Lockdown Blog 2 – Coppicing and Wood Hall, Reddish

Coppiced Sycamore Tree, Reddish

I’ve become slightly obsessed with Reddish Vale and the Tame Valley during lockdown. It’s a relatively wild strip of countryside, reaching to within a mile of Stockport town centre, and it’s looking glorious this spring, the woods carpeted with wild garlic and bluebells. There are also many clues to the local history of the area – mysterious cobbled roads, fragments of masonry and walls half hidden by undergrowth. So expect many more posts about the Vale!

On a walk last week on the Reddish side of the valley I spotted this sycamore tree. It’s an unusual shape with a number of tall straight shoots growing from the original trunk and is good example of a coppiced tree. Coppicing is a very ancient form of woodland management. Trees would be cut down to just above ground level, allowing straight shoots to grow from the sides of the trunk. These were usually harvested quite young, the poles being used for fencing, handles, posts, thatching spars and for many other purposes. They were also used for producing wood to be made into charcoal, needed for smelting iron. There would be a constant supply of new shoots growing each year, so it was a very effective use of the resource.

The coppiced sycamore tree at Reddish has been left to grow, presumably when the practice went out of use, so the straight shoots are now the size of small trees. It is on the site of Wood Hall and Wood Hall Farm, and is interesting evidence of land management on the estate. The first definite reference to Wood Hall (“Wode Hall”) is in 1501/02 and it is clearly marked on a map of 1818/19. During the Civil War, Wood Hall was owned by Henry Stanley, a supporter of Charles I – Stanley had to pay to get his property back after it was requisitioned by Parliament. His brother was a staunch supporter of Parliament and died from wounds he received at the siege of Manchester in 1642, showing how the war often split families.

Johnson’s Map – 1818/19 (published 1820)

By the 1890s Wood Hall Farm had been built next to the Hall, but sadly neither have survived – the Hall had been demolished by 1960 and the Farm by the mid 1970s. The pond shown on the map has survived and contains a number of Koi carp!

Wood Hall Farm

Postscript

When I was walking nearby yesterday I had a chat with an 80 year old local resident who reminisced about stacking the sheaves of corn on one of the farm’s fields. The field is now covered in tree growth.

Stook - Wikipedia

Lockdown Blog 1

Greetings on a beautiful spring morning! As the local history group isn’t meeting I’ve decided to write a regular blog instead. One of very few advantages of the current situation is that people who can leave the house are walking far more and exploring their neighbourhoods. Looking at buildings and places in a slow and more considered way opens up all sorts of historical puzzles. I’ve been revisiting places I haven’t been to for a long while and discovering many new nooks and crannies of history. I’ll share these on the blog over the next few weeks. A lot of the things I’ve seen raise questions – so if anyone has any information about them please comment on the blog.

Entrance to Tiviot Dale, Reddish – Spring evening walk with wild garlic

My first observation is a stone halfway up a building on Barlow Road in Levenshulme – located at the Cromwell Grove end of the road, opposite the old swimming pool, next to a row of shops and at the beginning of the cobbled entry. It looks like a foundation stone which has been relocated in Levenshulme on a more recent building, hence the different dates – 1904 relates to the date of the block of shops, 1845 is the date of the original location of the stone. Toni from the group found that Rev Richard Bassnett (1800-1865) was the rector of St James’ Church in Gorton from 1831. He also baptised a Richard Bassnett Preston in 1855, probably a relative through his mother’s family, who went on to become a church architect. Preston designed many local churches, including St Andrew’s Levenshulme and St Werbergh’s, Chorlton, and his designs were described as “impeccably correct in detail, built to last until the Day of Judgement, and very, very dull!” .

St James’ was originally a chapel which existed from at least 1562. Bassnett clearly organised its rebuilding, probably as Gorton grew during the industrial revolution – he presumably didn’t pay for it himself! The current church of St James was built in 1871, so it looks like Bassnett’s church didn’t last very long – I haven’t been able to find any prints or photos of it.

But there is a puzzle… Why did the stone end up in the wall of a block of shops in Levenshulme? There is a gap between the demolition of Bassnett’s church (probably about 1870) and the building where the stone is currently located (1904). Perhaps the stone was saved as an object of curiosity and randomly placed in its current place? Or perhaps there is another reason. In 1904 a certain O.H. had their initials carved into the stone. Who was O.H.? Any suggestions gratefully received…

Foundation Stone of St James’ Church, Gorton


The Home Front and Evacuation – visiting speaker (Peter Heaton) Tuesday 10th March

On Tuesday 10th of March we have a visiting speaker to the group. Peter Heaton will be sharing his memories as an evacuee during World War II and also talking about the home front.

If you would like to attend, meetings are free and are held between 2.00 and 4.00 pm at Burnage Library. Please feel free to bring any memorabilia from the war to show to the group.

Image result for evacuation ww2

Mapping the Shops on Burnage Lane

The group recently spent the afternoon mapping the shops on Burnage Lane. The recall of some of the members was truly remarkable and, between us, we managed to locate most of the shops and other commercial buildings from the later 1940s onwards. This led to much reminiscing about the the variety of shops and what was available in Burnage. There were different blocks of shops (i.e. the crossroads at Mauldeth Road, the crossroads at Grangethorpe Road, Green End roundabout etc), but each one had a grocer, a greengrocer and a newsagents. This meant that people didn’t have far to go to buy their basic necessities. Locals could also buy children’s clothes, shoes, medicines, hardware and many other things in Burnage, although Alison noted that there was no fishmonger. It was also interesting that people’s shopping was confined to a very narrow locality – no one was able to remember the shops on Lane End even though it borders Burnage/Didsbury.



Trip to Stockport – St Mary’s Church and Staircase House

On a very cold January afternoon, after a morning flurry of snow, the group braved the elements for visit to the old heart of Stockport. We began our visit to St Mary’s Church, located on the edge of the market place of the old medieval town. The large parish church was originally medieval, but only the original chancel survives, and the rest of the church dates from 1813. Apparently the locals were ringing the bells with such enthusiasm after the victory at Trafalgar that the tower and church were in danger of collapsing and had to be demolished.

We spent a fascinating hour at the church and, in particular, the heritage centre in the vestry. This contains a remarkable collection of local photos and exhibits and can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the history of the area. The volunteers at the centre were very helpful and well informed.

Roberta studying hard in the heritage centre

After fortifying ourselves with hot drinks we continued our trip with a tour of Staircase House, a rare survival of a merchant’s house that spans the centuries from the later middle ages to the Victorian period. The house is a warren of rooms, each dressed for the different eras with period furniture and fittings. It provides an illuminating insight into the evolution of a domestic building, its building materials and functions, and you feel as if you are stepping back in time as you pass through the rooms. Some of the group found the uneven floors and the audio guide tricky to navigate (particularly the audio guide set to German!), but overall it was an excellent trip and can be heartily recommended! Many hadn’t visited before and are planning a return trip.

Enjoying a well-earned rest
Engaging with new technology…

Memories of Delivering Milk in the 1940s Burnage

One of the members of our group, Ann, recently brought a milk bottle to a meeting that was dug up in her garden. The bottle dates from around the mid-C20 and has the name of the dairy embossed on the glass – Norris & Sons, Dahlia Farm, Burnage. Here are Ann’s memories of Mr Norris…

Henry Norris , son of J. Norris and Sons

I was born in 1941 at 9, Enfield Avenue, Eastern Circle, Burnage. Mr Norris live in Rose Cottage, Burnage Lane in front the Paragon Laundry, later Smart’s.

He had a lovely brown horse and a well painted cart in cream with brown writing with I think his name. Mr Norris was a lovely man, tubby build, very rosy cheeks and a gravely voice. He wore a brown old trilby hat and brown corduroy trousers.

Each Saturday morning with my friend Rose Slack who lived next door, we would wait for Mr Norris and help deliver the milk in the Circle. Of course, we had a motive! It was so we could have ride on the cart. We loved it.

In “Carry on Burnage” by Dennis Lloyd Nadin, a Peter Lakin recalls his father worked as a milkman for Norris Dairy on Burnage Lane.

Wonderful memories

Dahlia Farm milk bottle