May 1880 roundly debunks as being without a scrap of evidence. Numerous attempts and digs have unearthed nothing to support the conjecture, therefore it is likely to be legend.

Smithills has however a long history. The estate sits infront of Winter Hill, overlooking a tributary of the Ravenden Brook and the oldest part, an open hall, dates from the 14th century. There was a courtyard, but the south wing was demolished in the early 19th century. Between 1874-1878 and 1882-1886 George Devey (1820-1886) made extensive alterations. Devey was renowned for his rambling country houses built largely for prominent liberals.

Smithills Lancashire LXXXVI, 1849 © Ordnance Survey

The land occupied by Smithills has been inhabited for a long time. The Manor was in the possession of Roger De Pendlebury in 1289. He granted the land to Richard Hulton for the rent of one silver penny. Smithills was held by the Knights Hospitalier, and the Hultons lived there. It then passed to the Radcliffe family who made it their chief manor for three generations, Sir Ralph Radcliffe was the last to hold it and after he died around 1460 it was inherited by Sir Ralph’s brother, Edmond who passed it to his daughter Cecily who married John Barton of Holme.

John’s father, John, was a wool trader and merchant of Calais and became very rich in the process, first buying an estate at Holme near Newark, which is said to have had a window inscribed I thanke God, and ever shall. It is the Sheepe hath payed for all there.

Cecily (c 1473- 1506) was around 13 at the time of the marriage, and John also a minor. The couple married in 1483, their eldest son and heir, Andrew (1498-1549) was born significantly after that. Andrew married Agnes in 1516 and a couple of years later his father made over the house to him, and entered a house of Friars, where he died the following year.

Andrew entered Middle Temple in 1517, but did not complete his legal education, but became a Justice of the Peace and member of Parliament. He also took up his country seat at Smithills, adding wings to the structure to make it a courtyard house.

Andrew’s eldest son, Robert (c1524-1580) was a strict Catholic and is best known for his arrest of the Protestant martyr, George Marsh. He arrested George in 1554, who reaffirmed his faith so strongly by stamping his feet, that that it left an impression on the stone floor. He vowed that the footprint should remain as a constant memorial to the wickedness of his accusers. It was Robert who sentenced the cleric to be burned at the stake. His ghost is still said to haunt the Hall.

Conversely Robert’s brother, Ralph rose in prominence under Elizabeth I being given judicial and other Crown appointments, which implies that he batted for the Protestant side. This clash of religions initially saw Robert leave the estate to his widow, but the Ralph obviously knew the law and was able to contest the will. He won back the estate in 1586, but only kept it a few years, dying in 1592.

Smithills was then inherited by Ralph’s son, also Ralph (1556-1611) a barrister and High Sheriff of Lancashire. Initially after his death, the estate went to Ralph’s younger son, again Ralph, whilst Thomas, the elder boy inherited the more presitigious property, in Newark. Ralph predeceased his elder sibling and the estate came into Thomas’ hands. Thomas had one surviving child, a girl, Grace (d 1658) who marrried the Honorable Henry Belyase. His son Thomas, the First Earl Fauconberg (1627-1700) inherited from his father.

Thomas was close to the parliamentary cause, he married Cromwell’s third daughter, Mary, but managed to curry favour with Charles II and William III as he served in the Privy Council under Charles, and rose to the Earldom under William. However, it was Thomas’ younger brother, Sir Rowland Belyase (d 1699) who lived at Smithills.

Thomas Belyase, The Earl Fauconberg

After Sir Rowland’s death the estate was sold to the Byron family of Manchester around 1721 who in turn sold it to Richard Ainsworth (1762-1833) for £21,000 in 1801 (£1.5m in 2021).

The Ainsworth family had gained their wealth through a Bleachworks at Halliwell. Peter (1713-1780) founded the business in 1739 having inherited a legacy from a relative, Robert Ainsworth of Stepney. He used this to buy Lightbounds House nearby. His son, also Peter (1736-1807) improved the technical side of the business, making them more efficient and even more profitable. He built Moss Bank House by the Bleachworks, creating a vast area of parkland. Peter’s son Richard (1762-1833) moved into Moss Bank, whilst his father stayed at Lightbounds.

In buying Smithills, Richard was not so much interested in the house, but on the water supply from Winter Hill which formed part of the estate. In 1814 he added to his portfolio by buying Halliwell House.

His son, Peter (1790-1870) decided that he would become the country gentleman and ceded the Bleaching operation to his younger brother, John Horrocks Ainsworth (1800-1865) who resided at Moss Bank House.

Moss Bank House, became a park in 1928 falling into disrepair and was demolished in 1951

Peter married Elizabeth (c 1794-1870) the daughter of a Liverpool merchant, Ashton Byron, in Toxteth in 1815. He inherited the Smithills estate in 1833 and threw his hand in as a parliamentary candidate the following year. He stood on an anti corn law ticket, but fell into trouble with his supporters when he voted for a fixed duty on corn prices in 1843 after a motion to repeal the laws failed. He justified this by stating that he did so, to equalise tariffs with other commodoties, however his constituents were not happy and demanded he come and explain himself at their meeting. He declined and made a half hearted justification by way of letter to them.

In the meantime, he sought to bolster his position as a country gentleman by inviting visiting worthies to dine with him at Smithills, Lord John Russell had too little time to take up his offer in April 1850 and the following year it was not known if Prince Albert would take up his invitation.

Peter died at Smithills on 18 January 1870 and Elizabeth a few months later on 16 April. They had no issue and the house was inherited by John Horrocks Ainsworth’s son, Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth (1839-1926).

The Colonel married Isabella Margaret Vaughan (1841-1925) and he had also come into the Bleachworks via his father. He instructed George Devey to make improvements, but was not really enamoured of the place, preferring Winwick House in Northamptonshire which he bought in 1880. After that the Hall was largely let out to tenants, and on the censuses of 1881, 1901 and 1911 it was just occupied by a skeleton staff of servants.

One of the few interactions he made with the Hall and local residents was to close of the road leading up Winter Hill in 1896 as it disturbed his grouse shooting. This stirred up unrest in Bolton with regular Sunday protests marches up the hill, and barriers being demolished. As many as 20,000 were said to have attended on occasion and a public defence fund set up to fight the writs issued by Ainsworth. However, it all seems to have fizzled out, as donations to the fund were decidedly lacking.

He sold the Bleachworks in 1900, and between 1915 and 1926 entered negotiations with Bolton Council to sell Moss Bank. The Council for the Protection of Rural England successfully pressurised Bolton Council into buying Smithills along with 2,000 acres of land in 1938 for £70,800, which was funded by a loan granted by the Ministry of Health.

The building was initially used as a care home for the elderly and the grounds used to host the Lancashire Show, but in 1956 the Council embarked on a project to restore and renovate the Hall. They did this with care as this picture from 1964 shows:

The Sphere 21 March 1964

The Hall is today available to visit, and supported by Bolton Council and an active Friends Group.

Let’s see some pictures:

Much of the information above was derived from the excellent Landed Families Blogspot which I happily acknowledge.

¹ Having read the article, I presume nothing happened in Bolton in 1871 as the entry for the year is blank. There was a dig for evidence of the Saxon king in 2003 but it came to naught.







© Allan Russell 2021.