The Big Houses Of The Heatons: West Bank – Part Three: Mortimer Lavater Tait

Alfred Orrell left West Bank around 1846. Our next inhabitant did not live in the house for long, as on 20 May 1848 the contents are placed up for auction in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. The auction taking place on 25 and 26 May. The house is to be let at the same time, being in the possession of one Mortimer Lavater Tait. A full description of the contents and order of sale is given in the article below.

West Bank at that date had a drawing room with large chimney, dining room containing Spanish mahagony chairs and table, a breakfast room, entrance hall staircase and landing, again with mahagony chiffonier and tables, kitchen and scullery, butler’s pantry a dressing room and six upstairs bedrooms. In the gardens there was everything the hi tech gardener would need including a Budd’s Patent Mowing Machine (invented by Edwin Beard Budding in October 1830 who wrote in his patent  Country gentlemen may find in using my machine themselves an amusing, useful and healthy exercise).

The Budding Mower

Mortimer Lavater Tait was not staying, possession of the house was immediate after the sale of contents. He had been bankrupted and needed the funds to pay off his creditors.

Mortimer Lavater Tait was the son of William Watson Tait and Jane Danson. William was a Liverpool Merchant who had been born in 1771 at the then innovative British Lying In Hospital in Holborn, London – one of the first maternity hospitals. As befits such a birth, Mortimer came from a well to do family who lived at Livesey Hall in Wavertree. This house was in what is now Newsham Park.

Newsham House Liverpool – Formerly Livesey Hall

William married Jane Danson (1781-1848) in 1802 in Bolton Le Sands.

William Watson Tait

William was a ship owner and broker. He had many branch offices and warehouses carrying out his trade between the West Indies and the European ports of the North Sea. During the Napoleonic wars he mistakenly captured a Dutch Vessel, believing we were at war with the Netherlands. William’s mistaken belief and a subsequent case at the Prize Court in Liverpool lost him a lot of money in compensation payments. Following that there was the failure of his correspondant in Hamburg, Herr Sonntag, due to levies enforced by General Marshal Davout of Napoleon’s army during the French occupation of Hamburg. This was unfortunate also for his daughter Susan, who had been christened Susan Sonntag Tait in his honour. All of this forced the sale of Livesey Hall.

The family moved to Manchester. He was discharged from Bankruptcy in 1811 and recovered as a businessman as in 1825 was appointed secretary of the Manchester Ship Canal Company.

This was the first attempt at a Manchester Ship Canal, not the second successful one.

There had long been a desire of Manchester merchants to have an easy route to the sea. The Mersey and Irwell navigation had partially solved these problems, but in the early 19th century Liverpool was not the major port it became, and most traffic went via the Dee. Parkgate on the Dee was the major embarkation point to Dublin and Ireland, and therefore proposals were made for the first Manchester Ship Canal from Parkgate, passing along the Cheshire side of the Mersey, crossing the Wirral Canal, through Lymm and Altrincham to Didsbury and onwards to Manchester where it was to end in Hulme by the barracks. The company was to raise £1m in 100,000 shares of £10. At a meeting held in the Old Exchange in Manchester it was resolved to build a navigable ship canal capable of bearing vessels of 400 tons .. and upwards to communicate with the Irish Sea direct from Manchester.

Needless to say, Liverpool was not impressed and the Liverpool Kaleidoscope expressed their scepticism on 19 April 1825, by invoking the Monarch of the seas – Neptune – to speak on their behalf.

The Monarch, indignant at what he called treason

And contrary too, to the dictates of reason

Advis’d them in future to stick to their Jennies

And in aping their betters not make themself ninnies

“And as for your ditch there, why take it for granted

My protection in this case will never be wanted”

Clearly Liverpool’s sense (or is it realisation) of inferiority to Cottonopolis goes back a long way. The bill went to Parliament, coincidentally, in the same session as the railway bill for the Liverpool Manchester route on 21 March 1825. It eventually was passed by a Commons majority of one, but failed in the Lords.

The Dawpool Docks for the Manchester and Dee Ship Canal

His endeavours failed him once again, and in 1828 he was once again made bankrupt in another Liverpool venture. William died in 1851 at Robert Street in Ardwick. We would have to wait nearly 70 years for another Heaton Mersey connection to put egg on firmly on the faces of our Liverpool cousins.

William and Jane had at least twelve children. They were both extravagantly named and many well travelled, befitting their merchant father.

The first, Augustus Danson Tait died in infancy in 1803. Jane Sonntag Tait (1804-1882), named for the Hamburg merchant, was his second child. She first set up as a milliner in Liverpool but that did not succeed and in 1834 she married William Cawkwell (1807-1897) who went on to become the General Manager of the London and North West Railway.

William Cawkwell, General Manager LNWR by Hubert Von Herkomer – National Railway Museum

Augustus Henry Tait (1806-1883) married Ann Hogg and they emigrated to the USA, he died in Hastings New York on 19 December 1883. His brother Ferdinand Adolphus was born in 1808 and went to Brazil where he married Clara Da Silva Barbosa and had two children by her, before parting from her and marrying Elizabeth Trevilla Richard back in England, having five more children and emigrating to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he died in New Orleans in 1860.

The next child Dover Ashurst Tait was born in 1809 at Livesey Hall and died in 1834 in Mehattan, Mexico.

Mortimer Lavater Tait was born on 28 October 1810 in Bolton Le Sands. He married first Ann Hood (born 1808 in Lougborough) at St Nicholas in Liverpool on 28 September 1834, and they moved to Manchester where they lived on Broome House Lane in Eccles in 1841, before moving to George Street, Manchester (now in China Town) in 1844, where he has an interest in a cotton mill on Mosley Street as well as something intriguingly called the Mortimer Tait Railway Company.

In 1846 we find him at West Bank with Ann, and he is running Heaton Mersey Bleachworks with Samuel Stocks (who had been in business at the same factory with John Stanway Jackson).

Heaton Mersey Bleachworks 1831 by A Fraser 1786-1865 – Lancaster Museums

In 1847 this business failed and a fiat in bankruptcy was ordered, this forced the sale of the possessions at West Bank and the letting of the house, and he moved to a property he called The Cottage in Heaton Mersey. Whether this is a small cottage or a nod at a house the size of Alfred Orrell’s residence in Grasmere I can’t say.

However, by 1854 whatever the size of his residence, he has overcome his troubles and is once again at Heaton Mersey Bleachworks, and he is living on St James’ Street in Manchester. Ann died around 1851 and on 24 July 1860 he married Mary Danson in Regent’s Park, London, and they settled on New Road in Heaton Moor. Obviously once more a succesful man, by 1857 he is respected enough to serve on the Grand Jury for the January Quarter sessions at Salford.

Mortimer continued his association with the Heaton Mersey Bleachworks into the late 1860s before retiring to Barrow Mount in Ramsbottom and then Bold Street in Heysham near Morecambe after Mary’s death in 1872, where he died on 2 March 1893.

Mortimer is buried at St John in Heaton Mersey together with both of his wives.

Mortimer Latimer Tate, Ann Hood and Mary Danson’s resting place at St John Heaton Mersey.

The next child born to William Watson Tait and Jane Danson was Constantia Elizabeth Tait (1812-1891) she married Dr Joshua Rowbottom, FRCS, at the Collegiate Church in Manchester on leap year day 1848. They lived together on Union Street in Ardwick. They subsequently moved to New Zealand, where Joshua died in March 1881 and Constantina moved back to her family roots in Lancashire.

Alfred John Tait was born in 1814 and married Susannah Williams in Liverpool in 1836, but he died young in Manchester in 1845 aged 31. He was buried at Ardwick Cemetery.

William Arthur Tait (1817-1865) married Dorothy Maria Chester and they moved to Oporto where he became partner in a Port Wine Lodge, Rawes & Tait, before running it under his own name. Dorothy died in 1863, and he married Margaret Page in the British Consulate in Oporto.

Through the years the Tait label has undergone a few mergers, but is now sold under the marque Velloso & Tait, previously it was Stormonth and Tait, and supplied the necessary port to Ernest Shackleton on his expedition to the Antarctic.

Williams oldest son, William, carried on the family trade and purchased Casa Tait in Oporto, which today houses a museum of numismatics. William Jr was a keen student of flora and fauna, and introduced many plants to Portugal.

Casa Tait, Oporto copyright Francisco Restivo

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905) entered the Agnew and Zanetti Art store in Manchester aged 12. Agnew and Zanetti were famous for framing paintings by well known Victorian Artists.

He soon developed an interest in art and between 1845 and 1848 he specialised in lithographs of railway subjects. There are a lot out there. It is worth searching, I especially recommend Views On The Manchester & Leeds Railway.

Attending an exhibition in Paris he became aware of the Americas and emigrated to New York and established himself as a professional artist, where he attracted the attention of the lithographers Currier and Ives (who are namechecked in the popular 1948 song Sleigh Ride) In 1858 he was elected a full member of the United States National Academy of Design.

He specialised in animal pictures and illustrations of the American West.

Being an artist he married many times, firstly to Marian Cardwell in Liverpool, then to Mary Jane Polly Bortoft in 1873 and finally to Emma Hough in 1882 and He died in Yonkers in 2006 and remains popular, one of his paintings sold for $167,300 in 2006.

Maria Louisa Tait (1821-1870) died in St Pancras London, and finally Sarah Tait (1827-1827) died in infancy.

Returning to Mortimer Lavater Tait, he and Ann Hood had eleven children.

His first son, Mortimer Dover Tait (1836-1918) emigrated to Australia and maintained the family railway connections by becoming a Station Master in Jondarayan near Toowoomba. He married Elizabeth Anderton shortly before emigrating He died suddenly, collapsing and expiring near Goggs Street in Toowoomba on 4 September 1918.

Maria Jane Tait, and Harry N Tait died in infancy. William Henry Tait served in the Indian Army, gaining a medal during the Indian Mutiny of 1857-1861 (just four years before my great grandfather served in Agra in India). He returned to the UK to become a farmer in Heaton Mersey, marrying Margaret Hull, and dying aged 40 in 1879 on the Isle of Man.

The next two child Ferdinand Morley Tait died in infancy in 1840.

Louisa Ann Danson Tait (1846-1917) married Thomas Newton Pearson a Heaton Mersey merchant.

The Reverend Herbert George Danson Tait (1846-1900) studied at Lincoln College in Oxford obtaining his MA in 1881 and becoming headmaster of Rossall Preparatory School in Fleetwood. He died of a heart attack whilst returning home along the sands on 14 January 1900 after performing divine service.

There were two Emily Jane Taits. The first was born in 1842 and died in January 1844, the second Emily Jane Tait lived from 1844 to 1914, and married her cousin Edward Paget Tait in Auckland New Zealand. They had three children and he died in 1903, Emily returned to England and married Charles Knight, and died in Blackburn.

Charles Lavater Cawkwell Tait (1848-1891) was another to be associated with the Railway Industry. After marrying Hannah Walker Moore in Whitehaven in 1871, he became manager of the East Midlands Railway Company and settled at the Cow and Hare in Fakenham before becoming a railway traffic manager in Liverpool and dying in 1891 in Birkenhead.

Finally the youngest Tait, Arthur Christopher (1850-1892) emigrated to Buenos Aires where he married Rudecinda Fonda and became a merchant. He had six children, two of which returned to England and were to die in their great great grandmother, Jane Danson’s home of Bolton Le Sands.

Mortimer Tait and his second wife, Mary Danson, did not have any children.

We remember Mortimer Tait these days in Heaton Mersey in Tait Mews, where Tait’s Buildings once were, where he once housed his apprentices for the bleachworks.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

5 thoughts on “The Big Houses Of The Heatons: West Bank – Part Three: Mortimer Lavater Tait”

  1. Thank you so much for your articles. My 4th great- grandfather was William Radcliffe who invented the Dandy Loom. My great-grandmother, Lydia Radcliffe (daughter of Samuel and Alice Radcliffe), was born in the Heys Buildings in 1835 and her father was born in Hillgate. Later the family (she married Thomas Hutchinson) lived in the Heys Building where they were masons and they also had a farm (Crow’s Thorn) where my great-grandmother, Margaret, lived as a child.
    I had mistakenly thought HIllgate was a neighborhood so thank you for clearing that up for me. What a truly wonderful surprise to read your article. It made my day and I thank you for the information on William.
    I also had an exchange with Fr. Tim Radcliffe whose 4th great-grandfather was the judge in the Luddite trials. As you know, William’s wife was beaten so bad she died from her injuries. William ends up in poverty and Fr. Tim’s family became Viscounts of Inglestone Hall, home of the Earl of Petre. When I explained the relationship to him in an email exchange, he replied, “Ouch.” I live in New Jersey in the US and have visited England several times and drove through Stockport once, but
    unfortunately I was not in genealogy at the time and missed a true opportunity.
    I hope you will not mind a quick question. Are the Heys Buildings (which William owned) still there? I would love to visit both the next time I come back to England. Again, thank you for all of the magnificent work you put into this piece. It was much appreciated and should you have any other information on these Radcliffes that you are willing to share I would very much appreciate it.
    Wishing you good health. –Alyce Hutton Rossi


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