Home Lords Saints People Places People Contact

Clifton Hall


Clifton Manor although over the border in Salford has had an influence on the history of Prestwich for over eight centuries.

First reference to the Manor of Clifton was in 1183 when the sheriff collected 8 shillings in rent from a tyrant and outlaw Hugh Putsell a.k.a. Hugh the Hunter. The house fell out of his family line when, through a lack of a male heir in 1276, it became part of estate of the Trafford family after a marriage to Alice de Clifton.

Later William de Holland came into possession of the Hall and the Hollands kept the residence for over 300 years. 1444 saw a young Ralph de Holland charged with trespassing in the woods of Sir John Pilkington and taking three hawkes. After the CIvil War Thomas Holland and son William, suffered for choosing to fight the Royalists cause.

Map of 1590 Showing William Holland of Clifton

Click here to see an image of Clifton Hall ~1860 [Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council]

Ralph Slade married a daughter of the Holland family and gained the ownership of the Hall, but the couple died without child. Read more about the Hollands in Lords of the Manor of Prestwich, as patrons of the Rector of Prestwich. Their coat of arms is present in St. Marys.

After several changes, the Hall and some land in Clifton, came into the hands of the Gaskell family in 1652.

Click here to see an image of Clifton Hall 1908 [Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council]

Clifton Hall after being rebuilt in the 18th Century

In the 18th Century it was most likely that Nathaniel Gaskell had the hall rebuilt. His daughter Rebecca, was to become the mother of Robert Clive, a.k.a. Lord Clive of India. Rebecca's sister married Daniel Bayley of Hope Hall, which Lord Clive would visit during his childhood...no doubt calling at Clifton Hall too.

See inside Clive of India's house...it came up for sale in 2018

Bury Times

Read more about Clive of India...

Lord Clive

Bradley Ford

The crossing point over the Irwell between Clifton and Prestwich (and on to Whitefield) was at Bradley Ford. This met with the lower reaches of Clifton Road which lead down from the North of Prestwich, as well as the lower reaches of Prestwich Clough. The low bank on the salford side has since been covered with a steep bank of waste material from the factory.

Clifton Aquaduct in the rear, with the 13 arches to the front.

1796 saw the building of an aqueduct (grade 2 listed)that carried the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal across the river Irwell at Clifton.

The curious history of the house continued as it became a private lunatic Asylum, before coming into the possession of Benjamin Arthur Heywood in 1825, he was the son of a Slave Trader. He went on to become founder of the influential Heywoods Bank in Manchester. Benjamin also purchased Claremont, a Georgian residence in Salford, and went onto represent South Lancashire in parliament, and was later created a baronet bythe queen. His son, Sir Benjamin Heywood, found himself in sole ownership of the "Heywood Brothers & Co." Bank in 1829, and later renamed it to "Sir Benjamin Heywood Bart. & Co.". In 1848 Sir Benjamin had a new property for the Bank built at St Anne's Square, designed by John Edgar Gregan.

[Nathaniel Heywood had been Vicar of Ormskirk during the English Civil War, and had two son's Richard and Nathaniel. Richard went to Ireland and ended up adopting his nephew, Arthur. Arthur grew up to marry the daughter of General Arthur Graham of Armagh, and went on to have two sons Benjamin & Arthur. These brothers found fortune in the Slave Trade, investing in over 133 slave voyages between 1745 & 1789]

Heywoods Banking House

The sons of Sir Benjamin later renamed the business to "Heywood Brothers & Co.", one of the sons lived at The How, in Prestwich.

Then followed ownership by the Fletcher family and the Corrie family and the 19th Century saw the spread of the Railway and this saw the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway take possession of the Hall for the purposes of office space and a canteen.

In 1936 the Hall was demolished after becoming neglected, and the present day Magnesium Elektron Ltd. Works now occupies the site.

Map of Clifton Hall and the Railway Junction

The Railway branched off over the great viaduct (grade 2 listed) known locally as the 13 arches, that crossed the river Irwell near Philips Park joining the East Lancashire line to Clifton Junction, site of the Battle of Clifton Junction.

The Battle of Clifton Junction

Written by

Malcolm Borrowdale

Nowadays we have privatised railways having had nationalised railways for 40-odd years. The operating companies indulge in lobbying and wrangling over who should have which passenger franchise. Such contests may have their politics and intrigue and possibly the occasional dirty trick but the railway battles we are concerned with here were in the 19th Century and were of a rather more robust nature.

Then railways really were the thing to have your money in - well, they were provided you hadn't invested in one of the vast number of tinpot schemes that sprang up in their hundreds during the "Railway mania" of the 1840s. Of course there were well-found companies formed to build the great main lines, properly surveyed by famous engineers; there were little local undertakings whose only ambition was to have a branch line to join Doddering-in-the-Ditch or Trollopsford-under-Toadstool to the nearest main line so that the squire could have his wine sent from London and farmer Giles could send his milk, sheep, cabbages or whatever to the markets of Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds or just the nearest market town. Alongside them were the mad ravings of half the lunatics and eccentrics of the nation - designs for railways to run almost the length of the country in a straight line without any major engineering works, tunnels to Ireland, railways suspended over waterways (maybe not such a potty idea after all if you've been to Wuppertal), railways that served nowhere in particular and would have no source of traffic and, above all, designs for getting hold of other folk's money.

The first railways came long before the mania and in the early days they were little local affairs associated with particular industries: the Peak Forest Tramway in Cheshire providing the top half of the Peak Forest Canal scheme to carry limestone, the Pen-y-Darren tramroad in the Rhondda to carry coal and where the first steam locomotive was used and the Wylam Colliery tramway near Newcastle where George Stephenson cut his railway teeth were among the hundreds of private railways of the late 18th and early 19th Century. Things changed in 1825 when the Stockton & Darlington Railway opened. It was still a local undertaking and locomotives provided only a proportion of its motive power - horses and stationary steam engines being used as well but the important difference was that this one was owned by a railway company whose business was transport.

The success of the Stockton & Darlington spawned railway schemes all over the country. The next step forward, the birth of the modern railway came five years later in 1830 with the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. The S&D had only local interests at heart - mainly the carriage of coal from the mining area around Shildon to the growing industries of Darlington and Stockton on Tees. The Liverpool and Manchester was a different thing altogether; no horses, no steep inclines worked by stationary engines and ropes (except the final slope through the great tunnel down to Liverpool docks) and designed to carry passengers as well as goods and minerals. Another traffic in mind when the canals and then the railways were built was the rapid transport of troops around the country; it must be remembered that it was less than a century since there had been a war in Britain (the 1745 Scotch rebellion) and, when the L&M opened, only 15 years since the end of the Napoleonic war. There was always the possibility of another revolution in Britain, which would need to be subdued.

By the time the Liverpool and Manchester was opened there were already schemes to build connections to it from Wigan, Bolton and Warrington and it was not long before there were dozens of the new railways, some isolated and some linked together, all over the country. Railways were the .com companies of their time Nobody had invented the term "market share" then but the early railways only had any serious competition from the much slower canals and their share of the passenger market was, in most cases, close to 100%. At first there was no competition between railways as there was only one route from one place to another but, as more and more were built, alternative routes were created. Eventually, for example, the London & North Western Railway, the Midland Railway, the Great Central Railway, the Great Northern Railway and even the Great Western Railway would compete for traffic between London and Manchester while the L&NWR, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway and the Midland, Great Northern and Great Central (together in the form of the Cheshire Lines Committee) vied with each other between Manchester and Liverpool.

Each railway had to be authorised by a private Act of Parliament and in many cases the Act included the granting of running powers, the right to operate trains over specific lines owned by another company. (Something similar has happened recently when other telephone companies were given the right to use the fixed wires owned by British Telecom (formerly Post Office Telephones) and British Gas was forced to allow other companies to supply gas through its pipes.) Running powers could also be granted by agreement between two companies. This was usually to the mutual advantage of both companies involved.

The railway from Salford to Bolton was opened in 1838 by the Manchester Bolton & Bury Company. This later joined the Manchester & Leeds Railway in 1846 and the new concern adopted the name Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in 1847. The L&Y had a monopoly on the important route across the Pennines. The Manchester & Bolton line became the main L&Y route out of Manchester to the North towards Preston, Wigan and Liverpool. In 1846 another railway, the East Lancashire, opened its own line from the MB&B at Clifton Junction in Pendlebury through Radcliffe and Bury to Rawtenstall . The East Lancs. had running powers from Clifton Junction to Victoria station in Manchester; naturally tolls were payable for East Lancs. trains passing over the L&Y line and the company was required to provide the L&Y with an accurate account of the quantity of freight and the number of passengers carried.

The arrangement was to the advantage of both companies. The East Lancs. had no need to build a route of its own into Manchester and the L&Y benefited from the tolls. A clause of the East Lancs.' Act required them to provide the L&Y with details of passengers at such place as the L&Y chose to station an inspector for the purpose. A number of ELR trains passed through Clifton Junction without stopping and an account was provided later.

By 1849 the East Lancashire had built its extension from Stubbins (just north of Ramsbottom) to Accrington and on through Burnley to Colne. There it met the Midland Railway's branch from Skipton thus completing an alternative route from Manchester to Leeds and Bradford. This, of course, mightily upset the Lancashire & Yorkshire who suddenly found themselves in competition for traffic that had been their monopoly.

The usual pattern in such cases was for the two companies to wage war by undercutting each other's passenger fares and freight rates until profits were down to almost nil in attempts to force each other out of business. In fact there was a time when the East Lancs. and the L&Y conducted a fares war between Liverpool and Southport. Both routes started from Liverpool Exchange station - no longer there but Moorfields station is more or less underneath its site. ELR trains ran via Ormskirk and Burscough while the L&Y had the coastal route by way of Bootle and Formby. During the fares competition both companies' fares went down to a third of the normal level. The ELR even tried to persuade passengers from Manchester to Southport to travel via Bury, Accrington, Preston and Burscough for a fare considerably less than on a L&Y direct train but I doubt that many made this round-the-houses journey. The Lancashire & Yorkshire announced that, from 12 March 1849, it would enforce the clause in the ELR Act about checking passengers at such place as the L&Y decided and that all East Lancs. trains would have to stop at Clifton Junction for inspection of tickets - no doubt this process would be expected to take a very long time and cause severe delay to ELR passengers. Naturally, the ELR objected to this on the grounds that its books were always open to the L&Y in this respect but the L&Y still insisted that it would enforce the rule.

Blockade at Clifton Junction
(the line over the 13 arches bends off to the right, and Pepperhill bridge can be seen to the left, Clifton Hall was off to the right of the Sketch)

On the morning of the 12th large detachments of police were sent from Bury and Pendleton to Clifton Junction after the East Lancs. had expressed its intention of refusing to comply with the new rule. There was no problem with the first few ELR trains, all of which were scheduled to stop at Clifton Junction where the L&Y inspector was able to check passengers' tickets. The first non-stop train was due at half past ten. Before its arrival a small army of the L&Y's labourers chained a huge baulk of timber across the ELR's up line (the track for trains towards Manchester) and stationed a train of its own ahead of the blockage to carry passengers forward to Manchester - if they had tickets, of course. The train had to stop and tickets were demanded but the inspector was told that they had been collected by the ELR's inspector at Ringley Road, the last booked stop before Salford - you have to remember that trains did not have corridors in those days and tickets were often collected at the last stop before the final destination to prevent delay and congestion at the terminus; in some cases, Aberdeen for example, there was a separate "ticket platform" some distance short of a station where trains would stop for the sole purpose of collecting the tickets.

The East Lancashire's own army of labourers proceeded to remove the obstruction. They were not hindered by the army of the Lancashire & Yorkshire, presumably because of the presence of such a large number of policemen there to make sure that the dispute did not escalate into a riot. There still remained the matter of the other train blocking the up line and there ensued a pushing match between the two trains, a rather unfair contest since the L&Y unsportingly sent up another engine from Manchester to help. It must have been a splendid and noisy spectacle with the three engines at full steam and going nowhere! During the contest the ELR scored a point by using a heavy train of wagons loaded with stone to block the L&Y's down line (the track from Manchester).

Within an hour and a half there were eight trains blocking both railways at Clifton Junction and nothing was being gained by either side. The senior officers of the Lancashire & Yorkshire sloped off and left their passenger superintendent in charge of the mess. Being a man of common sense he demobilised the army of platelayers and labourers and sent away the L&Y trains and so the Battle of Clifton Junction fizzled out with the East Lancs. train whistling its way all the way to Manchester.

It was not the end of petty disputes between the two companies and there was a further argument with the London & North Western Railway over access to Victoria station for ELR trains but within a few years the ELR was part of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. The squabble over access to Victoria had its effects for a long time and until the middle of the 20th Century some trains from the East Lancs. line via Clifton Junction terminated at Salford.

Other railway "battles" involved the imprisonment of Great Northern Railway passengers arriving at Manchester and the theft of a railway station - yes, really - but those are other stories.