Ancoats, the world’s first industrial suburb was once a leafy hamlet on the outskirts of Manchester.
There may have been a house in Ancoats in Saxon times. At the beginning of the 13th century, the De Ancotes family held the hamlet by service of half a mark (33p) yearly. Later the estate was held by the DeLaWarrs, and under Henry VIII, Sir Edmund Trafford held it under Lord De La Warr.
The manor then passed to the Byrons of Clayton, who by good service to Charles I were elevated to the Barons Byron of Rochdale
Anthony Mosley (1537-1607), the son of Edward Mosley, purchased the manor for £250 on the 23 January 1596 from Sir John Byron of Newstead. Anthony married Alicia Webster and had nine sons and four daughters, and built the second Hall.
Their son Oswald (c 1583-1630) inherited the Ancoats Estate and house which was at the time a half timbered building. He married Anne Lowe (1580-1607) of Mile End Hall in Stockport. Anne was the daughter of Alexander Lowe (d 1607), Mayor of Stockport. After Anne died he married another Stockport girl in 1616, Elizabeth Gerard (b ca 1591), this time the daughter of the Rector.
In 1795, Akin described the hall as standing on Ancoats Lane, with terraced gardens leading down to the River Medlock, it was constructed out of timber and plaster, and at the front had three gables, a square tower at the back and a new west wing.
Another contemporary description, is perhaps some idea of the rural idyll that once was the hamlet of Ancoats.
The district then was comparatively rural and the Hall was a very ancient building of wood and plaster windows of Gothic form chiefly with stained glass ancient porches with seats piazzas projecting attics surmounted with quaint ornaments of black oak antique stacks of chimneys & c & c On the roof was a railed off compartment and a superstition prevailed amongst the young people that it was the burial place of some of the early Lords of the Hall Upon the site of the present Every street probably named after Sir Edward Every related to the Mosleys stood Love lane with its ivy mantled cottages and green hedge rows a pleasant rustic walk and favourite solitude for lovers to pass the tender hour hence its name The locality was altogether picturesque the lane commanded a sweet variety of scene to the south east fertile valleys and meadows well wooded here and there the gleaming bosom of the Medlock might be seen circling its way Singing a song of peace by many a cottage home beyond the river undulating land with clumps of trees lifting up their various tinted heads humble homesteads were scattered upon the scene and smoke the indication of man’s habitation was seen curling in relief from the quiet glory of the hills which enfolded the landscapePatriotism in three cantos
Oswald and Anne had five sons and two daughters. Their son and heir was Sir Oswald Mosley, who was made baronet by George I in 1720. Not only did he inherit Ancoats, the Manor and Lordship of Manchester as well as the family seat at Rolleston, Staffordshire on the death of his father, but also via Sir Edward Moseley of Hulme (1617-1693), Oswald Mosley senior’s second son, he obtained Hough End, and land throughout South Manchester after Edward’s eldest daughter, Lady Ann Bland¹ (1660-1734) died.
There is a tale that in 1744, Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed incognito at Ancoats Hall. It was reported in the newspapers of 1818 that an old lady, who was the daughter of the landlord of the Swan in Market Street, at that time the only public house to receive the news from London in the form of newspapers delivered three times per week, remembered a young gentleman visited from the Hall every post day and read the papers.
One time, she gave him a basin of water and a towel to wash his hands, and he generously tipped her 2s 6d (12½p), which was a vast amount for a 13 year old girl. The following year, when Charles marched with the rebel army through Manchester, she shouted to her father that she recognised the man who gave her the money, at which point she was admonished and warned never to breathe a word of the tale.
Whilst the tale may or may not be true, the Mosley family were certainly Royalists, as the house was sequestered by Parliament, and only returned to the family on payment of a £120 fine.
The house remained in the family until Sir John Mosley (1722-1799) inherited it in 1779, he preferred the Staffordshire Estate, so eventually sold the property.
However, the Mosleys were leasing out the property, in the 1760s it was the home of the Manchester Mummy. This was Hannah Beswick (1688-1758) of Oldham, who had a fear of premature burial, not unreasonably so as her brother John was rescued from a coffin to live a few more years when he displayed signs of life. Quite how she came to be embalmed is not certain, but Dr Charles White a pioneer obstetrician carried out the task, perhaps a little overenthusiastically interpreting her wishes that it be certain she were dead, adding her to his collection of exhibits, just to make sure that there were no vital signs.
She was kept initally at Ancoats, where a Beswick family member resided, before ending up in the Manchester Museum, and became a popular attraction displayed between a Peruvian and an Egyptian mummy.
In 1867, Owen’s College surmised that by this point she was irrevocably and unmistakenly dead, and after special dispensation was obtained from the Secretary of State for her burial, she was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Harpurhey Cemetery on 22 July 1868, 110 years after she originally passed.
In 1795 William Rawlinson (1760-1811) was the tenant, and Sir John the owner. William was born in Colton, which is slightly North of Ulverston in Lancashire. By 1781 he was an established merchant in Manchester and had married Sarah Drury. He was in partnership with James Entwistle as Calico Printers during his time at Ancoats, and died in Castletown on the Isle of Man. William and Sarah had six sons and four daughters.
After that came John E Scholes in 1805 who was likely another cotton manufacturer, he was in partnership with William Storey in William Storey & Company, however they became bankrupt in 1806, and the house was then occupied by William Ollivant (1773-1847).
William was born in Manchester and well connected. He was one of the children of John Ollivant and Elizabeth Bullough. In 1796 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Stephen Langston one time High Sherrif of Buckingham and Alderman of London.
He set up in business as a cotton manufacturer with his brother Thomas and by 1806 he was comfortable enough to live at Ancoats Hall. However, both he and Thomas were bankrupted by 1809, and he lost possession of the Hall, along with other properties in Manchester, including houses on Durham Street.
This did not appear to vex him too much, as he used his connections to rise in the civil service and by 1809 he is a temporary clerk in the allottment office of the Admiralty, moving to Bills and Accounts the following year and rising to Clerk, Bills and Accounts by 1814. He retired in 1841, as a Senior Admiralty Clerk on a salary of £400 pa (2020 £41,000) and received a pension of £266 pa until his death in 1847. He spent his last years at Alpha Cottage in Reading, dying on 26 February 1847, tragically one day after Elizabeth who had died on the 25th³.
William and Elizabeth had fifteen children, and one of them Dr Alfred Dudley Ollivant (1798-1882) became Bishop of Llandaff near Cardiff.
After William it was Jonathan Pollard (1767-1826) who moved into Ancoats. He was born around 1767 and was in Manchester in 1791 when he married Martha Darly. In 1794 he is listed as a cotton spinner at 6 Hanover Street and by 1797, along with his brothers James and William, he commenced operations at 101 Great Ancoats Street, building a mill, which burnt down in 1800. He had other mills and operations in town, but the fire gave him the opportunity to build big, and he built an eight storey mill in its place.
This was a modern factory, and was designed to be at the cutting edge of technology, using a Boulton and Watt Steam Engine. In 1804 it was in production and by 1809 it was one of the most profitable mills in the country. In 1818 he was one of the largest employers in Manchester with a workforce of 450. He had become so successful that the street upon which his mill stood was named Pollard Street in 1813, a name that remains until today.
He lived at Ancoats Hall from 1809 to around 1819 with Martha. The couple had at least eight children, all of whom were born before they occupied the Hall. Apart from his cotton interests he was involved in other commercial enterprises, sitting on the committee of the Norwich Union Life Office in Manchester, and in 1825 was an overseer for the township of Ardwick. He was even an early environmentalist, employing Mr Wakefield’s patent invention for the reduction of smoke pollution in 1821. He died on 8 May 1826 and was buried at St Thomas in Ardwick.
Of his children, Jonathan (1798-1831) was part of the Yeomanry at Peterloo, and emigrated to Florida, with his wife Ann Dyson, where he died at Tomoka on 16 October 1831
Some time around this period George Murray had bought the hall, but was leasing it out, and possibly after Jonathan Pollard vacated the property he demolished it, and built a new brick structure which he occupied.
George Murray (1772-1855) was a fellow villager of John Kennedy. George’s brother Adam (1767-1818) first came down to Chowbent in Leigh and was apprenticed there, making improvements on the cotton mules. George followed him down via Chowbent, and in 1798 he entered partnership with Adam, who had already constructed an eight storey mill at the end of the Ashton Canal. Between 1801 and 1804 they built a second mill the same size opposite the existing structure, and from 1804 to 1806 two further four storey blocks and office accommodation were built alongside, making the area on Murray Street and Bengal Street the largest such complex in the world. By 1809 the operations were valued at £20,456, which was 13% higher than their nearest rivals, (McConnel & Kennedy) and in 1815 they employed 1,215 hands.
There was a rivalry between the two millowners, and each one sought to innovate, in 1809 the Kennedys installed gas lighting inside, with the Murrays following ten years later.
George married Jane Cannon of Leigh in 1802 and they had thirteen children between them, to maintain ties between the Scots there was intermarriage, Elizabeth Murray (1812- bef 1875) married John Lawson Kennedy and lived at Ardwick Hall, Isabella Murray married Henry McConnel and he commenced in business near Bakewell as a cotton manufacturer, living at Cressbrook Hall, Catherine Murray married Thomas Houldsworth McConnel.
The children also emigrated to further the family trade, John Murray died in 1851, falling from his horse in Colombo, Ceylon, William Cannon Murray died in 1856 in Charleston, South Carolina and Adam Murray died in London in 1844, having just returned from India.
George and Jane lived on at the Hall until his death in 1855, after which Jane moved to the Polygon in Ardwick.
After George’s death part of the land was purchased by the Midland railway in 1865 to build Ancoats Station and the Hall was also taken over by the Company for use by its employees.
Between 1886 and 1954 Thomas Coglan founded an Art Gallery in the Hall for the working classes. It was opened on 7 October 1886 by Oliver Heywood, the philanthropist and senior partner in Heywood Brothers Bank. It was noted at the opening ceremony that a valuable collection of pictures and statues had been amassed which will be justly cherished by the Ancoats people for whom so much is being done as a labour of love by benevolent citizens…who will give time and service to the beneficient work of elevating the masses and levelling them up to the standards above.
Its mission was to offer to the people of Ancoats an opportunity of seeing and learning something about a world of beauty from which their poverty and dreary suroundings have shut them out. There were educational classes, children’s entertainments, glee clubs, etc.
The library and accompanying Ancoats recreation committee organised concerts and lectures were given by George Bernard Shaw, G K Chesterton and William Morris. However, successful as these were, they were of appeal to the elite and educated citizens of Ancoats, of whom there were increasingly fewer as they retreated to the suburbs.
Manchester University was eager to pursue social reform, bridge the class gap and create an understanding of Ancoats life. They established a settlement based on the Toynbee Hall Settlement in East London. College educated men and women came to lodge in Ancoats and live amongst the working classses Ladies resided in one wing of the Hall whilst the men boarded in Every Street.
The students organised clubs, meetings and education classes and also undertook social investigation into life in Ancoats.
After the Art Gallery, the British Rail Staff Association took over in 1954, but it fell into disrepair and was demolished in the late 1960s.
¹ After whom St Ann in Manchester is dedicated.
² The appears in Sir Oswald Mosley’s family memoirs, but there is doubt as to its authenticity
³ There were Ollivants working at the Admiralty in World War I alongside Winston Churchill.
Inverness Courier 17 December 1818.
MEN 12 September 1899.
Patriotism: In Three Cantos and Other Poems, George Richardson: WJ Adams 1844
A Description of the Country 30 to 40 miles around Manchester, John Aikin: Stockdale, 1795.
Visitation of England and Wales Notes: Volume 6 1906, Howard, Howard, Crisp: Heritage 1997
Manchester Metrolink Phase 3A Excavation Report, MPT for TfGM 2011.
Ancoats Cradle of Industrialisation, Rose, Falconer, Holder: English Heritage
© Allan Russell 2020.
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