Staveleigh stands next to Woodfield. It also shares much of its history with its neighbour as the first two inhabitants were from the same families. Until I went to have a closer look at Woodfield, I was unaware of its existence, even though it is a larger residence, it is hidden amongst trees, high on a hill overlooking the valley.
It was the birthplace of the Reverend Joseph Saville Roberts Evans, of Woodfield. At that time it was called Staly Bank and situated in the hamlet of Sour Acres. In the early 20th century its name was changed to Melyncourt, a name it has today.
Joseph Evans was born at Staveleigh in 1801. In the 1841 census the family are away from Staveleigh, Joseph is living at Woodfield, however in 1851 Joseph’s son, Arthur Frederick (b 1846) is staying with his aunties, Ann (1782-1860) and Mary (b 1783). It may be then that the Evans family lived at Staveleigh from around 1780. His aunts did not marry and lived at Staveleigh until 1860 where Ann died on 20 August.
Next to move in were the Knott family, who subsequently moved next door to Woodfield. They were John Frederick Knott (1806-1868) and his wife Emma Priestley Bilborough (1818-1893). John was born in Chipping, Lancashire and married Emma, a Yorkshire girl from Leeds in 1839. They came to Stalybridge in 1851 living on Stamford Street where John ran a cotton mill employing 400 men in Ashton Under Lyne. They lived a short time at Staveleigh as it was now called before moving to Woodfield, where John died in early 1868. Emma stayed Woodfield until her death.
However their son, also John Frederick Knott (1844-1924) stayed on at the house with his bride, Elizabeth Maria Dickins (b 1846) whom he married in 1870. John and Elizabeth lived at Staveleigh until 1891 when they retired to Glancoed¹ near Conway after a brief holiday in Great Malvern. John died on 21 March 1924 in Tonbridge. He ran his father’s firm until retirement, he did not have a male heir to pass it on to.
Maria and John had five daughters, three of whom did not marry and lived with their parents. Margaret Eleanor Knott (1876-1972), Hilda Maria Knott (1878-1881) and Gertrude Knott (b 1872) were the spinsters. The other two did marry, Ethel Mary Knott (1875-1960) married a doctor, Roger William Wakefield (1865-1958) and lived in Kendal, where Margaret joined them. Edith Maude Knott (1871-1934) married the Reverend John Frederick Jenkins (1865-1931) and lived initally at the Rectory in Rock Bewdley, Worcestershire.
The next residents were Roger Arthur Gartside (1854-1911) and his wife, Ann Elizabeth Butler (1848-1912). Roger was the son of John William Gartside (1810-1868) and his wife Ann, a brewer from Ashton Under Lyne. John’s father established the Brookside Brewery in Ashton, and was born in Saddleworth. John Gartside’s family came from the Watershed area and he purchased land at Higher Dowry near Denshaw with the ambition of building a magnificent house for himself. He started building Dowry Castle in 1867, but died the following year without seeing his dream come to fruition.
The house was finally completed by his son, Benjamin (1836-1878) who was born by his first wife, Elizabeth in 1870. However, none of his children had long to enjoy the house. From 1875 Oldham Council had eyed up the estate for the site of new reservoirs, and despite objections they succeeded and built the reservoirs there by 1883. The family threw in the towel in 1894 and Dowry Castle was sold to the council, with the contents being auctioned off, and building demolished in 1897.
Roger Gartside was the offspring of his father’s second marriage to Ann (1817-1858). He was born in Saddleworth and aged 5 or 6 attended the Moravian Boarding School in Fairfield, Ashton Under Lyne. He was articled as a solicitor in 1871 qualifying in 1876. He practised in Gartside and Faulkner from Princess Street in Manchester and married Ann on 21 March 1877.
The couple first lived in Dacres, Saddleworth before moving to Hollyville in Friesland. As well as his practise had a number of significant landownings in Kalgoorie Australia. Along with his two surviving brothers, he inherited his father’s brewery business in 1898, becoming a director of the brewery, and moving into Staveleigh shortly afterwards.
By 1909 he was chairman of the brewery. However the couple did not stay at Staveleigh for long, as they moved to St Anne’s on Sea in 1904, after selling the property and contents. In memory of his father’s dream the house in on the North Drive in St Anne’s was called The Dowry. Roger died in St Anne’s on 29 March 1911, Ann passed away there a few months later on 22 January 1912.
The brewery was large, it had over 200 houses. It was taken over by Bass in 1968, and despite being one of the most technically advanced breweries in the country it was relegated to a bottling plant for Bass beers in their ongoing attempt to destroy a significant heritage. The head brewer was reportedly so disgusted that he walked away with the recipe book. It is only recently that their most famous Ale, Old Tom, has been recreated².
The couple had nine children. Roger Butler Gartside (1878-1878) died a month old in Dacres. Nora (b 1879) married first William Geoffrey Buckley, the son of Cotton Spinner James Frederick Buckley in 1900, and after his death married George Newton Wrigley in 1909. Roger William Gartside (1882-1912) never married and died at his parent’s home in St Anne’s on 13 May 1912. Geoffrey Gartside (1883-1922) also remained a bachelor, and died at the same house on 13 November 1922.
John Butler Gartside (1884-1938) married Harriet Hilley and died on 30 December 1938. Arthur Redferne Gartside (1886-1914) did not marry. He trained as a solicitor, and died at his house, also called The Dowry in Wilmslow, on 23 May 1914. His sister Dorothy (b 1888), also appears not to have married.
Rachel Grace Gartside (b 1891) married Sydney P Dodson in Hendon in 1916, and the youngest child Mary Hannah Gartside (1892-1941) also remained a spinster, dying in Delph on 9 May 1941.
At the same time as a builder, George Harry Walker was living at Woodside, it was another building contractor, William Hargreave Storrs (1881-1964), who moved into Staveleigh, and lived there from around 1905 until 1922 with his wife Emily Gertrude Storrs (b 1878). William was the son of James Storrs (1856-1926) and Alice Ann Pratt (b 1854).
James had continued working in his father’s building contractor and timber merchant in Stalybridge, William Storrs & Company. James served as mayor of Stalybridge between 1923 and 1925. William Hargreave Storrs was born in 1881 at 32 Cheetham Hill Road in Stalybridge. He was apprenticed in the building trade and grew the firm locally and in Wales, where he moved with his wife in 1923 still travelling to work in Manchester by train, a commute that was very popular at the time, judging by pasenger numbers.
He was responsible for building Chester Post Office and the Pensarn Bridge near Llandudno. His house in Colwyn Bay was Bryn Eithin, on Llanrwst Road, and he became a pillar of the local community, before his death on 21 August 1964³.
Our last resident was William Hobson Andrew (1876-1961) who lived at the house from 1923 until his death. He did not marry, and was the son of John Andrew (1849-1906) and Martha A Hobson (1848-1910). William was proprietor of the Ashton Weekly Reporter, which still publishes today, under the strapline of Tameside Reporter, and remains one of the few independent local newspapers in the country.
The Ashton Weekly Reporter was founded in 1855 by William Hobson (1828-1859). After William’s death, his brother Edward (1821-1887) and his son, also Edward took over the running of the newspaper, raising circulation to over 9,000 by 1886.
John Andrew started as an errand boy at the newspaper in the mid 1860s, but soon became a senior journalist. He married Edward’s sister Martha (1848-1910) who worked as bookkeeper and cashier. In 1876 they introduced an evening edition and took up offices on Warrington Street overlooking Ashton Market. The site was occupied by Marks and Spencer until 2013.
John was sufficiently wealthy by 1901 to retire to Birkdale, leaving William and his brother Edward (1872-1919) to run the newspaper, until Edward’s death, after which William took sole charge. William was educated at York Road Boarding School in Birkdale, and by 1911 was managing proprietor of the paper. Like many of Staveleigh’s residents, he took up a house in Colwyn Bay, but lived at Staveleigh, which he renamed Melyncourt, from 1924 until his death. He died on 14 November 1961 at 25 Park Road in Southport. He continued until his death as Chairman of the Reporter Group.
After his death, his nephew, Edward’s son, Gerald (b 1897) returned from his work abroad to take up the chair of the group.
Given that the house is well hidden from the road, pictures are hard to come by. But here’s a go:
¹ Which also translates as Woodside.
² This explains why there were so many awful Bass pubs in Saddleworth when I first moved there in 1988.
³ William’s brother, George Harry Storrs (1859-1909) partnered him in the family business, being Managing Director until 1909. George lived at Gorse Hall, and was murdered there by persons unknown. We will have look at that story another day.
@ Incidentally after writing about Woodside, I was contacted by Stephanie who told me that Arthur Platt was a local poet, he wrote a book called Woodside Memories.
© Allan Russell 2021.