The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Highfield House – Part One The Early Years

Unlike many of the large houses of the Heatons, Highfield House has survived, and it still stands in an upmarket area of the Heaton Mersey – Highfield Park. It may have been subdivided but it still has a majesty and it is not difficult to imagine what it was like in its heyday. To protect against the tendency of Stockport council to knock down these old buildings it was listed in 1988 at Grade II.

The OS map of 2019 shows its position on Highfield Park and how much bigger it is than the surrounding properties. The old gatehouse stands at the top left hand side of Highfield Park.

We are lucky that both houses survive and are still in domestic ownership. It even merits an entry in the updated Pevsner guide of 2004.

Historic England places the build at around 1830, but the first inhabitant, James Pritchard, is listed as a subscriber in 1818 in An Essay on the Proper Lessons, Appointed by the Liturgy of the Church of England as living at “Highfield, Heaton Norris”.

Highfield is Tudor Gothic in style and is believed to have been designed by Richard Lane, who was the go to architect in Manchester in the 1830s. He was responsible for the design of the Manchester Royal Infirmary (when it stood in the Daub Holes (Piccadilly)) and Chorton Town Hall.

The house itself was altered in the late 19th century and subdivided when the houses on Highfield Park were built around 1928

James Pritchard, the first person to live there, was born in the mid 1700s, He married Elizabeth Taylor on 4th May 1782, and they had four children, James, Frances, Samuel and William, born between 1784 and 1790.

Like many of Stockport’s population, he made his fortune from cotton, and is listed as a Cotton Dealer in the commercial directory for 1818-1819. Edward Baines’ Commercial Directory of 1825 cites him as a Gentleman, living on Lancashire Hill (was this house also called Highfield – which would date our house to 1830 as per Historic England?) He was particularly rich, enough so to possess a garden here replete with 100 Tulips, as reported in the Manchester courier of 30 July 1825. Whilst we were not at the height of the Tulip Mania of the 1600s, Tulips would be typically sold for 15 guineas (£15.75) per bulb, and up to £75 per bulb in the 1820s. At the lowest estimate that means that his garden was stocked with over £150,000 worth of flowers at today’s prices. Small wonder that the two miscreants who stole the bulbs were sentenced to six months hard labour.


After Elizabeth’s death he married Martha Bolton in 1827, who was a young 21 at the time (he would have been around 60) and he died at Highfield in 26 July 1832. He left £9,000 in his will, which is the equivalent of over £1m today

Of his children, Frances married George Worthy in 1814, who was a glass dealer in Liverpool, They lived on Homer Street and Vine Street there, and she died on the 6 June 1866, aged 80.

The next resident was Samuel Lamb. He was possibly born around 1781 in Northenden. He appears to own several parcels of land and he is assessed to rates on a number of properties in Stockport in 1805, but I can find no evidence of where his wealth came from, nor much about his life, it adds to the confusion that both his father and grandfather were also called Samuel.

There is a shopkeeper called Samuel Lamb on Hillgate in Stockport, the Chester Courant of 9 September 1817 notes a Samuel Lamb was up before the magistrates for assaulting a Sarah Barlow. A Samuel Lamb is also noted in Heaton Norris as being a joiner.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty, Samuel married Hannah Renshaw at Manchester Cathedral on 2 September 1805, Hannah had been born in Denton, so a Cathedral wedding hints at some wealth, but apart from that and their four children Elizabeth, Martha, Ann and Samuel (again) they fade into history, apart from the fact that in 1832 he lived in Highfield after James Pritchards death.

We know a little more about the next inhabitant, but why he is at Highfield and even whether or how long he lived there we do not know. In 1841 and 1851 the Marsland family are living there according to Census, and we will meet them next time, but in in March 1843 we find this mystery:


The Marslands are noted as living at Highfield, yet the contents of the house are being sold to settle his bankruptcy, as further evidence of his residence at Highfield Park, the Kentish Independent on 22 April 1843 notes that Charles Cartwright of Highfield has had his Estate and Effects vested in the provisional assignee in bankruptcy.

His neighbour Mr Roger Rowson Lingard has his firm Lingard and Vaughan handling the sale.

My own theory is that James Cartwright moved into Highfield after Samuel Lamb’s death, and the unravelling of the bankruptcy, about which more anon, caused him to seek financial help from the Marslands, who may have taken posession of the house as part of the deal, they may also have taken the contents at this auction.

Thomas Cartwright, Charles’ father was born around 1780. He married Sarah Bury in 1801 at St Mary but she sadly died, there appear to be no children from this marriage. He married a second time Mary Turner at St Mary, Stockport in July 1810. He was a successful man, being Mayor of Stockport in 1813 and living on Sandy Brow at the time, moving to High Street by 1820, where he is listed as a Merchant Draper. By 1837 he is living in Heaton Norris.

Mary and Thomas had six children, James, Louisa, Thomas, Charles, John Henry and Mary.

By 1823 he clearly has some wealth as he is involved along with our friends, Stockport’s Lingard and Vaughan in the sale of the bankrupt property one of William Downes, Adswood Mill as reported in the Manchester Guardian of 22 February. He clearly buys this as the same paper reports on 10 April 1844 that it is for sale as part of his bankruptcy settlement.

He was involved in civic life, proposing and being part of the committee set up by Stockport council in 1837 to lobby for the London to Manchester Railway to be built through Stockport, and not taking an alternate route which would have meant no Viaduct being built, and Stockport merely being at the end of a Branch line which met the London Manchester line near the current East Didsbury Station.

He became a banker – being trustee and auditor of the Stockport savings bank (the fact that a trustee is able to audit his own bank shows we lived in very different times). Interestingly the Marslands, Vaughans and Lingards also have a finger in that pie.

He went into business with his sons running a paper mill in Manchester. His downfall was to team up with Hilton and Walsh of Darwen. particularly the younger Hilton brother, Edward, who had married Louisa Cartwright at Manchester Cathedral in April 1835.

Edward had inherited the firm from his father Richard, along with his brothers Christopher and Henry. Christopher passed away and Edward bought out his brother for £50,000 (£5m) and ran the business on his own. He decided at the age of 28 in 1839 that he would prefer to spread the effort involved in running the business so entered partnership with three other firms, Cartwright Walsh & Co. being one of them. Charles and James Cartwright were at that time the partners in that firm. Thomas Cartwright advanced £10,500 (£1m) as capital funding for his sons.

For this Edward Hilton received an annual dividend of £8000 pa (over £800,000 in 2019 prices).

As Louisa was married to Edward, there was a family bond and trust should be maintained. However, Louisa died in 1838.

By 1841 the firm was running into difficulties and the Bank of Manchester had advanced £70,000 to them (£7m), upon which Thomas Cartwright senior and another partner , Sir John Key gave security, John Key was the father in law of one of the other Hilton brothers.

The firm went bankrupt, an investigation by the tenacious accountant, Mr Lee, appointed by the bank found that Edward and his new wife Elizabeth had withdrawn over £15,000 (£1.5M) from the company fraudulently,

Everybody lost out in this arrangement, apart it seems from Edward Hilton who was living comfortably with his new wife at Radfield Hall, Darwen in 1851.

The final dividend on the Cartwright bankruptcy was paid out in 1849, Charles himself having lost Highfield was discharged from bankruptcy on 29 July 1843. The London Gazette describes him as a lodger at Highfield, formerly of Heathfield in Moss Side.

Charles also fades from history apart from a perhaps understandable report in the Manchester Guardian of 1 November 1843 where he invades a chartist meeting in Stockport blind drunk and proceeds to ramble incoherently and take over the meeting to cries from the assembled Chartists of “Put that Tory Out” and “Put that lad a straight jacket on”
The auction sale of March 1843 gives us a prime chance to look at Highfield at that time in a great deal of detail, so let’s see how the Manchester Courier described it.

In the drawing room a set of 12 extremely beautiful crown backed rosewood chairs with drab damask covers: couch, upholstered en suite; circular loo table upon massive pillar, block and claws , with oil baize cover; elegant chiffonier, with raised back and gallery; card table , upon pillar, block and carved claws; ladies portable writing desk; pair of fire screens,; pair of ottomans, Brussels carpet – 14.5 feet by 17 feet; town made hearth rug; printed drugget; two suits of exceedingly rich drab Norwich damask window drapery, surmounted by elegant cornices, with neat bands and extra cambric cases; noble chimney glass 43 inches by 56 inches in richly gilded frame, perfectly unique ormolai 21 day time piece in French shade; three beautiful specimens of Bisque figures, in shade, china vases; pair of elegantly cut candle branches, china , &c ornaments, lady’s work box: bronze fender steel fire irons.

In the Dining room my be emimerated splendid mahogony sideboard with raised back and gallery replete with drawers and cellerette; set of two armed and eight single Spanish wood chairs, with hair seats; elegant sofa with loose cushion and two bolsters ; lounging chair stuffed with hair and morocco; dining table upon massive telescope frame and solid top, 4 feet 6 in by 12 feet with crimson and drab cover; butlers tray and stand ; two flower stands; Brussels carpet, 14.5 feet by 20 feet; drugget ; town made rug; bronze fender ; polished fire irons; rich drab damask drapery for one window, with massive gilt cornice and curtain holders; three light chandelier.

The Breakfast Room is furnished with rosewood circular loo table, with oil baize cover, mahogony chairs, lounging chair stuffed with hair; sweet toned square piano forte in mahogony case, by Nutting & Co; music stool, circular stand , mahogony couch with hair cushion and bolster folding screen, tea caddy chimney ornaments, neat chimney glass in gilded frame, suit of crimson moreen window drapery with cornice and bauds. Brussels carpet, drugget, hearth rug , brass fender, fire irons, three composition busts , &c.

The Hall and Staircase :- Mahogony table with white marble top, hat and umbrella stand, pair of hall chairs with carved backs, oil cloth, lamp, marble slab supported upon an ornamental bracket, wheel barometer, brass rods, foot mats, carpeting, eight day clock in mahogony case.

The Bedrooms and Dressing Rooms are furnished with superior four post bedsteads, with mahogony foot poles, noble cornices and panelled foot boards hung with drab green and fawn moreen drapery, trimmed with neat fringe and lace; excellent Dantzic feather beds; hair , flock and straw mattresses, enclosed washstands and dressing tables, mahogony and painted wardrobes, chests of drawers, bedround carpet, toilet glass in mahogany frame, window drapery, sun blinds, bed and table linen, Marseilles quilts &c, a few very fine engravings viz Napoleon, after David; George IV, Tower of Pisa, Duke of Wellington, Marquis of Anglesey, Sir Geo Murray, Handel, Penn’s Treaty, Scene in Macbeth, London Merchant , and others of equal merit in elegant gilded frames, a few choice oil paintings, valuable silver plate, consisting of castors, coffee and tea pots, tankards, cream ewer, fish knife, forks, ; tea , table , desert salt and gravy spoons; sugar bows; plated branch candlesticks, nutcracks, snuffers, tray &c. Also a library of 600 volumes of books….. cellar of choice wines including 67 dozen delicious port , from four to fifteen years, binned, fine sherry, East India Madeira, bucellas, claret , champaign, and famed Lachrymae Christi. Excellent town built phaeton harness, 4.5 inch wheel cart, geers, rare greenhouse plant, tulip bed, fruiting and succession pines; stack of well got hay, stack of old hay, garden implements, hot-bed frame, dog kennel, patent mangle, large kitchen dresser, with two cupboards and drawers and sycamore top, filterer, culinary uternsils , etc.

Catalogues are in course of preparation and will be ready for delivery three days prior to sale

For further particulars apply to Messrs Lingard , Vaughan and Lingard, solicitors, Stockport, Mr Pott, official assigness, , Town Hall Buildings; or the Auctioneer at his offices, 92 King Street, Manchester.

The HOUSE TO BE LET with immediate possession.

I’d say John Marsland got quite a nice residence from Charles Cartwright. We will hear more of him next time.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

4 thoughts on “The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Highfield House – Part One The Early Years”

  1. Highfield House
    Good Day, I am writing a story about Hilton’s paper mill in Darwen, the information you include above is very useful. I wondered if you had the sources of the data you include specifically for anything to do with the paper mill. Best Regards Mike


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