Meadow Bank was probably built for the Reverend Nathaniel Knight Pugsley (1787-1868) who had secured a lucrative role as the first preacher at the Hanover Chapel on Lancashire Hill in Stockport. It occupied a large area of land off Heaton Lane, opposite Norris Bank and near Bank Hall. It was built sometime before 1848, appearing on the OS map for that year, but not on Johnson’s 1819 map.
The Reverend Knight was born to George Pugsley and his wife Rebeccah Knight (1749-1835) on the 15 July 1787 in Devon. George was a farmer and had married Rebeccah on 6 January 1778 in Parracombe, North Devon. George and Rebecca had a basic education, they both signed their marriage certificate:
In 1811 Nathaniel heard a sermon given by the itinerant preacher Daniel Gunn which inspired him greatly¹. Gunn started tutoring him and the following year Pugsley started a four year course of study at the Hoxton Academy in London.
Pugsley found it hard initially to work with the poor, and women, although a possible source of delight² were never to loom large in his life, he remained a bachelor to the end of his days:
I shall never marry!….My anticipations of domestic happiness are too sanguine ever to be realized!….[I would marry if I could find] a pious, intelligent, and elegant female of considerable modesty, too.
In May 1815 a fortnight’s vacancy at the Orchard Chapel in Stockport arose and Nathaniel travelled to Stockport to preach. This was no mean feat, it was a two day journey each way, covering 200 miles to make just two sermons. He had little hope of a longer tenure, as previous supply ministers had been treated in a somewhat cavalier manner. The Orchard Chapel had been formed as the result of a schism with the Tabernacle Independent Chapel at Water Lane, which then again split away forming the Orchard Chapel congregation.
Nevertheless, he was taken by the beauty of the area surrounding Stockport, visiting a fellow minister in Chapel En Le Frith. Not however, the town. He recorded his first impressions on seeing the town from his coach:
Strange places have a singular effect on my mind; I am almost angry with every person I see- I could even quarrel with the stones on the street. This was peculiarly the case at Stockport. The sensation I felt in entering this town was the most ludicrous. I saw immense stream-engines pouring forth fire & smoke, which being assisted by women at every door with a pipe in their mouths, enveloped the whole town in ‘darkness visible.’ Women were quarrelling – children were crying – carts were drawing horses instead of horses carts & the whole scene indicated that we were getting pretty near the place where Milton makes a certain individual exclaim ‘Is this region- this the soil?’ &c°. I was absolutely unwilling to get off the coach when they told me it was Stockport, at any rate I think I should have rode on to Manchester had not a venerable oldman asked me whether I came from Hoxton.
Nevertheless he saw opportunity:
The population of this place is immense. It is estimated at twenty five thousand, twenty thousand of which never attend any place of worship! 0h what a sphere is this for exertion! An intelligent and zealous minister might even get a congregation of sixteen hundred or two thousand people! Our chapel will hold seven or eight hundred people. The first sabbath I preached it was not half-full! I must tell you (I don’t write my letters with a view of their being inspected hereafter by an ungodly world) I must tell you, my dear friend, that it is already full.
He saw some success, and the initial two weeks was extended to a further three weeks. He returned to Hoxton in August, but received a further invitation to become the permanent minister, which he took up. He returned possibly partly for the opportunities amongst the ladies of Stockport writing there are some charming young Ladies in Stockport!!! and established a missionary society consisting of the eligible young ladies of his congregation where one evening he was honoured with the society of two or three delightful Nymphs whom, you may be sure, I treated with all purity.
On matters more spiritual, the success of the Stockport Sunday School made a deep impression on him, but it will not have escaped his notice the vast sums collected by preachers during annual sermons at the School – in 1810 William Bengo Collyer had received £449, William Thorpe, £521 in 1813 and Thomas Raffles £468 in 1815 (all between £37,000 and £43,000 in 2021). Clearly Stockport was rich on cotton manufacturing, and there was money to be made.
He gave his first sermon as minister on 7 January 1816 and the Chapel was crammed full. He was ordained as a full minister on 8 August that year. However, the unrest around Peterloo made him think twice, he had already shown more sympathy for the wealthy of Stockport ( I am not a flaming democrat), noting with regret the losses of up to £10,000 (£920,000 in 2021) that some men made at the time, whilst overlooking the plight of the poor weavers, and as a result fell out with the Trustees of Orchard Chapel. In December 1819 he tendered his resignation.
He knew his worth, and had received a number of offers to enter the established church. He claimed that he had never been a rigid dissenter (I was baptised in the Church, confirmed in the Church, and ever retained a great attachment to the Liturgy).
It is likely that he had been in discussion with the wealthier members of the Orchard Street Chapel, for in January 1820, these men³ proposed to him that he could have his own house of worship, and a new Chapel was suggested. Although now technically unsalaried, he stayed in Stockport making lucrative guest sermons every year at Hatherlow Independent Sunday School from 1820 to 1826, walking gowned from Stockport to Bredbury. His new place of worship was named Hanover Chapel in recognition of the ruling dynasty. It was decided that it would be built on gardens on Lancashire Hill.
The Cotton men were uncomfortable initially with the site, it being a little too far from their houses in Brinnington for them to walk to on a Sunday, however, as Heaton Norris did not have any similar places of worship, and therefore offered a potentially large congregation, with the potential to save many souls, and at the same time, generate great funds, the site was settled on and it opened on the first Sunday in October 1821.
Nathaniel remained at the chapel until he retired in 1857, because of a failing memory, and a general weariness. He remained popular until the end, becoming a notable orator. His grateful congregation awarded him a pension of £100 pa (£13,000 in 2021). He continued to be active in the affairs of Stockport until his death on 5 June 1868 and was buried in a vault in front of his Chapel.
It is not clear when he moved into Meadow Bank. The 1848 tithe map of Heaton Norris shows him as owner of Meadow Bank, and he continued to live there until his death. He is mentioned as living in Heaton Norris in 1845, so it is likely he was the first inhabitant.
Following Nathaniel we see George Walthew (1832-1905) and his wife Annie Massey (1838-1910). George was the son of George Walthew (1796-1889) and his wife Mary Ann. His father was born on Lancashire Hill and started life as a weaver at J&T Read, moving to warper at Walmsley’s mill on Bankfield Lane. He then worked as a bookkeeper for Cephas Howard before starting up on his own account at Newbridge Lane moving to take a room in part of Carrington’s hat mill in Cale Green. Eventually he was rich enough to purchase the Brinksway Mill and then expanded by buying Marsland’s Wellington Mill. With his brother, Thomas, he then bought the New Islington Mills in Ancoats.
The 1851 census shows that the whole family were working in George’s business, George was a roller coverer, his sons, John a manufacturer (he served as Mayor of Stockport in 1872 and founded the Walthew House Charity) , Thomas a warehouseman, William an overlooker, George a winder and daughters Elizabeth a weaver, Mary Ann a dress maker / milliner and Harriet a winder.
George junior married Annie Massey in Blackpool in 1867 and they lived on Chatham Street in Cheadle Bulkeley briefly before moving to Meadow Bank where they were living by 1874. The Walthews lived there until the mid 1890s when they moved to Victoria Park. George died on 25 July 1905 at Norman House on Anson Road in Victoria Park and was buried at Stockport Cemetery three days later. He was a rich man, leaving £127,417-14-11 in his will (£16m in 2021).
The couple had three children, Florence Annie (b 1869) married George Byrne an Irish born doctor in 1897. Lavinia (b 1874) married Jonathan Jones of Sevenoaks in Kent. Finally Ernest John Walthew (1872-1918) married Maud Violet Clegg in Sheffield in 1900. Maud was the daughter of solicitor Sir William Clegg OBE*. After the marriage, the couple honeymooned on the Isle of Wight moving afterwards to Heath House in Cheadle before he retired to Buxton where the couple are living in 1911. He became active in the Freemasons and sat on Buxton UDC until 1914. A keen sportsman, he participated in point to point.
In 1914 he volunteered for active service as a second lieutenant in the Second West Riding Field Company, rising to major in 1917. He was further promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1918 and was killed in action on 1 May 1918 whilst carrying out a reconnaisance near Bethune.
In 1901 we find Thomas Thornhill Shann (1846-1923) briefly at the house with his wife Hannah Sutcliffe (1846-1899). Thomas was the son of Samuel Shann and Martha Thornhill. Samuel was a humble cotton spinner. Thomas was born on Cross Street, off Rochdale Road in Manchester, the family later moved to Every Street.
He first entered a mill at a very young age, starting shifts as early as 05:15 and aged nine he entered a grey cloth warehouse in a bleachworks, working night shifts.
However, he was industrious and soon became a commission agent selling the cloth – quite often falling asleep at his desk late at night, only to start work immediately on rising the next morning At the age of 22 he started his own business in a cellar on Brown Street.
In 1897 he entered Manchester City Council as the Conservative for St James Ward, he served two terms as Lord Mayor of Manchester between 1903 and 1905. During his term as Lord Mayor he received King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra to the opening of the number nine dock of the Manchester Ship Canal. The King knighted him the same day.
For us Stopfordians, and particularly Heatonians, his time as a member of the Heaton Norris Local Board until 1894 was the most important. He was the driving force behind the creation of Heaton Moor Park on Peel Moat Road, opening it to the public on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee.
He married Hannah in 1869 in Harpurhey and the couple initally lived on Ashton New Road in Beswick, before moving to The Hollies on Clifton Road in Heaton Moor before briefly living in Meadow Bank in the late 1890s. However, after his wife died, the house was probably too big for him, and in 1911 he is back on Clifton Road before retiring to Lichenden in Formby where he died on 15 July 1923, being buried at Stockport Cemetery two days later. He left a fortune of £42,724 (£2.6m in 2021)
The couple had five children. Clara Agnes Shann (1870-1914) served as Lady Mayoress alongside her father, and she married William Dewar Hoy (1874-1921) the son of Sir James Hoy¥.
Thomas Thornhill Shann lived between 1871 and died circa 1925. Amy Verana Shann (1874-1939) married a Chartered Accountant, Herbert Lonsdale and the couple lived in Stockton Heath. William Sutcliffe Shann (1876-1906) tragically died in Llandudno whilst holidaying with his father. He fell off the Little Orme, when he strayed too close to the edge and died of his injuries.
Bertha Annie Shann (1880-1881) died in infancy, and finally Samuel Edward Thornhill Shann (1882-1954) became a doctor and married Sibely Cary Dietrichson in 1910. He died in Felixstowe on 4 June 1954.
On 14 June 1911 the Annie Walthew Nursing Home was opened by Alderman William Lees. The home, at Meadow Bank, had been gifted to the Stockport Sick Poor and Private Nursing Association by Anne Walthew in 1909, shortly before her death. The home treated 88 in patients and 16 out patients in 1920, and was supported by the work of the Ephraim Hallam charity.
The home was demolished in 1928 and replaced by housing, only the outline of the estate can be seen today:
I can only find one picture, in the Stockport Image Archive, watermarked, I am afraid:
¹ The effect Gunn had on people can be ascertained by the wave of grief that overcame the people of Devon when he left the county. There were huge sailors so overwhelmed with crying, that they could not sit upright in the pews. One says, ‘I quite unmanned myself.’ Another, ‘I love him like an only sister.
² Dalliance with the fairer sex was not unheard of. During his stay there, many would be ministers were expelled for catching venereal disease. Pugsley was not amongst them.
° Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat
That we must change for heav’n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light
Paradise Lost – Book 1 Lines 221-224. Not a favourable first impression.
‘* Sir William was a solicitor and ex Mayor of Sheffield who had also played for England at football, gaining two caps.
¥ A skirt manufacturer knighted by Edward VII for services to education, he lived at the magnificent Fern Cliff House in Heaton Moor
Pugsley, Hoxton & Stockport, Robert Glen: Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society Vol 6 No 9 October 2001.
Stockport Ancient & Modern, Henry Heginbotham: Sampson Low Marston, 1892.
© Allan Russell 2021.