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Sedgley Park/Hall

Sedgley Park (1848)

The map of 1848 (above) shows how the Sedgley Park property,stood in substantial area of land between Bury New Road and Bury Old Road, with it's main entrance via the latter. The Hall also had a farm attached to it.

Sedgley was named after the wet boggy area of land that stretched from Castle Hill on Bury Old Road, past Kersal Moor towards the site of the old Roman fort at Agecroft. Sedge itself being a type of grass found in swampy and boggy land, and "ly" derives form "leah", a wood or a clearing in woodland. So sedgley was a boggy area surrounded by woodland.

The Hall was built about 1785 for Thomas Philips, who had bought 98 acres of land from Thomas Coke when the land that made up the manor of Prestwich was sold off through auction. Thomas Philips married Mary Rider, daughter and heir of John Rider, also a manchester merchant. The house passed from Thomas to his son George.

[Local and renowned Botantist Richard Buxton was born at Sedgley Hall Farm in 1786]

Thomas died in 1811, and in 1819 his son, who was to become Sir George Philips (along with George Scholes of High Bank), sold some land in Sedgley to Mr Bleakley who went on to build The Bleakley Dye Works. George had been educated at Stand Grammar School, then Eton and Cambridge, he went on to join Boddington, Sharp and Philips, based in London, who were West Indian merchants with lucrative trading operations in sugar and "other goods". His other sources of wealth were: textile mills in Staffordshire and Lancashire and warehouses in Manchester; The Salford twist mill, ‘one of Manchester's largest and most technologically advanced cotton-spinning factories’ and he had a network of properties in Manchester and America, ‘which continued to offer considerable rental income’.

Sir George was also member of the firm of J. and N. Philips, of Church Street, Manchester, the largest tape manufacturers in Europe and also involved with a hatting business with a growing American market in the late 1780s. He donated to the foundation and ongoing support of the National School in 1816.

He sat against the Tories as a Whig in parliament, was noted as a fine speaker and had an affection for writing poetry (he had also met with Lord Byron). Sydney Smith, who frequently visited George at Sedgley Hall, was a wit, writer, and Canon of St Pauls Cathedral, and teasingly called him "King Cotton")

During one dinner party at Sedgley Hall, when the meal was over, and the ladies had retired, Sydney Smith remarked to one of the invited guests named Kershaw: " Mr. Kershaw, I will make you laugh in the middle of my sermon this evening."

Mr Kershaw denied this and a wager of £5 was agreed upon. That evening St Mary's was filled with people to hear the guest speaker, including all Sir George Philips' guests. The reverend climbed the steps the pulpit and was soon in the midst of an earnest, and even pathetic sermon. Suddenly he stopped, and putting his handkerchief to his nose, sneezed, uttering the word " Kershaw" while doing it. And the £5 was his !


It seems Sydney's objective was often to illict emotion from his audience. In 1817 he wrote from Sedgley Hall to Lady Mary Bennett,

"I am going to preach a charity sermon next Sunday at Prestwich. I desire to make three or four hundred weavers cry, which it is impossible to do since the last rise in cotton."

Reports are that he did indeed make them weep with a touching sermon about poverty and charity.

George was the first chairman of the Manchester Royal Exchange (working with Manchester Chamber of Commerce)and helped to found the Manchester Guardian in 1821.

[in later years Peter Allen, manager of The Manchester Guardian, lived at another property in Sedgley Park]

[ Sir George Philips was a first cousin of Mr Robert Philips of Philips park]

George was the author of a pamphlet on "The necessity of a speedy and effectual reform in Parliament, March, 1782." support universal suffrage (over 100 years before the Suffragettes finally secured their votes) and voted to end slavery in 1807 (despite his families past), is pictured in the first reformed parliament of 1833 and was described as the unnoficial member for Manchester, being a follower of Manchesterism,

The first reformed Parliament of 1833

Sir George moved away from Sedgley and died in Warwickshire, 1847.

William Gregory, who died in 1909, aged 70, is described on his gravestone in ST Mary's as ‘50 YEARS FAITHFUL SERVANT OF J.& N. PHILIPS & Co.30 YEARS ORGANIST OF THIS CHURCH’-’ WELL DONE THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.’

In 1837, a sad event befell the Hall. Mr Lawrence Fort was in posession of the Sedgley estate at the time, he was partner with his brother in Fort Bros & Co calico printers, High Street Manchester. The Guardian reported that Lawrence decided to commit suicide by cutting his throat in one of the rooms in the Hall, as do the regular sources of Prestwich's history (Booker, Nicholls, Wilson, Middleton and the late Pringle). But research indicates another reason for his death.

The Fort & Bros Company had been influential in the rise of Richard Cobden (English manufacturer, Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with the free trade campaign of the Anti-Corn Law League)

[The manager of the Fort Bros. warehouse in Accrington was a Mr Fred Brooks, who played the organ at St Mary's.]

Cobden Rise

A letter between Richard and Frederick Cobden some 9 years before Lawrence's suicide however, enlightens us to a degree...

Cobden Letter

Indeed, the headline in the Guardian that Mr Fort had committed suicide may have been inaccurate. The Manchester Courier reported the post mortem, that the cuts to Mr Forts neck were not sufficient to cause death, infact the doctors attending him had considered opening the cuts to bleed him further. Mr Fort had not lost a huge amount of blood, and he died several days after the incident. It was found that Mr Fort had adhesions between his brain and membranes, and blood vessels were turgid. Taken with the above correspondance, he seemed to have been living with damage to his brain for some time. The cuts to his neck were assumed to be for blood letting ie relieving the pressure he felt in his head.

Lawrence Fort

Lawrence is buried in a chest tomb on the South Side of St Mary's Church. The monument itself is noteable as it has iron plaques, rendered illegible today. However they are recorded as stating "Sacred to the memory of Lawrence Fort, Esquire, of Sedgley who departed this life on the 19th day of September 1837 aged 41. This monument is erected by..."

Lawrence Fort's Tomb

Sedgley Hall farm sale

[Thomas Seddon Scholes of High Bank)is also reported to have lived here when he sold High Bank in 1848 before retiring to Leamington]

Sedgley Park (1891)

The 1851 census shows James Prince Lee, he was appointed by Queen Victoria as the First Lord Bishop of Manchester in 1847 and is recorded as residing at Sedgley House (though this is thought to be Sedgley Park/Hall as it is recorded as next to High Bank in the census), along with his wife ("Wife Of Doctor Of Divinity"), three daughters and 9 servants. James often attended and participated at services at St Mary's Church, and the house came with the rent of a pew in the Lever Chapel, if he felt like he just needed to listen.

J P Lee

James helped found the Manchester Free Library in 1852, at Campfield, Manchester, which was the first free library created under the Librarys Act of 1850, and he died at Mauldeth Hall in 1869.

[ Salford had actually established a free library in 1848 under the Museums Act]

The property passed to a Mr Richard Birley, then the census of 1871 shows the property as Sedgley Hall, with John Siddall Wood, a non practicing barrister resident, with his sister Margaret Cort du Boulay (listed as a clergyman's wife) with 1 cousin and 5 servants. The farm was listed as being of 30 acres, and employing 2 men and 2 boys.

John Wood died February 1888, and is buried in St Mary's churchyard.

[In 1851 George Wood lived at Singleton Lodge, beside Brooklands just further along Bury Old Road]

Death of John Siddal Wood

Sedgley Hall up for sale

Mr. Robert Ascroft, M.P. for Oldham "The workers friend", took up residence, but the Hall was subsequently empty and unfurnished, having been subdivided into two semi-detached houses.

Sedgley Old Hall is still listed as unoccupied in 1891, and it was made a ruin by a fire in 1902. The story of Lawrence Fort's death in 1837 stood the test of time and led to reports that during the darker hours, lights had been seen at one of the few remianing windows of the ruin. The lit room being the water closet where Lawrence had been found insensible.

Sedgley Park (1909)

By the map of 1909 the ruined Hall is shown with a smaller floor plan.

Sedgley Park (1922)

By 1922 the site of the Old hall had been turned into housing with just the farm buildings remaining, these were demolished in the 1950s.