100 Halls Around Manchester Part 43: Parkfield, Didsbury


Parkfield is another lost house in Didsbury. It stood in large grounds bordered by Barlow Moor Lane to the South, Lapwing Lane to the North, Wilmslow Road to the East and open fields to the West. The drive (now Elm Road) led from Lapwing Lane to the House, and the house probably stood around the junction between Elm Road and Parkfield Road.

Today © Google

The date of build is not known, but the house appears on Johnson’s 1819 map of Manchester. It was occupied by Jeremiah Withington (1750-1847) and his wife Hannah Cook (1762-1847) in 1808. Jeremiah was a cotton merchant and the couple had married on 26 April 1784.

Jeremiah and Hannah had three children, George (1790-1865) Benjamin (1795-1871) and Mary (1786-1853). Mary married John Railton (1772- c1861), a Stockbroker, and the couple lived on Victoria Park in Rusholme. George and Benjamin remained at Park Field and traded as Cotton Merchants on Blackfriars Street in Manchester.

George married Marianne Alsop (1803-1835) on 27 July 1826. George appears to have been the more industrious of the brothers. As well as his interests in cotton he became a director and deputy chairman of the Manchester Fire Assurance Company. He was also a keen patron of the arts, acting as secretary for the Manchester Music Festival in 1836.

The music festival hosted twenty seven hours of concerts over four days, culminating in a grand fancy dress ball. The concerts were staged at the Collegiate Church in the mornings and the Theatre Royal in the evenings, and comprised of sacred works at the church, and secular in the theatre. Top price tickets were sold for 21s – £1.05 (£125 in 2021) and patrons were restricted to a maximum of ten for each performance. The Fancy Dress Ball cost 15s (75p) and fancy dress was mandatory, clergymen excepted. For the concerts ladies were asked not to wear large head dresses.

The headline performer at the festival was Madame Maliban de Beriot (1808-1836), the celebrated Spanish Soprano. She was the first ever to perform Italian Opera in New York and scandlously toured Europe with her lover, abandoning her bankrupt husband in the United States. After six years and bearing him a child, she eventually had her marriage annuled and married her lover.

She came to live in England in 1834. In July 1836 she fell from her horse but carried on. This however appears to have weakened her, and whilst performing at the Theatre Royal, Manchester she collapsed on stage during the encores. Like a trouper she insisted on continuing the next day at the Collegiate Church but was bedridden after the performance and died after a week of agony.

Her passing was not without drama. Her Italian physician was called from London to assist the Manchester medical men, but refused to cooperate with them, reveal the nature of her illness, or offer advice.

After her death, her husband left within two hours of her passing at 2am to go to Brussels. She was given a funeral and buried in the Byrom chapel at the Collegiate Church in a plain coffin bearing the words Maria Felicia de Beriot, died 23 September, 1836, aged 28. The funeral was attended by the great and good of Manchester, including George Withington and Shakespeare Philips. All in all there were thirty noblemen’s carriages attending the funeral procession which started on Market Street went through St Mary’s Gate and over Blackfriar’s Bridge then round Strangeways and along Hunt’s Bank to reach the Church.

There was much debate as to the methods employed by the Italian Physician, Dr Belluomini whose approach was described at the time as akin to kill or cure, and despite demands for a coroner’s inquiry into the death the New Bailey surgeon, Mr Ollier stated that no inquest was necessary, the Lancet however denounced his homeopathic methods as sheer quackery. Felicia’s body was subsequently removed to a mausoleum in Laeken Belgium.

George Withington died on 30 October 1865 at Parkfield, leaving a fortune of £30,000 (£1.3m in 2021). Of his children George Richard Withington (1829-1896) studied the Law, graduating at Trinity Hall Cambridge and moving to Taunton, where he lived with his wife, Maria Swire, the daughter of the Vicar of Manfield, John Swire. The couple had one child, Henry Swire Withington (1855-1892) also born at Parkfield, who died young.

Marion Withington (b 1830) married Captain Charles James Hale Monro at the Parish Church in Ashton under Lyne. They retired to Portsea Island in Hampshire. Helen Withington (b 1831) married the Reverend Oldfield Kelsall Prescott of Bradshaw Hall.

Jeremiah’s other son, Benjamin Withington (1795-1871) never married and lived most of his life at Parkfield working with his brother. After George’s death he moved temporarily to Dudley Bank in Moss Side, before dying on 29 June 1871 in Alderley Edge.

Following George’s death, the furniture and effects were auctioned in December 1865 and the property in 1867. Charles Blackburn (1810-1891) and his wife Mary Ann (1810-1890) moved into the property the following year. Charles was a silk manufacturer from Leeds. He had retired by the time he moved into Parkfield and fore the rest of his life he concentrated on his primary interest, spiritualism.

Charles Blackburn

He was especially keen on scotographs, images of ghosts on photographs, and bankrolled the prominent medium Florence Cook, who specialised in materialising the spirit of one Katie King. That is until at one seance on 9 December 1873, a sceptical guest grabbed the spirit and wrestled with her exposing the fraud. Charles withdrew his funding after being told of the incident. Charles did not lose his faith in spiritualism, and was mocked for his beliefs in Punch in 1879.

Punch, 1879, not as funny as it used to be

Charles moved to London around 1884, and died at 34 Ladbroke Grove on 15 January 1891. He had not been completely drained by fraudulent spiritualists, and left £115,360 (£15.2m in 2021) in his will. He retained ownership of Parkfield, although sold parts of the estate off over the years, reducing its size.

The house was next rented by Richard Harmer Hampson (1824-1891) and his wife Jane. Richard operated a cotton mill in Radcliffe. They lived at Parkfield until Richard’s death on 13 May 1891.

It is unclear then whether the house was demolished or not. The grounds of the house were gradually sold off, Charles Blackburn sold a parcel of land to create the houses on Parkfield Road, and the trustees of his will sold off the balance of the land. The Midland railway built the line from Manchester Central Station through to Tiviot Dale in Stockport, cutting through part of the estate by 1878.

1894 map © Manchester Libraries

There is a gap in information around this time, and the next resident of Parkfield is Siegmund Oppenheim (1835-1913) and his wife Adele Marcus (1851-1930). It was therefore in the 1890s that the old house was demolished and the new one built in its place.

Siegmund was born in Hamburg and came to Manchester around 1860, trading as an African Merchant. He first lodged in Bowdon and became naturalised as a British Citizen on 17 June 1869. In 1871 he lived on Acomb Street in Moss side, and was trading from 111 Portland Street in Manchester. He returned often to Germany, and it was during one of those visits that he took his wife’s hand, probably around 1874.

They had four children, and in 1881 the family took a holiday in Lytham. His trade was import export and he worked for Oppenheim Cohen and Company as well as Robert Sorenson and Co. He died at Parkfield in 1913. Adele lived on at the house until 1930 until her death that January.

During World War I, the family were defiantly loyal to their new country, of his children, Ernst Oppenheim changed his name to George Osborne, and Friedrich to Frederic Bury Osborne, the middle name taken from a family friend.

I am not able to find a picture of the old house. However, here is a picture of the Oppenheim Residence that replaced it.



© Allan Russell 2021.


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