The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Bank Hall – Part Seven: Sir Joseph Leigh

Joseph Leigh lived at Bank Hall between 1886 and 1889. He was born in Ashton Under Lyne in 1841, the son of Thomas Baines Leigh and Mary Ann Linney. Thomas Leigh founded a cotton spinners in Stockport in 1851 at Bee Hive and Portwood Mills.

Joseph was educated at Stockport Grammar and at a young age he entered the family firm to help out because of his father’s failing health. Thomas Leigh died in 1857 and soon after Joseph was in overall charge of the firm.

On 30 December 1868 he married Alice Ann Adamson, the daughter of Daniel Adamson and Mary Pickard. Daniel was to become a close business associate of Joseph.

Daniel Adamson was born to Daniel Adamson and Nanny Gibson, the keepers of the Grey Horse Inn in Shildon, on 30 April 1820 near Durham. He was educated at the Edward Walton Quaker school and in May 1833 he started an apprenticeship at the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He and Mary Pickard married in 1845 at Aysgarth, at which time he describes himself as a farmer. However, a few years later he is working at the Hackworth Engineering works. The works were sold on the death of Timothy Hackworth in 1850, so Daniel moved to Stockport, where he became manager of the Heaton Foundry on Gordon Street in Heaton Norris. At this time Daniel and Mary are living on New Road in Heaton Norris.

Daniel Adamson 1820-1890

Daniel was both successful and precocious, he left the Heaton Foundry to set up the Newton Moor Iron works and they move to Back Lane in Newton, near Ashton Under Lyne.

The Adamson Iron works in Hyde

By 1871 he has a workforce of 250 men, and describes himself as a civil and mechanical engineer, and in 1872 he relocated to Johnsonrook Road. He had patents on 19 improvements to boiler design and used steel when other manufacturers would not.

His wealth at this point allowed him to move to the Towers in Didsbury. Pevsner calls The Towers the finest of all the Manchester Mansions, and it has a detailed history of its own, but that is for another time. It is still standing, and well worth the trip across the border into Didsbury.

The Towers, Thomas Worthington 1826-1909

On 27 June 1882 a number of people, including Joseph Leigh and Daniel Adamson (a director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce by then) met at the Towers and agreed in principle to proceed with the building of a Manchester Ship Canal.

Daniel was elected chairman of the committee to promote the Ship Canal, and in the face of intense opposition from both the railway companies and the Port Of Liverpool – who would lose out on their monopolies, the Ship Canal Act was finally passed on 6 August 1885

The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette of 4 November 1882 sets out the economic case for the canal

While all (are) anxious to support the great railway interests which had done so much for them, yet they could not hide the fact that if they were to keep abreast of the times, they must possess means for carrying produce in bulk at the very lowest rates…. an Atlantic steamer carried 1,000 tons 1,000 miles at less cost than the railway for 100 miles, they had no fear the canal paying, if only it were made

On 8 August 1885 Daniel returned from Parliament to Didsbury to an enthusiastic reception at the Towers. It was arranged by the people of the village, bunting was festooned across the streets, an arch had been set up above the station holding a portrait of Daniel, with the inscription, A Well Deserved Success on one side, and Lancashire’s Future Greatness on the other. The Newton factory band played him in with See The Conquering Hero Comes the procession proceeded to the Didsbury Hotel, where a lorry was standing carrying a boat, The Daniel Adamson crewed by a boy and a girl in nautical clothing.

Daniel then proceeded to a rousing speech which drove the crowd wild. The Manchester Courier reported on 10 August 1885

I am rejoiced at this reception, because it will tell our Liverpool friends that it is an untruth to say that Lancashire is weary of the fight. If I may judge by what I see this day, Lancashire is only just beginning to fight. We have fought one of the greatest battles ever contested (Cheers) and won that battle in spite of the opposition of strong and powerful corporations. – a struggle prolonged for a period beyond all precedent (Cheers) Our opponents said that we could not find the money, but if they might judge from the demonstration the money could be found three times over (Cheers) Our Liverpool friends might at once take notice that the sixteen millions sterling which they have invested is in some danger. (Laughter). When we have got the money we want to construct the canal with, we should invite our Liverpool friends to sell to the Ship Canal Company their docks and warehouses. The property in which sixteen millions has been invested at Liverpool is not after the passing of the Canal Bill worth more than eight millions, and I shall not be prepared to offer more for it.

I think that day it was Manchester 4 Liverpool 0. In the Towers a celebration meal was held.

A prospectus was issued for 725,000 £10 shares at par in 1886 with Daniel as Chair of the Ship Canal Company and Joseph Leigh as a director.

Prospectus 1886 Ship Canal Company Illustrated London News

Unfortunately failing health meant that by 1887 Daniel had to retire and was unable to cut the first sod, nor did he see the canal completed. Daniel Adamson died on 13 January 1890 at the Towers, and is buried at Southern Cemetery.

A blue plaque can be seen on the Towers, commemorating him

However, Joseph Leigh did see the canal completed. Let’s return to him. Joseph continued as a director and promoter of the Ship Canal Company, and was present at Eastham Ferry on 11 November 1887 when the first sod was cut for the Canal.

After his marriage to Alice, they first lived at Beech Villa on Glossop Road in Marple, before moving to Brinnington Hall around 1881 and living at Bank Hall approximately 1886-1889

Between 1884 and 1889 he served as Mayor of Stockport for a record four times. He was an enthusiastic promoter of education and founded Stockport Technical School in 1889, which later became Stockport College. He was also a staunch supporter of Stockport Sunday School, attending first for lessons then rising to teacher and eventually Trustee.

In 1889 Joseph showed his textiles at the Paris Exhibition and so impressed were the French that they made him a Chevalier of the Legion Of Honour. The French did like him, as he visited Paris again in 1903 and was awarded this silver plaque by Monsieur Lansessan, the editor of Le Siecle.

Alice also had shipping connections, and in June 1889 she launched the ship Alice A Leigh at Whitehaven, which was capable of reaching Australia in 100 days, at the astonishing speed of 330 miles per day.

The Alice A Leigh Whitehaven

By 1891 he and Alice have moved from Bank Hall to Tabley House, in Tabley Park near Knutsford.

Tabley House

In 1892 he was elected Liberal MP for Stockport, and represented the seat between 1892 and 1895 during which time he was knighted for Services to the Ship Canal, and was present in May 1894 when Queen Victoria opened the Canal. He continued with local causes, becoming Chairman of Stockport Technical School in 1897.

He successfully contested the 1900 election to stand once more as Liberal MP for Stockport until 1906, and with his wealth moves into the Towers in 1908, as well as having a seaside residence at 26, North Promenade, St Anne’s On Sea.

In 1908 he is Deputy Chairman of Williams Deacon’s Bank, and President of the Manchester Board of Trade, he continued his association with the Ship Canal, entertaining journalists in September of that year, who were amazed to see the large steamships.. and smaller craft which seemed to cling like tentacles to every nook of the roomy docks. (the most) interesting item of the three hours voyage was the inspection of the large shed at number 8 dock, where were stored countless bunches of bananas. Elders and Fyffe Limited now have a fleet of steamers constantly bringing this nutritious food from various parts of the tropics to the United Kingdom, and it is interesting to note that Manchester… supplies all the territory North of Birmingham … a cargo is the equivalent of about five hundred railway truck loads.. The party on its return to Trafford Wharf was conveyed by special electric cars ….to the Midland Hotel where Luncheon was served.

Sadly, nineteen days after that outing Joseph died at The Towers on 22 September 1908. T & J Leigh continued trading until 1960, however cotton was still spun at the mill until 1969.

Dame Alice moved to Yorkshire after Joseph’s death but continued visiting St Anne’s dying at Duneside, on the South Promenade in 1927. She was buried at All Saint’s in Marple.

Alice and Joseph had seven children between them.

Frederick Adamson Leigh was born in 1872 at Tabley Hall, and died young at Lancaster in 1898.

Thomas Herbert Leigh was born in Marple in October 1873, in 1894 he became a lieutenant in the 7th Lancashire, Manchester Artillery, and commanded an Artillery brigade during the First World War. He served in the Home Guard in World War II , dying on 19 January 1942, at Holly Rough in Chelwood Gate, Essex.

Alice Mary Leigh was born in 1875 in Marple, she lived with her mother after Joseph’s death, taking the waters with her in Harrogate in 1911. During the First War she earned Distinguished Conduct Medals as a member of the Canteen Worker Corps and the French Red Cross. She died in 1958 in Cheshire.

Joseph Egerton Leigh (1876-1959) followed his father into the cotton industry, becoming a cotton spinner in Whitby. He served in the First War as Captain and Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He married Kathleen Doris Padfield in 1920 in Jesmond, ending his days in Torquay.

Joseph Egerton Leigh

Oswald Bowes Leigh was born in 1877 and was still living with his mother in 1911 aged 34. He married Beatrice Garvey in 1937 in Kirton Lindsay, she was a Vicar’s daughter and aged 37 , 23 years his junior. He died soon after in Brigg, Lincolnshire in October 1941, aged 64.

Oswald Bowes Leigh marries Beatrix Mary Garvey in November 1937

Adamson Lennox Leigh (1878-1968) married Enid Kathleen Elwis in Balby near Doncaster in 1924, In 1928 he founded Healy Mouldings, a Bakelite moulder in the East Midlands, retiring in 1963. and dying in Sutton Coldfield aged 90 on 20 July 1968.

Finally Kathleen Marguerite Leigh (1880-1920) married Percy Augustus Moore in 1902 in Manchester.

Joseph Leigh has one monument still in Stockport, Joseph Leigh House on Wellington Street, built in 1881, now used for affordable housing. It was built as the Reform club, with funds supplied by Joseph Leigh and was once Peaches Nightclub. At least he is remembered, though few will know why.

Joseph Leigh House, Wellington Street, Stockport

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

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