Sunday, 29 April 2018

Pits Brow, and the third St Clement's Church part 2

Pits Brow which was at the  corner of Edge Lane and Manchester Road was reckoned to be one of the most beautiful places in the township. 

Here lived William Chesshyre, market gardener, clerk to the parish church and census enumerator for 1841 and 1851.

There were two cottages here which variously went under the name of Pits Brow Cottages or the Glass Houses. Set back from the road they commanded a fine view south to the village and green and were surrounded by gardens and orchards.

This spot caught the attention of the farmer innkeeper and property developer George Whitelegg.  In1860 he built Stockton Range on the site of the Glass Houses.

 This was Lloyd land and before Stockton Range was built, George Lloyd built a new house for the Chesshyre’s on Manchester Road all but facing their old home.

The building is still there today and sits in a garden protected by tall stone walls and iron railings.
Stockton Range which is actually two houses is also still there.  It too has impressive gardens and in its way marks part of the transition in the history of the township.

When these two houses were built, the provision of water was still a problem.  Most houses either had access to a well or pump which they may have shared or relied on the brooks and ponds.  Stockton Range had its own well which was inside the house.

 But within four years Manchester Corporation had built a water main to supply Chorlton.  This ran along Edge Lane and down St Clements on to the green.

The very idyllic setting may have also been the reason why this was the site of the parsonage.  In 1847 it was home to the Rev William Birley and his family.

It was a large impressive building but one not easily seen from the road.

The long garden and screen of trees isolated it from all but the most persistent of observers.

Had we ventured in to the garden we would have been met by a brick building on three floors.  The ground floor had tall windows looking out east across the garden with smaller windows on the remaining levels.  As befitting a parsonage with pretensions the front door was entered through a tall stone porch. It had been built by subscription collected through the exertions of William Birley who had until then been living on Upper Chorlton Road at the corner with Wood Road.

No doubt the Rev William Bailey was pleased with it, but it was by all accounts a gloomy, damp and cold place which finally fell to wet rot, its huge size and the sheer impracticability of running such a large house in the middle of the 20th century.   It lasted but a century and when it was demolished for something smaller the then incumbent was not sorry to see it go.    The cellar of the old rectory is still visible in the garden and has often been mistaken for a sunken garden.

Pits Brow remained an attractive location and by the end of the century the rectory and Stockton Range had been joined by more and even grander houses which stretched all the way from the church down Edge Lane to the station at Stretford.

These were big properties set back from the road in their own grounds with names like Alton Towers, The Hollies, Waltham House and Meadow Bank.  Most survived into the 20th century but proved too big and the first were demolished only decades after they had been built.

Most of them on the southern side of Edge Lane still backed onto fields and open land as did the church and the school.  This more than anything was what continued to make Chorlton a magnet for people looking for a place to live.  The railway stations at Stretford and Chorlton could whisk the city worker into the heart of Manchester in less than fifteen minutes, and on their return the same commuters might well walk past fields on their way home.

Not perhaps the view that would have greeted William Chesshyre as he looked from his cottage towards the village and the green.  His view would have been interrupted only by an orchard while today all is lost behind the church and houses.

But there is one link with William Chesshyre and that is the Edge Lane lake which can form across this bit of the road in the winter and is in all probability caused by a blockage in the culvert that carries the Rough Leech Gutter which flows from Sandy Lane across the old township before going off to Turn Moss.

Not much I grant you as a link to the past, but wait till it floods again.

Pictures; Pits Brow from the OS map of Lancashire 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives, photographs from the collection of Tony Walker and the Lloyd collection

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