Friday, 21 July 2017

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

Now I don’t usually do stately homes, but back in 1879 I might just have made the effort to visit Manley Hall which had once been the home of the 'merchant prince' Sam Mendel.

It was an impressive place built in the Italianate style with fifty rooms in 80 acres of grounds which included a greenhouse, an orangery, deer park fountains and ornamental lakes.

Added to this was a fine collection of paintings including works by Constable, Gainsborough, Leighton, Millais and Turner.

All of which reflected the vast wealth of Sam Mendel who had made that wealth by being able to ship textiles to India and Australia around the Cape of Good Hope  faster than his competitors.

“He was the son of a rope manufacturer who started business off Blackfriars Street, succeeding to the business of Mr. Robert Gardiner, a Levant merchant [and] built a warehouse in Dickenson Street, removing thrice to Booth Street, to Portland Street, and finally to his splendid warehouse in Chepstow Street.  

It is said of him he was never known to do a shabby act, but in the end he felt the frown as well as the smile of fortune.  

In 1875 his magnificent estate – Manley House- was the scene of a memorable sale, and it has ever since been but the ghost of its former self, in spite of effort after effort to galvanise it into life. The estate was cut up into building lots, and the tenantless hall survives only to witness the short-lived greatness of its builder.”*

And the frown of fortune was no less than the opening of the Suez Canal which did for his business by creating a quicker route to the east.  With its opening in 1869 Sam lost his commercial advantage and within six years be was forced into bankruptcy.

The house and its contents along with the 80 acres were put up for sale in the spring of 1875 and the auction of the contents stretched out over five days.

Not that I would have been wealthier enough to consider biding for the fine furniture, paintings, silver plate and old Chelsea porcelain.

Nope, for me it would have a walk around the gardens when they were opened to the public later in 1875.

And I rather suspect it would have been the piece in the Manchester Guardian of May 30 1879 which pushed me out of Chorlton and in to Whalley Range to walk the gardens, because the “announcement of yesterday with regard to the coming sale of this fine estate ... [means] that in all probability Manley Hall will not much longer remain open to inspection.”**

So despite the poor weather which had done little for “the great floral display which might very properly have been expected at the Whitsun Holiday” there was still “much to admire in the greenhouses and ferneries.”  

Along with “the Clown cricketers who were to play in the park on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and the Latelle ‘aerial bicyclists’ who have lately completed a successful engagement at the Westminster Aquarium [and] Mr. J.A. Whelan of Huddersfield who will make an ascent in his balloon ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’ on Thursday and Friday as well as a variety of amusements for visitors.”

But I rather think it would have been the “bands of music” which would have attracted me, one of which may well have been our own Chorlton Brass Band.  They had been formed in the 1820s and while I do not have a complete list of where they performed, there are records of them at Bell Vue, Lytham, Blackpool and Stalybridge as well as closer to home in Chorlton and up at Barlow Hall.

Now Samuel had sponsored the band during the 1860s and it would be nice to think that they were there at Manley Hall in the June of 1879.

And that perhaps is an appropriate point to close, for Samuel’s eclipse appears to have been a loss for Chorlton.

For not only did he sponsor the band but was a very active patron of the old parish church and in that great schism over the building of a new church and ist location on Edge Lane he remained with the group championing the existing building.

Next; the fate of the Hall and something more on Sam.

Location; Whalley Range, Manchester

Pictures; of Manley Hall circa 1878 from the Lloyd Collection, and picture of Sam Mendel, from a photograph by Franz Baum, 22 St Ann’s Square, Manchester Old & New, 1896, Manchester

* Shaw, William Arthur, Manchester Old & New, 1896, Manchester

** Manchester Guardian May 30 1879

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