The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Mile End Hall – Part Four: Charles Henry Nevill

Our next resident did not stay long at Mile End Hall, infact, like William Davenport before him, he used it as a stepping stone to move to Bramall Hall, where he is known for the sympathetic restoration work he carried out there, and created the Bramall hall we know today, infact the name Bramall Hall as opposed to Bramhall was adopted by him, from a desire to reflect the old English spelling of the name, and has been followed by subsequent owners.

Charles Nevill, Charles Henry’s grandfather was a Birmingham born Calico Printer who came to Manchester around 1804 and married Sarah Hewson that same year. By 1815 he was established in his trade and living in Barton Upon Irwell. He died in September 1852, aged around 73 having formed the Moss House Bleachworks in Crumpsall in partnership with Samuel Smith.

Charles’ son, Thomas Henry Nevill, married Martha Elizabeth Smith, Samuel’s daughter, on 11 October 1843. At that time Thomas was working in partnership with her brother, William Henry Smith at the Moss Lane Bleachworks where in 1851 he is a Calico printer employing 84 men and living at Bottomly side in Crumpsall.

He then appears on the 1861 census in North Meols as a cotton merchant, with Martha and his children, however in 1864 we see him at the Strines Calico Printing Works near Marple in Cheshire.

The calico works were run by Thomas alongside Joseph Sidebotham. The company were noted for their philanthrophic attitude to employees, although workers still railed against new technology when roller printing was introduced in 1830 causing a block printers strike.

The partners built a works library and school, but the Strines Journal is a unique example of how creativity was encouraged at the printworks. Joel Wainwright is another example of history’s forgotten accountants, between 1852 and 1860 he produced in conjuction with J M Gregory a handwritten journal which reported on local items of interest, factory news and educational articles. Five volumes were produced and I encourage you to visit the Strines community website to see examples of the high standard of work that was produced.

Thomas was rich enough by 1871 to be living in leafy Didsbury at Didsbury House.

However, the true extent of his wealth can be seen in 1882 when he bought Bramall Hall and Estate for his son, Charles Henry Nevill. Soon after that he retired to Hove, where he lived until 13 August 1893, at number 3 Victoria Mansions, retaining the property in Didsbury and the modestly named Cottage in Strines. He left a relatively palty £26,349 8s-6d in his will, no doubt having parted with a substantial sum buying Bramall Hall.

Thomas and Martha had five children, three girls and two boys. Charles Henry Nevill was the eldest. The girls were Maria Elizabeth, Florence and Blanche. The second son, Arthur died aged 18 in 1869. Charles was the only child mentioned in Thomas’s will.

Charles was born on 23 July 1848, and baptised on 6 November that year at St Peter in Blackley. He lived with his father until 4 June 1878 when he married Mary Jane Booth (1851-1901). The marriage was celebrated at Strines Mill, and the workers presented them with a gift of a silver fruit service containing a large platter, Queen Ann pattern fruit platter with four cut glass side dishes to hold fruit. The side dishes were engraved with the family arms. The Hyde and Glossop reporter tells us that the cost of this service was £57 (£6,800 in 2020).

In recognition of this gift, Thomas Nevill had chartered a train from New Mills to Belle Vue Pleasure Gardens, around 700 workers, family and friends were conveyed to the new station at Belle Vue, the train being adorned with Union Jacks. Belle Vue station at the time was designed for the holiday traffic as we are told that the platforms were capable of holding several thousand people.

On arrival (unfortunately in heavy rain) they were taken to the Chinese Tea rooms and served dinner, then furnished with refreshment vouchers for the afternoon ahead.

They were served soup, fish, veal, mutton, lamb, beef, vegetables, plum pudding, pastry and cheese with ample pale ale and stout to wash it down. After the meal there were several speeches toasting the bride and groom (who by now had left, Thomas Nevill wryly remarking that Charles was much better employed that day, to much laughter from the ladies present).

Joel Wainwright then made a speech, congratulating the happy couple, and ending by toasting Thomas Nevill, at which Thomas replied I am happy for good trade, an honest harworking staff .. and an industrious body of workpeople capable of bringing prosperity , our goods are known in India, Japan and Persia.. The Strines Printing Company, Long May It Be Successful!

The parties then dispersed to the Pleasure Gardens where some went to the lake with its steamer and small island, walked around the banks, or visited the monkey house and aviaries. The rain meant that some decided to frequent the skating rink or music hall, or tried elsewhere to rest and find shelter from the continuing downpours.

Before they returned to the train, there was a firework display mingled with the presentation of a spectacle depicting the siege of Plevna (a major battle the previous year between Russia and Turkey) with fine detail reproducing snow capped mountains, rocky gorges and houses as well as canon and artillery. They were shown miniature wooden soldiers and cavalry in the battle re-enactment. The noise of the rockets and flashes of the fireworks imitated the roar of canon and charging of artillery.

After returning from their honeymoon (which alas history does not share with us) Charles and Mary moved to Mile End Hall where they lived until 1882 when his father bought him Bramall Hall.

Charles and Mary Nevill, 1890 © Stockport MBC

At the time of purchase, it must be said, Bramall was not an enticing prospect. William Davenport had died without legitimate issue in 1829. The estate passed to his illegitimate daughter, Maria, whom he had adopted. She married Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys RN, who subsequently became Rear Admiral Sir Salsbury Pryce Humphreys Bart and in 1838 assumed the Davenport name by Royal license in 1838. He died in 1845, the estate passed through to his son and then grandson, John William Handley Davenport, who on achieving majority in 1877 sold it to developers for housing.

The developers, whilst keeping the Hall, had unsuccesfully tried to let it out to tenants, but it had fallen into neglect with extensive water damage and parts of the building were close to collapse. Charles and Mary took charge and sympathetically restored the building, whilst making it a house fit for modern habitation. They appointed a local architect, Faulkner Armitage (1849-1937) to carry out the work. Neither party wanted to destroy the fabric of the building, and where new fittings were installed, these were placed over the original surface, even the fireplace was designed so it could be removed if desired.

He also remembered his father’s business colleagues, and built Hall Cottage to house the Sidebottom family.

They uncovered many old features, such as the medieval etchings in the Solar Room. The park was redesigned with rhododendrons to give it a Himalyan air, and he diverted the river Ladybrook to improve the landscape.

In 1891 Charles became a councillor for Cheshire County Council, he campaigned against Gladstone’s Home Rule for Ireland Bill (along with Charles Fielding Johnson).

In 1899 increasing competition in the industry forced the amalgamation of the Calico Printers Association, which joined together 46 calico printers and 13 textile merchants under one roof. The Association was founded with a share capital of £8.2m and eventually had a head office at St James’s Buildings on Oxford Street in Manchester. Charles took the role of Vice Chair of this new company. The company eventually became Tootals – which was the company founded by the brothers in law of Alfred Orrell.

The Calico Printers Association

His business interests extended also to the St Helen’s Smelting Company by 1913.

Charles was a keen traveller and fisherman, and saved Bramall Hall for Stockport, giving us the place we know today. He died on 13 August 1916 in Manchester, leaving £147,733 in his will, equivalent to £16.9m today. Mary was well spoken and witty and respected in the local community. She founded the Bramhall branch of the Primrose League, which was one of the earliest women’s political mass movements in the UK. She was also president of the Bramhall Gentlewoman’s Employment association, an organisation which funded further education and training for young women. She died on March 18 1901. She also left some grafitti in Bramall Hall

Mary Nevill Bramall Hall 1891 – © The Lazy Archaeologist

Charles and Mary had no children. After his death Bramall Hall was inherited by Thomas Nevill Carleton Stiff (1869-1936), his nephew, who had changed his name in anticipation of the inheritance. He also left his name carved on the windows of the Hall.

Thomas was unable to maintain the Hall, and so sold it for £15,000 in 1925 to John Henry Davies, a Manchester Businessman and at the time owner of Manchester United.

Davies only managed three years in the house, as he died in 1938, leaving his widow to live there alone until 1936, when she sold the Hall and Estate to Hazel Grove and Bramhall UDC for £14,360. In 1974 local government reorganisation meant that Stockport MBC took possession.

Charles is remembered today on Nevill Road off Bramhall Lane, parallel to Bramhall Park Road.

Next time we meet a Stockport Brewer at Mile End Hall.

Copyright 2020 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

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