100 Halls Around Manchester Part 74: Woodlawn, Didsbury

Woodlawn stood overlooking the River Mersey in Didsbury, it was probably built during the 1860s near Ford Bank on what was a select estate of private houses.

Lancashire CXI.SW 1892 © Ordnance Survey

The first residents were cotton merchant, Joseph Broome (1825-1907) and one of his many wives, Elizabeth (b 1828).

Joseph was born on 1 May 1825 at Preston Brook in Cheshire, and married first Sarah Emma Reed (1824-1859) in 1846 with whom he had two children. His parents, Thomas and Mary came to Manchester in the mid 1800s where he originally intended to become a teacher. However, the lure of cotton was too much, and he joined the firm of Hermann Samson and Leppoc first as a salesman, then a buyer. By 1868 had risen to partner 1868. Later he set up on his own at Broome, Hallworth and Foster which became Broome and Foster. The company had outlets in London and Paris and was based first on St Peter’s Square in Manchester and then on Portland Street.

He was also heavily involved in the social and artistic life of Manchester, having a long association with the Manchester Athenaeum¹ for over 50 years where he was treasurer and vice president. He also was president of the committee of the the Warehousemen and Clerks’ Orphan Schools, helping to establish it in 1854. A keen gardener, he was Chairman of the Royal Botanical and Horticultural Society of Manchester, and won many prizes over the years for his blooms, and did much to popularise the Botanical Gardens at Old Trafford

The Botanical Gardens, site of the Art Treasures Exhibition. Later to become White City Amusement Park then a dog track, then decay and disrepair

Sarah and Joseph first lived on Dalton Terrace in Hulme. After her death he married Elizabeth, with whom he had three more children². This wife died before 1871, and the couple lived at Wood Lawn during their marriage. He then married for a third time, to Alethea Lucas (1852-1927) who was 27 years his junior and had another child by her, Marguerite May Broome.

Alethea was the daugher of James and Alice Lucas and was born near Joseph’s birthplace in Cheshire, so it is possible that he knew the family. Her father had worked his way up from miner to mining engineer then colliery manager and before Joseph and Alethea married, she was working as a governess in Church Lawton.

Alethea and Joseph married on 23 July 1884 and the couple retired to Sunny Hill in Llandudno, where they enjoyed a long retirement, on his 80th birthday he was sent a message by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Thomas Thornhill Shann praising his contribution to the City of Manchester

..We need offer no list of your benefits to our city; it would be an endless catalogue.

Joseph died on 25 January 1907 and was buried at St Tudno on the Great Orme. He left a fortune of £123,517 (£15.2m in 2021).

Emma Lucy Broome (1850-1883) married Charles William Foster (1843-1925) in 1872, and the couple settled at Southernhay in Didsbury. Emma died whilst on holiday in Paris on 19 April 1883. Charles was, as many are, a cotton merchant. After Emma’s death, he married Sophia Mary Hirtzel (1862-1944) with whom he had three children. The couple retired first to Sheringham, then to their native Devon.

Thomas Broome was born in 1847. Mary Broome (1854-1878) died young, aged 24. Harriet Elizabeth Broome (1857-1938) married Walter Higginbottom (1850-1923), an Architect, amongst whose buildings are Ardwick Lads Club and Canada House. Elizabeth and Walter moved to Highbury on Mauldeth Road in Heaton Mersey.

Finally Henry Broome (1862-1931?) followed in his father’s footsteps working in the family firm. He married Mabel Alice Badcock (1871-1930) in 1891 and the couple first lived in Bucklow before moving to Buxton then Dunham Massey.

Around 1889 James Halliday (1822-1913) and his wife Rosamund Darlington Hales (1828-1887) purchased Woodlawn. James was a Scottish born accountant who had come down to Manchester.

He worked as a partner at Halliday’s Accountants on King Street formed by his brother Charles Edward Halliday on 1 November 1843. The firm continues today and initally Charles had partnered with William Welch Deloitte, to form Deloitte and Halliday. James first lived with Rosamund at 36 Acker Street, before moving to Broome House on Palatine Road, moving to Wood Lawn around 1889 after Rosamund’s death.

In 1887 he was appointed chairman of the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank on Spring Gardens, and also became Managing Director of the Bank. The Bank was eventually taken over by National Westminster Bank in 1970.

James died at Wood Lawn on 29 April 1913, leaving a fortune of £95,613 (£11.3m in 2021)

James and Rosamund had ten children. Agnes Bryden Halliday (1849-1912) married Walter Scott Robertson (b 1849), a manufacturer of brattice cloth, a fire resistant and waterproof canvas used in mines. Walter died sometime in the 1890s and Agnes moved back to look after her father at Woodlawn in his old age.

Sarah Rebecca Halliday (1851-1935) married Henry Forster Clough (1851-1945), an electrical engineer and the couple retired to Ainsdale near Southport. John Edward Halliday (1852-1927) married Christina Robertson (1850-1927) and he continued to work as a partner at Hallidays Accountants living first in Chorlton Upon Medlock, then moving to Alexandra Road South, before the lure of the Lancashire coastline saw them settle in Southport where he died on 20 February 1927.

Katherine Elizabeth Halliday (1854-1936) did not follow her father’s career path, but maintained his Scottish religion, marrying John Kerr Craig (1844-1928) a Presbyterian minister and like all such itinerant preachers, they moved from manse to manse over the years, living in Ancoats, Scotland, Hackney, Liverpool and Muswell Hill.

Jane Ellen Halliday was born in 1856 and William in 1860. Henry Hales Halliday (1857-1910) was first a director of the Bank but by 1901 he had diversified into the cotton trade. He married Ada Elizabeth Hemming (b 1870). The couple stayed in Didsbury, living at Darley Croft there.

Jesse Halliday (1861-1947) married Benjamin Jones Massiah (1847-1900) a GP and the son of a family of international traders. Benjamin died soon after the birth of their only son, and she spent the rest of her days living on Burton Road in Didsbury.

Like his brother Henry, James Halliday (1863-1949) started out working for his father’s bank but diversified into the cotton trade. He married Helen Muir (1864-1953) a Scottish girl. The couple first lived at 13 Wellington Road in Heaton Chapel, but later moved in with their daughter Muriel (1890-1947) and her husband Charles Philip Brentnall (1890-1947) the GP son of a Presbyterian Minister at Riversdale in Didsbury – which as you can see on the map above is near Wood Lawn. James died at Riversdale on 27 May 1949, after which Helen moved to Stanneylands Road in Wilmslow, where she died on 10 October 1953.

George Herbert Halliday (1867-1925) appears to have suffered from poor health. He started like his brothers in the bank, but like them also became a cotton merchant. He married Annie Louisa Smith (1870-1959) the daughter of a Scottish Linen Merchant, William, who had set up in Manchester. However in 1901 George is an inmate at the Craiglands Hydropathic Establishment in Ilkley.

Craiglands, now a spa hotel

He retired soon after that and lived in Sale, ending his days in St Anne’s on Sea where he died in the War Memorial Hospital on 25 April 1925. Annie survived him by 30 years and lived in St Anne’s at the family home on St Anne’s Road until she died on 24 April 1959.

After James’ death, Woodlawn became an auxiliary hospital during the first world war. It was run by Laura Raffe Churchill OBE (1864-1938). Laura was born to Edward Raffe and Maria Dougton in Croydon. Her father was a commercial traveller and in 1881 they were living in West Derby. She married Henry William Reynolds Churchill (1862-1899) and iron merchant and cycle maker in 1886 and in the mid 1890s they moved to Westwood on Elm Road in Didsbury, where she lived for the rest of her life. Shortly after they moved to Didsbury, Henry died on 29 September 1899, leaving her with two children.

During the war she was commandant and manager of the Woodlawn Auxiliary Hospital, for which she was awarded the OBE. She married again in 1929 to Frederick S Woodward but remained living at Westwood.

© Manchester Libraries

After the war the house reverted to private ownership and in 1939 Thomas and Leonora Smith Carrington were living there. Thomas was a Stockbroker.

The property was converted into an old people’s home after the second world war by Manchester Welfare Services department at a cost of £15,000. The home was considered progressive for the time as it was mixed and allowed the residents to chat in the lounges rather than being sentenced to spend their remaining days in soulless hospital blocks. There were four beds to a room with washbasins and cafe type tables with flowers. As a further touch, the men were supplied with blue blankets and the ladies with pink.

In 1961 the Hollies FCJ (Faithful Companions of Jesus) school acquired the site, after Manchester University took over their premises in Fallowfield. The school has had alumni such as Paula Wilcox and Caroline Aherne, and remained on the Didsbury grounds until 1985 when the school merged with St Marks.

The building was demolished and is now a housing estate, so in a way it has come full circle, in spirit if not in bricks and mortar.

Let’s see some pictures:

¹ Devoted to the advancement and diffusion of knowledge, founded in 1831. The building is now part of the Manchester Art Gallery.

² There may have been a third wife, also Elizabeth, somewhere around then, as there are gaps in children, and a death of Joseph Broome’s wife, but this may be incorrect.



Andrew Simpson on Woodlawn

© Allan Russell 2021.


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