The name Audenshaw derives from Aldwine Shagh, meaning the woodland belonging to Aldwin. It was until 1874 part of Ashton parish. Near the site of the Audenshaw Reservoir there stood a house called High Ash. The name High Ash is remembered today on High Ash Grove, where Trinity Audenshaw Church stands on the north shore of the reservoir. In 1876 Manchester Waterworks demolished Red Hall Chapel and Red Hall in order to build the reservoir. It is commemorated by a datestone in the Trinity Church:
High Ash, a three storey house overlooking the Tame, built around 1444 was the seat of Robert Sandford, of Thorpe Salvin. John Sanderson or Sandford held a large part of Audenshaw until the English Civil War when the family lost much of the land as a result of their support of the Royalist cause. When the house was demolished in 1814 for rebuild, many fine lifesize paintings were found alongside an emblazoned coat of Arms of Henry VI.
The land was awarded personally to Captain Ralph Stopford by Cromwell for his services. He may have been descended from the Stopfords of Stockport. The Stopford family took possession of High Ash and in 1672 Captain Stopford built Red Hall nearby.
William Stopford was resident at High Ash until about 1832 when he fell bankrupt and the house and land were auctioned off.
Red Hall was then occupied by Edward Hobson who in 1740 founded both a school in the kitchen of the Hall and on his death 1764, an educational charity. He entrusted land at Fagg Lane (presumably Fog Lane) in Didsbury and Birches in Withington to generate income for the school in Audenshaw which was to be applied towards the education of poor children dwelling in the township. The charity continues today.
The Hall then was leased by Robert Thornley who built a factory at the side for furriers and skin dressers. The Thornleys were keen Methodists and in 1783 helped build the Red Hall Chapel nearby. The chapel was on the Stockport circuit and John Wesley preached there on 6 April 1786 at the age of 83.
In 1827 Joshua Stopford (1798-1852?) entered partnership with William Travis as a hatmaker at Red Hall. He married in 1827, Sarah Bowker (1802-1865). Their first child Alford Stopford Bowker was born out of wedlock, and their second, just three months after their wedding, which explains perhaps why the marriage was at St John in Manchester and not locally. Joshua was not a successful businessman, and had many debts, his father had placed a clause in his will of 1827 that he had to clear any debts on pain of having double the amount of debt deducted from his inheritance.
In 1830 he was bankrupted and Sarah’s father William (d 1839) and his wife Jane Timm took over the business and occupied the Hall, which was carried on by his children, William Timm Bowker (1804-1845) Henry (b 1808) and Walter (b 1815).
Joshua appears after this to have travelled to London, and traded as Poole and Stopford hatmakers. Again he was unsuccessful and was thrown into Surrey County Jail for insolvency and discharged in 1839. He then reinvented himself somewhat improbably as a solicitor and in 1847 one Joshua Stopford is secretary of the Artesian Water Company, and living at 46 St John Street in Clerkenwell, and bearing in mind that he was still married to Sarah Bowker, a case in the Middlesex Sessions on 22 November 1847 where Stephen Bailey, a publican was charged with his assault:
On the 14th of the present month (Stopford) had occasion to go to Richmond, and whilst there he met by the purest accident Mrs Bailey, the wife of the defendant. They returned together by the South Western Railway and, on leaving Waterloo Station, he accompanied Mrs Bailey over Waterloo Bridge, to the end of Lancaster Place…the defendant rushed up, and struck him a tremendous blow with a brass-headed stick…..I went to Richmond for the purpose of discharging an obligation I thought I was under. It was to pay for the maintenance of Mrs Bailey’s child, which was with a person name Foster. Mrs Bailey had no home for it, and I told her to send the child where she liked, and I would pay for its maintenance….I am paying six shillings a week for the child….The learned Judge said it was certainly a most disgusting case. Nobody who had heard the evidence could have any doubt as to the character of the intimacy between the prosecutor and this Mrs Bailey, and nobody could wonder that the defendant acted in the way that he did. The crime of adultery by the wife was no excuse for an assault upon the paramour by the injured husband, and the Court hoped he would not repeat his conduct. The Court fully considered the provocation given; and as a farthing was the smallest coin known in this country, the sentence was that the defendant pay to the Queen a fine of a farthing….The result was received with applause, and the defendant left the court with a numerous body of friends
Joshua died in Stepney in 1852. Mary Bailey returned to her husband and the child, Jane Rebecca Bailey (1848-1850) died in infancy. Sarah was living on Manchester Road, with one of her sons, also a hatmaker in 1851, she died in 1865.
William Timm Bowker (1804-1845) , the son of William continued in his father’s business at Red Hall until his death. He married Sarah Buckley (b 1802) who was related the Buckley family of Saddleworth and Heaton Norris who we have met several times already. The tools of his trade were sold in 1845 and in 1850 the Hall was put up for let by Abel Buckley and James Smith Buckley of Ryecroft. Sarah Buckley ended her days as a Grocer and Provision Dealer in Droylsden.
The next resident was Evan Leigh (1810-1876), he lived there with his family between 1846 and 1850. Evan was born on 21 December 1810 to Peter and Mary Leigh, cotton spinners of Ashton Under Lyne. He took over his father’s mill in 1828 and married Anne Allen of Macclesfield on 26 September 1831. The couple had around 12 children.
His skills were more in engineering than cotton production and in 1849 he patented the twin screw propeller which entered use in both the Navy and Merchant Navy. He moved from Red Hall to Newton Grange in 1850 and founded Evan Leigh and Son, at Junction Works in Manchester in 1856, producing many innovations in cotton machine production. Not staying in the confines of cotton, in 1861 he patented a pontoon ferry designed to transport trains across the channel, improving his plans over the next ten years.
In 1871 he produced a book, The Science of Modern Cotton Spinning, summarising his experience in the business, although his company’s conversion to a limited company in 1869 caused him substantial losses and he continued as a consulting engineer, forming E A Leigh and Sons in Boston MA, to import his machinery into the USA. In total he took out 24 patents and did much to defend the patent system. He died of heart failure on 2 February 1876 at his residence, Clarence House, Clarence Street, Chorlton On Medlock and was buried at Harpurhey Cemetery.
His eldest daughter was Catherine Anne Leigh (b 1832), and Frederick Allen Leigh the eldest son (1834-1890) who ran his business in England and the US. Frederick married three times, firstly to Emma Maria Chew of Manchester (1832-1865) with whom he had five children, marrying secondly Hariet Augusta Church (1845-1887) of Rochester NJ siring a further three offspring, and finally Sarah Elizabeth Wilkinson (b 1859). He died in Swampscott Massachussetts on 16 August 1890.
The next child, Ada Maria Leigh (1840-1931) married John Travers Lewis (1825-1901), the first Bishop of Ontario, Canada. However most notably she founded the Ada Leigh hostels in Paris, rescuing countless British women attracted by the glory of Belle Epoque France from destitution, prostitution and worst. She raised at her own risk £10,000 in 1872 (£1.2m in 2021) to purchase the Wagram Hostel, at 77 Avenue de Wagram, to house these women. Incredibly if an English girl married a Frenchman in the UK, the marriage was not recognised in France unless her husband was over 25 and had obtained consent of his parents, grandparents or had served them with three respectful summonses at fortnightly intervals. If the formalities had not been followed, the marriages were set aside in French courts, giving the abandoned wife and children no redress in French law.
John Travers Lewis died on 6 May 1901 whilst returning to England. Ada died in Kensington in 1931. It was the Bishop’s second marriage and they had no children.
Emma Pearsall Leigh (1843-1908) married at age 37 a somewhat older, Jacques Amable Regnault, a historian, librarian and archivist of the Council of State, some 45 years her senior at 82. He died on 14 October 1897 and is buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Emma died in Birkenhead in 1908.
Marianne Augusta Leigh (1845-1907) married Edward Brewster (1812-1898) a lawyer and member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1846-1848. He returned to England to study at Oxford and entered the Anglican Ministry, becoming a Vicar. He died on 17 March 1898 in Cape Town en route to Australia. Marianne died in Kingston Upon Thames in 1907.
Bertha Evina Leigh (1846-1926) married John Butler (b 1832) a cotton spinner from Heaton in Bolton and Henrietta Ford Leigh (1848-1927) married John Binns Southam a Manchester Doctor on 21 September 1870. Henrietta and John divorced in 1892 leaving Henrietta to care for a child, whilst Southam embarked on a cruise for his health. During this time he paid her none of the agreed maintenance, forcing her to rely on her family, living in Liscard with her mother and younger brother Thomas. Eventually the case went to court and he was obliged to pay up.
Evan Arthur Leigh (1850-1915) married Margaret Ackroyd (b 1855) on 15 August 1883 and the couple settled at Newfield House in Lymm. He split his time between England and The USA, where he managed Leigh and Butler and his father’s company E A Leigh. In later life he lived at Yewbarrow Hall in Grange Over Sands.
In 1915 he was returning to England on the Luisitania when it was torpedoed off the Southern Coast of Ireland. Margaret erected a memorial tablet to him at the parish church at Grange.
Thomas Allen Leigh, (1851-1931) married late in life, moving with his mother and Henrietta to Liscard, Birkenhead. He was a Shipping Agent and on 3 January 1900 he wed Anne Maxwell Black Little (1864-1944) Like his brother Evan¹, Thomas also died on the water, but this time whilst on a Mersey Ferry approaching Birkenhead.
The youngest son, Allen Ford Leigh (1852-1853) died in infancy.
After the Leighs, the Hall was occupied by Isaac Shimwell (1805-1875) a smallware manufacturer born in Youlgreave, Derbyshire. He lived at Red Hall between 1863 and 1871 before retiring to his native Youlgreave to die on Church Street on 9 August 1875.
After that the land was purchased by Manchester Corporation to build the Audenshaw reservoirs between 1877 and 1882 at a cost of £335,233-14s (£42m in 2021). This involved not only flooding a great part of the village of Audenshaw, losing not only Red Hall and the Chapel but also part of the Nico Ditch.
John Frederick La Trobe Bateman (1810-1889) was the Engineer responsible for the building of the reservoirs, he had overseen the construction of the Longendale Reservoirs between 1848 and 1877 and to cope with the ever growing demand had forseen the need to take water from the Lake District as early as 1868, suggesting the purchase of Ullswater and Haweswater in cooperation with Liverpool. The contractor on the project was George Benton (1825-1887) who built the Oldham, Ashton & Guide Bridge railway as well as the Settle & Carlisle line and Marple Viaduct. He was also involved in the restorations of Manchester Cathedral in the 1880s.
Let’s have a look at what images we have of the Hall and School.
¹ And brother in law, the Bishop of Ontario.
The History of the County Palatine & Duchy of Lancaster Volume II, Edward Baines: Heywood 1889
Reports from the Charity Commissioners Volume 9, 1827, House of Commons
Transactions of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, 1876
Echoes From Our Paris Homes, Ada Maria Leigh : Strahan & co 1875
© Allan Russell 2021