Barlow Hall stands on the North Bank of the Mersey in the Parish of Didsbury. It was the seat of the Lords of the Manor of Barlow for 600 years.
In the 12th century, the Norman family of D’Abitot settled at Barlow near Chesterfield. They had arrived there with the Withingtons. William Alibinus (D’Abitot) de Seale (near Burton On Trent) was born around 1130. His son Alexander De Barlow (1155-1180?) founded the manor, and his son, Sir Robert Barlow (1180-1204?) succeeded him. The family were not wealthy, as in 1253 a Thomas Barlow complained that Robert De Reddish had taken fish from his stream. In Robert’s defence it was countered that the fish had been caught in Matthew de Hathersage’s waters. Thomas was fined, but excused because he was a poor man.
The Barlows lived quietly at the manor until Ellis Barlow (1492-1525) the heir died, and his daughter married Edward Stanley (1509-1572) the Earl of Derby. The Stanleys were at one point one of the principal landowners in England. Edward’s father, the second Earl of Stanley died when his son was 13 and Edward was brought up by King Henry VIII. He became influential in Henry’s court, in 1530 he was one of the peers who gave Pope Clement VII the declaration regarding Henry’s divorce from Catherine Of Aragon. He remained powerful in court during the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. Ellis Barlow’s son, Alexander was brought up by Lord Derby and became MP for Wigan from 1547-1557.
It was Alexander who built the current hall around 1570. Having a powerful patron was very useful for Alexander, as he remained a staunch catholic and opposed the changes that Henry VIII initiated. Eventually though in 1583, the Hall was raided and Alexander arrested, and placed under house arrest dying there the following year.
His son, Alexander played a more cautious hand and whilst publically towing the line, gave tacit support to Catholicism. Four of his sons were sent to France and became monks or priests, and one of his daughters became a nun there.
One of the sons, Edward Barlow (1585-1641), known as Ambrose returned to England and operated covertly as a Catholic priest for 25 years
On 7 March 1641 Charles I signed a proclamation that all Catholic priests were to leave the country within one calendar month or face arrest. Ambrose refused and continued in his vocation. On Easter Sunday 1641 he was preaching at Morleys Hall in Astley and was surrounded by the Vicar of Leigh and his armed congregation of 400. At his trial he reaffirmed his Catholicism and was sentenced to be executed, which sentence was carried out two days later on 10 September 1641. He was hanged, dismembered, quartered and boiled in oil, after which his head was placed on public exhibition on a pike. Ambrose was proclaimed as Blessed by Pius XI in 1929 and canonised by Paul VI in 1970¹.
The reign of James I saw hope for more tolerance towards Catholics² and Alexander and his son, also Alexander (1579-1642) were both knighted at his coronation, however, the Gunpowder Plot set things back somewhat, and as a result the majority of the Barlow Hall estate was confiscated. Alexander’s son, Alexander (d 1654) was trusted enough to become High Sheriff of Lancashire. The next two sons Thomas (1618-1684) and Anthony (1663-1723) suffered fines which depleted the estate further. Two of Anthony’s sons Thomas and Anthony were implicated in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. They were subsequently freed.
Thomas inherited the estate in 1723, however domestic issues then took over and a deterioration in the relationship between Thomas and his wife Mary resulted in him discharging a pair of pistols at her. Thomas was imprisoned for attempted murder, but never brought to trial, passing away in Lancaster Jail of typhus in 1729. Mary lived on at Barlow Hall until her death in 1761. Thomas and Mary’s son Thomas (1720-1773) inherited the estate, but by now all the family issues had resulted in serious debt and Thomas leased the property to rich merchants and local gentry. He died without issue, and left the property in trust to his wife, who had the responsiblity of clearing all the debts amassed to this point. They did not succeed and in 1784 a private Act of Parliament was obtained to sell off the estate to William Egerton of Tatton who continued to lease the property.
One of the first tenants was William Marriott. William was living at the Hall in 1762 with his wife, Sarah Barrow whom he married on 28 June 1762 at the Collegiate Church in Manchester. William was related to Joshua Marriott, possibly a brother and was a merchant in Stockport and Manchester. He died at the Hall on 1 October 1777, after a long and painful illness which he bore with great fortitude.
The Hall’s notoriety continued with the next tenants, Thomas (1749-1817) and his wife, Hannah Shore (1747-1821). Thomas followed his father’s occupation as a cotton merchant and lived in a town house on South Parade, near St Mary in Manchester, but had Barlow as a country residence in the 1790s.
Thomas was a radical, he successfully campaigned against Pitt’s fustian tax. In 1787 he chaired and founded the Manchester Committee against the slave trade. He later founded and edited the Manchester Herald Newspaper to compete with the Conservative Mercury. He wrote extensively in favour of the French Revolution and against the slave trade, going as far as sending a letter to Petion, the mayor of Pairs, proclaiming an English revolution.
Sensing trouble in 1792, the publicans of Manchester banned reform meetings in their Inns and consequently Walker held the meetings in his town house. As a result both his house and cotton warehouse were attacked by rioters in disturbances lasting over four nights, in which the constables did not interfere.
In 1794 Thomas was prosecuted for treason, and defended by Thomas Erskine. The case collapsed when the evidence against him was found to be perjured. For the next few years he withdrew from political campaigns, but continued to lobby against the slave trade, alongside Samuel Greg. However, the French revolutionary wars and his radicalism cost him, and his business failed. He inherited a house in Longford in 1799 from one of his defence counsel, Felix Vaughan, and moved there where he died on 2 February 1817.
We next see William Shakespeare Philips (1772-1855) and his wife Harriet Bower Jodrell (1778-1843) at Barlow. He went by his middle name which he preferred. Shakespeare was a cousin of both Francis Philips of Bank Hall and Robert of the Park in Prestwich. He lived at Barlow between around 1824 and 1847 and involved himself in education, being Vice President of the Royal Lancastrian Day School as well as a Magistrate for Lancashire. He moved to Hertford Street in Hanover Square in the late 1840s and died in April 1855, and was buried in Manchester.
The next resident, Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, Bt DL JP (1819-1900), the son of Samuel Brooks (1793-1864) and Margaret Hall (1792-1840) of Blackburn. His father, Samuel was a cotton machine manufacturer and banker born near Whalley in Lancashire and carried on in the business founded by his father William, Cunliffe Brooks and Co.
Banking facilities were difficult to come by in those days, and therefore many such establishments set up banks as a sideline, in order to gain access to liquid funds so as to be able to pay their staff, and suppliers. In 1819 William set Samuel and his two brothers up as junior partners in his enterprise. Samuel established a small branch of his father’s bank in a corner of their Manchester warehouse, and the banking arm started to grow into one of Manchester’s leading banks. The Bank was taken over by Lloyds in 1900 to give them a presence in Manchester. The old bank building at the corner of Brown Street and Chancery Lane in Manchester is a former Brooks Bank
Samuel was a canny soul. He chaired the first meeting of the promoters of the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company and became its first deputy chairman. The company had first sited its Manchester terminus on Oldham Road, but wanting a more central location the company was able to buy land at Hunts Bank in 1838 which was to become Victoria Station, the land which Samuel just happened to own.
His property skills enabled him to buy Jackson’s Moss and drain it. He built a house on the land, which he called Whalley House, after his birthplace, developing the wider area which became known as Whalley Range.
William was born on 30 September 1819 in Whalley near Blackburn and was educated at Rugby and St John’s College, Cambridge where he studied Law. In 1841 he was living with his father at Whalley House, and the following year married Jane Elizabeth Orrell (1815-1865), the daughter of Ralph Orrell and sister of Alfred Orrell of West Bank and Abney Hall.
He was called to the Bar in February 1848 and practised as a Barrister on the Northern Circuit between 1848 and 1864. The couple moved into Barlow Hall around 1847 and it was their principal residence until 1869. In 1864 he became sole partner in Cunliffe Brooks & Co, Bankers Manchester and 81 Lombard Street in London.
In 1869 William was elected Conservative Member for East Cheshire, a seat he held until 1885, standing for Altrincham from 1886 until 1892.
The couple had five children, only two daughters survived infancy. However, they both married very well. Amy (1847-1920) married Charles Gordon, Marquess Of Huntley, the premier peer of Scotland (1847-1937) on 14 July 1869 at Westminster Abbey at a ceremony attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales and Princess Mary.
The second daughter, Edith (1853-1920) married Francis Horace Pierrpont Cecil, the second son of the Marquess of Exeter on 14 October 1874.
After Jane’s death, William spent most of his time at Glen Tanar House in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, which he initally leased from his son in law, Charles Gordon , but subsequently purchased in 1890. He spent a great deal of money on the estate, building cottages for workers, and a school. The estate survives today as a wedding venue and the cottages are open for holiday lets.
He did not abandon Barlow Hall, using it as his Manchester base, and neither did he ignore his home town in his philanthropy, founding the Brooks Institute in Sale to support local good causes, and hosting an annual dinner at Barlow Hall for employees of the bank.
In March 1879 Barlow Hall suffered a fire which destroyed much of the old wing, and only the shell remained. William was in France at the time, but his agent and Lord Egerton attended the blaze and managed to rescue most of the possessions. The blaze was attended by four fire engines, two from Manchester, one from Withington and oen from the Manchester Workhouse.
William married for a second time on 5 November that year, to Jane Davidson (1852-1946), the daughter of a retired Indian Officer. His star rose further in 1886 when a Baronetcy was conferred upon him. He was a man totally comfortable in his skin, and modern in his outlook, as these pictures of him show, sitting Keeler like and a caricature of him from Vanity Fair.
He remained active until the end, spending Christmas at Glen Tanar in 1898 but returning to Barlow Hall prior to February in the French Riviera. He came back to Barlow Hall that July, travelling on to Scotland for the glorious 12th. He died on 9 January 1900 at his beloved Glen Tanar leaving a fortune of £44,776 in his will³.
At this point greed set in. His widow wanting to inherit more than the annuity of £1,500 pa agreed under the marriage settlement, and two pictures bequeathed in the will. She claimed that he had become a domiciled Scot, and she was therefore was entitled to half of the estate under Scottish Law, averring that he had taken no interest in Barlow Hall, and his English properties.
The will stipulated that should he die in the UK, that he be buried at Glen Tanar. All real and personal property was vested in his trustees. The Scottish properties were to be held for the trust of Ian Cecil Francis, his grandson. The English properties were subject to a number of pecuniary legacies, but the residue was to go to any grandchildren who were alive at the time of his death. Jane had the right to reside at Glen Tanar during her lifetime.
Jane’s action failed, but she rather stubbornly held on to Glen Tanar until her death in 1946. The Hall was sold to become Chorlton Cum Hardy Golf Club, and so it remains until this day, with a rather impressive and historic clubhouse.
¹ You can still see him if you want. His jawbone is at the Church of St Ambrose in Barlow Moor, his skull at Wardely Hall in Worsley, one hand is at Mount Angel Abbey, Oregon and the other at Stanbrook Abbey, Yorkshire.
² To balance things out, two members of another branch of the Barlow family, William and Thomas became Protestant clergymen, and both served as Bishop of Lincoln.
³ It really depends who you believe. His widow claimed the estate was worth upwards of £3m, his daughters, between £500,000 and £600,000, probate says £44,776. That is between £5.6m and £370m in 2020 money.
© Allan Russell 2020.