Whilst the inhabitants of Bank Hall after the Philips family appear to be tenants, the property is up for sale in 1889 and our next resident owns the property. He also gives it away, but let’s begin at the beginning.
A property for sale advertisement in the Manchester Courier on 25 May describes Bank Hall as having 20 acres of land… standing on high ground having a southerly aspect and commanding extensive views, it contains entrance hall, three entertaining rooms, billiard room, schoolroom, with numerous bedrooms and good offices. The gardens including large tennis ground, greenhouses, wineries and productive kitchen garden, are well laid out and contain some fine timber. There are commodious stables , also shippon [cattle shed] and piggeries.
A buyer is found, and that is William Briggs of Blackley and his wife, Alice. William was the son of James Briggs and Betty Howarth. James was born in 1804 in Prestwich and married Betty on 31 December 1826.
In 1830 he founded James Briggs and Sons in Blackley, a Chemical manufacturing concern. In 1841 he is living in Briggs’ Buildings in Blackley and describes himself as a Designer, by 1851 this has become an Engraver to a Calico Printer, in 1869 a Manufacturer and in 1890 Graces Guide says that James Briggs and Sons are refiners and manufactures of lubricants and heavy chemicals, at Lion Oil Works, Blackley, Manchester 9.
James Briggs, The Lion Works, and an Advertisement for James Briggs & Sons
James retired from the business in 1871 and died around a year later. He and Betty had six children.
Details are sketchy for John and Robert Briggs, born around 1826 and 1827 respectively, but they appear to have followed their father’s business interests, Robert marrying Ellen Coupe in 1851.
The third son, Thomas, was born in 1830. He was educated at Middleton Grammar School and married Alice Mills, he set up as a smallware manufacturer in Blackley, along with his brother James Henry Briggs (born 1840) and progressed to the manufacture of canvases and tarpaulins for Railway Carriages in his Salford mills.
Thomas became Lord Mayor of Manchester serving two terms between 1899 and 1901. He died in Bowden in 1911 and was buried at St Peter in Blackley.
Sarah Jane Briggs (1837 – 1899) married William Dean Barlow Antrobus, who was at the time Governor of the Manchester Reformatory, but later diversified into the management of a paper mill in Derbyshire.
Finally we come to William Briggs, who was born on 23 April 1845 in Blackley. In 1861 he is a Mercantile Clerk, working for his father, marrying Alice Yates in 1869 at St Peter, Blackley.
Alice was the daughter of William a Cabinet Maker, who lived at the Woodlands in Timperley.
He soon sets up on his own, and by 1871 he is working as a Woolen Salesman and buyer, and he rapidly becomes more successful, styling himself a Fancy Goods Manufacturer in 1891, and living, like his predecessor at Bank Hall, Sir Joseph Leigh, at Brinnington Hall before he follows Sir Joseph’s example and moves next to Bank Hall.
William specialised in the sale of haberdashery and wools, he traded under the Penelope brand which he registered in 1886.
William Briggs used his brothers’ patented process for transferring embroidery designs from paper to fabric. Whilst he did not sell directly to the public, he set up a shop Mrs Bidder – Art Needlework Specialist in St Anne’s Passage, Manchester, near to his Cannon Street offices. Here you could buy all Briggs merchandise, or obtain free advice. A mail order service also operated from here.
In 1896 William published a book for schoolchildren, to teach them basic needlework, from the rather grandly titled, Manchester School of Needlework, Cannon Street (ie his registered office).
William was an active supporter of our troops, and he organised tobacco and magazines to be sent to troops in the Boer War. This carried over after his death in associations with HM forces where during the second world war Penelope kits were sold to soldiers in hospital, and marketed as an occupational therapy, and means of relaxation for those at sea, or on isolated stations.
His wife Alice also worked hard for charitable causes and organised appeals for the Mauldeth Hospital. Both William and Alice also attended social functions, including of course the first At Home of the Lord and Lady Mayoress (his brother Thomas and sister in law Alice) in 1899. Alice, William’s wife, wore striped purple and a black and lace vest for that occasion.
William and Alice lived at Bank Hall until 1912, celebrating their silver wedding there in 1894.
In 1912 he presented Bank Hall to the Corporation of Manchester. He wrote to the Lord Mayor of Manchester from his new residence, Lowther House in Hale on 15 May:
My Lord Mayor…. it was brough to my notice that the education authorities in my native city of Manchester are badly in want of a home to which they can ask the magistrates to send children under the powers of the Children’s Act, who are found begging, wandering or have no means of subsistence; children whose parents have entirely neglected their welfare.
In such homes I understand young girls of from 10 to 16.. are taught the various occupations of domestic service, and are trained to fulfil their duties effectively in after life. To meet this want I have pleasure in offering … to the city as a gift, my house, Bank Hall, Heaton Mersey … and the estate comprising about 15 1/2 acres of freehold land…..
I should be pleased if the house could be named the “Alice Briggs Home for Girls”.
We now have the Barnes Industrial School , Alice Briggs Home and for a while West Bank in Heaton Mersey which were used for children’s homes.
William died on 19 January 1922 at Friars Croft in Hale. Alice died sometime after this. In his will he left a fortune of £120,122, equivalent to £6.9m in 2019, no mean feat given that he had already given away Bank Hall.
William and Alice had four children. Frank Reginald Briggs worked in his father’s business and married Mary Horridge in 1913. He died in 1927 in Chapel En Le Frith.
Their second child, William James Harold Briggs (1870-1945) married Jessie May Veevers at St John , Heaton Mersey on 2 August 1893. Between 1918 and 1923 he was MP for Blackley, and then became MD of William Briggs & Co. He died on 6 May 1945 at Broadford, on Knapp Hill Road in Bagshot.
Charles Arthur Briggs married Irene Cronshaw in 1899, and also worked in his father’s business. He died in 1922 in hospital in Ober, Engadin, Sanmadan.
Finally , Alice Lilian Briggs (1879-1967) married Sir Jocelyn Field Thorpe CBE KB in 1902. Sir Jocelyn was a research chemist and became Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry. They lived at The White House, on Cooden Beach in Bexhill. Thorpe was famous for his discovery of the Thorpe reaction, which is apparently self-condensation of aliphatic nitriles catalysed by base to form enamines. So that’s cleared that mystery up. Dame Alice died in Lewes in 1967.
James Briggs & Sons is still trading, it moved from Blackley to Oldham and specialised in paints, lubricants and polishes for the automotive, industrial and hygiene sectors. It is still cutting edge and developing graphene based products.
The Penelope brand is still associated with quality needlework transfers and Needlewoman and Needlecraft journals were published by William Briggs and Co.
In our next instalment we will look at the Alice Briggs Home, and its fate.
Copyright Allan Russell 2019