The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Mile End Hall – Part Three: Thomas Unsworth

The only record we have of Thomas Unsworth living at Mile End Hall is a few mentions in newspapers of 1875. In particular, these appearances in the press point towards his ultimate fate a decade later. It is probable the hall was being let to wealthy tenants at that time, and we will explore this more in the next episode.

Thomas Unsworth was the son of Robert Unsworth and Mary Reddish. Robert was a calico printer and quilting manufacturer from Crawshawbooth near Rawtenstall. Robert was a relatively well off man, as in 1851 was employing a workforce of 50.

Robert and Annie had three boys and three girls, Nancy, Maria, Emily, James Reddish, Thomas and Robert Hugh. They all disappear into history after 1861 except for Thomas, born in 1835.

Thomas is living with his family at Whalley in 1841 and Bridgend, Bolton in 1851. After that the next time we see him is in 1866 when he marries Annie Hepworth in Barton Upon Irwell.

Annie was the daughter of Dr John Hepworth a surgeon from Crofts Bank, near Eccles in Manchester and his wife Ann Mills.

The next time we see them is in the 1871 census when they are living in Prestwich Park, Thomas described himself as an oil merchant and cotton manufacturer. That same year Thomas filed a patent improvements in stretching and drawing rollers for spinning, and in 1874 he is operating the styling of Thomas Unsworth and Company first from 6 Brown Street Manchester, then Dutton Mill Strangeways and by 1876 Worsley Street Ironworks, Albert Bridge in Salford.

He joins the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1875, and that year he and his wife appear to be living in some style as the Buxton Advertiser reports them as staying in several hotels. They stay a fortnight from 2nd January at 2, Flints Bank at Mrs Metcalfe’s establishment, then again for a fortnight from 15 May at the Old Hall Hotel

The Old Hall Hotel Buxton

The Old Hall claims to be the oldest Hotel in England, although I take with a pinch of salt its website claim that it dates back thousands of years. It has been a hotel since 1727. Prior to that it boasts a guest list that included Mary, Queen of Scots (although she was under house arrest at the time) and Daniel Defoe who stayed there on his tour of Britain (he seems a litle unimpressed, of Buxton he said: the wonder to me is, that in a nation so full of chronical diseases as we are, such as our scorbuticks, rheumaticks, cholicks, and niphriticks, there should be such a fountain of medicine sent from heaven, and no more notice taken of it, or care to make it useful. (Letter 8, part 2)).

Certainly in Victorian England, Buxton was a popular Spa resort, and an extravagant place to stay, The Old Hall was considered a cut above the normal hotel, welcoming bishops and aristocracy who had come to take the waters.

We find them again in Buxton on 21 August, at 21, Lismore Villas, and once more on 15 September, back at Flints Bank.

On each of these occasions they list their home address as Mile End Hall, Stockport.

In 1878 they have moved to Lyme Villas in Disley, an equally well heeled residence, containing 10 rooms. The house appears to be still standing. Anybody who knows the road into Disley by Lyme Park will know that this is indeed a very select place to live, and one given Thomas’s circumstances below, that he could ill afford. They were still there on the 1881 census.

The bankruptcy hearing is quite damning, and creditors were not expected to receive more than 9d (4½p) in the £. He knew himself to be insolvent in 1877, furthermore he had contracted debts without having at the time any reasonable or probable grounds of repaying them,…. and his bankruptcy had been brought on in part by rash and hazardous speculation and in part by unjustifiable extravagance in living. In July 1885 he purchased machinery and established a costly works supposing that he was going trade at a large profit on patents he had filed, but infact lost £1,300 and was hopelessly insolvent.

Between 1877 and 1886 his personal drawings were on average £572 pa, including a life insurance policy for £2,500. By 1886 Thomas Unsworth had lost everything and was only earning £3 per week, but, despite a debt of £5,790 (£¾ million in 2019) he appeared now to be turning a corner and was producing a profit. Thomas was granted a discharge, suspended for two years.

By 1886 they are in more modest accommodation at Sunnyside in Buxton, and the receivers have been called in at the West Gorton Ironworks.

In November 1887 a final dividend of 6½d in the pound was paid and Thomas Unsworth and Company was duly wound up in July 1888.

Thomas died some time between then and 1901. In 1901 Annie is living at 14 Haven Street, Pendleton, with her son Thomas Lawrence Unsworth, on private means, presumably some money had been saved, or perhaps she was living on the proceeds of the life policy. In 1911, we find her boarding on Portland Street in Southport, living with Fanny Bright, a widow, and her two daughters, still living on private means. She subsequently returned to her birthplace and died in late 1922 at Barton Upon Irwell.

Their son, Thomas Lawrence was born in 1878 at Lyme Villas. Initially he entered his father’s trade and in 1901 he told the census enumerator that he was a Mechanics Iron Turner, but in 1939 he is a Printers Agent, albeit at the time incapacitated, and living with his wife, Flora in a modest terraced house, on Richmond Road in Manchester. He died at the beginning of 1946.

Our next Mile End Haller stayed a little longer and contributed much towards the preservation of Stockport’s heritage and we revisit a house we have seen earlier, suggesting a connection between the two.

Copyright 2019 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

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