Chorlton Hall was part of the manor of Chorlton, and in 1590 the Hall and Estate was sold by Sir Edmund Trafford (1526-1590) MP for Manchester to Ralph Sorocold a wealthy Manchester Merchant for £320. In 1644 Ellis Hey of Monks Hall in Eccles sold it to Thomas Minshull, an apothecary for £300. Its position and potential as prime building land saw it sold in 1774 for £70,000 by Roger Aytoun. Between 1692 and 1841 the value of Chorlton In Medlock increased 51,000% as opposed to the 7,000% average increase in values in urban areas.
Sir Edmund Trafford first married to one of Queen Catherine Howard’s sisters, and married secondly the daughter of Ralph Leicester of Toft. He was a staunch protestant and took a special interest in the persecution of Catholics. Ellis Hey was by contrast a supporter of the King during the revolution, and attracted the displeasure of the authorities, which contributed to his downfall. By 1647 he was described as old, infirm and greatly in debt and Monk’s Hall also changed hands soon after.
Thomas Minshull (d 1698) was the third son of Richard Minshull of Whiston in Cheshire. He settled in Manchester around 1635. He had connections with the great and the good of Manchester including the Mosley and Chetham families. His son, Thomas (1639-1702) was medical attendant to Humphrey Chetham and one of the first governors of Chetham’s Hospital. Minshull’s House near the Cathedral, built in 1890, is named for him, standing on the site of what was his apocathecary. Thomas Minshull Junior inherited the Hall from his father, but died without issue, and so the estate passed to his brother Richard (d 1722) a Barrister of the Inner Temple at Lincoln’s Inn.
The Hall then passed to his son, also Thomas who died in 1749, and thence to his son Thomas Samuel Minshull (d 1755) and it is now that the trouble arose.
Thomas Samuel married Barbara Nabb around 1730, after his death in 1755 Barbara Minshull was a wealthy, if somewhat old widow. She married again on 3 February 1769 to Roger Aytoun (c 1749-1829).
Aytoun, a Scot, was an habitual drunkard and regular brawler. He was born in Inverdarnie House in Kirkaldie and came down to Manchester with the Dragoons. Standing six feet four he had the habit of running the Kersal Moor races each year, the male competitors traditionally covered the course naked. Thus did the 21 year old Aytoun caught the eye of Barbara Minshull, 65, described at the time as an agreeable widow lady with a large fortune.
The couple promptly married on 3 February 1769 at the Collegiate Church. At the service Aytoun was so drunk that he had to be held upright. He only spent one night with Barbara. Once he gained possession of Hough End Hall and Chorlton Hall he set about realising his assets. In 1775 he offered Chorlton Hall, Hough End Hall and all the surrounding land for sale and development, pocketing for himself a fortune of £70,000.
His generosity to his wife extended to allowing her a pension of £60 pa, leaving her to struggle for lodgings for the remaining 14 years of her life, whilst he used her money to raise a regiment of volunteers to go fight the Revolutionaries in the American Colonies. This is the man after whom Aytoun Street is named, marking the edge of the area Aytoun sold up for development from the unfortunate widow. Minshull Street leads off it to Portland Street.
He gained the nickname Spanking Roger from his habit of challenging men to fights in public houses he visited on his recruiting rounds. If he won the fight, the loser was signed up. With the help of one Mary Maude (c 1736-1829)¹ he raised a company of 900 men. These became the Manchester Volunteers.
The Hall remained for around fifty years, being put up for let several times. In 1777 Samuel Clowes was the tenant. Samuel was the son of Samuel Clowes (d ca 1801) a rich merchant who owned Booths Hall in Broughton. Samuel made his money from selling off much of his family’s land for the development of canals, his brother, the Reverend John Clowes (d 1846) owned Broughton Park and subsequently sold it off for housing development, he also owned the land upon which the turnpike to Bury ran, exacting a rich income from tolls on what became Bury New Road.
The Hall was probably split around this time into separate dwellings. On 31 August 1784, Ralph Markland a Lieutenant in the 23rd Regiment of Royal Welsh Fusiliers died there after a long and lingering illness in the prime of his life, he was only 30. In 1807 we have a Staffordshire born merchant, Samuel Barker living there with his wife Anna Smith, and in 1820 Henry Pope reported the unfortunate death of his 30 year old daughter, Hephezibah, after a week’s indisposition, burying her at St Luke in Chorlton the following week. Henry and his wife, Mary Carpenter had five girls and two boys, and appear to have moved back to their native Birmingham soon after.
St Luke was a handy church, as Chorlton Hall also served as the residency of the Incumbent, The Reverend Dr Edward Smyth between 1804 and his death in 1823. It was Dr Smyth who built the church in 1804. The church was put up for sale after his death but not purchased until 1845. Over the years it fell into disrepair, and it was pulled down in 1863 and a new church consecrated there in 1865. The Reverend Smyth and his wife had four daughters.
We have a description of the Hall from an 1830 advertisement. It had eight rooms (two of which were 17 foot square) a dressing room along with a spacious kitchen and scullery. There was a garden to the rear, with a pump supplying excellent water. Rent was but 40 guineas pa (£5,000 in 2020). It had by then been substantially reduced from its state in 1790 when it had coach houses, stables and other offices in the substantial gardens.
In 1839 a writ of right was issued on the ownership of the Hall. This legal instrument dated back to the time of Henry II, and was perhaps the last to be issued. A writ of right was designed to restore land to its proper legal ownership, and as Chorlton itself had seen a fantastic rise in value, relatives of the ill treated widow Minshull wanted their property restored to them. The case of Rishton V Nesbit saw as the ancient law demanded four knights of the shire, Sir Thomas Branckner, Sir Joshua Walmsley, Sir Thomas Potter and Sir George Drinkwater, all girt with sword, hear as to whether Anthony Nesbit, the current tenant, or Charles Rishton the demandant, and descendant of Barbara Nabb. During the case ancient title and mortgage deeds, along with parish birth, death and marriage records were scrutinised to establish rightful ownership. The final verdict was for the defendant, upholding his rights of Nesbit’s tenancy.
The last mentions of Chorlton Hall are with Isaac Gregory and his Chorlton Hall Academy an early business school for young gentlemen, where the charges were taught practical skills such as mechanical drawing in order to train them as civil engineers or prepare them for a medical career, not forgetting social and military skills such as dancing, drill, and languages. The school started at Chorlton Hall, moving to Daisy Bank House in Victoria Park, before ending up in Blackpool. It was situate at Chorlton Hall during the 1840s and 1850s after which the Hall was presumably demolished.
The school also taught Phonography, better known as shorthand, and had the advantage of a particularly well placed master in that subject, Henry Pitman (1826-1909) the editor and a journalist on the Manchester Courier, and younger brother to the inventor of Pitman’s shorthand, Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-1897).
Professor Gautier was evidently a popular teacher as in June 1849 his pupils presented him with a silver snuffbox to show their esteem and attachment to their tutor. The Manchester Courier reported that this was not the first time that Monsieur Gautier had been so honoured.
Unfortunately I cannot show you a picture of Chorlton Hall, the only picture of St Luke I can find is of the 1863 church. All I can do is show you where I think the Hall once stood, bordered now by the Mancunian Way, just above Greek Street, going up toward Litcham Close on the satellite image below:
¹ Aged 20 Mary Maude joined the Navy disguised as a man in order to join her young lover. She maintained the subterfuge for three years engaging in battle and incurring wounds until her lover was killed when she revealed herself and obtained a discharge. She became a rag gatherer and ended her days at the Manchester Workhouse, where she died on 16 February 1829, aged 93.
The Annals Of Manchester, William E A Axon : John Heywood 1886.
Remains Historical & Literary Connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester: Chetham Society, 1878.
© Allan Russell 2020