Bank House and Lark House were owned by the brothers Ackers. Holland (1744-1801) lived at Bank House and his sibling, James (1752-1824) at Lark Hill.
Bank House stood on the Irwell, near the Crescent. The drive led from White Cross Bank. It was heavily wooded, round two sides of the field, ending in a circular walk with two large ponds at the top end, back down to the pleasure grounds. The kitchen gardens and orchard were closely linked with extensive pleasure grounds. By 1848 it was no longer there.
The two men were the sons of George Ackers (b 1739) and Ellen Bonney (b 1717). George was a fustian manufacturer from Bolton, who also grew wealthy on property speculation.
They came to Manchester and in 1772 were established as Silk and Cotton manufacturers in Manchester with a mill near the St Mary’s Parsonage in Manchester. Holland was a Manchester boroughreeve in 1779 and in 1782 he founded Bank Mill by the Irwell, in partnership with Jonathan Beever and Joseph Ramsbottom. Joseph had previously operated a Corn Mill on the site.
Holland Ackers married Elizabeth Filkin (1749-1800) or Witton in Cheshire on 23 October 1787. They had one son, George (1788-1836)
In 1809 James Ackers sold the lease of Bank Mill to John Seaton, John Fox Seaton and Robert Seaton, bankers of Pontefract. They in turn leased the mill for £700 pa.
Most of the grounds had disappeared by 1835 as the Adelphi Baths had opened by that year on Peru Street / George Street which was where the house once stood. Over the few years the house was slowly overwhelmed by the Adelphi mills and filtering ponds for the Dye works, print works and Adelphi Baths. The only remaining evidence of the house was Bank Street (which remains to this day) and Bank Parade which is now Chapel Street on the A6. The site of the house is now a car park.
In 1795, Holland’s brother James became a partner in the mill. James was also a boroughreeve, and in 1800 became High Sherrif of Lancashire.
He was Colonel in the Manchester and Salford Volunteers during the Napoleonic Wars, and in the short peace in 1802, however the following year he raised another regiment with the eponymously vainglorious name, Ackers’ Volunteers, commanding 1,017 men.
He married Ann Brown in 1775, but had a mistress, Ann Coops, with whom he had a son, James Ackers (1811-1868) and daughter Susan Ackers Coops (b 1819).
James and Holland tired of the increasing industrialisation of Salford and desired a country seat. Along with his brother he bought the Great Moreton Estate in Cheshire for £57,107 (£8.5m in 2021). Holland did not see much of the house, and his young son, George went to live with his uncle after his father’s death.
On George’s coming of age in 1809, James decided to return to his roots in Manchester where he had built Lark Hill on the opposite side of the Irwell crescent from Bank House a few years earlier.
George Ackers married Harriott Susan Dell in 1811, and stayed at his new country residence at Great Moreton. He died on 22 November 1836, leaving his estate absolutely to his widow, who auctioned the fittings the following year and the house in 1838. This suggests that he was estranged from his son, George Holland Ackers (1812-1872) who was forced to purchase what he could from the auctions. He then employed the architect Edward Blore to demolish the old hall and build a new, grander property.
He had by now come into his fortune. The will of his father had been contested in 1835 by Sophia Phipps. However the court awarded him the inheritance, allowing him an income of £10,000 pa (£1.3m) plus accrued payments for rent totalling £40,000.
James senior also took up residence in Putney, and died in Birmingham whilst returning home from London. His son lived on for some years at Lark Hill before he moved to Gloucestershire where he served as MP for Ludlow between 1841 and 1847, living at Prinknash Park.
Lark Hill was then sold to William Garnett (1782-1863) a cotton merchant and widower who had married Margaret Carson (1793-1821) of Liverpool.
William was born in Ulverston to John Garnett (1743-1800) and Elizabeth Studdart. John and his brother James gravitated to Liverpool where they established themselves as Jamaica traders – with a slaving ship The Garnett. However some time before his death John abandoned the slave trade and came to Manchester to concentrate on cotton. William was one of the earliest supporters of the railway revolution and invested in the Liverpool and Manchester railway becoming very rich. Margaret died very young at 28 from tubercolosis, and William did not remarry.
He served as High Sheriff to Lancashire in 1843, making his entrance to the Lancashire Assizes in with an opulent procession. He also wanted a country seat and after Lark Hill he built a small shooting lodge at Bleasdale. In 1842 he bought the Quernmore estate in Lancaster from Roger Gibson of Preston, on condition that the widow Gibson be allowed to live in it until her death.
On her death in 1843 he commissioned Alexander Mills (1814-1905) of Mills and Murgatroyd to remodel the frontage and interior entrance. In the house he lived the life of a country squire before his mental health deteriorated and he died in 1863.
He had three daughters, Elizabeth Jane (1815-1898), married a London Barrister, Edward Bellasis and two sons, William (1818-1873) sat as MP for Lancaster from 1857-1864.
William put the Lark Hill estate up for sale in 1844 and it was bought on 29 March 1845 by the Committee for Public Walks, Gardens and Playgrounds, which had the keen support of Mark Philips, for £5,000 (£623,000 in 2021) and on 22 August 1846 Peel Park, named after the Prime Minister became the first Public Park in the World¹.
That day, a procession set out at 10:30 towards the Park then joined a Manchester procession at Victoria Bridge to set off to Queen’s Park Harpurhey, which was also opening before proceeding to Philips Park. The day was completed with celebrations at the Free Trade Hall, presided over by the Mayor and the Earl Of Ellesmere. It was intended, though presumably never implemented, to make the 22 August henceforth a public holiday in Manchester and Salford.
Lark Hill house stayed on as the refreshment rooms for the park, but was converted in 1850 into the Royal Museum and Art Gallery and subsequently Salford Museum and Art Gallery until it was demolished in 1936
Peel Park remains today a public park, and being in Salford has not suffered the deprivations that plague Manchester Parks, and of course Willie Mossop and Maggie Hobson courted there.
Let’s see some pictures:
¹ Derby Arboretum, 16 September 1840, contests this.
The People’s History Of Manchester, John Reilly : Simpkin & Co, 1859.
© Allan Russell 2021.