Monday, 30 May 2016

Unlocking the history of Elesmere Road South

We are off on the northern edges of the township and a little beyond, on that area stretching north from the railway line and east from Wilbraham Road.

It is roughly the area along Egerton Road South towards Withington Road and those roads running off at right angles up to Kings Road and it’s somewhere I have rather neglected but it has much to tell of how this part of south Manchester developed in the early decades of the last century.

During the three decades before the Great War much of Chorlton was developed by small time builders and developers, who cashed in on the good tram and rail links with the city centre and the fact that there was still much open land which made this an attractive place for people who worked in Manchester but wanted to live on the edge of the countryside.

The Egerton and Lloyd estates* released parcels of land on favourable terms which allowed the developer to take possession in return for promising to pay a chief rent in perpetuity rather than a cash purchase.  This freed up capital for the developer to build the properties and the chief rent was then passed onto the new owner of the house.

Both estates were mindful of developing the area as a pleasant suburb of Manchester and did not fall over themselves to over develop the township too quickly and at the same time prohibited industrial development.
So apart from the brick works on Longford Road and the aerodrome the land was used exclusively for housing or left as farm land. “Egerton” according to The Manchester Evening News in 1901 was in “no due haste in painting Chorlton red – with bricks and mortar.  Here and there builders have been encouraged and a vigourouse enterprise has been shown in extending along Wilbraham Road towards Fallowfield, but there are countless eligible plots still tempting the speculators.”

A fact that the Evening News reported upset some developers who “knew that £30 an acre would be refused for a field which maybe earning now as little as 50s from the farmer.”**

But the same paper was confident that the future would involve more development specially given that the Lloyd Estate was pushing ahead with “cheaper semi-detached kind -£25- to £35 a year..... The clerk no less than the merchant must be catered for.”

Which brings me back to the area bounded by Egerton Road South and in particular Ellesmere Road South, which were fully developed in the 1920s.  There were some Edwardian properties here but in the decade after the Great War the existing open spaces were built over with those “cheaper semi-detached kind.”

One of the newly built properties on Ellesemere Road South was bought by Herbert Mitchel Taylor and his wife Elizabeth Taylor from Derbyshire.  They bought the house in the year it was built in 1924.  He was a railway official working in the “Goods Department” a job he still held at his death in 1951.

I rather suspect that the other occupants of these new houses will have been drawn from the same occupations, neatly reflecting the premise of the Evening News.
Now in the absence of the 1921 census we will have to fall back on the street directories and the deeds to the properties some of which I have recently seen.

Deeds are a wonderful source, as they give you the name of the original landowner, when the land was sold, who developed it and the succession of property owners, and if you are lucky other documents as well.

They also allow you to track how the chief rents have passed from one owner to another, often ending in the hands of property companies.  Today the values of these have not kept pace with inflation.  In the case of ours we pay just £2, in two yearly instalments while the chief rent for the Taylor’s house was £28.  The instalments fall on the two traditional points in the year when for centuries farmers and tradesmen settled their rents and other debts.

So deeds help unlock the history of an area and remain a valuable insight into what was going on, which leads me to the plea.  If anyone would like to show me their deeds or the details of them I would love to see them.

Picture; detail from the deeds of the Taylor family, courtesy of M and J Pickering.

*There were also Frederick Reynard, Guy St Maur Palmes and Sir Humphrey Trafford
**Manchester Evening News 1901

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