100 Halls Around Manchester Part 65: The Woodlands, Offerton

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The Woodlands was built on land sold by Henry Marsland in 1850. It stood near the Woodbank Estate, and now forms part of a separate park. It can be seen on the bottom right of the map below.

The Woodlands, Cheshire X, 1882 © Ordnance Survey

It is unclear who the first inhabitant was, it may have been Richard Holroyd (1848-1901), who is sold the farm equipment of Woodlands in 1869. Richard was the son of Richard Holroyd (1797-1867) and Sarah Ellis (1816-1881). Richard senior was a Warp Sizer, amongst other professions, and seeing how the family moved they were reasonably well off. Richard junior married Margaret Ellen Clucas Bridson (1848-1893) and the couple moved to Cheadle Bulkley, then Adlington and ending up at Harold’s Tower, Douglas on the Isle of Man. Richard traded as a warp sizer, corn miller, dyer and bleacher so had his hand in several pies. He had plenty of time in the evenings however and the couple had 15 children.

Whether the house was there or just farmland is not certain, the advertisement makes no mention of a house. However, in 1871 we see Captain, later Major Henry Turner (1834-1905) and his wife Alice Woodstock Winstanley (1844-1928) living there. Henry was the son of James Aspinall Turner (1797-1867) and his wife Sarah Blackmore (b 1823). James was a cotton manufacture and Whig MP for Manchester between 1857 and 1865. He lived at Pendlebury House in Salford and founded the Manchester Field Naturalist Club and was a member of the Royal Entomoligical Society¹. He later moved to visit Pendlebury House in Salford.

The Captain followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Calico Printer in Stockport as well as Magistrate for Derbyshire and Stockport (one of his mills was in Hayfield). He was a member of the Royal Cheshire Militia and rose to the rank of Major. He married Alice in 1866 and moved into Woodlands sometime after that. Soon after that he was involved in the formation of the Grand Hotel and Safe Deposit Company which sought to raise funds to build a Hotel near Victoria Bridge in Manchester, as well as a safe deposit facility. He had experience in the Hotel trade, being a director of the Victoria Hotel Company of Southport.

This scheme was to incorporate two rooms in the basement, containing up to 6,000 safes, fire and burglar proof. The hotel was to have 400 guest rooms, a turkish bath, coffee room, smoking room and bodega as well as a restaurant and nine shops fronting Deansgate.

Whether the original scheme got off the ground is not clear, and in 1885 the Grand Hotel Company was struck off the register, the hotel, however, did get built and became the Grosvenor Hotel, which survived until 1970, being demolished in 1971.

The couple lived at Woodlands tending the farm and breeding horses (the Captain gets several mentions winning prizes for his livestock in the newspapers) until it was put up for sale in 1891, after which they moved to Cale Green and then Chad’s Well in Aighton. The Major died in 1905 in West Derby, the couple had no children.

Samuel Henry Moorhouse (1852-1910) and his wife Edith Maria Fleming were the next occupants. Samuel was the son of James Moorhouse and Mary Dickens. His father was a cotton manufacturer and Samuel built the business up. In 1871 he was under manager in a mill, manager 10 years later and by 1891 he ran cotton mills. Eventually he ran Brinksway Bank Mill, Weir Mill and the Vernon Spinning Company. Brinksway alone had 20,000 spindles. He became a founder director of the Fine Spinners and Doublers Association under Charles Scott Lings who we met at Heaton Lodge. He died at the Woodlands on 18 October 1910 of angina pectoris, after going out stag hunting. He too was a keen horseman and council member of the Polo and Pony Society.

He left £169,911 in his will (£20.5m in 2021). The couple had two children, Lieutentant Samuel Moorhouse (1880-1918) who joined the 21st Empress of India Lancers. In 1905 Samuel married Athleen Dennison Wardell of Dublin.

During World War I he served with distinction as a Major in the Argyll and Southern Highlanders. He died after the war on 11 December 1918 of influenza whilst convalescing on the Isle of Wight. His estate however was a mess, he left many debts and the matter was only closed when his mother offered five shillings in the pound compensation to creditors, which they had to (reluctantly) accept.

Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth (b 1878) married first Geoffrey Lionel Packard Cheston (b 1870) a stockjobber. However after two children, the couple divorced. Mary married again, Campbell Watson around 1912.

The house was once more put up for sale in 1911 and once more horses played their part.

Manchester Courier 8 April 1911

Moving in were Joseph Ramsden (1867-1946) and his wife Caroline Emily Armitage (1867-1940). Joseph’s father, William (1833-1904) owned Shakerley Collieries at Tyldesley which produced 90,000 tons of coal pa, and Joseph ran Manchester Collieries, which owned a number of mines in the Manchester area, including Agecroft. He also had a keen interest in horse racing and owned the Manchester Racecourse Company.

Joseph Ramsden with The Duke of York (later King George VI) visiting Gibfield Colliery from Atherton Collieries by Alun Davies, Amberley Publishing, 2009

He died after a brief illness on 13 December 1946 at the Woodlands, leaving £240,000 in his will (£10.3m in 2021), an amount no doubt bolstered by the imminent nationalisation of the mines a few days later.

The couple had three children, Hesketh Adair Ramsden MC (1899-1940). Hesketh served in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the First War, and was awarded the MC by King George V for action on the 27 March 1918 at Folies in France. Like his father he became director of several Colliery Companies between the wars. In World War II he served in Norway and was killed in action on 23 April 1940 at Lillehammer, after running after German soldiers, a revolver in one hand, and a stick in another. Although killed, the Germans staggered by his audacity, ran away abandoning their weapons. His widow Joan Passmore Edwards had a stained glass window installed in his memory at St Chad, Middlemore, Yorkshire.

Nancy Armitage Ramsden (1894-1989) married Commander Allan Robert Armitage MacDonald RN (1882-1942). Allan was born in Queensland, the son of an Immigration Agent. He joined the Royal Navy aged 15, and served in 1918 on the HMAS Australia when the German Fleet was interned at Scapa Flow. After the war he served at the Royal Naval Colleges in Dartmouth, Greenwich and Glasgow , retiring in 1929. The couple lived peacefully for the rest of their lives at the Lodge in Frampton On Severn.

Finally we come to Caroline Eckersley “Lena” Ramsden. The Guardian described her as one of the grandes horizontales sapphiques of her day. She insisted the perfect present for women she was courting was a trouser press, the Times said she held erotic cocktail parties in her bedroom for nice folks selected from the adult members of her community, telling one of her lovers she was a cave woman².

She was also very horsey. Along with winning many prizes for her horsewomanship, she wrote a number of books on the subject: Ladies in Racing, the 16th Century to the Present Day, Racing Without Tears, and A Farewell to Manchester Racecourse. Her memoirs were called, A View From Primrose Hill, not after the London landmark as you would expect, but after the house she was born in in Little Hulton.

During the second world war she came back to Woodlands to live with her father and the mansion was also used to house GIs³. She returned to London after the war and lived at Primrose Hill Studios in NW1. She died on 23 May 1985 aged 81.

After Joseph’s death, the house may have been temporarily used as an orphanage, but it was eventually demolished for Woodlands Park and Woodlands Drive Housing Estate.

Let’s see some pictures:

© Caroline Ramsden
Woodlands Park Bathing Pool

¹ The African gecko, Chondrodactylus turneri is named for him.

² Read the Times article.

³ Val Lloyd on the Stockport Heritage Facebook site says she remembers a lady who wore lots of makeup and was known as Aunty. Perhaps that was her….


Grosvenor Hotel

Joseph Ramsden at the Durham Mining Museum

The Guardian Daphne Du Maurier and her Sisters

The Times Those Free Loving Spirits

© Allan Russell 2021.

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