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Brooklands, Bury Old Road

The Cawley Family of Brooklands

Prior to 1861, the property was named Singleton, and was associated with several cottages and a lodge. The death of Edmund Hodgson in 1840 records his residence as Singleton and appears to have been held in high regard.

Click here to see an image of Brooklands ~1910[Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council]


The main property was occupied by Vernon Royle (retired Silk Merchant and Justice of the Peace), his wife and two servants in 1841 and 1851.Mrs Royal, along with her neighbours Mrs Scholes from High Bank,Mrs Ridehalgh of Polefield, Mrs Drinkwater of Irwell House, and Rev Blackburne of St Mary's, was involved in raising funds for St Andrews Church in Ancoats in 1840, under the patronage of King William IV's widow.


Vernon Royle died in 1854
[St Mary's B2 East]

and there was a sale of his books.

Brooklands 1848

In 1851, the neighbouring property, Singleton Lodge, was inhabited by the Wood family. George Wood (b:1781)was a merchant , magistrate, and deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, and MP for Kendal in Cumbria. His son and grandson also became magistrates, and his daughter-in-law was a member of the McConnel family (see below).

George Wood died in 1843, and is buried in a flat and quite missable double plot in St Mary's graveyard. His family went on to occupy Singleton itself.
[St Mary's SOUTH]

An article of 1878 shows how one of George's sons did not take too kindly to some Nuns who knocked on his door.

Nuns accused of begging

The census records William McConnel living in the house of Brooklands in 1861, with his wife Margaret, four sons, two daughters, and six servants.One cottage contained a Bookkeeper, another a gardener.

[William and Margaret previously lived at Deyne Brook, Prestwich, christening their children at St Mary's (1853-1868). Mary, sister of William, married Charles Henry Felix Routh, Physician and son of Randolph Isham Routh, K.C.B., Commissionary General of the Forces, and who was senior commissariat officer at the battle of Waterloo.]

1861 Census

[the coachman lived in the lodge]

The census also shows William as a cotton spinner employer, employing 225 men, 400 women, 150 boys and 225 girls.

McConnel & Kennedy Mills, Ancoats William's father James (b:1762), had joined a partnership with Sandford and Kennedy in 1791. By 1797 McConnel and Kennedy had built "Old Mill" in Ancoats with steam powered spinning mules, with an external boiler house. The seven-storey mill was 16 bays long and 4 bays deep and had a cupola on the roof.

Old Mill

Old Mill was rebuilt in 1912, and imaginatively renamed "New Old Mill". After the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1942, it was renamed the Royal Mill, and the entrance (which was once a continuation of Cotton Street) hints at the history.

Royal Mill

In 1797 James founded McConnel & Co., fine cotton spinners. The McConnels purchased the English patent rights of the Heilman Comber, a machine for combing the fibres of cotton, worsted, flax etc to remove short fibres, clean out extraneous matter, and lay the fibres more or less parallel to each other. This advantage led to the McConnel mills becoming the second largest in the world, and Mr. McConnel was thus one of the aristocrats of the industry. While widespread terrible working conditions prevailed, McConnel and Kennedy were commended by a factory inspector for "the neat condition of the rooms, and the attention to cleanliness and ventilation". James Snr, left his concerns to his three sons James, William & Henry.

McConnel & Co Mills

(Grade II listed) were the largest cast iron structure in the World when built by Sir William Fairbairn's company, Fairbairn & Lillie

[Ref: By Scanned by Mr Stephen - Scanned from A Century of fine Cotton Spinning, 1790-1913. McConnel & Co. Ltd. Facing p 24., Public Domain, link]

[William's brother James was to be found in Bent House in 1851 and BentHill in the 1860's]
[William's brother Henry lived in Cressbrook Hall, in the Peak District 1861]

William had married Margaret Bradshaw Wanklyn of GreenBank Bury in 1852, whose father, William Wanklyn, was a descendant of John Wanklyn, one of Oliver Cromwell's Commissioners, and who fought for him at the battle of Worcester, but whose property was confiscated on the accession of Charles II, and given to the Earl of Essex

His brothers retired from the business in 1860 & 1861 leaving William as the sole owner. The American Civil war broke out in 1861, putting stress on Cotton supplies and William diversified into slate quarries and railways.

The 1871 census shows only the servants were resident on the census day (2nd April), and in the 1881 census, William was still going strong aged 71, and had retired in 1878. William's eldest son John Wanklyn McConnel was a Law student at the Bar and took over the business in 1880, and his second son was an undergraduate at Cambridge. William died in 1902.

[John Wanklyn McConnel was to be found living in WellBank in 1891]

In 1881 William Martin, treasurer of The City of Manchester, was living at Brooklands, and the financial connection continued in 1891 as John C Sharp along with his wife, five sons and two servants had moved in. John was a Bank Manager of the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank. This bank ultimately became part of the NatWest and RBS banking group.

Martin family tomb, St Mary's [SOUTH].

By 1901, Brooklands had become the home of Frederick, Lord Cawley, who was the local MP between 1895 and 1918.

Frederick Cawley, 1st Baron of Prestwich

Frederick had been born in 1850, and owned Heaton Mills bleach and dye works (The big Sainsburys now). He married Elizabeth Smith in 1876, and had four sons. In 1901 Queen Victoria died, and the country went into mourning, which was good news for Frederick. He owned the patent for a pure black dye which made his cotton finishing business, the most successful in Lancashire. Frederick Cawley MP made his fortune with black after Queen Victoria went into mourning, then ironically and sadly, after WWI, during which he lost 3 of his 4 sons. Frederick spent some of his money on the purchase of Berrington Hall in Herefordshire.

Heaton Mills 1927 (click to read more about Heaton Mills)

Click play to hear the reminiscences of and the challenge of the "Perfect Black" at Waterdale Dye works in Prestwich.

With thanks to John Munford & his Uncle Dennis and credit to at maidstone.blog]...

Baron Cawley married Elizabeth Smith, daughter of John Smith and Fanny Robson, in 1876. They had four sons, of whom the three youngest, Harold Cawley MP, John and Oswald Cawley MP, were killed in the First World War, and one daughter, Hilda Cawley.

Lord and Lady Cawley with, from the left, Robert, Oswald, John and Harold as well as daughter Hilda

By 1911, only one son, Robert, was living with Frederick and Elizabeth at brooklands, a ominous suggestion of what was to befall the family during the World War that was on the horizon. Robert, who later became the 2nd Lord Cawley after his father's death in 1937, married Vivienne Cawley. The Hon Mrs Vivenne Cawley (to give her full title) was Commandant Of The East Lancs Red Cross Hospitals and was in charge of Polefield Hall and Langley House and Sedgley New Hall during WW1.

Vivienne Lee, as she was born, was the daughter of Harold Lee, a son of Henry Lee of Sedgley New Hall just along Bury Old Road. Harold himself lived at Fairfield, in Broughton Park.

2nd Lord Cawley with Vivienne,Sir Frederick and The Hon. Robert Cawley.

John Cawley

John Cawley, Brigade Major, 1st Cavalry Brigade, and after training at Sandhurst held a commission in the 20th Hussars since 1898. He served in India,the South Africa (Boer) War and Egypt. Upon the outbreak of War he was deployed to France, and was killed on the 1st September 1914, during the retreat from Mons.

"...he joined the advance line and was almost immediately killed by a piece of shell. The splendid manner in which he met his death in deliberately facing the awful fire to help others where he really need not have done so, is only what his whole life has led us to expect".
John is commemorated at St Margret's Church.

Harold Cawley

Harold had studied Law at Oxford and was called to the Bar in 1902. He was elected MP for Heywood in 1910, and worked in the Home Office until 1914. He had joined the 2nd Volunteer Manchester Regiment in 1904, volunteered and went to Egypt in 1914. From there they were sen to the front line at Gallipoli in 1915.

During September 1915, the Turks exploded a series of mines in front of the British trench known as the 'Gridiron' and damaged its defences. Repairs after one mine on 22 September were covered by a bombing party of 1/6th Battalion Manchester Regiment who held the lip of the crater. The same day the Royal Engineers exploded a counter-mine and the Manchesters rushed the crater and built a barrier across it. Captain Heywood (Cawley) serving with 1/6th Bn was killed that night by a Turkish sniper, and the crater became known as 'Cawley's Crater'. Before his death, he sent a letter to his father, as a Member of Parliament the letter was not subject to military censorship, and it reported the mishandling of the Dardanelles campaign in some detail Harold was buried at Lancashire Landing Cemetery in Gallipoli, and commemorated at St Margret's Church and The House of Lords.
"I have no need to say he met his death bravely, as he was in a very dangerous position, and no one but a fearless Englishman would have faced it."

Oswald Cawley

Oswald, studied at Oxford for his BA, and succeeded his father as MP for Prestwich, in February 1918. On 11 September that same year, news was received confirming that Cpt. Hon. Oswald Cawley MP had been killed in action in France on the 22nd August, receiving a fatal shot to the jaw. He is buried in Nery cemetery along with his brother John, and commemorated at St Margret's Church and The House of Lords.


In memory of his three dead sons, Cawley endowed a ward at Ancoats Hospital, Manchester, in 1919 at a cost of £10,000.

Lady Cawley died in March 1930. Lord Cawley died at Berrington Hall in March, 1937, aged 86, and was succeeded in the baronetcy and barony by his eldest and only surviving son, Robert.

In 1934 a terrible event at Heaton Mills took the lives of four men, read more about the tragedy.

The second Lord Cawley had married Vivienne Lee from another great cotton family and moved into Brooklands; taking over the mansion upon his father’s death in 1937. Robert was Justice of the Peace.

The Cawley’s suffered again during the Second World War, losing a son, the Honourable Captain Harold Kenneth John Cawley, at Tunis in 1943, commemorated at the House of Lords.

Hon. Capt. Harold Cawley

The house and lands came into the ownership of the council and was used as office space and a library, and was then demolished sometime before 1979.

Brooklands 1967

Watch a video of the area developing over time.