Shude Hill was once on the outskirts of the small settlement of Manchester. It was on a gentle slope dropping down to the Irwell, Withy Grove, a country lane surrounded by fields. Where Hanging Ditch met Withengreave (as it was known for the willow trees) there were a few cottages, and a little further up an Inn, the Seven Stars. At the top of the hill, where Shude Hill began was Withengreave Hall. Manchester itself obtained a great deal of its water from the springs which rose here. By 1741 the area was becoming built up, with houses stretching the entire length of the road.
The Seven Stars obtained its first license in 1551 (before that time, anyone could sell ale, providing they provided two beds and exhibited the sign of a hand outside their house). Some of Charles Stuart’s soldiers slept there in 1745, on 11 December that year, John Hulme of the Inn was paid 5s 6d (27½p) for horses and expresses.
Withengreave Hall may have been built in the early 14th century. It was one of the houses owned by William Hulme of Hulme Hall (d 1637), and his wife Christiana Banaster (d 1633). On his death William owned Hulme Hall in Reddish, a house at Outwood near Pilkington (presumably his wife’s estate) and Withengreave Hall in the town of Manchester. The couple had two children, Katherine (1632-1634) and William (c 1631-1691).
William inherited the estate, bar a few small legacies, with his brother John (1599-1657) apponted sole executor and trustee. We know very little about William junior. He grew up under the guardianship of his bachelor uncle in Kearsley. On 2 August 1653 he married Elizabeth Robinson (d 1700) and had one son, Banaster (1658-1673).
It is thought he was educated at the Manchester Grammar School and Brazenose College. He joined Gray’s Inn in 1650, but there is no evidence either of his graduation nor of admission to the Bar. He was buried in the Hulme Chapel at the Collegiate Church in Manchester in 1691.
His will, written five days before his death left his estates first to his wife and thereafter to trustees and directed that they should pay rents issues and profits arising therefrom to four of the poor sort of Batchellors Of Arts taking a degree at Brazenose Colledge in Oxford. These were to be chosen by the Warden of the Collegiate Church and paid in perpetuity, no such bachelor having benefit for more than four years, being the time taken to complete a degree.
Being drafted in haste, the will was unclear. A debate arose as to whether eligibility be allowed only to Lancashire men or boys educated at the Grammar school, or even should be restricted to the clergy.
The first four exhibitioners were awarded their scholarships in July 1692, and these amounted to £10 pa each. On Elizabeth’s death in 1700, the balance of the estates reverted to the trustees and the value of exhibitions increased gradually to £60, but never exceeded four recipients. In 1770 the trustees obtained permission by Act of Parliament to grant building leases on the estates, and thereby increase the number of exhibitions to ten varying between £60 and £80. The amounts paid out gradually were increased, and permission was even granted to the Trustees to build rent free accommodation in Oxford for the exhibitioners (they have yet to avail themselves of this power). The trustees were then allowed to grant exhibitions to other degrees not being BA.
By 1827 the annual income from the estates was £4,950 (£566,000 in 2022) and reserves £42,203 (£4.8m in 2022) and the trustees were given the powers to purchase advowsons and build parsonage houses up to £500 per church. These powers were far from William’s original intentions of funding the poor sort of undergraduates he originally wished.
The estates in question lay in Ashton Under Lyne, Denton, Reddish, Heaton Norris, Harwood near Bolton and most notably the centre of Manchester (Shudehill, Hyde’s Cross, Withy Grove, Fennel Street, Peel Street, Watling Street, Nicholas Croft and Mulberry Street¹) and by the end of the 19th century the rental value of these properties increased substantially as a result of the termination of the original leases and the powers of the Trustees were increased to allow the founding of Grammar Schools at William Hulme, Oldham Hulme, and Bury as well as a Hall of Residence at the Manchester University.
The later residents of the Hall are unclear, in 1710 James Hilton was the tenant of the Hall, renting also some outbuildings an orchard and garden. For this he paid an annual rent of £22. James died in 1763 and the property was offered for sale in the Manchester Mercury that September. The estate was said to cover eight acres.
By the 19th century Shudehill was no longer the rural idyll of William Hulme’s time and the Hall disappeared. It is believed that part of the Hall or one of its outbuildings became the Rover’s Return Inn.
There are claims that this pub had its origins back in 1307, however, this is likely to represent the building of Withengreave, notwithstanding the fact that as we have seen licenses came in much later. However, it goes without saying that The Rovers and the Seven Stars were two of the oldest hostelries in Manchester, and the Rovers was possibly the oldest building in Manchester§.
That said the council had been trying to close the Rovers Return from around 1909. The Hulme charity sold it by auction in 1908.
The Inn lost its license in 1923 and became an antique shop and bookshop. By 1946 the Council had brought the Old Wellington under threat of its wrecking ball as part of the redevelopments in the Manchester plan. They succeeded in demolishing it in 1958 and it now lies somewhere under the Arndale Centre.
Its name lives on at least in Coronation Street as it was the inspiration for the Weatherfield local.
Let’s see some pictures:
¹ Many streets long disappeared under the Arndale Centre.
§ The oldest building was also claimed for the Seven Stars with a date of 1329. Council knocked that down too.
Manchester Streets & Manchester Men, T Swindells : 1908
Remains Historical & Literary, The Chetham Society Vol XLII : 1884
© Allan Russell 2022.
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