100 Halls Around Manchester Part 55: Birch House, Cheadle

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Standing next to Hulme Hall, Birch House has survived intact as a residential property for around 160 years.

Birch House, Cheshire XIX, 1899 © Ordnance Survey

It was built in the late 1850s and the first inhabitants were Isaac Storey (1801-1879) and his wife Elizabeth Winder (1809-1887) and their children. Isaac was a coppersmith and brassfounder who established Isaac Storey & Sons at Knott Mill and Little Peter Street, Manchester. Isaac Storey and Sons manufactured copper and brass equipment for engines.

© Graces Guide

His sons, Isaac Jr (1840-1876) and Thomas (b 1838) followed him in the family business, Isaac starting out as a bookkeeper in the company, rising to run the business for a short while before his untimely death at Lavenham Villas in Stretford, aged only 36, after which Thomas took over. All the family were living at Birch in 1861, and Isaac senior and wife, and his son Isaac and his wife Margaret Holgate (b 1843) in 1871. They moved out in the early 1870s, Isaac Junior to Lavenham Villas and his parents to Southport where Isaac died on 22 January 1879, and Elizabeth on 26 February 1887. Isaac and Margaret did not have any children.

After the Storeys it was Charles Elmore (1829-1903) and his wife Adeliza Goodwin (1833-1878) who took up occupancy. Charles was born in Heckington, Lincolnshire to James and Ann. His father was variously a publican and ropemaker. Charles married first Martha Lowe (1826-1868) and became a schoolmaster at the National School in Eaton, Cheshire. National Schools were the first providers of universal elementary education in England and Wales. He married Martha in 1852 in Congleton and Charles chose an alternative profession after being persuaded by the father of one of his pupils, Joseph Holland, to operate a bakery, The Model Bakery, in Harpurhey.

Charles was perhaps too successful at his new metier, as the two men fell out one evening at the Boar’s Head Hotel on Shudehill, Joseph Holland accusing Charles of deriving his success through unfettered access to his safe. Charles sued successfully for slander, but accepted an apology and a payment of 40s (£2, £230 in 2021). In 1884 one of his workers lost an arm whilst removing dough from a baking machine, after another employee set the blades running. An action under the employer’s liability act failed because the unfortunate amputee had indicated that he had finished working on the machine just before he decided to reinsert his arm.

Charles had married Adeliza Goodwin (1832-1878) in 1870 and around 1873 the couple went to live at Birch House. Charles had just lost a son by his first wife, Frederick (1862-1872) in Harpurhey so perhaps it was to make a new start. This was not to be, his daughter Annie (1860-1874) died at Birch House in 1874 and Adeliza died there too on the 8 October 1878.

Charles married again, this time to Ann Rhodes in 1881, spending their honeymoon in Barnstaple and upping sticks again to Abbey Grove in Barton Upon Irwell, where he continued in the trade of Baker and Flour Merchant, dying on 2 September 1903 in Eccles.

Edward Aston (1836-1907) and his wife Alice Fergyson (b 1837) moved into the house in 1881. Edward was the son of farmer Thomas and Mary Aston and was born in Pillaton, Penkridge, Staffordshire in 1835. He was apprenticed to William Bickley a Stoke Draper and Silk Merchant then came to Manchester in the late 1850s to enter business with Anthony Marshall¹ in Marshall and Aston, Dress Goods Merchants on Dale Street in Manchester. He married Alice Fergyson (b 1837), a Staffordshire girl in 1862 and they settled at School Road in Sale before moving to Birch House where they stayed until the end of the decade, after which time they moved to Oaklands in Wilmslow Park where Edward died on 22 September 1907, leaving a fortune of £128,089 (£16m in 2021). His wife predeceased him, and they had no children, therefore most of the estate was bequeathed to Wesleyan causes.

The next residents were Burnley Cotton spinner, Nathan Smallpage (1855-1908) and his wife, Martha Alice Preston (b 1855). Nathan was the eldest son of Nathan Smallpage (1818-1879 and Mary Miller (1816-1877) and born at Park House in Colne. His father had several mills in the Burnley area and Nathan came to Manchester to establish a presence in the city, his brother John ran the Burnley side of the business. We see them at Birch House in 1891, but by 1901 he has retired and moved to Craig Mor near Llandudno. He died on 1 August 1908 in Droitwich. Again the couple had no children.

James Scott (b 1860) and his wife Alice Mackintosh (b 1860) were the next to live there. James was born at Croy Station near Glasgow to a railwayman, William Scott and his wife, Elizabeth Alexander. He did not follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming a commercial traveller in Leather goods and eventually Leather goods manufacturer. They appear on the census in 1901 and 1911 at Birch House. James first came down to Manchester from Kirkintilloch in 1894, and first lived in Didsbury before moving to Birch House.

Around this time the house was renamed Trelawney, and in 1920 we see Charles Grenville Giles and his wife Alivia Winifred at the house. Between 1930 and 1956 Edward William Christian Fletcher (1892-1956) and his wife Edith Alice Mealor (1894-1970) are at the house. Edward was born to Edward Fletcher and Annie Dempsey in Toxteth. His father was a dock gate man, guarding one of the entrances to the docks in Liverpool and the son initially entered the shipping trade, being a maritime clerk, before studying to be a Chartered Accountant. Edward died at Birch House on 3 Ovtober 1956, after which time Edith moved to Glandon Drive in Cheadle Hulme, where she died on 11 February 1970. They had one daughter, Joyce Edith, who was born in 1923.

The house has recently been redeveloped and maintains much of its period character, lets see some pictures:

¹ Anthony Marshall served as last mayor of Manchester, and first Lord Mayor between 1892 and 1894 and was knighted on the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal.

© Allan Russell 2021.

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