Today’s house has a number of names. It started as Hillside House for Thomas Binyon a Manchester Tea and Coffee dealer, however the name changed to Oakwood Hall, but was locally known as Teapot Hall because of its first owner.
It was built around the middle of the 19th century in Italian Renaissance style by Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) who is most associated with Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London and was one of the most successful Victorian Architects.
Binyon was his first commercial project when he designed the Binyon and Fryer Warehouse and Sugar Refinery on Chester Street in 1855. His original plans saw the upper floors based on the Doges Palace, but this never came to fruition. It was probably around this time that he built Teapot Hall in the same Italian style. A date of 1859 is carved on the house.
The hall stands on Radcliffe Park Road, and was the earliest of the big houses built in the area.
Thomas’ grandfather, Benjamin Busby Binyon was a prominent Quaker banker. He was born in Sedbergh, Yorkshire, and married Ruth Wakefield in Kendal on 4 August 1760 in Kendal, Westmorland. By 1799 he was living in Manchester. He supplied Richard Arkwright the initial funding for his cotton business.
Benjamin had six children, of whom Thomas (1766-1823) was the father of our Thomas. Thomas Senior was a cotton and woolen draper who initally operated from Swan Street in Manchester. In 1814 he donated ten guineas to one of the earliest International Relief funds, to assist the war distressed Germans after Napoleon defeated them at Leipzig, underscoring the bond of union between Saxons and Britons.
Thomas Binyon Junior was born on 23 January 1765 in Royton, Oldham, and baptised at Marsden. He married first Sarah Fryer (d 1826) of Rastrick, then in 1844 he married Rachel Arch (1817-1845) of Brixton, who died a year later, finally marrying Martha Anna Spriggs (1816-1896) who gave him four children, Martha Anna (b 1851-1912) who married Wilson Burgess in 1875 in Evesham, Margaret (1854-1918) who died unmarried, Gulielma (1857-1942) who was also a spinster and lived from the 1860s to her death with her sister at Henwick Grange in Worcester, and finally Thomas Wakefield Binyon (1852-1930).
Thomas operated as a Tea and Coffee dealer with his brother Edward from premises in St Ann’s Square and Market Street in Manchester trading as Binyon and Hunter. He ran this business from around 1824 until around 1861 when he left Manchester to retire in Worcester.
He campaigned against the slave trade, and was prominent in local trading associations, he chaired the exotically titled Society of Guardians for the Protection of Tradesmen against Swindlers, Sharpers and other Fraudulent Persons as well as being a member of the Early Closing Association¹, a body created to control the hours of labour in retail shops, and abolish Sunday trading.
The first annual meeting of this august body was held at the Free Trade Hall on March 4 1847, with a glittering list of distinguished attendees advertised as patronising the event, many of whom for a variety of reasons unsaid managed to find unavoidable diary clashes when it came to actually turning up in person in Manchester on the evening.
This list of no shows included the PM, Sir Robert Peel, the Earl of Ducie, Lord Russell, Canon Of Windsor and His Grace, The Archbishop of Dublin. Nevertheless the evening was a great success (and letters of support from the no shows were read out) and one of the speakers, the journalist Samuel Carter Hall, remarked that were people of other countries forced to work from before dawn until after sunset there would be an outcry from the public².
Thomas also became a director of the Manchester and Salford Savings Bank and the Northern and Central Bank of England. The Northern Bank was established in 1834 in Brown Street in Manchester with a capital of £500,000. However, the bank was run so disastrously and fraudulently that he was forced to resign in May 1837 after the Bank of England had to step in to rescue them to prevent a collapse in the Banking system.
The directors started by taking shares awarded to other people but not taken up at par. They then sold on these shares at substantial profits³. They also expanded their branch network aggressively, and ran short of funds as amongst other problems they had not called up all the issued share capital to fund the expansion.
They set up in towns that were already adequately served for banking facilities and therefore quickly started incurring losses At this point they had to approach the Bank of England for help as they could not meet their obligations. Their Manchester manager, one Thomas Evans went to meet the Governors of the Bank of England carrying £108,000 (£12m in 2020) in cash in a briefcase. He absent mindedly left the briefcase on the coach on which he was travelling, stating I lost sight of the bag which contained the money and left it behind me in the subsequent parliamentary investigation. This amount was equivalent to the funding required for 20 provincial banks.
The Bank of England did not report the news publically as they realised that this would cause an immediate run on all banks not only the Northern Bank, but asked Mr Evans incidentally whether shortage of money was why he had come to see them, which he denied, and then immediately asked for an advance of £200,000 in bills and promissory notes.
Fortunately the lost briefcase containing the money was recovered later that day, but the Bank realised the Northern was in serious trouble and advanced £500,000 to rescue them on the condition that they close all their branches bar Liverpool and London. On further investigation of the books, the Bank found that the value of deposits had fallen from £900,000 to £260,000 and they would have to advance £600,000 to rescue the bank. They therefore despatched a team to Manchester to investigate the books. They found that in stated assets of £373,136, a total of £104,740 were worthless. The directors themselves owed the bank some £290,000 and had even allowed their clerks to borrow a further £14,000. Of the 52 principal debtors to the Manchester operation, 35 were shareholders, and the proportion was 20 out of 29 in Liverpool.
The Bank of England found a private ledger which showed amounts of over £200,000 loaned to the directors, with the only securities being shares in the bank itself, and many of the directors had been actively trading in the Bank’s shares.
Coupled with that, the directors paid dividends that the bank could not afford, paying 7% in 1835, which was not sustainable out of earnings, so they manufactured profits on the sale of shares to cover it.
For all this Thomas’ punishment was to be thrown off the board with the rest of the directors. As with today’s bankers he remained a respected citizen of Cottonopolis, trading as a coffee, tea and sugar merchant, sitting on the council, being an overseer of the poor laws, he had a seat of the boards of the Manchester Infirmary and Dispensary and astoundingly served as chair and treasurer of the Manchester and Salford Lying in hospital. He also chaired a committee to build a bridge across the Irwell from St Ann’s Square, down St Ann’s Street to afford access to the centre of Salford.
The 1841 census shows him on Plymouth Grove. He was there until Teapot Hall was built around 1855 where he lived between 1855 and 1862. During this time the property was called Hillside House. Around 1862 he sold up and moved to Worcester with his family, moving into Henwick Grange where the Binyons lived until 1942. Thomas died on 18 May 1865, leaving a fortune of £100,000 (£12.7m in 2020).
Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) was a cousin of Thomas Binyon He was the the author of For The Fallen, which is read at each year’s Remembrance Ceremony, and contains the lines:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
After Thomas Binley it was James Radliffe (1821-1897) and his wife Mary Butterworth who lived in the house between 1865 and 1886. James was a cotton spinner, the son of Samuel Radcliffe (1780-1838) and Mary Buckley of Oldham who founded Samuel Radcliffe and Sons at Lower House Mill in Oldham. On 31 October 1844 the mill collapsed, killing 20 people, at that time the largest loss of life in a single incident in Oldham.
Misfortune seemed to dog the Radcliffes. James went along with his brother, Josiah, (Mayor of Oldham in 1857 and 1865) hunting on 27 August 1857. Josiah managed to shoot another participant, James Platt, the newly elected MP for the town that day at Ashway Gap on the moors near Dovestone in Saddleworth. There seems to have been no lasting ill feeling after this inconvenient incident, as the Platt and Radcliffe families both contributed to the building of, and led the celebrations at the inaugration of St Mary Church, Balderstone, Rochdale in 1872.
Although he does not appear to have contributed much to society whilst at Teapot, he does appear to have given his name to Radcliffe Park Road, which only appears as a track on the 1894 OS map. After he left, the house was offered on several occasions for let or sale during the late 1880s. Teapot, or Oakwood as it was called by now covered six acres including stabling, conservatory and greenhouses. The house had an entrance hall, three entertaining rooms, kitchen and pantry and eight bedrooms with bathrooms, and other conveniences.
It was Frederick Spafford (1853-1919) and his wife, Christina Corban Langworthy (1857-1949) who were the next occupants. Frederick was a Cambridge educated Lawyer born at Chorley (Alderley Edge) in Cheshire. Frederick practised from St James’ Square in Manchester. Frederick and Christina lived at Teapot between 1888 and 1892.
In 1901 we find George Bowden (1845-1930), his wife Jane Knowles (1845-1938) and their children at Teapot. George was born in Warton near Lancaster on 27 May 1845 and baptised at St Oswald, Warton that July. His father William was a magistrate in the Lancaster Assizes, and a significant property owner in the Lancaster area. George married Jane Knowles in Southport in 1869 at which time he is described as an army officer. However he soon moves to Stalybridge where he takes charge of the mills at Gartside and Company. They moved after that to Heathfield House in Tabley and then to Denison House in Rusholme followed by a tenure at Teapot Hall, from the mid 1890s until after 1902.
George was one of the founding directors of the Calico Printers Association which was formed as an amalgamation of textile printers and merchants to place themselves in a better position to ward off foreign competition and declining profit margins. The Association was incorporated in November 1899 with a capital of £8.2m (£1.1bn in 2020) eventually taking the stately St James Buildings on Oxford Street in Manchester as their head office in 1912.
The Bowdens had left Teapot by 1907 and were replaced by Charles Critchley (1860- ) and his wife Emily Robinson (1861-1907). Charles was the son of John and Agnes and was brought up in Cheetham Hill, before marrying Emily Lowsey and moving to Pendleton.
Charles had an umbrella factory on the first floor building on the corner of Hilton Street and Newton Street which is now occupied by Marlsbro House Hotel next to the Crown and Anchor. Pevnser suggests that the original building was a redbrick building and the current structure is erected using the existing walls. The original building dates from 1832 and has a grade II listing, because it is an early example of a heavy timber floored factory, which gives excellent fire resistance, and was an influence on industrial buildings in the mid 19th century in the USA. Charles and Emily did not have any children, and he appears to have been short tempered and fond of a drink, as in 1914 he was fined 20 shillings plus costs for delaying a train by accusing a fellow passenger of being a ______ German.
After that the history is unclear. The contents of Teapot were auctioned in 1919 and in 1923 Lawrence and Edward Pilkington of the Glassmaking concern bought the house and donated it to the Salford Royal Hospital for use as a nurses home, with the intention that it be called the Pilkington Home for Nurses, it was also intended that the grounds be used for the convalescence of patients. The house today is a nursing home.
The house that started by being called Hillside, took the name Oakwood and is called colloquially Teapot, can be seen below:
¹ An early success of the association in 1825, in which Binyon was involved was the agreement to close shops at 8pm each day, except Saturday. The only exception allowed was for trade in essential supplies. This was meant to the purchase of articles of mourning, and not what we would consider a pressing necessity.
² The emancipation acts reduced working hours on plantations to 40 hours per week, and not beyond dawn or dusk, by contrast the 1844 Factory Act only restricted 13-18 year olds and women to a maximum 12 hour day and children 8-13 to 6½ hours and 6 on Saturday (a 38½ hour week). The day was reduced to 10 in the 1847 Act. Prior to the Acts the working day could be as long as 16 hours per day, six days per week.
³ The story is worth a read if you are inclined. It is at pages 103-117. The Bank was absorbed eventually into the National Westminster Bank and then to RBS group. Strangely they do not mention the troubles of the bank, just mentioning briefly that it failed. I can’t understand why.
City Notes and Queries, JH Nodal: Manchester City News, 1878
The History of the Bank of England, its times and traditions, John Francis : Willoughby & Co 1848
© Allan Russell 2020.