Sunday, 15 May 2016

Down at West Point in 1911 before the Seymour Hotel ........ looking for the story of Jonathan Brown .... gardener and expert orchid grower

Now the Seymour has passed into history and soon memories will fade that this was the last pub before the long dry walk along Upper Chorlton Road to Brooks Bar and the Whalley Hotel

West Point, 1911
That said you would be hard pressed to find anyone who could remember when this grand old place was a private residence.

And now only history books will offer up its time as the hone of Samuel Gratrix who called his house West Point at the junction of Manchester Road, Seymour Grove and Upper Chorlton Road.

All of which l was reminded of when Jonathan Brown set me off on a hunt for his grandfather who was the gardener for Mr Gratrix.

Jonathan came across a reference to the both men in an article from The Orchid World published in 1911.*

He grandfather was living in the lodge with his wife Betsy. They had been married for less than a year and in 1914 Mrs Brown had a son. Their home vanished long before I knew the Seymour and l haven’t found a picture of the lodge.  But it had five rooms and was situated on the south side of Mr Gratrix's big property.

Samuel Gratrix, curca 1911
Locating the Brown's in 1911 was easy enough and the story then made its way to Rawtenstall where Jonathan had been born in 1883.

Just eight years later and his mother was a widow bringing up six children and working as a charwoman.

Her husband had been a teacher and while it is unclear yet when he died it will have to be after 1886 when their last child was born.

In time l will track Mrs Brown who had been born in Norfolk in 1855 which made her just 36 when she was bringing up her children.

All of which was new to Jonathan who an hour earlier knew nothing of his paternal father's family before 1914.

And the final twist was the 1871 census which not only revealed that his great grandfather was a pupil teacher but that his great great grandfather farmed 35 acres outside Rawtenstall and had been born at the beginning of the 19th century in Colne.

That might seem a long way from West Point in 1911 so I shall finish with an extract from The Orchid World which having praised Mrs Gratrix for “looking after the wants of these delicate and youthful Orchids” turned to Mr Brown “who has charge also of the 17 acres of grounds and] shows fully his capabilities as an experts Orchid grower, and the many rare and beautiful plants which he is entrusted should act as a great incentive to his ever willing desire to still further improve their good qualities.”*

West Point, 1894
I think Mr Brown would be pretty pleased with that.

Not that he stayed at West Point.

At some time he moved on eventually landing up in Huddersfield where the family settled and along the way set up a business, although Jonathan told me his grandfather was for moving on but his son put his foot down and Yorkshire became home.

And that is about it for now but I remain fascinated at how chance connections open up a whole new set of stories.

So for me apart from making a new acquaintance I have found a picture of West Point before it became the Seymour, discovered that its grounds extended to 17 acres and learnt a little about one of our gardeners and residents.

Location; West Point

Pictures; West Point, Whalley Range and Mr Samuel Gratrix from The Orchid World, Vol 1 nu 1910-1911, from the collection of Jonathan Brown, and West Point from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*The Orchid World, Vol 1 nu 1910-1911, pages 154-8

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