The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Mersey Bank House – Part Five William Leigh & A School

We have met William Leigh’s nephew, Sir Joseph Leigh before. William entered the family cotton business, lived just down the road from his Sir Joseph, and also like him rose to become Mayor of Stockport and a JP.

The Leigh family, as we have seen with a lot of succesful Heaton Mersey clans have their roots in Chapel En Le Frith. His father Thomas was born there around 1784. As a young man he came to Stockport, marrying Ann Bowes in 1807 and founding a cotton mill.

Ann passed away around 1850 and he married once more to Ann Ashmore in Mottram in Longendale. At this time they were living in Brinnington, Stockport, and he can describe himeelf as a gentleman on the marriage papers. He died in 1858 in Brinnington.

He had five children with his first wife. Thomas Baines Leigh (1811-1857) was Sir Joseph’s father, and together with his brother James Leigh (1822-1894) he founded T&J Leigh Cotton Spinners, who operated from the Beehive and Alligator Mills in Stockport, before commissioning under Sir Joseph, the Meadow Mills.

The Beehive and Alligator Mills were a group of seven mills which occupied the space on which Tesco now stands Stockport.

The End of Beehive Mill © Helen Clapcott

There is a lot of fascinating information about this branch of the family on Charlie Hulme’s informative site.

Thomas and Ann Leigh alseo had two daughters, Ann (b 1809) and Catherine (b 1815) who do not appear to have married.

Their youngest son was William Leigh, who was born in 1824. He entered T&J Leigh as a cotton agent, and married Sarah Bailey on 4 August 1853. They went to live in Heaton Moor at Stoneleigh Cottage, on Parsonage Road.

He rose to a high position at T&J Leigh and by 1881 he was describing himself as a master Cotton Spinner. In 1885 he was Mayor of Stockport and a Justice of the Peace.

The family moved to Mersey Bank around 1885, where he died on 15 October 1892, leaving £40, 871 (2020 £5.2m) in his will. Sarah lived on at Mersey Bank until her death on 28 March 1903.

William and Sarah had five children, the first three were daughters, Catherine Pendlebury (1856-1935) Mary Howard (1858-1937)and Alice (1861-1948). The girls lived on at Mersey Bank until Mary’s death in 1937. None of them married.

William Bailey Leigh (1864-1935) attended Manchester Grammar School and Owens College, and joined the family firm of T&J Leigh. He lived next door to Mersey Bank at Poolstock House¹ in Heaton Mersey. He was somewhat bookish, owning the collected works of Heinrik Ibsen, and being a member of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian Society.

He married Frances Mary Eastwood (1869-1949) the daughter of a Yorkshire Attorney, practising on Greek Street in Stockport.

Although he was a honorary director of the Stockport Sunday School, he was perhaps not a tolerant man. The mentions I can find of him in the classified adverts for servants stipulate no catholics. Which given the eventual fate of Mersey Bank and Poolstock is a tite ironic. William died on 20 July 1935 at Poolstock,

William Bailey Leigh, Stockport Image Archive

Thomas Bowes Leigh (1867-1947) was the youngest son. He married Martha Minna Louise Marie Podeus (c 1876-1957) in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany in 1897, the couple lived at Eastholme in Heaton Chapel. Thomas was called to the Bar in in 1901 and practised as a barrister in Manchester, rising to county court judge and moving to Riversdale in Wilmslow. He also became president of the Stockport Cricket Club.

Judge Thomas Bowes Leigh, Stockport Image Archive

Thomas and Martha had four children, the youngest of which , Rupert Henry Archibald Lee rose to Air Commodore in the RAF. In 1939 he was Flight Commander at the central flying school at Upavon and on the 18th October that year he tested Douglas Bader to assess his capability for flying duties, the test was carried out in a plane equipped with toe brakes, which Leigh operated for him, knowing that in a Spitfire, which Bader would be flying, there were hand operated brakes, which would cause no issue for Bader’s artificial limbs. Leigh received five mentions in despatches during the war.

After the Leigh family moved away the properties at West Bank, Mersey Bank and Poolstock were taken over by the Catholic Church who founded Mersey Bank School and Convent there, which over time became St Winifred’s Primary School and Convent and has been responsible both for Brian and Michael’s record Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs, as well as There’s no one quite like Grandma. Quite a cruel revenge for a man who would not employ catholic servants.

Mersey Bank appears not to have left a trace on the photographic record, I can find no images in the archives, so apart from maps, we can only picture this grand house from a for sale advert in 1843, and recipe books from that time. Perhaps the first residence in Heaton Mersey to have central heating is lost to us.

¹ Poolstock House is alas also no longer with us. It stood in the grounds of what is now St Winifreds Primary School. Before William Bailey Leigh lived there it was the residence of William Alfred Royle, a Manchester Architect, including the City of Manchester School Board, Ardwick Congregational Church, several police stations, Smedley’s Hydropathic Establishment and Turkish Baths at Birkdale and the Turkish Baths at Harrogate.

© 2020 Allan Russell

Author: allanprussell

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

3 thoughts on “The Big Houses Of The Heatons: Mersey Bank House – Part Five William Leigh & A School”

  1. I have enjoyed reading The History of Stockport in 100 Halls. However, there is an error in Part 48 where you mention William Nelson. I do not believe he had a son William who died in his teens. The grave list for St John’s Heaton Mersey does not include any for the name Nelson. The photo of the memorial you show is, I think that for the Curtis family and William’s daughter Margaret Ann did marry one of the Curtis family. The Curtis family, who lived at Thornfield, originated in Yorkshire going back into the 15/1600s when they were farmers but later they became very wealthy – like the Nelsons they were curriers at some time.


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