On the site of HM Prison Manchester stood Strangeways Hall. It was demolished by 1859, but the Ashton Weekly Reporter, and Stalybridge and Dukinfield Chronicle says that it had been rebuilt many times, suggesting a hotch potch of a building. That April Alfred Waterhouse won the competition to build a prison on its site, to replace the old New Bailey Jail. He scooped a prize of £250 for his design (£31,000 in 2020).
The name today suggests a bleak forbidding place, something it was not. Green’s map of 1794 shows a pleasant park with a fish pond and canal adjoining the Hall.
An accident during the demolition of the Hall was a foreboding of the bleak prison to come. In June 1859 builders were clearing the bricks on the boundary wall of the old building, when they stopped work on Saturday at noon, they sealed the pit with planks. Unfortunately some boys were playing bat and ball that afternoon nearby and one of the balls landed in the pit. A young eleven year old, by the name of Arrowsmith ran in after it, and jumped down into the pit. Unfortunately one of the planks gave way under him, jamming him by the neck whilst at the same time the soil around the pit began to subside. When his playmates finally realised something must be up, all that remained above ground was his hand, struggling to get out. Unfortunately they were too late, and he died before he could be rescued.
Strangeways was in the estate of Cheetham in Manchester. The Middleton family held land in the manor, and in time this passed to the Cheetham family. By 1485 the land was owned by the Earl of Derby, and this ownership passed down through the centuries as can be seen on the map.
After the manor, the main estate in the township of Cheetham was Strangeways¹, held by the family of the same name. It is not known how they came by the estate, but the family also held land in Salmesbury, Tyldsley and Agecroft. In 1408 John de Strangeways owned land by the Irk, and in 1518 Philip, his grandson granted a lease on a property on Millgate, with the proviso that he retain access to the river in order to gain water and wash his clothes. Philip leased the cornmill at Strangeways to one John Webster in 1540, only for Webster later to complain that they had seized his corn.
In 1570 Thomas Strangeways of Strangeways was the plaintiff in an assault case. By this time the fortunes of the family may have been in decline, as Thomas sold some property by the Irk in 1571. Thomas died in 1590 and as his son, John was not yet of majority, the lands were held by the Earl of Derby with his manor of Pilkington (Cheetham).
In 1609 Thomas Strangeways, aged 17, was found to be the heir of the hall, a water mill and 40 acres of land as well as other properties around Manchester. When he came of age in 1613 he inherited the lands. He was a churchwarden in 1620 and interested in building a workhouse, but he sold the Hall to John Hartley (1609-1655) in 1624 and in 1646 Thomas was still alive, but described as late of Strangeways.
John was the son of Nicholas Hartley. Nicholas and John’s brother Richard were wool merchants. After John’s death, his daughter Ellen inherited the Hall, and she married another John Hartley. This John Hartley was described as being a man of contentious and turbulent spirit. After her the estate passed to her sons John, then Ralph, who died in 1703 and 1710 respectively.
After that the estate came into the hands of the Ducie family. It was bequeathed to Thomas Reynolds,of South Mimms in Middlesex in 1711. Thomas was a director of the South Sea Company, and became provost of Barbados in 1715.
There was a claim made on the estate by William Hartley, but this was rejected. Thomas’ son, Francis (d 1773) was living at Strangeways in 1741. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Matthew Ducie Morton. Matthew’s father Edward had married Elizabeth Ducie, the heiress to the Ducie estate, and became the first Baron Ducie. and in 1770 Thomas Reynolds, the son of Francis and Elizabeth was born at Strangeways and became the second Lord Ducie and took the surname Moreton.
The family lived after that at the Moreton estate in Staffordshire and now we see a series of tenants occupying the Hall. .
Hugh Oldham was there in 1777. Hugh had offices at the Shambles, and practised as a surveyor, he is advertised the sale of Pendleton Hall and properties in Ardwick, Dolefield and near the Parsonage. He also drew up a plan of Manchester and Salford in 1761 which was widely advertised in the newspapers of the time as being sold by his son at his Hanging Ditch premises. Hugh died in January 1784 and was buried at the Collegiate Church.
The next tenants in 1786 were Thomas Taylor, a Manchester attorney and his wife Margaret Grieves. Miss Grieves established the Strangeways Hall Ladies’ Boarding School before her marriage, and entered partnership with Miss Hurdd to incite the most zealous attention to the manners and improvements of young ladies. To reinforce this she published a book, An Early Introduction to General Knowledge and Polite Literature, in 1794 which was sold for 2 shillings (10p).
In 1793 the Taylors moved out, and the twenty one year lease, fourteen years of which were unexpired were offered for sale. The hall is described as having extensive offices, a double coach house, stables, well stocked fish ponds and three acres of pleasure grounds. With the hall, came a capacious pew at the Collegiate Church.
The lease was taken up by John Varley who we see at the Hall in 1798. He appears to have been a cotton manufacturer or merchant and in 1782 he had joined a committee of Manchester manufacturers who joined together to combat the monopolies that Arkwright’s new technology was allowing him to create. This does not appear to have been over successful as in 1787 he is bankrupt and creditors are asked to prove their debts at his counting house on Deansgate. It was noted that he had an excellent stockholding, so the inspectors were preparing to sell off the goods at a steep discount, and felt confident of clearing the debts.
He recovers, and by 1797 he is an inspector of the Manchester Infirmary, and the following year wins a prize from the Manchester Agricultural Society for the quality of his compost, and in 1802 he is still at the Hall, this time selling Outwood Hall at Pilkington.
However, in 1805 he is in trouble once more, and whilst he had leased a number of new build houses (some only partially finished) on Strangeways Lane, these along with other properties of his are auctioned, and by 1808 Joseph Hanson (1774-1811) is at the Hall.
Joseph was born to William Hanson (1729-1798) and Mary Wagstaff (1750-1822) on 17 October 1774 on Cannon Street in Manchester and baptised on the 30th at the Cross Street Chapel. His father was a manufacturer of cotton goods.
He became a member of the Manchesster Literary and Philisophical Society in 1795 and in December 1803 he was presented at Court and commanded by George III to appear with his hat on in the regimental colours of the Manchester Rifle Regiment, of which he was the commander.
In 1804 Colonel John Leigh Philips of Bank Hall. Philips’ with his social status considered himself to be the natural commander of the Manchester Military Establishement. Therefore when Joseph declared himself Lieutenant Colonel Commander with authority over all local volunteer corps, he was naturally offended, and questioned Joseph’s loyalty to the Crown. The two men therefore met on the 28 July on Kersal Moor to fight a duel. At the moment they were about to open fire, local constables broke up the pair and arrested them, only to release them under caution.
Not to be thwarted, Philips began a lengthy correspondance with the Earl of Derby and Lord Hawkesbury who initially upheld his claim, but eventually rejected it, and rebuked Philips for disputing the authority under which military regulation were made. Philips and his officers immediately resigned from the militia, and their men were scattered into other companies.
Joseph Hanson also did not stay long in the militia, resigning his command in 1807 and petitioning for peace in the Napoleonic Wars. He stood as an Independent in the General Election of 1809 for Preston, but lost to Lord Stanley.
He therefore became a cause celebre, penning a Defence of the Petitions for Peace in 1808 and was also sympathetic to the plight of local men employed in the weaving trade, becoming known as the Weaver’s friend.
In May 1808 he intervened between the local weavers and their employees in a dispute, attempting to pacify the weavers. On the 24th May that year, the Riot Act was read and the military sent to intervene. He was arrested for aiding and abetting the rioters. The York Herald published an editorial the following year, stating in passing Have we too our Hansons and he successfully sued for libel and forced a retraction to be printed in the newspaper on the 27 June, sheepishly admitting that they were unconscious of wounding his feelings.
He was tried at Lancaster Assizes and imprisoned for six months. Upon his release, his supporters in Macclesfield went five miles south on the road to meet him, and drew him through the town. The Manchester weavers marched from Ardwick to Stockport and carried him to the top of Lancashire Hill.
On his return home, 39,600 men had each subscribed a penny each to present him with a Gold Cup and Salver at Strangeways Hall, and he replied:
I must be insensible to every honorable feeling if I did not consider myself very much gratified by such a mark of attention – Accept my sincerest thanks; and be assured of my unalterable determination to support in every way your interest; in doing which I am confident that I shall be promoting the best interest of my King and Country.
Your remembrance of me during my imprisonment will always afford great consolation, and the fact of enjoying the approbation of 39,600 inhabitants of my native county and its vicinity, has been and ever will be the pride of my life.Manchester Mercury 19 December 1809
His lease on the Hall was extended by the Ducies in 1810, and the following year he gave evidence at the House of Commons in support of the Manchester Weavers. However, imprisonment had weakened him, and he died on the 3 September 1811 at Strangeways Hall.
His brother Edward succeeded him at the Hall, and he too stood unsuccessfully as an Independent for Preston in 1812.
The Hall was split into two, the older part being called Strangeways Cottage and in 1834 two men rushed into the house, occupied by a Mr Lloyd, from the firm of Hudson and Oddy demanding outstanding rents. They took an inventory of the goods and Lloyd had to raise two sureties of £1,000 to settle the matter.
In the newer part of the Hall in 1819 was the Smith family, Joseph and Elizabeth Augusta Whittenbury who had five children. Of these, Junius (b1806) and Horatio ( 1811-1855) were still living at the Hall in 1841 (and possibly Junius was still there in 1851). Joseph, Junius and Horatio were cotton merchants. Another son, John Henry entered the clergy and became vicar of St James in London in 1839.
In 1858 the Hall was due for demolition and the building materials put up for sale. We get a glimpse of what the Hall was like in the description below from the Manchester Courier, the furniture and books having been auctioned off in January:
It was proposed that the fine iron gates should be removed to the new Peel Park, and they stood there for nearly a century, known as the Ducie Gates. Only a memory now remains of these
The last residents, the Smiths, moved to Milverton Lodge in Warwickshire, Joseph died there in 1845, his widow in 1864 and Horatio in 1855. We can see an image of Strangeways Hall, courtesy of Cassin and Berry’s map of Manchester:
¹ There are many variants of the spelling of the name, I will just use the modern one.
© Allan Russell 2020.