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Myrtle Grove - Home to the Bleakley Family

Myrtle Grove 1848

Myrtle Grove ran alongside Singleton brook, at Sedgley Park, with access towards Manchester across Kersal Moor and from George Street to the North.
In the 1841 census Myrtle Grove was home to over ten families of Bleachers, alongside millrights & engineers, carters and agricultural labourers.

A whitster, or whitner, removed the impurities such as seeds shell and waxes from cloth by dipping and stiring the cloth in large containers of alkali, a mix of potash and lime (bowking). Once bleached, the cloth could then be dyed, but first would be laid out, or hung up on tenter frames (secured with tenter hooks) to dry in communal or private bleching crofts. This practice lead to names that live on today, such as Whittaker.As chemical replacements for natural substances (such as urine) were discovered the Whitsters became Bleachers, and machinery was introduce to the industry.

The Bleaching Ground,Max Liebermann

Two of the Bleacher families listed at Mrytle Grove were aptly named "Bleakley" and stand out as having servants in their households. There were two residences (see the map above) Spring Side and another property to the North of George Street.

Bleakley OriginsThe word blea/bleak/blease describes a place or item with no features, and is how bleach gets it's name, the name Bleakley could be gained from a location as much as an occupation

The first such family was that of John Bleakley (b:1795), who was living with his wife Ann, born 1791, and three sons William, John and Henry. The head of the second family was Henry Bleakley (b:1801), wife Sarah born 1791, and two daughters Catherine and Sarah. They were brothers, born to a John Bleakley in Horwich.

Hilton Lane Dye WorksJohn and Henry Bleackley also had a small Cotton croft in Hilton Lane up to ~1850. It had previously been worked by John Clarkson, John Hope, and afterwards was operated by John Clark.

The business they operated had been inherited upon the death of their father in 1823. John had purchased the land in Prestwich from George Scholes of High Bank and George Philips of Sedgley Hall, and it was named after the brothers: "John & Henry Bleakley Ltd". They also had use of a warehouse on Bridgewater place in Manchester.

[Catherine, eldest daughter of Henry Bleakely Esq. of Myrtle Grove married James Lord Esq of Bury in 1850.]

On the 20th August 1842, a meeting of about 500 turnouts on Kersal Moor headed to Mr Bleakley's Dye Works in Sedgley and successfully turned the workers out on strike, before heading off to Pilkington and Unsworth. The groom of Robert Philips of The Park was exercising two horses in a lane near Prestwich, and was confronted by the turn outs and told to take the horses back in. Mobs near Kersal Moor of between 10 and 20 men armed with bludgeons, roamed the local houses demanding provisions or money.

In 1852, John Bleakley was granted a patent for improvements in machinery for washing, bleaching and dyeing, and in 1856 he won first prize (£3 = £300 today) for best dairy cow at a local agricultural show.

Henry's wife Sarah died in 1855 (St Mary's) and Henry's elder brother John died in 1860. In the 1861 census Henry was heading up the business and recorded as employing 117 men, 32 boys, and 19 girls & farming hands.

[Sarah, second daughter of Henry married Mr M Lodge of Broughton in 1856. Both marriages took place at St Mary's]

The Cleggs as neighboursAlso in 1861 James Clegg (b:1824) and his family were living beside Myrtle Grove, at Sideway(?) Perhaps James Clegg brought his experience and assisted Henry in some way...why else live near a bleach works?). By 1871 the son of James Clegg had moved into Butt Hill with his grandfather John

In 1867, William Bleakley Esq.(grandson of John b:1795) of Myrtle Grove, married Janet Kirk Rhodes of Radcliffe. Despite the continued industrialisation of Manchester, William was still farming his land of 50 acres, and in 1870 he won an agricultural prize for best cultivated farm. In that same year he buried his mother Alice, at St Mary's and in the following year's census, he employed on the farm and in the bleachworks, 101 men, 43 women boys & girls.

[1871 John Bleakley was at Hope Farm of 12 acres]

On Saturday, April ist, 1874, Mr. W. Bleackley, of Myrtle Grove, entertained a large gathering of his workmen as well as many friends and neighbours, to do honour to James Bridge, of Longfield, who had been in Messrs. Bleackleys' employ for the long period of fifty years. Dinner was served in a spacious tent to about 500 people. After dinner appropriate speeches were made by Mr. W. Bleackley, the rector, Rev. H. M. Birch, Mr. Barrett, Rev. A. Packer, &c., after which the large company broke up highly delighted with the entertainment.

The Bleakley monument in St Mary's

In 1879 William died, aged 60, and the 1881 census shows his widow Janet living from annuities with several servants. In the churchyard of St Mary's, his name is inscribed on a polished, circular, granite pillar on an octagonal base carved with medallions that stands on a gabled and pillared structure.

In the 40 years since the first census of 1841, the number of Bleacher families at Myrtle Grove had dropped from 10 to just 1, that of Abraham W Veare, from Tongue. The Bleakley business passed to William's son, Horace.

William Bleakley's Inscription

Ice Skating deathin 1880, a terrible accident befell 15 year old Herbert George Wood, son of George, who fell through the ice while skating on one of the ponds at Myrtle Grove - he is buried in St Mary's, North Section - sadly his sister also died just seven years later.

Myrtle Grove 1891

Wiliam's son, Horace inherited the business, but also had a literary inclanation, having a story published in the Manchester Courier - read it here : "My First Play". Horace also had a letter regarding the establishment of society in honour of two Manchester Poets.

Manchester Poets

Not shy of writing to the press, Horace also wrote a series of open letters to the Salford Fire Brigade that were published in the Manchester Courier, after a fire at the Dye works in July 1891. The Work's call for assiatance with the fire was declined as the works resided outside of the Salford Border. The brigade insisted Prestwich paid Manchester for Fire services, and they had contacted Manchester at the time to ensure they attended the fire.

Horace claimed part of the works resided within Salford, and indeed he told them that he was a Salford rate payer because of this fact, he left it for his insurance company to identify any blame for damages.

Fatal Accident in the WorkshopIn 1893 a fatality occurred with a youth, Robert Barlow, aged 17 of Longfield, who was employed in the joiners shop in the Myrtle Grove Works. He had got his arm tangled in the machinery, was cut free but subsequently died of his injuries. Robert is buried in the family grave plot, beside the path in St Mary's South Section.

During the 1890's Myrtle Grove was also used as a location for Rugby Union matches by Manchester Free Wanderers [the maps of the time show the nearby ground on Kersal Moor - today used by Salford F.C., was used for cricket, tennis & Archery]

In 1910 a second fire broke out at the Myrtle Grove Works. The Dynamo room was the seat of the fire and the Manchester Briade attended only to find that the fire had been extinguished by the workers.

The business continued into the 1950's after being transferred to Messers. Whitehead of Elton.

Myrtle Grove 1953

Myrtle Grove 1950's Advert

Since the 1970's the site has been used for mixed commercial use, withe the reservoirs being filled in and built upon. Permission has now been granted for 160 residential dwellings and 2,959 sq.m of employment floorspace.

New Housing planned