The Street is the name of a historic house located on Dill Hall Brow, Heath Charnock, which borders the village of Rivington. The house will be a familiar sight with the masses of people who visit Rivington each year and take advantage of the natural scenery around the reservoirs. The history of this property will be less familiar, so here is its hidden history.
Where is it?
Heath Charnock, in Lancashire was historically part of the Leyland hundred and until 1875 when it became part of Standish. Later this changed and the area came under the jurisdiction of Chorley, which continues to this day. Less than a mile away is the village of Rivington, the manorial rights were purchased by William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme) in 1900 and his legacy including the parkland, the restoration of the barns and several follies are still visible and much-loved today.
The Street (or something just ‘Street’) is the name given to both the property and to the road which it is situated on. The current building dates from 1850, but there has been a house on the site for centuries.
The name is derived from the family who owned the estate. They can be traced back to the thirteenth century at least; Robert de la Street is recorded in 1272 and Adam de la Street in 1278. In the sixteenth century there was a on-going family feud concerning who owned, or was entitled to, what land.
Trusten Strete (Street) had at least two sons; Alexander Strete who was a legitimate child and Edward Strete, who was illegitimate. Trusten died before 1477 and both the sons inherited parts of their father’s lands. In 1510 Ralph Standish (a descendent through the legitimate line) began to make a claim on his grandfather’s lands. As Edward Strete, his great uncle had died, Ralph took up the legal campaign against Alexander Strete, Edward’s son.
Alexander Strete died in 1534 and left only daughters; Isabel, Jane, Anne, Alice and Margaret. The eldest daughter was only 13 years old at the time. Ralph Standish decided to take advantage of this opportunity. On All Saints’ Day, the adult members of the household had gone to church leaving the daughters at home at The Street. Ralph seized possession of the house and the children within it. However, the law did not fall in his favour and he lost control. (It must be noted here that various spellings of the names have been recorded over time Strete appears as Street, Trusten as Thurstan and Ralph is also recorded as Richard).
The property passed through Jane Street who married Lawrence Waddington. In 1623 it was recorded the property passed from one Alexander Waddington to his son, also named Alexander. One Alexander Waddington, in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, established a dissenters meeting place at his home, The Street.
The Early Nineteenth Century
In August 1838, Elizabeth Gaskell visited Rivington with her husband Reverend William Gaskell. William Gaskell was a prominent Unitarian minister and his connections took the Gaskells to Rivington Chapel, founded in 1662 and constructed in 1703 as a Presbyterian Chapel, which later became Unitarian in its beliefs over the eighteenth century. At the time Elizabeth had not yet become noted authoress she was later to receive much fame for.
Elizabeth’s letter to her friend describes The Street in its declining years. Like all old houses there appears to have been a ghost attached to the property:
“I should like nothing better than to roam through the old nooks of Lancashire, exploring more fully a place near Rivington which I glimpsed at lately, a country hall with the odd name of Street, looking down a beautiful valley. It is falling into ruins now but in the reign of Queen Anne belonged to a Lord Willoughby, the President of the Royal Society, and author of some books on natural history. He left two daughters, and the estates were disputed and passed away to the heir male by some law chicanery; his descendants are cotters in a neighbouring village.
Some friends of mine walked to the Hall one evening; part of it was occupied by little farmers, but they peeped into large wainscoted rooms and wandered about fine, old-fashioned gardens, when one of the party bethought himself of asking for admittance into the house to explore the deserted rooms. The woman of the place looked aghast at the proposal, for it was twilight, and said: They dare not go to that part of the house, for Lord Willoughby walked, and every evening was heard seeking for law-papers in the rooms where all the tattered and torn writings were kept.”
In 1847 the Liverpool Corporation first proposed a series of reservoirs around Rivington to supply Liverpool with clean water. After some setbacks the reservoirs, Upper Rivington and Anglezarke, were full by February 1856. Although a large amount of land and property had been lost to the development.
However, the reservoirs were quickly deemed a beauty spot and attracted tourists to this ‘man-made’ lake district. As early as May 1856 local businesses on the edge of the reservoirs were taking advantage of the “South Lancashire Lakes“. The local newspaper noted that one public house saw the commercial advantage: “the proprietor of the above inn begs to call to the attention of excursionists, tourists and pic-nic parties, to the first rate accommodation he is able to provide.”
One property lost during the development of the reservoirs was the historic Street Hall, as described by Elizabeth Gaskell. The house was not lost under the reservoir but it demolished and later rebuilt in 1850 using compensation funds from the Liverpool Corporation. The new house, which is five bays wide, was constructed in a Jacobean style. It features a decorate porch, elaborate gables (one with battlements), hood moulds, a projecting chimney stack with twisted chimney pots.
A New Residence
The property was constructed for the Martin family. Peter Martin (1802 – 1879) married Mary Tetlow Walker (1811 – 1893) in 1835 in St. Helens. Mary inherited The Street through her ancestral connections, but given the nature of British law at the time, she did not own the property. Until the first Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, a married woman had no legal right to any property, regardless of whether this was a house, land, money, furniture or children. Therefore, The Street belonged to her husband.
The Martins moved in around August 1853. They had previously resided at Newport Square in Bolton along with their daughter Mary Alice (b.1843) and Peter’s mother, Alice (1775 – 1854). Peter Martin was a cotton spinner, starting with his father at Fletcher Street Mill and he later owned Queen Street Mill. For many years he also served as director of the Bank of Bolton. Within local society around Rivington he acted as a governor for the Grammar School and he gifted a public hall to the people of Horwich.
The Martins enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle at The Street. The house contained three reception rooms, ten bedrooms, two dressing rooms, a bathroom, two WCs, a housekeeper’s room, kitchen and cellars. The grounds around the property covered 20 acres and around the house they were cultivated into beautiful gardens including conservatories, vineries and even a peach house and a camellia house. Peter Martin regularly entered his specimens and livestock into competitions and shows. Local schoolchildren were also invited on an annual walk around the grounds of The Street before being entertained at the Unitarian school room.
In 1871 the Martins employed three domestic housemaids; Ann Fazakerley, Elizabeth Arrowsmith and Mary Thompson. During the 1870s two cottages were built further along the road from The Street to house the domestic staff. Both are large, impressive properties in their own right, one is in a Gothic style, the other in a Dutch Style. In the 1881 census Mary was widowed and living at the house with her four maids (three were also called Mary, which must have caused some confusion!) In the coachman’s cottage lived the Owen family; Robert and his son worked as a coachman and groom. Next door lived the gardener, George Smith and his family and three under-gardeners Charles Noir, Henry Foot and George Adams. A decade later, Mary, aged 80, still employed four domestic staff, four gardeners and a coachman which reflects the level of up-keep the large house and grounds needed.
Mary Tetlow Martin died on 22nd December 1893, in her will she left £27,500 to twenty-five different charities, hospitals and schools. This is about £2.8 million when converted into modern currency.
A New Era
In 1894 the property of Mary Tetlow Martin was sold at auction, thereby ending the family connection to the area which had extended centuries. Her ornaments, trinkets and jewellery were sold in May 1894 and in September the house and land were sold. This included the gardener’s and coachman’s cottages and the farms on the estate. The property was purchased by the Waterworks Company who proceeded to advertise it to tenants.
The Marriage family were the next to occupy The Street. David Marriage, like his predecessor, was cotton spinner and manufacturer. He lived there with his wife, Mary and their daughters; Mary Pauline (b.1883), Phyllis (b.1887) and Joyce Mary (b.1889) and a cook, a parlour maid, two housemaids, a waitress and a kitchen maid. They also employed their own coachmen and gardeners, who lived in the cottages. In the 1901 census a nephew, Albert Marriage, was also at the property.
The Marriage family had left the property by 1907 and moved to Wood Hall, Norton, Worcestershire. However, there is a little reminder of their time at The Street. Just across from the entrance to the property, on the hillside under some shrubbery is a small headstone. The headstone was erected in 1900 by Joyce Marriage, who would have been around 11 years old at the time. The stone records the grave of the family pets; Sam the retriever, Thomas the cat and Laddie.
The Twentieth Century
The next residents at the property stayed only a few years, as The Street was available to rent in 1912. During the First World War The Street was the home of Catherine Ainsworth, a wealthy widow and her daughters; Barbara, Muriel and Gladys. Later in 1931 P. J. Jackson lived at the house.
In 1933 a new family arrived at The Street. Captain Guy Wordsworth Gibson (1899-1943), his wife; Betty (1900-1990) and their two children; Mary and John (known as Jonnie) had moved from India. Gibson was an adjutant at the Fletcher Street Barracks in Bolton. Captain Gibson was born and raised in Winderemere and he was the great-great nephew of the poet, William Wordsworth. Betty was the granddaughter of shipbuilder, Sir Theodore Doxford.
The Gibsons employed Eveline Florence Sarah Loveridge as a nanny to look after their children and to live in with them at The Street. A picture of Eveline in her uniform with Mary and Jonnie Gibson is shown below with the permission of Daphne M. Snape, Eveline’s daughter.
By the end of 1937, the Gibsons’ time at The Street had come to an end. In October 1937 Eveline left the service of the Gibson family as she embarked on her own family life. She had met Ernest Birchall who also lived in Heath Charnock and the couple married at Rivington Parish Church. The closeness between Eveline and the Gibson family was evident at her wedding as Captain Gibson even gave Eveline away.
The Gibson family moved to Cogden Hall in Grinton. Captain Gibson later went to Shanghai, China where he was captured by the Japanese but later released during a POW exchange. He still kept up ties with Eveline and he sent Christmas cards to the Birchalls. Gibson later became a Major and then a Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel. This was the position he held when he died in during a military campaign in April 1943 in Tunisia.
By 1937 the property was once again up to rent. It is possible from the newspaper advertisements to see how the house had changed over the decades. By the late 1930s it was powered with electricity. The interior had been altered and three bedrooms had been converted into a billiard room and two bathrooms. In the grounds a tennis court had been laid out and there was a garage for a motor car. It was very much a country residence for a wealthy family.
A Royal Connection
The next occupiers of The Street were the Walker family. In 1939 the household consisted of; Roger H. Walker (1897 – 1967) his wife, Maria Eleanora (1911 – 1983), their son Roger Carton (b.1938), Maria’s mother, Friederike Carton-de-Wiart (1887-1949) and a nurse, housemaid and cook. In the gardener’s cottage lived the Kirks, Joseph Kirk acted as both gardener and chauffeur for the Walker family. The Walker’s had a daughter, Sonja, in 1940.
Maria Eleanora (known as Ria) was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton-de-Wiart and Countess Friederike Maria Carolina Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Paulina Fugger von Babenhausen, a member of the Austrian Royal Family (she was known as Ricky). Adrian served in the British Army in the Boer War, First World War and Second World War. He was described by Peter Crutchley as “the unkillable soldier” as he sustained and survived being shot in the face, losing his left eye, being shot through the skull, hip, leg, ankle and ear and tearing his own fingers off when the doctors refused to amputate them. He also escaped from a POW camp. Friederike herself was arrested and imprisoned in Germany during the First World War for corresponding with her husband, who was then Belgian Minister for Justice. Adrian Carton-de-Wiart however made no mention of his wife or daughters in his memoirs.
Life at The Street seems to have been quieter for the Walkers. Newspapers show that Maria was in need of domestic staff throughout the Second World War; maids, nurses, a cook and a governess.
In 1946 a familiar face returned to The Street. Eveline Birchall, who had previously been the Gibsons’ nanny, took on the new role as the Walkers’ cook. She moved into the Gardener’s Cottage with her husband Ernest, her two daughters; Jacqueline and Daphne and two springer spaniels. Ernest did not work for the Walkers, he was employed at Leyland Motors Ltd. Daphne Snape (nee Birchall) has kindly shared her memories and reminiscences of life at the Gardener’s Cottage and The Street between 1946-1963:
“Our childhood there was a very happy one, I have many memories of playing around The Street. Christmas was a magical time. On Christmas Eve we were invited to join the family as Carton and Sonja opened their Christmas presents. They had a very large Christmas tree in the dining room. It was lit by real candles. As a child I could not understand why Father Christmas went to them on Christmas Eve but didn’t come to us until the following day.
Every morning Mum went to The Street working as cook to the Walker family. During school holidays I would go with her. She found me a job such as dusting Carton’s extensive train set and village layout which I loved doing, it kept me busy for the morning. Jacqueline spent some time playing with Sonja. When Carton was away at boarding school mum would take the punt across the lake to the island to feed his pet rabbits. On one occasion the punt drifted down the lake and she was stranded on the island she had to shout to Mr Schofield the gardener to rescue her.
The front door [of the former Gardener’s cottage] opened into a hall. A door on the left lead to the sitting room. The door facing lead to the passage way with the living room on the left, kitchen and pantry on the right. These, like the passage, had a stone flagged floor which we covered with coconut matting. The sitting room had a wooden floor, a bay window and used only on Sundays and at Christmas. The stairs went from the hall to three bedrooms, one of which was used as a bathroom having a large bath at one end. There was a wooden shelf across one end of the bath to put a wash bowl on. The toilet was outside. We were lucky, it was a flush toilet unlike the tubs that many cottages had at the time. Later, a modern bathroom with indoor toilet and washbasin were installed. Heating was coal and logs, and being next to the plantation, Dad would cut up fallen tree branches for the fire. At the bottom of the garden was ‘The Bothy’ a two room stone built bungalow where Mr Woolf lived, he also had a large garden and greenhouse where he grew all his own vegetables and tomatoes.”
In 1963 the Birchall family left the cottage and moved from the area. The Walker family also left by The Street by the late 1960s but the two families continued to correspond with each other. The property was restored and modernised by Roger Carton Walker. Walker was a entrepreneur and in 1963 he purchased Orrell Fold Farm and developed Last Drop Village on the site. He also appears to have had a good sense of humour. Leslie Downes remembered that Walker “used to drive around in an old taxi; with lace curtains on the rear section windows. In the back window of his car; he displayed a sign; the sign read: Don’t laugh Mister, your daughter may be inside!“
From Decline to Restoration
In 1980 the property was offered for sale but described as “in need of repair and modernisation“. In February 1981 plans were rejected to turn the house into a private hotel. Later in December 1981 plans were again rejected, this time to demolish The Street and replace it with a new house.
Finally the house was converted into luxury apartments, although this meant carving up certain parts of the interior of the house, the exterior is intact. The Street is as desirable as it ever was. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the house was sold in 1995 for £135,000. It was sold again in 2014 for £375,000. Fortunately the property still remains in its original setting, as a local landmark.
Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath
- Daphne M. Snape, My mother Eveline Birchall nee Loveridge at
‘The Street’ 1933-37, and 1946-1963 and several of the photographs displayed here. (private correspondence with the author)
- More history of the Gibson family: https://ghgraham.org/guygibson1899.html
- ‘Townships: Heath Charnock’, in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1911), pp. 213-217
- J.A.V Chapple and Arthur Pollard, The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell, (1969)
- Bolton Chronicle, 31 May 1856, p.1
- Wigan Observer, 19 July 1879, p.6
- Bolton Evening News, 9 September 1874, p.3
- Bolton Evening News, 30 December 1893, p.3
- Manchester Courier, 8 September 1894, p.8
- New York Times, 5 September 1915
- Sussex Agricultural Express, 27 November 1936, p.11
- Lancashire Evening Post, 26 November 1937, p.4
- Lancashire Evening Post, 17 March 1941, p.5
- Tatler, 9 July 1958
- Liverpool Echo, 21 February 1980, p.21