100 Halls Around Manchester Part 72: Egerton Hall, Bolton

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Egerton Hall stood not far away from Turton Tower in the small village of Egerton near Bolton. It was built around 1826 for Philip Novelli (1781-1853) a naturalised Italian born in Turin.

Egerton Hall: Lancashire LXXIX, 1850 © Ordnance Survey

Novelli first appears in Manchester around 1820 living on Cooper Street and trading as a merchant from Bond Street. In 1824 he was one of the founder members of the Manchester Mechanics Institution, and also was a significant anti corn law campaigner. He gained naturalisation as a British citizen in 1824 and in the early 1820s he met George Bodmer (1786-1864) a Zurich born engineer who had gravitated towards Manchester as the centre of the cotton industry. Bodmer had a track record in improving cotton manufacturing techniques in Germany and France and was keen to introduce them to England.

However, naturally the English were resistant to a foreigner telling them how to improve their tried and trusted methods, and he realised that he would have to demonstrate his patent in action, so he partnered with Novelli to build a mill at Egerton near Bolton.

During the construction of the mill, he had Rothwell, Hick and Rothwell of Bolton build a waterwheel 60 feet in diameter, capable of supplying 120 HP and causing the spindles in the mill to turn at 6,000 rpm. The wheel required an estimated 4,320,000 gallons of water a day to power it.

The giant waterwheel at Egerton in 1841, which became a tourist attraction © Turton Local History Society.

However, he was not a man to stay around, and having proved that his mill worked, he moved on to other projects in Europe and the UK, including further cotton mills and a coal mine with Novelli. The partnership at Egerton was dissolved in 1827 and the mill sold.

After selling the mill and house, Novelli lived for a while at Clarendon House on Cheetham Hill, and served as a director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce between 1839 and 1844, as well as Vice President of the Lock Hospital on Lloyd Street. However by now he was dividing his time between London and Manchester. He auctioned his possessions at Clarendon House in 1843 and moved permanently to London, whilst retaining significant business interests in Manchester, living at Park Crescent in St Marylebone and Wood House in Camberwell. He died on 19 September 1852 at Crosby Square in Dulwich, and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery. He left a fortune of £80,000 (£10.5m in 2021).

He was married and had at least three children. Louis Novelli (1813?-1848) looked after his father’s business interests in Manchester, living in Prestwich where he died in 1848 on returning from Doncaster Races. He left a widow Harriet Hall. Augustus Henry Novelli (1820-1887) studied medicine at Cambridge and became a consulting Physician. He married Sarah Helena James (1821-1880) and they had five children.

Alexander Philip Novelli (1822-1850) became friendly with his sister in law Harriet after his brother’s death, and eventually she moved out of her late husband’s house and brought her two children to the Cliff in Broughton where Alexander lived.

On Sunday 20 January 1850 the couple attended church twice and that evening were last seen in the sitting room when the servants retired to bed. The next morning, Harriett was found lying on the floor, as if she had fallen there. Upstairs Alexander was in his room, suspended by the neck by his dressing gown chord. It transpired that Alexander had strangled Harriet, of whom it was said that he was attached, and his attentions favourably received, but it was surmised not so this particular evening. He was assumed to have then retired to bed, slept the night, but woken up next morning full of remorse for his crime, and hung himself.

It was Edmund Ashworth (1800-1881) who bought the mill and house in 1827. The Ashworth family hailed from Birtenshaw and they were small scale spinners in 1757, spinning cotton by hand which was delivered in bales from Liverpool. They then built a small mill near Hall I’ Th’Wood expanding to Turton and then eventually to Egerton. Edmund worked in partnership with his brother Henry (1794-1880). Edmund lived at Egerton, whilst Henry resided at the Oaks, nearby. Another brother, Thomas we have already met at Barlow Fold where he was land agent for the Poynton Estate.

The Ashworths were Quaker stock and close friends and colleagues of the Christy family of Stockport Hatting fame, and Edmund married Charlotte Christy (1805-1873), the granddaughter of Miller Christy (1748-1820), and daughter of Thomas Christy (1776-1846) and Rebecca Hewlings (1776-1837) in 1832.

Edmund was a man of science. He studied chemistry under John Dalton and was appointed to be the first Quaker magistrate in England. Together with his brother, he attended meetings which lead to the incorporation of Bolton. Over the years he started to fall out with his brother, and the two eventually split in 1854, leaving him in sole control of the Egerton mill.

He carried his Quaker beliefs strongly and was a passionate spokesman against the Crimean war, slavery and heavily in favour of temperance, believing alcohol to be the major contributer to the crimes brought before him as a magistrate. He was also an enlightened employer, giving his workforce comfortable accommodation, schooling for the children, and evening classes for the adults. He even gave Karl Marx a tour of his mill, but Marx disdained him rather unfairly as not being open to other (Marxist) ideas.

Grandfather, father and son – Thomas Ashworth, Edmund’s father, Edmund and his son Edmund 1847 © Jason Wright

He was a highly respected man, rising to Vice President of the Cotton Supply Association, and President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, alongside other achievements, and died on 21 March 1881 whilst staying at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport.

Edmund and Charlotte had nine children. Samuel (1834-1878) married Clara Mendel, the daughter of an East India Merchant, Samuel Mendel, and also entered the cotton trade, living nearby at Egerton Lodge.

Charles Egerton Ashworth (1835-1901) became a partner in W Miller Christy Towel manufacturers of Droylsden. The company had commenced producing Turkish towels in 1850 and received a boost when Queen Victoria ordered six dozen at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

He married Mary Ann Taylor Mendel (1845-1884), Clara’s sister, and after accidentally shooting his wife dead whilst aiming for a cat¹, he ended his days at Mytton Hall in Whalley, Charles having risen to Chairman of Christy’s from 1898-1901.

Charles was the victim in 1865 of an elaborate swindle. Whilst staying at the Raven Hotel in Shrewsbury, a man posing as an officer for Camarthen police and persuaded the Chief Constable that a robbery had occurred and that several items stolen from a Camarthen hotel, were suspected to be in the possession of a resident of the Raven Hotel. The pair proceeded to the hotel, where the hapless Charles was found to be in possession of a gold watch, a ring and £9 in cash as well as a farthing coin, which the fake officer knew to be one of the items that had been stolen.

Accordingly he was taken to the station, and the imposter demanded of the magistrate that he not be allowed to communicate with anybody, lest his accomplice be forewarned. Charles was remanded in custody until the following morning, and only managed the next day to contact a solicitor who managed to prove his innocence. This had only been allowed because a vicar who happened to be staying locally knew him and was able to go to the station and vouch for him. The thief, in the mean time managed to escape without trace, and with the items he had removed from Charles for evidence.

Mark Ashworth (1836-1902) emigrated to Australia, where he died unmarried and without issue. Rebecca Maria Ashworth (1838-1908) married John Hick (1815-1894) the son of Benjamin Hick, of Rothwell, Hick and Rothwell who built the Egerton Wheel. Like his father John Hick was a civil engineer and soon after their marriage they moved to Scotland where he carried on his engineering trade

Charlotte Anne Ashworth (1839-1870) died young and unmarried, living with her parents for her entire life, as did Thomas Christy Ashworth (1841-1869).

Alfred Ashworth (1843-1910) married Edith Alice Bower, the daughter of Frederick Bower, a China merchant. Edith was born in Shanghai. Like his brother Charles he entered the Christy company in Droylsden, becoming a director there in 1874, and chairman in 1901, succeeding his brother in the role.

© Grace’s Guide

Philip Ashworth (1844-1871) died young at the Alameda Hotel in Malaga, and was buried at the English Cemetery in the town.

Edmund and Charlotte’s eldest son, Edmund (1833-1901) inherited the family business and grew the company. He married another of John Hick’s children, Margaret Elizabeth Hick (1847-1929). The couple lived at Egerton Hall after the death of Edmund senior and retired to 7 Holland Villas Road in Kensington.

© Wyndham Ashworth Family Archive

The couple had five children, Charlotte Beatrice Ashworth (1871-1905) married the Reverend John Briscoe Broomfield in 1900, but died five years later. Margaret Ashworth (1873-1956) married Harvey Richard Drew (1869-1947) a stockbroker, living first in leafy Surrey before retiring to Millburn Orchard in Kingsbridge, Devon. Winifred Mabel Ashworth (1875-1938) remained a spinster, living in Surrey near her sister, as did Sylvia Mary Ashworth (1878-1958).

Edmund and Margaret’s eldest child, Edmund Hick Ashworth (1870-1960) went to work for Christy’s in Droylsden, he lived at Egerton Hall as a child, but moved to nearby Egerton House and married Hilda Deakin (1882-1964), the daughter of Edward Deakin (1854-1935) who was the final resident of Egerton Hall.

Edward was born in Egerton to Edward Carr Deakin. He married Elizabeth Isherwood (1857-1931) and operated there as a bleacher and dyer, taking over the Egerton Dyeworks around 1897 when the amalgamation of J&P Coats gathered together a number of local cotton works. In 1901 the couple lived at Hill Top Mansion in Sharples, but had moved into Egerton Hall by 1911 where he stayed until his death on 28 November 1935. Elizabeth died four years earlier.

The couple had five children, Hilda, who married Edmund Hick Ashworth, Edward Carr Deakin (1892-1942) who married Dorothy Emma Palmer (1898-1983) and lived at Dimple Hall in Bolton, and worked as a bleacher and dyer. There were also three other girls (Jessie, Ethel and Lucy).

After Edward Deakin died, the house remained empty from 1935 to 1940, and was used from 1940 to 1953 by the North London Homes for the blind. It was abandoned in 1953 and demolished in 1956.

Let’s see some pictures:

¹ I will relate that story next time.


Egerton, S J Tonge : Turton Local History Society, 2019

© Allan Russell 2021

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