The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Parrs Houses – Part One: The Parrs

I doubt if few people in Heaton Mersey know that there was a Parr’s House, we lost it almost a century ago.

As a child, growing up in Ladybarn in Manchester, I knew of Parr’s Wood, because we lived near Parr’s Wood Road, Miss Jackson at Ladybarn Primary school taught us that Kingsway was named for King George V and Parr’s Wood was so named because Mr Parr once owned a wood there. Moving to Heaton Mersey in 1968 I was surprised to see that not only was there a Parrs Wood, but there was also Parr’s Mount Mews. This Parr chap was certainly once famous.

When we have a look at the 1848 tithe map, we see that not only did he have a Mount and a Wood, he had a House (infact we will soon learn he had a Fold).

Parrs Mount 1848 Tithe Map

The house stood on the turnpike between Didsbury and Stockport (now Didsbury Road) opposite the Crown Inn.

Parrs Mount still stands today next to Didsbury Road primary school. A Georgian house, connected by an arched passage to an annexe which allowed servants to cross into the main house from their quarters. Behind it was a yard and what may have been a workshop, now transformed into Mews cottages. The Yard was known in 1851 as Williamson’s Yard, named it seems after its occupier, James Williamson, a Gentleman. The houses at the back were inhabited by this time.

The land next to Parrs House was owned in 1848 by John Thorniley.

John Thorniley was a descendant of Isaac Thorniley of Grundy Hill in Heaton Mersey. The Thornileys owned the brickworks on Harwood Road there, and in 1831 they built the Griffin Hotel on Didsbury Road, in the 1700s they were a wealthy yeoman family living in Heaton Mersey. We will come back to the Thornileys, the brickworks and the Griffin another time.

Isaac Thorniley (c 1690-1722) married Martha Chorlton in 1712. The children we know about were Isaac (c 1718-1804) who married Hannah Torkinton, Martha (c 1715-1790) who wed Jonathan Higginbotham and Sarah (c 1725-1787), who became the wife of Isaac Cheetham. Martha was the daughter of George Chorlton, and her brother Thomas presumably died without issue, as his will of 1728 bequeaths all his land at Grundy Hill (one of the Hamlets that grew into Heaton Mersey) Martha Thorniley (nee Chorlton)’s son Isaac.

These three Thorniley children each married into a prominent Stockport or Manchester family, the Higginbothams, Cheethams and Torkintons were all wealthy.

The terms of the will were to pass the property at Grundy Hill to Isaac on condition that he pay a yearly sum of £5 to Thomas Chorlton’s charity of which £4 was to go to the chapelwardens of Didsbury to be laid out in the purchase of bread for the most poor and indigent people belonging to the townships of Heaton Norris, Didsbury and Burnage such as should come frequently to hear divine service. The remaining £1 was to be paid to the schoolmaster of the school at Barlow Moor.

In 1844 John Thorniley owned a substantial share of the land in Heaton Norris, measured here in acres, rods and perches.

From A History of The Ancient Chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton in Manchester, Reverend John Booker 1857

The Chorltons owned Grundy Hill before the Thornileys, Thomas Chorlton who lived there between 1678 and 1728 had a son Thomas, himself at the time a widower married the widow Elizabeth Parr.

There are other Parrs in the area. George Parr, born 1792 in Burnage, the son of James Parr and Mary Thorniley, and founder of Parr, Curtis and Madeley, manufacturers of looms and other machine equipment at Phoenix works in Manchester. Their main product was a self acting loom.

Incidentally, Matthew Curtis, was the father of Richard Curtis who married Margaret Nelson, the daughter of William Nelson.

George Parr lived on Burnage Lane near to Burnage Hall, and had five children, his daughter Ada Georgina Parr married Samuel Watts of Cringle Villa and Burnage Hall, the nephew of Sir James Watts.

These Parrs may have been descendants of Hugh Parr of Kearsley and his son John. Hugh settled lands in Kearsley and a house in Manchester in 1654 ¹. Joe Eaton in his history of Heaton Mersey suggests that some of the land was in Heaton Norris.

Then we have Parrs Fold.

An article in the Stockport Advertiser from 13 December 1935 tells us that the executor of Samuel Goolden’s will was a Parr of Salford. The Gooldens were extensive local landowners and had bought land from the Moseleys in the 17th century.

Parrs Fold (now the top of Vale Road) c 1930. Parrs House partially visible in the background, on the other side of the road. © Stockport Advertiser V Higham

Samuel Goolden (or Goulden, the spellings vary) occupied the white house at the top of the road, it is still here today, and Samuel Oldknow of the Heaton Mersey Bleachworks took a house (possibly Parr’s House or Parr’s Fold) here in 1792 – James Goolden being the landlord and charging £40 for 6 months rent on a house, stables, gardens and field (around £6,000 in 2019). By 1841 John Goolden was the third largest landowner in Heaton Norris – as you can see in the table above.

Parr’s House itself was built around the end of the eighteenth century, in the only images we have of it it appears to have Georgian features. By 1804 it is owned by Samuel and James Goolden, but let to Robert Parker, a Calico Printer.

Parrs House to let – to a respectable, genteel family – Manchester Mercury 24 July 1804

Of the Goolden family, we know even less. John Goolden gave the land for a church, graveyard and the surrounding roads to build St John in Heaton Mersey. John Marsland laid the foundation stone. Samuel Goolden, was in 1747 overseer of the poor in Heaton Norris.

Finally we come to Parr’s Wood.

The Reverend John Booker, in his History of the Ancient Chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton (1857) says that the name of Parr’s Wood dates back to 1587 (although he does not explain how he knows this). Parr’s Wood was at the southern end of Heaton Wood. I have already covered some of the history of Heaton Wood. A survey of 1320 (reported in Remains Historical and Literary Connected with the Palatine Counties Lancaster and Chester – The Cheetham Society 1861) of Heaton Norris found that the wood, of oak, was fast diminishing and would soon be gone. The few trees are left today at Heaton Mersey Common.

Pevsner is a mite scathing about Parrs Wood House, he calls it a poorer mans Heaton Hall². It was possibly built by somebody connected to the Georgian architect, James Wyatt (1746-1813), famous amongst other works for The Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, Liverpool Town Hall, the Royal Military Academy and Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, and of course Heaton Hall in Heaton Park, Manchester, which he built in 1772 so may date the building.

Parrs Wood Hall, Johnson 1819

The tithe maps of 1848 give no clues as to ownership, Samuel Cheetham owns a few fields in the area, and the park at Parrs Wood is owned by James Knott, interestingly just to the north of Parrs Wood there is another wood, Bolton Wood, which stood next to where the Metrolink station now stands. Perhaps an echo of Bolton where the Parrs came from?

Miss Jackson was right, a man called Parr had a wood. After that it is unclear. There is some connection with Hugh Parr of Kearsley, and his relatives do own or give land to people in Heaton Norris. I will leave it to someone else to find connections, Hugh may have been a descendant of the Parrs of Kendal who begat Henry VIIIs wife Katherine Parr, or a relative of the Parrs of Warrington, Sugar Merchants who founded Parrs Bank (which is now subsumed into the Royal Bank of Scotland Group via NatWest). Whatever the case the fact that houses were built in the mid 18th century bearing the Parr name suggests they were still local.

The houses are a little intermingled. In the late 18th century it is not possible to distinguish who is living in which house. However, there are some interesting people to meet. Over the next few weeks I will concentrate on Parrs House and Parrs Mount, but sometimes all we know is that the person lived in a Parrs house.

Parrs Wood Hall, I will leave for another time, and I will gloss over the Cossack invasion.

William Le Queux The Great War In England In 1897.

I promise you it is a lot less vague, and next time leads us to some very surprising places, including an exhumation after over 150 years and a burial with full military honours.

And the first man to fly……

1 A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1911), pp. 39-41.

² The Buildings of Lancashire, Manchester and the South East, Clare Hartwell, Matthew Hyde and Niklaus Pevsner Yale University Press 2004 P446.

Sad footnote:

In my edition of Pevsner (1969), of the five buildings he lists of interest in Heaton Mersey, three are now demolished.

Copyright 2020 Allan Russell.

Author: allanprussell

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

2 thoughts on “The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Parrs Houses – Part One: The Parrs”

  1. I so enjoyed reading this, I live on Didsbury Road and walk past Parrs Wood Mews all the time and just felt there had to be a recorded history about it, the cottages at the rear intrigued me.. Despite finding/reading local history books this is the only time I found something interesting. I have 1875 deeds to the mansion house that used to occupy the land my flat is built on and keep promising I will do some searching… day maybe


    1. Thanks Gladys I am pleased you like it. Which mansion are you talking about? The A Heatons History group on Facebook is trying to collect information on the Heatons and we hope to build an archive. Join us on Facebook please and share what information you have. We’re all aware that more gets lost and forgotten. Also stay tuned for next week’s episode, I’m particularly thrilled about the next inhabitant. Allan


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