By 1793 Manchester had expanded almost to the Medlock. Garratt Hall stood outside the edge of the conurbation. The next few years would see an end to its peaceful position on the river as the sprawl expanded past it.
The hall stood on the banks of the river, near to its confluence with the now culveted Shooter’s Brook. In present day terms that is on the junction of Granby Row and Brook Street. It was a spacious, substantial timber and plaster building standing apart from the nearby houses. It was similar in style to Hulme Hall and built on four sides of a quadrangle. There were extensive gardens and a number of fish ponds. The gardens were on the site of the Charles Street Car Park and the fish ponds near Whitworth Street Post office. During the early 1800s there were cottage gardens on the site, and a walk to the countryside and Garratt garden was a Sunday morning custom, where freshly grown produce could be bought for Sunday lunch.
The earliest inhabitants were a branch of the Trafford family headed by Sir Robert De Trafford (b c 1328), the third son of Sir Henry De Trafford of Trafford Hall (c 1255 c 1334). During the reign of Henry VII, George Trafford of the Garratt was a benefactor of the Manchester Grammar School. He married Margaret Hulme. The couple had two sons and five daughters. One of the sons, Ralph appeared in the Court Leet records as an offender against the good government of the town, and being asked to remove obstructions. He died without issue and the estate was divided amongst his sisters and their children.
The eldest sister, Jane inherited a share of the Garratt estate, but this fell somehow into the hands of Sir Gilbert Gerrard, Attorney General and Master of the Rolls, who we briefly met at Kenyon Peel Hall. Gilbert’s son, Sir Thomas Gerrard sold the hall in 1595 to Oswald Mosley of Ancoats Hall, who in turn married Elizabeth Gerrard, daughter of Richard, the Rector Of Stockport.
Oswald left the Hall to his youngest son, Francis, who conveyed it to his brother, Samuel who sold the Hall before departing to Ireland in 1631.
A family of London merchants were the purchasers, Ralph Hough bought the Hall, and the Hall stayed in that family until it came into possession of John Partington of Worthington and Partington Dyers and then it passed to Thomas Minshull of Chorlton Hall. His widow, Barbara, made the fatal mistake of marrying Spanking Roger, or Roger Aytoun who used the funds of the sale of the Hall, and other properties to fund his grandiose schemes. Roger Aytoun sold the Hall in 1774, around the same time as the property was divided into tenements.
Mrs Gaskell wrote a story about Garratt Hall in a story called Disappearances in the third volume of Charles Dickens’ Household Words in 1851.
There is a considerable street in Manchester leading from the centre of the town to some of the suburbs The street is called at one part Garratt, and afterwards where it emerges into gentility and comparatively country Brook Street .
It derives its former name from an old black and white hall of the time of Richard III or thereabouts to judge from the style of the building they have closed in what is left of the old hail now but a few years since this old house was visible from the main road it stood low on some vacant ground and appeared to be half in ruins I believe it was occupied by several poor families who rented tenements in the tumbledown dwelling but formerly it was Gerard Hall and was surrounded by a park with a clear brook running through it with pleasant fishponds the name of these was preserved until very lately on a street near orchards dovecotes and similar appurtenances to the manor houses of former days.
………Many years ago there lived in Manchester two old maiden ladies of high respectability All their lives had been spent in the town and they were fond of relating the changes which had taken place within their recollection which extended back to seventy or eighty years from the present time They knew much of its traditionary history from their father as well who with his father before him had been respectable attorneys in Manchester during the greater part of the last century they were also agents for several of the county families who driven from their old possessions by the enlargement of the town found some compensation in the increased value of any land which they might choose to sell Consequently the Messrs S father and son were conveyancers of good repute and acquainted with several secret pieces of family history one of which related to Garratt Hall
The owner of this estate some time in the first half of last century married young he and his wife had many children and lived together in a quiet state of happiness for many years At last business of some kind took the husband up to London a week’s journey in those days He wrote and announced his arrival I do not think he ever wrote again He seemed to be swallowed up in the abyss of the metropolis for no friend and the lady had many and powerful friends could ever ascertain for her what had become of him the prevalent idea was that he had been attacked by some of the street robbers who prowled about in those days that he had resisted and had been murdered His wife gradually gave up all hopes of seeing him again and devoted herself to the care of her children and so they went on tranquilly enough until the heir came of age when certain deeds were necessary before he could legally take possession of the property These deeds Mr S the the family lawyer stated had been given up by him into the missing gentleman’s keeping just before the last mysterious journey to London with which I think they were in some way concerned It was possible that they were still in existence some one in London might have them in possession and be either conscious or unconscious of their importance At any rate Mr S _ s advice to his client was that he should put an advertisement in the London papers worded so skilfully that anyone who might hold the important documents should understand to what it referred and no one else This was accordingly done and although repeated at intervals for some time met with no success But at last a mysterious answer was sent to the effect that the deeds were in existence and should be given up but only on certain conditions and to the heir himself The young man in consequence went up to London and adjourned according to directions to an old house in Barbican where he was told by a man apparently awaiting him that he must submit to be blindfolded and must follow his guidance He was taken through several long passages before he left the house at the termination of one of these he was put into a sedan chair and carried about for an hour or more he always reported that there were many turnings and that he imagined he was set down finally not very far from his starting point
When his eyes were unbandaged he was in a decent sitting room with tokens of family occupation lying around A middle aged gentleman entered and told him that until a certain time had elapsed which should be indicated to him in a particular way but of which the length was not then named he must swear to secrecy as to the means by which he obtained possession of the deeds This oath was taken and then the gentleman not without some emotion acknowledged himself to be the missing father of the heir It seems that he had fallen in love with a damsel a friend of the person with whom he lodged To this young woman he had represented himself as unmarried she listened willingly to his wooing and her father who was a shopkeeper in the city was not averse to the match as the Lancashire squire had a goodly presence and many similar qualities which the shopkeeper thought might be acceptable to his customers The bargain was struck the descendant of a knightly race married the only daughter of a city shopkeeper and became a junior partner in the business He told his son that he had never repented the step he had taken that his lowly born wife was sweet docile and affectionate that his family by her was large and that he and they were thriving and happy He enquired after his first or rather I should say his true wife with friendly affection approved of what she had done with regard to his estate and the education of his children but said he considered he was dead to her as she was to him When he really died he promised that a particular message the nature of which he specified should be sent to his son at Garratt until then they would not hear more of each other for it was of no use attempting to trace him under his incognito even if the oath did not render such an attempt forbidden I daresay the youth had no great desire to trace out the father who had been one in name only He returned to Lancashire took possession of the property at Manchester and many years elapsed before he received the mysterious intimation of his father’s real death After that he named the particulars connected with the recovery of the title deeds to Mr S and one or two intimate friends When the family became extinct or removed from Garratt it became no longer any very closely kept secret and I was told the tale of the disappearance by Miss S the aged daughter of the family agent
Over the next years the Hall fell into further disrepair and the Old Garratt Inn (an excellent pint of Boddingtons in my younger days) was built on it site. When Granby Row was laid out it was demolished, save for the gable end which stood behind the Old Garratt Inn. One of the tenements became the Garratt Hall Academy. The road on which the cottages next to the fishponds was originally called Fishpond Street, it changed to Leamington Place, then eventually Whitworth Street. The last part of the building disappeared when it was demolished in 1910.
Just nearby was the Garret Mill, owned by Thackeray and Whitehead. This was built around 1760 and is believed to be the first cotton mill in Manchester, and designed to Richard Arkwright’s designs.
Let’s see some pictures:
Views of the Old Halls of Lancashire & Cheshire, N G Philips: Henry Gray, 1893
Old Halls in Lancashire & Cheshire , Henry Taylor: J E Cornish, 1884
Disappearances, Elizabeth Gaskell: Household Words Ed Dickens 1851
© Allan Russell 2022
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