Saturday, 22 July 2017

On the turn of a sixpence, the continuing story of Manley Hall and Sam Mendel

The Hall in 1879
Yesterday I was pondering a visit to Manley Hall in the June of 1879.*

This had been the grand home of Samuel Mendel popularly known at the time as the “merchant prince”

It was a magnificent house of fifty rooms set in 80 acres of grounds which included a greenhouse, an orangery, deer park, fountains and ornamental lakes.**

The estate extended east from Upper Chorlton Road as far as the Independent College, and south to Clarendon Road.  Today Manley Park is all that is left of those extensive grounds and the rest is a mix of houses.

Manley Hall 1888-93
But back in the 1860s and 70s Sam Mendel’s home was reckoned to be everything a wealthy self made man could desire and the inside of the house was as impressive as the grounds.

Here were paintings by Constable, Gainsborough, Leighton, Millais and Turner along with fine furniture, silver plate and old Chelsea porcelain.

So much that when in the spring of 1875 the contents of the house were put up for sale, the auction lasted for five days.

Not that Mr Mendel stayed around to watch for after more than a decade at Manley Hall he moved south to London and on to Hastings coming to terms with his dramatic fall from prosperity.

He had made his wealth transporting textiles to India and Australia around the Cape of Good Hope faster than any of his rivals, and from his offices in Cooper Street and a succession of warehouses around the city he was recognised as a successful entrepreneur who was never out of the papers.

But the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 undermined his business and in 1875 he went bankrupt, which prompted the sale of the house and its contents.

Samuel Mendel
For a while the general public were able for a charge to wander the gardens and enjoy both the floral displays as well as performances by a variety of brass bands.

There were also various schemes floated to turn the estate into a “great pleasure resort.  A winter palace was to be erected which should contain an art gallery, concert hall, promenade, library, assembly room, skating rinks, baths, and refreshment rooms.  Shareholders were to be allowed to use the park for promenade purposes on Sundays, and the hall was to be converted into a club, membership of which should be limited to holders of one hundred or more shares in the company.”***

But these and other plans came to nothing and it was pretty much death by a succession of small building plots as bits of the estate were sold off for development or turned into a golf course for the Manchester Golf Club.

The Hall still attracted the curious, and so it was in the June of 1904 that this couple wandered into the grounds and had their picture taken at the rear of the grand old house.  By then its years of neglect were only all too clear to see from the overgrown kitchen garden and bricked up rear windows and was demolished in 1905.

The rear of the Hall in June 1904
But like all such stories there is still more.  Back in 1875 the house had been bought by the coal merchant Ellis Lever for £120,000 and according to the historian Cliff Hayes Mr Ellis never paid up.****

This in itself is intriguing but made more so by a letter from Mr Ellis in the Times from June 1887 in which he deplored the abandonment of the plan to transform the estate into pleasure resort.

“There is not in the United Kingdom a town that has greater need than Manchester of healthy and refining influences, and there is not a more attractive and charming property than Manley-park.  

But while the people of Manchester and Salford are perishing for lack of pure and healthy surroundings this magnificent property is being allowed to go to decay or become absorbed  by the builder.

The Hall soon after the sale in 1875
Manley-park is thoroughly well wooded, and all the trees being vigorous and healthy.  That there should fall to the axe man to be replaced by rows of houses I look upon as a misfortune to the city.”*****

Which raises all sorts of questions about the involvement of Mr Ellis in the estate but those are for another time.

As for Samuel Mendel he died in 1884.

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection and map of Manley Hall from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1888-93, courtesy of Digital Archives, and  picture of Sam Mendel, from a photograph by Franz Baum, 22 St Ann’s Square, Manchester Old & New, 1896, Manchester

*"the frown of fortune"...... the story of Sam Mendel and Manley Hall in Whalley Range,

** The land had cost £250,000 and the house another £50,000 to build.

*** City News on October 8, 1904, quoted in Manley Hall,

****Hayes. Cliff, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1999
.***** The Times, June 11 1887

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