100 Halls Around Manchester Part 32: Foxholes, Rochdale

Foxholes in Wardleworth, Rochdale was built by the Entwistle family. The Entwistles have a long lineage. In 1212 King John granted Sir William Entwistle the Lordship of Edgeworth near Bolton. Sir Bertrine Entwistle (b c 1396) was knighted for his services at Agincourt in 1415 by Henry V, and was rewarded with lands in France. He returned to settle at Entwistle Hall in Lancashire.

He enjoyed a good scrap and in 1455, aged 59, he was still serving his king, Henry VI, at the Battle of St Albans. However, he sustained a wounded shoulder and died six days later.

Edmund Entwistle built Foxholes around 1535, and his son Richard consolidated their holdings in Rochdale by marrying the daughter of Arthur Asheton of Clegg Hall, his grandson, John Entwistle (b 1633), a barrister in Middle Temple married Dorothy Holt of Castleton Hall, acquiring that property. Unfortunately his line terminated as his son Robert (1692-1778) died unmarried as did his grandson, by Edmund Entwistle, Robert (1735-1787).

The estate then passed down through Bertrin Entwistle of Wigan, Vice Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (the brother of John Entwistle the barrister) to Ellen Entwistle (1685-1755) his daughter.

Ellen married John Markland (1666-1742) of Wigan, and their son John Markland (1716-1799) a Manchester Boroughreeve married Elizabeth Wilson of Manchester. It was John and Elizabeth’s son, John Markland (1744-1798) who inherited Foxholes.

John Markland Jr assumed the name and arms of Entwistle in 1787. By now through intermarriage, the Entwistles had acquired not only Foxholes, but also Clegg Hall, Castleton Hall and Hamer Hall. John Entwistle as he now became had married Ellen Lyle (1765-1813) of Coleraine in 1782.

John was vice president of the Manchester Humane Society, established on 25 August 1791 for the recovery of persons apparently dead by drowing or other accidental causes. The society arose from the profligation of a large canal and reservoir network throughout Manchester and an alarming rise in drownings. Medals were regularly awarded to people who rescued souls from the waterways of the town. He was also a JP and served as High Sheriff of Manchester. He traded as a fustian manufacturer in John Entwistle and sons on Norfolk Street in Manchester.

The eldest child of John and Ellen, Elizabeth married Robert Peel, the eldest son of Lawrence Peel of Ardwick, the younger brother of Sir Robert Peel.

Hugh Entwistle served on HMS Bellerophon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and the following year was promoted to lieutentant on HMS Paulina

Richard Entwistle (1771-1836) had a son, William (1808-1865) who married Hannah Loyd the daughter of Edward Loyd, of one of the earliest Manchester Bankers, and thereby became a partner in the newly renamed Loyd Entwistle & Co, trading from the most beautiful town house in Manchester, 35 King Street.

35 King Street Manchester

John Entwistle (1784-1837) married Ellen Smith in 1812 and inherited Foxholes from his father. He became High Sheriff of Lancaster and contested unsuccessfully for the Conservative nomination for Knaresborough in 1831, being successfully elected as MP for Rochdale in 1835, which seat he held to his death. He lived at Foxholes and York Terrace, Regent’s Park in London.

John married Ellen Smith of Castleton Hall. The couple continued to live at Foxholes. They had three children, John Smith Entwistle (1815-1868), who we met marrying Caroline Norreys (1815-1876) of Davyhulme. John was a major contributer towards the building of All Saints in Hamer, and on his death soon after its consecration had the somewhat dubious honour of being first buried there. John and Ellen shared their time between Foxholes and Kilworth in Leicestershire.

John’s younger sister, Augusta married Lauchlan Bellingham Mackinnon (1815-1877), the MP for Rye, Sussex between 1865-1868. He was a somewhat reluctant parliamentarian, never speaking, and had greater distinction as a captain in the Royal Navy, writing such tomes as  Atlantic and transatlantic: sketches afloat and ashoreSteam Warfare in the Parana and Some Account of the Falkland Islands. From a Six Months’ Residence in 1838 and 1839¹. His elder sister Ellen Matilda married Sir Alexander Ramsay (1813-1875) who unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary seat of Rochdale after his father in law’s death, and once more in 1852, he held the seat between 1857 and 1859.

We have a contemporary description of the estate from Edwin Waugh (1817-1890) a Rochdale man who wrote several local sketches in the 1850s onwards.

The park-like lands of Foxholes and Hamer lie close by the north side of the road.  The lower part of these grounds consists of rich flat meadows, divided by a merry little brook, which flows from the hills on the north, above “Th’ Syke.”  In its course from the moors to the river Roch it takes the name of each locality it passes through, and is called “Syke Brook,” “Buckley Brook,” and “Hey Brook;” and on its way it gathers tributary rindles of water from Clough House, Knowl, and Knowl Syke.  As the Foxholes grounds recede from the high-road they undulate, until they rise into an expansive lawny slope, crowned with trees.  Foxholes Hall is situated among its old woods upon the summit of a swelling upland, which rises from the level of Heybrook.  The view across the lawn and meadows, and over a picturesquely-varied country to the blue hills in the south-east, is perhaps not equalled in the neighbourhood.  Pleasant and green as much of the land in this district looks now, still the general character of the soil and the whole of its features show that when nature had it to herself very much of it must have been sterile or swampy.  Looking towards Foxholes, from the road-side at Heybrook, over the tall ancestral trees, we can see the still taller chimneys of John Bright and Brothers’ mill peering up significantly behind; and the sound of their factory bell now mingles with the cawing of an ancient colony of rooks in the Foxholes woods.  Foxholes is the seat of the Entwistles, a distinguished old Lancashire family.²

John and Caroline had four children, John Bertie Norreys Entwistle (b 1856), the eldest son, inherited the estate. He married Mary Sophia Tuite Dalton, the niece of Baron Lisgar, the second Governor General of Canada and the couple settled in Kilworth. John retained title to the considerable lands the Entwistles had acquired and over the next years the Estates office at Foxholes was site of a busy lettings office with regular advertisements in the press, the portfolio of properties not encompassed Rochdale but also Broughton, Davyhulme (where land around the newly built Manchester Ship Canal was particularly lucrative) and Leicestershire.

In the mid 1870s we see a different family at the house when William Tuer Shawcross (1825-1884) and his wife Elizabeth Eckersley (b 1828) took up residence.

William was the son of John Shawcross, a calico printer of Droylsden. In the 1840s he went to Russia where he managed a calico printers, returning to Rochdale by 1854 when he married Elizabeth Eckersley a stockbroker’s daughter from Crumpsall. By 1861 he was well established in Rochdale, employing 200 hands and living on Ogden Street in Wardleworth. He was elected to Rochdale Council and served twice as Mayor in 1872 and 1873 sitting on the schools and waterworks committees, taking a great interest in the sewage of Rochdale. He also served as a JP.

William died on 26 September 1884 whilst visiting his daughter in Blackpool. Of his children, Edith Ecklersley Shawcross married John Albert Bright, the son of Albert Bright MP, who is considered one of the greatest orators ever in parliament, and is credited with coining the phrases, the mother of parliaments and flogging a dead horse.

John and Mary Entwistle kept to the house after the Shawcross tenancy, and held many fundraising events and fairs in the grounds to support Rochdale infirmary, including in 1890 a parachute leap from a balloon. The assembled throngs were not confident of a safe landing, one crying out, Thar’s fer hell or Bacup.

Athletic News 29 June 1891

They split time between the Leicestershire Estate, Rochdale and Scotland, requiring servants to be prepared to travel with them. As a perk, beer was offered as part of the remuneration. John’s main life was at Kilworth, he became High Sheriff of Leicestershire in 1888 and commissioned A E Purdie to build Kilworth House at a cost of £39,000 (£5.25m in 2021). The house took three years to build.

Kilworth © Kilworth House

Sophia died in 1916 whilst at Bexhill on Sea, John then married Florence Augusta Ramsay (d 1963), his cousin, the granddaughter of Sir Alexander Ramsay and Ellen Matilda Entwistle. John died in 1945 with no issue from either marriage, leaving his widow to inherit a forune of £210,000 (£9.4m in 2021).

Like many houses it was left to decay after John’s death, and eventually in 1970 was demolished because it was in such a poor state, having been allowed to rot.

Before we see it in its glory, let’s see how it was allowed to decay.

¹ Perhaps he had a rosy eyed view of the place: The climate of these islands may be said to resemble that of Ireland in its mildness without being so damp perhaps even it may be more like that of the Western Islands of Scotland equally mild and more dry and as healthy when drained and cultivated the produce must be beyond calculation great and the hardy peasants of Connaught or of the Hebrides might there find in a climate congenial to their own all the benefits of cultivation One thing is certain in parts of the British islands the population rather exceeds the means of subsistence in the Falklands the means of subsistence are ready for thousands and might be extended for millions In most countries the settlers have to clear woods to turn up land to sow and reap and a year may elapse before any return from the soil can be obtained in the Falklands the wild cattle and the multiplicity of other animals fit for man’s use are ready at hand and the means of living and of living in plenty are secured to the settlers to the fullest extent. The full book is here. I have been there, you just need half a day, trust me.

² Edwin Waugh, Lancashire Sketches Vol 1.


A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland Volume 1, Burke : Harrison 1882

The History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster III, Baines : Heywood

The Lordship of Entwistle: From Edgeworth to Edgehill and beyond

The Foxhole Entwisles

© Allan Russell 2021.


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