Jill Trumble and Gareth Evans
Stockport Heritage Trust, February 2022
In this document we present the biographies of a number of people associated with Woodbank Estate. We include those who owned the estate, some key members of their family and the architect of the hall.
In this section we give a brief history of the ownership of the land that later formed the Woodbank Estate and of the Woodbank Estate itself.
The names that are given in bold are of those for whom we present biographies. The names of those who held sole title to Woodbank Hall and Estate are underlined. The information given in this section is adapted from a research documentation in Stockport Heritage Library.
Prior to 1681, the land that later became the Woodbank Estate was known as Bank Top and was in the possession of Isabella Lucy and her eldest son Davenport Lucy. Isabella inherited these lands from her father John Davenport. How the land came to be owned by the Davenport family is not definitely known. One source suggests that the land was granted to the family when an Isabel Davenport married into the de Stockport family in the late 14th century. Another source suggests that Nicholas Davenport de Woodford obtained the land by means of an indenture in 1413.
In 1681, Isabella and Davenport Lucy sold the land that later formed the Woodbank Estate in two portions, one of 45 acres and one of 100 acres. In the following century, the two parcels of land passed through a number of hands. In 1809, Peter Marsland purchased the smaller parcel from George Hadfield, who had inherited the land from his aunt Martha in 1803. In 1810, Peter Marsland bought the larger plot of land from the notorious regency buck, William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley.
Having purchased the estate, Peter Marsland commissioned the architect Thomas Harrison to design the Hall. The Hall was completed in 1814. In 1818, the estate was enlarged when an additional portion of land was purchased from Viscountess Warren-Bulkeley.
Peter Marsland lived at Woodbank, with his wife Phoebe Marsland and his family, which included his two sons, Henry Marsland and Peter Edward Marsland, until his death in 1829. Peter Marsland’s will was complex, with the estate being divided into seven shares. His two sons each received two shares, and three of his four daughters received a share each. The will allowed that one of the sons could buy out the interests of the rest of family, and, by 1836, Henry Marsland had full control of the estate.
When Henry died in 1864, the estate passed to his wife Maria Marsland. On Maria’s death in 1885, her son Henry Allatt Marsland inherited. Another of Maria’s sons, Herbert Marsland, controlled the estate from Henry Allatt’s death in 1890 until his own death in 1907. Herbert’s will gave his cousin, Sydney Hollins, tenancy for his lifetime and this passed to Sydney’s son, Allatt Henry Hollins when Sydney died in 1914.
The estate passed out of the extended Marsland/Hollins family in 1920, when it was bought by Sir Thomas Rowbotham. Sir Thomas gave most of the parkland to Stockport Corporation in 1921. The hall and its garden were donated in the same way in 1924.
In 1934, Woodbank Park was extended to the River Goyt when the council exchanged land with, and purchased land from, the developer Clifford Ogle.
Isabella Lucy (?-1689) and Davenport Lucy (1659-1670)
Isabella Lucy (sometimes written as Isabel Lucey) was the daughter and sole of heir of John Davenport of Henbury near Macclesfield. As heiress, she inherited the Henbury estate and other lands, including land in Bredbury and Romiley. Part of this land, known as Bank Top, eventually became the Woodbank Estate. The land had been in the Davenport family since the 15th century.
Around 1656, Isabella married Fulke Lucy (c1623 -1677) of Charlecote in Worcestershire. By 1661 Fulke was knighted and thus Isabella became Dame Isabella Lucy. Sir Fulke was the MP for Warwick in 1659 and MP for Cheshire from 1664 until his death in 1677. The Lucys had a number of children, probably eight sons and five daughters. Sir Fulke was a younger son and thus did not inherit Charlecote on his father’s death. His marriage to Isabella gave him the Henbury estate and he was referred to as Sir Fulke Lucy of Henbury.
Davenport Lucy was Fulke and Isabella’s eldest son. He was the heir to Henbury and, in 1684, he inherited Charlecote following the death of a cousin. Following this inheritance, Davenport sold Henbury. Davenport did not marry. He was killed by a cannon ball at the first Siege of Limerick in 1690. At Limerick, Davenport was part of William III’s army which, following success at the Battle of the Boyne, was besieging supporters of James II and some French troops.
Isabella and Davenport sold the land at Bank Top in 1681. The land was split into two parts and each part passed through a number of hands until Peter Marsland bought the land in 1809 and 1810 to create the Woodbank Estate.
In 1809 and 1810, Peter Marsland bought two parcels of land, totalling about 145 acres to create the initial Woodbank estate. The estate was completed when, in 1818, he bought a further parcel of land from Viscountess Warren-Bulkeley.
In 1812, Marsland contracted the architect Thomas Harrison (q.v.) to design and build a house on the estate. The house, in the Greek-revival style, was completed in 1814 and became Peter Marsland’s family home.
Peter Marsland was born in Bosden, now part of Hazel Grove, and was the second son of Henry Marsland (1733-1795). Henry Marsland established the family’s fortune by building a cotton mill adjacent to his house. Initially hand spinning and hand weaving were used, with spinning frames being brought in later to increase productivity. The spinning frames were powered by hand at first, but later, horsepower was used. Henry’s factory was located in Hazel Grove down a passage known as the Engine Ginnel. The ginnel was later widened and renamed Queen’s Road.
In 1782, in order to expand his business, Henry moved to the Park, in the Portwood area of Stockport. There he converted ailing silk mills to the production of cotton. In 1791, Henry Marsland bought the manorial corn mills and their water rights. In a relatively short space of time, Henry Marsland had established a flourishing cotton business in Stockport known as Park Mills.
In 1792, Henry Marsland transferred control of the Park Mills to his two sons, Samuel and Peter. Around the time of Henry’s death in 1795, Samuel left the partnership with Peter to enter into a partnership in the ‘Oxford Road Twist Company’ of Chorlton Row (now Chorlton-on-Medlock), Manchester. Thus, from this time, Peter had full control of the Park Mills. Samuel died in 1803. Peter was one of Samuel’s executors and was responsible for the sale of Samuel’s cotton spinning factories and a steam engine in Manchester in 1804.
Peter Marsland married Phoebe Allatt (q.v.) at St Peter’s, Nottingham in November 1791. Phoebe’s mother, Martha, nèe Oldknow, (1742-1771), was the sister of Thomas Oldknow (1744-1817), of Nottingham, a linen draper and mercer, who with Henry Hollins (1744-1826), a brazier, founded the Pleasley Mills in Derbyshire. Another brother, Samuel, (1733-1769) was the father of Samuel Oldknow, cotton manufacturer of Mellor (1756-1828).
These mills later became the exclusive property of the Hollins family, whose descendants provided the last two private owners of Woodbank. Phoebe Allatt’s forename and maiden name appear in the forenames of a number in the later generations of the Marsland and Hollins families.
Shortly after taking sole control of Park Mills, Peter embarked on a significant programme of enlargement. Heginbotham, the late Victorian historian of Stockport, claims that Peter tripled the rateable value of the site. Whilst steam power was used to drive machinery, water power was also used as a low-cost augmentation. Park Mills had access to water power taken from the River Goyt which was channelled to the mills through tunnels. Peter increased the Park Mills’ access to waterpower by purchasing meadowland in Portwood in 1808 and constructing a reservoir there. The reservoir was linked to mills on both sides of the river by tunnels. Jesse Howard’s New Bridge Lane Mill was upstream of the Park Mills, and therefore accessed the water supply earlier, reducing the power that Peter could obtain from the Goyt. To address this, Peter built Nab Weir, further upstream than Jesse Howard’s inlet, and linked this by a tunnel to his mills. The construction of the weir and tunnel led to a long legal dispute between the Marslands and Howard, which was not settled until four years after Peter’s death. The legal settlement gave Howard access to part of the water flowing through the Marsland tunnels.
Taking water from the River Goyt to power machinery was not the limit of Peter’s interest in water. In the 1820s, Stockport experienced a shortage of water. To address this, Peter sunk an artesian well at Park Mills, which produced an excellent flow of water. In 1825, an Act of Parliament gave Peter the right to supply mains water to Stockport. To take advantage of this commercial opportunity, Peter constructed a reservoir on the Woodbank Estate, which is still there today. The reservoir was designed to store water from the well and to generate sufficient pressure to supply almost all of Stockport, as well as parts of Heaton Norris and Reddish. The Marslands supplied the main pipes, but householders had to fund their own local connections to the mains. To reduce expense, households clubbed together to connect to a single, shared standpipe. Subscribers to the mains water supply faced a number of problems: firstly, in the early years, the supply was limited to two hours a day; and, secondly, the water from the well was very hard. To address the second issue, soft water was taken from the River Goyt and routed into the system one day a week. In time, the supply was wholly taken from the river, but this led to problems later when industry upstream polluted the water. The water supply remained in Marsland hands until 1850 when a joint stock company, the Stockport Waterworks Company, was founded. The Marslands owned significant amounts of the stock, effectively controlling the company.
Peter Marsland was said to be a skilled engineer. The early 19th century saw significant development in power looms, with many mill owners making improvements to designs and taking out patents. Peter developed his own innovations and patented these in 1806. However, Peter’s designs were too complex to be taken up by others and they were used only in his mills. That may have been a blessing in disguise because enforcing patents could be an expensive business. William Horrocks, who also owned a mill on the Park, patented his improvements in 1803 and 1805. The costs of enforcing the patents, i.e. chasing those who adopted his mechanisms without paying a royalty, forced Horrocks to mortgage his mills. However, in earlier years, Richard Arkwright of Cromford seems to have been active and successful in finding patent infringement. Henry Marsland, Peter’s father, was one who infringed Arkwright’s patent in spinning machinery. Henry was forced to acknowledge publicly his infringement by way of a newspaper announcement in 1781. He was also required to surrender his machinery and pay Arkwright’s legal costs, despite his newspaper announcement claiming that his infringement was inadvertent.
Peter seems to have been keen to embrace new developments. He was one of the first mill owners in Stockport to introduce gas lighting into his mills. He also expanded his business by establishing a bleach works in Park Mills shortly before his death.
Peter Marsland revived the production of woollen cloth, once a staple of Stockport industry. In the 1820s, he established the first mill to use steam-powered looms to produce cloth from wool. The quality was said to be very fine. Royal patronage was established when King George IV had a suit made from Marsland cloth. George’s tailor, a Mr Weston, compared it with French cloth woven expressly for the Russian Emperor Alexander I and stated that Marsland’s cloth was much superior. Peter also experimented with a wool-cotton hybrid fabric made from a cotton warp (vertical strands) and a woollen weft (horizontal strands). Following Peter’s death, the woollen mill was closed, and the machinery sold to a Yorkshire company. Heginbotham suggests that the mill closed due to the difficulty in recruiting skilled workers, whilst Arrowsmith, the author of the definitive 20th century history of Stockport, proposes that a downturn in trade in the 1830s was the cause.
The Luddite movement which started in Nottinghamshire in 1811 reached Stockport and Manchester in 1812. Objecting to increasing mechanisation and the consequent loss of skilled jobs, especially in hand weaving, the Luddites damaged mills and their machinery. The Manchester Mercury stated that, in February 1812, attempts were made to set fire to Peter Marsland’s factories in Chorlton Row, probably those that were originally owned by his brother Samuel. In April, Peter Marsland’s mills in Stockport and his home were two of the Luddite’s many targets in the town. Peter’s house, in Heaton Lane, had its windows broken and determined attempts were made to break into the house. The attack caused the family to decamp to Brabyn’s Hall in Marple, where they remained until Woodbank Hall was completed in 1814.
In 1819, in the run up to Peterloo, when police constable William Birch was shot and wounded, three men were arrested. These were interviewed by three local men: the Rector and magistrate Charles Prescot; the High Sheriff of Cheshire, Thomas William Tatton; and Peter Marsland. In response to the disturbances in Stockport in 1819, Peter chaired a meeting in November of that year which resolved that the size of the yeomanry in the town should be increased to address further outbreaks of disorder.
Peter Marsland’s involvement in interviewing the men arrested for Birch’s shooting suggests that he was well connected. However, it is not clear whether he was a Justice of the Peace at the time. Heginbotham suggests that Peter became a JP a year later. Peter’s appointment as a JP indicates his acceptance into society. At this time, the role of JP was more generally restricted to Church of England clergymen, such as the Rector of St Mary’s, Charles Prescot, and to local gentry, such as Thomas William Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall. Peter was the first, and for a number of years the only, manufacturer to hold such a position in Stockport.
Relations between mill owners and their workforce were not always harmonious and there were a number of strikes in the early part of the 19th Century. The last strike experienced by Peter Marsland may have led to his death. Falling profits in the cotton mills in 1828 led to twenty mills in Stockport cutting wages late in that year. In response, workers withdrew their labour. Arrowsmith indicates that, by 23 January 1829, 10,000 workers in Stockport were on strike. Initially the strikes were peaceful. However, when mill owners started recruiting workers from outside the town, trouble flared. Some strikers offered incoming workers money to leave Stockport and return to their home towns, while others attacked the incomers with stones. On 6 May 1829, a crowd gathered on Wellington Bridge. Peter Marsland and another JP, Captain Humphreys of Bramall Hall, sought to disperse the crowd with a force of infantry and special constables. An attempt to drive the mob into Chestergate failed when the protestors fought back with stones and sticks and drove the JPs’ forces away. The crowd dispersed only when Humphreys ordered the infantry to fire over the heads of the mob. Arrowsmith suggests that Peter Marsland’s death four months later may have been as a result of the injuries that he received in being driven away from the bridge; contemporary newspaper reports indicate that Peter was knocked over during the retreat. The 1829 strike eventually ended with revised payments agreed, although not before there was further trouble. William Smith, a mill owner’s son, was attacked by acid. For attacking an incoming worker, three men were transported and one sentenced to death.
The Stockport Dispensary, which offered medical treatment for poor people, was opened by James Briscall in 1774. In the 1790s, the management and financing of the dispensary was taken over by a committee of mill owners, which included Peter Marsland, and a building was provided on Petty Carr Green, now the site of the Stockport Interchange. A fever hospital, or ‘House of Recovery’, was built close to the dispensary to treat people with infectious diseases. Stockport had regular outbreaks of typhus, smallpox and scarlet fever. Most of the funding for the House of Recovery was provided by Peter Marsland.
Whilst Peter was successful in providing medical care, some of his other schemes were less successful. By the start of the 19th century, the parish church of St Mary’s was in poor condition. The tower, already crumbling, was badly damaged by three days of bell ringing to celebrate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. The main body of the church, the nave, was also in poor condition, and by 1810 it was unusable. A new parish church was required and, in that year, an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the town to levy a rate which would pay for the demolition of most of the existing church, the building of a replacement and an extension to the burial grounds. As a Unitarian, Peter objected to the levying of the rate and opposed the bill. He chaired a meeting that resolved that the pew owners of the church, rather than the rate payers, should be responsible for the costs. A further Act of Parliament in 1815 levied an additional rate. By 1833, ratepayers had contributed £33,000 and £7,000 was still outstanding, half of which was covered by private subscription.
Another of Peter’s failures was his opposition to the building of the turnpike road which became Wellington Road. Peter opposed the development on the grounds that the road was too far from the town centre. His proposal was that the road should enter Churchgate and cross the marketplace linking to Lancashire Hill by a viaduct. Heginbotham states that Peter’s proposed route was mocked by the question “Who would like to travel on a rainbow?”.
As noted above, Peter Marsland married Phoebe Allatt (q.v.) in November 1791. They had nine children, three of whom died as infants. The six who survived to adulthood were:
- Jane Maria (1794-1862) – she died unmarried in Richmond, Surrey and was buried at Woodbank.
- Phoebe (1795-1864) – married Frederick Liardet (1798-1846), a barrister and author of the fictional Tales of Barrister, published in 1844. They married in the chapel of the British Embassy in Paris in 1834. Frederick died at Interlachen in Switzerland. Later in life, Phoebe lived in Bath, and later with her sister Jane Maria at 4 Park Villas Richmond.
- Elizabeth (1797 – 1860) – married Lieutenant-Colonel Henri Ignace Brechtel. Brechtel was a French artillery officer from Strasbourg, who had lost his right leg at the Battle of Ocana in 1809. They married at St Mary’s, Stockport in 1819. The newspaper records of Elizabeth’s death refer to her as Elizabeth Baronne Brechtel and her late husband as Baron Brechtel of Versailles. She died in Trenville-sur-Mer in north-west France.
- Henry (1798-1864) – q.v.
- Mary Ann (1801 – 1849) – died at Mount Cambria, Southport, and was buried there.
- Peter Edward (1808-1871) – q.v.
Peter Marsland died on 17 September 1829. He had built a family mausoleum at Woodbank and his wife, Phoebe, had been interred there following her death in May 1828. Peter was also interred there in 1829. The mausoleum was used for ten further relatives, the last being Allatt Henry Hollins in 1942.
The mausoleum became detached from the main body of the estate in 1934 and stood in an enclosed space on a housing estate. In the 1950s, the walls of the enclosure were breeched, and it became a play area. In 1982, the mausoleum was vandalised and the Marsland remains were taken to Stockport cemetery and buried in an unmarked grave. In 1996, as a result of a campaign, a plaque was placed on Peter’s grave to acknowledge his contribution to the development of Stockport.
The reason why the mausoleum became detached from the main body of the park and lay in the middle of a housing estate is explained by the fact that, when Sir Thomas Rowbotham gifted land to Stockport Council in 1921, he did not gift the whole estate. Woodbank farm, which occupied land on the southeast of the estate and the land to the southwest of the bend in the River Goyt, remained Sir Thomas’s personal property and the mausoleum was situated within this retained land. In 1932, Sir Thomas sold the land to Clement Wallworth. Two years later, Wallworth sold the land to a local builder Clifford Ogle. Ogle traded the land on the southwest side of the River Goyt with some council-owned land. The effect was that the public park extended down to the river and Ogle had additional land on which to build. Ogle built part of his housing estate around the mausoleum.
Peter Marsland wrote his final will in December 1828. His business interests and the Woodbank estate were to be controlled by his sons, Henry and Peter Edward, who inherited £8,000 and £10,000 respectively. Peter Edward received more as Henry had received £2,000 on his 21st birthday. Jane Maria and Phoebe each received £5,000, and Elizabeth received £4,000 as she had been given £1,000 when she married in 1819. Mary Anne was treated differently for some reason. A sum of £8,000 was to be invested and managed on her behalf by Henry and Peter Edward. The remainder of the real and personal estate was divided into seven shares. Henry and Peter Edward each received two shares and had absolute control of this estate. Jane Marie, Phoebe and Elizabeth each received one share. The daughters’ shares were to be invested by the sons and the interest paid to the women. On the death of any of the daughters, the capital of their share was to be divided amongst their offspring or, in the case of their having no children, to be divided amongst their surviving siblings. The will also allowed either of the sons to purchase all of the shares in the estate, the value being determined by ‘two indifferent persons’ who were to be approved by the daughters. This is a course that Henry took in the following years. The process, which is described in Henry’s entry, was not without acrimony.
Thomas Harrison was the architect of Woodbank Hall, which was built between 1812-1814. When circumstances allowed, Harrison worked in the Greek-revival style exemplified by the mansion at Woodbank.
Peter Marsland may have chosen Harrison as Woodbank Hall’s architect as he was familiar with his work. Harrison was selected as the architect for the Portico Library on Mosley Street in Manchester in 1802 and the library was built by David Bellhouse between 1803 and 1806. The Portico was a subscription library in which subscribers purchased a share, initially for 13 guineas, and then paid two guineas a year. It would seem that subscriptions were highly sought after. Early 19th century newspaper advertisements for the disposal of the libraries of recently deceased people often include Portico Library subscriptions for sale. The Portico Library was built on land which was leased, and later owned, by Peter Marsland. Initially, Marsland leased the site at £50 16s 6d annually. In 1810, the freehold was bought from Peter and George Duckworth. The library suffered numerous problems: poor performance of the innovative central heating system; a leaking roof; and blocked toilets. Perhaps Peter Marsland had been unaware of these problems when he selected Harrison.
Harrison worked almost exclusively in the northwest of England and in North Wales. He was a noted bridge designer; his first major commission was the Skerton Bridge in Lancaster and his last was the Grosvenor Bridge in Chester. His largest projects were at Lancaster Castle, where he worked in a Gothic style to match the existing parts of the building, and at Chester Castle, where his preferred Greek-revival style is in evidence.
Phoebe was the only child of Thomas and Martha Allatt of Melton Mowbray. Thomas (1739-1789) was a wool stapler and fellmonger, a dealer in hides or skins. She married Peter Marsland (q.v.) at St. Peter’s in Nottingham on 29 November 1791. Peter Marsland and his elder brother, Samuel, became owners of Park Mills on 1 January 1792.
Phoebe’s mother predeceased Phoebe’s father, Thomas Allatt, who died in 1789. Thomas’s will named his executors as Thomas Oldknow and Henry Hollins, and they were directed to sell all Thomas’s real, leasehold and personal estates and to pay for his funeral expenses from the proceeds. There was an annual bequest of £12 to be paid to Thomas’s brother Benjamin. The rest of the estate was to go in trust or security in public shares or funds for Phoebe’s benefit. An annuity was to be paid to her, or she was to be permitted to receive the assets ‘as she shall attain her age of twenty two years if she shall so long live’.
Phoebe was 22 when she married Peter, so we may assume that she chose to receive her assets when she came of age, although there is no proof of this. Either way, she would have been a young woman of considerable means, as her father’s will mentioned many properties.
In the will of her grandfather, Thomas Oldknow, she was bequeathed an equal share in the proceeds when probate was granted in 1810.
As noted above, Peter and Phoebe had nine children but three died in infancy. Their elder son, Henry Marsland (q.v.), married Maria Hollins (q.v.), the granddaughter of the above named Henry Hollins.
Henry was the elder son of Peter Marsland (q.v.). Peter’s will was complex, dividing his real and private estate after legacies into seven shares. Henry and his brother, Peter Edward, each received two shares. Three of Henry’s four sisters each received a share, which was to be placed in trust and managed by Henry and Peter Edward, with the sisters to receive income. The will allowed for either brother to purchase the sisters’ shares subject to fair valuation.
In 1833, Henry arranged for the valuation which arrived at the figure of £32,025, and, in 1836, he bought his siblings out for this price. However, there must have been some dispute about the valuation as, in 1838, a hearing at the High Court of Chancery re-valued the estate at £37,156. Financial adjustments were made in respect of Henry’s siblings and Henry became the owner of his father’s estate.
Henry married Maria Hollins (q.v.). Maria was the second daughter of Henry Hollins, who owned successful cotton mills in Pleasley Vale in Derbyshire. Maria and Henry had six children:
- Arthur Henry (1826-1827)
- Henry Allatt (1829-1890) – q.v.
- Herbert (1831-1907) – q.v.
- Edith Marianne (1837-1867) – died unmarried.
- Arthur (1839-1842)
- Harold (1845-1871)
Henry Marsland served as one of Stockport’s two MPs from 1835 until 1847. He also served as a town councillor and chaired the first meeting of the newly formed municipal council in 1835.
The story of the elections that involved Henry Marsland is rather too long and involves too many other notable characters to be included here. Instead, a separate document, ‘Henry Marsland and the Stockport Elections’, is available. This document includes accounts of elections of 1832 (in which Henry first stood and which was Stockport’s first election), 1835, 1837 and 1841. It’s a story of riots, corruption and fragile alliances. It also features one of the mid-nineteenth century’s political stars, the free-trade Liberal Richard Cobden.
In the 1830s, Henry’s main business interests, ie the Park Mills, the bleach works and mills in Manchester, were run by Henry Marsland and Company. Henry was in partnership with his brother-in-law, Maria Marsland’s brother, Edward Hollins (1807-1886).
In the 1840s, Hollins also partnered with Christopher Veltman (1809-1887), a Manchester businessman, in the firm of Hollins and Veltman. When a supper for 600-700 workpeople was given at Park Mills in January 1845, it was hosted by Hollins and a Mr Potter, probably Vincent Potter who was Christopher Veltman’s brother-in-law.
In April 1847, the partnership of Hollins, Veltman and Company was dissolved, and control of the assets passed to Marsland, Veltman and Company. The timing of the change is interesting. It coincides with Henry standing down as an MP and with another of the periodic slumps in the cotton trade. Although this slump was not as severe as the one earlier in the decade, Stockport was badly hit and Marsland, Veltman and Company got into financial difficulties.
Marsland, Veltman and Company was one of many companies which were reported as having failed in November 1847. The downturn in the cotton trade caused workers in the Marsland mills to be laid off. Initial reports of the failure suggested that the company’s liabilities were not large and noted that to be laid off. Henry had assets besides those of the firm, for example in the Stockport Waterworks and the Woodbank Estate, although reports also suggested that Henry was struggling to raise capital on these assets. A meeting with creditors was conducted by Henry’s brother, Peter Edward, and this largely resolved Henry’s problems. The creditors were to be paid in full, but payment was to be made quarterly, over a period of one year. When informed of the arrangements, Henry was concerned about making the two later payments which were due in 9 and 12 months as Veltman was set to retire from the firm, and Henry wished the payments to be made after 12 and 20 months. Henry’s creditors agreed to this arrangement.
Orders for the mills did come through. Later in November 1847, it was reported that 690 workers would be re-employed, although in December reports suggested that 1,000 workers at Marsland mills had been told to look elsewhere for work.
Difficulties continued into the early 1850s with strikes (turnouts as they were then called) affecting Henry’s business in 1853 and 1854. In April 1854, workers at the largest Stockport mills (including Henry’s) went on strike. The Manchester Times reported that there were 1,800 strikers in Stockport, although it also noted that support for the strike was rather weak.
Park Mills suffered serious damage in March 1851 when a large boiler exploded. The explosion took place sometime after 5pm when the part of the mill that was damaged contained around 80 workers. The boiler was said to be about 40 feet (12m) long and 10 to 12 feet (3m) in diameter thus having a capacity of around 19,000 gallons (86,000 litres) of water. The explosion caused the boiler to be thrown across a courtyard and through a wall that was 2 feet 4 inches (0.7m) thick. Aside from the structural damage, the explosion caused a fire. Twenty people (thirteen women and seven men) lost their lives, with many of the bodies being severely burned. A number of workers escaped the fire by jumping into the River Mersey. Newspaper reports spoke of two men and a boy who were trapped on the sixth floor of the mill whose only means of escape was to jump into the river. One of the men and the boy survived, but the other man was killed in the leap.
The inquest into the deaths was completed in April 1851. Henry Marsland, the maker of the boiler, a Mr Morris, and the engineer, Joseph Hyde, had legal representation. The case was said to be long and complex. The cause of the accident appeared to be that a junction valve had been closed, by whom it could not be ascertained, and this led to pressure building up, which overloaded the safety valve. Hyde was censured and the jury recommended that all boilers be tested at twice their operating pressure before being delivered.
One curious aside concerning the health of Henry can be found in the newspaper archives. The Manchester Times issue of 11 January 1851 advertised the service of Mons. Levi, Chiropodist, who was said to be ‘Patronised by the royal family and nobility of Great Britain’. The advertisement reproduced a number of testimonials including: ‘(From Henry Marsland Esq. M.P.) I certify that Mr. Levi has extracted my corns with great skill, and without [my]suffering the slightest pain. Manchester, March 16th, 1844.’ Henry was in good company, as other testimonials were given by the Duke of Leeds, the Lord Archbishop of Armagh, the Marquis of Lansdowne, and the Physician Ordinary to the Queen, Robert Fergusson, amongst many others.
Henry Marsland died at Woodbank, aged 64, on 26 November 1864. Woodbank passed to his wife, Maria, under the terms of Henry’s will.
Peter Edward Marsland was the second son of Peter Marsland and his wife, Phoebe. Peter Marsland’s will was complex – see Peter Marsland’s and Henry Marsland’s entries for details. By 1838, Henry was the sole owner of the Woodbank estate. Most of Henry’s siblings, including Peter Edward, benefitted financially from Henry’s gaining exclusive control of the estate.
Peter Edward never married and lived at 25 Greek Street all of his adult life. He appears to have spent most of his life as a magistrate and proprietor of Stockport Waterworks, which was owned jointly with Henry. Peter Edward took control of it after Henry’s death in 1864. Peter Edward had other sources of income including ownership of houses and land in Heaton Norris.
Peter Edward did not concern himself greatly with local politics but was appointed as a magistrate to Stockport in 1837, to the Cheshire magistracy in 1839 and was elected mayor of Stockport in 1845, shortly after which he retired from the council. In 1837, he supported the motion put forward by the mayor, Jonathan Thornhill Esq., that a railway line ‘should pass in a direction as central as possible through the town of Stockport, and best calculated to give its important manufacturing interests the cheapest and easiest means of communication with the coal fields and agricultural districts of Cheshire and Staffordshire, and the great commercial towns of Manchester and Liverpool.’
As a magistrate, he was caught up in the three main riotous events of the mid nineteenth century. During the Chartist agitation of 1839, Peter Edward was on the bench when ten prisoners were sent for trial at Chester after a seizure of arms had been made at the houses of Chartist supporters in Stockport. He was again magistrate during the Workhouse Riot of 1842 and the Anti-Catholic Riot of 1852.
Peter Edward was a sporting man, being the holder of game licences along with Henry. He seemed to enjoy the social life of the town as a regular attendee at parties, balls and the theatre. Heginbotham describes him as being ‘very affable and courteous.’
Peter Edward died at his home at 25 Greek Street on 3 January 1871. His will throws up a mystery. The bulk of his estate, valued at under £35,000, was bequeathed to his two nephews, Henry Allatt Marsland and Herbert Marsland, his executors. A sum £1,000 was left for Maria Marsland, his sister-in-law, with the request that she should care for the interests of Charlotte Elizabeth Cooper. This young girl was the niece of his deceased housekeeper, and he reserved an annuity of £200 for her sole maintenance with the provision that her natural father was not to be allowed any access to her. His housekeeper, Louisa Jane Waring, is named on the 1851 census return but no trace has yet been found of the mystery child.
Maria Hollins of Pleasley, Derbyshire married Henry Marsland there on 6th July 1825. Maria and Henry had six children, who are identified in Henry’s entry.
Maria’s grandfather was Henry Hollins who founded the Pleasley wills with Thomas Oldknow. Maria’s parents, Henry and Hannah Maria had ten children. Whilst two of Maria’s sisters died early, Maria appears to have maintained links with her family throughout her life. Two of her brothers, Henry and Edward, came to Stockport as cotton manufacturers. Henry moved on to Pendleton, Manchester, but Edward became a partner with her husband, Henry Marsland. Edward moved to Preston in 1848 where he had a cotton mill but remained in partnership with Henry.
Maria’s father died at Mansfield in 1854, leaving her one-sixth of his real and personal estates after separate bequests to a brother and sister. He specified that ‘any bequests [would be] for the sole and personal use of his daughters without control or interference of any present or future husband.’ This ensured that whatever assets the two daughters received could be used as they wished.
We may assume from the few existing records that Maria enjoyed the company of her relations by the visits they made to Woodbank. Her elder sister, Mary Ann Talbot, was staying at Woodbank in 1835, when she died. She was buried in the Marsland mausoleum in the grounds of the estate. Her named was engraved on an obelisk there.
Census records reveal that, in 1841, Maria’s brother, Henry, his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, also Henry, were visiting Woodbank, along with Maria’s mother and her sister in law, Mary Anne. Mary Anne later died in Southport and was buried there in 1848. In 1861, Maria’s sister, Phoebe, with her husband, Edward Johnson, a retired iron-founder, visited Woodbank. Maria’s sister-in-law, Margaret, Edward’s wife, and her cousin, Isaac Heywood, were visitors in 1871, and, in 1881, Edward and Phoebe Johnson were back, along with Maria’s nephew, Henry Hollins, now aged 42 and working as a commission agent.
Henry Marsland died in 1864, leaving all his estates to Maria – making no provision for any children on condition that on her death, she should divide the residue of his property amongst them as she saw fit.
Maria increased the extent of Woodbank estate. According to the will of one of her sons, Herbert, she bought around four thousand square yards (about three quarters of an acre) of land in two plots in May 1879. The vendor was Matthew Dickie, towel manufacturer, who had premises in Park Mills.
Maria died at Woodbank on the 18 June 1885. She bequeathed the sum of £400 to Henry Allatt, her son, during his life to pay off the interest on the mortgage of £15,000 for Woodbank. This legacy would transfer to Herbert after Henry Allatt’s death. The Woodbank estate was left to Henry Allatt during his life and then would go to Herbert. Henry Allatt was also bequeathed the household goods. All the residue of her real and personal estate, including her shares in the firm of ‘Henry Marsland’ Bleachers, was to be divided equally between the two brothers.
Henry Heginbotham’s ‘Ancient and Modern’ states: Mrs. Marsland outlived her husband for many years, and filled her position with great dignity. She enjoyed the high esteem of a wide circle of friends, and her hospitality, kindness of heart, and universal generosity were almost proverbial. She died on June 18th 1885, in the 80th year of her age, and was buried in the mausoleum, Woodbank, deeply regretted by all who had had the pleasure of her acquaintance.
Henry Allatt Marsland was the first surviving son of Henry and Maria Marsland. He never married and lived all his life at Woodbank Hall.
Henry Allatt’s father died in November 1864 and left all of his estate to his wife Maria for her to decide upon how it should be divided amongst their children on her death. Following Henry Marsland’s death, Henry Allatt stepped into his father’s role of auditor at Stockport Sunday School. His uncle, Peter Edward Marsland, took over the business from Henry.
Henry Allatt and his brother, Herbert, were in possession of a warehouse at 20 Chancery Lane, Ardwick, Manchester from 1863 to 1875. In 1866, Henry Allatt, cotton spinner, was called to be on the grand jury at the midsummer quarter sessions at the Assize Courts, Strangeways with this Manchester business as his address. Three years later, in 1869, he was appointed as one of 12 commissioners for executing the acts for granting land tax in Stockport and the surrounding wards.
His uncle Peter Edward, died in January 1871. Henry Allatt and Herbert received half shares in the residue of their uncle’s estate, after the bequests had been executed. The amount of the estate was ‘under £35,000’. Between 1872 and 1879, he invested with the National and Provincial Bank with his addresses given as Woodbank and Chancery Lane.
From 1874, Henry Allatt began to show interest in local politics but never put himself forward as a candidate. He was, like his father, a Liberal. In 1874, 1880 and 1885 he proposed Liberal candidates in the borough elections.
Henry Allatt had been in partnership with his brother, Herbert, and Thomas Bancroft, as commission agents in Manchester, trading as ‘H. A. Marsland and Co.’. The company was dissolved in 1877. The business was carried on under the name of ‘Bancroft, Hollins and Co.’, after debts owing to or by the firm were paid by Thomas Bancroft and his cousin, Sydney Hollins of Stockport.
Henry Allatt succeeded to the Woodbank Estate by primogeniture after the death of his mother Maria, on the 18 June 1885. The residue of her shares, real and personal estate was divided equally between himself and Herbert.
Shortly afterwards, on 30 June 1885, the partnership between Henry Allatt Marsland and John Goode Johnson in the business of bleachers at the Park Bleach Works, Stockport, trading as ‘Henry Marsland’, was dissolved. Henry Marsland had entered into partnership with John Goode Johnson in 1860 and a change was coming after Maria’s death. Johnson had risen in the company to become the manager. On 20 November 1885, the company was converted to a limited company and traded as ‘Henry Marsland Limited’. John Goode Johnson was then in control and several members of his family were directors. A declaration was made on the 2 February 1886 and published in the Manchester Courier on the 6 February 1886.
On the 4 May 1890 Henry Allatt died. His will named Herbert Marsland and John Goode Johnson as his executors. He left bequests of £8,200 in shares in Henry Marsland Limited to Sydney Hollins, £2,500 of ordinary stock in the Stockport District Waterworks Company ‘to my friend Mary Woolf’ and £500 each to Stockport Infirmary and the Stockport Blind Deaf and Dumb Institution. He made provision for the future of the firm of Bancroft, Hollins and Company. His brother, Herbert, then inherited the estate along with the sum of £15,000 to discharge the mortgage on Woodbank.
From an entry in his will it would seem that Henry Allatt enjoyed the pursuits of a country gentleman. He left his ‘Guns, dogs, fishing rods, fishing tackle, and all my other sporting articles and things’ to his cousin Sydney Hollins rather than to his brother, Herbert, who had few sporting interests in his later years.
He elected to be buried in a ‘Wicker Work Coffin’ in the mausoleum at Woodbank.
Herbert Marsland was born on the 19 February 1831 at Woodbank Hall. He was the second surviving son of Henry and Maria Marsland. He was educated at Brighton and Manchester College. Herbert married Eliza Emily Edwards (1840-1892) of Kensington, at Clifton, Gloucestershire in the autumn of 1866. They had no children and so Herbert was the last of the Marsland line. He amassed great wealth during his lifetime through inheritances and investments.
Herbert and elder brother Henry Allatt were categorised as cotton manufacturers in the 1861 census. The family business had diversified into the finishing side of cotton manufacture by 1871 and Herbert was then described as a bleacher. His father, Henry Marsland had taken John Goode Johnson Snr. into partnership in the bleaching business in 1860.
Herbert and Henry Allatt were commission agents with a base in Manchester but this partnership was dissolved in January 1866. They were to embark into this business again with another partner, Thomas Bancroft but this business was dissolved in 1877.
In September 1864, Herbert had received the sole inheritance of the estate of his aunt, Phoebe Liardet and was the only executor of her will, the effects amounting to about £4,000.
When his father died in November 1864, there was no specific provision in his will for the children. All was left to their mother, Maria. Peter Edward Marsland, Henry’s brother, now ran the business.
Herbert invested with the National and Provincial Bank after receiving his inheritance from his aunt, Phoebe Liardet; both she and her sister Jane Maria had been members of the bank since at least 1855. His name appears in the bank’s annual lists from 1866 to 1879. These lists also show that he was living at Hawthorn Bank, Altrincham in 1868 and at Brinnington Mount in 1872. Interestingly, his brother, Henry Allatt also became a member of the National and Provincial Bank in 1872 after their uncle’s death.
His uncle, Peter Edward Marsland died in January 1871 and Herbert received half the residue of his estate, after the bequests had been executed, along with his elder brother. The amount of the uncle’s estate was ‘under £35,000’. The will showed that Herbert was still at Hawthorn Bank, Altrincham at this time. The brothers received another bequest in March of that year after their younger brother, Arthur, died leaving them £500 each.
The change of address for Herbert in 1872 suggests that he bought Brinnington Mount, which remained in his possession until his death, with his share of Peter Edward’s will. The National and Provincial Bank lists also confirm entries in the Manchester rate books from 1863 – 1875 which show that the brothers were in possession of a warehouse at 20 Chancery Lane, Ardwick, Manchester.
The records in the Cheshire Electoral Register show Herbert also holding the chief rent for properties on New Zealand Road and Turncroft Lane from 1873.
Herbert’s mother, Maria, died on the 18 June 1885 at Woodbank. Following her husband’s declaration that ‘the residue of my property shall be divided amongst my children in such a manner as she shall order by her Will’, she decided that after multiple personal bequests of jewellery and money, the residue of her estate, property and shares were to be divided between Henry Allatt and Herbert. Herbert was to inherit Woodbank on Henry Allatt’s death.
By the end of that year, the partnership of ‘Marsland and Johnson’, was dissolved. A new company was formed under the name of ‘Henry Marsland Limited’. The Manchester Courier of the 7 December 1885 announced the change.
On the 4 May 1890, Henry Allatt died. He left the sum of £15,000 for Herbert to pay off the mortgage on Woodbank along with half shares in the residue of his estate after bequests, the other half going to John Goode Johnson. In addition, Johnson and Herbert were each to receive £3,000 as his executors and half of Henry Allatt’s Great Western Railway shares. Herbert was then in possession of the Woodbank estate and remained at the hall until his death.
After Henry Allatt’s death, Herbert bought five plots of land between 1890 and 1896.
On the 28 March 1892, his wife Eliza, died suddenly in Stockport Infirmary, where she was taken after having a fit at the railway station as she was waiting for the London train. In her will, she left charitable bequests to four local institutions and £5,500 to Herbert in Great Western Railway shares.
Herbert received a further small bequest in 1906 after the death of his nephew, Henry Talbot Hollins, as joint executor of his will, along with Henry’s brother, Sydney Hollins.
In April 1865, Herbert visited London. He attended a Freemason’s Lodge meeting there; this appears to have been a single visit to the Enoch Lodge Number 11 at Freemasons Hall. It is not known whether he was a member of a local lodge. He visited London again in April 1872, staying at the Alexandra Park Hotel, Hyde Park Corner. He bought the lease to Royston House (a rather grand house fronting Kew Road) in 1883 and is listed there in local directories from 1883 to 1892. We can only speculate about his London connections. His wife was born there, some of his relations on the Hollins side of the family lived there and he may have had business there. It is notable however that his lease of Royston House ceased in the same year as his wife’s death.
In May of 1876, he and Eliza visited Switzerland and their names are on a list of persons registered with an American bank that was published in the American Register. He may have been taking advantage of the US banking services whilst in Geneva.
In 1881, Herbert and Eliza were listed on the census as visiting his cousin, Samuel Hollins, at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire. Samuel had retired from the cotton business and moved to the countryside as a farmer. The census gives Herbert’s occupation as a ‘Proprietor of Railway shares’.
Following the family’s Unitarian associations, in 1886 Herbert became a trustee of the land and houses conveyance in Bridgefield, that had been used for the benefit of High Street chapel. He was appointed as a new trustee to Stockport Unitarian Church on St. Petersgate in 1904.
Herbert was a director of Stockport District Waterworks Company in 1893. Marsland’s waterworks were finally sold to the Corporation in 1899.
Herbert was a founding member of the Stockport Branch of the RSPCA in 1899, and a bequest in his will made possible an annual children’s essay on kindness to animals, which had been one of his wishes. Mrs. Hollins, the wife of his nephew, Sydney, distributed the prizes of the first competition in 1909 and Sydney described Herbert as ‘a good man and kind to all animals and generous to everybody’.
Herbert Marsland died at Woodbank on the 4 December 1907 and was interred in the mausoleum there. His will was lengthy and generous.
His obituary in the Manchester Evening News of the 4 December describes him as follows: ‘The deceased gentleman was of a retiring disposition, but of a very kindly and benevolent nature. He was a governor of the Pendlebury Orphanage, a member of the Infirmary Board and was associated with the Blind Institute and the RSPCA. He was also connected with a number of other charities. He took no part in the municipal affairs of the town’.
His interest in animal charities came later in life. There is evidence that he did shoot in his youth. In 1854, he, his brother, Henry Allatt, and his uncle, Peter Edward, all had £4 10s 0d game licences for the County of Chester. However, in 1859 his name is missing from the list, whilst Henry Allatt’s and Peter Edward’s remain.
Sydney Hollins was the inheritor of the Woodbank estate, as the next living relative, under the proviso that whoever came into possession of the estate would be expected to live there for six months of the year. This clause was to have repercussions for the ownership of the estate in the future.
Sydney Hollins inherited the Woodbank Estate from his cousin Herbert Marsland on Herbert’s death in 1907. Sydney was no stranger to Woodbank Hall, having lived there with his widowed aunt Maria for twenty years before he married in 1891.
Sydney Hollins was the son of Henry Hollins (1804-1872). Sydney was born in Pendleton, but his family originated in Nottinghamshire. Henry was Maria Marsland’s brother.
The obituaries of Sydney Hollins mainly focus on his exploits as a cricketer and his role as a committee member of Lancashire County Cricket Club. Sydney was, for many years, captain of Stockport Cricket Club and had a spell as captain of the Cheshire team.
Aptitude for cricket was a family trait. Sydney’s funeral was attended by his cousin Sir Frank Hollins. Sir Frank (1843-1924) was the son of Sydney’s uncle, Edward Hollins. Frank was raised to the Baronetcy of Greyfriars in Broughton in 1907. Three of his sons, Arthur Meyrick Hollins, Frank Hollins and John Hollins were first-class cricketers.
Sydney also seems to have enjoyed shooting. A newspaper report of August 1909 states that Sydney leased the estates of Lord Howard of Glossop, extending from Woodhead to Crowden, for the ‘Glorious Twelfth’. His party of seven guns shot around 400 birds in the day. The newspaper report indicates that Sydney’s hiring of these estates was a regular occurrence.
Sydney’s second wife, Beatrice, played croquet to a good standard. In July 1910, she reached the final of the ‘Class C’ singles, and the third round of the ‘Class B’ singles, at the North of England Croquet Championship held in Buxton. In the same month, Beatrice became involved in a widely reported court case. Whilst playing croquet in the park at Buxton, she had removed her jacket and forgotten about it. The jacket was picked up by a variety artiste called Bessie Morris. In the magistrates’ court, Bessie, who had initially denied being at the park when questioned by the police, stated that she thought the jacket was her sister’s, as her sister had one in a similar style. The magistrates could not agree whether this was deliberate theft or whether the jacket was taken accidently, and a new court session was arranged. At the second session, the charge was dismissed, but not before Beatrice’s carelessness was widely reported.
In 1877, the partnership of Henry Allatt Marsland and Thomas Bancroft trading as H. A Marsland and Co. was dissolved. A new company Bancroft, Hollins and Co. was formed. It is not known why the new company was formed. It doesn’t seem to be to escape from debts because Bancroft, Hollins and Co. assumed responsibility for the debts of H.A Marsland and Co. Sydney Hollins continued to manage this new company until his death, taking sole ownership following the death of Thomas Bancroft.
Bancroft, Hollins and Co. were grey cloth agents with offices just off Albert Square in Manchester. Grey cloth is woven cloth which has not been dyed and may not have been bleached. Thus, the business bought unfinished woven cloth and sold it to companies to finish. The buying and selling took place in the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Sydney was apparently a well-known figure on the Exchange which, despite ill-health in his later years, he continued to visit periodically. He did so six days before his death.
In addition to his grey cloth business, Sydney was also involved in Marsland Ltd, which owned the Park Bleach Works. At the time of his death, he was the chair of the company.
Sydney married twice in relatively quick succession. His first wife was Hannah Sophia Nicholson (probably known as ‘Sophia’ because the report of their wedding gives her name a ‘H Sophia Nicholson’). Sophia’s father was Richard Nicholson a retired ship owner from Southport. Sydney was living with his sisters in Southport at the time of this marriage. Sydney and Sophia married in April 1891 and Sophia died just nine months later in January 1892.
Sydney married again in November 1894, to Beatrice May Hall; at the time of their marriage, Sydney was 44 years old and Beatrice, born in 1875, was just 19. Beatrice was born on the large family farm near Stafford and educated at Lambeth Ladies College. Sydney and Beatrice had 6 children: Allatt Henry (born 1895), who inherited Woodbank from his father, twins Eric (some newspapers give ‘Errick’) Talbot and Sydney Ewart (born 1898), Harold (born 1900), Mary Barbara (born 1909) and Priscilla Hollins (born 1911). After Sydney’s death, Beatrice married Robert L Hutchinson.
Following his marriage, Sydney moved out of Woodbank to The Grange, Bramhall Lane, and later to Alderley Edge. He moved back to Woodbank following Herbert Marsland’s death in 1907.
Sydney died in June 1914. His estate was valued at £34,052. The Woodbank estate fell to his eldest son, Allatt Henry. Sydney’s widow, Beatrice, continued to live at Woodbank until she remarried in 1919.
Allatt Hollins was the eldest son of Sydney Hollins and the last of the Marsland/Hollins line resident at Woodbank. Allatt faced a number of legal challenges over his use of Woodbank under the terms of Herbert Marsland’s will.
Allatt was born 15 September 1895, the eldest of six siblings. Allatt’s father died in June 1914, when Allatt was 19. The terms of Herbert Marsland’s will gave Allatt’s father, Sydney, the use of the Woodbank estate and specified that, in the event of Sydney’s death, this right would pass to Allatt.
There appears to have been a dispute between the Hollins family and the trustees of Herbert Marsland’s will (John Goode Johnson junior, Joseph Fielding Johnson and Charles Brady) shortly after Sydney Hollins’s death. The evidence for this is a notice in the Pall Mall Gazette of 10 July 1914, which appeared just a few weeks after the death of Sydney Hollins. The article gave notice of a case before the Chancery Court of motions ‘In re Herbert Marsland, deceased; In re Woodbank Settled Estate; In re Conveyancing Act 1881, In re Settled Lands Act, 1882 to 1890; Hollins v. Johnson and others’. It’s not currently known what the case concerned or its outcome.
Herbert Marsland’s will stated that those who had the use of Woodbank must make it their main residence for six months of the year. It seems that, in 1916, Allatt was taken to court by the trustees as he was serving as an officer in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and thus away from Woodbank on active service. Sources suggest that the dispute reached the High Court and Allatt’s right to residence was established.
In December 1917, Allatt was photographed as a Lieutenant in the 3rd Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry attached to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers serving in the Macedonian Campaign. He seems to have attained the rank of Captain before leaving the Army.
In 1919, discussion started about the sale of the Woodbank estate to Sir Thomas Rowbotham who had the intention of gifting it to Stockport as a memorial park. Some sources state that Allatt again faced court action over the sale, but another source (i.e. Manchester Evening News, 11 July 1919) indicates that ‘the mayor (i.e. Rowbotham) has recently been in touch with the Trustees, and the estate will shortly pass into his hands’.
Allatt became engaged to Beatrice Isabel Bircham Farnell of Acton in July 1919, and they married in February 1920. In the newspaper announcements of both of these events, Allatt’s residence is given as ‘Woodbank, Stockport’. Allatt and Beatrice had five children. For a long while they lived in Bexhill-on-Sea. Allatt seems to have spent much of his time playing golf and there are numerous references to his playing in competitions. He had some talent; his handicap was scratch for many years. It’s not clear whether Allatt worked or had business interests. In 1938, when, aged 43, he was named as executor of a will, he was described as having ‘no occupation’.
Allatt seems to have retained an affection for Woodbank because his address is given as ‘Woodbank, South Cliff Avenue, Bexhill-on-Sea’ in newspaper reports. The most notable of these reports was for a court appearance in 1936 when he was charged with parking his car after dusk without lights. He was fined 5 shillings.
Allatt’s wife, Beatrice, had a rather tragic history. Full details are given in http://westhampsteadlife.com/2013/07/01/tragic-events-in-kilburn-and-west-hampstead/5078. In short, in 1889, Beatrice’s mother seemingly tried to kill Beatrice (aged seven months) and her three-year-old sister Mary. A policeman was called, and the children were saved. Her mother was tried at the Old Bailey, found to be insane and committed to Broadmoor. Beatrice and her sister went to live with relatives who built a soft toy factory in their garden. The company, Farnell, produced the Alpha bear, one of which was bought by A A Milne for his son Christopher Robin. This toy bear was the original Winnie the Pooh.
Allatt died in 1942, aged 47.
Thomas Rowbotham was undoubtedly a hard-working man who made the most of all the opportunities that came his way. His is truly a ‘rags to riches’ story.
Rowbotham was born 1 May 1851 at Greave Fold, Romiley. He started work aged ten at Oakwood Mill as a cotton doffer, but his leg was broken the year after, and he did not return to the cotton mill. Instead, he was apprenticed to Joseph Oldham, a blacksmith, in Gee Cross. There he was introduced to Wesleyan Methodism, a religion he closely followed throughout his life. He began preaching when he was 17 and was a local preacher for over 64 years, as well as travelling all over the country.
Rowbotham came out of his apprenticeship aged 20, with savings of £20. Within three years, he had accumulated £70. He joined a building society and built two houses in Newton. In 1874, he married Eliza Green and they took on a little shop, where Florence, the couple’s only child (1876-1964), was born, but hard times were ahead.
Rowbotham’s employer, Mr. Holford, offered him his blacksmith’s shop, which Rowbotham took on. He was fortunate to obtain a contract for ironwork for fitting out a factory and to fulfil orders for smaller articles such as gates.
After this venture, he went to work at Beeley’s Boiler Works at Hyde Junction, and this is where he was working when he turned 30 in 1881. In his memoirs, Rowbotham claimed to have worked 14-hour days for six years. Beeley’s was an innovative company and it was probably here that Rowbotham learnt the skills that were to prompt the invention that made his fortune. He left Beeley’s after deciding to become a commercial traveller, also taking on an insurance agency, preferring a less arduous occupation.
Rowbotham applied for a post as a commercial traveller with a Scottish firm but was unsuccessful. However, another position soon came up, this one in the oil and grease trade, particularly for collieries. This job took him to South Wales where he began to experiment with the self-oiling wheel. The first design failed, but he persevered and in a rented workshop in Hyde, he produced the first accurate self-oiling wheel for colliery trams. Later, the patent wheel was cast in Sheffield and it was this invention that made his fortune.
Rowbotham moved to Stockport in 1887 as it was more convenient for his travels to Wales. He was living at 99 Shaw Heath in 1891, the census of that year showing his occupation as a Patent Curved Wheel Manufacturer and Commercial Traveller.
In Stockport, he formed a business partnership with William Leah which led to the creation of Leah and Rowbotham, iron and steel merchants, at the Victoria Foundry, Portwood. By 1901, Rowbotham had moved to 24 Longshut Lane West and he was then described as ’Mechanical Engineer and chemist. Iron and Steel Merchant, town councillor, Wesleyan local preacher and employer’.
Rowbotham expanded his business interests in 1902 when he purchased Jackson’s Ltd., hatters, which had over 100 shops all over the country. He was chairman of the company for 27 years. He also invested £2,000 in Broadstone Mills in 1905 on good authority, only to find that the mill had been run badly. The company failed with £95,000 of debt. A new board was formed with Thomas as its chair, and it was through his sole efforts and with the assistance of his bank that he rescued the mill.
The 1911 census places Rowbotham in London visiting a tramway advertising contractor. Rowbotham’s wife and daughter were recorded as being in the family home at Hillbrook Grange, Bramhall, where Thomas was to remain for the rest of his life.
Thomas laid the foundation stone of Hazel Grove Methodist church in Wesley Street in 1913 and his name is on a marble plaque in the vestibule.
Rowbotham visited America and Canada after WWI and South Africa in 1925, using these trips to promote his business and to represent local preachers in England to their counterparts in these countries.
He held many civic roles. He was a J.P., a member of the council, vice-chairman of the tramways committee and chairman of the new education committee and Stockport Industrial Schools. He took a keen interest in Stockport Infirmary and was the president of the Sick Nursing Association. He was on the licensing bench and the gas committee. He was the mayor in 1916 and 1918, during the troubled times of WWI and chief magistrate in 1917. In politics he was a Liberal.
He was appointed for a knighthood on 1 January 1921 ‘for public and local services’ and became freeman of the borough in 1932.
He bought Woodbank Hall and estate in 1921 originally for use as a convalescent home, an offer that was refused by the infirmary. He presented a significant portion of the land to the council as a memorial park on 14 October. The park is dedicated to the memory of the men who lost their lives in WWI. The hall and its gardens were gifted in 1924. He also presented land in Carr Wood to Bramhall for use as a park.
In recognition of his role as the first chairman of the education committee after the Balfour Education Act of 1902, one of the houses in the newly opened Stockport School was named after him in 1938.
Rowbotham died at Hillbrook Grange, Bramhall, in 1939 and was buried at Bramhall Baptist church. His wife, Eliza, had died in 1916. Their daughter, Florence followed on with civic and philanthropic duties. She gifted the house to be used as a home for old age pensioners upon her death in 1964 and it remains so until this day.
Stockport Site Survey, Stockport Museum, Woodbank Hall, K M Christie, February and March 1984. ↑
Such is the variety of birth dates that are given in various sources, we have chosen to leave the birth date as uncertain. Various dates of death are also recorded, and so we have chosen to present the date given by the National Archives (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/browse/r/h/6687f2b8-6a6e-4b23-863b-955268a105af). ↑
Some sources state William Davenport (e.g. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/lucy-sir-fulk-1623-77 ), we have used the information at http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/533836. ↑
Sometimes given as Fulk (e.g. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/lucy-sir-fulk-1623-77), we have used the spelling at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/charlecote-park/features/the-lucy-family-of-charlecote-park ↑
At this time, Stockport did not extend north of the Mersey ↑
Arrowsmith states 1810. However, in reporting on the assignment of trustees under the act, the Manchester Mercury of 16 July 1811 states that it was passed in the 51st year of George III’s reign. 51 Geo.3 is generally linked to 1811 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Acts_of_the_Parliament_of_the_United_Kingdom,_1801%E2%80%931819#1811_(51_Geo._3)) ↑
Heginbotham gives Marianne ↑
Staffordshire Advertiser. February 4th 1837. ↑
Heginbotham, H. Stockport Ancient and Modern. Vol ii. 1892. Samson Low, Marston and Company, London. ↑
Ancient and Modern’. Henry Heginbotham, vol ii, p.347. ↑
A local preacher had authority to conduct all aspects of a service, as opposed to a lay preacher who could only address sermons. ↑