The first mention of Burnage is in 1320 as Bronage. It did not have a manor, being a border district between Withington and Heaton Norris, belonging more to the latter, as the 1320 survey describes its 356 acres of pasture land as under Heaton. Sir John De Longford and Sir John De Byron had around 100 acres. The Longford lands passed to the Mosley family, whilst the Byron lands next appear in the hands of Thomas De Trafford and thence to a number of smallholders.
In 1844 it was William Egerton who owned half the land. It became a township in 1655.
Burnage Hall first appears around 1836¹ when it is the residence of one Henry Bannerman. It is not featured on Johnson’s map of 1819, but can be seen on the 1848 Ordnance Survey. The building was a substantial brick and stone house with ornamental gardens, orchards and greenhouses. It was approached by an avenue of Lime Trees.
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, a prosperous Perthshire farmer, one Henry Bannerman (1753-1823) sent his eldest son David to Manchester to investigate opportunities in the thriving cotton trade. Henry senior had previously started a distillery with his father, William (1732-1812) in Tullibardane, but this had not been successful.
On the other hand David met with success and in 1806 Henry Bannerman and Sons was established in Manchester. Henry Bannerman’s other sons, Alexander, John, Henry and Andrew came down south as the firm grew. They moved to a warehouse next to the Royal Hotel and Bridgewater Arms on Market Street. Soon David was elected Boroughreeve (Chief Municipal Officer) of Manchester in 1828 (the first Scot, and first non conformist to be appointed to that office).
By 1841 they had built Brunswick Mill in Ancoats and were specialising in producing fancy and seasonal goods for the colonies but soon started to specialise in Manchester cottons, becoming especially known for Henry Bannerman Shirts, but also producing calicoes, sheets, and underclothing. The York street premises was then purchased, behind the Infirmary in Piccadilly.
With a Head Office in York Street, and mills in Dukinfield (Old Hall Mill) and Stalybridge (River Meadow and North End), Henry senior took charge of the firm, whilst the sons specialised in buying and selling.
As the firm progressed more Bannermans came to Manchester (including an in law William Young who had married Muriel Bannerman). After Henry senior died in 1823, David became head of the firm, Alexander took charge of the counting house, John managed the fustian department and Henry junior, bought in the raw fustians and muslins. In 1833 they added a Mosley street warehouse, which was connected to the Market Street property by a covered wooden bridge, which was still standing in 1890.
Henry Bannerman junior (1798-1872) was born in Blackford in Perthshire. He came to Manchester around 1810, and was admitted to the family firm. He married Mary Augustus Wyld (1806-1894) in Glasgow in 1834 and they moved into Burnage Hall where they lived until 1848, when he retired with his wife to the Hunton Court Estate in Kent to grow hops.
He placed the entire contents of Burnage Hall up for auction in August of that year, and the house was offered for let with immediate possession the following month.
The Hunton property covered 450 acres and he employed a staff of 50 to maintain and farm it. The house dates from the 13th Century and once belonged to Sir Thomas Wyatt, who led an ill fated rebellion against Mary Tudor when she tried to return the country to Catholicism. He was executed for his treason.
Henry took over a building which had seen better times, and he spent two years enlarging and remodelling the house, adding a Georgian facade, and parapet. He died on 13 September 1871, leaving a fortune of £120,000 (£14.2m in 2020). He left the estate to his nephew, Henry Campbell (1836-1908) on the conditions that he continue to occuply the property, and that he adopt the name Bannerman.
Henry Campbell Bannerman, as he now became, was Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908 and a prominent supporter of Home Rule for Ireland. He also attained a number of firsts, he was the first man officially to be called Prime Minister, the only man ever to be simultaneously PM and father of the House, and the first former PM to die at number 10 Downing Street. He was also the last Liberal PM to command an absolute majority. He was not however so faithful to the terms of his bequest. He spent little time at Hunton, living instead on his Scottish Estate, and never liked his adopted surname, preferring to be addressed as CB. The estate has recently been offered for sale in 2019 for £12.5m
That Henry Bannerman did not leave his estate to his only daughter is probably because Marion Wyld Bannerman (1837-1906), who married James MacLaren Smith on 11 July 1855 in Kent, was unfatithful to her husband. James had changed his name to Smith-Bannerman to reflect the joint status of the two families, and satisfy Henry that his name would survive. The couple lived in Hunton, Kent then moved to Sutton. At that time the Reverend Augustus Green (1823-1900) was the local curate.
Unfortunately, Marion had been walking out with the Reverend Green prior to her marriage, and in October 1859 whilst James was indisposed they renewed their dalliance. The couple often retired to the orangery in the garden, which was next door to that of the Rector. One day in December the gardener, John Bramall, followed them to the summer house and spied on them. He heard rustles on the straw, the sound of kissing and Mrs Bannerman exclaimed Stop, whilst I take my hat off! Bramall then entered the orangery and found them in each others arms². The Reverend tried to pay off the gardener with five sovereigns, but to no avail, and in the subsequent divorce trial the cuckolded husband was granted a decree nisi, awarding costs against Green.
Such was the public shame that Marion and Augustus were forced to flee to Victoria in Australia, where they married in 1861. Augustus was defrocked, but wealthy enough to live on his own means and the couple had returned to Kent by 1871, where they lived happily until Augustus died in 1901 at Faulkner House, in Hadlow, near Tonbridge. Marion then moved to Poole where she died in 1906.
Returning to Burnage, it was Samuel Watts (1801-1864) who next moved into Burnage Hall with his wife Mary Jones (1806-1849). We have already met Samuel’s brother James at Abney Hall.
Their father John Watts was born in Burnage in 1763, and married Elizabeth Beesley in 1785. They had six sons and two daughters. Of the sons, James, William (1785-1859) and Samuel entered their father’s trade. John Watts was already well established and his sons working with him, when he placed this advertisement on the front page of the first issue of the Guardian on 5 May 1821.
William married Mary Griffith on 30 August 1818, and they settled in the relatively modest (by Watts family standards) Hurst Fold in Burnage.
John, his father came to live with him there and died there in May 1852 by which time William was also retired from the Drapery trade.
At the time of the 1851 census his boys were working in the family trade as warehousemen or clerks. William died in 1859 and was buried with many of his family at Rusholme Church (which is now gone, but once housed Mancunian films and hosted the first ever Top of The Pops in the days it was broadcast from Manchester).
Samuel Watts (born 1801) also entered his father’s business, and on 22 May 1835 married Mary Jones at St John in Deansgate. They started their married life on Barrows Hill in Cheetham Hill, before moving to Chorlton Place on Oxford Street. In the 1841 Census he describes himself as a Cotton Manufacturer and Silk merchant. He vacated Chorlton House in 1847 to move to Burnage.
The 1851 census finds him at Cringle Villa. However, it was reported that Mary had died on 12 August 1849 at Burnage Hall, so at the time he had two properties, Miss Watts Sidebottom says he moved there between 1846 and 1847, fulfilling a childhood wish.
Whilst his brother James is the most famous of the Watts brothers, it is Samuel who was senior partner in S & J Watts and Company, allowing James to pursue a career in public life. He was considered the financial brains behind the company. Samuel was however a good employer. He hosted 450 of his employees for an afternoon picnic and football match on the grounds of the Hall in 1850, he also encouraged his daughters to found the Sunday School at Burnage Congregational Church which opened in February 1859.
Samuel had five children with Mary. Elizabeth (1836-1873) married James Sidebottom of Mersey Bank in Heaton Mersey, a cotton spinner. Amongst their children was Miss Elizabeth Watts Sidebottom (1863-1955) who lived at Oakleigh House on Burnage Lane, and wrote a History of Burnage in 1925. Jane (b1838) who lived with her niece at Oakleigh House. Neither lady married.
Edward Watts (1841-1901) married Charlotte Crabtree (1842-1905), and worked in the family firm. We will return to the Crabtrees, as Charlotte’s brother William Henry resided later at Burnage Hall. His brother George Watts (1845-1895) retired early in his mid thirties, marrying Louisa Atkinson, nine years his junior and moved to the Fylde where he lived comfortably until his death at the age of 50 on 11 February 1895.
Samuel Watts married his second wife, Maria Smith (1820-1892) in 1850, and had five further children with her. This part of the family moved away first to Eastbourne and then London after Samuel’s death on 7 November 1864, and appear to have had little contact with the Burnage clan after that.
Samuel’s eldest son, Samuel (1839-1880) inhertited the Burnage Hall estate after his father’s death, and continued to reside there before his marriage.
He was a well educated man, finishing his learning in Paris, so as he could speak French and married Ada Georgiana Parr (1842-1910) in 1862. Ada’s father, George was an Engineer in business with Matthew Curtis of Thornfield House as Parr, Curtis and Madeley.
The couple first lived in Victoria Park, before moving back to Burnage Hall in 1864. Samuel became senior partner of S & J Watts after his father, but unlike his father took a greater interest in public life. He was active politically, supporting the North in the American Civil War and was vocal in his opposition to slavery. He was politically Liberal and held several rallies on the grounds at Burnage Hall. He rose to president of the Reform Club, and treasurer of the National Reform Union. Before his death he was being considered for the candidacy of Mid Cheshire, but was too ill to accept the offer. He died at the young age of 40, after a decline in his health on 3rd May 1880.
In 1886 Ada married once more, this time to William Goldthorpe (1840-1904), a Barrister at law and Chair of the Salford Sessions from 1896 to 1904 as well as being Honorary Organist at St Peter’s Church in Manchester and Music Critic for the Manchester Courier. The couple resided at Brook House in Burnage.
Ada and Samuel had four children. Mary (1864-1894) married James Salter Farmer, the son of Sir James Farmer (1823-1892), Mayor of Salford from 1885-1887, and manufacturer of equipment for the cotton industry. The relationship between the two families was cemented when George Parr Watts (b 1867) married Sarah Ann Farmer in 1911. Herbert Watts (1870-1870) died in infancy and Samuel was succeeded by his son, Samuel (b1863) who once more married into the Farmer family, this time, Mary Isabella Farmer in 1891.
Samuel and Mary moved to Edale, where they resided at Edale House, and like many of the Watts family, Samuel retired early on his fortune.
We met Charlotte Crabtree a little earlier when she married Edward Watts. Charlotte’s brother William Henry Crabtree (1846-1904) was next to occupy Burnage Hall from 1883 until his death in 1904. William was the son of Henry Hunt Crabtree (1816-1888) a Dyer, and his wife Mary Taylor.
William took over his father’s business, Henry Crabtree and Sons who operated from the Limekiln Works in Ardwick and the Bank Dyeworks in Openshaw. He was born on 1 July 1846 on Union Street in Hulme. He moved to Burnage in the late 1850s and lived first at Oakleigh House (the future residence of Miss E Watts Sidebottom) and then the Acacias which was built by Joseph Cheeseborough Dyer which subsequently served as a school until its demolition in 1971. He married Helen Dowse in 1875 and the couple moved to Shawbrook Villa until they took up residence at Burnage Hall.
In 1899 William and Helen hosted a stay by Miss Annie Hughes (1869-1954), an actress, who was appearing in Sweet Nancy and The Good For Nothing Nan at the Theatre Royal in Manchester, she was interviewed by the correspondent of the Manchester Times during this stay, and professed deep sorrow for the sickness of her pet Japanese spaniel, pausing the interview several times to lament over the illness of her unfortunate pooch. She had had a gifted career resulting from a recital during a private party, after which all the guests suggested she enter the stage. This she did coming under the management of Sir Charles Hawtrey.
William died on 4 December 1904 at Burnage Hall, and the following year the Hall and Acacias was put up for sale, and was earmarked for Manchester Council for developing a Garden suburb in Burnage. The Hall was sold for £14,400 in May 1905 (£1.8m in 2020), the Acacias being withdrawn as it did not reach the reserve price. The developer, a Mr Tunstall was pressed to donate some of the land for a park, but he declined the invitation. The Hall was demolished in November 1905.
A public petition was raised to save the woodland and the grove of Lime Trees which approach the Hall, but, Manchester Council decided not to intervene, and these disappeared as well.
The planned garden village did go ahead, and the council entered into a joint venture with Tunstall to develop the land, which was seen as vital to relieve the slum conditions of Angel Meadow and Ancoats. Hans Renold, being a major employer was also keen that good quality housing be built. There were 430 houses planned, and each one was to have at least 250 yards of garden. The properties were to be rented, but the council was open to tenants purchasing the properties. For recreation, the area at the Burnage Lane end was to contain croquet lawns and bowling greens. The recreation area does not seem to have come to fruition.
Unfortunately we do not have any definite photographs of the Hall, the photgraph on the left shows the Hall entrance and avenue, and the image on the right may be Burnage Hall, the final image is from Miss E Watts Sidebottom’s history of Burnage, and definitive as she will have known the building.
¹ Miss Watts Sidebottom claims in her book that the Hall was built by a Mrs White to fit her carpets, but whether this is a Watts family fable or the truth, I have not been able to establish.
² Bramall had clearly been stalking them for some time, unfortunately we are spared a description of the couple’s furtive activities, all the newspapers offer us is The witness described the position in which he found them. I think it is safe to surmise Mrs Bannerman had at least removed her hat.
Burnage Illustrated, Miss E Watts Sidebottom: Burnage Heritage 2005
Football: The First Hundred Years, Adrian Harvey : Routledge 2013
© Allan Russell 2020.