The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Mersey Bank House – Part Two John Hall

The next person to live at Mersey Bank is John Hall, or more precisely John Halls IV and V. JH IV descended from a long line of John Halls, for convenience this starts with John Hall I, the son of another John Hall, JH I lived between 1712 and 1761 in Scarborough, and like his son, JH II was a mariner. JH II married Mary Atkinson at Scarborough Parish Church, and they had around ten children, the youngest of which John Hall III (1773-1834) came to Manchester and settled in Rusholme and married Mary Dobson on 4 June 1800. In 1812 John Hall III founded an iron merchants.

This firm continues to the present day as Hall and Pickles, steel stockholders and processors with a HQ in Poynton. It is the only UK steel company never to have been nationalised.

Hall and Pickles, Poynton

John Hall III died in July 1834 on Cavendish Street, Manchester and was buried at the Rusholme Road Cemetery, Mary survived him by 21 years and passed away in July 1853.

John III and Mary had eleven children John Hall IV was a resident of Mersey Bank but let’s first look at some of their other children. There were five daughters: Anne (b 1805), Mary (1809-1873), Jane (1811-1862), Sarah (b 1812) and Elizabeth (b 1816). None of these married, and they lived with their mother in and around Rusholme eventually buying a property on Park Crescent a prime location in Victoria Park, Rusholme, living amongst such luminaries as Richard Cobden, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Halle, and Emmeline & Richard Pankhurst.

Park Crescent c 1865, by Helmut Petschler

Anne perhaps came the closest to marrying, she had been courted for some time by Mr Swanwick of the Bank of Manchester, but on listening to the advice of their uncle Andrew, in July 1836 John Hall IV pointed out to Anne the impropriety of such a connection, and the relationship was abruptly terminated, why such a relationship was unsuitable we do not know, but it may have something to do with Mr Swanwick writing to JH IV the previous June and raising the heaviness of the balance against me, upwards of £5000. John went to see him the following day and noted after clearing the matter: this is the first such complaint made to me of this kind, and very much annoyed me. John Hall III also suffered losses from a bank failure, and perhaps the family generally became wary of bankers in general.

William Hall (1803-1864) lived in Whalley Range and married Mary Elizabeth Bancks, the daughter of a Manchester Surgeon. His brother, Robert Atkinson Hall (1807-1840) lived on Greenwood Street in Manchester and traded as a Corn Dealer, John Hall IV reported in his diary of 1835 that his business did not do well. Andrew Hall (1817-1818) died in infancy. George Dobson Hall (1820-1894) married Frances James.

The two sons of JH III that did well were Sir Charles Hall (1814-1883) who trained in Manchester as a solicitor. His brother John Hall IV arranged for him to have an allowance of £280 pa (£36,000 in 2020) to support him in his studies, and he went to London in 1835 to read for the bar, entering Middle Temple where he worked under Lewis Duval, marrying his niece Sarah, and inheriting both his practice and fortune in good time, living at Duval’s House, 8 Bayswater Hill.

He became an authority on real property law and in 1873 rose to Vice Chancellor and was knighted. On walking home in June 1882 he had a stroke and resigned his Judgeship, dying on 12 December 1883. His son, Charles, also called to the bar, became a QC in 1871 and Attorney General to the Prince of Wales between 1877 and 1892. He was MP for Chesterton, Cambridgeshire between 1885 and 1892, and Finsbury from 1895 to his death in 1900. He never married, and spoke little in parliament.

Finally we come to John Hall IV. He was born on 8 April 1801 at the family residence of King Street, Salford. and baptised at Cross Street Chapel the same year.

He took a keen interest in his father’s iron trade, touring the country taking in sites and enjoying the scenery. In June 1824 he travelled to Dublin, Newry, Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway, returning via Holyhead and watching the Chain Bridge being built on the Menai straits.

The next year he travelled he attended an Iron Master’s metting in Wolverhampton.

On 17 November 1825 he married Elizabeth Byfield at the Collegiate Church in Manchester. Not only was he a keen businessman, he was an avid reader, his diaries are full of notes about the books he has read. He established a reading circle with fellow residents of his street, Bloomsbury Terrace in Rusholme, Manchester.

1819 Johnson Map, Showing Bloomsbury bottom middle

He entered a partnership with Joseph Yates as Iron Merchants. Joseph was his brother in law having married Elizabeth Byfield’s sister, Mary, and he and his brother William were to cause him a great deal of grief over the next few years.

This partnership was dissolved in 1830 and he carried on trading from a property at 46 Port Street Manchester, but in 1833 became interested in the purchase of a warehouse at number 64 Port Street¹ from his old partner Joseph Yates and offered him £1,100 to buy it. The offer was accepted a few days later, on the 6 December with £275 payable immediately and the balance in installments over the next year and a half. The next day Yates came round to his house asking for the money due.

John paid him the amount owing the following week and asked him to sign for the sale of the warehouse. Four months later in April 1834 the sale had still not been completed and his solicitor Mr Aston, of Kay, Barlow & Aston of King Street, Manchester, urged him not to pay any more money until he had a signed contract.

Later in June, the issue was still troubling him, and he had long conversations with his solicitors and other parties. He was still determined to get the property and bought a lease for a wharf and buildings to the canal at Port Street for £100.

Perhaps the delays had made people suspect he was short of money to complete the purchase, and Mr Owen in June 1834 offered to lend him £800 at 5%, which he refused, only to have Owen’s brother James offer Whether his reputation had suffered because as he had an unsolicited offer for a further £200 from his brother James, he discussed the matter with his father, noting in his diary

Mr Owens offer of a loan had not been my seeking but merely to accomodate himself I felt very indignant at this way of putting the matter…. I showed the letter to my father and took several days to consider my answer as I felt aftaid of being much too intemperate.

He replied, restraining his language a few days later, and declined the offer.

Nevertheless he was doing well, and on 30 June 1834 he drew up his books and showed a £3,000 (£385,000 in 2020) profit for the year.

On a personal basis he had other worries at the time, as his father was ailing and on 4 July he noted that he was increasingly indisposed with little chance of recovery, by 14 July his father had been fastened to his bed, and was in a violent state of delerium, the whole family began to return to Manchester to make their farewells, and he breathed his last at 6:35 PM on 17 July 1834.

As head of the family, he now had to arrange his father’s affairs and interpret his will. He was advised to keep the money in trust until the youngest child (George) came of age.

In August the second payment on the warehouse fell due, and James resolved not to make it until the deeds were ready. Yates needed the money – he was considering buying another property on Great Bridgewater Street – however had to give up the idea because no further funds were forthcoming.

Still Yates came to him with more schemes, offering him for sale, 200 tons of pig iron in October, discovering five days later that the iron did not belong to him, but Mr Higgins, Yates’ brother William’s partner in Liverpool, and furthermore the furnace was out of order until after Christmas.

Yates’ cheek knew little bounds, he asked John if he could help him gain employment via John’s brother in law, perhaps as a confidential clerk.

Joseph Yates had some other properties on Princess Street and Union Street in Manchester that John wanted, and John offered £500 (subject to other monies already advanced, and mortgages for them) at the end of October. Yates agreed to this, and even promised to paint the premises for him. John had big plans for these buildings, including demolition of one of these buildings to improve access. Even this hit problems, as the tenant was given notice to quit, and refused as his lease had not expired.

He spent most of January in discussions with Kay, Barlow and Aston, over the Port Street Purchase, the solicitors informed him much was John’s fault as he had released funds, making Yates indifferent to progress, most of March is taken up with John in constant contact with Yates, trying in vain to get him to sign the deeds, at one point Yates suggests he lend him £500 to pay back his clerk, from whom he borrowed the same, so he could fire him and employ someone else. John notes I did not take the hint.

Yet in April, John paid over net balance of funds due, providing Yates use it to redeem the mortgages he had on the Princess Street properties. Again a few days later he found that the sums had not been paid over, and he called on Mr Yates, who had the funds in his pocket, and had spent the day endeavouring in vain to find Mr Robinson to whom the money was owed.

This finally worked and on 16 April 1835 the interest was paid and the conveyance signed. John’s diary has a telling note. Remember never again to pay for any purchase, before the deeds are signed.

Now the purchase of the Port Street property was settled, John confided his dream of one day being rich enough to build himself a house (which he nearly did in buying Mersey Bank) He looked at properties on Nelson Street, Upper Brook Street, and even as far out as Platt, near Withington in Manchester, where he was offered the land for a peppercorn of one penny, provided that the chief rents were kept by the owner and good houses were built. This offer he took up. He leased the land the following February at £5 per acre, a significant profit.

That 30 June he once more drew up his accounts, and found himself good to the value of £4,786 16s 11d (£612,000 in 2020) a substantial increase on his wealth of a year earlier.

By October, he has managed to seal the purchase of the Princess Street properties and celebrates by buying a silver service for £160 (£20,000 today) a dozen of champagne and some sherry, and throwing a 10th wedding anniversary celebration with his relations.

On February 3rd 1836, William Yates called upon John, and gave an explanation for his treatment at the hands of his brother.

Mr Yates’ haughtiness (to use the mildest term for it) to those around him during his prosperity cannot be fairly attributed to any one but himself and he is now sufffering for it in the “culls direct” and scoffs of those over whom he used to tryranize. His every word shows that he now very severely feels it. He certainly spoke to and of every one of the neigbouring iron masters as very much beneath him. They are now generally returning the compliment. This was the first time in his life that he had ever treated me with civility, and in consequence of his repeated enquiries concerning my family I invited him to my house , where he slept. In the evening, he again entered into long explanations in the presence of my wife and said that his conduct to me had been entirely owing to the statements of his brother who had always accounted for his losses in the iron trade to my incapacity. He had repeatedly said I was only fit to stand behind a counter, and had notions which totally prevented the profitability of our doing anything beyond a paltry retail trade. He had, however, found immediately on the dissolution between Joseph Yates and I that I increased the business twofold and he asked Joe for an explanation of his oft repeated accusations of me. He and his brother Joe are not on terms, but he appeared to wish to make me the mediator and requested I would , if opportunity offer explain matters to Joe. He denies that Joe lost much money by his loan….. and would not have lost any had he not been grossly stupid…… Very many other things came out, which strongly corroborated any previous conviction that I had been very shamelessly misrepresented.

The works on the warehouse were completed in March and April 1836 and on 28 April 1836 he hoisted his flag upon the warehouse. Yates however has not gone away, and on 2 July he discovers he has been trying to borrow money from John’s uncle, with whom he has a quiet word not to lend the money.

As well as being successful in business, John was a cultured and travelled man with a fine sense of humour. He notes of a visit to Southport on 6 June 1833:

Southport appears to me to answer the following description of a watering place sundry barren shingly sandy spots upon the coast, disfigured with frail lash and plaster bay windowed tenements, which being supplied with scanty white dainty curtains, a few rickety chairs and tables and some knotty featherly featherbeds are considered to be furnished. Hither numbers resort during the six weeks of an English summer, to ride in an improved species of wheelbarrow, drawn by jaded donkies or ponies, to sit on the pebbles and pelt them into the sea, to catch cold by walking on wet sands, to lose money in raffles – to enjoy at least one pleasant morning – that on which they return home

That September he travelled wildly in the Peak District, visiting Chapel, Buxton and Bakewell taking particular notice of Arkwright’s home and his spinning machinery, which he considered insignificant compared to what was now in use in Manchester. He then crossed the moors over pretty scenery to visit a steel works and cutlery showrooms, and proceeding to Doncaster where he watched the St Leger, travelling on to Fountains Abbey.

In January 1834 he took the Rover to London, arriving three hours late as the wheels had caught fire at Stafford (an excuse current TOCs have not yet used).

He visited the docks tunnel and remarked on Brunel’s curious arches

Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, mid 19C

That evening he attended the theatre in Covent Garden. The next day he was however disappointed with Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster, and sailed from there to London Bridge, dining at Dolly’s Chop House and visiting the theatre at Drury Lane, returning the following evening at 8pm after a 24 hour journey home.

Dolly’s Chop House © The British Museum

He notes in his diary of 23 February 1834 that he saw Mr Gaskell preach at Rusholme. In June he visited his family in Scarborough, seeing his sister there. He was there for five days, perhaps it was not a good visit, as he notes on the ride back:

Left at 3pm, arrived home 6am the following day. Never so exhausted as this, rode box all way. My wife observed she never was at any town where there appeared to be so many attorneys and there were so many bad smells. Are either of these the cause of effect of the other?

Nevertheless he returned to Scarborough on 4 July, walking as far as he could on the rocks at Filey with Elizabeth, who fell whilst trying to keep up with him, returning on the 10th as his father was ailing.

He was back in Scarborough again in August, to shoot sea birds off Flamborough Head, who he notes were very plentiful and very easily shot.* Returning on the 16th with his daughter Elizabeth, spending a day in York, visiting the Minster.

A minor family crisis arose in October when his sister Jane visited and informed him that she had converted to the Church of England, and intended attending service soon. John managed to keep this revelation secret from their mother, a staunch Presbyterian as were all the rest of the family.

On 18 November 1834 at 9pm his son John (V) was born, with Mr Cooper the surgeon, Elizabeth Lea, nurse Mrs Mayfield and Ann Brotherton in attendance, John was baptised at home by Mr Gaskell on the 23rd.

In January 1835 he read with disgust the takings at Westminster Abbey from amounts charged to visitors – upwards of £1,600 pa, which he notes is a disgrace to the nation. I dread to think what he would think of today’s charges. That May he also commented on the boy racers of the day:

I saw one of those foolhardy feats which men sometimes perform from bravado in the success of which there must necessarily be much of what is called luck, although they are by the public generally, set down as marks of first rate abilities, : this was ; a stage coach drawn by eight horses, driven from the box from Rochdale through the principal streets of the town , laden with passengers, and turned into Lacy’s gateway, at the rate of at least, nine miles an hour.

His opinion on the medical profession was not much higher, writing a week later:

Consulted Dr Richardson, who as far as I could see was in much to great a hurry to pocket his fee, even to know what was the complaint of his patient

In June 1835 he and Elizabeth once more set out to London, this time on the Bee Hive they once more visited Drury Lane and saw La Gazza Ladra, by Rossini. The performers were Ivanhoff, Tamburini, Lablache, Grisi, Caselli and Brambilla.

They visited Covent Garden for the Opera the next evening as well as spending the day at London Zoo and on the 9th went to see Don Feliz in the Wonder, a comedy by Susannah Centilivre at the Haymarket, with Charles Kemble in the title role.

The next day there was another visit to Drury Lane to see the same company perform Puritani. More sightseeing followed with visits to Windsor Castle and a full day in the British Museum, travelling home via Oxford and Blenheim, which he considered to be in a sad state of delapidation.

In 1836 he bought a Grand Piano Forte, which possibly went to Mersey Bank, to rival the existing instrument owned by Samuel Oldknow at Heaton House next to the Bleachworks.

His sights now started turning towards Heaton Norris and Stockport, in 1841 he became a magistrate for the town, and spoke the same hear at the opening of Stockport Unitarian Church, for which he had supplied the land. It is around now that he may have moved to Mersey Bank.

Unfortunately the only mention we have of him at the house, is his will, and a death notice on 1 October 1843, he was at the time once more on his travels, and died at Great Malvern in Worcestershire, aged 42.

He left all his possessions to his wife, Elizabeth, and his estate was valued at £25,000 (£3.2m in 2020).

After John’s death Elizabeth moved back to Brighton Place in Rusholme where she died on 21 July 1853. We have her handwritten recipe book which will have been used at Mersey Bank for cooking.

It is full of Mrs Beeton type recipes for curing a haunch of mutton, stewing beefsteak, fishcakes, mackerel au gratin, ginger pudding, toffy, soda cake and Prince Albert pudding. Her recipe for horseradish sauce is below:

2 tablespoons of grated horseradish, two teaspoonfuls of mustard, one of sugar. Mix together. Two tablespoonfuls of vinegar with a little cream to make it like salad sauce.

Both John and Elizabeth were buried at Rusholme Road Cemetery.

They had four children who survived, at least one other was stillborn. Elizabeth Byfield Hall, 1826-1912, lived out her days with her sister Mary Byfield Hall (1829-1921) who married William Thomas Marriott, a colliery owner from Wakefield. They lived at Sandal Grange, Sandal Magna, Wakefield.

Sandal Grange

William Byfield Hall (1836-1855) died at the tender age of 18 and was buried at Rusholme Road.

John Hall V (1834-1895) carried on the iron merchant business at Port Street. He married Katherine Heald. We have met the Healds via Robert Parker, Thomas Coates and even seen them in their home town of Chapel with Henry Kirk. For that reason we will leave them till we visit them proper in a future instalment, save for a view of their house, The Grange in Hale, and a suggestion that John V’s son, John Hall VI was a little more succesful with banks than John Hall IV.

The Grange, Hale © Heald Hall Archive John Rylands Library

Whilst his father aspired to building his own house and only owned Mersey Bank, John Hall V had the Grange built to his specifications.

Would we have as much luck as the Halls did with money. John Hall VI (1870-1930) was so trusted by the directors of the Midland Bank that this tale is recorded in the Heald Hall history as written by Charles Brehmer Heald. He relates how John Hall VI was asked about the balance against him by the directors, however, unlike with the unfortunate Mr Swanwick, the Halls came out firmly on top.

Gentlemen, I owe you £50,000 today, I am quite prepared to pay but would infinitely prefer to borrow an extra £50,000 from you for another twelve months.

Surprisingly , perhaps, the directors agreed at once. Thus began some 30 years of the special relationship between John Hall and the Midland Bank. Until his death, he was a unique client in that they would lend him any money he asked for with no security other than his own word that he would repay. The bank, it is said, still has a copy of his last loan of £50,000, and in the column headed “security” there is only his signature.

A very canny and interesting family.

¹ Another accountancy related fact, is that number 64 Port Street is attended cramming courses for my exams between 1981 and 1984, that property a 1960s construct is also now demolished, being now a car park.

² The quotes from diaries are © his unpublished diary and other documents held in the Heald Hall archive at John Rylands library. As there are so many iterations of John Hall, I have tried to follow the family’s regnal designations of John Hall I to VI, although I have since discovered John Halls before JHI.

³ The role of Don Felix in The Wonder, was the final swansong appearance by David Garrick.

  • Yes I do know Flamborough head is today an RSPB sanctuary.

© Allan Russell 2020.

Author: allanprussell

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

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