Friday, 11 May 2018

Kemp’s Corner .... the Four Banks and Bank Square ....... names that speak of our history

The news that the RBS Bank in Chorlton is to close in August is sad news and more so because according to press reports, the closure of 162 branches across the country will lead to the loss of 800 jobs.*

Sunwick, circa 1900
How the closure will impact on the staff here is unclear, and nether the Guardian or the Manchester Evening News** who also reported the story give any indication of the potential job loss.

And the news of the closure has led to a deal of speculation on the future of the popular name the “Four Banks”, for the junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads.

In a lapse of judgment I joined in, but on reflection it is a little in bad taste, given the loss of one of our local banks.

Not that what I say or think will change the decision or the speculation.

So instead I will return to one of my popular preoccupations which is how place names evolve.

For years the spot was known as Kemp’s Corner after Harry Kemp’s Chemist shop which occupied what is now the HSBC Bank and was a popular meeting place well into the late 1960s.  Before that, there is a reference in a picture postcard to the junction as Bank Square.

Kemp's Corner and Sunwick, circa 1900
What all three have in common is that they were popular names which arose from ordinary usage and have been more enduring than the official title of Chorlton Cross.

And that leads me to the building which is at present inhabited by the RBS.

It was called Sunwick and the name is there on one of the stone gate posts facing out onto Barlow Moor Road.

In 1911 it was home to Mr and Mrs Case, their two children and three members of staff.  Mr Case described himself as a “Doctor of Medicine” and playing to the stereotype his handwriting is all but illegible.

But I can make out that amongst the three servants, there was Jesse Lambert who was 30 and was employed as the cook, Mary Carpenter, the Housemaid and Sara Brow who is listed as “waitress”***

Sunwick was a large house consisting of 11 rooms, with small gardens at the back, front and eastern side, and was encompassed by a tall brick wall.  A little of the wall still survives on Wilbraham Road in front of that low level addition to the original building.

Sunwick, 1896
The property was distinctive enough for the map makers to include the its name on the OS map for 1896 and it appears to have been built sometime around 1885, when it was occupied by a Dr Andrew Denholme who sold it onto Dr George Byrne in February of the following year.

Dr Byrne was still there in the early years of the last century and by 1911 was home to the Case family.****

All of which points to the property having been associated with doctors from the outset.

A close trawl of the directories will offer up the moment it passed from a residential property to a bank, which it certainly was by the 1930s.

But, as what it will become that is idle speculation although some may assume it will become another bar, leading one wag to rename the junction, three banks and a bar.

We shall see.

Location; the Four Banks

Picture, Kemp’s Corner and Sunwick circa 1900, from the Lloyd Collection and Sunwick in 1896, from the OS map of South Lancashire, courtesy of Digital Archive Association,

*RBS to close 162 branches with the loss of 800 jobs, Julia Kollewe, The Guardian, May 1 2018,

**RBS to close 31 branches in Greater Manchester and Cheshire, Ravender Sembhy & Stuart Greer, Manchester Evening News, May 2 2018,

***Census, Enu 18 664, Didsbury, South Manchester, Lancashire, 1911

****Manchester Rate Books, 1885-1900

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