Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Less a gate post more a mystery ......... Afton Manor in Whalley Range

Now I thought it would be fairly easy to track the history of Afton Manor back to when it was built.

Afton Manor, 2016
But not so, because while the building is there shown as two very impressive Victorian semis there is no record of an Afton House.

Instead in 1911 these two were Woodlands, home to Mr Lawson at number 1 Woodlands and Mr & Mrs Dietlin at nu 2.

And that is just the first twist in the story.  For while the Dietlin’s are in residence in the April of 1911 Mr Lawson is not and his fine 13 roomed house is occupied by just a housekeeper and general servant.

Woodlands south of St Margaret's, 1894
That said it is his signature that appears on the census return leaving us only with the information that Mrs Jessie Weightman the house keeper was a widow, aged sixty four and had been married for thirty seven years.  She had had ten children of which only four were still living.

All of which is slim pickings but more than I know about her colleague who was Nellie Henshall aged 39 from Burslem in Staffordshire.

By contrast the census information for the Dietlin’s is most detailed.  He was 74 years old gave his occupation as a merchant engaged in the export of textile machinery and had been born in Alsace.  His wife, Celestine was two years younger and was from Luxemburg while their daughter Clotilde had been born in Bacelona.

Mr and Mrs Dietlin had been married for 40 years and two of their four children were dead.

Added to which I know that they employed a nurse two servants and a cook.

The youngest of these was Winnifred Ryle who was 20 and from Bradford.  The oldest was Miss Jane Nelson who had been born in 1869 and came from Preston.  The cook was a Mary Farrell from Dublin and the last was Kate Bearsley who was described a s a waitress.

Afton Manor, 2016
None of which helps with the change of house name or where Mr Lawson was when the census enumerator came knocking in April of 1911.

He was a solicitor and a partner in the firm of Lawson, Coppock and Hart.

So in time if I am minded it should be possible to track him down and along the way find out a little more about Mr Dietlin who was in residence at Woodlands in 1903 and the age of these two fine houses.

They were there by 1894 and a trawl of the rate books should takes us a bit further back.

As for that name change that looks relatively new and I bet there will be someone who can help.

I know the property was listed as a care home and is now flats.

And only hours after the story was posted Dave Hulson provided this picture of Woodlands in the 1960s.

Woodlands in the 1960s
It was taken by his dad when “my mother was a house keeper , and my father maintained the building, when it was owned by the Wilkinson family, then it was sold to a Mr Shakrob who turned it into a residential care home.

Then a Scottish chap carried on with the care Mr Shakrob started, he turned the stables into a terminal care unit.

The Scottish chap I think his name was Watson, but when he sold it , then it became a battle for local people plus my self and the local vicar to save it , in the war years it was taken over by the army."

And Dave tells me that “if that stone was turned around ,you would see the name engraved into the stone saying Woodlands.”

Which just leaves me to thank Dave and reflect that there is always someone who can up with the bits I don’t know

Location; Whalley Range, Manchester

Picture; Whalley Road, Whalley Range, 2016, from the collection of Andy Robertson, Woodlands in the 1960s,courtesy of Dave Hulson and Woodlands in 1894 from the OS for South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/


  1. My father, Mr shakrob, owned the place and changed the name to "The Carmel Hotel". I have lots of funny memories of the place, it was a bit like faulty towers! As a child, I was scared of going on the top floor because I was sure it haunted.

  2. Yep my Dad and Mum ran Carmel Hotel previously Woodlands Court. Wonderful years. Maybe I'm getting the maths wrong...thinking 35 years ago. Many great memories.

  3. I remember it as the nursing home in the early 90s. We used to go carol singing there at christmas for the elderly. Remember it being very grand inside with a beautiful staircase.

  4. My great-grandad's family, the Saxtons, lived there from 1939 to about 1965, if that helps anyone.