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Woodhill House.

In 1790 Mr Jacob Scholes of Woodhill was recorded to have purchased High Bank along with further land on Hilton Lane. Jacob had been born in 1748, the son of George Scholes, a Yeoman of Prestwich. Upto the 17th century Yeomen typically held over 100 acres of land, and also took roles of local constables or churchwardens. Jacob had also bought the Butterstile estate from Sir Ashton Lever in 1788. During the 18th century the Scholes were listed as Yeoman living at Hardmans Fold, Hulton Lane, Rhodes, Tetlow and Whitefield.

George Scholes had married Sarah Schofield, at St Mary's in 1744, and between 1745 and 1756, St Mary's records the baptisms of 6 of their children. On some entries George's occupation is listed as husbandman, which is one step down from a Yeoman, however any Knight, squire or gentleman with land could also be a husbandman.

Husbandman was more of an occupation than a rank, and denoted someone who worked the land, farmed, or maybe kept sheep in a fold or secure enclosure.

Yeoman owned their land, and could keep the profit from it, thus employing servants and staff to look after them or farm their land. They could spend their money and free time on education or other interests, but still turn their hand to labour if required. They were what we would call today, a middle class.

Grade II listed grave slab at St Mary's recording James Schofield (1670) and Thomas Scholes (1672)

[The Schofield/Scholefield families had also been church wardens of St Mary's, back to Abdy Schofield in 1645, and the above James in 1657. Sarah Schofield was likely the daughter of Joshua, a Whitster from Fleams Farm and churchwarden in 1723. A Robert Schofield lived at Hulton Lane in 1721. Scholes has it's origins in Middle English "scole" meaning hut, and field comes from "feld" or pasture. Schofiled could be a field of huts or a field belonging to Scholes.]

[The Crompton family - who share the above stone, owned Prestwich Wood upto the late 18th century, when the 60 acre estate was sold to the Milne family.Thomas Scholes on the above gravestone also lived in Prestwich Wood]

The baptism records also show that George and Sarah lived at "20 pits" in Prestwich and later,at Hulton Lane (present day Hilton Lane).When Sarah died in 1807 however, her abode was listed as Woodhill.

1786 Prestwich (showing Hilton Lane coming upto Bent Lane

[Hulton Lane was named after the family that lived there. Thomas Hulton was paid by the churchwarden of St Mary's in 1678, for setting up "ye horseing stone" - thought to be the mounting block still present at the church today]

[There is also a marriage in St Mary's between Geo. Scholes (Yeoman) and Martha Hilton, both of Chadderton]

Looking further back, the Scholes family had long been connected with Prestwich, with a Rev. Jacob Scholes (George's Uncle?) appointed the curate of St Mary's in 1692, a position he held for 61 years until 1753. Rev. Jacob was born in 1670 gained his M.A. at St John's, Cambridge, and was instrumental in the establishment of a chapel at Unsworth in 1729, donating £200 to the chapel.

[ Middleton(1902) records a memorial dated to about 1731, stating Jacob was 78, suggesting his year of birth was ~ 1650]

Different phases of St Mary's Church

Jacob had nine children, One of his daughters was married in 1738, to the Rev. William Shrigley, Chaplain of the Collegiate Church, Manchester (1738-1754). Another married Rev. Russell who became incumbent at Unsworth, and another married John Fisher a merchant from Poppythorn and church warden at St Mary's (1732 & 1733).

Jacob also donated to the poor of the township, and was buried in the chancel of St Mary's, now the nave, in 1754. A stone on the floor reads :

Here are interred the remains of REV, JACOB SCHOLES M.A. the beloved curate of Prestwich above 61 years. He was buried here June 12th, 1754, in the 85th year of his age.

[further stones in the church & churchyard record other burials of the Scholes family]

Back even further, the family regularly took positions as church wardens, George & Peter witnessed an inventory of the church in 1553, other wardens were John (1663 & 72) Thomas(1650,65,66,96) and the family continued to do so upto the 19th century, with a Richard Scoles having his name cast on bell number 6 in the tower (since recast by the Walkden family).

A burial of Adam Scoales in 1603 describes him as "Clericu Pochialis" or parish clergy, and John Scholes of Elton was a major benefactor to the church in 1698, as was a daughter of an Adam Scholes in 1710, Adam in 1728 (who was paid £24 for building the first workhouse at Rainsough, in 1725), and Rev. Jacob himself in 1725.

On an October afternoon in 1777 Thomas Coke who had inherited the manor of Prestwich through his mother, held a sale in an upper room at the Ostrich Tavern. He summoned all his main tenant farmers (eight or so important Prestwich men ) and put the leases to their holdings on the table. He lit a candle and his tenants were asked to buy their land from him before the candle burnt out at prices specified by him with no discussion. Otherwise their land would be sold to the highest bidder. Most signed up with alacrity, only John Scholes held out till the last minute, muttering about blackmail, but he finally gave in as the candle guttered and died. It is presumed that Jacob Scholes of Woodhill was a descendant of John.

Further members of the Scholes family were also surveyors of the highways of Prestwich in the 18th century.

Second Rainsough Workhouse (replaced the original in 1819)

Gravestone of Jacob and Martha

Returning to Jacob Scholes of Woodhill, the above partial stone on the pathway to the North porch of St Mary's is only just discernible as the stone of Jacob (aged 66) and Martha his wife (died 1811). This stone has been removed from it's original place (probably outside the Eastern end of the Church) and has been cut and repurposed in the pathway (it is also marked with an "M" to deter thieves). The Eastern extension of the church in 1889 would have meant the removal of numerous grave plots. All the grave stones in the present pathways at St Mary's pre-date 1870.

Woodhill & High Bank 1848

When Jacob, of High Bank(born 1748) died in 1815, his estate including Woodhill passed to his younger brother Thomas (born:1751) who was living at Bent House (near todays junction of Whitaker Lane & Heywood Road). Jacob also left money to the National School which was built in 1816. Upon Thomas's death the properties then passed to his son George and in turn, to his son Thomas who in 1838,sold Woodhill to Samuel Ashton and High Bank was conveyed to William Chadwick.

By 1828, the opening of Bury New Road had made the land more attractive for residential use. George Scholes seized the opportunity and sold his landholdings in Prestwich Park as did Viscount Ingegtre (heir to the Earl of Shrewsbury - hence the naming of Shrewsbury Road & house), in about 1850 to enable houses to be built for the rising middle classes of Victorian Manchester.

[Thomas Seddon Scholes was the last member of the family to reside in Prestwich, living in Sedgley Old Hall after selling High Bank in 1848]

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Scholes Lane 1839

The Scholes family name lives on with the existence of Scholes Lane today, a continuation of Hilton Lane (bottom left), linking the family homes of Woodhill and High Bank (far right), with access to Bent House (top) and onwards to the Rectory, Church & Polefield.

The Ashton family were also a long standing family of this region, with family members living at Polefield Hall, Barnfield and Irwell House. On the 10th December 1866, Samuel Ashton (J.P.) dropped down dead in one of his fields, after ignoring his Doctor's advice to stay in bed and the property went up for sale.

Sudden Death

Woodhill House for sale

Woodhill from Butt Hill

There then followed occupation by Henry Tootal Broadhurst, son of Sarah Tootal and Daniel Broadhurst. Henry's 2nd son, Edward was instrumental in the raising of the Manchester Pals Battalions and was later knighted, married the sister of Thomas Gair Ashton (first Baron of Ashton of Hyde) and went on to become J.P. and high sheriff of Lancashire.

Henry Tootal Broadhurst was director of Tootal Broadhurst & Lee - Hemming manufacturer 1887 - renowned for work on the first crease proof fabric, they had offices and warehouse on Oxford Road, Manchester, Bradford , Belfast and Paris, and mills at Sunnyside, Bolton.

The Tootal Broadhurst & Lee Building,

The Tootal Broadhurst & Lee Building, Oxford Street, Grade II listed - described as "a powerful monument to the entrepreneurialism of the Industrial Revolution and Victorian bombast"

Behind this building, and not visible from the street is Lee House, the stub of what would have been the tallest building in Europe at 217 ft., a 17-storey warehouse of the same firm (planned 1928; part completed 1931)

Partner, Henry Lee lived at Sedgley New Hall just along Bury Old Old Road.

Henry Tootal Broadhurst, was brother of Charles Edward (a pioneer pastoralist and pearler in colonial Western Australia), and brother in law of Sir Joseph Whitworth (who was an English engineer, entrepreneur, inventor and philanthropist - he standardised screw threads and invented the Whitworth Rifle, upon his death Whitworth Art Gallery and Christie Hospital were partially funded by his money). Lady Whitworth, wife of Sir Joseph Whitworth, was a sister of Henry Tootal Broadhurst. Sir Joseph left a great amount of his estate to the people of Manchester when he died in 1887, but Lady Whitworth still left £9m in today's money, when she died in 1897. Most of her estate went to Edward Tootal Broadhurst and another nephew Mr J B Close Brooks.

By 1891 Henry Broadhurst had moved to Beauchamp Hall in Leamington, and he died in 1896 but is buried in the family plot in St Mary's Graveyard, Prestwich.

Broadhurst Family Vault in St Mary's [South]

Sir Edward Tootal Broadhurst, of Beechcroft, Sedgley Park - died February 1922 and is also in the family vault at St Mary's.

Woodhill-Beechcroft - The Holme

The Mather Family

William Mather, of Mather and Platt Salford Ironworks, then took residence by the census of 1891. Sir William was an influential man, who entertained the likes of Thomas Edison and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (M.P. & P.M.) at his Prestwich residence.

Sir William Mather

My Grandad's Mather & Platt Works Pass

Sir William Mather, had been born 1838 to Wm and Amelia Mather. William senior (b:1811), had come down to Manchester with his father Colin (b:1788 Montrose) in 1824 to set up a small machine works and iron foundry. William and his brother "Cast Iron" Colin (b:1812 Durham) started a small business in 1834 in Brown Street Salford, servicing the local textile bleaching industry with simple well-made rollers and equipment.

William Mather, Senior

Cast Iron Colin

John Platt leased part of The Salford Iron Works from 1837 onwards, and the Mather and Platt partnership was established in 1845,between John's son William (b:1814) and Cast Iron Colin. They rapidly expanded, taking over Drinkwater's Mill in nearby Deal Street and took the whole of Foundry Street, and they exhibited a textile finishing machine and an eight coloured roller printer at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Sir William Mather became assistant manager of Mather and Platt Ltd. upon the death of his father in 1858 by which time the company employed 130 people. With his grandfather Cast Iron Colin, retiring shortly after 1863, and William Platt retiring in 1872, William was left in sole control. The Company went on to produce centrifugal pumps, in 1883 obtained sole right to produce automatic sprinklers, later working on submarine motors and electricity generation.

See this great site by Marcel Boschi covering the history of Mather & Platt Ltd.

The History of Mather & Platt

Sir William was elected Liberal MP for Salford in 1885, and later for Gorton 1889-1895.

He is noted for the introduction of an 8 hour working day for his employees.

In 1891, their daughter Alice, aged 25, married a son of another prominent Prestwich Family , John Themistocles Petrocokino, 24, Merchant, son of Themistocles Petrocokino of Sedgley House.

The following information was kindly contributed by Marcel Boschi through his personal connection with Fontainebleau, and the sad event that took place there.

In 1893 a tragic accident took the life of their 3rd daughter, Grace Emma aged 17. This extract from the chapter of the book "The Right Honorable Sir William Mather" by Sir William's son, Loris Emerson Mather, dedicated to Grace Emma Mather was written by Alice Mather, sister of Grace and Loris Emerson:

" These little books were sent far and wide as a greeting for New Year. Unfortunately, when Grace left us - we could not go ; but those books are treasured by many friends to-day in America, India, Australia, and in many places in Europe, forming a link with those happy days when life was no much more simple and no much fuller of poetry and romance than it is to-day.

All the same, it must be admitted that finding a quotation for every Sunday was not always easy, and not infrequently there was a great run on the library bookshelves just before supper time !

Two great sorrows stand out in the lives of my dear parents, who had their fair share at troubles, like anyone else in the world, but these two were really tragedies for us all.

The first one was the sudden death of our sweet sister, Grace (their daughter), who died at Fontainebleau on June 11th, 1893, at the age of seventeen.

It was at her own wish that she went there to learn French and other things, with some other English girls, at home of three French ladies, the Mesdemoiselles Ferber.

She was very happy there, and besides pursuing their studies she and other girls made many delightful excursions to place of beauty and historical interest. Grace was very happy there, a great favourite, her sunny nature endearing her to all.

She loved the beautiful forest, and she also took great delight in the garden belonging in the house ; but, alas ! it was due to this garden, so it was thought, that she contracted diphtheria (of which she died, having been ill only forty-eight hours) when she went to get water from an old pump or well, in order to water some lovely Angel (Madonna) lilies, which were just coming into bloom, like herself.

My parents were summoned, though not urgently. However, they left at once, only to arrive too late and to find their darling had passed away, which the lilies strewn around her.

On the Sunday evening, though her throat pained here, she was talking cheerfully with her favourite Melle. Ferber, when she asked for the case containing all our photographs, and had it placed upon the bed ; then, while laughing and talking, she ask Melle. to unfasten the band round her neck, and while she did so she fell back in her arms and passed away with only a sigh.

It was the first break in our very united family, and a crashing blow to our dear parents and to us all. It made especially on my sister Florence, next in age to Grace, as they were the closest of companions.

Grace was always unselfish, joyous, and full of mirth, she would always have shed happiness on others had she remained on earth, but with her great powers of enjoyment and love of beauty she would also have felt sorrows deeply, and this she has been spared.

Her name was Grace Emma Mather, the initials being G.E.M., by which she was often called, and no name could have been more fitting, for that is what also she-a "gem"

Grace Emma Mather

Grace's grave stone has a poem placed on the four sides of its plinth

"The light of her young life went down
As smiles behind the hill
The glory of a setting star,
Clear, suddenly, and still."

‘Hold her 0 father-
And let her hence-
A messenger of love between
Our human hearts and Thee.’

‘And half we deemed she needed not-
Changing of her sphere.
To give to Heaven a Shining One
Who walked an Angel here.’

‘Still let her mild rebuking stand
Between us and the wrong,
And her dear memory serve to make
Our faith in goodness strong.’

In 1899 a second horse riding accident befell the family, eldest son William Ernest was riding his horse near Middleton Road when it bolted. As the horse tried to take a corner, it slipped on the stone pavement beneath it's hooves and fell, throwing William. He suffered a broken collar bone and a bleeding scalp, but managed to walk into a cab and reach a doctor. However after returning home, he died some hours later from a fractured skull.

WE Mather Funeral

Upon the family grave stone is written this for William Ernest:

‘There should not be a shadow of gloom in naught that reminds us of thee.’

Mather Sundial

Sir William was knighted in 1902 for his re-organisation of the War Office during the Boer War. He was also on the Council of Manchester University, donated a sundial to the University of Princeton in 1907, made a member of the Privy Council (1910) and laid the foundation stone of Our Lady of Grace Chapel and School, which opened in 1931.

Woodhill, 1915 showing considerable greenhousing

After his death in 1920, Sir William was buried in St. Mary's graveyard on the same plot as their 2nd son William Ernest, along side the grave of their 3rd daughter (Grace Emma). William's wife, Emma, died almost one year after William.

Sir William's son, Loris Emerson Mather (born 1886) was the youngest of their nine children, and became chairman of Mather & Platt, until his retirement in 1960. He also served on the council of UMIST, Cheethams Hospital School, and Manchester Grammar School, and is also buried along with his wife, in the family vault at St Mary's.

His son, Sir David Carol Mather, known as Carol, went on to be a soldier and politician. During his 22 years service in the military, he served in No.8 Commando, then joined "L Detachment", the nucleus of the future SAS headed by David Stirling, where he joined raids on Axis airfields the most notable being the raid on Sidi Haneish airfield in June 1942.

Carol served on the staff of General Montgomery, where his brother William Loris Mather, later knighted, also served, before rejoining the SAS for a mission into Troplitania in 1942. Unfortunately he was captured, and transfered to Italy by submarine, but after 9 months he managed to escape walking 600 miles to Naples.

Carol rejoined Montgomery's staff landing in France on D+1, and served with the general throughout the Normandy & Holland campaigns, and was awarded the Military Cross for a reconnaissance mission in Nijmegen where he was "the General's eyes & ears". He was shotdown at Grave in 1945, wounded by 4 bullets, and after the war he served in Palestine until the independence of Israel in 1948. He then went into politics, died in 2006 and is buried in Oddington, Gloucestershire.

Slightly to the rear and to the side of Grace's grave lies a sloping headstone, with a polished granite plaque, inscribed: In Loving Memory of Colin Mather born 4th Sept. 1853 died 24th March 1933. Also of Louisa Spear, his wife, born 20th June 1854, died 5th April 1933. Also Roy Crago Mather born 16th September 1885 died 20th August 1965 and his wife, Margaret Isabel, died 7th October 1976.

This Colin was the cousin of Sir William, he had partnered Frederick Foy in Reliance Radiators in Broughton. and also worked at the Salford Iron Works, and lived at Wrenwood on Hilton Lane. His son, Roy Mather went on to be director of Mather & Platt in 1942, manager-Engineer in Chief of the General Machinery Department in 1945, and retired in 1956. Read more here

Mather Family Graves
[St Mary's NS1]

Wood Hill House went on to be used by the North Manchester Tennis Club and Madge Watson School of Dancing.

Click here to see a photo of Woodhill from Bury New Road [Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council]

The land around the hall was surveyed in the late 1920's (note the entrances to the cottages at Hope Square to the left of the map and the entrance to Ostrich lane at the top) - credit:Carole Worsley

1935 - the final demise of the House. This shows some of the present day properties in relation to the House.

The land around was sold off for housing, with the exception of "Barley Croft" which was to the East of the estate and was sold to Mr McConnel of Bent Hill in 1865. The house itself was demolished in the late 1920's and the fields are now occupied by Overbrook Drive, Woodhill Grove/Drive and also Breeze Mount. [The builder and joiner assigned the development of the Woodhill estate lived in Breeze House, Kersal]

Watch a video of the area developing over the years.