Timperley derives from the Saxon Timber Leah, or a clearing in the forest. The present day village started around the 8th century as a farming settlement, and early bronze age artefacts have been found in the area, suggesting it was a regularly used. There are deeds of land transfer in Timperley dated between 1211 and 1234, witnessed by Walter De Timperlie. In 1361 Sir Hamon De Mascy died at the Timperleigh Estate. His son, Henry was only 10 at the time and made a ward of the Black Prince. The last descendants of the De Mascys of Timperley died in 1402.
After that the Hall was in the possession of the Chaddertons until 1420, the Radcliffes until 1476, the Ardernes until 1584 whem the Brereton family inherited the estate followed in 1634 when the Meredith family owned the Hall. Neither the Breretons nor the Merediths lived at the Hall, but let it out.
George Johnson who we met at Mr Croxton’s house moved into the Hall in 1754, demolishing the old moated building and putting in its place the present brick structure, and his son Croxton inherited the property after it. Croxton rented it out, taking up residence in Wilmslow as the rector.
In 1810 James Wood (1777-1849) and his wife Mary Burton (1782-1862) bought the property. James was born in Bradford in 1777 and came to Manchester where he was in partnership with Joshua Procter Brown Westhead (1807-1877) – the MP first for Knaresborough and subsequently York – in Wood and Westhead cotton spinners. James started his ownership of the Estate by selling off 50 Acres of the land in 1812.
James opposed free trade, and was the first president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. A keen methodist, he preached locally. His son, Dr Peter Wood (1811-1877), born at Timperley Hall, was early pioneer of Sea Bathing and helped found the resort of Southport¹, being its first Mayor in 1867.
James did not live at the Hall for long but rented it out. In 1841 Charles Pilling (1788-1860) was living there with his wife Alice Lawton (1790-1866). Charles was living there in retirement having spent most of his life in Chorlton Cum Hardy. The couple are still there on the 1851 census.
In the meantime, following the death of James Wood, Samuel Brooks bought the house and much of the surrounding land to build Brooklands in 1850. In 1859 the Hall was put up for rental. The advertisement in the Manchester Courier described it as having ten bedrooms, four entertaining rooms, a large kitchen and pleasure gardens. The annual rental was £140 (£18,200 in 2021)
The first tenants under Samuel Brooks were Richard Tonge ( b 1829) and his wife, Edith (b 1831) who came from Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire. Richard was a distant relation of the Tonges of Tonge Hall in Prestwich and traded selling and producing cotton and mixed goods on Moseley Street in Manchester, employing 1,000 hands.
The couple lived there between 1859 and 1864 when they moved to Bollin Fee, by which time he had diversified and described himself as an East India Merchant and Director of Henry Briggs and Son, Coal Merchants. He was still associated with Henry Briggs up until 1909.
The couple had five children, Richard Christmas Tonge (b 1858), Henry Dacre Tonge (1859-1907) William Ashton Tonge (1860-1936) and Mary and Amy Tonge born 1861 and 1863 respectively. William Tonge rekindled the family connections with Tonge Hall, buying it in the early 20th century, although he lived at the old Rectory in Warburton.
The next tenant was Lieutenant General Sir Sidney Cotton KCB (1792-1874) who lived at the Hall between 1865 and 1866. He came to the North West to command the north western district of the 22nd Light Dragoons. He was born to Henry Calverly Cotton and Matilda Lockwood in Marylebone, London on 2 December 1792. He went to India in 1810 as a Cornet in the 22nd Light Dragoons and married Marianne Hackett, the daughter of one of the officers.
In 1824 he travelled to New South Wales, where he became Engineer and Architect of the penal colony at Hobart. He enjoyed his time there, but sailed back to India the following year on his father’s advice. He returned to Australia in 1836 and served at the Moreton Bay and Brisbane penal settlements before they were broken up for free settlement.
Returning to India he served on the North West Frontier, with distinction, being described as one of the finest officers in India until his return in the early 1860s when he came to Manchester. By 1871 he was living with his son, Lynch Stapleton Cotton (b 1831) on Sandown Terrace in Chester, returning to London the following year where he was appointed Governor of the Chelsea Hospital and made GCB in 1872.
He was followed by Alfred Lyon (1815-1898) a widower. Alfred, an East India merchant, was born in Barton Under Needlewood in Staffordshire. He married Deborah Caple (1821-1865) in 1847 and the couple lived in India before moving to Wash Lane in Timperley.
The couple had three daughters, Ruth (1851-1924), Elizabeth (b 1854) and Susan (b 1857). His wife Deborah died on 28 March 1865 in Islington. He married again the following year to Fanny Beresford (1837 – bef 1884) who gave him three more daughters and three sons. Fanny and Alfred moved to Devon where he decided to settle with his new wife after a holiday in Dawlish where he had purchased a Tin mine at Smallcombe.
He was a reasonably good employer, making sure the mines were well ventilated, and ensuring they had adequate food during the hard winter of 1865-1866. He built the miners houses and made certain that they received their wages timeously. After Fanny died, he married her sister, Sarah on 2 October 1884.
George Cooper (1813-1895) and his wife, Elizabeth (b 1822) were the next tenants at Timperley Hall- living there between 1878 and 1883. George was born in Staffordshire and came to Manchester in 1823 to join his eldest brother John who had opened a small shop on Oldham Street Manchester, transferring to Church Street where they sold straw bonnets and hats. They were the first shop in Manchester to place price tickets on the goods in the window and became the first wholesale straw trader outside London. They bought a straw factory in Dunstable in 1847 and John went there to run the business.
George was joined in Manchester by his other brother, James Gould Cooper and the firm became known as IJ & G Cooper , expanding to childrenswear with branches in Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle. The firm eventually moved to Stevenson Square incorporating as a limited company in 1895 and in 1903 the company build a new warehouse, Sevendale House, on 7, Dale Street in Manchester.
George married first Sarah Laura Barker at Lezayre on the Isle of Man in 1848 and had two children by her George James Barker Cooper (1857-1901) and Elizabeth Jane Gould Cooper (1859-1894).
George then married again to his second wife, and doted on his children. This was his downfall. George Barker Cooper was a thoroughly unpleasant wife beating adulterous drunkard.
On Tuesday 14 March 1882 George Barker Cooper came home after a few day’s absence, to his first wife, Edith Jones, accompanied by one Ellen Ditchfield. He promptly accused Edith of taking a photograph of him from Ellen’s mantlepiece, demanding that she apologise. Edith had previously gone to Ellen’s house accompanied by George’s father and sister to retrieve the photograph.
Clearly Mrs Cooper was not prepared to do this and she stormed downstairs to confront the usurper, and struck the woman. Ellen was feisty and fought back. George Barker Cooper then produced a revolver and pointed it at his wife, telling her to stop.
Fortunately at this point George Cooper senior intervened and managed to turn the gun away from Edith Cooper as he fired it and she escaped unharmed. After she left the room another shot was fired, and George Barker Cooper fled to Ellen’s house, ditching the revolver over a hedge as he escaped.
Under questioning by the police Mrs Cooper said that she had been married over three years to her husband, and he often struck her, and was in the habit of carrying a firearm with which he had threatened her many times.
At the trial in April, George Cooper hired a skilled counsel to defend his son from charges of attempted murder, and testified that he did not believe that his son intended to shoot his wife, merely that the gun had discharged accidentally during the struggle.
Ellen Ditchfield admitted to having been a kept woman for over two years at 5 Osmond Terrace Manchester. She testified that George only carried the revolver to warn other boats on the canal during foggy conditions when he was sailing to her house.
During the summing up, the defence counsel stressed that whilst there was sufficient evidence of violence and adultery that could be presented against Cooper, there was no evidence of intention to murder and therefore they should not convict.
The judge was sympathetic to this, and emphasised it in his summing up, with the result that the jury returned a verdict that Cooper did shoot, but not with guilty intent, therefore George Barker Cooper was discharged.
It does appear that George’s father’s investment in a good Barrister swayed the judge, and perhaps given the muted testimony of his wife also acted in his favour. Ellen however, did not escape so lightly and was jeered out of court for having the temerity to carry on with a respectable gentleman.
Perhaps a deal was done with his wife, as she quietly divorced him. George Cooper senior also did not choose to stay at Timperley Hall and it was put up for sale the following year.
George Barker Cooper did not learn the error of his ways. Over the next few years he maintained his playboy existence and once more he found himself in court in 1892 in Douglas on the Isle of Man, accused of the murder of his second wife Edith Anne Cooper (nee Cooper), a barmaid from Shirley near Birmingham who had been working at a hotel in Douglas
This trial kept the population of England fascinated by its scandal and occupied many column inches during its run. A special edition of the Manx Sun was brought out giving all the gory details of the killing. After the trial a waxwork effigy of George Cooper was put on display at McLeod’s waxworks museum for the delectation of visitors.
Once more expensive learned counsel was procured for the defence, a Mr Kneen. 19 of the 20 inital jurors were challenged by the defence before the inquest started.
On 3rd September 1892, at the Regent Hotel in Douglas, the naked body of Ellen Cooper was found on the floor, with a three inch stab wound above her breast. She was lying in a pool of blood. The washing bowl was bloodstained. George Cooper was sat on the bed, shirtless, largely unconcerned. On close examination Edith was found to be covered in bruises.
The Coopers were frequent visitors to this hotel, and had come over the previous night from Fleetwood. That morning the maid had heard the couple squabbling, and then suddenly there was a scream. On rushing to the room, the manager saw the scene described above, and heard Cooper say: She is in a faint, on being told his wife was dead (there was, after all, a deep knifewound on her body), he nonchalantly said it was a dead faint. He remained indifferent throughout the entire initial inquest.
The newspapers reported that Barker had been seen with several women over the years on the island, including Ellen Ditchfield who used to come over at the same time as his wife and children were holidaying there. After the 1882 trial George Barker Cooper had gone to America with Ellen, but she came back alone when he took up with someone else. He had met Edith Anne Cooper when she was a barmaid at the Central Hotel in Douglas, at the same time he was seeing one of her fellow barmaids.
George, who by now had succeeded his father at the family firm, had been a regular visitor to the Island, his mother having been born there. He had met Edith Cooper in 1890 Edith was discharged from the hotel as a result, and followed Cooper to Manchester and the two were married at Shirley. George behaved flamboyantly on the island, driving a horse and tandem recklessly and dressing several times as a ship’s officer. Edith was 25 year old, and looked younger than that. She came from a solid upper middle class family, and appears to have taken up her profession out of a sense of adventure rather than pecuniary need.
The inquest commenced on the Saturday afternoon. The court was densely packed with Manxmen and women keen to hear all story unfold. Cooper was described as a heavy drinker and quick to temper. The hearing was adjourned until the Tuesday to give time for George Cooper and his office manager to arrive, as well as Edith’s father, William.
Witnesses were first examined on the arrival and discovery of the body. It was established that Mrs Cooper was not drunk, the wound was unlikely to be self inflicted, and there was evidence of older bruising on her body. Matlilda Yeamen, a barmaid gave evidence that the Coopers were regular visitors and on the night of their arrival Mrs Cooper was perfectly sober. In the bar that evening George Cooper bragged to her that he had given his wife a good horsewhipping the previous night, and intended to pay the little devil out. This evidence took the defence barrister, Kneen, by surprise and he asked her to remain so that she could be cross examined later.
After a summing up, the jury retired and returned a unanimous verdict that Edith Cooper was killed by a wound on her left breast, and that wound was inflicted by George Barker Cooper. The judge was not satisfied at this and questioned the jury, who informed him they could not reach unanimity on malice aforethought. Nevertheless after some further discussion, and an amended verdict which the judge did not accept he resolved that George should stand trial for the murder of his wife and he was committed for trial.
George had a rather comfortable time awaiting trial, he ordered his meals from the Falcon Cliff Hotel, consuming Heidseck champagne and was supplied with a wholesale order of cigars. The newspapers noted that the notoriety of the case had given a beneficial effect to tourism on the Isle.
In October, one Arthur Earle Hunt came over to the Isle and announced his intention to institute divorce proceedings against his wife, who eight years earlier had eloped to America with George. The couple settled in Boston, MA where they had a son. Two years later, George had returned to Manchester and started work in his father’s firm once more, abandoning his wife, who had been a saleswoman at the company. As soon as Arthur Hunt discovered that George was back, he proceeded to Cooper’s warehouse and infront of all employees administered a horsewhipping to the cuckold.
The trial was set to start on 14th November, most of the island’s journalists were primed to report on the proceedings, extra telegraph operators had been brought in from Liverpool. George pleaded not guilty to murder, 21 jurors were challenged by the defence
Addressing the jury, the prosecution laid a story of mistreatment and violence carried out by Cooper to his wife, and despite accusations to the contrary, Mrs Cooper had not drunk much prior to her killing, nor had she a history of drink. That she was killed by Cooper was without doubt, the only decision to make was whether it was murder or manslaughter, and the defence had to prove that there was sufficient provocation to bring such a lesser verdict.
George was defended by Mr Ring of Ring and Kneen who countered that it was the prosection’s duty to show that murder was intended.
The medical and witness evidence was presented to the court, and the defence attempted to show that Edith was a regular drinker. This was disputed by some of the medical professionals present.
Edith’s sister came to the stand and gave evidence of George’s violent nature, he had bitten her arm and attacked her infront of her sister after drinking sessions, this evidence was corroborated by her brother, who saw him give Edith a black eye, and promptly horsewhipped him for the violence, giving him a black eye the next day. He also testified seeing George threatening his wife with a knife. Further evidence was given by a police officer of George’s violence towards his wife in Manchester and summonses for driving whilst drunk.
In particular just before they departed for the fateful visit to the Isle of Man, PC William Davies of the Lancashire Constabulary testified to Mrs Cooper shouting Murder! Police! from their house, and the following day departing with a black eye. Counsel for the defence objected that it could not be proved that George was responsible, but Davies countered that he had seen him close the doors and heard the screams shortly afterwards.
There was a great deal of legal tussles to prevent a letter George had written from jail, to Mrs (Hunt) Cooper (the woman he had taken to America and married) and his son by her. Eventually the letter was deemed admissible secondary evidence, the defence having successfully prevented Hunt from attending. In the letter he said that he was fond of the girl and had raised her from a barmaid to his own level, increasing her supply of dresses from one to twenty. He claimed he had found her dead on return to his room. He asked her to take what she needed from the house, and wrote a separate letter to his son by her, Harold, asking him not to contact him, lest their whereabouts be discovered.
The case for the defence then started and a ship’s steward was called to testify that Edith was a regular heavy drinker on trips to the Isle of Man. She had to be steadied off the boat, and was abrupt and rude to her husband. Servants were brought to testify that both of them were regularly the worse for drink and one time Edith had struck George with a ring of curtain chains. In the servant’s opinion Edith Cooper was regularly drunk from morning until night and George Cooper showed nothing but a loving attitude towards his wife, working hard at making the house straight.
The Ladies’ maid agreed Edith drank regularly along with her husband. Arguments would break out and Edith smashed his glasses, and attempted to throttle him on one occasion. The defence successfully presented a picture of a nagging drunken and dissipated woman who had attacked her husband regularly, leaving scratches on his face.
The doorman at I J & G Cooper also testified seeing her turn up at the offices drunk as did several hotel employees in Douglas.
George Cooper then testified that he had not drunk the day of the killing, but his wife had, and he had taken out his knife, as per his habit, to clean his nails. He left the knife by the washing bowl and went to pay a bill and get his wife some champagne she had requested. On his return, he remarked she had not eaten anything in two days, prompting a row and her hitting him. He had previously picked up the knife, and without realising it, instinctively struck her back, causing the fatal wound.
Initially he thought he had just caused a scratch, and when she collapsed he attempted to bathe her to revive her. Medical experts were also called who testified that the knife used would rarely cause such a fatal injury and that her drinking could have contributed to her rapid decline.
In summing up, the defence counsel stated that given that the knife was rarely likely to cause serious injury that the provocation of a prior blow by his wife should mean that the verdict be manslaughter. The statement that George made saying he was going to horsewhip his knife, could hardly be taken as a priori evidence of intent to murder. He had produced several witnesses who testified to her drunken and unreasonable behaviour. The earlier bruises suffered by Edith were most likely caused by drunken falling about.Drunken rows did occur, but they were soon over.
In reply the prosecution asked for a verdict of murder, and the accusations of constant drunkenness were unfair and untrue as medical evidence had proved. It was doubtful that a man who was used to holding a knife to pare his nails, would instinctively adopt a dagger position for revenge of a sudden blow. George Barker had been calm after the killing, and had even dressed himself.
In summing up the Judge stated that it was not in doubt that George Barker Cooper struck the fatal blow. However, the jury had to decide whether it was premeditated or not, and to what extent Barker was aware of his actions. His summing up was heavily inclined towards a verdict of manslaughter brought about by provocation and the jury agreed with his direction finding George guilty of manslaughter.
He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs. Whilst George was no doubt relieved, the crowds waiting outside were not and the jury were pelted on their exit. The Manchester press felt that the verdict was lenient, and would not have been afforded to someone not as well connected, whilst the Liverpool Echo was on George’s side, as a penknife was an unlikely murder weapon. The Liverpool Post felt that whilst he was a drunkard, he was capable of kindness and had been provoked.
In 1894, Arthur Hunt obtained a divorce from his wife. The trial had alerted him to her whereabouts and so he was able to issue proceedings, obtaining £800 (£108,000 in 2021) damages against Cooper. All this took its toll on George Cooper senior and George’s sister Elizabeth and she died in 1894 with George dying the following year, leaving his sole surviving, incarcerated son a fortune of £250,996 (£33.1m in 2021) to spend upon his release.
Spend it he did. He was released from Wormwood Scrubs 18 months early on 28 October 1899, and proceeded to emigrate to America, where he married the (presumably unwitting and out of touch) daughter of a Manchester Architect, Evelyn Marie Walker on 3 October 1900.
The Manchester Evening News reported that he had resumed his old horsey habits in the USA, living life fast and carelessly until his death on 18 August 1901 in Hull, Boston MA. The following year solicitors started searching for any children to come forward and claim inheritance. A somewhat complex task given his background.
Timperley Hall was put up for sale in 1876 and Robert Ascroft (1847-1899) and his wife Wilhemina Harriet Barlow (1851-1932) moved in. Robert, a solicitor, was one of the two Tory MPs for Oldham from 1895 until his death. He married Wilhemina in 1872 and they initially lived at Windsor Villa in Oldham before moving to the Limes in Middleton, residing at Timperley for a short while before moving to Sedgley Hall in Prestwich. His London home was Sonneberg in East Croydon.
He operated as the legal advisor to the Association of Operative Cotton Spinners. The union had 18,000 members and were able to lobby for significantly higher wages than the industry norm. He was a skilled negotiator and managed to broker deals that did not involve strikes, placing the industry on a less confrontational footing. He became known as the Tory Trade Unionist and in grateful recognition of his services, the union had a statue of him erected in Alexandra Park in Oldham in 1903.
He died on 18 June 1899 and despite his Oldham roots and London service he chose to be buried at Timperley Parish Church. He was also the first person to recognise Winston Churchill’s potential as MP and lobbied for him to stand as an MP for Oldham.
After Robert, Jesse Henstock (1815-1894), a retired currier from Derbyshire is living at the Hall in 1891 together with his son, the Reverend Francis William Henstock (1846-1895), the rector of Dry Drayton in Cambridgeshire. Francis died at Timperley Hall on 28 January 1895 a few weeks after the passing of his father on 23 December.
The Hall was then purchased by Timperely and Altrincham councils in 1896 for £35,000 (£5.¼m in 2021) and used as a Clubhouse for the golf club which was opened in July 1896 by Coningsby Disraeli, Benjamin Disraeli’s nephew. The Manchester Evening News proclaimed it one of the finest courses in the city.
The golf course was opened to the public in 1935, and since 1950, the Hall has been owned by a series of breweries. The site of the original moated hall, farm and golf club are owned these days by Trafford Council
Let’s see some pictures:
¹ Next time you visit Southport, take a close look at Lord Street. It is said to be the inspiration for Paris. Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte lived there in 1846. He took inspiration from the broad tree lined boulevard with covered walkways and arcades and commissioned Baron George Hausmann to redesign the medieval capital.
Timperley Old Hall – The Excavation of the Moated Platform, South Trafford Archaeological Group: University Of Salford,2013.
Australian Dictionary of Biography: Sir Sydney John Cotton
© Allan Russell 2021