Thursday, 24 November 2011

The new Chorlton

When George Whitelegg built Stockton Range on the corner of Edge Lane and Manchester Road in 1860 he included an inside well. Now this made absolute sense when all our drinking water came from wells, ponds and streams.
We were still a small rural community and this is how it had always been. But by the 1880s the wells were getting polluted and the streams and ponds drying up. Moreover in the next two decades the population increased dramatically.
Most historians attribute this to the coming of the railway which arrived in Chorlton in 1880. And it is true that it would now be possible to travel quickly and cheaply into the heart of the city in a little over ten minutes which would allow some to travel home in the dinner hour and be back in work for the start of the afternoon.
But this ignores a more fundamental need for any community to expand, and this put simply is water and land. The ancients had well known that without an adequate supply of clean drinking water and a means of getting rid of waste large concentrations of people was at best going to throw up health problems and at worst was just not going to happen.
So it was that the first mains water supply came through in 1864, delivered by Manchester Corporation along Edge Lane to just eleven subscribers. In the course of the next decade the system was extended till a new supply was brought in along Manchester Road. Likewise the development of a sewage system and the construction of the sewage works on the meadows provided the basics for a healthy and civilized life.
Of course without houses the population expansion was not possible and there had been very little building before the 1870s. The few small parcels of land that had become available were not usually developed despite the attempts by speculators and the newspapers to advertise Chorlton as a desirable place to build.
So it was not till the 1880s that the large landowners began to allow piecemeal development by allowing the builders to acquire the land through an annual chief rent which freed up capital to spend on building the houses.
Much of the development was done by speculative businessmen of whom only a few were builders. These included a farmer, a market gardener and those involved in commerce and the law. Some were local but others were from Manchester or the surrounding townships.
Much of this new development was aimed at the clerical and artisan end of the market. As the Manchester Evening News said in the September of 1901, “The clerk no less than the merchant must be catered for.”
These were the “six shilling a week home’s” which along with the £25-£35 small semi-detached properties made up the bulk of what was being built. Most are still there in the terraced rows behind Beech Road, Sandy Lane and Ivgreen Road and the slightly more impressive houses on Longford, Nicolas and Newport as well Barlow Moor Road, Wilbraham Road and those on Albany.
More than anything it would be this which created a divide between what became known as new and old Chorlton.
Picture of Sandy Lane early 20th century from the collection of Philip Lloyd

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