Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The new name for an old Chorlton House ........ Croft House

Now I like the way that place names evolve, reflecting changing circumstances and popular tastes.

Kemp's Corner, circa 1910
Officially the junction at Barlow Moor Road and Wilbraham Road is Chorlton Cross, a name bestowed by the city planners at the start of the new century, but everyone knows it as the Four Banks and a generation ago it was Kemp’s Corner, while on all the old maps, Lane End which was where High Lane ran into Barlow Moor Lane and Moss Lane was Brundrett’s Corner.

Mr Kemp's shop, circa 1910
And the reason for these unofficial names is that they arose from people’s experiences.
Chorlton Cross is known as the Four Banks because there is a bank on each corner, and before that it was Kemp’s Corner because Harry Kemp’s chemist shop occupied the property which is now the HSBC bank.
It had a large clock which added to its prominent position and in a pre mobile age allowed you to check how late your friend was.

Interestingly, before Harry Kemp there is a reference to a Bank Square which may refer to the bank which today is the Nat West.

And then there is Lane End which during the middle decades of the 19th century was referred to as Brundrett’s Corner because Mr Brundrett had his grocer’s shop close by.

All of which makes perfect sense, but does not work when it comes to the names of individual properties, which as we all know can be bizarre.  Some are based on a long and almost forgotten holiday destination, while others are drawn from a stately home or even a television series.

Ardlui House, the gate post
In the Chorlton building boom which began in the 1880s, residents vied with each other for names which either aped their “aristocratic betters” or conjured up faraway places with grand sounding names like Elmshurst, Denehurst and the intriguing Danialcus House which became Damascus House and has a fascinating story which alas is not for here.

And that has brought me to the house on the corner of Wilbraham Road and Hastings Avenue.

It dates from the early years of the 20th century and went under the name of Ardlui House which may derive from Ardlui, which is a hamlet at the head of Loch Lomond, and is one of a number of properties bearing the name in south Manchester.

Ardlui House 2017
I doubt that the name long survived its first resident who was a Mrs Botsford.

She lived there from 1903 till her death in 1922, where upon the house was divided into flats and while the name remained on the stone gate post its usage will have slipped away.

But all old houses deserve to be brought back out into the limelight and so it is with this one.  After decades of sitting quietly minding its own business and pretty much fading into the background, it was bought by Armisted Properties who have a proven track record of taking old and tired houses and giving them a new lease of life.*

And along with that came a new name, which they felt should be rooted in Chorlton unlike those earlier Victorian and Edwardian choices.

Chorlton fields, circa 1845
But finding a name can be tricky.

An easy option might be to fall back on a distinguished local personality but that assumes there was one, and anyway there will be many who argue the local gardener or domestic servant is just as entitled to be remembered as the people of plenty who owned the property.

A more promising choice was Ash Tree which was the name of the area close by and seems to have derived its name from “a fine ash tree which stood in the centre of Manchester-road, at the foot of which a man used to engage in prayer at a certain hour every day”.**

The alternative was look at the names of nearby fields, which included, Croft, Great Edge, Lower Long Edge, & Great Edge with Hales Field directly opposite. Of these Croft was the most attractive and was actually where our house was built which according to the tithe map of 1845 shows was a nine acre strip was owned by the Egerton’s and farmed by William Knight.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Ardlui House, soon to be renovated and renamed Croft House, courtesy of Armistead Properties, 2017 and map of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1845,showing the field names, drawn by J Lloyd, 1971, and based on the Tithe map of 1845.  Mr Lloyd’s map can be seen in his The Township of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1971

* Armistead Properties,

**Thomas Ellwood, History of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, November 1885

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