The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Priestnall Hey – Part One Captain John Howard

Priestnall Hey stood on the corner between what is now Mersey Road and Priestnall Road. It is unclear when it was built, and in its early days it was not even called Priestnall Hey, but Heaton Villa, it changed its name sometime in the mid 1860s. In 1833, there were open fields between it and Highfield House.

The 1848 Ordnance Survey shows it standing in its own grounds, well away from the hub of fashionable habitation around the top of the Mersey Valley overlooking the river.


1848 Orndance Survey Lancashire CXI

It stood with grounds and a small park to the east of Burnage Lane and to the west of a lane which was to become Mersey Road. It had a productive garden at the eastern end of the plot. It had a pond which probably originated from a field pond and was connected to the house by a path or track.

Compare with the area now.


Site Of Heaton Villa Today Copyright 2019 Google

We know the gardens were productive, as we have an article in the Horticulturalist by the gardener Mr George Cherry in March 1834 who reports how he has grown 40 Montserrat Pineapple , producing with fruit of good size planting them in November 1831. One would presume this was done in a glasshouse. He also grew Pelargoniums.

Mr Cherry was gardener to Captain John Howard ( c1780 – 1837) of Heaton Villa. John Howard was born around 1780 possibly to Andrew Howard and Rebecca. He was the brother of Cephas and William Howard. We will meet Cephas’ son and John’s nephew Cephas Howard Jr in a future post as a resident of Heaton Villa.

John appears never to have married.

In 1802 John is living in Portwood, near Brinnington and describes himself as a Cotton Manufacturer. He may have been living in Brinnington Hall or Brinnington Lodge as both were family homes. He was clearly the senior partner as the mill in Portwood is described in Pigot and Co’s 1829 National Commercial Directory for Stockport as John Howard and Brothers, Portwood.

Portwood Mill was established in the late 18th Century by the Howards as a water powered cotton spinning mill. Steam power was introduced there in 1807 and by 1822 there were 350 power looms, rising to 750 a decade later.

The brothers were successful, but at the time there was great industrial strife in Stockport, and in February 1817 the following declaration was published signed by local millowners, including the Howard Brothers, appearing just a few days before Peterloo.


Manchester Mercury 25 February 1817

This unrest was continuing over a decade later, when the same millworkers were in dispute of wages and staged mass walkouts, forcing the millowners to issue another announcement clarifying wage rates. John Howard, however was not only an effected millowner, he wielded power – as on 17 August 1818 he was promoted to head of the Stockport branch of the Cheshire Yeomanry, a position he held until his death, and we are able to see him in his glory astride his charger “Charley” in this portrait of him by Samuel Spode, published in July 1833.


Captain John Howard by Samuel Spode

The shabraque covering Charley has John’s initials at the front and William IV’s cypher at the rear.

It is around 1833 that he moved into Heaton Villa, and he retired from the partnership with Cephas and William on December 31 1833. After that time, we hear little of him, apart from an investment of £500 in the Manchester South Union Railway.

John Howard died on 8 March 1837 , at the age of 57. His sister Anne, who was living with him there died on 10 May the following year. Heaton Villa stayed in the family, but was next leased out. We will meet these residents in the next episode.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

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