100 Halls Around Manchester Part 70: Crowcroft, Levenshulme

Crowcroft stood in what is now Crowcroft Park on Stockport Road in Levenshulme. Indeed, the house survived within the Park until the 1930s. The land was owned by the Diocese of the Collegiate Church (the Cathedral) and rented out.

In 1815 Thomas Knight (b c 1785) operated the Cotton Mill at Crowcroft and lived at the house. He was paid 7 shillings (35p) per dozen for weaving loose cotton hankerchiefs for export. He moved from Crowcroft in 1838 – possibly because the new railway was threatening to remove part of his land. The house was put up for let by the Church Commissioners.

At the time the house was described as lying 3 miles from Manchester, with hot houses, greenhouses, stove, coach house and stabling. His father offered his furniture for auction.

In the event, his son, also Thomas (b 1811) and his wife Martha (b1801) moved into Crowcroft and lived there until around 1851. He continued in his father’s business, Thomas Knight & Company.

In 1851 James Sidebottom (1805-1874) was living at the house with his wife, Mary Ann Slater (1806-1883) . We have met the Sidebottoms already at Mersey Bank House to which they had moved by 1859 when Henry Sandford (1819-1871) and Ann Cope (1820-1888) were the tenants. You will remember them from Cringle Hall. During his time at Crowcroft he wrote praising the benefits of Turkish Baths.

Potter, 1859

Robert Aitken (1823-1874) and his wife Mary Ellen Porter (1839-1920) were next to move into the house. Robert was born in Scotland but moved to Preston as a young man, where he married Elizabeth Cavert (1828-1859) in 1858. Sadly Elizabeth died after complications following the birth of their first child, Elizabeth Calvert Aitken (1859-1951) Along with his brother, Thomas, he founded Aitken Brothers Calico Printers in Chorley in 1841 which traded from 62, George Street in Manchester and Levenshulme. They also had a warehouse on Faulkner Street.

In October 1872 Robert was fined £15 for keeping a manservant, horse and carriage without a licence. He died on 2 March 1874 in Ilkley and his wife took over the running of the business with her brothers in law. The company was renamed the Levenshulme Printing Company and she retired living on annuities, first to Great Malvern then to Tunbridge Wells where she died on 9 June 1920 at Gladwood, in Tunbridge Wells, leaving a fortune of £56,824 (£2.6m in 2021).

Robert had eight children.Of these, his daughter by his first marriage, Elizabeth went to live with William Bashnell Park, a relative and Lancashire cotton spinner at Ollerton Hall in Chorley until around 1911. She died unmarried in Haslemere, Surrey on 5 June 1951, also leaving a healthy amount of money, £51,048 (£1.6m in 2021).

Eveline Margaret Aitken (b1862) spent some time in South Africa. George Herbert Aitken (1863-1919) became rector of Haslemere from 1897-1917 then in the last two years of his life was rector of Lambeth.

Following the Aitkens was Patrick Moir Crane (1813-1891) and his wife Maria White (1814-1900). Patrick was the son of an illustrious Scottish Family and heir to the estate of Tonley in Aberdeenshire.

Tonley House

His ancestor, Patrick Byres was a Jacobite Rebel who had fled to France. Eventually he returned when it was safe and his son, James studied Art in Rome, and became the resident expert to consult when a young man was taking the Grand Tour of Europe, including Edward Gibbon. Patrick had married the daughter of James Moir whose brother fought alongside him in the Jacobite Rising of 1745 and the families became close, intermarrying giving rise to them adopting the name Moir-Byres.

Patrick Moir Crane’s father was Dr James Moir, an eminent physician who married Janet Byres. For some reason I have not been able to discover, Patrick took the surname Crane. In 1838 he travelled to Quebec to marry Maria White, the daughter of a Canada merchant and the couple returned to Wales where they settled at the Ynscedwyn Ironworks near Swansea, which he had inherited from his father.

He was not greatly interested in running the ironworks, and additionally not very good at it, and by 1853 the works was in the hands of his bankers. However, by this time he had decamped to London where he was living at Canonbury Villas in Islington and styling himself as a Colonial Merchant.

He then spent some time in Kildare, Ireland where he was manager of the Irish Peat Company and during the 1850s patented many inventions for the manufacture of Peat. However by 1860 he had moved to Manchester, and whilst still maintaining his interest in peat set up as a chemical manufacturer, living first at 40, Deansgate then 43 Richmond Grove and Bank Street and finally by 1881 he had settled at Crowcroft.

By 1882 he had wound up his chemical works, The Central Dying Company, of King Street, and retired to Mersey Bank on Fielding Park in Didsbury, where he died on 15 January 1891, Maria having lived on nine years until 16 January 1900.

The marriage produced twelve children. Most of the children abandoned the Crane surname and called themselves Moir. George Moir (1839-1908) inherited the Tonley estate but worked as an Oil Manufacturer in Manchester. He married Sophia Eleanor Matilda Buteel in 1866 and they lived in Victoria Park before retiring to live on Windermere.

Sophie Caroline Crane, like her brother George was born in Yniscedwyn in 1840. Jessie Caroline Moir (1841-1931) married John Hill a Brazil Merchant and the couple lived in Moss Side and Chorton Upon Medlock before retiring to Chapel En Le Frith.

Jame Douglas Moir (1842-1920) married Alice Catherine Andrews and emigrated to Albany, USA where he was a merchant. Douglas Moir (1844-1924) studied medicine at Edinburgh and practised as a GP from 333 Oxford Road. The couple had a house in Ringway, Cheshire.

Patrick Moir Crane (1845-1847) died in infancy, whilst Caroline Moir Crane (b 1847) married James Hutchinson, a Liverpool Rope Manufacturer. The couple lived in Toxteth² before retiring to apartments in London in the early 1900s.

John Moir (1848-1931) married Esther Anne Mallabar Lowndes Yates in 1880 and worked with his brother George as an oil manufacturer. The couple lived in Victoria Park and retired to Park Lodge, Cernae Bay, Anglesey. Esther died there on 24 August 1928, and John on 22 August 1931.

Patrick Moir (1850-1932) married Anne Ross and he travelled first as an Oil Merchant working for his brothers, then by 1901 was a cotton buyer. The couple had no children and retired to Tonbridge.

Maria Moir Crane (1851-1926) remained unmarried, whilst Byres Moir (1853-1928) became a surgeon at the Homeopathic Hospital on Great Ormond Street, before moving to a practise on Harley Street. He married Jessie Evelyn Bonamy and died in 1928 in Amersham.

Finally Richard Moir (1855-1902) first managed his father’s dye works and then took over after Patrick Crane’s death. He did not marry and died in Knutsford on 4 October 1902.

After the Moir family the Cathedral authorities used the house as a Rectory for the Reverend Henry Norburn (1842-1927), the Rector of St Agnes. It was so named by Henry Norburn because the two clergy who helped establish the church, Bishop Fraser and Archdeacon Anson both had wives called Agnes.

Henry was born in 1842 in Denver, Norfolk. He married Jessie Morley and by 1881 was the Curate of Birch in Rusholme. On the consecration of St Agnes the couple settled at Crowcroft House and stayed there until Henry died on 9 May 1927. The house itself was demolished a few years later.

In 1900 Manchester Corporation took the land on a long term lease from the Church to build housing, and a model village, Pembertons Garden City was conceived.

Manchester Courier 1 July 1904.

A park was built at the same time for the use of the local people, set out in the traditional Victorian manner, with flower beds, a bandstand and cricket pitch, the park remains to this day an oasis of green amongst endless housing, the only one before Ardwick.

Let’s see some pictures:

¹ During the 1870s and 1880s Crowcroft Cottage next door was inhabited by Richard Melling and his wife. The couple built up a long string of convictions for selling highly watered down milk in Manchester. At his trial in 1880, the Judge reasoned that Melling had decided that it was more profitable to sell the adulterated milk and incur the fines than sell the pure product.

² Very elegant at that time.


The Roman Or Turkish Bath, William Potter : Dinham, 1859

Insight of Longsight

The Families of Moir and Byres, Andrew J Mitchell Gill: Scott & Ferguson 1885.

Tonley House and The Jacobite Major

© Allan Russell 2021


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