Mike Kiernan's Local and General History Site
Welcome to my local history web site. It has been going for some time now and it has grown, although not as fast as I wanted it to. Nevertheless, I will be putting more stuff on here, as time allows. Local history is important, because people are curious about their origins, their parents and grandparents. where they came from and what were their experiences? Family history though, is a separate subject and there are many ways we can find out about our forefathers and mothers, through many helpful sites and information from libraries etc.
If you have been looking at this site recently, you will realise that there has been something going wrong with it. In later entries, I have tried to put subtitles under pictures. Unfortunately, they keep going awry. I wonder if the Zoomshare people can advise me on this. For the moment, I will put references in the text. I have not been on the site for a while due to a problem with my laptop, which would not allow me to log on to the site and other things. However, the desktop is working fine and I hope to do some work on the site, changing a few things perhaps and adding anything of interest I may come across.
You might be interested in some other things I have been doing.In November 2008, I filmed the official opening of the newly refurbished Market Hall, which has been restored partly from a National Lottery grant, and match funding from Stockport Council. I was the only one there with a camcorder to record this historical event. The same day, Ashton Market's indoor hall was re-opened after a fire back in 2003 as I recall, They had some wonderful media coverage, but where were the media for our Market? The newspapers were there, but there was barely a mention. I suspect politics has something to do with it, and at the moment, we are being invited to give our opinions as to how we can improve our historic market. In the Hall, you can fill in a slip and tell the powers that be what you think of our market.
When you go to places like Ashton, for example, or Oldham or Bury, the markets are huge. Yes, Stockport Council has spent a lot of ratepayers money on the much needed upgrade of the Market Hall. (with the help of a Lottery Grant) Whilst the market has shrunk. But how do you attract and keep stallholders, who after all, are only trying to make a living, when their takings will barely cover their rent? And with supermarket prices and pound shops, how can market traders compete? Maybe it is time to level up the playing field, because to not do so will eventually kill off our market, and is that what our Council wants, to lose a revenue earner? Try lowering the rents a bit, perhaps, you might get some more stallholders interested. But don't take my word for it, I am no expert, or economist. But we have to consider all ideas. As we are now, at a time of recession, we need initiatives, regardless of the politics involved.
Please scroll down and look at it if you wish, but I have no opinion to offer, in any political sense. I only am interested in the facts, regardless of who is in power. Politicians come and go, that is why we have democracy. It is the decision of the majority, of course, those who bother to vote. We only get the Council people vote for. If you are not happy, USE YOUR VOTE!. If you can't be bothered, you may not get what you wish for. USE YOUR VOTE ! whatever your persuasion.
This site is about the way people used to live, bearing in mind the inventions which made life better over time, and the way life has improved for all of us and how often, we take it for granted. I don't claim to be an expert, rather I find out about things. For example, it was only recently that I found out that the 'Roman Lakes' at Marple are not actually Roman! but were a product of Samuel Oldknow, the mill owner, who once had a mill nearby. There is an excellent web site, (a bit more sophisticated than mine) www.marple-uk.com Have a look at it, there is information about Samuel Oldknow on there and loads of other stuff about Marple, one of our favorite local places we visit from time to time.
There is also an excellent book by Peter Arrowsmith, called 'Stockport - A History', (ISBN 0 905 164 99 7) which deals with the development of the town from further back in time, taking in a wider catchment in the surrounding area. I managed to get a copy half price from the Heritage Library, as part of the Town Hall Centenary Celebrations, many publications being reduced. I am currently wading through the book and it contains a lot of factual stuff, prehistoric, Roman and Mediaeval etc. The book is one of the more serious academic works and follows in the footsteps of the likes of Heginbotham and is very useful for those who are interested in the more serious study of the town and locality and the way it developed.
There is also an excellent book by Steve Cliffe, editor of the Heritage Magazine, about the history of Stockport. It is widely published, and is a great source of information for anyone who is interested in the development of our town and its heritage. There are other publications, such as 'Stockport From The Air', where you can see aerial photographs which compare the past with the present day, and you might be surprised at the changes. (I don't get paid for this by the way. Support your local Heritage!) Stockport Heritage Trust are based in St. Mary's Church in the Market Place and is staffed by volunteers.
Also in the Market Place is Staircase House at the side of the Market Hall, and for visitors to the town who might be interested in its history there are several floors with excellent exhibits, as well as a tour where you can see the old Tudor staircase which gives the place its name. The staircase was restored after a devastating fire and there is a maze of rooms you can wander round and see what life was like many years ago.
I myself was born in Stockport, at Stepping Hill Hospital, Hazel Grove, but on my birth certificate it states the address as '42, Poplar Grove'. I am rather proud of that, because it puts me firmly in a period of history, before the Hospital became 'Stepping Hill'. Hazel Grove though, was formerly known as 'Bullock Smithy', until the city fathers decided to change the name. Perhaps they decided that the name was too crude, or is it an allusion to the farmer who rode a bullock into the town, saddled, in a protest against the saddle tax imposed by William Pitt, declaring 'Pitt be dead'! Such a rebel! But what scorn he poured on the politicians of the day, (of all persuasions),who like nowadays, try and find ways of exacting our hard earned money from us, whilst at the same time lining their own pockets. Small wonder that people no longer trust them, and how will they regain our trust? It remains to be seen.
I know it says 'Local and General History', but you will find other stuff of interest here, like visits to the Cumbrian Lake District and other places, as well as stuff about Stockport and Reddish, where I live. In the photos section, there is text and each picture follows on in a rough chronological order, so if you look at 'Lincolnshire Visit' for example, in the photos section, you can see various images of places of historical and general interest, for example, with comments in the text about a particular scene or place of interest. One small matter I must put right, as I write on this New Year's Day, at the end of 2009, is our mother, Kathleen Kiernan. Today would have been her 82nd birthday, but she passed away on May 21st. 2009. She is sadly missed by all members of our family and I hope to add a page to this site in her memory.
Just as an aside, if I come across other things of interest, I like to point people in their direction by means of a link. Yesterday, (Monday 28th Sept. 2008) I was in Merseyway, in the covered part near to the Mersey Square end, when I saw a temporary exhibition by a local artist, who goes by the name of 'Mat', who hails from Manchester. Now art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You either like it or you don't. The title of the exhibition was 'MATROKK', and featured a small part of his portfolio. The theme of much of his work is quite surreal, Gothic in places, and dream-inspired. He has had commissions as varied as covers for CDs, fashion etc. Some of his work has also been used in the Precinct itself. For a look at some of his work, here is the link- www.matrokk.co.uk The lad's going places, and if you are a band looking for a cover, or an advertiser looking for a theme, he's your man!
On a later occasion, April 24th 2010 to be precise, I met up with another author, Stuart Webb. He had written a book entitled 'Lyme Hall'. The book is a work of fiction which uses Lyme Hall as a central theme or location where the action of the story takes place. He was doing a book signing at the Staircase Heritage in the Market Place. I understand the difficulties of getting books published nowadays. Publishers will not back books financially which are not racing certainties, like the Harry Potter books for example. Often authors have to pay publishers and there is little guarantee of success. One way forward is self-publishing, but to do everything yourself can be prohibitive. However there are some publishing outfits out there who are prepared to do limited quantities, and it reduces the risk factor of laying out for large quantities of books which may not sell. If you like a good story with a book which will not break the bank, have a look at his web site www.stuart-webb.com and see what it's all about.
In the stories section, there are samples of my scribblings, some about local characters, both living and otherwise, although there is some profane language in the story 'H And The Magic Tree' it is used in the context of the character telling the story. The emotional content of that story is not unlike 'Angela's Ashes', so have a tissue ready when you read it. But it is not suitable for very young children. So be aware of that.
If you like my site and want to make a comment, there is an e-mail address with it. email@example.com
Now, where do I begin ? Well, there's me for a start. Now some people say that I bear a resemblance to a certain Bolton steeplejack. Personally, I don't see the likeness, but take any slightly mature bloke with a flat cap and glasses and you've got yourself a 'Fred Dibnah' clone! But that's just a nickname people call me and I take it as a complement, for I have a lot of admiration for Fred. But I could never be him. He was a man who made something of himself. An unpretentious man, with no airs and graces, very much down to earth, and if I could achieve half of what he has done, I'd be a happy man indeed. I know there were some who didn't like him, and that's a matter for them, (there are those who don't like me for example, but they must have their reasons.) What you see is what you get, as the old expression goes. Joking aside though, if they made a film of his life story, I'd put my name forward. (I have done a bit of acting years ago, and I would jump at the chance!) "Dyerr Laaike That !" "It's goin', it's goin," Honk Honk! Honk Honk!
One thing I do share with Fred, is an interest in Heritage and History, although much of mine is at a local level, whereas Fred travelled all over the country, very ably following a script written for him no doubt. But it was his considerable knowledge and understanding of the old building and engineering skills, and his 'hands on' approach, trying the different techniques, from iron casting, to stonemasonry, and woodworking, to splitting slates, and driving steam engines, which for me, made all the programmes more interesting. I was very much saddened when I heard he had passed away, but pleased for him when he received his award from the Queen, for services to Heritage and Broadcasting. An award which he so rightly deserved. Not bad for someone who started life as a humble carpenter. (Now who does that remind me of !)
I could never do what Fred used to do, climb chimneys. He certainly had a head for heights. It's not heights I'm afraid of, but falling from them! I prefer writing things and creating things. I have four books under my belt and if anyone would like a copy of any one of them, they are now only available from the Heritage Centre, in St. Mary's Church, in the Market Place, in Stockport. I never made, or intended to make, money from the books. so I decided to make it a non-profit making activity, in other words, it is just a hobby. The Heritage Trust order copies direct from the printer, and put a small mark up on them, so it helps with their funding.
The first one is about the area where my dad was born, which became known as 'Newtown'. The book is non - profit making and I published them myself at £7.50p, at the time, and for every book I sold directly to people, I donated £1 to Francis House Children's Hospice. Please have a look at their web site to see the wonderful work they do. http://www.francishouse.org.uk/ Any money from sales after the donations, went back into making more copies. So far, donations reached over £305 and thanks go out to everyone who made a contribution and especially to those who have given more than the asking price, as an extra donation to the fundraisers, Rainbow Family Trust. (Tel. 0161-443-2200)
I was invited to one of their open days and I went along, not knowing what to expect. I saw the wonderful facilities they had for the kids, not just the ones who were terminally ill, but their brothers and sisters who came with them. I was shown the room with a bed, where they spend their final moments and was not moved at the time, because it is somewhere where those families share their experiences and it was not somewhere I felt I should be. Next door was a Chapel, non-denominational, where all faiths are welcome. In there was a book of condolensces, and as I read the entries from sisters and brothers, unashamedly, I broke down in tears, trying to hide the emotions, I feigned a sneezing fit ! But I challenge anyone to not be so moved. Such a man has no soul.
The book is entitled 'Reddish Newtown - Life Below The Steps' and comes from some humorous stories my dad used to tell, along with more stories and information from other people, as well as my theory as to how Newtown came to be so named, where I looked back at the history of the place, going back to 1847. I set a target initially of 100 copies and when I reached it I gave them the £100 I had raised. Eventually I sold in excess of 300 copies. The furthest it has gone is New Zealand and Australia. I am very proud of that and it has given me great encouragement to know that it has reached that far.
Then there have been many, many people who have got back to me after reading the book, to say how much they enjoyed it and how it brought back memories. One lady gave a copy to her mother, who has dementia, but she reads it over and over and the memories come flooding back. For that is what the book is all about, people's memories, of a time and a place. Fond memories too, one lady said she would go back there tomorrow, which is strange, considering the conditions under which people lived. But one thing which was said time and time again by many people and it was "You could leave your door open".
Certainly, there was a greater sense of 'community' in those days, before television. People would sit on the step, or they would go in one another's houses, or they would help each other out in times of need. Something which we have lost nowadays, with all the distractions we have around us, the feeling of belonging to a 'community'. But Newtown was a place with its own unique sense of 'identity', even though the dividing line between different areas, such as Heaton Norris and Lancashire Hill, was only the width of a road. Click on 'Newtown' to read more and see pictures. Or buy the book !
The above represents the entire cover of the book, front and back, opened out. This image will be familiar to people who once lived there. The 'steps' refer to what you see in front of you, a wall across the street, with steps at the side. It was said that, 'If you lived at' top o't steps, you were posh', because the houses were better up there. As you can see, above the steps were semi detached houses (of sorts). Below were the back-to back terraced houses, with communal back yard and shared outside toilet. The kind of properties which typified the latter half of the nineteenth century, which were deemed unfit for human habitation and demolished in the late 1960s / early 70s. But with the demolitions, went a way of life and the destruction of a community. One lady I spoke to said she was born in the off-license on the corner of the street, Kendal Street, the one in the picture above. Others have mentioned the names of people, or families who lived in the various houses, above and below the steps.
The second book was not written by me, but came from a hand-written manuscript by one 'Percy Hawksworth'. His daughter, Vera, had bought copies of 'Newtown' and she showed the manuscript to me, which was on two pads, single sided. It has been a great privilege to turn Percy's stories into a book and if you like stories with a humorous twist, as well as facts and information about Stockport and Portwood in particular, as well as 'scams' in the Market Place, (before Trading Standards), you might find it interesting. When I was scratching my head for a title for it, I wanted something more than just 'My Life Story'. Eventually I came up with a title with a double meaning, 'Percy Hawksworth - The Best Part of My Life'. 'Best Part', could mean either in terms of lifespan, or in terms of experiences. Both statements are equally valid. It is up to the reader to determine which was the 'best part' of Percy's life. But something else tied in with other things I was doing, which you will see later.
I gave a copy to Eileen Payne of the Stockport Express and she wrote a brilliant review of it, which made the time I spent on it all the more worthwhile. It appeared in the Express, dated 6th April 2006. Since then, I believe Eileen no longer works there. It was originally intended to serialise Percy's story in the Express or Advertiser. However, it never came about, which is a great pity, because there are very few documents which so adequately describe life at that particular time. Had I not written Percy's manuscript up, it would never have seen the light of day, and the stories would have remained untold.
Percy's book is about being born in 1907 and living for 88 years and everything that has happened in that time. But it is his early experiences which are the most captivating. Because in those days, people 'had nowt' ('nowt', means 'nothing', for those who study dialect, in foreign climes) One thing which comes across in both books though, is that sense of humour, which was probably borne out of the hardships of living in that time and place. Even the seriousness of wartime experience could be a source of amusement ! I later used some of the stories about the scams that used to go on in the Market in the DVD about the Market Hall re-opening. I have also sent off another article for the next Heritage Magazine (July 2010?) about the fairs and circuses which used to visit the town, which Percy mentioned in his manuscript, some of the stories are quite amusing!
One other book I have had dealings with, is what I regard as the definitive book on the history of Reddish. Written by John Condon, it was published in 1984, using the technology of the day and it is called 'Reddish Remembered'. John at the time was working at Reddish Library and was allowed time to study records and photographs, many of which were donated by local people. He now runs the Library Services, in Stockport. What I have done with the book, is to try and make it more readable, by increasing the print size and using modern technology to try and improve the pictures. I have done the book without making any charge, after all, it is John's work not mine, but it was a privilege to try and improve on it, to make it available for the people of Reddish and whoever else may be interested, and it is also available at the Heritage in St. Mary's in the Market Place.
I have since added another book which is on sale at the Heritage for the princely sum of £2, called 'Historical Connections'. The book is about the connections between some famous people and Reddish. Lydia Becker was a suffragette and edited the Suffragette Journal until her death, when the journal ceased production. She was also a botanist, and corresponded with none other than Charles Darwin over species of plants, the correspondence went on for many years. Lydia's father and his brother took over the Calico Printworks in Reddish Vale, and it was said that they lived there for a time. They eventually went bankrupt. One other connected with the Suffragette movement whose name everyone remembers is Emmeline Pankhurst. It was also said that she once lived at Disley, and the movement used to meet at the Bull's Head in the Market Place, where they would address the crowds from an upstairs window. There is also stuff in the book about the calico printing process and possible reasond for the demise of the business. The book is fourth in a series of booklets about local people, all of which have a blue cover, so watch out for them. There are people who like to collect the series, but there are many other books by local people which are inexpensive, and deal with the history and heritage of their particular patch. Proceeds from all books on sale go to heritage funds which helps keep alive the history and heritage of our town which has changed greatly over the years, although there are parts of our town which have remained as they were many years ago.
I have often heard people describe Reddish in uncomplimentary language, but more often than not, it is the younger end who have little interest in Heritage and History, who speak thuswise. Often, there are derogatory comments from people who either do not live in Reddish, or did not come from the village originally. One such person who once ran a local hostelry, (although it was his wife's name over the door), described Reddish as 'The Village Of The Damned', dwelling on the social problems which beset our area and having little to say about the good things. There are people still around who remember Reddish as it was in times gone by. Reddish has much to be proud of in its past and I hope people will help to preserve the best examples of what we have and appreciate our history. John Condon's book helps us do that and shows us what we have lost. Part of the purpose of this web site is to redress the balance, and to try and show the history and heritage of our village of Reddish, and our town of Stockport of course.
I have recently added another book to my collection, (the fourth) from an enquiry I had from Lisa Maria McBride, in Aberdeen, who wanted to know about her ancestor, Joseph Higginson. With the help of Iris, the good lady wife, I found out so much about him, that I was able to put together a small A5 booklet. This will shortly be available from the Heritage in St. Mary's in the Market Place, or from Fr. O'Connell at St. Joseph's Church in Reddish, or also the Houldsworth Working Men's Club. Again, I have done these as a 'not for profit' venture, but if there is anyone who would like a copy, who can't get to those places, by all means contact me and I will arrange to get one to you. I have also suggested that Joseph's name should be considered for the Blue Plaque Scheme, and that one should be placed at a suitable venue he was associated with. More about Joseph Higginson is further on down this site, scroll down and have a look if you are interested.
The books are self published, they do not have an ISBN number at present, as publishers will not handle them without me parting with money. They are therefore not available from bookshops as yet. I no longer handle the books myself and they are currently only available from the Heritage in St. Mary's Church, in the Market Place. If you purchase a copy from there, please consider a small donation to Francis House, or the Kirsty Appeal (Contact details above) If there is a publisher out there who might be interested, please let me know. As I said before, I do not make any profit from these books. They can also be read for free from the Library, if you have a ticket.
They were also originally stocked by the Tourist Information Centre, (TIC) Staircase House, 30 Market Place, Stockport SK1 1ES. Telephone (0161) 474 4444. However, for some reason, they seem to no longer stock them, but it does no harm to enquire. If they get enough enquiries they might stock them again. Or you could ring me. Mike Kiernan (0161) 285 7220 (Home) 07748408395 (Mobile) or e-mail Mike.Kiernan@ntlworld.com and I will pass on any request for copies. St. Mary's Heritage does not at present have a contact number. Percy Hawksworth's book is also available from his daughter, Vera Price. Tel (0161) 336 4412, if she has any left. I have made arrangements with the printer, so that either Heritage Centre can order them direct. This saves me the time in having to handle them. Since writing this however, the TIC have stocked the Newtown book.
Now for the reasons for this site. A lady in America, Kathleen Scott, who originally came from Stockport, was waiting for the completion of the Reddish Newtown book. On her suggestion, I wrote a number of articles for the Stockport Heritage magazine, as a way of 'getting my name known'. Contributors to the magazine do not receive payment, but I did receive a number of enquiries from people who read the review by Steve Cliffe, the editor, who wrote me an excellent account and I am grateful to him for that.
Sadly, in this year of writing, January 2008, I received word that Kathleen had passed away. I will always be grateful to her for the encouragement she has given me over the years, from across the pond. corresponding by air mail letter, she never got to grips with modern technology, but I always enjoyed receiving her letters and latterly, those she sent to Iris, the good lady wife. If you would like to read the obituary, look at this web address PoughkeepsieJournal.com enter Scott in the last name and for the moment, past month in the date frame. I am also grateful to the Stockport Express and in particular, Kirsty Elleray for their mention of Kathleen in the January 16th (2008) edition of the Express.
Kathleen originally came from Stockport and once worked on the Manchester Guardian. In America, she worked as a copy editor for 'Time Magazine' and she was working the night the Watergate story broke. She also did copy work for Alistair Cooke's 'Letter From America', so she had a fine journalistic pedigree.
I hope to do more articles, as and when a subject comes up. Just such a subject, is something I have been working on about 'Whitehill', an old mansion house, which once stood at the end of Whitehill Allotments. However, I have amassed a fair bit of information about it, which would make it too big for an article, but too small, perhaps, for a book. So I propose to put it on this web site. I have also done talks on the various subjects and where they have led me, at the Clinic on Sandy Lane, and one at Offerton, to a group of people who were waiting for tratment of leg ulcers of all things! But they enjoyed it, especially the humour of my dad telling his stories on the tape.
I was very pleased with the response I got from the Newtown book. The book is, of course, aimed at people who lived there and their descendants and it is, in effect, their story. Newtown was demolished in the late 1960s early 70s and people from the area were dispersed to different parts of the town. Some went to other towns, but a few went to Australia, on the £10 passage scheme. The scheme allowed many people to emigrate to Australia for a £10 fare. Some who took the scheme have done well for themselves as a result. A number of copies of 'Reddish Newtown' have found their way to Australia and I even had a call from someone in New Zealand, the furthest it has gone and I am very pleased and proud of that.
Stockport itself has changed a great deal in my lifetime. I was born in 1949. I am grateful for that, because I missed the war. When I was very young, there were still trams running between Stockport and Manchester. It was a time when the railway network went everywhere and it was not uncommon for people to go even relatively short distances by train. At the bottom of Lancashire Hill, was Tiviot Dale Station and you could get a train to Woodley, only a couple of miles away. Now, the station is gone and a motorway runs through where it was. In the year when the motorway was nearing completion, we paid a one and only visit to the Isle Of Man. After a shaky start in Douglas, we ended up in picturesque Port Erin. One evening, I ventured forth to one of the hotels and in a corner was an organist and drummer. I discovered the organist had come over from Stockport and had been there 20 years. "You wouldn't recognise the place now," I said. "There's a whacking great motorway going through it!"
In the town, there was Andrew Square, which was a tram terminus and I very vaguely remember getting on a tram with my mam from there when I was very young. The trams were double deckers and had a driver's position at either end, with a staircase at each end also. At the top of the staircase was a trap door, which was closed, or opened when the driver changed ends and you had to be careful not to go up the wrong staircase, or you'd bang your head on the closed trap door! Now, an ASDA superstore stands on the site where the square was. I believe moves are afoot and that the store is to be relocated. The present store is to be demolished and the space will be opened up again. I wonder if anyone will have the vision to call it 'Andrew Square' once more? Of course, there are areas of the town which have changed very little; the Underbanks, for example, where some tidying up work is being carried out, as well as the area around the Market Square.
I believe the new ASDA store is to be located along Portwood and that it would require the demolition of the Railway pub. That would be a great pity, at a time when pubs are disappearing from all over the town. The Railway is a 'real ale' pub, with a bit of character, with many guest beers from micro breweries far and wide. It is a haven for members of CAMRA, (The Campaign for Real Ale) and has won many awards. I would hope that the developers of the new store could find a way to retain this excellent little pub. They twice moved the Shambles in Manchester, when the Arndale Centre was being developed, perhaps they can do it here. Only time will tell.
The road to Reddish, where we lived, was cobbled and after I passed my 11-plus exam and was sent to Mile End School, I had many a shaky ride on the old boneshaker buses. We had a bus pass and only paid 2d fare (old money) Thankfully, the council saw fit to tarmac the road, but the old cobbles are still there, under the tarmac, as are the old tramlines. But part of the route went along Merseyway, terminating at Mersey Square. Now imagine building a road, on stilts, over a river for about half a mile. People would think you were mad for proposing such a scheme, yet that was exactly what was done, back in the 1950s. I can think of nowhere else in the world where it has been done.
Nowadays, of course, people walk through the Precinct, without a thought that below them, some 10 metres down, is the River Mersey. But Merseyway is perhaps, one of Stockport's understated engineering achievements. Before it was made into the modern-day precinct, a footbridge connected from Prince's Street, across Merseyway and joined up to Underbank. From the bridge, you could look under Merseyway and see the river below. But one thing you noticed even before you saw it, was the smell of the heavily-polluted river. The river in those days was polluted by industrial effluent from the many factories and was a chemical cocktail. If you fell in it, you either drowned or were poisoned. The surface of the rivers was covered in foam. Thankfully, all three rivers, the Tame, Goyt and Mersey, have been cleaned up and there are fish in them. On occasion, I have even seen a kingfisher flying up and down the rivers and catching fish. I have even seen anglers fishing under the motorway bridge and have looked down to see trout. An encouraging sign that the effects of years of neglect can be reversed. I did have a link to the article which showed a view under Merseyway, but it has changed. If I find a picture I will put it here.
We are fortunate in Stockport, to have collections of old photographs, in both the Library Heritage and St Mary's Church Heritage. Some people have been kind enough to lend me photographs from their own collections, sometimes stored in a shoe box. Some are in a sorry state sometimes, but modern computer techniques make for easier restoration and I have spent many hours pasting over cracks. The results are wonderful. but of course, photographic records only go back so far and earlier images are either paintings or etchings.
A little while ago, on an outing to Altrincham, we were going round the charity shops, when I came across three framed etchings, of views of old Stockport. I was fascinated by them and with hindsight, I wish I had bought them, but it was the thought of toting them back on the bus which put me off and in any case, I was sure I had seen one particular view in a book somewhere. But this one scene in particular which caught my eye, was entitled 'Stockport from Reddish'. The picture showed a view towards Stockport, from a vantage point, which I would put not far from my parents' house at Woodhall Road.
One recognisable feature in the centre of the picture, was Meadow Mill, easily nowadays the largest mill standing. I believe India mill was the largest, but it was demolished. (Someone recently told me that the Ring Mill was the biggest, I am open to suggestions!) What struck me though, was the size of the mills depicted around it, seemingly of equal stature. The foreground was an idillic pastoral scene and on the skyline, St Mary's Church in the marketplace, another recognisable feature. Nearby was depicted Stockport's castle, looking not unlike the great round tower at Windsor Castle and rather impressive looking. Of course, the castle dissappeared a long time ago and the area flattened to make way for a mill. Later, it became a cattle market.
The picture got me wondering whether it was a true representation of the scene, or had it been exaggerated in some way. We have all heard of people who, for example, book a holiday from a brochure, only to arrive and find it a building site. A painter of the period, George Stubbs, painted livestock pictures for farmers who wanted to present their produce in the best light, so he used to paint them with exaggerrated features. The result was less a true representation, but more a caricature of the beast in question. I wonder if the picture I had seen was done in the same way, to impress the onlooker.
The answer to the mystery of the picture I had seen depicting what I thought was a castle, has been kindly solved by Bill Hoad of Stockport Heritage Trust. By the time the picture was done, the castle itself had long since been demolished. The building resembling a castle, was in fact the mill itself, the 'castellations' being added as a decorative effect. The mill was not a cornmill as I had originally thought, but was involved in the production of muslin. It was also unusual, because of its round or oval-shaped construction, which followed the shape of the original castle. Recent excavation of the site during construction of the 'courts' shopping centre, revealed a water wheel pit, with tunnels which would have brought the water from the river, then returning it when it had done its work. Many thanks to Bill for this information. If you care to look at the Stockport Heritage Trust web site, here is the link to it :- http://stockporttrust.blogspot.com/
Sadly, Bill Hoad passed away a while back. His contribution to the Heritage of our town has been invaluable and he will be remembered for that.
Certainly, if you look back at contemporary records of those times, there was much squalour and deprivation. People had few rights, disease was rife and life expectancy was poor. Added to that there were wars and civil wars and the slow transformation from a rural to an industrial based economy. Against this were the food riots and the opposition to the industrialists, with gangs of rioters (Luddites) going out smashing up looms, pursued by the military, with loss of life on both sides. A very different and very tough life indeed. For a more comprehensive explanation of life in those days, there are many web sites covering the period. One such link is further on in this article.
Much of the local history interest I have, is of a relatively recent era. The two books I have done, were about people who lived in the 20th century, talking about their experiences of living through those times. I would not call myself an expert, rather there are things which I find out about and certain things which warrant further investigation. Whitehill is a prime example of that and I will go into the reasons why later. Sometimes, certain other factors which tie in with what you already know, make a connection, like the French Revolution and the Duke of Wellington, for example and the Peterloo Massacre. What these events had to do with Whitehill will become clear as I explain them. To see how these events tie in, you have to look at the story of Whitehill, from its beginning.
For the past few years, I have been following a trail, which has led me from 'Newtown' to Edgeley and even to the U.S.A. I had not gone looking for that trail, rather certain circumstances have occurred, alongside information from people and coincidences, such as the house, mentioned by Percy Hawksworth in the manuscript he left. The whole thing has centred around the old house 'Whitehill', which once stood at the end of Whitehill Allotments, but which is sadly no longer there.
Over the years, very little has been written about Reddish. One publication in particular stands out, ‘Reddish Remembered’, by John Condon. Written back in the 1980s, is an excellent source of information about the development of Reddish, but it is limited in its quality by the technology of the day. Nonetheless, it gives a fascinating insight into the growth of Reddish and the forces, which shaped its development. However, I have re-done it for large print, without regard for profit, as it is John's work and not my own, and it is for the people of Reddish who might be interested in our history.
Before the coming of the canal, Reddish did not exist as a coherent village, although there was a Reddish Hall and a Reddish Green. The author of Reddish Remembered, stated that before the coming of the canal, there were three places along the route, Sandfold, Reddish Green and Whitehill, which ultimately defined Reddish. The one which caught my attention, was Whitehill. Later, I was to discover more of the history of the place.
Going back some eighteen years, I had little more than a passing interest in history, let alone local history. What began the process was a collection of funny stories my father used to tell. Over the years, I gradually turned his stories into a book, along with stories from other people. The book was about the area, which came to be known as ‘Newtown’. However, none of the people I had spoken to could tell me how it got the name and for that reason, I looked to the historical records of the time. Much of the information came from the Heritage Section at Stockport Library, in particular, a map of 1848.
In the course of writing up the book, I had read ‘Reddish Remembered’ and had acquired a map of the area in 1938, from Reddish Library. On it was shown the house, Whitehill, depicted as an isolation hospital. What I did not know at the time was the chequered history the house had had. Even then, my interest in it at the time was minimal, as I was dealing with the book.
One of my other interests was the growing of vegetables for the table. I had grown things like potatoes, cabbage and lettuce, at home, as we have a large garden, albeit with poor soil, mostly clay. A friend suggested taking on a plot at Whitehill Allotments and I took one over, several years ago. Alongside the development of the plot, was a growing interest in the historical aspect of the site and subsequently, the mansion house which once stood at the end of it, albeit, I believe, just beyond the perimeter fence which surrounds the site.
As any good gardener will tell you, one of the things which turns up most frequently, whilst digging the soil is the stem from a clay pipe, in fact they turn up in plenty. Of course they were the poor man’s smoking accessory, used by farm labourers, or owners of smallholdings. They were probably discarded after being used several times and ended up being ploughed into the soil. What turns up less often though, is the bowl from the pipe and although I have a collection of many stems, I have only found two bowls or parts of bowls.
Then there are pieces of pottery, no doubt thrown out after being broken and then further broken up into smaller pieces by cultivation. But these are pieces from someone’s once-proud china set, or tea service. These would be of interest to those who study pottery and the patterns would give a clue to their origins. Sometimes though, a piece of pottery turns up which leaves you in no doubt as to where it came from.
On occasion, our members at the allotment band together to do a bit of tidying of vacant plots and a general clean up of the site. Whilst attempting to remove a piece of metal on just such an occasion, I was digging around it and something unusual turned up. At the time, because it was a broken off piece, I did not know what it had been part of, but it was a piece of stoneware, with a brown glaze and more importantly, it had some identifying features on it, in the form of a logo. The logo comprised the letters GL, in stylised writing and underneath, the word Stockport. Here, I felt was a piece, which firmly identified with the town.
I was fascinated by the logo and wanted to find out more about it, so I called the Heritage section at Stockport Library, who informed me that it was the logo of a company called George Leigh, who were a family vintners, specialising in ale, porter and old Scotch whiskey and the premises had been situated on Underbank in the 1800s. I deduced by then that what I had found were parts of an old stone bottle. The top of it had turned up earlier on my own plot some 50 yards away from the bottom, although there is nothing to suggest that they were part of the same bottle. Nevertheless, I have a notion that they were and it is not unreasonable to suggest that the pieces were separated out in cultivation.
On further investigation, I took the pieces to the Heritage section in St. Mary’s Church in the market place, where I showed them to Alan Burgess. “Hang on a minute” he said and he disappeared upstairs in the church. Moments later, he reappeared with an entire version of what I had brought. But I felt elated at the time, because I had found a piece of something which had lain in the ground for over a century and which came from the Victorian era, albeit very broken.
Although the piece had no direct connection with the house, it did serve to show that there was another aspect to Whitehill Allotments other than the cultivation of vegetables for the table, namely an archaeological interest. I did not know at the time, but things were going to get even more interesting.
By now, I had begun to associate the allotment site with the house and I had the location of it on the map of 1938, but it was marked as ‘Stockport Isolation Hospital’. I had also acquired the map of the area from an earlier time, 1848 to be exact, as I was looking at the development of another feature nearby, called Coronation Mill, which I discovered had been built in 1847. The house was shown on the map, not as a hospital, but as ‘Whitehill’. So it was, at the time of the map, occupied. The feature shown on the map was virtually identical to the one I had seen in ‘Reddish Remembered’ and I wondered who actually owned it. In that book, the only thing that was mentioned was that the house had been built in the early 1800s, by the owner of a bleach works, but no name was mentioned.
I decided to try and find out who owned the house, or rather who had had it built and I spent some time at the Library Heritage, going through the records, but to no avail. No mention of Whitehill could be found, let alone anything to connect a name to it. The breakthrough came one day, when I was talking to another of the plot holders at the allotment. He introduced me to his mother, who herself was quite advanced in years. When I mentioned I was looking for the name of the owner of the house, she informed me that her grandfather had told her his name was ‘Sykes’. I had found my name, but I still wanted to find some written confirmation, but it was not to be.
A visit to the Heritage Library proved fruitless. There was plenty of information about the Sykes family and someone had written a book about them, albeit not formally published, but there was no information to connect any of them to Whitehill. On one such visit though, something of significance turned up. Spread on one of the tables, was a huge copy of a tithe map of 1848 and on it was the house Whitehill. However, on consulting the records which came with the map, which is the only one of its kind in existence from around that period, the house was shown to be in someone else's name.
On studying the map further, there, at one side of the house, was the railway embankment, but there was no track shown on it. So at the time of the map, the line was under construction and the route of it had severed the road which led to the house. Where the road joined on to Manchester Road, just opposite Denby Lane, there was a lodge shown. William Sykes, as it turns out, died in 1837, so the house must have been sold on. A story was gradually unfolding and further information came to light, but the best was yet to come.
By now I had found a picture of the house in the photographic archives of the Heritage Library. I was excited by this, because It was the first time I had seen it. There was also another view of it, taken from the nearby Whitehill tip, with the house in the distance. It would have been taken from the other side of the canal, which was out of view.
As you can see, this was a substantial mansion house, with a superb collonaded entrance in a classical style. By the time this photograph was taken, however, the house had acquired an annexe, which was constructed of timber, by all accounts. The annexe was probably used as a ward, when the house became a hospital.
Of course, no trace of the house remained after it was demolished. Even the exact location of it is not known, but it can be worked out by consulting the various maps which show it. Interestingly enough, those later maps do not show the allotment site. It was on the allotment that another interesting development took place, which was for me the 'icing on the cake', in my study of the house.
One day, a fellow plot holder and committee member, Ruth McKenna, shouted me over to her plot. "Come and see this" she said. What she had found, was a piece of stone and it lay, face down in the soil. When I turned it over, I was amazed at what I saw. It was a stone carving of a coat of arms, on what would originally have been the middle of it. The left hand end bore a floral motif, the other end being broken off. I knew then, that it must have come from the old house. I carried it off to my shed and began to remove the soil from it and generally cleaned it up.
The carving intrigued me. I had to find out whose coat of arms it was, so I used the internet to find an expert. It was then that my ignorance was exposed, for the reply came back, "This is easy this one, it's the Royal coat of arms!" The Royal coat of arms, for the uninitiated, comprises a lion rampant on the left and a unicorn on the right. In the centre is a shield motif, around which, on a banner, are the words : 'HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE'. These are known as the 'Order of the Garter'. The motif means 'Evil to him who evil thinks'.
But then I noticed something which intrigued me and you can see it on the image of the central part of it. Look at the letters around the garter and you can see that some of them have been rendered in reverse!
These are namely, the 'S' of the 'SOIT', the Q of 'QUI' and the 'N' and 'S' of the 'PENSE'. It set me thinking as to why it was.
When you look at the thing, it is a wonderful example of the stonemason's craft. The detail in it is very fine, not just on the shield, but the chain work has been rendered in such fine detail. So why then the apparent mistake in the letterwork? A close up of the floral motif gives a clue to the piece and the significance of it will become clear as the story of the Sykes family connection is revealed. Since writing this however, a friend of mine who happens to be a Mason, has told me that the 'mistakes' are an old Masonic tradition, but he was not at liberty to reveal the reason for it. Such is the secrecy surrounding Masonic society. I would imagine it is locked up in Masonic ritual. Reminds me of an old Arab saying, 'Only Allah makes things perfect'. Arab carpet makers always introduce a small mistake in their work, by all accounts, because of the saying !
The representations on the floral motif are the rose, thistle and shamrock. These are symbols of the union between England, Scotland and Ireland. The rose of England, the thistle of Scotland and the shamrock of Ireland. Of course all three came under the Union, the banner of 'Great Britain' and its flag was the Union Jack.
As time went on, two more pieces turned up. One was in someone's shed, being used as a bench, the other, I found broken into three pieces, where someone had discarded them. But I still had no idea what they were and initially, I thought they had come from over the door of the entrance to the building. However, I realised that the main piece would have been too small and in any case, there was nothing in the picture that suggested where the pieces came from in the building.
I came to the conclusion, eventually, that they had been part of a fireplace. It seemed to fit. The main part was the top of it and the other pieces would have been at the side. Using computer trickery, I decided to see what the entire top piece would look like, if it were not broken.
I thought the find would be of local interest and would also show the importance of our allotment site as a place with some historical and archaeological interest alongside the horticulture. Whilst deliberating what to do with the piece, I decided it really belonged to the people of Stockport and should be in a museum. So I contacted Frank Galvin at the collections department at Woodbank Hall and arranged to meet, with a photographer from the Stockport Express. and below is a link to the article. Although the photograph shows me holding the piece, it is quite heavy and is actually balanced on my workmate! (not a person, a bench!)
One of the ideas I had, was to make a video about the piece and I approached the husband of a colleague at work, Tim Campbell, who has the equipment to record and edit it and he came down one Saturday afternoon, after I had finished work and we did a short piece about the lintel, explaining how and where it was found and also some close up shots of it, showing up the mistakes on it. He then became so interested in the idea, that he returned on the Sunday, when we did some more about my interest in the history of the area. It is only in the ideas stage at the moment, but we are aiming at possibly making a local history DVD about Whitehill. (However, things have moved on a bit now and We have aquired a means of filming and editing stuff and I have been working on the 'Whitehill dvd' You might be surprised at developments.)
Having done the scenes where we needed the lintel, the following Monday, I took it to the collections department at Woodbank Hall and handed it over, along with the other pieces. I was pleased to receive a letter from assistant curator Weibke Weyh, informing me that the lintel part of it will be displayed as part of the 'Stockport Story', at the Staircase Heritage Centre in the market place, Stockport, sometime in the near future. It is gratifying to me, to know that it will be there for the people of Stockport and visitors to the town to see. However, so far this has not happened, and like the Ark in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', the piece is probably lying in a crate in some warehouse in Cheadle, the new location of the museum collections department. Speaking of Woodbank Park though, this might be a good place to mention the group 'Friends of Woodbank Park' and to put in the link to their web site - http://www.savewoodbankpark.webs.com/ The group is dedicated to the promotion and improvement of the park and the elevation of its heritage status, and the web site gives osme insight into the history of the park and its origins. Have a look and if you are interested, give them your support.
It was stated in 'Reddish Remembered', that the house 'Whitehill' was built in the early 1800s. What is uncertain, is how it came by the name. John Condon, in 'Reddish Remembered' stated that the modern day industrial estate was named after the house. Nearby, on the other side of the canal, was Whitehill Farm, which I suspect was older. It may have been that the area around was known as Whitehill and that the farm itself had been thus named. Either way, I believe that it was the house which was named after the area. Also, given the connection that Sykes was in the business of processing cloth, it was perhaps not surprising that the house should be so named.
Many place names around our fair isle are derived from old Anglo-Saxon, or Viking words, the names being changed to their modern form and I had thought that this was the case at Whitehill. However, there is a simpler explanation, provided by David Reid, of Stockport Library Heritage.
Place names such as 'Whitehill' and 'Whitefield' became thus named, because of the cloth-making industry. Long before anyone coined the term 'industrial revolution' there was industry, the weaving of cloth. The raw materials, whether wool from sheep, or flax, had a natural oil which gave the unprocessed cloth a dull grey colour. In some cases, where a degree of waterproofing was needed, the cloth was woven without the oil being removed, the cloth thus retaining its water repellant properties. But where a pure white cloth was required, it had to be 'bleached'. When we think of bleach nowadays, we think of the stuff we shove down the toilet. (I was going to make a pun here about being 'clean round the bend', but I thought better of it !) Strictly speaking, it was not a bleaching process as such, but one which removed the oil. Incidentally, there was an area called 'Whitefield' sandwiched between Heaton Moor and Heaton Norris, at the side of Parsonage Road, beside the railway line. It is shown on a map of Stockport in 1911, which I have as part of my collection, obtained from the library. An allusion, perhaps to the former use of the land, in the production of cloth.
After being boiled in large vats, with chemicals to break down the oil, (urine being one of them!) the cloth was put out on an open field. To even out the cloth, it was sometimes stretched on hooks, called 'tenterhooks', (the origin of the expression for someone who is nervous, 'on tenterhooks'.) The action of wind, sun and rain completed the process, which took several months. (A more comprehensive description of the process can be seen as you read on.) The cloth was usually processed in an open field which was poor pasture land, or unfit for cultivation, so from a distance, with its covering of cloth, it became a 'white field', or a 'white hill', hence the name. Before cotton became king, Stockport already had a well-established linen industry. (Many thanks to David Reid for this information.)
Another area where cloth was thus processed, was at Chadkirk, near Romiley. Visitors can see an information board at the side of the footpath on the left hand side of the site, next to the stream beside the main road, which depicts cloth being laid out on the fields.
Although I have only oral evidence that the original owner of the house was Sykes, the circumstances of the day would seem to fit the theory. It was William Sykes, whom it was stated, came up from Manchester, although it was said that he may have originated in Stockport. However, there is another account, which is on a notice board at Sykes Reservoirs, written by Frank Galvin, of the Vernon Museum, which states that Sykes came from Wakefield. (Many thanks to Bill Hoad, of Stockport Heritage Trust, for bringing this to my attention and to Frank Galvin, for his permission to use the text.)
Sadly, Bill Hoad is no longer with us and he will be remembered for his contribution to local history and Heritage, for without such people, things which happened in the past would go unrecorded and the world would be a sadder place for that.
Sykes Reservoirs Notice board text
William Sykes came to Edgeley from Wakefield attracted by an advert in the Manchester Mercury of 27 November 1792. It read:
TO BE LET
An Eligible situation for Bleach Ground or Print Field in which there are a number of Fine White Sand Springs with a Rivulet capable of Turning Wash Wheels etc. The Grounds lie very contiguous to the populous Manufacturing Town of Stockport where Bleachers and Printers are both much wanted and every encouragement will be given to a good tenant
William Sykes took the land, first renting, but later purchasing it, and built a bleach works. Cloth produced locally by handloom weavers from Edgeley, Stockport, Adswood, Cheadle and Cheadle Hulme was brought to the works for bleaching and then sold on to Manchester and London merchants.
The bleaching process involved repeated steeping of the cloth in natural alkaline solutions derived from ash, called ‘bucking’. Then washing. Then exposure in the fields to sun and air, called ‘grassing’ or ‘crofting’. Followed by immersion in buttermilk, called ‘souring’. Before finally being washed stretched and dried. The whole process could take up to eight months.
Theft of cloth from a croft was an offence liable to capital punishment. A watchman was employed to guard Sykes crofts at night. He would discharge a gun at ten o’clock each night.
By 1804 new chemical methods had been introduced using calcium hypochlorite. This eliminated the need for grassing the cloth in the fields. But the new process and expanding production required more water than could be supplied by the rivulet and springs. Wells were sunk, which by 1830 had quadrupled the water supply. The supply was constant and did not even fail in dry summers. The purity of the water was tested by the eminent Manchester chemist, John Dalton. He recommended that it be stored in reservoirs and filtered before use, to reduce the carbonic acid and iron content.
The present system of reservoirs dates mostly from about 1850. Water was pumped into the upper reservoir and then allowed to drain through a series of sluices and filter beds into the works.
The business was carried on by successive generations of the Sykes family: from William to Edmund to Richard and so on. In 1892 it became a private company and in 1900 it was merged with the Bleachers Association. However it continued to trade under the name of Sykes and Co.
By 1966 the bleach works employed 180 workers, producing typewriter ribbons, surgeons coats, pillow cottons and 118 types of cloths. It closed in 1986.
Frank Galvin, May 1993
It is hard to imagine nowadays, with the surrounding urban sprawl, that the area around the bleachworks would have been quite rural in nature, the town having not yet grown to swamp it with dwellings, in fact on my map of 1848, there are few dwellings shown, although the works had its own branch line by then. Like many industrialists, they must have been quick to realise the benefits of the new railway system as it grew, enabling the transport of goods to the market place more quickly and to more and more destinations. So it made sense to have their own rail connection, right up to the works. The trackbed ran alongside the reservoirs to the works and here below, you can see the course of the old line, now overgrown with trees, which joined the main line at sidings near Booth Street.
I have good reason to remember Booth Street. When I was a very young child, my parents lodged in a house there. One day, my dad took me to see the trains, down a path which led to the sidings. Someone had carelessly thrown aside some metal swarf. Being such a young child, I didn't know what it was and I went to pick it up. In doing so, the swarf slashed through my fingers and to this day, I carry a scar on the inside of my left forefinger and a smaller one on another. At the time I was about 2 years old, but I remember the incident vividly and my hand being immersed in a bowl of water.
This section of the dead line, alongside the upper reservoir, is fenced off. It continues however, alongside the lower reservoirs, as a footpath, which on a sunny day, makes for a pleasant stroll. However, the peaceful idyll belies the fact that any location can aquire noteriety, for just recently, a poor woman was pulled from the lower reservoir and subsequently died in hospital. Foul play was suspected and a man was arrested. But I believe investigations are continuing at this moment in time. No doubt in times to come, the incident will go down in history, to be commented upon by future local historians. What happens today, becomes the stuff of future local history. (Am I making sense here ?)
At the other end, where the line joined the sidings, a footpath cuts through, passing the spot where the accident with my finger had taken place. I paused a while at the spot and reflected on the incident, which happened over 50 years ago.
By 1911, the expanding town had reached the grounds of Edgeley House, the Sykes' dwelling. Now re-named 'Fold House', the building is currently up for sale. If anyone is interested, the agent is 'Gasciogne Halman' and the contact number on the sign is (0161) 428 1118. The person I spoke to was called Wendy. (I don't get paid for this either!) I phoned them up in the vain hope that it might lead me to the Billy The Bullman Fresco, but to no avail. I hope to find it perhaps, in the archives of the Heritage Library.
Nearby, where the works had stood, is a new housing estate, Sykes Meadow, so the name lives on. There is also an article in the Stockport & District Heritage Magazine, issue Vol.5 No.9 (Spring '04) Page 14, by one Ron Flanagan, who once lived in Fold House, by then divided up into different dwellings, each with its own postal address. Ron was actually born in the house in 1926, the same year as my dad and he describes memories of his time there. He also mentions the practice of the discharging of a gun by the night watchman and said that the practice continued well into the late 1960s. (Probably stopped by the noise abatement society !)
Incidentally, a picture of the works, as well as some information, can be seen (page 26) in a book by Bernard Hayes, entitled 'Once There Were Stacks Of Them'. (ISBN No. 0-9536743-9-8) The book is about, of all things, chimney stacks, some of which are no longer there, which once adorned the Stockport skyline. In it, the chimney at Sykes' works was said to have been the tallest in Stockport, at 302 ft. Fred would have loved that !
Sykes made his money by buying cloth from local weavers and selling the bleached cloth on to merchants in London and other towns and cities, some even going to America. He may have had very good reason for his decision to relocate from Manchester to Stockport, although there is no evidence that he had any business interests there, as far as I am aware. To understand why, we must look at the historical background of those times, although this is only a theory of mine and more information comes to light later which casts doubt on his ownership of the house, although I'm keeping an open mind and still looking for a connection.
In the previous century, there had been the French Revolution, culminating in the reign of terror, between 1793 and 1794, in which the revolution devoured its own citizens. The revolution came about because of a clash of ideologies, between the old style and the new radical thinkers. Poets like Wordsworth, who lived in France at the time, welcomed the new ideology, but were appalled, when the massacre of many innocent people, by that terrible instrument of death, the guillotine, took place. The events sent shock waves through the wealthy set, many of whom were seen by the radicals as exploiters of the masses. Places like Manchester were becoming hotbeds of radical thinkers and wealthy businessmen, mill and factory owners alike, began to fear the coming of mob rule.
Sykes may thus have taken the decision to come to Stockport, in the belief perhaps, that it was a safer place, although it has been stated somewhere that he may have lived in Stockport at some time previously. He found a place at Edgeley, to establish his bleachworks, but also he must have looked for an isolated spot to set up home, to put some distance between himself and any approaching mobs. There is an account later, of an attack on the Sykes family by the Luddites. Read on and you will reach it. It was stated that the family lived in Edgeley, but it is feasible that he had the second home built at Whitehill, without letting it be generally known. The mobs would then head for his residence in Edgeley, to find him not at home, perhaps. Who knows ?
The account in 'Reddish Remembered' stated that the house was built around 1820. By this time, William would have been 65 years old, which coincidentally, is our current state retirement age, so perhaps the house was built as a retirement residence for William. Now that is a notion which makes more sense. Perhaps, in his dotage, William wanted to leave the business of running the Bleachworks to his son, so that he could retire to the house and live anonymously. As it happens, he lived another 17 years. Undoubtedly, the house changed hands several times before it became the isolation hospital marked on the maps. The last person to have it was one Michael Newton. I found mention of it in the Stockport Advertiser Centenery book I was loaned, in a passage which goes thuswise.-
The Whitehill Estate was purchased from the trustees of Michael Newton on September 28th, 1892, for £7,558, (a considerable sum in those days) and the Whitehill Hospital, formerly used as an isolation hospital for smallpox and other infectious cases, has since been adapted for the temporary treatment of cases of tuberculosis.
Here follows the account of the attack on the Sykes family sent to me in an e-mail by Tim Tomlinson and it makes for harrowing reading. I am grateful to Tim for sending it to me.
'Backley Arms, Stockport, April 14 1812'
We had been for some days under great apprehension of the mob. This morning, about 9 o'clock, the people began to assemble in considerable numbers. They halted at our large gates, (at Edgeley), and remained there for nearly an hour, calling to us at intervals to open our windows, and throwing stones in order to compel us to comply with their wishes. Finding neither of any avail, they proceeded towards this town, their numbers increasing as they proceeded along.
Instead of entering by the usual road, they visited several houses and factories, where they broke all before them. They then returned to Edgeley in number about 3000. On perceiving them from our cottage coming down the road, I assembled the children and nurse in the parlour, and fastened the windows and doors; the gardener presently rushed into the room and conjured us to fly that moment, if we wished to save our lives. It was with difficulty I could speak, but each snatching up a child, we escaped at the great gate just in time to avoid the rabble.
We proceeded to Mrs Sykes's, but before we reached our destination we saw our cottage enveloped in flames. Everything, I have since learnt was consumed by the fire, and nothing left but the shell. The mob next proceeded to the factory, where they broke the windows, destroyed the looms, and cut all the work which was in progress, and having finished this mischief, they repeated the three cheers which they gave on seeing the flames burst from our dwelling. Their cry was "now for Sykes", but before they could accomplish their wicked purpose on our friend, some military arrived, accompanied by Mr Turner whose exertions have been indefatigable.
He had been much distressed on seeing our house in flames, and had seen nobody to inform him of our escape. The females of Mr Sykes's family are gone to Manchester for security, whilst we have taken refuge here. The post-chaise in which we came was escorted by four of the Scotch Greys. The rioters were headed by two men, dressed in women's clothes, who were called General Ludd's wives.
We are again left without apparel but such as the kindness of our friends supplies. Mr Sykes has been trying to get more soldiers at Edgeley, for the rioters appear worse than ever. Marland and other families have taken shelter at Manchester. Mr Garside, who endevoured to protect our property, and even ventured to reproach the mob for their conduct, has been severely beaten and bruised."
When order was eventually restored, all the talk was of reform. Of course what had sparked the riots was wholesale mechanisation and the move to production in huge factories, which had put all the handloom weavers out of business. They had fallen on hard times and hard times in those days meant poverty and starvation. Little wonder that they attempted to rise up and their targets of course were the wealthy mill owners, who in their eyes, had caused it.
The ruling classes needed a makeover and many began to use their wealth for the benefit of their fellow citizens. The Sykes family were no exception hence their becoming known as great benefactors in the town, as previously mentioned. But the process of change continued apace and industry went from strength to strength throughout the Victorian period. employment prospects improved, there were great strides in invention and the Empire was expanding. There was a new optimism and a new pride in being a part of the British Nation and Victoria was its head.
Ownership of the bleachworks passed from father to son and four generations of the Sykes family became mayor of the town at one time or another. William was the first, in 1822, Richard Sykes in 1849, Arthur Henry Sykes in 1880 and Colonel Sir Alan Sykes in 1910.
More information has come to light, courtesy of the St. Mary's Heritage team, in the form of a book, Stockport Advertiser History of Stockport, which has been loaned to me. Dated 1922, it covers the period of the centenery, going back to 1822 and beyond and is full of useful historical information. Interestingly enough, the Sykes connection is there in the form of a dedication of the book to LT. COL. SIR ALAN J. SYKES, BART. MP. MAYOR OF STOCKPORT 1910 (GREAT GRANDSON OF MR. WILLIAM SYKES, MAYOR OF STOCKPORT,1822, AND A MEMBER OF THE FOURTH SUCCESSIVE GENERATION OF THE SYKES FAMILY TO HOLD THE OFFICE OF MAYOR) THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
In Chapter IX, Written in that beautiful flowery language so evocative of the Victorian period, there is a piece about Sykes's Bleachworks:
Sykes's Bleachworks at Edgeley have been in existence since 1793. To say that application and a high tone of commercial morality have been the levers to secure the prestige and popularity which the firm has enjoyed in the world of commerce for nearly 130 years is a work of supererogation. In the building up of large concerns enterprise and industry are absolute requirements, and it will be readily taken for granted that, in surviving the ups and downs to which trade and commerce were subjected particularly during the latter part of the 18th and the early years of the 19th century, is sufficient guarantee that all the elements that tend to success have been used and appreciated by successive generations of the family which had control of the works.
The Edgeley Bleachworks was established by Mr William Sykes in the year 1793, a year which also saw the birth of his son, Mr Richard Sykes. Mr William Sykes was the son of Mr Edmund Sykes, of Wakefield, Yorkshire. He established himself in Stockport towards the end of the 18th century, and resided in the beautifully situated house called Edgeley Fold, which was a family residence of the Sykes for several generations afterwards. At that time and when Mr William Sykes purchased the Edgeley estate there was scarcely a tree to be seen in the vicinity. Later the once open land was covered by a great wealth of trees and shrubbery, and now part of the estate is given over to parks and recreation grounds (thanks to the benevolent public spirit of members of the Sykes family), a fine new school, and well-adapted residences. At the time of the establishment of the bleachworks Edgeley, Stockport, Cheadle Heath, Cheadle Hulme, and many of the outlying districts were inhabited by handloom weavers, who found a purchaser for their productions in Mr William Sykes, who then bleached goods for sale to Manchester and London firms, the works at this time being solely used for bleaching.
The handloom weavers from Adswood, Cheadle Hulme, and other places lying south of the works brought their goods along a footpath (long since closed) leading over the fields close to the works. In olden times two plots of land, situate on each side of the then existing works, and known as the large and the small crofts, were used for the bleaching of the cloth. It was an offence liable to capital punishment then for anyone to steal cloth from a croft. How the law regarding punishment has altered! This leads us to mention the origin of the old custom still observed in these later days of discharging a gun at ten o' clock each night by the watchman at the works. So far as we can gather, the gun was fired primarily to show that the watchman was at his post, and also to inform any cloth-stealers, who might be lurking in the neighbourhood, of the fact that the watchman was armed with firearms.
Two years after the erection of Edgeley Bleachworks Edgeley House was built by Mr William Sykes. The first steam engine, one of 12 horse power, was erected in 1803, and this was followed in 1815 by one of 36 horse power.At that period both bleaching powder and vitriol were manufactured on the premises. From time to time the works were extended, the old portion being transferred into buildings of more modern adaptability, until now there is very little of the original building in existence. In 1828 Mr Edmund Sykes retired from the business and subsequently went to reside at Mansfield Woodhouse. Two years later Mr Richard Sykes came off victorious in an action brought against him for polluting the stream which flowed through the works. Had this action been successful it would have probably have resulted in the closing of the works.
In the early days of the firm the goods to Manchester and elsewhere were conveyed from the works at Edgeley by means of teams of horses, this being the custom of the manufacturers at this time. A special team was, however, turned out from the Edgeley Bleachworks, which Mr Greenhalgh in his "Recollections of Stockport in 1826" describes as the most notable team then travelling between Manchester and Stockport. "This," he says, "consisted of a powerful bull and a large wagon. I have heard it said that this bull would draw a load of goods to Manchester with as much ease as it would take several horse to do it. When placed in the shafts it was a docile as a horse, and did its work cheerfully, but on many occasions it objected to being put in the shafts, and resolved to have a holiday. I have seen this animal when he has been in his steady mood dragging a wagon heavily laden with bleached calico, and he seemed to do it with the greatest comfort and ease. I have also seen him , when he has been bent on having a frolic, come bounding through Chestergate defying all obstacles, lashing his tail and bent on doing mischief if anyone opposed him. He broke loose from his keeper on many occasions, but I have never heard tell of it committing any serious depredations." There is no doubt, however, that the wagon which was drawn by the bull was used to convey the beams to the handloom weavers in the town and district, and to collect from the weavers the cloth they wove. There was to be seen in recent years a fresco in the hall at Edgeley Fold (the residence of the Sykes family) representing the bull and the wagon, with the driver who was known as "Billy the Bullman."
Up until 1846 the goods to and from the works were conveyed by means of lorries and wagons, but in that year a branch railway to the works was opened, and since that time it has been used continuously by the firm. It would be difficult to estimate the saving in cost of maintaining the highways that this has affected. It is a public rather than a private saving; Messrs Sykes having contributed largely by rates to the maintenance of the highways, notwithstanding the fact that the road running along by the works is very little used by the firm.
In the former days the works were provided with water from a brook which found its source in the neighbourhood of Hempshaw Lane-probably Hempshaw Brook. About 1850 the present reservoirs were constructed. These reservoirs, besides providing the works with water for all purposes, were, for many years of inestimable benefit in more ways than one. During the droughts of past years the ordinary sources of supply of the Stockport Waterworks Company were insufficient for the demand, and water of splendid quality, though slightly hard, was obtained by means of pumping from what Mr Richard Sykes termed the Silver Well - on account of the sparkling nature of the water. The first pump which lifted water from the old well at the rate of 116 gallons per minute was erected in1826; when pumping was last resorted to for public supply purposes the pumping capacity was 1000 gallons per minute.
Of the relationships between masters and men at this extensive concern it is only necessary to say that disputes have been few and far between, and never of a serrious nature, in order to show how amicably matters have progressed at the Edgeley bleachworks. Few firms could produce such cases of long and faithful service equal to those recorded when the firm celebrated its centenery in 1893. One - William Newton - had worked for the firm for 74 years, another had been employed 68 years, and three others had a record of over 60 years' service. At the present time the employees include two brothers and a sister with an aggregate service of 180 years.
In 1892 the business of bleachers and finishers, which had for some years been carried on by Captain T. Hardcastle Sykes, and Mr A. H. Sykes, J.P., was constituted a private company, the subscribers being Captain T.H. Sykes, J.P., Mr A.H. Sykes, J.P., Mr F. Sykes, J.P., Mr A.J. Sykes, Mr H.R. Sykes, Mrs T.H.Sykes, and Mrs A.H. Sykes, the directors being Captain T.H. Sykes (chairman), Mr A.H. Sykes, Mr F. Sykes, and Mr A.J. Sykes. in 1900 the business became merged in the Bleachers' Association, but it is still carried on under the name of Sykes and Co., and it is interesting to record the fact that the chairman of the Bleacher' Association is Col. Sir Alan J. Sykes, Bart., M.P., the great grandson of the founder of the works. The Sykes family, it is also intersting to relate, has created a unique record in the history of the borough, four generations having held the office of Mayor - Mr William Sykes in 1822, Mr Richard Sykes in 1849, Mr Arthur Sykes in 1880, and Col. Sir Alan Sykes in 1910. (Stockport Advertiser History Of Stockport 1922)
The American Connection
Another thing which has come to light, through a contributor, is information about Richard Sykes. By all accounts, he went to America and founded several towns there. One of those towns is called 'Edgeley' and there is a link to a web site for the town, which gives some historical information about Richard Sykes, so have a look at this site, for it gives new insight into those pioneering times and shows just what was achieved. http://www.edgeley.com/ . Richard Sykes was also a keen rugby player, haveing been educated at Rugby School, where the game of rugby came into being. He founded a club known as the 'Clarets', whose ground was where the present day Stockport County ground is. Stockport County also share their ground with Sale Sharks rugby team, so the game of rugby has returned to its origins in the town. He was also instrumental in taking the game to America, where it eventually became American Football. Information on these events can be seen by clicking on the link below.
I am grateful to Tim Wyche for these links.
More information concerning Richard Sykes has been sent to me by e-mail from a lady in Canada.
Enjoyed your site and the history of the Sykes family and Edgeley House. My husband's grandfather, John Peck, arrived in Canada in 1881 from Essex. He made it as far as Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, working on fixing machinery on the Sykes property, Edgeley Farm. I have a reference that Mr. Sykes wrote for John Peck as well as a reference written by his farm foreman, Mr. Cameron. A couple of the references have the letterhead of Edgeley House in England.
John Peck realized that there was a need for men with education and returned to England to complete his engineering degree. He then returned to Canada in 1890, to New Westminster, British Columbia. He ended up being the Chief Boiler Inspector for the Province of British Columbia, retiring in 1928. He also helped form the first technical college in British Columbia. I have a copy of the first syllubus which allowed women in for half price. John Peck always believed in the education of women.
There is a book entitled
Qu'Appelle : footprints to progress: a history of Qu'Appelle and district
which gives some information on the Sykes family and Edgeley Farm. The URL is below.
St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Undoubtedly, one of the things which spurred on the expansion of industry, was the growth of the railway network. Previously, it was the canal sytem which was the main means of transporting goods. Although slow and cumbersome, it was nevertheless, a more efficient way of moving goods about, as the road system in this country was in an appalling state. So with the coming of the railways, goods were able to be moved around quicker and the canal system fell into disuse.
When the railway came to Stockport however, there was the problem of the valley, with the river Mersey at the bottom of it, which needed to be traversed. Many designs for bridges were proposed, but the one which finally won through, was the construction of a huge viaduct, spanning the valley. Although there are several books on the subject, in the Heritage Library, one thing which caught my eye, was a copy of an article, which could once be seen in the covered market, on the wall of The Coffee Pot cafe, (before the Hall was refurbished. The Coffee Pot has now gone) which is entitled "Dimensions of the Stockport Viaduct", which gave the statistics for the original viaduct, which of course, only had two tracks at the time. The text reads as follows :
Dimensions of the Stockport Viaduct.
The foundation stone of the Stockport Viaduct of the London and North Western Railway was laid on the 10th of March, 1839, and was completed December 22nd, 1840, at a cost of £70,000. This stupendous viaduct, which passes through the town, running parallel with the Wellington Road, is carried over the River Mersey, and ranks amongst the most surprising of railway wonders. The extreme length is 1,786 feet; it has 22 semicircular arches, each of 63 ft. span, four of 20ft. span, and two at each abutment. The height (to the surface of the rails) is 111 feet from the bed of the river, being 6 feet higher than the celebrated 'Menai Bridge'.
The time occupied in completing this immense structure (notwithstanding the frequent and destructive interruptions) was only one year, nine months and twelve days. The quantity of stone used in the erection was 400,000 cubic feet, and number of bricks about 11,000,000.
On the article itself, someone has corrected the date to December 21st and underneath is hand written Manchester and Birmingham Railway and a date, August 10th, 1842. with another date underneath 15th Feb 1843. (Since the refurbishment of the Market Hall, of course, the stall is no longer there, so I would advise you not to look for it !) I am happy that I managed to get the record of it though!
Local historians sometimes get hot under the collar when journalists trot out erroneous facts. A local newspaper carried an article about the viaduct a short while ago, in which it was stated that the 'total number of bricks in the Stockport Viaduct is 11 million'. That statement would have been correct, had the viaduct not been widened later to carry four tracks, making it in effect, two viaducts side by side, with a narrow gap in between. However, the extension was not as wide as the original. If it had been, the figure would have been 22 million; so I would estimate the figure at around 20 - 21 million. How's that for an anorak factoid ! But I draw the line at counting them all !
I believe there were three fatalities during the construction, two were passer-by who were hit by falling items and one worker fell from the scaffolding. Another lost his footing and plummeted 80 ft into the river below. His fellow workers feared the worst, but the river was in spate and they were astounded when his head bobbed above the water and he 'struck out for the bank'. After a rest of about an hour, he returned to his work, apparently none the worst for the experience. Which shows that in those days, people were indeed made of sterner stuff! (Nowadays the whole thing would be shut down while Health & Safety conduct an enquiry.) You can get an idea of the sheer scale of the construction, where one of the arches spans the river, the other striding over a factory building. Here you get a sense of the height of the thing. An impressive engineering achievement for its day, and nowadays very much understated.
Stockport Viaduct strides the River Mersey.
Reddish and its Architectural Gems
Living in one small part of Stockport and knowing the problems faced by its inhabitants, I am acutely aware of the differences between the older and younger generations. In many ways, it is a great pity, because the older generation had life far harder than today's generation. We may have advanced technologically, but socially we have taken a great leap backwards. Often I hear Reddish being described in derogatory terms, shall we say. I decline to use the actual phrases they use, but I am inclined to use the words in that 'Old Bill' cartoon. Two men stuck in a shell-hole with munitions exploding all around them and one says to the other, "If you know of a better 'ole to go to, go to it !"
So where do we go from here ? New Zealand sounds like a nice place, or Australia, if you have the means to go there. I have cousins in Australia and I once considered going there myself. No, back to reality. Reddish born and bred. The fact is, I once hated living here and the reason is I have been 'spoiled' by visits to the Lake District. For me, there was nothing to compare with the place. Later in life of course came maturity and I began to look at my home village with different eyes. Through writing the Reddish Newtown book and investigating how it became known as Newtown, I began to get into the history of the place. I had already some years ago, read John Condon's 'Reddish Remembered' but then, never really went into it in depth.
One thing which very much featured in the Newtown book was the canal, the Stockport Branch of the Manchester and Ashton Under Lyne Canal, locally known as the 'Lancy Cut'. When we moved to Poet's Corner, (so called because most of the streets were named after poets, you'd never guess would you !) the canal was still there, although at Longford Road, the hump back bridge which undoubtedly once crossed the canal had been flattened and the water went through a narrow pipe. The canal of course was disused and derelict, but it had an attraction because it was full of nature, frogspawn, tadpoles newts and sticklebacks were there, for young kids with fishing nets and a jam jar and a fascination for nature. The canal was overgrown and choked with reeds and was a dumping ground for old prams and bikes, thrown in by people who didn't know any better.
Little did I realise though, the importance of the canal in the development of Reddish. Stockport however, very nearly did not get its canal because of a spat between local worthy Sir George Warren and the Duke of Brigewater. It seems that Sir George eloped with Bridgewater's mistress. So it transpired that every time Sir George proposed a canal for Stockport, Bridgewater blocked it. about 40 years later, Bridgewater relented and the first sods were cut from the Ashton Canal at Clayton. Thus came into being the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Under Lyne and Manchester Canal, known locally as the 'Lancy Cut'. Yesterday, 19th August 2009, I walked the canal from Higher Openshaw to Clayton, and found where the branch joined the Ashton canal. It was the first time I had seen it. Moves have been afoot for some time now, to restore the canal back to Reddish. However, it seems to have stalled. But who knows?
John Condon mentioned in Reddish Remembered, that Reddish developed ribbon-like along the line of the canal, between three small hamlets, to the north, Sandfold, in the middle, Reddish Green and in the south Whitehill. What undoubtedly started the whole thing off, was the arrival of industry, in the form of the cotton mills. One of the first to arrive on the scene, was Robert Hyde Greg, son of Samuel Greg, owner of Quarry Bank Mill, at Styal. Quarry Bank is now a fully restored mill and can be visited by anyone who has an interest in industrial heritage. The interesting thing about Quarry Bank, is that it was water powered. But when Robert Hyde Greg arrived in what was to become Reddish, he built Albert Mills, which used the then new motive power, steam. Of course, water was still needed to raise the steam, hence the situating of the mill, next to the canal, from which the water was drawn.
The Gregs bought up most of the land between Sandy Lane and Houldsworth Square, and like Joseph Salt who built Saltair, they were strict churchgoers and very much set against the 'evils of drink'. For this reason, up until the 1960s, no public houses existed between Sandy Lane and Houldsworth Square. Then the Carousel Pub came into being and I remember it being converted from an old house and I passed it many times on my way to school at Mile End. They built their new road, aptly named 'Greg Street' giving access to the mill and to encourage their employees to adopt a celibate lifestyle, they provided facilities, such as the park with its bowling greens and a small house became a tea rooms. They also had cottages built around the mill for their workers, so in their own way, they were benefactors of the area. Over the years, Greg Street developed into an important industrial area along its length, with major companies such as Craven Engineering, the Co-op printworks, toffee works and jam and confectionery factories. During the 60s a company set up manufacturing trailers, known as Peak Trailers. Nowadays there is nothing to suggest there was ever any industry there at the Houldsworth end of Greg Street and the area is now a private housing estate. The building that was Craven's is still there, although it is split into many smaller units. Up until fairly recently, a large area had been occupied by chemical firm 'Chemix' which has now gone.
The next major player to arrive on the scene, was William Houldsworth. Many of the wealthy mill owners at the time were masters of making the grand statement and he employed architect Abraham Stott to design his mill and such a grand affair it was. From its front edifice, it was an assymetrical building, with a huge central clock with front and back faces, a great chimney at the back and twin towers either side of the main entrance. Below we see the modern day traditional view of the mill, looking down Rupert Street.
Houldsworth Mill from Rupert Street
As well as the mill, Abraham Stott also designed the building which became Houldsworth Working Men's Club. It was said by someone that it was, like the Gregs facility, a tea rooms originally, with a bowling green at the back. It was also used as a church at one time, before the building of St. Elisabeth's Church and School. I would imagine that the building may have had many different functions and used very much in a social context, for the benefit of Houldsworth's employees. Again, Houldsworth became a great benefactor to the people of Reddish and set up savings schemes to encourage frugality in his workers. This is the traditional view of the front facade of the mill, with that great clock perched on top. The clock is actually double faced by all accounts. If you were a mill worker you had no excuse for being late with that clock ! Ironic then that when Houldsworth died, the townspeople erected a clock in his memory in Houldsworth Square ! William Houldworth died at his home in Kilmarnock.
There is however some conjecture as to whether it was indeed Abraham Stott who designed the mill and the club. This doubt has come about because someone has given me a copy of a book by Nokolaus Pevsner entitled 'The Buildings of England - SOUTH LANCASHIRE'. Pevsner is widely regarded as the foremost expert in this country on matters of architecture. In the book, he states that the mill and club were designed by Alfred Waterhouse. Of course it is well known that Waterhouse designed St. Elisabeth's Church, Rectory and School. Could it be that Pevsner got it wrong, or is the blue plaque on the side of Houldsworth Working Men's Club in error. This subject warrants further investigation.
You might wonder why Reddish gets a mention in a book about the buildings of South Lancashire, but you have to remember that when these buildings were erected, Reddish was in Lancashire, up until in 1901, the city fathers in their wisdom moved the boundaries. On a more serious note however, I am told that some remedial work needs to be done on the roof, and the trustees of the club are looking at possible sources of grant funding. The Princes's Regeneration Trust under the patronage of H.R.H. Prince Charles, some years ago were involved with the refurbishment project in the Houldsworth Mill, and Prince Charles himself actually visited to look at the work which was carried out. I wrote to them on the club's behalf, and I was kindly given two contacts for possible funding sources, which I duly passed on to the trustees of the club. It remains to be seen what progress they will be able to make, but it would be a great pity if this historic listed building, which is very much a part of the heritage of our village, fell into disrepair. There is a further mention of this later in the text.
Houldsworth's Memorial Clock, With Houldsworth Working Men's Club and the Spire of St. Elisabeth's Church in the background.
The Houldsworth memorial clock has been moved several times, originally it was nearer to the Houldsworth Hotel and for good reason. The original clock was mechanical and had to be wound periodically. The winding mechanism was in the cellar of the Houldsworth Arms and connected via a shaft under the road. One would imagine that in the early days, the clock was regularly maintained. The modern clock however frequently malfunctions; sometimes it is right twice a day (stopped altogether!) and at the change between spring/summer and vice versa when the clocks go forward or back, it remains uncorrected for several weeks. Such is the attention this important monument is accorded by the powers that be responsible for such matters, but then, this is Reddish.
When you live in a place for so long, it is easy to take much of it for granted. How many times do we walk down the street for example and never bother to look up. Many of the properties in Reddish go back to the Victorian era and the likes of William Houldsworth had houses built for his workers. These houses were quite substantial stock-brick built properties and no expense was spared on them. The Victorians were especially fond of adornments on buildings, unlike the bland functionality of later eras. Here we see a patterned brick panel set in the wall of one such property near Houldsworth Square.
Ornate Brick panel set into the wall
The brick panel and embossed banding with the ornate freize below the gutter line, show a level of pride in workmanship not present in later buildings. Note also the bevelling around the window aperture and the castellation effect at the lower lintel level. Much of this work is repeated on the buildings in the Houldsworth Square area and along Broadstone Road, but can also be seen in some of the back street buildings of the area. One thing however which spoils the effect is here and there where cables dangle untidily, draped across brickwork. Many of these cables probably are old and have been non - functional for who knows how long. Here and there, some of the shop front fittings show signs of the ravages of time, such as can be seen in the lower half of the picture.
Such is the importance though, of the Houldsworth Square area as a commercial centre, that it sports no less than three banks, all within a short distance from each other. Architecturally though, only one stands out, the Nat West Bank. Again, it is the ornate style of the building which separates it from the other two, which are built in a bland modern style in comparison.
The National Westminster Bank, Houldsworth Square
The area in front of the bank originally fronted the road, but in the recent modernisations was pedestrianised, a one way system being introduced in the nearby streets. Notable features of the building are the stone lintels and archway around the main entrance and ornate stonework above the corner bay windows. Note the small round window above the cash machine to the left of the doorway. Another feature which was added sympathetically, the lintel over the cash machine. This would not have been an original feature but would have been added when cash machines were introduced, to keep it in character with the original facade.
Reddish Industry of Old
It is hard to imagine now, but Reddish was, at one time, for some, a prosperous and desirable place to live. No doubt much of that prosperity came from the industrial revolution and the Victorian era. There were of course, areas of the township where people lived in privation, at the extreme end of Reddish in the area which became known as 'Newtown,' where people lived in old 19th century dwellings, falling down and bug-ridden, they were designated as slums and cleared in the late 1960s/early 70s. Near to the centre of Reddish where the present day sports pitch and playing field is of St Joseph's School, was a collection of streets known as 'Ticky Island', (Ireland?) where poverty and the 'tick-book' were the order of the day. There were undoubtedly other areas where life wasn't that rosy. Labour was cheap and jobs plentiful and the masters of industry found a ready workforce among the folk of Reddish and set up their various industries along its length.
Between Houldsworth Square and Sandy Lane, on the edge of the Vale were a number of large houses in their own grounds. Though many are no longer there, they gave their names to some of the roads. One of the oldest was Reddish Hall, home of the 'De Reddyshe' family. (There are sometimes variations in the spelling of the name) The hall is featured in 'Reddish Remembered' by John Condon and there is an engraving showing the building to be a half-timbered affair, which stood roughly where Reddish Vale School now stands. Coming south along Reddish Road, then called Reddish Lane, which was then a wide tree-lined boulevard, with open fields either side, set back from the road, with a drive up to the properties, 'South Cliff', which gave its name to Southcliff Road. The building probably became the club house of the golf course. 'Broomfield', where the primary school now stands at the end of Broomfield Road. 'Woodville' which gave its name to Woodville Grove. Then there were three in close proximity to one another, 'Spring Hill', 'Bella Vista', which became the Carousel pub, then next door, 'The Grange', now a nursing home but with the same name. Where the huts are of the Army and Air Cadets, just behind the fence, there are two old gate stumps, one bearing the word 'Willow' and the other 'Grove'. This was the location of the house, Willow Grove, which gave its name to the cemetery. Having mentioned these properties in an article in the Heritage magazine, I received an e-mail via the editor, Steve Cliffe, from Susan Gray, with information concerning the property. One of her relatives worked there in 1851. The census page shows three cottages and Willow House. The owner was Joseph Marsland, a coal merchant employing 18 labourers. The house was occupied by the Marsland family, of wife, 1 daughter and 3 sons plus 2 servants. Thanks to Susan for this information. Further south was 'Wood Hall', which gave its name to Woodhall Road. Information has come to me from Gay Saunders regarding Wood Hall. Gay was asking if I had any information about it. Much of my information comes from reproductions of old maps, and is more to do with the location of the properties. I was able to send her part of a map of 1911, which had the hall on it and I will show it here.
From what Gay told me, the house was once occupied by William Nicholson, who was Headmaster of Stockport Grammar School in the early 17th century. There was also a mention in 'Cheshire Wills' of one Alice Nicholson, late of Wood Hall. No doubt further information can be gleaned about the hall and other properties in some of the academic works about Stockport's historical past. I am grateful to Gay for sending me this information.
Right next to Wood Hall was also Wood Hall Farm. It is possible the two were connected at one time, perhaps whoever was the farmer or landowner at the time, had a fine house built alongside. Next to the farm was another property called Reddish House, and further up on Sandy Lane was Birch House, which if I am not mistaken, is still there. Unfortunately neither property is shown clearly on this map, but I have them on another map of 1895, which was kindly supplied by David Reid, when I was writing the Reddish Newtown book. There is another large house on the corner of Greg Street and Reddish Road, which I don't have a name for, but which was once the home of the local doctor. The house was divided into flats though, some time ago.
Dotted around the place were the other more well known halls, Hulme Hall, Broadstone Hall, and Whitehill. These were undoubtedly the homes of wealthy industrialists and mill owners. If you take a tour round Willow Grove Cemetery, you will see many fine monuments marking the last resting place of many perhaps, who lived in those properties, alongside the lesser graves of the poor folk of Reddish. Death is a great leveller. My grandparents whom I never met and knew are in there somewhere, and I will find them some day. There were also a number of farmsteads along that stretch, Yew Tree Farm in the north (where the present day 'Yew Tree' petrol station is), Clark's Farm roughly central, and White Hill Farm to the west of the road. Interestingly enough, the name shown as two separate words, instead of 'Whitehill', as in the house, and subsequent industrial estate. Another, Chadwick's, was in the Reddish Green area and there was as smithy nearby whose services would have been much in demand in that era.
In some respects, the term 'Industrial Revolution' is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, there were times when due to technical innovation, industry took great leaps forward. After James Watt, for example, noticed the steam lifting his kettle lid and realising that it could be put to work, and thus steam power came into being. Then when someone came up with the idea of putting it to use on rails, ushering in the era of the railways, cutting journey times to a fraction of what they were, and spelling the demise of the canal system. But in a sense, industry had been here in one form or another long before the putting up of factories and mills. In chapter X111 of the Stockport Avertiser History of Stockport, it lists various industries in the heading over the chapter. These are the headings :-
The old Reddish Corn Mill - Early Weaving and Hat Manufacture - An Old Bleachworks - Calico Printing at Reddish Vale - Modern Developments - Cotton Mills - Engineering - Steel Wire Rope Works - Jam Manufacturing - Further Extensions of Cotton Trade - Brickmaking - Printing - Cranemaking - Broadstone Spinning Mills - Standard Screws - Tobacco Manufactory.
Much water has passed down the old pre-glacial valley known as Reddish Vale since the old corn mill, known as Reddish Mill, stood near the junction of Denton Brook and the River Tame. An account of this is to be found in a copy of the "Exemplification of a decree relating to Reddish Mill, etc. - Coke Bart., against Hyde, Esq., dated 12th February 1657. " It is set forth that Richard of Reditch, one of the complainant's ancestors, was about 260 years since siezed in ffee or of some other estate of inheritance of and in one water corn mill and certain messuges, lands and tenements with the appurtances in Denton within the township of Withington, in the county of Lancaster, which mill is situated near a certain river called Tame or Reditch water, which divideth the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire, and the said mill now is and since the erecting of it hath been called Reditch Mill, etc.
The peasantry took their corn there to be ground. In its latter days the building was used as a school, locally known as "The Ark," probably from its position over the water, being built on Denton Brook which flowed through and underneath it. It was pulled down to make room for the extension of the reservoirs belonging to Reddish Vale Printworks.
From a map of 1848, could this be the mill in the top right hand corner ?
In 1774 the township contained only 54 houses, inhabited by 54 families, consisting of 302 persons. Many of these were engaged in handloom weaving, for we find in the records of the district, in 1791 and 1792, items as "Hire of loom, 5s." (5 shillings) ; "Bought of Mrs Renshaw a loom, £1.15s.0p.," etc.; but the hatting trade was carried on largely. In fact, the trade was formerly almost entirely confined to felting and hat manufacture. Some two centuries ago hats were commonly made of a coarse quality of felt produced from foreign fur and wool. These were followed by "cordy hats," which were made of an English wool body, with a covering of cod-wool or camel's hair worked in one, and then carefully carded out with small hand cards. Then came "plated" hats, which were formed of an English felt body, into which the fur of conies (rabbits), seals and beavers was worked, and finished by hand-carding. In 1780 "round" hats were all the fashion; in 1790 "cocked" hats came in, and were soon very generally worn. The wealthy classes wore hats of real beaver fur, while their poorer neighbours used felts of various kinds. "Pate-wool fur," which is reckoned the best, being taken from the head of the rabbit, was worth about 15s per lb. at that time. At this period there existed a hat works a short distance down what is now called Priory Lane, and owned by Mr Samuel Barlow and Mr Shawcross in partnership. ( The works is also mentioned in Reddish Remembered and I believe there is an engraving, or a sketch of it)
From 1755 to 1850 the place was in possession of the family, who bought the land. They carried on business here, the works being supplied with water from some neighbouring pits, some of which remain to this day. The hatworks have now disappeared, and houses erected on the site. The gate leading thereto has gone, as are also the cotton trees which grew on either side of the gate. It is said that in the season the road (Gorton Road) would be covered with white cotton from the pods. Here is an order to this firm sent from St. John, N.B., August 13, 1828, which may be of interest to hatters :-
"Per Brig. Ann. St. John's, N.B., August 13th, 1828.
I enclose order and I should wish you to push them forward, but I expect to be home they are sent :-
4 doz. Men's fine short Naps, proofed. ............................. .14/-
3 doz. do. ................................12/-
4 doz. do. plated, glued, but well trimmed ............... 8/-
1/2 doz. Stuff do., proofed.................................................15/-
1/2 doz. do. do. ........................................18/-
2 doz. Men's silk hats .......................................................10/6
2 doz. Ladies' black bonnets, untrimmed .............................6/- to 7/-
1/2 doz. do. do. trimmed ......................................10/-
1 doz. Youths' plated, 6& 3/8 to 6& 7/8 .........................4/6
1 doz. Girls' bonnets, black ................................................4/-
2 doz. Men's fine drabs, proofed ......................................16/-
Get these hats ready; must be sent without delay, particularly the bonnets. Mark them E.C., St. John's, N.B. :-
Order from G. M. Sears, St. John's, N.B. :-
2 doz. Men's fine stuff hats, proofed, 6&7/8 to 7&1/4 .............18/-
2 doz. do. do. ..............16/-
2 doz. do. do. ..............14/-
To be sent next February, 1829. To be sent in casks with band boxes, forwarded to Robert Kerr, broker, Park Lane, Liverpool, thence to Edward Doherty, St. John's, N.B.
I do assure you that trade is very bad here, and money worse to be got than ever was known in the memory of man before, but I hope to be able to bring a little home. Tell Thomas Crowther that I sold 8 pieces of blue cloth at Fredericton, to be paid for in furs 15th February next, at 3 per cent. advance on invoice. I have offered them for sale here in different ways. If I sell them for money at present I must sell them for half their value. I have purchased about £30 worth of furs again, which I hope will fetch a good price in England. As far as I can ascertain there is about £5,000 collectable annually in these two provinces. There are a great number of fox skins, sable, bear, raccoon, besides numbers of others which would not answer my purpose. I hope you have a good hay time. I have thought of you hundreds of times. The ships from England have all made six, seven and eight weeks' passage, and I cannot blame you much for not writing on that account. If I had sufficient spirit I could have got plenty of timber for my goods, but I would rather go slowly and surely. Mr Huskinson is made much game of round here with his private and confidential letters. It is warm here, and if a person is in the habit of drinking liquors he stands it badly. At Fredricton I found it very warm, but it is all nonsense about roasting apples in the sun. Let the hats I have ordered be neatly turned out and well got up and packed with care. There may be a nice business done in this country in hats."
At another place in this district were workshops for the manufacture of hats. The one at Sandfold was originally a bleachworks, there is a fustian-cutting works, before becoming a hatworks. This old place is still standig behind Station Road, and is used by Messrs Furnival and Co. as a storeroom. In 1847 the hatting trade was in a very depressed condition, hatters at that time only earning on average 1s. 6d. per week.
For some years prior to 1800 Messrs Thorpe and Paul had the calico printing works at Reddish Vale, and appear to have lived there in 1811. Mr. Hannibell Becker carried on the business of block printing here for many years, probably leaving the place about 1844 or 1845. His sister, Miss Lydia Becker, the great advocate for women's rights, made this her home for some time. One of the partners lived at Reddish; the other at Foxdenton Hall. Prior to the works being owned by Mr Becker it was used as a paper mill owned by the Duckworth family.
Mr Bradshaw Hammond came from Levenshulme to Reddish Vale Printworks on September 21st, 1862, to begin machine calico printing, their first delivery of prints in 1863 consisting of 450 pieces silk stripes, two colours, and 500 pieces white grounds, two colours. Messrs Bradshaw Hammond and Co. amalgamated with the Calio Printers' Association, Ltd., in 1899, and they now employ about 330 workpeople. Their chief products are bleaching, printing, dyeing and finishing, and export their goods to India, Egypt, and the Levant, East and West Africa, Balkan States, South and Central America, Persia, China, Japan, Rangoon, Java, and the Straits Settlements.
(This shows the extent of the Empire at that time. Selling silk to China must have been the ultimate equivalent of coals to Newcastle !)
The canal known as the Manchester and Stockport Canal passes through Reddish, and was cut between the years 1793 and 1797. By this means Stockport is connected with the Ashton Canal, and through that with the Peak Forest and other water ways. No doubt the presence of this water communication, and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, which was opened as far as Stockport in 1840, and the branch railway from Guide Bridge to Stockport, which was opened for traffic on the 8th September, 1849, had something to do with the progress which began in other industries. In 1845 the Albert Mills, Greg Street, which are the oldest cotton mills in Reddish, were built by the Greg family for spinning and doubling. The firm hads made great developments since that time. During the war, until the Control Board restricted production, not a single spindle was stopped. A speciality is the manufacture of fancy yarns. Mr Henry Phillips Greg is now head of the firm. A characteristic of the firm is the welfare work done by the employers for the employees. The workers have their gymnasium, recreation room and playing fields.
( Far from being regarded as 'killjoys' for their anti-drink beliefs, it does show that the Gregs did genuinely care for the welfare of their employees. The recreation room may have been the small house which had originally been the tea rooms, which became Reddish Working Mens Club. The original club was a small house, which was demolished to make way for the new club building. The playing fields referred to may have become the present day Greg Street Park . Where the gymnasium was is anybody's guess. If there is anyone still around who remembers it, perhaps they might like to let us know !)
In the same year the Moor Mill was built by Mr. David Bowlas, who previously had a room at Greg's Mill, where he made heald (commonly called "yelds") knitting machinery. The main building was erected for the spinning and doubling of yarns, and the manufacture of heald knitting and varnishing machines was also carried on. For this business his son, Thomas Bowlas, who carried on the works after his father's death, built a new wing in which the pig iron is melted, the moulds are cast, and the machines are erected. Thirty-eight years ago the firm was float as Bowlas, Ltd., under which name it remained until 1916, when it was acquired by a Mr Byrom. In 1920 it was taken over by the Spur Co. and re-named the Moor Mill, Ltd. About 180 hands are employed in the two departments. In this mill, it appears that there are two distinct industries- spinning and doubling, and machine-making, which is unusual, but nevertheless a very interesting fact. In the early days the bell which still hangs on top of the mill was rung, and a boat was dispatched along the canal to the Navigation Bridge, and here picked up some of the outlying people and conveyed them to their work. On September 8th, 1849, a steam packet began to ply between Openshaw Bridge, near Gorton Station, and Stockport. The fare was 4d. to Lancashire Hill basin.
Until some time after 1850 Reddish had no post office, and the charge for letters from Stockport was twopence each. There was also only one small provision shop on Reddish Green, the residents usually going to Stockport or Manchester for their requisites, walking to Manchester and back not being much of a trouble in those days. Great changes, however, were at hand. Certain farms, known as Jepson's Farm and Thompson's Farm, in possession of Mr Duncroft, were purchased by Mr Houldsworth, the two farms together forming the Houldsworth Estate, and later known as the village of Reddish Green. The former farm was pulled down in 1863 to make room for the Houldsworth Mill. The founder of this firm was Thomas Houldsworth, who first began business about 1770, at Newton Street Mills, Manchester. The Reddish Mill was opened in 1864, and covers an area of about 64 acres. It possesses 136,692 spindles, and employs in normal times 454 workpeople. It was amalgamated with the Fine Cotton Spinners Association in 1898. Its chief productions are fine cotton yarns, 80's to 250's at the moment, but in the past, at Manchester Mills, 700's and 800's were spun, and woven into muslin in Tarare, France. Samples of this production of these extra fine numbers are still to be seen in the mill. Formerly samples of this fine spinning were to be seen in the Peel Park Museum. In 1851 a bronze medal was presented at the Great Exhibition in London to Thomas Houldsworth and Co. Lever Street, Manchester. The first manager of the mill was Joseph Higginson, who later became a director. There is a mention later about Joseph Higginson, who was another great benefactor of the village.
In the following year,1865, the Hanover Mills were built by Heywoods, cotton spinners and doublers, and were taken over by one or two small undertakings, but in 1889 they became the property of Drey, Simpson, and Co., Ltd., who came to Reddish from Manchester, where they were established in 1873. This firm brought an entirely new industry into the neighbourhood and town. They are makers of silk, cotton, and mohair plush, Utrecht velvet, and every kind of woven fur for mantles, hats, furs and toys, such as sealskin, ponyskin, bearskin, and rabbit skin. In 1867 Charles Lowe and Co.'s chemical works were established, their chief production being carbolic acid and its derivatives. In 1870 another large spinning mill was erected near the Houldsworth Mill, viz., the Reddish Spinning Co., Ltd. The founders of this company were James Houldsworth, Walter J. Houldsworth, Arthur H. Houldsworth, William Henry Houldsworth, Joseph Higginson, John Dixon, Dr. C.D.F. Phillips, Charles Lings, and George Scott Lings. The mill has 132,200 spindles and employs 400 hands. This company was amalgamated with the Fine Cotton Spinners in 1898. Another kind of industry was introduced into the district in 1877 by Messrs Sharp, Stewart and Co., in their machine tool shops, commenced on his own account, in Ancoats, manufacturing guillotines, he commenced to make flat-bed lithographic machines. In 1877 fourteen acres of land were acquired in Reddish, on which single-storey works were built and occupied in 1880, since when extensions have been built from time to time, until at the present date a very large portion of the fourteen acres is engaged in the manufacture of every class of sheet-fed printing press.
(Although William Houldsworth is accredited with the setting up of Houldsworth Mill and is rightly commemorated for his contribution to Reddish, it has to be remembered that he was one of many of the founders of the company. Of course, the location of the mill is well known, because it survived. Other companies and mills are mentioned, but where they actually stood is not. Hanover Mills stood on Greg Street, in between Albert Mills and Broadstone Hall Road South. Many of the heavier engineering works were down Station Road, near to Sandfold, although one, Reddish Iron Works is shown set back from the main road, next to the canal, which became Furnival's I believe, shown on a map of Reddish in 1938, I have in my collection.)
In 1878 a new business began in Stockport which ultimately became Ruston and Hornsby, Limited, engine works. This business had its origin in Stockport. Mr J. E. H. Andrew, who was a maker of tobacco spinning machinery in Waterloo Road, Stockport, saw at the Paris Exhibition a "Bisschop" gas engine. He was impressed with its utility, and, believing there would be a good market for it in England, acquired the sole rights for this country. He commenced to make this engine in 1878. As one of the first practical gas engines made we show an illustration of it, as it is now somewhot of a curiosity, and compares strangely with the large power gas engines now made.
It was made in sizes of 1, 2 and 4 manpower (8 man power is considered equal to 1 horse power), and was used successfully for driving printing machinery, chaff cutters, organ blowing and similar work. There are still some of these old engines in use, but they are principally employed in driving potato washing machines in chip potato shops.
(Working examples of these can be seen at the Anson Museum at Higher Poynton, kept going by enthusiasts. Well worth a visit if you're interested in such things. I marvelled at the simplicity of these things and how they worked at all ; and that they once powered British industry.The museum was originally free, but has since introduced a modest charge, after the previous owner died. Nevertheless, if you get the chance and if you are interested in our industrial heritage, go and see it. You won't be disappointed !)
A few years later Mr Hugh Williams, C.E., the originator of the Lake Vyrnwy water supply for Liverpool, joined the business and introduced a horizontal gas engine of much larger power, made in several sizes, which was named the "Stockport" Gas Engine. In February, 1886, a company was formed to take over the gas engine business of Mr Andrew, under the title of J. E. H. Andrew and Co., Ltd., Mr Hugh Williams being managing director, and Mr Alfred R. Bellamy, general manager and secretary. The building of a new works at Reddish was commenced, and in 1887 the business was taken there, and employed at the time about 100 men. A few years later Mr Bellamy succeeded Mr Williams as managing director. A good deal of pioneer work was done, and engines were built of larger power, one being built of 400 horse power, which at the time was the largest gas engine ever made. The business grew, the making of gas plants was added, and various additions were made to the works, and in 1904 further substantial additions were made, including a large iron foundry, which is one of the best equipped in the Manchester district. At the beginning of 1906 the firm was amalgamated with Richard Hornsby and Sons, Ltd., of Grantham, a very old established firm and in 1918 was amalgamated with that of Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Sheaf Iron Works, Lincoln, Mr Bellamy taking over the entire control of the Grantham and Stockport works of the combination.
The firm of Frederick W. Scott, Atlas Steel Wire Rope Works, came to Reddish from Longsight in 1880. The firm was established by the Scott family about 100 years ago. They manufacture steel ropes of all descriptions, for the purpose of winding and hauling coal from collieries, the extraction of minerals by means of aerial cable ways. They also have a large business in ropes for lifts and hoists. Since the establishment of the firm at Reddish the premises have doubled in size, and output trebled. The manufactured ropes are sent to all parts of the world.
In this year Mr Charles Rushton began business in Sandy Lane, South Reddish, as a boiler maker and heating engineer. The chief productions are boilers, tanks, steam pans, chimneys, girders, roofs, and all kinds of constructional iron work. The number employed is usually 10 hands.
The firm of James T. Gibson and Sons, Lambeth Road, was established in 1887, as sheet metal workers to engineers, manufacturers, etc., employing in normal times about 20 hands.
The business of John Greenhalgh, Limited, Reddish, was commenced in Burnley in the year of the Indian Mutiny-1857-by the late Mr and Mrs Greenhalgh, father and mother of the present managing director-Councillor John Greenhalgh. The initial effort was by way of making the preserves required by their own grocery store, but the public, like Oliver Twist, "called for more," with the result that in 1869 extensive premises were built to meet the growing demand and allow for expansion. The growth of their trade, however, entailed even another removal to larger premises, and the business was transferred to Heaton Norris in 1885. A year later the founder of the business died, and in 1890 the present works at Reddish-covering 2&1/2 acres-were erected.
The cotton trade received another impetus in 1896. In this year the firm of John Whittaker and Co., Coronation Mills, South Reddish, was established as spinners and doublers. They manufacture sewing and crochet cotton and their specialities are the making of fish net and heald yarns, and cycle and motor tyre yarns and canvas. A combination was brought into existence a few years ago under the name of the South Reddish Manufacturing Co., Ltd., in conjunction with Coronation Mills, for the manufacture of motor tyre canvas and cycle fabrics. The development of the firm is shown by the fact that when it was established there were only 10,000 spindles and about a dozen workers, and now there are 25,000 spindles and a staff of 250. The late Mr Whittaker had a name for the kindness he showed to his employees, in whose interests twelve months before the passing of the Factory Act, which made a 48 hour week compulsory, he put into operation a 49 hours week.
In the following year, 1897, the firm of Joseph Rivett and Sons, Ltd., was formed in South Reddish, their chief production being frame doubled Egyptian cotton gassed yarns, and the number employed in normal times is 150.
The firm of Hames Harrison, have been brickmakers in Lancashire for four generations. The present firm had a brick-croft at Sandfold Lane from 1897 till January, 1919, when the clay having been exhausted, they took over the croft at Harcourt Street. The present plant is well equipped for the manufacture of housing bricks. (The Harcourt Street brickworks became Jackson's brickworks, it is now a modern housing estate with a large fishing pond in the middle, very popular with local anglers.)
This year, 1897, saw the commencement of Messrs Halliday and Co. Ltd., of which Mr Walton-Smith is general manager, and Mr James Halliday is governing director. The firm is engaged in bleaching, mercerising, dyeing and finishing of cottin piece goods, and employs about 130 workpeople. Parts of the buildings have existed for over 100 years. It was originally a large corn milling business. Later it was known as Walmsley's cotton mill, and then used for hatting. It was taken over by Mr James Halliday as a derelict concern, and is now a thoroughly up-to-date dyeworks.
Picture: View down Bangor St. from the top of the steps, with Bankfield/Bankside Mill, Halliday's Bleach & Dye Works in the distance.
(Mercerising - Treating a material, especially cotton, with a substance which strengthens it and gives it a silky appearance. Named after John Mercer, the English textile manufacturer who invented the process. Halliday's bleach and dye works was at Bankfield Mill, on Coronation Street, sometimes known as Bankside Mill and was one of many situated next to the canal, from which the water was drawn to power the steam engines.)
(There may well have been another mill called Bankside, I have seen it mentioned in a book of aerial pictures, so this may well be an error. I will investigate further and correct this text if needs be.)
The printing works at Greg Street were opened in October, 1899, as the general printing offices of the "Manchester Guardian." The business was established in Manchester in the sixties. In September, 1919, the works were taken over by the C.W.S., (Co-operative Wholesale Society, Co-op, for short !) and became a branch of that society's printing offices at Longsight.
Craven Bros. was founded at Vauxhall Works, Osborne Street, Manchester, in 1853, and registered as a private limited company in 1855. Machine tools for railway purposes at first engrossed their attention, and in 1875 they began the manufacture of cranes. They specialised in this work, and quickly gained a reputation for quality and workmanship. They have turned out a very large number of cranes, ranging in capacity from one ton to 200 tons, and up to 120 feet span. Craven's claim to hav supplied more cranes than any other firm in the country, and have set the style for a number of types. Rapid development and expansion of business made it necessary for the firm to obtain larger premises, and in 1900 the new Reddish works were begun. These have, since then, been greatly enlarged, with a new block of offices, in 1914, and the total area is now 25 acres. The firm employ between 1,300 and 1,400 workpeople: They are also specialists in machine tools for railway work and engineering in general.
(The loss of Craven Engineering was a great blow to the township of Reddish, and to Stockport itself, as undoubtedly many people worked there from different parts of the town. The firm was indeed well renowned and once had a contract supplying equipment to Russia. The works is still there at the end of Greg Street, various parts of it being used by small businesses, one of which, Craven Garage, takes its name from the former works, and are specialists in vehicle servicing and M.O.T. checks. They have also recently taken on premises on Whitehill Industrial Estate. (The building was named 'Vauxhall Works' probably after the original, and has currently been refurbished for further commercial use, and offices. So will be available for occupancy as things pick up after the recession, which bodes well for future prosperity of the region, in terms of employment for future generations.)
Another engineering works was established at this time, viz., that of S.H. Heywood and Co., Ltd., of North Reddish. They began work here in the year 1900, and the chief productions are electric pulley blocks, electric hoists, electric traversers, general lifting and moving machinery operated electrically. The number of employees in normal times is approximately 250.
In the year 1903 the Broadstone Spinning Co., Ltd., Reddish, was incorporated, and two very large mills were soon in course of erection. No. 1 mill covers an area of 7,658 square yards, and No 2 mill 8,457 square yards. Each main mill is 270 feet by 143 feet and six storeys high. No. 1 mill commenced work at the end of 1906, and No 2 mill at the end of 1907. The mills contain 260,000 mule spindles, and were completely equipped with engines, boilers, plant and machinery (inclusive of combing plant) for cotton spinning at a cost of £480,000. They are situated on the banks of the canal (now the G.C. Railway company's), and have the right of free water for condensing purposes. Their production is spun frm the best Egyptian cottons, in what is technically termed "combed" and "super carded yarns." The range of counts is 160's to 30's for the home and export trade, and employment is found for 700 people. In 1919 the mills were sold to the Broadstone Mills Limited.
Broadstone Mills in their heyday. The sheer size is impressive and the two great chimneys and engine house. The cottages in front stood at the side of the canal.
The white building just in front of the left hand chimney was once the Yew Tree Inn. The story is that the landlord lost his license for allowing cock-fighting in his yard !
To the extreme left beyond the canal bridge, the Grey Horse pub. Rumour has it that it was they who reported the illegal cock-fighting!
The year 1908 saw the erection of the Spur Doubling Company's mill, and this was opened in 1909 for the doubling of fine cotton yarns for lace, hosiery and lisle trades. Before the war the mills worked day and night. In 1920 the company took over the Bowlas Mill and re-named it the Moor Mill, Ltd. At the latter mill the cotton yarn is " heavy" doubled, and "fine" doubled at the Spur. They employ 400 hands.
J. Halden and Co., Ltd Rowsley Works, Reddish, was founded by the late Joseph Halden, who commenced business at 16, Albert Square, in 1878. Their present works at Cornbrook, Manchester, being burnt down in the same year, and in 1919 considerable extensions were carried out. Their business id of a specialised character, and encompasses the manufacture and supply of all the equipment and accessories and materials used by engineers, architects, and surveyors in the drawing office.
The firm of H. Wharton, Limited, was established in North Reddish in November, 1919. The chief productions are electric travelling cranes, hand travelling cranes, jib cranes, pulley blocks and trolleys, both electric and hand, also sundry machine tool attachments. The firm in normal times employs about 100 hands.
The Stockport Standard Screw Co., Ltd., was established at Hammond House Works, Broadstone Hall Road, in March 1920. The chief productions are bright hexagon and square head bolts and set screws, studs, nuts, washers and repetition work of all descriptions. All the productions are made from the bright steel bar, produced on Gridley and Cleveland Automatic Machines. Other firms are T.J. Senior, of South Reddish, wheelwright and motor body and trailer manufacturer, and solid band tyre fitter. R.J. Lea, Ltd., "Chairman" Tobacco Factory, on an extensive scale, has lately been established in the district.
A view of the district as photographed from an aeroplane would show that the great majority of the firms mentioned were built adjacent to the canal, probably for the purpose of using it as a means of transport; but, instead, today not a boat would be seen, the waterway stretching away derelict, and the goods from the various works would be seen being carried to their destinations by motor transport, in the least possible time and with the minimum of changes. Such is the alteration in the method of transport during the last 150 years. (Stockport Advertiser 1822-1922)
Undoubtedly, the period described was a time of prosperity and growth for the people of Reddish and no doubt the demise of the cotton industry was the beginning of the decline of fortunes in the area. At Broadstone Mills, gone was one side of the mill (Mill 2) and the great chimneys and engine house. But Reddish folk are survivors. New industries came along and new uses were found for the old mills. Broadstone has a fine retail outlet on the ground floor and new uses have been found for the spaces in the upper floors. At Houldsworth Mill, refurbishment took place converting the mill for mixed residential and commercial use, attracting a visit from Prince Charles no less, whose trust had something to do with the refurbishment. Further on and most recent, Victoria Mill has been refurbished for residential use, with fine views across the golf course towards Manchester.
Then there is the forthcoming proposed restoration of the canal route, which it is said will bring new prosperity to the area, let's hope so. The canal will only be restored as far as Broadstone Mill, where there is to be a proposed marina, the rest of the route has been comprehensively built over by Whitehill Industrial Estate. The process goes on as old established industries go, to be replaced by more modern ones. On Coronation Street, for example, where British Trimmings used to be, there are many smart new premises with a variety of firms setting up. Some of these will be established companies, moving into larger premises perhaps. Buildings are now erected using steel construction techniques with energy efficiency designed in, thus reducing energy costs.
Many people will be saddened to see the old firms like British Trimmings disappearing, in particular people who once worked there. In its time there would have been hundreds passing through its doors, and over a period of time it employed thousands. The prosperity of the area began around 1847, when Coronation Mill was built. A company called J&J Reid came up from Portwood, and established the mill at the side of the canal. There was also another mill next to it called Bankfield Mill, sometimes called Bankside Mill, (presumably because it was at the side of the canal bank). That mill gave its name to the present day Bankfield Industrial Estate. Although both mills were originally cotton, later Bankfield Mill became Halliday's Bleach and Dye Works. Thus it was still very much a part of the cloth producing industry. Coronation mill was later absorbed into the larger complex of British Trimmings, who were renowned for the manufacture of those fancy tassels and other products, used alongside curtains and other decorative adornments, which nowadays are sadly out of fashion, but which were very much in vogue in the Victorian era, a time of greater decorative opulence perhaps. When British Trimmings closed, much of the machinery went out to India. Although the premises were demolished, the company itself is still in existence at the end of Coronation Street.
When I discovered that the building was to be demolished, I sought permission to get inside and have a good look round. I was particularly interested in the oldest part of the building, which was the original Coronation Mill. By the standards of many of the mills in Stockport, such as Meadow Mill or Pear Mill, Coronation Mill was quite a small affair. Only three storeys in height, it did not have the supporting cast iron columns which are a feature of the larger mills. They would not have been needed due to the smaller size of it. Nonetheless, it did have a vaulted arch roof, presumably of firebrick, and there was a fair space for the workers and light from the many windows; probably not an unpleasant space to work in, although it might have been very different with the rooms filled with machinery and noise.
One of the reasons for the siting of the mills, was the introduction of steam power. in the early days, mills were water powered. There were many ingenious ways of getting the water to the mills. One very visible feature in the lower half of Reddish Vale, is the weir, which was nown locally as 'The Bottle', on account of it being shaped like a bottle neck. That weir fed the old Portwood Cut, a mill leat or race, which came from a sluice via an opening at the top of the weir, in the bank of the river. This powered a mill or mills somewhere near to Meadow Mill, before the water was returned to the river once more. One likely mill was Crow Park Mill, which was somewhere near where the present day Tesco supermarket stands.
Other mills, such as the one which once stood on the site of the Castle Yard, were fed by a system of tunnels dug upstream from the river. During recent excavations where the old court buildings were demolished and rebuilt into the present day shopping premises, the original water wheel pit was discovered. There was great rivalry between some of the mill owners in those days, and sometimes fights broke out between gangs of labourers employed by different mill owners, and there were attempts at sabotage. Nevertheless, the tunnels were built and plans of them can be seen in the Heritage at St. Mary's Church in the Market place. (Only open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays).
When steam power came into being, it wasn't simply a case of it taking over from water. Initially, the engines were brought in as a backup in case the water supply failed. As the engines became more powerful and reliable, mill owners adopted them as their main source of motive power. This also meant that they were not tied to a location near to a river, although a source of water was needed to raise the steam. One of the first on the scene in Reddish, was the aforementioned Robert Hyde Greg, the son of Samuel Greg, the owner of Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, near Manchester Airport. The mill is now a working museum which welcomes visitors, very much a part of the tourist trade and well worth a visit to anyone interested in industrial heritage.
Stockport very nearly didn't get its canal, because of a spat between local worthy Sir George Warren and the Duke of Bridgewater. It seems that Sir George elpoed with Bridgewater's mistress. Thus it transpired that every time he proposed a canal for Stockport, Bridgewater blocked it. This spat held up the development of the town for 40 years, after which Bridgewater lost interest in the affair, and around 1793 an act allowed the first sods to be cut at Clayton to bring the canal to Stockport. It was named the 'Stockport Branch of the Manchester and Ashton-Under-Lyne Canal', known locally as the 'Lancy Cut' for short. The canal brought coal and raw materials to the various mills along its length and also into the town, and took away finished goods, and it terminated just beyond Albion Mill at the top of Lancashire Hill, after passing under the aptly named Wharf Street bridge.
The cut was accomplished without recourse to a single lock along its entire length, and there was a proposed branch which was started and then abandoned, called the 'Beat Bank Branch', which was supposed to go to Denton Colliery. To this day, there are sections of the branch in Reddish Vale, which can be seen just off Ross Lave Lane, although you have to climb over a gate to see it properly. Just recently, I was able to gain access to the other side of the railway bridge, which is just beyond Broadstone Mill, which carried the railway over the canal. Just beyond there was the point at which the aforementioned Beat Bank Branch would have started. However, the railway bridge itself is partly submerged under a bank of soil, and little can be seen which would give a clue that there was ever a canal junction there, and much of it is built over anyway. To find the bridge, you have to go in the entrance to the industrial estate where Craven Garage is, and bear round to the left, threading your way past the industrial units, and then go left as you approach the fence, beyond which is the railway line. When I visited, I had to scramble over a heap of stones to get near it. Incidentally, there is a substantial mention of the branch on Google Earth at 53deg. 25' 55N 2deg. 09' 44W at a point marked ith a W.
At the end of the wharf, beyond Albion Mills, (Nelstrop's Flour Mill), there was an overflow which was culverted, and which discharged into the River Tame, just below the old Nicholson's Arms. The exit can still be seen at the side of the river, near to the footbrige over it. Also at the wharf was a waterwheel. It first came to my attention when it was mentioned by Alan Burgess at St. Mary's Heritage. He had been trying to find the location of it. I was intrigued by this, it was something I had never heard of. A waterwheel running off a canal, how is it possible? Now the water in a canal is constantly flowing from a high to a lower level and it is topped up, but there is not enough flow to power a water wheel. The mystery was solved on a visit to Portland Basin at Ashton. There is just such a device, but it is not powered by the canal flow, but by opening a sluice gate and allowing water to flow from the canal via a channel with the wheel in, to the river below. Obviously, if it were used for any length of time, it would drain the canal, so such devices were for intermittant use only. Some were used to power lifting machinery, although what it was used for at the wharf is uncertain.
Confirmation of the existence of the waterwheel came when a lady in Mablethorpe, Doreen Garretty, quite independanly told me about it. It was an incredible coincidence which came without any prompting from me. She mentioned her and a friend, when they were young, going through a hole in a fence at the side of Sheffield Street, which ran alongside the wharf. She had seen the waterwheel, which was by then derelict. I sent her a map to try and tell me roughly where it was, and she drew me a sketch of what she had seen. With this information, I put an article together and it was published in the Heritage Magazine. (Winter 05/06 vol. 6 No.2) under the heading 'Heaton Norris Waterwheel'.
The roads in those days were atrocious, which made the transport of goods difficult. The railways were just coming into being, but it was said that the town could depend on its canal. However, in the winter of 1830, the canal froze solid, and no goods came in or out of the town, causing great hardship for the townsfolk with no coal getting to the mills, and short time working being enforced. One of the more unusual items transported on the canal though, was a consignment of bells, destined for St Mary's Church in the Market Place, which came all the way from Gloucester. By this time though, the railways had become more developed, and the roads had improved, which spelt the end of the canal era, and they began to become derelict and abandoned.
An elderly gentleman who lives just up the road from me, told me of the last commercial traffic to travel along the canal, around the 1920s. It was a barge carrying a load of timber bound for Macy's wood yard, which stood somewhere near the bridge at Broadstone Hall Road. The barge became stuck on the heavily silted canal and extra teams of horses had to be called in to help pull it along. Extra water was pumped from Debdale Reservoir and the load eventually arrived, where it had to be unloaded and manhandled the short distance to the yard.
One building which deserves a mention is the complex comprising the old fire station, library and swimming baths. Opened in 1908, at the time it was state of the art. The library had a spacious and well illuminated reading room from the large windows, the fire station had three bays with the various equipments of the day, and the baths were a welcome amenity for the residents of Reddish. However, things do tend to move on a bit. Of course over the years the improvements in fire fighting methods and equipment meant that the service outgrew the facility and was too small, and the fire station moved to its present location on Whitehill. The library has undergone refurbishment on occasion throughout the years, and now has extensive computer and internet facilities. The baths however fared worse. For some reason the Council saw fit to close them, thereby depriving the residents of Reddish of an impotant facility.
When I was a kid, one of the pleasures for me and a lot of other kids growing up in Reddish, was a Saturday session at Reddish Baths. Then there were not so many rules and regulations and you could jump or dive in, or 'bomb'. Reddish Baths was where I and a lot of others learned to swim, and my love of swimming carried on into later life. But after the session, one further pleasure was crossing the road to Hobson's to buy a meat and potato pie for on the way home. Hobson's has always been there as long as I can remember, although I recently found out that it came into being in 1929 and has remained in the family name ever since, the current proprietor being Martin Hobson. With its 'Dickensian' frontage, and the name 'Hobson's' as in the name of the play 'Hobson's Choice' a wonderful Northern story, it has an old fashioned appeal, but with a range of high quality produce, well loved and patronised by the people of Reddish and very much a part of the heritage of the village.
Stockport's Historical Market Place
A market place is fundamental to the prosperity of any town. Long before there was big business, people met and traded goods and the 'market place' was born. They were the foundation stones from which all other forms of business came. People traded in foodstuffs, in textiles and livestock, and these expanded into other areas, such as tools, pottery and the like. Nowadays, in big business, we still talk about markets, the World Wide Market, International Markets, Stock Markets etc. All these owe their origins to early peoples' need to trade goods.
Stockport Market goes back to 1260, when the then Manorial Lord was granted the right to hold a market, and the charter to that effect still exists to this day. So a market in various forms has been at this spot since those times. Some of the buildings dotted around the market hall are among the oldest in the town, although they now have modern facades. Staircase House, for example, goes back to Tudor times. The building takes its name from the old Staircase Cafe. Back in the 60s, which was in the row of buildings. I remember going in the cafe when I was young, and there on one side was an old staircase, said to go back to Tudor times.
Sadly, the building and others connected to it fell into dereliction, and there were calls to have them pulled down. At one point, there was a fire, some believe to have been an act of arson, and the Tudor staircase was badly damaged. Thankfully, the decision was taken to refurbish the properties, and the old staircase was lovingly restored also, by craftsmen. The whole complex then became the Tourist Information Centre and visitors can go round on different floors and see the story of the development of the town, called the 'Stockport Story'. The old Tudor staircase can also be seen in another part of the building, and there is a commentry which can be taken round, in different languages.
One of the reasons for writing this section about the Market, is that this weekend, on Friday the 28th 2008, is the official opening of the newly refurbished Market Hall. The hall has been refurbished at a cost of £1.7M, with a grant form the National Lottery fund. However, the hall is already open for business, and the traders are still moving in and kitting out their stalls. The Market Hall will be opened by the lady Mayoress, Pam King, and there will be other dignitaries there also. She will be introduced with an announcement from our acting Town Cryer, Jim Clare, Chairman of the Stockport Heritage Trust. Then on Saturday the 29th, there is to be a Victorian Extravaganza, with fairground rides, stalls and people in Victorian Costume, a fun day for all.
Picture: Jim Clare as Town Cryer, with the Lady Mayoress, Cllr. Pam King, at the Vernon Park 150th Anniversary
The present day Market Hall came into being when one of the stallholders, Ephriam Marks, a relative of the founders of Marks and Spencer, enclosed the sides of his stall to protect his customers from the weather. Others followed suit until the whole area was enclosed. The present covered market was built in 1861 and was nicknamed 'The Glass Umbrella On Stilts'! In the 1980s, there were calls for it to be knocked down, and tens of thousands of local residents and business owners petitioned the Council to refurbish it. The hall was then given a half million pound facelift. The hall is now a Grade 2 listed building, and the recent renovation work has improved it further and saved it for future generations to enjoy. I believe there is no other building quite like it in the whole country.
One of the jobs which was carried out, was the installation of a new floor with underfloor heating. While the old floor was being excavated, some historical artefacts from earlier times were dug up. These were stones, believed to be from a cheese store, although Roger Scoones, the vicar of St, Mary's church, believes they could have come from an earlier church, which was demolished, the stones having been re-used, which is a possibility. Because of the finds, about four days were lost in the refurbishment of the hall. The stones were to be displayed in the 'Stockport Story' at the Staircase House, the rest of the archaeology had to be covered up by the new floor.
Some of the stalls have been removed from either end of the hall, to create an open space for activities. Some stalls have been enlarged and the original shutters have been fitted to the stalls. In addition, the entrances to the hall have been automated, so you can't trap your fingers in the doors any more! The ironwork supporting the roof has been repainted in red and green, and the whole space is now more light and airy. It is a vast improvement and with the underfloor heating, it is no longer the chilly place it used to be. Some stalls are still empty, and some of the cafe stalls are not yet up and running, but when everything is complete, it will make for a very pleasant shopping experience.
Incidentally, the day finally arrived, and I took it upon myself to record the events with a camcorder. The result is a DVD which I have produced. Now it is not a slick production, rather it is an attempt at a presenting style. There was considerable interest from many of the stallholders and although they are not on general sale to the public, I asked for a donation of £4 a copy, and I have given a donation to Francis House, of £1 per copy, through their fund raisers, Rainbow Family Trust. So far I have been able to give them £40, and there is a further £5, plus any more I can raise. Some people gave £5, some £6, and I passed the extra donations on. Thanks to everyone who donated, and especially those who gave the extra amounts.
There were some amusing moments though, and I included some stories from the Percy Hawksworth book, about the characters and scams which went on in the market, in the early art of the 20th century. There are the speeches from the Lady Mayoress, Pam King and other dignitaries, an interview with Rev. Roger Scoones, of St Mary's in the Market Place and loads of other stuff, Morris Dancing, people in Victorian costumes etc. I thoroughly enjoyed making the 'film' and have had some favourable comments off one or two people, not least Roger himself, who thought it was quite amusing. There is also other stuff on it, some about St Mary's, and other attractions around the town. In the hall itself, a stand has been erected to commemorate the event. In the stand, there is a display, where at the press of a button you can see a film of the early 1900s, shot on one of those hand-cranked cameras, no doubt. But if whoever took the film had not done so, we would not have had that wonderful record of those times.
One thing which saddened me though was the fact that no-one from the TV stations was there to record this historical event. There were some representatives from the local press, but that too was scant. I was the only one there with a camcorder, so mine is the only filmed record of it, as far as I am aware. Ashton Market Hall, which I remember burned down in 2003, re-opened the same day, and I believe there was some coverage of that event. It is a great pity that our Market Hall was considered less important, if it was considered at all. I don't know, but I suspect politics had something to do with it. There is also controversy raging in some quarters, from people who are of the opinion that the whole thing should have been pulled down, or re-erected somewhere else, and others who pointed out how much the Market has shrunk in recent times. Inevitably, some people use this argument as a big stick with which to hit the Council. But one thing that came across from the stallholders themselves, was there was not one who had a bad word to say about it, apart from the underfloor heating, which I believe had some problems, and wasn't working for a time.
If anyone is interested in a copy of the DVD, please let me know and I will burn you one. You can contact me on the e-mail address of this site, or on another e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org , or by phone 07748408395. If you are not local, I may have to put the postage on top. Bear in mind also, if you are outside the UK, you may have to have the disc reformatted for your system, e.g. from PAL to NTSC for the U.S. although I am not sure if DVD players will handle other formats. Please check if yours will handle the PAL system. The disc has chapter markers on, so if for example, you are not into the Morris Dancing, or want to skip the speeches, you can use the skip on your remote. I hope to do some more local history stuff using this format, about Reddish and maybe other parts of the town in due course.
Wandering round the town one week, I came across a character going round in a Town Cryer's uniform. Who was this impostor? I thought. I saw him briefly in Princes' St. and he was handing out leaflets. Unfortunately, before I could ask him, and as I tried to get my camera ready to take a photograph, he melted away into the crowd. I felt I had missed an opportunity, until I again spotted him going through the market stalls on Bridge St. I asked him who he was and could I take his photograph. He told me his name was Barry McQueen, and he was the town cryer of Blackpool. He was giving out promotional leaflets for Debenham's I believe. I got ready to take the picture, but the batteries had gone in the camera, and the spare set was flat as well. A kind stallholder sold me a pack, and I got my picture! But it is good to see people keeping traditions up from other towns, paying us a visit. The role of Town Cryer and even Mayor or Mayoress are part of the heritage and tradition of our town and should be on display. In historic towns like Chester, for example, the Town Cryer can be heard at various places around the town, and is a great spectacle for the tourists.
Picture: Visiting Blackpool town cryer, Barry McQueen
While we may not have walls around our town, like Chester, or York, and we have lost our castle where other towns have kept theirs, we do have a history and heritage of our own. The features of history in those towns are on display, they are tangible, and when people in other countries look at the glossy brochures, they are attracted to those towns by the things they see in them. Our heritage is not in city walls, or castles or Roman occupation, but in other more subtle things. Our industrial heritage for example, or possibly the largest brick-built structure in the world, the viaduct, or the roadway, now become a precinct, built over a half-mile stretch of the River Mersey.
A few weeks ago, I met a woman taking a photograph of St, Mary's Church tower. I remarked that it looks like a patchwork quilt, which was not a criticism of the excellent, badly-needed restoration work which has been carried out, but an observation. The Church looks absolutely splendid. She answered me in a foreign accent. I enquired where she was from. 'Prague', came the reply. I was surprised. I know people who have gone from Stockport to Prague, and one person in particular who goes back time after time, but I had never heard of people coming from Prague to Stockport. they are attracted by the medieval buildings and the relatively inexpensive food and drink, perhaps.
Nevertheless, it shows the potential is here to attract the tourists.We should make every effort at least to smarten up our town. One of my pet hates, for example, are the road and street signs covered in a layer of filth. It would not take a great deal of effort to wipe them down, or paint them up where needed, but I am thinking, what kind of impression does it give to visitors from other countries, if it seems we can't be bothered with the simplest things which would help to create a good impression. Why not give the job to people on community service, for example. Our streets are strewn with rubbish, because people casually drop litter, risking a potential hefty fine. In some other countries, there is not a speck of litter to be seen, not because of draconian laws, but because they have