Fulwell House was once the home of millionaire industrial magnates but 85 years ago it was demolished. This was a somewhat unnecessary fate, as the house was offered as gift to Tyldesley, which was refused. How did this happen? Here is its history.
Eighteenth Century Origins
The historian Dr John Lunn estimated that Fulwell House (sometimes mis-recorded as Fullwell) was constructed around 1792. It appears the house was built for Mr Gregory, who was a manufacturer.
Tyldesley in the late-eighteenth century was a rural country location. In 1764 Thomas Johnson (1745-1823) (also known as ‘Squire Johnson’) inherited the Tyldesley Banks estate from his grandfather, also named Thomas Johnson. The elder Thomas Johnson, a merchant from Bolton, had been purchasing land in and around Tyldesley since 1728 but it was his grandson who began to develop the estate. The estate was known as the ‘Banks Estate’ because Tyldesley is geographically situated higher than neighbouring towns and much of the town was built on the embankments.
Industrialisation was just beginning to spring-up in the area, with the first steam-powered woollen mill being established on Factory Street in 1792. Besides this there would have been very few buildings in the area where Fulwell House was built, to the west of the ‘Great Elliott Street’ (as it was known at the time). Nuttalls Farm and Lodge Farm would have been ‘neighbouring’ domestic properties. Davenport House and Farm was another near-by building and this still survives. Other surviving eighteenth-century buildings which would have been located a few hundred yards away from Fulwell House included: The Half Moon Inn (built 1781, reconstructed 1904) and Tyldesley Top Chapel (built 1789).
The Early Nineteenth Century
During the 1820s Tyldesley began to expand. Larger houses such as Manley House (built 1825) and Barlow House (built 1828) were built along the top of Great Elliott Street. This street ran seamlessly into Squires Lane, which was Fulwell’s address. Although sometimes the property was also recorded as being on Langley Platt Lane. In 1825 the parish church of St. George was built on Great Elliott Street, shortly followed by St. George’s School, established in 1827 and built in 1829.
Nonetheless, upon moving to Tyldesley from Atherton in 1825, Doctor William Eckersley Manley described the area as a “straggling, rude village, possessing few attractions and little promise of success for a professional beginner.” In 1833 the first curate of St. George’s Church, was able to uniformly change the spelling of the name of the town from “Tildesley” to “Tyldesley” with relative ease. He discovered a large proportion of the population were illiterate. Out of the first twenty marriages he performed, only two people could sign their own names.
More is known about the residents of Fulwell House in this period. Around 1820 the property was the home of the Kearlsey family. Thomas Kearsley (b.1788) married Jane Taylor (b.1793) in 1817 at St. Leonard’s Church in Middleton. They had the following children: Jane (b.1818), Thomas (b.1819), John (b.1824) and Catherine (b.1825). Whilst living at Fulwell House, they also had several servants. For example, in 1841 they employed Charlotte Hewitt and Jane Cleworth as maids, John Tyldesley as a manservant and Jane Tyldesley (likely John’s mother) as a washerwoman.
Thomas Kearsley was a prominent local figure. He laid the foundation stone at St. George’s Church and afterwards entertained the Bishop of Chester at Fulwell House. He also owned land and properties in and around Tyldesley. This included the Star and Garter public house and Shakerley Old Hall.
Kearlsey’s main occupation was cotton spinning and in 1823 he built Resolution Mill in Tyldesley, which cost £5000 (around £440,000 in modern currency). In 1826 he added an additional building and the mill was ‘L shaped’. It stood off Union Street, between Shuttle Street and Ellesmere Street. This was later the site of Caleb Wright’s Barnfield Mills and it now a housing estate.
On Friday 6th July 1827, the Kearsley family would have been woken by the sound of an explosion in the distance. It would have been a sound that Thomas was dreading; there had been a terrible boiler explosion at Resolution Mills. The noise was so loud it was heard in towns several miles away. Unfortunately, despite the explosion occurring very early in the morning, the working day had already begun. There were 17 women working on the fifth floor of the mill, directly above the boiler room. Eight people were killed initially but the death toll eventually stood at eleven victims. Three people were dangerously hurt and four were slightly hurt. The names of the first eight victims are recorded below. There was a sense of communal mourning after the disaster, especially as it left seven children as orphans:
- Sarah Cunliffe, aged 22
- Betty Davis, aged 48 (widow with 5 children)
- William Guest, aged 25
- Grace Hampson, aged 24 (married with 2 children)
- Mary Kay, aged 24 (married with 2 children)
- Mary Moscrop, aged 46 (widow with 2 children)
- Ellen Scholfield, aged 15
- Jane Seddon, aged 22, married, (only started working at the mill five days earlier)
Nonetheless, the mill went on to prosper and, as John Lunn noted, in 1838 the mill held the highest rateable value of any other mill in the town and therefore it was the most important. However, things were not so rosy for the Kearsley family. In the mid-1840s, Thomas Kearsley’s name appeared on bankruptcy lists in the newspapers and he was in court in October 1844. Thus ends the Kearsley connection with Fulwell House and Resolution Mills. Both house and business were taken over by the firm Jackson, Bayley and Knott.
The Mid-Nineteenth Century
From around 1847, Fulwell House was the home of John Jackson (sometimes spelt Jacson). Jackson was the third son of George Jackson of Barton. In 1845 he married Mary Jane Newbery at Eccles Parish Church and they had son, Henry Fitzherbert Jackson born in 1847 in Tyldesley.
As a cotton spinner, Jackson was extremely well connected. His father-in-law was a silk manufacturer who lived in Seedley in Pendleton, which at the time was an affluent suburb of Salford. Among the witnesses as his marriage to Mary Jane in 1845 were the Tootal family, who would later found the firm Tootal, Broadhurst and Co.
The Jacksons do not appear to have spent a long time at Fulwell, as in 1854 the vicar of Tyldesley, George Richards was living at the house. The churchwardens agreeing at the time to provide him with a grant of £25 per year for his rent. It is possible the house was no longer desirable due to the London and Northwestern Railway line, which was established in 1846 and laid out by 1849, directly behind Fulwell House. Although situated in two acres of its own grounds and surrounded by open fields, the edge of the tracks were just 21 metres from the back of the house. Trees were planted alongside the tracks in an attempt to shield the property from the busy line. Although the lines are now gone, it is possible to follow their path on a nature walk just off Squires Lane.
The next residents of Fulwell House were the Bayley family. James Bayley was the business partners of John Jackson. James (1805-1862) and his wife, Ann (1803-1883) were both born and raised in Stalybridge. Their three daughters; Maria (b.1831), Mary (b.1832) and Sarah (b.1843) were all born there but by the time their youngest child and only son, Charles was born in 1846, the family had moved to Tyldesley.
In 1851, Bayley was the principal owner of the firm Bayley and Knott and at Resolution Mills. He employed 296 people; 76 men, 78 women, 78 boys and 64 girls. From 1859 until his untimely death in 1862, Bayley also served as a Justice of the Peace and he was acknowledged as ‘one of our most diligent and painstaking magistrates.’
The daughters of James and Ann Bayley all married prosperous men. Although at the time of their retrospective marriages, they were slightly older than some of their contemporaries would have been. This was likely a result of the daughters remaining at home to support their widowed mother. Maria Bayley married mill owner Charles James Asthon in 1864, when she was 33. Ashton employed four times as many people as his father-in-law had. Unfortunately, Maria died shortly after the birth of her child, Charles Arthur Ashton. In 1874, at the age of 31, Sarah Bayley married wire manufacturer Simspon Hackett Hobbs and they had three children. The youngest child, Reginald Francis Arthur Hobbs was born at Fulwell House in 1878. He went on to have a distinguished career in the British Army, serving in both the Boer War and the First World War. The last daughter to marry was Mary Bayley in 1875. She married cotton mill owner Thomas Lee when she was 43 years old.
The marriage of her last single daughter marked a turning point in Ann Bayley’s life. In 1878 Ann decided to leave Fulwell House. At this time she was 75 years old and living at the house alone. It would have been far too big to manage. She moved in with Sarah and Thomas Lee at their home, Alder House in Atherton. A notice advertising Fulwell House was placed in local newspapers in 1878:
“TO be LET, with possession from September next, the excellent DWELLING HOUSE called Fullwell House [sic], in Tyldesley, with Greenhouse, Coach House, Stable, Yards and Gardens belonging thereto, and the Meadow or Lawn in front, containing 2 acres statute measure or thereabouts.”
The Eckersley Family
The next (and last) owners of Fulwell House were the Eckersley family. Charles Eckersley was born in 1833 in Clontarf, a suburb of Dublin, as his father Peter Eckersley was a manager of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway. However, other sources state he was born in Manchester. Wherever he was born, Charles eventually settled in England, as the Eckersley family were originally from Tyldesley.
In 1856 Charles married Jane Weaver. Jane was born in Montgomery in Wales. Her father was a mason/bricklayer. Not long after the couple married they moved to Melbourne, Australia. Their eldest three children: William (b.1861), Annie (b.1863) and Peter (b.1865) were all born there. However, the young family made the perilous journey back to Tyldesley in 1865. According to local stories, a heavily-pregnant Jane gave birth to Peter whilst on board the ship. The decision to return to Tyldesley was because Charles’s father, Peter, had gone into business with cotton-manufacturer, Caleb Wright at Barnfield Mills (Peter and Caleb were brothers-in-law). The cotton mills were extremely successful with Charles eventually taking control after his father retired in 1879. In an 18 year period under Charles’s control, the number of spindles in the mill increased tenfold. He was also described as a ‘pioneer of British cotton’ in France and he established a mill in Lille.
Family Life at Fulwell
After their return from Australia and before moving to Fulwell, Charles, Jane and their children lived at Hindsford House, which belonged to Charles’s uncle, Caleb Wright. Both the Wrights and the Eckersleys were Unitarians and they played a key role at Chowbent Chapel, Atherton. In 1901 Charles funded the installation of an organ at the chapel and the building of an entrance vestibule on the chapel to house it. He also paid for the extension of the school. The Eckersley and Wright families were further intertwined when Charles’s daughter Annie married Caleb Wright’s son Frank (they were step-cousins via Caleb’s first wife).
Charles and Jane had another daughter and two sons who were born in Tyldesley: Minnie (b.1867), Frank (b.1870) and Walter (b.1876). It can be hard to imagine how wealthy the family were, especially compared to many of the other residents in Tyldesley at the same time. When Minnie Eckersley married George Frederick Smith in 1888 there was a great celebration. The bride wore diamonds and Ottoman silk. Her mother wore “a lovely dress of myrtle satin, with panels of white moire, richly embroidered with gold.” Canons were let off at Resolution Mills to celebrate the marriage. Afterwards there was a wedding breakfast held in the grounds of Fulwell House in a specially erected marquee. Charles gifted his daughter and son-in-law a suite of furniture for a drawing room and a grand piano. Two of Minnie’s brothers gave her gold bracelets. Other gifts included: a pair of Vienna vases, a pair of watercolours, a silver tea and coffee service, a silver sugar basin, a case of silver spoons, an egg-boiler and from the bride’s mother; a set of toilet mats. (Of course, indoor plumbing in the 1880s was sill reserved for the rich and its likely that Jane Eckersley embroidered or decorated the mats herself).
It was around this time that the Eckersleys altered Fulwell House. Surviving photographs of the property show these changes. In the 1890s the house was extended at the rear and the facade was altered with a front entrance porch and two bay windows. The windows were also altered with stained glass panels being inserted. All these Victorian additions altered the simple, symmetrical house as it would have appeared when it was first built.
However, Fulwell still came with some problems. Just on the other side of the railway lines from the house was Hindsford sewage works, which plagued the family, quite literally, as revealed in this letter written by Charles to Tyldesley Urban District Council in 1887:
“Dear Sir, can nothing be done to stop this eternal stink of sewage with which we are now being afflicted day by day? We have to close up our house and dare not go out into the garden in consequence of it, several people having been made quite ill in doing so. I am quite aware tanks are being fixed up to stop this nuisance, but it will be some time before they will be completed, and in the meantime this disgusting nuisance is rampant quite enough to cause a fever to spring up in our midst. Cannot something be done to abate this horrible stench?”
A year later Charles was made County Councillor for the Tyldesley Sanitary District. However, this did not stop the problems at Fulwell as there were more complaints about the sewage and drains in 1905. This is probably also why the family had a second home along the coast in Llandudno, to escape the smells and smoke of Tyldesley. This house, located on the fashionable Great Ormes Road was also called ‘Fulwell’.
Decline and Demolition
In August 1919, Charles and Jane’s youngest son, Walter, died tragically when he was electrocuted in his bath at Atherton Old Hall. Just two months later Charles died aged 85. Jane died the following year aged 83. Their unmarried son, Peter continued live at Fulwell until he died in 1921.
In 1922 William Eckersley offered the Fulwell House and its grounds to Tyldesley U. D. Council, but the gift was refused, as John Lunn noted, “by the narrowest of majorities.” The council’s decision to refuse to property was likely motivated by financial decisions. The year before the locality had been shaken by a miners’ lockout which affected a large proportion of the residents of Tyldesley and neighbouring towns. During the First World War collieries had been nationalised for the war effort, this came to an end in 1921 and almost immediately miners’ wages were cut and there were no improvements in working or living conditions. Perhaps the councillors were worried that it would look insensitive to take on such a large property in the wake of these events. Moreover, although the house and grounds were offered as a gift, the council’s funds would have been stretched on the maintenance of the property.
Fulwell House sat unoccupied for some time until it was rented by George Clapperton (1875-1964). Clapperton was the managing director of the Howe Bridge Spinning Company. He lived briefly at Fulwell in the mid-1920s with his wife, Jane and their three children: Eleanor (b.1908), Laura (b.1910) and John (b.1916).
In 1935, after standing for over 140 years, Fulwell House was demolished by its owners, the Manchester Collieries. The legacy of the house lives on in the area, as Fulwell Avenue was built adjacent to the site. The cellars of the house were not entirely destroyed and they were still visible even in the 1960s, along with cobbles and overgrown gardens, which local children adopted as a playground.
Around the site of the pond, the Manchester’s Collieries built eight bungalows in 1935. These were named ‘Jubilee Houses, King’s Crescent’ in honour of King George V’s silver jubilee celebrated that year. The pond was filled in to form a central ‘green’. The bungalows were only to be occupied by miners who had a service record of at least 30 years and if they met other criteria for tenancy. For their lifelong hard work, they were only charged 6d. per week in rent. In 1939 the residents of King’s Crescent were all in their seventies and they were either elderly couples, or the widows of miners. They are a great example of private-enterprise social housing from the inter-war period. A small housing estate, Beckside, now sits on the site of Fulwell House itself.
Fulwell House could often just be relegated as a footnote in historical records, as the name of a now long-gone house. However, the history of Tyldesley is encapsulated through this one building and the grounds around it.
Written and Researched by Thomas McGrath
- Dr John Lunn, A short History of the Township of Tyldesley (1953) http://www.peterjtyldesley.com/bongs/lunn/pages/P09.html
- Lancaster Gazette, 14 July 1827, p.3
- York Hearld, 5 October 1844, p.3
- Leeds Intelligencer, 28 June 1845, p.5
- Leigh Chronicle, 12 April 1862, p.2
- Leigh Chronicle, 20 July 1878, p.4
- Leigh Chronicle, 8 July 1887, p.7
- Leigh Chronicle, 12 October 1888, p.8
- Leigh Chronicle, 30 November 1888, p.8
- Leigh Chronicle, 21 July 1905, p.8
- Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 11 July 1925, p.12
- Old Photographs of Atherton and Tyldesley