Continuing a tour of Casson & Berry’s map, we come to the Bowers. Miles Bower (1661-1756) was the son of Myles Bower of Sedbergh. Around 1746 he built his house on Deansgate in Manchester, and Casson and Berry show its location as near Spinning fields.
He was active in Manchester before that, as between 1738 and 1739 he was a churchwarden for the Collegiate Church, and is noted in 1740 as being a feltmaker / hatter. His house or workplace before that was near St Ann’s Church as he was fined twenty shillings (£1) for laying a midding (midden) on the west side of the square to the street to the north of King Street, which caused a great nuisance and raised complaints from all his neighbours.
By 1748 he was obviously better behaved and served as boroughreeve that year (although his son, also Miles (1696-1780) was one of the men who voted him into office). He also on 20 May 1755 laid the foundation stone for Manchester Infirmary in the Daub Hole Fields in what was to become Piccadilly.
Father and son lived on Deansgate in adjoining houses, symmetrically laid out, with doors leading to a shared garden at the front.
They ran a hat factory on Hardman street and were one, if not the most prominent hatters in town. There was an archeological investigation of the site in 2004, which showed the foundations of a planking shop where the felt would have been softened.
Miles Junior continued to live on Deansgate with his wife Elizabeth Simony (1696-1771) and by 1788 the factory had passed out of the family ownership to one Joseph Atkinson (d 1818). The Bowers had at least six children of which Miles Bower (1722-1756) we have already met at Henbury Hall when he married Sarah Marsden (b 1721) to become Miles Bower-Jodrell.
Possibly related to Miles Bower senior was Jeremiah Bower (d 1755) also a wealthy beaver hat manufacturer who built a house on High Street in 1738 with Miles². At the time High Street was green fields leading down to Lady Lever’s orchard gardens on what is now Lever Street. At the bottom of his gardens flowed the clear waters of the Tib.
In 1745 Miles and Jeremiah took the Royalist side, donating £30 to the cause, and Jeremiah quartered Lord John Murray, the half brother of William Murray, leader of the Jacobites during the siege of Manchester. Jeremiah was also prominent in public life serving like Miles as Churchwarden in 1724, senior constable in 1734 and boroughreeve in 1743. His son Benjamin held the same posts in 1773, 1772 and 1774-1775 respectively.
Jeremiah accumulated a great deal of wealth during his life and left a fortune of £40,000 (£10m in 2022)¹.
Benjamin first moved into the High Street property, who tired of the bustle of the town removed to peaceful verdant pastures in 1777, building a house on Lever Street. In 1771, along with fellow constables he issued a notice to the shopkeepers and innkeepers of Manchester to take down their signs as soon as possible and place them against the walls of their houses. The signs had long been considered a nuisance, obstructing the passage of fresh air, darkening the streets and were a hazard to pedestrians in wet weather. The net result was that the signboards were removed and the good burghers of Manchester began to number their houses, Manchester being the first provincial town outside London to adopt this modern practice.
After 1790 the house became a coaching inn The Royal Hotel and New Bridgewater Arms, under the ownership of Henry Charles Lacy of Lacy and Allen, proprietor of Mail and Post Coaches.
It started off rather grandly as Mrs Banks relates in the Manchester Man:
To crown the whole, Manchester, which had never been called upon to entertain British Royalty since Henry VII. looked in upon the infant town, was visited in 1804 by Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, commander of the North-west District, and his son, to review this Lancashire volunteer army; and the whole town was consequently in a ferment of excitement. Nothing was thought of, or talked of, but the visit of the Duke and Prince, and the coming review, the more so as reports differed respecting the appointed site.
Market Street, Manchester, which a well-known writer has commemorated as one of the “Streets of the World,” was then Market Street Lane, a confused medley of shops and private houses, varying from the low and ricketty black-and-white tenement of no pretensions, to the fine mansion with an imposing frontage, and ample space before. But the thoroughfare was in places so very narrow that two vehicles could not pass, and pedestrians on the footpath were compelled to take refuge in doorways from the muddy wheels which threatened damage to dainty garments; and the whole was ill-paved and worse lighted.
At the corner where it opens a vent for the warehouse traffic of High Street, then stood a handsome new hotel, the Bridgewater Arms, in front of which a semi-circular area was railed off with wooden posts and suspended chains. Within this area, on the bright morning of April the 12th, two sentinels were placed, who, marching backwards and forwards, crossed and re-crossed each other in front of the hotel door; tokens that the Royal Duke and his suite had taken up their quarters within.
It was a starting point of the London, York, Liverpool and Glasgow mail, Thomas De Quincey mentioned it on his essay on the English Mail Coach:
The incident, so memorable in itself by its features of horror, and so scenical by its grouping for the eye, which furnished the text for this reverie upon Sudden Death occurred to myself in the dead of night, as a solitary spectator, when seated on the box of the Manchester and Glasgow mail, in the second or third summer after Waterloo. I find it necessary to relate the circumstances, because they are such as could not have occurred unless under a singular combination of accidents. In those days, the oblique and lateral communications with many rural post-offices were so arranged, either through necessity or through defect of system, as to make it requisite for the main north-western mail (i.e., the down mail) on reaching Manchester to halt for a number of hours; how many, I do not remember; six or seven, I think; but the result was that, in the ordinary course, the mail recommenced its journey northwards about midnight. Wearied with the long detention at a gloomy hotel, I walked out about eleven o’clock at night for the sake of fresh air; meaning to fall in with the mail and resume my seat at the post-office. The night, however, being yet dark, as the moon had scarcely risen, and the streets being at that hour empty, so as to offer no opportunities for asking the road, I lost my way, and did not reach the post-office until it was considerably past midnight; but, to my great relief (as it was important for me to be in Westmoreland by the morning), I saw in the huge saucer eyes of the mail, blazing through the gloom, an evidence that my chance was not yet lost. Past the time it was; but, by some rare accident, the mail was not even yet ready to start. I ascended to my seat on the box, where my cloak was still lying as it had lain at the Bridgewater Arms. I had left it there in imitation of a nautical discoverer, who leaves a bit of bunting on the shore of his discovery, by way of warning off the ground the whole human race, and notifying to the Christian and the heathen worlds, with his best compliments, that he has hoisted his pocket-handkerchief once and for ever upon that virgin soil: thenceforward claiming the jus dominii to the top of the atmosphere above it, and also the right of driving shafts to the centre of the earth below it; so that all people found after this warning either aloft in upper chambers of the atmosphere, or groping in subterraneous shafts, or squatting audaciously on the surface of the soil, will be treated as trespassers—kicked, that is to say, or decapitated, as circumstances may suggest, by their very faithful servant, the owner of the said pocket-handkerchief. In the present case, it is probable that my cloak might not have been respected, and the jus gentium might have been cruelly violated in my person—for, in the dark, people commit deeds of darkness, gas being a great ally of morality; but it so happened that on this night there was no other outside passenger; and thus the crime, which else was but too probable, missed fire for want of a criminal. Having mounted the box, I took a small quantity of laudanum, having already travelled two hundred and fifty miles—viz., from a point seventy miles beyond London. In the taking of laudanum there was nothing extraordinary……
De Quincey’s impression of the Bridgewater as gloomy is echoed in a travellers comments of 1808 which called it:
a spacious inn that had neither the cleanliness not the comfort we find in smaller places… Here all is hurry and bustle… and they care not whether we are pleased or not. We were led into a long room, hung round with great coats, spurs and horse whips, and with so many portmanteaus and saddle bags lying about, that it looked like a warehouse.
Things started to improve by 1818 when Maximillian, Archduke of Austria visited Manchester, he stayed at the Bridgewater Arms. During the Napoleonic Wars the hostelry had always been the first place to discover news on the progress of the British armies against the French. Coaches bearing good news from London were adorned with ribbons and rosettes, to spread the good news far and wide en route.
However, in 1824 it managed to salvage its reputation as it was the meeting place for the founding fathers the Mechanics Institute of Manchester which became in time the University of Manchester Institute of Technology. By 1824 ten coaches a day were starting from the inn as well as around a dozen stagecoaches.
After its service as a public house, John Rylands took over the property and demolished it to build a warehouse in 1828, the site of the building still reflected today in Bridgewater Place, just off the High Street.
The building finally disappeared in 1916. Let’s see the pictures:
¹ As a contemporary comparison, the cost of the build of the Infirmary for which Miles laid the foundation was £4,000. Interestingly following from our visit to Balloon Street last time, an air balloon was released from the hospital grounds in 1783 which landed at Cromford. The purpose was to raise funds for the infirmary and admittance was one shilling (5p). This predates Mr Sadler and was presumably then unmanned.
² As a further clue that the two were related, in the Memorials of Bygone Manchester it is stated that the Bridgewater Arms resembled Miles Bowers residence on Deansgate.
Denton – the Archaelogy of the Felt Hatting Industry, Michael Nevell, Brian Grimsditch and Ivran Hradil: The Archaeology of Tameside, Vol 7.
The Annals Of Manchester, William E A Axon : Heywood, 1886
City Notes and Queries, June 19 1880 Ed Howard Nodal.
The English Mail Coach, Thomas De Quincey : gutenburg.org
Pubs of Manchester – The Bridgewater Arms.
The Manchester Man, Mrs G Linneus Banks : gutenburg.org
Memorials of Bygone Manchester, Richard Wright Procter : Simpkin & Marshall, 1880
© Allan Russell, 2022
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