The Big Houses Of The Heatons: West Bank – Part Two: Alfred Orrell

Alfred Orrell was a whirlwind of a man. By 23 he was an Alderman of Stockport, and three years later, mayor. He owned the largest mill in Stockport in 1842 at 27 and was the third largest manufacturer in the town in 1847, at 28 he was living at West Bank, but was dead at a very young 33.

Alfred was born to Ralph Orrell and Mary Roebuck. The Orrells were a long established family who inherited Turton Tower in Bolton via the marriage of William Orrell to Elizabeth de Torboc. The Torbocs had held the property since 1212 by virtue of the Lord of the Manor of Manchester.

On inheriting the property the Orrells built the pele like structure, not as protection from border raids, but apparently more to protect them from the Torboc family. The Orrells sold the tower to Humphrey Cheetham in 1628 because of mounting debt. However, they lived there until 1647. This was during the English civil war. The Orrells were Royalists, the Cheethams Cromwellians. The Orrells shared the residence with Cromwell’s troops during that time.

Turton Tower, Bolton, Copyright TripAdvisor

Ralph Orrell (1790-1837) built Travis Brook Mill, Heaton Norris in 1834, itself a mammoth undertaking – 6 storeys high, 280 feet (85m) high, designed to house over 150,000 spindles. It employed 1,264 hands.

Travis Brook Mill

Ralph married Mary Roebuck at the Collegiate Church in Manchester in 1814 and they had three children together, Alfred, Mary Sophia (1818-1838) and Jane Elizabeth (1820-1865). Mary Roebuck died in 1823 and he married Mary Pickin in 1825 in Bowdon. They had one more child, Mary (1826-1860)

Ralph Orrell died in April 1837 in Stockport, aged 46. Mary Pickin survived him and lived comfortably as an Annnuitant at Heath House, Cheadle Bulkeley then Bowdon, dying in December 1878.

Alfred Orrell was born on 10 February 1815 in London, he was christened on 19 March 1815 at the High Street Presbyterian Chapel in Stockport. By the age of 16 he was working in his father’s mill.

As well as business, he became active in local politics, joining the Stockport Anti Corn Law league in 1838, the same year as he became an Alderman. He became mayor in 1842 when Cephas Howard was unable to stand because he did not accept the nomination in time. He stood down as mayor , succeeded by Cephas Howard in 1843, and held a grand banquet at West Bank to celebrate his year in office.

The family were living at Heath House in Cheadle Bulkeley but when John Stanway Jackson put West Bank up for sale in 1842 he moved in. Around the same time he commissioned the building of a property on the site of the Cheadle Grove Printing works, which he called the Grove.

The Grove by Edward Twycross, 1850

Alfred was inducted as a freemason in 1843, at the first ever meeting of the Stockport Lodge.

In business he suffered a minor setback in 1843 when he lost some bales of cotton in a major fire at Nightingales Warehouse, Zara Street in Manchester. However, contrary to some reports he was a relatively liberal mill owner. He organised and paid for his 1,264 employees by chartered train to Alderley Edge.

The millworkers set out on 21st June 1844 from Travis Mill at 1:30pm in procession to Heaton Norris Station, accompanied by two brass bands, where 25 carriages awaited them for their journey. The party took 30lbs (14 kg) of tea with them and each hand was given a bun weighing 1 lb (500g). At Alderley there was dancing and fiddle playing. At the end of the day, at Alderley station, the oldest employee, one Joseph Potts addressed his employer thanking him on behalf of all present for his kindness and liberality, and wishing him a long and happy life. The following year his workforce presented him with a silver salver to express their gratitude to him, and in 1846 he treated 300 inmates of the Stockport Workhouse to a Christmas dinner of Roast Beef, Plum Pudding and Ale.

In 1844 he was listed as a director of The Chester, Stockport and Manchester Railway. The size of his business empire can be seen from this article from the Manchester Courier of 25 March 1847, apart from James Marshall and sons, his consumption dwarfs nearly everyone else.

Coal consumption Stockport 1846

By 1847 he is being mooted as the MP for Stockport. On the 6 October that year he married Mary Louisa Broadhurst, the daughter of Daniel Broadhurst and Sarah Tootal.

One of Daniel and Sarah’s other children, Henry Tootal Broadhurst (1822-1896), founded Tootal, Broadhurst and Lee which became the Tootal textile dynasty. Another child, Charles Edward Broadhurst (1826-1905) was recognised in 2009 as one of Western Australia’s 100 most influential citizens – this despite him retiring to Bournemouth in Dorset… Perhaps Western Australia is still sparsely populated.

Mary and Alfred went to honeymoon at Royal Leamington Spa, and their attendance was reported in the Court Circular of the Morning Post.

Alfred bought a property in Grasmere around 1845, which he called The Cottage. Perhaps that is a rather modest name for it, it is offered for sale in May 1849 as a picturesque lake villa, occupying 12 acres at the foot of Silver Howe. The bijou property boasted 2 drawing rooms, a dining room and ten bedrooms, as well as accommodation for servants, stabling for horses, and a lodge house at the entrance. Befitting a modern man, it was only eight miles distant from the railway, which was easily accessible by mail coach and other conveyance from Grasmere. Manchester was a mere four hours ride away.

Having looked at the OS map for 1859, and making note of the description of the property in the advertisement, I believe The Cottage still exists, and we can gain some idea of the scale of the house. It isn’t small.

Alfred and Mary moved into The Grove in 1846, and he continued his good deeds, hosting Sunday School parties in the grounds,

They had a child, Mary who was born in late 1848 but his happiness was not to last, and he died on 8 January 1849, having only briefly known his daughter.

The Grove was put up for auction to be bought and substantially altered by James Watts who made his own stamp on the design and renamed the property Abney Hall.

The Grove For Sale, Stockport Library Services

Mary moved to Ardwick Place in Manchester, and then the Oaks in Rusholme, before remarrying to Sir Joseph Whitworth , the engineer, philanthropist and inventor of the Whitworth screw. She died aged 68 at Standcliffe Hall, in Darley Dale, Derbyshire.

Alfred and Mary’s daughter, Mary married James Samuel Higginbottam (1839-1897) a Glasgow cotton spinner, albeit with Stockport roots, his grandfather hailing from there. Mary died in 1889 and was buried alongside her mother in Darley Dale. Again she was only young, 41.

Before we go, we will briefly look at what happened to Ralph Orrell’s other children. Mary Sophia Orrell was born in London in 1818, and died young as did her brother, aged 20 in Stockport.

Jane Elizabeth Orrell was born on 25 September 1820 on Lancashire Hill in Stockport, she married Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, a Northern Circuit Barrister on 27 July 1842.

Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, Vanity Fare

Sir William became sole partner in Cunliffe Brooks & Co, Bankers of Manchester. You may not know the bank, it was established in 1792 in Blackburn, but you will know the building which was commissioned as the Manchester Branch, it became one of the ten provincial banks who worked with the Bank of England and merged with Lloyds in 1900

Brooks Bank 46-48 Brown Street Manchester

Jane too died young, aged 45 in Manchester.

Mary Orrell, born 1826, married John Marshall Brooks, the cousin of Sir William Brooks. John Marshall Brooks was a cotton spinner and lived at Cranshaw Hall in Lancashire.

She too had a short life, dying aged 34 on 8 May 1860.

All the Orrell line died young. Alfred achieved so much in his life, and perhaps would have done much more had he lived. He may have collaborated in Tootals and made it even bigger than it became, he would likely have been an MP, and perhaps climbed further in politics. Sir James Watts was 51 when he was in a position to own Abney Hall, Alfred Orrell barely 30. Stockport lost a lot of potential when Alfred Orrell passed away.

Alfred Orrell’s signature.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

8 thoughts on “The Big Houses Of The Heatons: West Bank – Part Two: Alfred Orrell”

  1. Dear Allan – I would like to have a chat as I’m researching Lee Priory. Will you get this message I wonder? Best wishes, Pete


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