The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Priestnall Hey – Part Four John Douglas

You may not be interested in the law surrounding the sale of Goodwill, it is for the layman, an obscure topic. However if you sell a wholesale business as a going concern to your partners, and then set up a new business practising the exact same trade nearby, your partners are going to be understandably miffed. They would not only have been expecting the old customers still to purchase from the same premises, but also for them to have some exclusivity from the old owner. The customer of a large business is after all indifferent to the premises from which you trade for such items, “whether it be on Fleet Street or the Strand, or any place adjoining” (Sir Thomas Plumer).

Such a problem befell John Douglas, a stuff merchant of Bradford. In the case of Churton V Douglas (1859)  he had a successful business selling Stuff (coarse, thickly woven cloth, such as is worn by a junior barrister) and in July 1857 he sold the assets and goodwill of his business, but by May 1858 he was trying in secret to recruit the principal clerks to set up a similar trade right next door to his old firm.

Understandably on discovering this in 1859, his old partners went to The Yorkshire Assizes and successfully “restrained him from trading  the business of a stuff merchant , at or in the neighbourhood of Bradford, either alone or in partnership with any other persons, under the style or firm of John Douglas & Co or in any other manner , holding that he was carrying on the business of a stuff merchant in continuation of or in succession to the business carried on by the late firm of John Douglas & Co” (Bradford Observer 24 March 1859)

In short, the sherriff ran John Douglas out of town. Fortunately Heaton Villa had appeared on the market, and as John had made sufficient money from the sale of his business, he moved there that year to set up as a stuff merchant in Manchester.

We meet them at Heaton Villa on the 1861 Census, John is living there with his wife Jessie, and their children Margaret Muir, Earl Laurie and Addison.

John Douglas was born on 31 August 1809 in Stranraer, Scotland to John Douglas and Jean Comlin. John Douglas senior was a wealthy silk merchant, wool and linen draper and the Burgess of Stranraer.


Jean Douglas, nee Comlin

John and Jean had eight children, who settled around the country, Elizabeth Taylor Douglas (1801-1885) married a fellow Scot, William Campbell, and settled in Bangor, Wales.

Margaret Douglas (1802-1832) married a Liverpool merchant Owen Ellis, and they went to live in Llanbeblig, Caernarfonshire. Jean Douglas (1804-1805) died in infancy.  Jane Douglas (1808-1881) married a surgeon, Thomas McClelland, and settled in Keighley, Yorkshire.

James Douglas (1811-1868), married an Edinburgh girl and they lived near Ilkley. Isabella Black Douglas  (1813-1850) stayed in her home town, marrying Thomas McCaig and lived on George Street in Stranraer. Her father, John, died there a year before her.

William Douglas (1815-1882) went to Bradford with his brother John, and together they built a successful Stuff business. The Bradford Observer of 10 April 1848 reports a lavish civic dinner for the town’s Stuff and Calico merchants, which both William and John attended. Later that year John and William part company, John going it alone. William continues, and prospers. William married Mary Ann Harvie, a Canadian born woman, in Dublin in February 1843. They are soon living at Ilkley Hall in Yorkshire.

John Douglas junior married Janet “Jessie” Andrews on 2 June 1840 in Kilmarnock and they lived in Bradford in increasingly opulent houses as their wealth grew, in 1841 they are in Park Place, but by 1851 they are living in Eldon Place.

John is also a rich man, despite having been forced to set up once more over the border in Lancashire and he does not stay at Heaton Villa for long. Infact it is only a staging post whilst he has Bruntwood Hall built in Cheadle built. Bruntwood was completed in 1861 and named after his wife Jean’s birthplace.

The grounds were extensive, and stretched to where Sainsbury and John Lewis are now.


Bruntwood on the 1881 OS Map

It is a magnificent Gothic mansion, and worthy of John’s vast wealth.

Bruntwood Hall – Cheadle Civic Society

John died in 1863, just two years after moving in. He is buried at St Mary in Cheadle. He left £40,000 in his will, the equivalent of £5m in 2019. Jessie lived on at Bruntwood for a few years then moved to Sloane Street in London and lived on until May 1877 in the life of a rich widow, she is buried alongside her husband.

John and Jessie had a son who died in infancy. Of the other children, Margaret Muir Douglas (B 1851) married Ernest Julius Wolff , a Foreign and European Merchant. They lived first in Moss Side  Manchester at “Wolffenden” on Carlton Road, before moving to Ormskirk.

Earl Laurie Douglas (1852-1919) never married, and in 1911 he is living in Gloucester Road, Kensington, with a servant. However, a few years later he appears to have moved to more modest accommodation in Priory Mansions. He is buried alongside his father.

Addison Douglas (1855-1882) stayed on at Bruntwood, unmarried, and is buried again at St Mary. John Andrew Douglas (1844-1915) appears to have been more successful, he married Annie Tolson at St Mary in 1867 and became a merchant as his father. He is again buried at what became the family church.

Finally William Muir Douglas (b 1849) married Ellen Maud Fletcher in Uttoxter in 1880, they emigrated to New Zealand where he became a landowner and farmer, dying in 1934 in Remeura, an affluent suburb of Auckland on the North Island.

Fortunately the Hall, although with grounds curtailed is still with us. Although it does not have the family history that other halls have, it does have a rich past, having served as Cheadle and Gatley Town Hall (before that was moved to James Watts’ Abney Hall) , a racehorse stud farm (one of the most successful in the North of England) In 1959 it was sold by Cheadle town council to a Timber supply company for £10,750. The mid 1990s saw the development of Sainsbury and John Lewis, with some of the land being sold for that purpose, most recently it has become a luxury hotel, Oddfellows on the Park,  being sold for £1.3m  in a £3.5m redevelopment project.

Copyright Allan Russell 2019




Author: allanprussell

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

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