100 Halls Around Manchester Part 10: The Bower House, Heaton Norris.

Bower House is another long forgotten hamlet of Heaton Norris. Standing just north of Hope Hill and Travis Brow, it was also the site of a long lost building, The Bower House.

The Bower House, Johnson Map 1819

The date of build is also lost to time, but it may have been erected for the owners of Hope Mill, an early one being Jeremiah Bury. He was active both in Ardwick and Stockport as a cotton manufacturer. In June 1794 he married Mary Esther Teulon (1764-1837) in London and around 1790 leased the newly built Mill in Heaton Norris built by John Mayer and owned by William Egerton.

Jeremiah subsequently entered partnership with John’s son, Joseph Mayer, along with John Middleton and Jeremiah Bury as Middleton Rooth & Company. All the partners were founder members of the Stockport Sunday School. Jeremiah laid both the foundation stone of the Stockport Sunday School in 1806, and the foundation stone for the new wing in 1835.

In the 1780s Jeremiah carried on his trade as a check manufacturer on Great Underbank in Stockport, and with his work at Hope Mill he became an authority on the Cotton trade, giving evidence at the House of Commons in 1808 and 1812. On the second occasion he managed to help abolish the orders in council which were crippling the cotton trade, and causing bad feelings with America.

He brought orphaned children from London parishes to work at the mill, housing them at the Prentice House nearby. However, it is likely that he was a reasonably benevolent employer in the mould of Oldknow and Greg. He was particularly sympathetic towards his workers, giving the following in evidence to the House of Commons in 1812:

I have gone to my own tenants to ask them to pay their rents; and I have seen them sit down to dinner off a dish of oatmeal porridge as they call it in Lancashire before them, and I have gone away without asking them for rent.

Between 1790 and 1800 the restrictions on currency forced him to issue his own paper notes and coins. The coin of the realm was so scarce in Stockport that a guinea was called a stranger. He left the mill around 1814, and was listed in the Commercial Directory that year as a master weaver in the Park in Stockport, and in 1817 we find him on Etchells Street in Stockport. However he returned to the Lancashire side of the Mersey towards the end of his life, dying at Springfield Cottage, Reddish in 1838.

He was succeeded at Bower House by one of his partners, Alexander Rooth (1767-1837). Alexander was a staunch methodist and one of the founders and first voluntary teachers at the Stockport Sunday School. He was both a cotton and cotton machine manufacturer, in 1791 being one of the first people to install Radcliffe Power Looms at the Hope Mill. He also operated from premises on Brinksway and Manchester.

Rooth and Bury are remembered in the names of the streets which housed the millworkers, Rooth Street and Bury Street in Heaton Norris. The houses had allotments so that the workers were able to grow their own produce.

Alexander and his wife Elizabeth had one daughter, Elizabeth (1801-1886) who married Dr John Brooke (1798-1872) Surgeon Licentiate of the Hall of Apocatheries of Loyalty Place on Churchgate in Stockport. Dr Brooke was apprenticed to Dr John Egerton Killer of the Stockport Infirmary, and qualified in 1820 at the Apocatheries Hall in London. He passed his examinations with the BMA in 1858 and continued to practice from Loyalty Place until his death in 1871.

In 1825 Bower House was the residence of one Ollive Sims according to Baines Directory. Ollive (1761-1836) was of Quaker stock and London born. He came up to Stockport in 1786 by stage on his way to Manchester to establish an apocathery there. However he was so taken by Stockport that he purchased the old premises of the Bull & Mouth Inn at 7 Higher Hillgate and set up his business in town, selling drugs and herbal potions, scouring the moors near Kinder Scout for his herbs. The poor of Stockport attended his shop for cures, rather than the more expensive private doctors.

He was highly successful, and traditional in his dress, wearing the Quaker fashions, a cocked hat, low buckled shoes, knee breeches and a tailcoat. He was a keen walker and skater and could often be seen skating on the Upper Carr Dam on Hillgate during the winter months.

He was admitted to the Stockport Quaker brotherhood in December 1786, and married Sarah Phipps in Norwich in November two years later. As well as his shop, he became treasurer of the Stockport Savings Bank.

Kay Brothers Hillgate, Sims’ premises were two doors down

During his time as an apocathery he apprenticed Luke Howard (1772-1864), a fellow London Quaker. At the same time as his apprenticeship, Luke studied chemistry, botany and French. However, Luke’s main claim to fame is his interest in meterology and the study of clouds. He kept detailed observations for nearly 30 years, and coined the phrases we used today for clouds – cumulus (heap), stratus (layer), cirrus (wispy curly hair) as well as nimbus (rain). These forms could be combined to give us phrases familiar today such as cumulo nimbus.

Ollive and Sarah had ten children between them and Ollive was living at the Bower House, describing himself as a gentleman in 1825, still wearing his traditional dress. Of his children, John (1792-1838) was apprenticed to J A Ransome of Manchester Infirmary in 1813 and by 1819 was at Guy’s in London. He went on to be on the staff of the St Marylebone Infirmary, where he died on 19 July 1838 of a fever caught at the hospital.

His brother, Samuel (1793-1839), succeeded his father at the Stockport premises, as well as at the Stockport Savings Bank. He became Borough Treasurer of Stockport Council and died on 11 November 1839, from typhus, probably caught from one of his customers. We last met Samuel when he was mugged on his way back from Parr’s Mount.

The business was eventually taken over by Kay Brothers who were famous for many products including the decidedly unquaker coaguline cement, which was developed in the second world war to make the sticky bomb, which was capable of being thrown and attaching itself to a tank, but not, as would be fateful, the fingers of the soldier throwing it. They also manufactured Zip firelighers and Rubstitute Motor soap from their works in Reddish.

Rubstitute © Grace’s Guide.

Following Alexander Rooth in 1851 we next meet Robert McClure again at the Bower House. We have already encountered Robert from his time at Cheadle Moseley House. Robert bought the Travis Mill on the death of Ralph Orrell and went on to become Mayor of Stockport in 1861 and Magistrate in 1864. Robert’s grandson, David, founded David McClure Ltd which was founded in Stockport in 1892 being one of the pioneers in the manufacture of DC generators and lighting equipment, and continues to this day at the Mersey Dynamo Works.

In 1861 we see Charles Cheetham (1816-1875) , another cotton manufacturer of Churchgate Mill and Newbridge Lane Mill at the house. He married Hannah Bury who may have been related to Jeremiah.

The final resident of the house was one John Burtinshaw (1830-1900) who lived there with his wife Mary Ann Goodall (1830-1871) from 1877 to his death in 1900. John was a Tin Plate Manufacturer. He became a director of the Palmer Mills in 1882 after he learned of its failure in 1884. He was concerned that the mill would be replaced with houses or shops, with a knock on effect on employment in the town. He therefore gathered together colleagues to raise the money to bid for the mill. The initial attempt failed, and it was feared that even if they did manage to purchase the mill, that much of it would have to be demolished to be replaced with newer buildings. However, a survey found that the mill was worth more than twice the £4,500 (£560,000 in 2020) they had paid for it,and the fact that the mill had the right to use water from the Goyt meant that a new fireproof building could be erected housing 70,000 spindles.

Eventually a new mill was built with John Goode Johnson being named as Chairman, and the largest shareholder being Joseph Leigh of Bank Hall. The new mill was eventually demolished in 2002.

After John Burtinshaw died the Bower was probably demolished for new housing. All there is to remind us today is Bower Fold open space and Bower Avenue. No picture of the house survives, all I could find was a photograph of Bower House Fold Farm which was nearby and was at least a contemporary neighbour.

Bower House Fold Farm © Stockport Image Archive.


Stockport Ancient & Modern, Henry Heginbotham : Sampson Low Marston, 1892



Urban Fortunes, Property and Inheritance in the Town 1700-1900, Stobart, Owens : Routledge, 2017

Palmer Mills, Roger Holden : Lulu, 2017.

© Allan Russell 2020.


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