100 Halls Around Manchester Part 69: Lawnhurst, Didsbury

Halls Menu

Lawnhurst in Didsbury is the second house that stands on the site. Although the current building was designed by Salomons & Steinthal for Henry Simon in 1894, there had been a residence there for at least 50 years previously.

We can see the original building on the 1848 map and a slightly different structure on the 1911 survey. It stands on the junction of Wilmslow Road and Sandhurst Road.

Between around the 1840s and 1870 it was occupied by Samuel Taylor (c1798-1861) and his wife Mary (1798-1870). Samuel was born in Worcestershire and was the son of John Taylor who lived at Richard’s Castle in Herefordshire, whilst his wife was of Irish stock. He was a merchant and manufacturer in Manchester, but apart from that we know little about him. They both died at Lawnhurst.

After Samuel and Mary George Peak (1819-1897) and his wife Mary Fowler (1827-1907) came along. George was the son of George Peak and Mary Godwin and was born in Sutton, Cheshire. He was one of three brothers, George, William and Henry Peak. WIth William he became a warehouseman, operating a draper’s store on Portland Street in Manchester, George Peak & Company. The warehouse burnt down in February 1886, causing extensive damage and a salvage sale of stock, but it recovered to suffer another fire in 1902. Phoenix like the company carried on until 1935 when George Peak & Co was taken over by Hickson Lloyd & King, which in turn was acquired by Rylands Stores in 1960.

Whilst his predecessor came from Herefordshire, George retired there, ending his days in Burcher near Titley, where he died on 29 May 1897. Mary died there ten years later.

George Peak

They had nine children. Mary Emelia (1859-1932) married Frank Schofield of Robert Schofield, one of the UKs largest flannel manufacturers in Rochdale. The couple lived at Stubley Hall in Littleborough before moving to the United States , settling in Philadelphia where she died on 19 August 1932.

Schofield Mills

Francis Henrietta Peak (1860-1956) married Herbert Boyd Lamont (1859-1924), a Calico Printer from Heaton Norris, but the couple retired to Briarwood in Lymington, Hampshire where Francis died on 13 October 1956. Her two spinster sisters, Ethel Josephine (1872-1957) and Adelaide May Henrietta (1875-1963) moved in with her in the 1930s.

Alice Ellen Peak (1864-1938) married the Reverend Joseph Beckton (1864-1924) who was rector of Alfreton in Derbyshire.

George Robert Peak (1865-1956) also became a man of the cloth and was Lecturer Of Ludlow. He died in Dulverton, Somerset on 29 February 1956. His brother, 2nd Lieutenant Henry Maxwell Peak served with the 9th Norfolk Regiment in India and died of fever there on 17 October 1890 in Sialkot in the Punjab. There is a memorial window to him and fellow soldiers in the south side of Norwich Cathedral.

Annie Georgina Peak (1869-1951) married Dr Hubert Rodney Ross Fowler (1867-1944) and the couple stayed in Herefordshire. Charles Edward Peak (1870-1923?) died in Chile. He married Lilian Cummings.

After the Peaks came the Goodairs. Richard Goodair (1828-1894) was the son of John Goodair and Mary Burton a Preston Cotton Manufacturer. He inherited his fathers mill and set up as a merchant selling the output at 4-8 Mosley Street in Manchester. He first married Anna Maria Chambers (1829-1884) in 1851. The couple had one daughter, Mary Elizabeth Goodair (1853-1930) who married the Reverend Edge of Formby.

Richard and Anna first lived in Preston on Fishergate before moving to Broughton and Ormskirk. After Anna died he married again to Clara Seymour (1855-1904) in 1888 and the couple took up residence at Lawnhurst, only living there a short time as they moved soon after to Pownall Hall where he died on 10 January 1894.

It was around this time that the old building was demolished and a new residence built for Heinrich Victor Gustaf Amandus Simon (1835-1899) better known to us as Henry Simon. He commissioned the Manchester architects Salomons & Steinthal who were responsible for the Manchester Crematorium on Barlow Moor Road, Edward Salomons (1828-1906) had designed the Art Treasures Exhibition Buildings, and temporary Railway Station.

Henry Simon was born on 7 June 1935 in Brieg, Silesia which was at the time part of the Prussian Empire. His father was a director of one of Germany’s first railways which gave him an interest in mechanical engineering. During the Revolutions of 1848 he became disillusioned with his native country and he followed his uncle Heinrich to Zurich where he studied engineering. He moved to Manchester and married Mary Jane Lane (1848-1877) of Melbourne and the coupled settled at Darwin¹ House on Palatine Road, the couple had one child, Ingo (1875-1964) but sadly Mary died in April 1877 and Henry wed a second time to the Manchester born with German roots, Emily Stoehr (1858-1920) on 30 November 1878.

By 1867 Henry had established himself as a consulting engineer and obtained British citizenship. He saw his great success in 1878 when he introduced a flour milling plant for MacDougall Brothers in Manchester, which revolutionised the production of bread throughout the world. From this invention he started a limited company, Henry Simon Ltd. He also revolutionised the manufacture of coke. In partnership with Francois Carves he developed a coke oven business, Simon Carves, which eventually became equally successful.

He was a great friend of Manchester, founding the Halle Concerts Society along with his good friend Gustav Behrens and helped establish Withington Girl’s School, being a passionate advocate for women’s education. He lay the foundation stone for the Physics laboratory at Owens College where later Rutherford and Geiger worked in the 20th century.

More locally in 1892 he had his architect friends who built his house construct the Manchester Crematorium at Southern Cemetery and in 1899 agreed to build the Simon bridge across the River Mersey.

He lived at the new Lawnhurst from its build until his death on 22 July 1899, his widow, Emily lived there until her death on 7 November 1920. During the First World War, the house was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

Henry Simon

The couple had eight children. We briefly met Ingo Julius Henrich Simon (1875-1964) earlier. He was born at Darwin House and educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh. He became a singing teacher and was an accomplished singer himself, giving performances at the Wigmore Hall. He was also a poet and keen archer, holding the British record in 1914 shooting an arrow 462 yards and nine inchest at Le Toquet.

He married four times, firstly to Eleanor Bechee (b 1871) of the USA, secondly to another American, Mary Jane Lawrence, then to a Clementine, and finally to Erna A C Seimert (1894-1973) who outlived him.

In 1924 he published a book of poetry, Roving Shafts² . Erna was also a keen archer, being Lady World Champion in 1937. In 1946 Ingo donated his collection of around 4,000 archery related items to Manchester Museum, which was the subject of a trust endowed by Erna in 1970.

Erna and Ingo © Manchester Museum

Eleanor Christadora Simon (1880-1958) married Sir George Clements Hamilton, Bt (19, an Engineer who became MP for Altrincham between 1913 and 1923 and 1928 and 1937. The couple first moved to Knutsford then to Cransford Hall in Saxmundham, Suffolk.

The Simons lost three sons in the war. Major Victor Herman Simon RE MC (1886-1917) was killed in action at Villers in France on 5 June 1917, as was Major Heinrich “Harry” Simon who died of wounds sustained in Flanders on 8 September 1917. He was following in his father’s footsteps by studying Physical Sciences before the war. Captain Eric Conrad Simon was killed serving in the 2/5 Lancashire Fusiliers at Villers in France on 17 August 1915.

Margaret Simon (1883-1956) married Rear Admiral Tufton Percy Hamilton Beamish. After a distinguished career in the first war he served as Principal Staff Officer to Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg³. He was MP (1874-1951), MP for Lewes 1924-1931 and 1936-1945. Their son, Tufton inherited his seat in parliament and sat from 1945-1974. Antonia Simon lived from 1893-1953

Antonia Dorothea Simon (1893-1953) married first Captain Charles Francis Ullathorne Meek (1883-1961), an army Captain in 1912. However he divorced her in 1925 after she conducted an affair with the Australian Bach pianist William David Murdoch (1888-1942). Murdoch’s first wife had died, and the last words he said to his second wife were that he was going out to play golf, writing eventually from Geneva that he loved Mrs Meek and it was impossible for him to return. In reality the pair had planned to meet up in Switzerland. Whether it was a happy marriage I don’t know. She kept her money though. William left £1,600 in his will. Antonia, £196,900.

William David Murdoch

The only son to survive was Baron Sir Ernest Darwin Simon of Wythenshawe (1879-1960). Ernest inherited the family business as a Civil Engineer and married Shena Dorothy Potter (1883-1972) in 1912. The couple lived nearby at Broomcroft on Ford Lane in Didsbury. Ernest gave Wythenshawe Park to the people of Manchester. He also served as Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1921-1922 – the youngest to have held the office at that point. He was MP for Withington rom 1923-1924 and 1929-1931 and was Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors from 1947-1952.

Sir Ernest Darwin Simon

After the Simons, the house became apartments owned first by the Yorston family. Robert Yorston (1851-1909) a surveyor and civil engineer married Sarah Helen Prophet (1864-1939) in 1883. Sarah and her daughter Mary “Brownie” Yorston (1887-1940) rented out rooms in the house to local businessmen. The house continues as apartments today.

I haven’t got pictures of the first house. Let’s see some pictures of the second one:

¹ Named after Charles Darwin

² Named for his toxophilitic interests, not his many ladies. I think…

³ Father of Lord Mountbatten of Burma.


Greater Manchester Architects Salomons and Steinthal

Henry Simon at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

© Allan Russell 2021.


One thought on “100 Halls Around Manchester Part 69: Lawnhurst, Didsbury

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s