The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Parrs House – Part Six: Henry Kirk

If we don’t what caused the son of a metal merchant, Thomas Gore to move to Parr’s House in Heaton Norris, our next inhabitant, it must be said was the son of a metal merchant, and he moved to Heaton Norris to take up a totally different profession from his father.

In Henry Kirk’s case it is a little clearer, his second wife was born in Stockport, and he took up the trade of a Wine Merchant, wishing to live the life of a town gentleman, rather than solely reside at his Country Estate of Eaves in Chapel En Le Frith in the family business.

That said he did maintain his residence in Chapel, he just alternated between the two locations.

Henry Kirk of Parr’s House was born on 9 October 1797 to Mary Vernon and Captain Henry Kirk (of the North High Peak Corps of the Derbyshire Volunteers¹)

Captain Kirk was born circa 1752 in Derbyshire, and around 1770 he and his brother founded Henry and Thomas Kirk, Iron Founders, at Town End in Chapel En Le Frith.

The iron works were in a strategic place, being a coaching stop on the turnpike to London, and therefore an ideal place for the production of horseshoes. The Kirk family’s involvement in iron goes back as early as 1650, when Thomas Kirk is recorded as repairing the clapper to the bell on the parish church. With the advent of the railways the Kirks the horse trade declined, but was replaced by the far more lucrative trade in iron for the railways the other needs of the industrial revolution. Nasmyth’s first steam hammer was made at Town End around 1844.

Townend Works, Chapel En Le Frith © P Whitehead

Captain Henry married Edward Vernon’s daughter Mary, giving him an inheritance of more land. Henry and Mary lived at the Eaves near Chapel En Le Frith.

Henry and Mary had around six children, Maria, Sarah (1786-1844), Hannah (1791-1848), Henry, and Elizabeth both of whom we will meet later, and Ann (1816-1837)

Elizabeth Kirk was born in 1803 at the Eaves, and on 19 September 1838 she married Elkanah Armitage.

Elkanah Armitage was born in 1794 in Failsworth, Lancashire, and at the age of eight joined George Nadin and Nephews, cotton spinners. Because of his diligence and intelligence he quickly rose through the ranks to manager.

In 1816 he married Mary Louisa Bowers , with whom he had eight children, then after her death he married Elizabeth in 1838, and they had one further child, Vernon. Elizabeth and he first lived at Gore Hill, then in 1853 they bought Hope Hall in Pendleton. He employed Sir Alfred Waterhouse to design an extension²

18th Century View of Hope Hall, British School

Elkanah and his first wife had set up a drapery business at 18 Chapel Street in Salford in the early 1810s and by 1829 he had 29 workers, eventually expanding to build a factory in Pendleton, Salford, employing 200, manufacturing sackcloth and ginghams. By 1848 he had over 600 workers and and in 1867 they took control of the Nassau Mills in Eccles.

Sir Elkanah Armitage

Politically, Elkanah was liberal, and in 1806 he petitioned for the abolition of the slave trade. He entered local politics and rose to become Mayor of Manchester between 1846-1848, and in 1849 was knighted by Queen Victoria for services during the chartist unrest of 1848.

Elizabeth died on 27 July 1868 at Hope Hall, and Sir Elkanah on 26 November 1876.

Captain Henry Kirk died on 18 February 1834, leaving his only son Henry to inherit the Eaves estate.

Henry Junior married first to Jane, and had at least three children, Jane, Ann and Henry, only one of whom, Jane (1832-1909) appears to have survived past adolescence.

After his first wife’s death Henry appears to have taken stock of his life. The 1829 Pigot’s guide shows him living with his first wife in Chapel, but in 1830 we can see he has taken up residence in Stockport as the Chester Chronicle announces he has been appointed a constable of Stockport. His first wife died soon after this and on 9 October 1833 he married Jane Reddish, nee Heaword (1809-1867), the widow of James Reddish, the previous occupant of Parr’s House and moved in with her.

Between 1834 and 1839 he operated alongside Charles Higginbotham as a Wine and Spirit Merchant on Lower Hillgate in Stockport, dissolving that partnership in 1839, but carrying on in his own account after that, as the 1841 places him at Parr’s House, still describing himself as a Wine Merchant.

However, he still maintained his links to Chapel, and around the same time is listed as an Iron Merchant in the town. He used both his houses as bases for his professional career.

He was a man to take an interest in current events, and in 1835 he subscribed to Braithwaites Supplement to Sir J Ross’ Narrative of a second voyage in the Victory. and was a shareholder in the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, as well as a director of the Bank Of Stockport, although given that John Stanway Jackson was in charge around that time, he may have thought twice about the appointment.

His attention to civic duty was not as diligent, in May 1837 the Manchester Courier reported that he was fined £5 (£560 in 2020) for non attendance for jury duty, however he did sit on a committee that same year to raise funds for St Thomas’ School in Stockport, and politically he was a supporter of Major Marsland.

Infact in 1841 Henry Kirk had everything going for him, a new young wife, several children by his new marriage, a successful business in Stockport, as well as in Chapel En Le Frith, two substantial houses between which he shared his time.

On 23 November 1841 he was at the Eaves, hunting for game, when he passed through a hedge, whilst his servants and footmen were beating the ground in front of him, a shot was heard, and one of his servants , John Dain, heard him give out two heavy sighs, and fall to the ground. They ran to him, but he was bleeding profusely, and died on the spot.

Whilst that is unfortunate, at the inquest it was discovered that the same gun had exploded in his face whilst he was out grouse shooting on the 12 August the same year, fortunately it missed him, but the explosion destroyed the hat he was wearing. He clearly did not learn from that narrow escape. The inquest returned a verdict of accidental death.

We are fortunate enough to have a description of him from the contemporary press, he was a fine looking man, in the bloom of life, standing more than six feet high, and proportionally stout, the Sheffield Independent reported.

His widow, Jane endowed a white marble tablet to be placed in the church at Chapel, recording, Belloc like, the cautionary tale of his lamentable demise, decorated with the family arms the following year*.

The tablet reads:

This monument is erected
by his bereaved and affectionate widow
to the memory of
HENRY KIRK
late of EAVES within this parish, gentleman
whose premature death in the vigour of manhood
by the accidental discharge of his fowling piece
cast an unprecedented gloom over the whole of the locality
and called forth the sincere lamentation & regret
of all who knew him.

Jane first moved to Everton, where she appears on the 1851 census living with Mary Elizabeth (b 1835) and later moved moved to the Eaves with her two surviving children by William, Mary Elizabeth and Henry. Five of her children had died in infancy, their last child, Henry, was born in June 1842, seven months after his father’s untimely, if avoidable, death.

In 1841, Edward, Jane’s son by James Reddish, was staying at King Street in Prestbury, with Samuel Higginbotham, a solicitor.

Edward sailed on 14 November 1847 to Calcutta on the Flora MacDonald, in order to gain a knowledge of mercantile transactions. After a calm journey of 126 days, the ship moored at Garden Reach, seven miles from Calcutta, a few days later, he accompanied Captain Sutherland to Calcutta, but on returning to the main ship his dinghy was overturned and he drowned on 1 April 1848.

Jane stayed at the Eaves until the 1860s when the family moved to London, Jane and her daughter lived in Thornton Heath, Croydon, and Henry on Inverness Road in Hyde Park. Jane died on 29 March 1867 and was buried in Chapel a week later.

His erstwhile coachman Joseph Brown, put to good use the experience he had in ferrying his master between Parr’s House and Eaves, and saw the commercial opportunities offered by the new station at Stockport, the viaduct having been opened the previous year, and set up a coaching firm to convey travellers from the train to their final destination.

Before we leave the Kirk family, we will have a look at what happened to Captain Henry Kirk’s brother, Thomas with whom you will remember he started the Iron Foundry. His grandson Peter Kirk carried on in the iron trade, working first at Chapel, then setting up at the Star Ironworks on New Bridge Lane in Brinnington, Stockport and subsequently moved to Workington where they set up in the New Yard Works as well as acquiring the Ellen Rolling Mills in Maryport, and the Marsh Side Mills in Workington. His son Peter (1840-1916) followed his father and then emigrated from Workington to Washington State in the USA, where he founded the city of Kirkland in King County Washington.

Kirkland was a steelworkers town, and Peter wanted it to become the Pittsburgh of the West, with his Great Western Iron & Steel Company. Perhaps not as famous as Juan Illingworth, he is remembered in many buildings in the town, including the imaginatively named Peter Kirk Building and Peter Kirk School. Nowadays Kirkland is a suburb of Seattle with a population of around 90,000.

Peter’s brother Henry also served his time at the Town End Ironworks, before moving with his father to Stockport and on to Workington. He was regarded as an expert in the production of puddling iron, which allowed the production of large quantities of high grade iron to feed the needs of industrial England. He died on Petteril Street in Carlisle on 8 July 1914.

*Returning to Henry and his memorial at Chapel en le Frith. Being a fan of Hillaire Belloc please indulge me on my take on how he would have composed Henry’s tablet.

The Cautionary Tale of Henry Kirk, of Parr’s House, who having narrowly escaped death with a faulty rifle was fool enough once more to venture out onto the moors with a defective firearm leaving his wife twice widowed and unborn heir orphaned.

Henry Kirk, of high renown
Lived in Chapel and Stockport Town
A home at Eaves for smelting iron
And one at Parrs for selling wine.
One glorious 12th he left his house
Determined for to bag some grouse
His gun recoiled, a grave mishap
Yet fortune struck, it was his cap
That was destroyed. He lived to sire
A son and heir, but alas, this squire
Would never see his fine young son
For one more time he took his gun

Off to the hills some game to hunt
Yet, Henry’s mind was clearly blunt
And did not replace nor try repair
The gun. For safety first he did not care.
He tripped, a bang and great distress
He fell, he died. I must impress
To you, should you perchance
To hunt, of proper maintenance.
And do not be like Henry Kirk
And corners cut nor mending shirk.
Dear reader please I hope you care
To keep your gun in good repair

¹ The Derbyshire Volunteers were formed in 1803 as a Home Guard to counter the threat from France. The North High Peak Corps were based in Chapel En Le Frith and numbered 120 men. The great and the good formed the usual suspects of the officer class, and they wore a uniform of scarlet coats with blue collars and cuffs. They weren’t a particularly significant force, in 1827 they received government funding of £81 out of a total of £145,006 1s 3d paid to Yeomanry Cavalry in the UK. The North Derbyshire force received £1,045 16s 10d by comparison (Parliamentary Papers: 1780-1849, Volume 17).

² Accountancy fans amongst you will be thrilled to know that Alfred Waterhouse’s younger brother was Edwin Waterhouse, the founder of Accounting firm Price Waterhouse. (Now Price Waterhouse Cooper).

Many thanks to Tom Parker at St Thomas A Beckett in Chapel En Le Frith who helped me locate the graves and was very welcoming at the historic church. It is well worth a visit and tour of the graveyard, and other Heatonians are remembered there, plaques to the Healds of Parrs Wood Hall, Brinnington and Chapel can be seen on the walls.

Copyright 2020 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

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