The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Bank Hall – Part Nine: The Alice Briggs Home

When William Briggs gave Bank Hall to the City of Manchester he was following a common philanthropic theme. Orphanages in Victorian times were rare, and children who found themselves destitute ended up in the workhouse, or worse still, prison.

William Briggs was following the example of Robert Barnes at a local level and Dr Barnardo at a national one, he provided the orphanage at his own expense.

Heaton Mersey was at the time a very prosperous area, as we have seen the rich millowners built their houses there on the hill, far above the grime of central Stockport, and the by now polluted Mersey. It was the Prestbury of its day.

Bank Hall was therefore an ideal place to have such a home, and Manchester Corporation, being a liberal administration was keen to be able to provide such houses.

The Alice Briggs home was set up as a remand home, a sister home was also established in Bolton, and they formed part of a network of local authority run homes where the neighbouring authorities each contributed to the cost of upkeep.

Whilst the Alice Briggs home in Heaton Mersey was originally envisaged by William Briggs as a girls home, its initial intake was boys and girls, but by 1938 it was boys only, and the Bolton home was for girls. Like the Barnes Industrial School over the road, it taught the resident boys animal husbandry and horticulture.

The boarding cost in 1938 was 7s (35p – 2019 £23.00) per day for boys and 7s 6d (37.5p) for a girl. Non participating authorities paid one shilling (5p) per day extra.

They certainly had a pleasant place to stay.

Bank Hall – Stockport Image Archive

As soon as William gave the house to Manchester, tenders were sent out to redrain the premises, renew cellar floors and fix electric lighting, it being the early 1900s, electricity was not at all commonplace and by 1917 the home was up and running, with teachers from local schools attending to learn gardening skills in order to help boost self sufficiency and the war effort.

Infact all was going very well with the home until the night of 22 December 1940 and the Manchester blitz. One of the bombs that landed on Stockport, destroying houses on Didsbury Road also hit the Alice Briggs home at 21:35 demolishing it. The boys and staff had managed to take refuge in the shelters but the house was no more.

After nearly 200 years Bank Hall was reduced to a pile of rubble as the pictures below from Stockport Image Archive show.

The Council requistitioned Brookfield on Wilmslow Road in Cheadle to take the boys in, and the home stayed there until 1949 when it was transformed into a maternity home (the erstwhile owner Percy Shiers perhaps thought it was the best of a bad deal and gave Manchester Corporation the house in 1945 on the basis it became a maternity home).

After the war St John Vianney primary school was built on the grounds, and since then the site has been used for housing. Of Bank Hall we have just Bank Hall Road to remind us that it stood for 200 years, built on the forgotten hamlet of Bank.

Next time we will walk a little along Didsbury Road and look at West Bank.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

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