Moving from Parr’s House we wander back up the hill to what was quite a posh cluster of houses. Let’s have a look at the 1848 tithe map of Heaton Mersey.
Mersey Bank House can be seen off Didsbury Road next to West Bank and Heaton Lodge, and thanks to the rather unfortunate quick deaths of the first two inhabitants we have an early description of the building and a date of build – 1840.
The house was offered for auction at the Clarence Inn in Rusholme (our next inhabitants the Halls had roots there). The Clarence has followed the fate of many pubs and Little Chefs and now serves curries but it was an Inn into the last century. Here’s a postcard from 1905:
In the Manchester Courier of 11 April 1843, Mersey Bank is described as a mansion with pleasure grounds, lying 5 miles from Manchester (I suspect the auctioneers were being a little liberal with the definition of Manchester centre) and 1½ miles from Stockport centre and Heaton Norris¹ station – which had trains departing every hour.
On the ground floor there was an entrance hall with a stone starircase and dome light dining room, a drawing room, breakfast room and study, as well as kitchens and a butler’s pantry. The principal kitchen was 19 feet square (that does seem a little cramped at 1.76m² ) We will return to the kitchen next time and find out some of the dishes that were cooked there. From the kitchen there was a back staircase for servants’ access.
Upstairs there were five bedrooms, three of which had attached dressing rooms, the two largest bedrooms each a comfortable 23 feet by 18 feet (38m²). The house was well equipped as there was not only a store room and water closet but also a bath with hot and cold running water, quite well provided for 1840.
There were also cellars and wash houses but also a large conservatory heated by hot water, this was truly cutting edge as this technology had only begun in the 1830s, and radiators did not reach mass market (that is a comfortably off mass market) until Franz San Galli invented his radiator in St Petersburg around 1855. The heating was probably fired by a wood or coal boiler, although the Stockport Gas works was around the Heaton Norris gasworks on Heaton Lane was not yet operational.
Outside there was a coach house, with stabling for five horses, and the gardens were southern facing, with good soil, choice fruit trees and the house itself was situated in one of the most salubrious neighbourhoods in Manchester with views over the Mersey and Alderley Edge. The grounds covered 15,198 square yards (12700m² or 3.1 acres) and was surrounded by a ring fence, the whole property being offered freehold without chief rent.
Having seen a description of the house, let us meet the first inhabitants. George Bowring and his wife, Sarah Milnes. George was born on 22 November 1777 in Edensor, and baptised in the Parish Church there six days later.
The Bowrings were a Derbyshire family who can be traced back to the 1600s . In the 1700s they were living in Edensor (pr Ensor) near Chatsworth in Derbyshire. George was the son of William Bowring and Ann Marple. WIlliam and Anne had nine children and he was one of perhaps two children from the family who left the area. In 1810 we find him in Stockport where he married Sarah Milnes (1781-1849) and became an Innkeeper at the Robin Hood Tavern on Higher Hillgate. His brother, William (b 1775) , followed him to Stockport and in late 1813 William fell foul of John Lloyd, the Stockport Solicitor when he was heard to utter Damnation to the House of Brunswick and a speedy downfall to it whilst making a toast in a local public house.
Charles Prescott, the magistrate committed him to Chester Castle to stand trial, as his brother refused to bail him. The matter was reported by the snickety Mr Lloyd to the Home Office in a letter to the Home Office highlighting the seditious language. New Mills is obviously not one of Mr Lloyd’s chosen destinations.
I have the honor to transmit to you copies of Informations taken against a man of the name of .. Bowring some little time ago respecting some seditious Expressions uttered by him at a public house in this Town, and which, owing to the presence of military characters, it cou’d not and ought not to be overlooked.
He was consequently taken up under a Warrant obtained from the revd. C. Prescot, our resident magistrate, who directed him to find Bail – and not being able to do so, he was committed to Chester Castle where he now remains; and, if you direct it, may be indicted at the next Assizes, or required by the may consent in court to enter into Recognizance for his future good behaviour, but certainly some notice must be taken and the reasons I have stated.
I was aware it wou’d be required of me to state further circumstances for you to form your Judgement upon, and I have therefore made such enquiries, as struck me to be necessary.
Bowring followed the Trade of a master Butcher in a small way, at a populous village in Derbyshire called New Mills 8 miles from this Town — a place notorious for profligacy of manners and formerly for disaffection to the Government. (but which latter I shod hope cannot generally now prevail even there.)—I have been informed he has been in the habit of drinking the Toast charged agt him altho’ he has been cautioned & warned of the impropriety & the consequences—It seems he had hitherto been encouraged by the impunity—He has a Brother, keeping a public house here who refused to bail him He (the Prisr) is not a very drunken man—but was somewhat in liquor at the time he uttered the words—however he was at that time cautioned by those present that anticipated the words of the intended Toast to be seditious; and upon the whole I have found that he is an object for chastisement — and shod the great Government Law Officers not recommend the prosecution at the public expence I will take some steps to keep him under alarm, till with a view to his being placed under a Recognizance at least. I have the honor²
Apart from this setback George appears to have done well from his trade as a landlord and in 1841 he is to be found retired, living at the newly built Mersey Bank House, on Independent means. Sarah died on 16 November 1849, and in 1851 George was living on Chestergate. He died on 2 January 1858 and was buried at St Peter, along with Sarah and their children.
His brother William possibly moved to Pendleton after this, although the details are hazy.
George and Sarah had four boys, William (1813-1839), Robert (1814-1815), John (1810-1816) and George (1818-1902).
William seemed destined for high things, obtaining an MA at Queen’s College, Oxford in 1831 then in 1835 he was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. However he died in 1839 and is buried along with his parents.
George is the one who made his mark on history. He was born on 17 February 1818 in Stockport, and attended grammar school in Bradford. He studied medicine and became around 1842 the surgeon at the Salford and Pendleton Royal Hospital, followed by some time at King’s College Hospital in London. He moved back to Manchester where he was the Dispensary Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary in Piccadilly (MRI) , and around 1850 he is said to have been the first surgeon to adminster chloroform as an anaesthetic during an operation in the North West.
He lived first at 7 Clifford Street off Oxford Road in Manchester, and on 30 July 1864 he married Frances Walmsley (1836-1864) – the daughter of a Stockport Corn dealer, William Walmsley, at St Mary in Stockport and they moved to 324 Oxford Road where they spent the next years. During this time he became an FCRS, and consulting surgeon to the MRI.
In 1871 he visited his roots in Edensor and took Frances to stay at the Peacock Hotel, Baslow along with Frances’ sister, Emma Walmsley. The hotel still stands and even in those days it was a prestigious place to stay. Their five children remained at the family house on 324 Oxford Street looked after by the family nanny.
George also served as a churchwarden for Manchester Cathedral, and in 1870 in recognisance of his service his head was carved at the base of one of the arches of the east nave.
By his death he was the medical officer to the Workhouse, and also the Surgeon to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. He passed away in Manchester on 3 March 1902 and was buried at St Peter in Stockport with his wife in the family tomb.
Next time we shall meet another family of Iron merchants, the Halls, who have connections with other local Wesleyan families we have met on our travels.
¹ Newly renamed from Stockport Station, on account of Stockport New Station on the other side of the viaduct, and starting its long decline as express through trains were no longer to stop there. It became a suburban stop served only by a Manchester service. The fare at the time to Manchester was 1s 3d first class, 1s second class, and 8d third. (approx 6p,5p and 4p) – Manchester Courier, 8 April 1843. The Manchester Times reported on 27 May that year that the turntable at Heaton Norris was being removed (being redundant as it was no longer a terminus) , and first class carriages would no longer serve the station.
© Allan Russell 2020.