Sunday, 10 May 2015

Old Stretford - Chapter I - Highways and Byways


Highways and Byways.

  From Urmston to Stretford there were two
means of communication, the main highway
called the Gamershaws, and a footpath that
ran from the end of Humphrey Lane, Urm-
ston, by Timperley's Far, and then crossed
the fields to Derbyshire Lane, Stretford.
Within my recollection there was not a house
in Gamershaw Lane for nearly a mile.
About sixty years ago Mr. Marsden, of
St. Mary's Gate, Manchester, broke the
monotony by building Oak Cottage at the
corner of Sandy Lane.  In a dell on the side
of this lonely road was supposed to dwell the
Gamershaw Boggart, a terror to all women and
children.  Often as a child on a dark
night have I, for protection, run every inch
of the way behnid a vehicle rather than meet
the Boggart.  To make matters worse a band
of young ruffians personated the Boggart,
attacking and maltreating defenseless women.
On the 18th July, 1846, a very bad case
occurred of ill-using and stoning passers-by,
and this led to the formation of a mutual pro-
tection society, which was instrumental in
putting down the nuisance.
  In my early days Urmston Lane was of un-
certain width.  After a narrow footpath came
a stretch of cobble stones, between which and
a wide ditch there was a green sward.  On
this cattle at times pastured.  Half-way to
Stretford there was a sharp turn to the left,
and as the road here was narrow and there
were no lights, so many accidents occurred
that the people of Urmston and Stretford
petitioned the Trafford Estate to have the
road straightened.  The latter gave the
necessary land, but would not pay the cost,
so the money was raised by subscription.  I
have a vivid recollection of going to the
assistance of friends whose carriage was
wrecked in the ditch at the before-mentioned
dangerous corner, and the change from a
road the shape of a dog's hind leg to a
straight one was a vast improvement.


  The other access by footpath to stretford
from Urmston afforded a very pleasant walk
across the fields.  It had always been con-
sidered a public path, but about 1850 Mr.
Ayre, agent to the Trafford Estate, determined
to close it.  He had the footpath ploughed
up, and men were stationed to drive people
back.  This roused popular indignation, and
my father and others banded themselves
together to question Trafford's right, and, if
necessary, to fight the question.  The struggle
did not last long; the Urmston people were
up in arms, and instead of one, many new
paths were quickly made across the fields;
eventually the Trafford Estate gave way, and
e old footpath was restored.  On my route to
school, and in the first row of Stretford houses,
lived Mrs. Powell, whose son Arthur had been
a sailor, but who then kept a school.  Nearly
opposite, and at the corner of Higgin Lane
was the Robin Hood, kept by Isaac Beswick,
who was a joiner by trade.  Across the road
was the Pinfold, only recently demolished. I
don't know if cattle are now better behaved
than they used to be, but in old times pin-
folds for straying cattle were often to be
found, and I have frequently seen that at
Stretford occupied.  One never sees a pinfold


  Behind the fold lived Mr. Robinson, in a
tidy thatched house.  He was a specimen of a
good-natured cheery farmer who had a kind
word for everybody.  On the same side of
Urmston Lane (now King-street) were the
houses built by Peter Bennett, on which may
still be seen the texts, "The name of the
Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth
into it and is safe," and "To do justly, love
mercy, and walk humbly with thy God." Old
Peter was as deaf as a post, and always


carried a speaking trumpet.  He was both an
eccentricity and a mystery.  Further on was
Vine Cottage, in which lived Mr. Woodburne,
a retired solicitor.  It is stillcovered with a
wonderful vine, which used to bear a fine
crop of grapes.  Mr. Woodburne's daughters
kept a well-known ladies' school, and a son,
Alfred, married a daughter of Mr. Brereton,
the village chemist, and became the head of
Woodburne, Pitt, and Brownson, drapers,
  Passing by the row of cottages in which
Bagguley, the coppersmith, lived, and on
the site of the present Constabulary Station,
there used to be a lot of low, wooden struc-
tures, in which Irish and Cheshire pigs were
housed whilst waiting to be slaughtered.  I
have a vivid recollection of this place, as I
was once locked in by my mischievous school-
fellows.  Beyond that was Hancock's house
and killing-place, and at the corner of Well-
ington Place lived "Tippet Wreet" (Wright),
a gaunt-looking man, who was called the
"King of Liars."  Why he got the title I
never knew.  In the same house Mrs. Hind's
charity school was first held.  Mr. and Mrs.
Bagshawe were the teachers: their daughter
married "Joe Hampson," the parish clerk.
  At the corner of King-street, Charlie
Hesketh, the blacksmith, had his smithy.  He
had a cunning glide in his eye, and was fond
of a gossip.  We schoolboys liked to visit the
smithy, watch the blacksmith at work, and
have a chat with him.
  I now turn to the right-hand side of Urm-
ston Lane.  Almost opposite the Pinfold stood
a long line of thatched and whitewashed
houses in the shape of the letter L.  In these
lived some typical Stretford families, and in
the centre of the row was a cart-shed, with
doors opening in the middle.  This had been
converted into a Primitive Methodist meeting
houe.  Among the inhabitants was the
Wigglesworth family.  The mother, Alice, or
"Alce," as she was called, was a tall, fine-look-
ing woman, with grey hair, who often wore
patterns, and always dressed in a print bed-
gown and striped skirt.  She seemed to
dominate her neighbour, "Barm Jack," and
everybody else.  He went out with a donkey
selling barm, and I shall never forget how
"Alce" thrashed one of my schoolfellows for
teasing the donkey.  In those days mops were
in general use, and women could be seen at
the front door trundling them.  Alce Wiggles-
worth was an adept at this, and I have
often watched her exlempify centrifugal
force.  Trundling a mop, once so common,
seems to have fallen entirely into disuse; in-
deed an old-fashioned mop is now seldom seen.
Next came the Temperance Hall and adjoin-
ing buildings.  In my early days Stretford
was noted for drunkenness and rowdyism.
Sixty years ago a relative of mine was pelted
with mud near the site of the old church,
re he had been to copy inscriptions on the
gravestones, and for no other reason than
that he was a stranger and dressed in fashion-
able London clothes.  This reminds me of
Punch's illustration of Hooligans, who are
depicted as saying, "He's a stranger; let's
heave 'arf a brick at his head."



  But better days came.  Father Matthew
and other good evangelists started a crusade
against drunkenness.  They held meetings in
Stretford and made many converts, who took
the pledge, and these converts, hard-working,
earnest men, endeavoured in their turn to
redeem their fellows.  Having no meeting-place
they clubbed together and built the King-street
Temperance Hall, which was used for meet-
ings and entertainments, and it was there I
first heard Parry and Delevanti sing.  They
also formed a teetotal band, with the view of
rusing the inhabitants in the same way as
the Salvation Army of to-day invokes the aid
of music to stimulate fervour.  Among the
principal temperance leaders were James Kel-
sall, James Robinson, David Robinson,
George Cookson, and John Williamson, a milk-
seller.  These men really worked a great
reformation in Stretford.
  Beyond the temperance Hall stood the Old
Dungeon, a one-storied, dismal, and repulsive-
looking stone building used as a temporary
lock-up for criminals.  This was pulled down
in the early forties.  Close to it was a pool
which gave the name Pool Lane to the ad-
joining street.  At the corner of this lane
Job Royle, who came of a Flixton family,
built his bakehouse and grocery stores about
sixty years ago.  Near the opposite corner
Mr. Fallows kept a school, started in about 1839.
Here most of the Stretford youths were at
that time educated.  He was a stern man, given
to using the cane freely, and as an extreme
punishment he had a contrivance by which he
could suspend a lad in a painful position.


  Just down Pool Lane lived Mrs. Bannister,
"Cupper and Bleeder with Leeches," a sign
now seldom seen.  I have a vivid recollection
of the old lady, for when I was
a boy and suffering from a painful
malady she applied six leeches that left
their mark on me for many years after.
Her husband and his brother worked in
Bannister's timber-yard, and had the nick-
names of "Big Amos" and "Gentleman
George," both being powerful and capable
movers of timber.  The mechanical prowess
of the former was wonderful for an un-
educated man.  Near the top of King-street,
and behind the Trafford Arms, were some
desolate-looking houses approached by steps.
They belonged to an eccentric family baned
Wood, of Sale.  The co-owners lived to-
gether, but never spoke.  All intercourse was
carried on through a sister who resided with
them.  These houses have recently been
pulled down to make way for shops.
  Proceeding along the high road towards
Longford Bridge, and on the right hand at
the corner of Edge Lane, was a row of houses
in which lived Stephen Hyde, the village
cobbler.  He was a quaint old man, who wore
spectacles, and when shoes were brought for
repair he eyed them over and had one set
speech, "Hey, mistress, it's a very akkard
(awkward) job."  Near the bridge was a farm-
house occupied by Mr. Chadwick, and this re-
mains unchanged, a relic of the past.
  On the left hand, after passing the Bishop
Blaize, were several rows of thatched cottages.
In one lived a kindly stout old lady, who
had a table at the front of her door full of
parkin, gingerbread, and teetotal drink.  Over
it was the sign, "Prime Pop and Ginger
Beer Always Ripe and Ready Here."  Close
by was a yew tree cut into the shape of a
large peacock.
  Just over Longford Bridge, then little more
than half its present width and much steeper,
was a toll-bar.  In olden times the Crossford
Bridge Trust had charge of the main roads,
Mr. Barber being their surveyor.


  Between Longford Bridge and the Blind
Asylum, and on the left side, stood the house
of Mr. Leeds, sharebroker, who prided himself
on his garden and his knowledge of herbs.
Further on, and opposite the Great Stone,
was a cluster of whitewashed cottages that
have, with one exception, disappeared.  Then
came the Dog and Partridge and a small
farm occupied by Mr. Brogden, and after-
wards by Mr. Parkinson, a butcher.  At
Throstle Nest resided Mr. Thomas Goadsby,
druggist, who was the first shopkeeper to be-
come Mayor of Manchester.  He was a very
little man, and always wore a blue dress coat
with brass buttons.  He took the busy bee as
his example, adopted it on his crest, and had
it emblazoned on the entrance of his house.
He was instrumental in saving the life of his
ture wife at the launching of a boat.
They were afterwards married, and at his
death Elizabeth Salisbury Goadsby married
the late Alderman Heywood.  On the right-
hand side of the road was Gorse Hill Farm,
occupied by James Taylor; then came Long-
ford Terrace, and here lived Mr. Abraham
Lloyd, a future Lord Mayor of Manchester.
Many a time have I trotted behind him
when he was on his way to business and
I to school, little dreaming we should in the
future become fast friends and associated in
Corporation work.  Further on lived William
Shore, a share broker, who was devoted to
music, conducted the Manchester Glee Club,
and was the composer of "Willie Brewed a
Peck of Maut," and other glees and madri-


  In those days Septimus Lambert occupied
the Great Stone Farm, whence he afterwards
removed to the Bull and Punch Bowl Hotel.
Outside his fence, projecting on the high road,
and not inside as at present, stood the Great
Stone with two holes on the top.  Some


people said it was the base of one of the
crosses so common on the roadside in Catholic
countries; others believed it marked the
meeting-place where the plague-stricken
citizens of Manchester were met by country
people to barter for food supplies, the money
exchanged being first placed in the holes filled
with vinegar and water in order to prevent
  Further on the road, in a row of small
houses, lived a shopkeeper need Lee
and his daughter, Mrs. Cheadle.  As
he was always accompanied on his cart
by two women there was a current belief that
he had two wives.  He was fair game for the
schoolboys, because, whatever pranks they
played, he was too fat to run after them.
  From 1846 to 1854, on my way to Man-
chester, I used to meet an Old Trafford con-
tangent of scholars going to Stretford Schools,
the girls headed by Miss Lambert (afterwards
Mrs. Smelt), and the boys by Edwin Young,
of the Throstle Nest Paper Works, who subse-
queenly became treasurer to the Lancashire
and Yorkshire Railway Company.
  Regular as clockwork used to pass me Mr.
Christopher Shorrock and his two sons
mounted on stiff cobs.  Among my school-
fellows were Richard and William Joynson,
sons of Mr. William Joynson, of Sale, who
drove them to school in an Irish jaunting
car drawn by a white horse.  The father was
very kind, and often gave me a most welcome
  Having described the roads I personally
traversed I will content myself with saying
that the Chorlton side of the railway bridge
there were scarcely any houses.  In Edge
Lane Amos Bannister, senior, lived at Peel
House, and his son George at the adjoining
farm.  On the other side of the lane came the
rectory, occupied by the Rev. Joseph Clarke;
next to it was Watkinson's nursery, and be-
bond this Longford Hall.  From Stretford to
Charlton there were not more than half a
dozen houses.  The rest of Edge Lane was
bounded by fields.  Another byway was Toad
Lane, said to be a contraction of 'Th' Ow'd
Lane.  This formed a country walk to the
Cheshire Waters, a popular bathing place in
the Mersey, then a comparatively pure stream.


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