Heaton Lodge – Not an Ancestral home – Part 7 – John Harrop

John Harrop was the next person to live at Heaton Lodge. In many ways he was the archetypal Victorian, living the English dream. He was born in a workhouse but ended his days a rich businessman rising to Lord Mayor of Manchester, and having several homes.

He was born on the 1st February 1847 to John Harrop and Caroline Wharton in Ancoats. John and Caroline appear to have moved to Manchester from Hull, as his older sisters, Ellen and Ann, born 1842 and 1843 were born there. He had one more sister, Sarah who was born around 1849

The family moved to Dukinfield , then Reddish and as a boy he worked in the Stockport cotton mills. In order to earn extra money he took up an agency selling an illustrated Bible in parts. He was so successful in selling to his fellow millworkers, that he was soon earning much more than he earned in the mills, and so set himself up as a bookseller on Deansgate in Manchester. Even here he innovated, and commissioned portraits of political celebreties such as Gladstone and Chamberlain, and having them framed and selling them in their thousands at a handsome profit.

His rapid accumulation of wealth can be seen by his frequent upward moves. In late 1870 he married Elizabeth Farrar, and was living at Old Road in Heaton Norris, moving by 1881 to 69 Reddish Road in Stockport, in 1891 they were living at Richmond Hill on Gatley Road in Cheadle, but they also had a property at Struan, in Storrs Park Windermere and 91 Piccadilly Manchester. 91 Piccadilly is still there and is now a Spar


John Harrop’s erstwhile residence/ furniture shop on Piccadilly, copyright Google.

An indication of the valuation of the Windermere property is that Zoopla are currently estimating a £2.4m pricetag for it.

We can see how he rises in wealth through his declared occupations on the census. In 1871 he is a cotton mill warper, by 1881 he is a print dealer by 1891 he is a bassinette manufacturer and finally in 1901 he is a house furniture dealer.

By 1906 he had become Lord Mayor of Manchester. However, he never forgot his humble roots, we can see that by his speeches and the causes he promoted.

An autodidact, he was proud to have been able to send his seven sons to Manchester Grammar , and in a speech there, in contrast to the proud boasts of the preceding speakers he said:

“The principal schooling I got, was at night-time in a barn. We paid a penny a week and took our own candles.”

Harrops basinette and furniture became a nationwide chain of furniture stores, he had a factory on Bury street in Stockport and Harrops branched out from there.

Contrast this advert from the Preston Herald of July 1914


To this one from the Manchester Evening News in March 1939


He was not only successful in business but also in politics and made powerful connections. On 24 July 1904, Winston Churchill attended a Liberal Garden party in Heaton Mersey in the grounds of Highfield, and stayed overnight with the Harrops at Heaton Lodge, Louis Botha, the first Prime Minister of South Africa also stayed there. Hans Geiger and Ernest Rutherford were also visitors.

John Harrop also promoted worthy causes, and the grounds of Heaton Lodge were also host to many fundraising events, he was active in the Temperance movement , but my favourite of his causes is the Ada Leigh Homes for British and American Girls in Paris, the Manchester Guardian reports on 4 May 1911 that he held a fundraising garden party for the cause. This charity provided free accomodation for British Colonial and American Ladies in Paris. In 1908 Mrs Harrop is reported as to be organising food parcels for the unemployed of Manchester.

Finally, we have Mr Harrop to thank for securing Platt Fields Park for the people of Manchester.

For leisure, he was a keen salmon fisherman, holidaying often in Scotland, and all to ready whilst at his club, to relate his adventures to anyone willing to listen.

Enough about the man, let’s see him


John Harrop – Copyright GM Lives

John and Elizabeth purchased Heaton Lodge in July 1902. They had eight children, Arthur, John Walter, William Gladstone, Maud Elizabeth, Frederick Hardy and Rowland Hill. None was born at Heaton Lodge. However, because of Rowland Hill, we get our first glance of Heaton Lodge itself:

Postcard Courtesy Carolyn Wright

Rowland would have been ten when he wrote this, Miss Tomlinson he will have met on holiday at his fathers Lake District home, and although we only see the outside, it shows an enticing picture of Heaton Mersey in the snow. The wall means that I was able to match this up to more recent pictures which at least show what it looked like from Didsbury Road.

Views of Heaton Lodge wall c 1930

John was also a modern man, he abandoned horse and carriage for motor vehicles, and admitted quite wryly in an advert in the Manchester Courier on 3 July 1909:

“Capes Dunn and Co, beg to announce the receipt of instructions from John Harrop, Esq (who is giving up horse-keeping in favour of motoring) to sell by auction on Monday July 12 1909 at two o’clock prompt, at Heaton Lodge, Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, near Manchester, valuable carriages, horses etc….”

John died on 23 September 1916 at Heaton Lodge, and once more the property was put up for sale in 1919. The Manchester Guardian advertised it as follows:

“For sale, Residence called Heaton Lodge

Charming situation, Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, near Manchester, in an elevated position, overlooking Cheshire with entrance lodge, stabling for four horses, (motor vehicles were clearly not established) coachhouse, conservatory. The house contains dining room, drawing room, morning room, excellent billiard room and nine bedrooms and dressing room, all with modern convenience. The grounds are well wooded and inexpensive to maintain. The property is freehold and contains 14,510 square yards of land or thereabouts. A protion thereof containing 9,165 square yards is subject to the payment of a yearly ground rent of £38 3s 9d.

Immediate Possession Reasonable Price

AR Brett & Co Ltd 4 Piccadilly Manchester”

In his will, he left a net £59,535, which at 2019 prices is around £4m.

Of his children, Arthur was destined to succeed him, but died in 1908 at Edgeley Road in Stockport and is buried at Southern Cemetry. William Gladstone Harrop became the main owner of John Harrop furniture Limited and served in World War one as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He died in 1939 in Wendover in Hale . Maud died in 1920. Frederick was a Lieutenant in the Tank Corps, and entered the War in France on 21 September 1918

Rowland Hill who wrote the lovely postcard joined the Merchant Navy and travelled regularly between Manchester and New York, and is shown entering 4 times between 1929 and 1932 at the height of the Jazz Age,

Unfortunately he was killed at sea on the City of Guildford on 27 March 1943, age 49, as a result of enemy action by UBoat U-593 which fired 4 torpedoes at his convoy off Derna in Libya. Three hit home and he is remembered on the memorial at Tower Hill in London.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

Big houses in the Heatons and others that take my interest.

5 thoughts on “Heaton Lodge – Not an Ancestral home – Part 7 – John Harrop”

  1. Hi Allan,
    We really enjoyed this insightful article.
    My great great grandfather was John Harrop and we are investigating more into our family tree.
    Would it be possible for me to get in touch with you via email?
    Thanks and look forward to hearing from you.
    Best wishes,


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