100 Halls Around Manchester Part 1: Ardwick Hall.

Ardwick Hall was a large country house in the village of Ardwick in Manchester. We can see it on Green’s 1794 map of Manchester, in the leafy countryside, next to Ardwick Green, on the bottom right below.

Green’s 1794 Map of Manchester

Samuel was born to Thomas Greg (1718-1796). Thomas was of the clan McGregor. Both James VI and Charles I issued edicts against the clan, forbidding anyone from being baptised or carrying the name. They assumed various other names and John Greig (1693-1789) went over to Ireland where his son was granted all the mineral rights for the counties of Down, Antrim and Derry. He refused a baronetcy, and married Elizabeth Hyde, Nathan and Robert’s sister in 1742.

Most of their children settled in Ireland, but Thomas and Samuel Greg came over to England. Thomas settled at Cole Park in Hertfordshire, after being sent aged 15 to London to commence a career in insurance and was accompanied by his eight year old brother Samuel. Samuel attended Harrow and became a Linen Merchant working for his uncles in Manchester. He travelled the continent very successfully and took orders for the business. So good was he that in 1782, aged 24 he was able to enter partnership with his uncles. Not only did they invite him into the family business, Richard gave him £10,000 and Nathan £14,000. Coupled with that in 1789 he married Hannah Lightbody and received a dowry of a further £10,000.

Samuel was rich enough however by 1783 to found Quarry Bank Mill in Styal. He died in 1834, two years after being attacked by a stag on the grounds of his estate.

Samuel Greg

Samuel and Hannah had a number of children, and one of these, John Greg (1802-1882) married Elizabeth Kennedy, the daughter of John Kennedy (1769-1855) and Mary Stuart (1781-1865).

After the Hydes it was the Kennedy family who moved into the house around 1820. John Kennedy was born in Knocknalling in Kircudbrightshire on 4 July 1769. Of his own volition he set off on 2 February 1784 to Lancashire, as he had heard tales of success for many of his fellow villagers there. He was apprenticed to William Cannan the son of a neighbour who manufactured textile manchinery in Leigh, Lancashire where he arrived on the 8th February that year.

After his apprenticeship he established himself as an innovator in Manchester and developed a method for the manufacture of fine cotton threads. Soon he was operating from a factory in Manchester in partnership with Benjamin and William Sandford, alongside his nephew James McConnel, making cotton spinning machines. He went on to establish Sedgewick Mill on Union Street (now Redhill Street) in town making high quality yarn.

John Kennedy, Laird of Knocknalling , by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823)

In 1795 the partnership was dissolved and he moved to Canal Street in partnership with McConnel, taking charge of the machine department. Theirs was the only business to use Cromptons Mule. They built mills including Sedgewick Mill in Union Street (now Redhill Street).

He married Mary, the daughter of John Stuart on 3 October 1804 at the Collegiate Church, and the couple lived initally on Ancoats Lane until 1806, then at Medlock Bank until they moved to Ardwick Hall around 1820. He was proud of his engineering roots and possessed a portrait of Samuel Crompton by Charles Allingham³

John retired in 1826, and by that time he was operating 125,000 spindles and was the second largest cotton manufacturer in Manchester (second to Adam & George Murray who also hailed from the same parish in Scotland as Kennedy and McConnel). By 1825¹ he estimated that the total value of cotton produced in the United Kingdom was £36,000,000 (2020 £3.5bn) and in Manchester² there were 104 factories, with 110 steam engines producing 3,598 HP compared with 1787 where there were only 42 mills (much smaller in size) in the whole of Lancashire. In 1817 the UK produced 1.8m tonnes of cotton.

Retirement did not slow John down, he was one of the founder members of the Manchester Mechanics Institute in 1824, and also held the Chair, that year he also promoted the establishment of a Liverpool to Manchester Railway and in 1829 was one of the three judges at the Rainhill Trials (convenient for Robert Stephenson as George was the Engineer on the Liverpool and Manchester Committee)

As we know the Rocket was the only engine to complete all of the requirements of the competition successfully, it had travelled 70 miles carrying 12¾ tons, averaging 12 mph, reaching an incredible 32mph when it was without a load. Stephenson won the prize on offer of £50, and shares in the Liverpool and Manchester rose 50% within a week. The people of Liverpool could now look forward to being within one hour’s reach of civilisation. Stephenson won without the judges even submitting a report.

John also promoted the Sheffield & Manchester and Leeds & Manchester railways, allowing those citizens the same convenience as their Merseyside cousins. He was a founder member of the Manchester and Salford Bank. Being a man of science he knew Charles Babbage, James Watt and John Dalton well through the Mechanics Institute.

In 1830 the bond between the Greg and Kennedy family was strengthened when Samuel Greg of Quarry Bank’s son, John (1802-1882) married Elizabeth Kennedy (1811-1874) at the Collegiate Church. They moved to Escow Beck in Lancaster where Samuel had mill interests, and lived in a house on the estate that they built there in the first half of the 19th century. Elizabeth and John were staying at Ardwick Hall in 1841 whilst their young children were being cared for at Escowbeck.

After his retirement John built an Observatory on the grounds which his son Arthur donated to Lancaster Corporation on his death.

Escow Beck, Quernmore © Bankhallbretherton

John continued to live at Ardwick Hall, renaming the Hall Kennedy House for the 1851 census, until his death on 30 October 1855 and he was buried at Rusholme Road Cemetery. Mary lived on until 3 June 1865 living at the house until at least 1861, she died at Buxton. The couple had five daughters and one son.

During his time at the Hall, he contributed funds towards a Scottish Presbyterian Church in St Peter Square in Manchester, and also paid to have Ardwick Green fenced to make it into a Park, until the City Council took over the land.

It was his son, John Lawson Kennedy (1814-1895) who succeeded him. John was born on 5 December 1814, and studied Law at Trinity College in Cambridge. He was called to the Bar in 1839. He practised as a Barrister until his father’s death, after which he became head of John Kennedy Calico Printers. He married Elizabeth Murray (1816-bef 1875) in 1840 and the couple had a son, John Murray Kennedy.

In 1840 he was appointed as the Lancashire representative into the conditions of miners, and interviewed 116 men, women and children about their conditions. It appears to have been too exacting a task for the gentlemen charged with carrying out these duties as the commission reported:

Such was the severity of the season in which these gentlemen as well as six first appointed had to commence their labours that nearly all of them serious indisposition which in a short time compelled Mr Wood to up the task he had undertaken and from which Mr Roper never recovered the whole term of his labours Mr Austin also towards the close of his suffered severely from indisposition induced by unusual fatigue nor will amount of illness occasion surprise to any one who knows the toilsome nature the duty of inspecting mines or who is acquainted with the character of the places of work which were visited in rapid succession by persons accustomed to ordinary exposure and to ordinary changes of temperature

Poor, brave gentlemen.

He did report that whilst half an hour to an hour was allowed for dinner for the miners, there was no time for breakfast, and few workers got any opportunity to eat during the day, having to eat on the go. He reported that one child had started in a Wigan pit, aged four years old.

The women did not fare much better:

Betty Harris aged thirty seven drawer in a coal pit at Little Bolton I have a belt round my waist and a chain passing between my legs and I go on my hands and feet The road is very steep and we have to hold by a rope and when there is no rope by anything we can catch hold of There are six women and about six boys and girls in the pit I work in it is very hard work for a woman The pit is very wet where I work and the water comes over our clog tops always and I have seen it up to my thighs it rains in at the roof terribly my clothes are wet through almost all day long I never was ill in my life but when I was lying in. My cousin looks after my children in the day time I am very tired when I get home at night I fall asleep sometimes before I get washed I am not so strong as I was and cannot stand my work so well as I used to do I have drawn till I have had the skin off me the belt and chain is worse when we are in the family way My feller husband has beaten me many a time for not being ready I were not used to it at first and he had little patience I have known many a man beat his drawer I have known men take liberty with the drawers and some of the women have bastards .

Female Drawer from the 1842 Report

There were awful punishments meted out as per John Lawson Kennedy:

Henry Gibson aged fifteen Lord Balcarras’s Haigh near Wigan I left them once because they would not give me a pair of clogs and cousin thrashed me for it Did he beat you severely? Yes he beat me with a thick stick and the mark is on my arm now there was a severe bruise on the boy’s right arm and kicked me with his clogs Do you ever see any other boys beaten by their masters in the pits? Yes there is a lad called Jonathan Dicks from St Helen’s workhouse he gets thrashed very ill I saw his master beat him with a pickaxe on his legs and arms and his master cut a great gash in his head with a blow of a pickaxe and he threw a hundredweight at him and swelled up his eye and made it blue Were there any other lads who get them? Yes there is another little lad called Andrew I don’t known his other name he is about eight years old he is half clammed and many a time he comes without any dinner or anything to eat and we give him some of ours

After Elizabeth’s death he married once more to Margaret Whigham in 1875, and by now was retired and spending less time at Ardwick Hall. He spent more time in his father’s home of Knocknalling, building himself a fine house there.

In 1885 the house was put up for sale, and John moved to Hazel Green in Whalley Range, where he died in 1895.

Manchester Courier 18 July 1885

It was suggested that the City Council buy the property and extend Ardwick Green, to make it a Park worthy of the City, but the council have never been adept with inner city green areas.

In 1887 The house was purchased by the Roman Catholic Church Childrens’ Rescue Society as a home for destitute children who through the desertion or death of a non Catholic parent would be compelled to enter the workhouse or non Catholic institutions and thus be brought up in the loss of their faith.

The house could accommodate 140 inmates and was intended to be for boys and girls under ten years of age. It was to be self supporting, some children being engaged in woodchopping and the elder and less satisfactory lads sent onto the streets shoeblacking.

Around the same time a large factory was built next to the house on Dolphin Street, one wing of the house survives built into the side of this.

Dolphin Street Factory

By the early 1900s the house was occupied by the apprentices of Affleck & Brown. The owners were none too happy when the Ardwick Empire was built in 1904 on what were the gardens of the original estate. A&B lodged 110 men in New Ardwick Hall, 46 women in Old Ardwick Hall, and 41 other girls in various houses in Ardwick Green. James Brown was firmly of the opinion that a music hall would be very disadvantageous. You can see what they mean:

The house was finally demolished around 1929, and the site is now occupied by industrial units. Let’s have a look at it in its heyday.

Ardwick Hall

¹ Durham Chronicle 29 October 1825

² Manchester defined as Ardwick, Manchester, Chorlton Row, Salford, Pendeton & Hulme.

³ The original no longer exists, but a copy by Harold Hill can be seen in Bolton Museum & Art Garllery.

A Lady Of Cotton, David Sekers: The National Trust, 2013.


Pit Lasses Women & Girls in Coalmining 1800-1914, Denise Bates: Casernate 2012

First Report of the Commissioners, Mines, Part 1: Clowes & Sons, 1842

© Allan Russell 2020


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