An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens, Lancashire
Part 6 (of 77 parts) - Sutton's Halls and Houses
e) Middlehurst House | f) Ellam's House | g) Ravenhead House | h) Mill House
Also see the Sherdley estate page for details of Sherdley Hall, Sutton Hall, Costeth House, Sutton Grange etc.
a) Bold HallOn May 6th 1893, Henry Young the agent for Mrs. Harriet Wyatt, owner of the historic but dilapidated Bold Hall, sent out employment termination notices to dozens of estate employees. By that time, the Bold Hall estate was a shadow of its former self. Its connection with the Bold family had long been severed and in earlier years of the nineteenth century it had been owned by Polish royalty, by a cockfighting fanatic and by an eccentric Wigan cotton spinner who equated books with manure!
In 1848 the estate had consisted of almost 7000 acres with many tenant farmers. But in the year of its demise, it was down to 13 farms on 1500 acres of land that the Liverpool Mercury said was 'famous for its fertility and richness' (Liv. Merc. 8/5/1893). It had also become known for the minerals beneath its surface which had attracted the interest of a syndicate led by industrialist David Gamble and colliery proprietors. The sale of the land and subsequent demolition of the hall as part of the Bold Colliery development, was the end of a historic era that stretched back a remarkable 500 years.
Bold Hall was the home of the ancient family of Bold or Bolde, who settled there before the Conquest and ran the estate for hundreds of years. However when Peter Bold MP died in 1761 leaving three daughters but no son, it was the beginning of the end for the powerful family. In 1813 Peter Patten of the Warrington industrialists, who had previously married into the Bolds, took control of the estate. Upon his death in October 1819, it was inherited by his eldest daughter, Mary.
Bold Old Hall with bridge, twin gate piers and moat - see Sutton Bridges page for modern-day photos
An indication of the opulence of Bold Hall at that time was the cost of the damage done by the terrible thunderstorm of April 25th 1821. So much glass was smashed by hail which drove like nails into its windows, that it cost £800 to replace. In today's money that equates to around £30,000.
On December 21st 1822, Mary married Polish nobleman Prince Sapicha in Florence and the royal couple took up residence at Bold Hall at the beginning of August 1823. However Mary only enjoyed life as a princess for two years, dying in Rome in December 1824. The estate passed to her sister Dorothea, who on May 23rd 1820 had married Henry Hoghton of Walton Hall near Preston. He added the name of Bold to his surname and in December 1835, upon the death of his father, became Sir Henry Bold Hoghton, baronet. Cockfighting was his hobby and he kept as many as 500 cocks within Bold Hall. A 'setter' was paid the remarkable salary of £600 per year to look after the birds. A dedicated cock-fighting room was created using an iron cradle that moved on a rail. Gambling stakes were thrown into wooden bowls and many thousands of pounds were said to have been won and lost.
Henry and Dorothea's son Henry made numerous unsuccessful attempts to sell off the estate during the 1850s, eventually selling it piecemeal. In 1860 Bold Hall and some estate farms were sold to eccentric Wigan cotton merchant William Whitacre Tipping for £120,000. After being invited to buy what remained of the extensive library, after some books had been separately sold, Tipping reportedly said:
'Squire' Tipping, as he was locally known, died on March 10th 1889 and left what the Manchester Times said was a 'fortune of nearly half a million'. Many newspaper obituaries carried reports of Tipping's alleged eccentricities. His solicitors, however, responded that many were somewhat exaggerated. Tipping's only will had been made in 1843 and the bachelor had bequeathed all his estates to his mother, now deceased. His cousin Mrs. Harriet Wyatt of Hawley Parsonage and wife of a Hampshire clergyman, was Tipping's next of kin and so she inherited the Bold estate. Mrs. Wyatt never lived at the hall during her four years of ownership, probably because of its poor condition. Upon its sale, it was reported that the fine dining room with granite columns and four gilt cornices was in ruins with unglazed windows and rotting floor. The front door had been nailed up and the offices and stables had been dismantled and lacked windows and doors.
There were actually two Bold Halls. When Peter Bold developed his estate in the early 18th century, he commissioned Venetian architect, Giacomo (aka James) Leoni (1686 –1746) to design a new mansion. This was built in 1732 and the old hall - which the Liverpool Mercury of 1893 described as 'a curious edifice of very ancient dates' - was then used as a farmhouse to the mansion. It was said to have been rebuilt in 1616 and was only demolished in 1936, surviving the new hall by some thirty years.
Two paintings of the opulent Bold Hall - the sign on the right of the second image is advertising a tenants' dinner
The farms on the estate included Bold Hall Demesne Farm which measured 318 acres and in 1849 a sale advertisement in the Liverpool Mercury said it was '…fine Land, thoroughly drained, newly fenced, and replete with recently erected Farm Buildings, of the most approved construction, with 6-horse power Steam Engine, Thrashing and Dressing Machines, Steaming Apparatus, &c.' There was also a Moat House Farm of 186 acres, Lunts Heath Farm, Mill Green Farm, Bold Heath Farm, South Lane Farm, Tickles Farm, Cranshaw Hall Farm, Sydney Farm, Wheatacre Farm and Lane Ends Farm.
There used to be an ancient wall that surrounded the estate. However this was taken down as much of the estate was divided into five lots and sold off. These became owned by alkali manufacturer John Marsh and Mary Stapleton and in April 1862 the pair sued one another over a right of way but came to a compromise.
The woods on the Bold estate in Bold and Burtonwood generated huge quantities of timber which were regularly sold by auction. An advert in the Liverpool Mercury of January 21st 1825 described 980 oak and 110 ash trees that were going to be auctioned at the Griffin Inn. In the following year, 1519 trees were auctioned from the Griffin. Adverts described a close proximity to good roads and the Sankey Canal and promised that 'great facilities are afforded to purchasers for a removal by land or water carriage'. Here are a couple of 19th century descriptions of Bold Hall, the first was made in 1860:
b) St.Michael's House and Cromwell's OakUntil Sutton Manor Colliery arrived early in the twentieth century, the locale was agricultural with hardly any buildings apart from farmhouses. An exception was the imposing St. Michael's House, located at the junction of Walkers Lane, Chapel Lane and Lea Green Road in Micklehead, which was built in Elizabethan times and had its own moat. It was also believed to have secret passageways that provided an escape route for priests given refuge from religious persecution.
In front of St.Michael's House enclosed in a white picket fence was the so-called Cromwell's Oak with a number of theories suggested as to its legendary significance. The tree is said to have been a tombstone above Oliver Cromwell's grave, that Cromwell's horse was buried there or that his horse was simply tethered to the tree when the New Model Army commander was in the district.
St.Michaels House with Cromwell's Oak in the foreground surrounded by a white picket fence - Contributed by Frank Jones
A somewhat less romantic suggestion was that the tree was simply planted to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. Another folklore theory was that the oak was planted in commemoration of one of the house's previous squires, whose favourite hunting dog was fatally run over by a stage-coach there. A bottle of whisky was also said to have been placed amongst its roots when the oak was originally planted along with a manuscript detailing its history.
Parts of St.Michael's House that are pictured above and right date back to the 13th century, with much of it built in 1530. It's said that John de Sutton lived in a house on this site in the reign of Edward I. Bold Hall Estates were the owners of St.Michael’s House during the 18th century, but the house was sold in 1848 to the Whitfield family.
In 1889, John H. Kearne moved in. However the Bold Manure Works partner was found dead at the White Hart Hotel in St.Helens in May 1890. A gentleman farmer and prominent figure in St.Helens society called Francis Watmough also resided there as did the Atherton family. Sutton Pottery accountant William Shearim - with wife Maria and designer/ draughtsman son Arnold - were resident during the early years of the 19th century. Private Arnold Shearim joined the Royal Fusiliers in November 1915 and went to fight in France, dying on July 1st 1919.
Like much of the Sutton district, St.Michael’s House - which was also sometimes called Micklehead House - became afflicted by subsidence. It was sold to the National Coal Board in 1960 who as a condition of purchase undertook to repair and maintain the building. However, the historic building was demolished in early 1961. (Also see: Memories of Sutton Part 1 St.Michael's House & Cromwell's Oak by David Richardson)
c) Brook HouseAlso located within what these days we would refer to as Sutton Manor, was Brook House. Situated in Walkers Lane, it was regularly featured in newspaper 'Dwellings To Let' advertisements during the nineteenth century where it was described as a 'desirable residence' with:
d) Green End HouseGreen End House was located on Marshalls Cross Road just north of Robins Lane and near to modern-day St.Helens Hospital. For many years it was a Sutton landmark, represented on all old ordnance survey maps and on William Yates' 1786 map of Lancashire.
During later 19th century years when owned by the Hughes family, it was surrounded by industry with Sherdley Colliery on one side and Sutton Glass Works on the other. However, in 1832 when Mary Loftus moved her private boarding school from Mill Brook House, Eccleston to Green End House in Sutton, it was a country location with good transport links, just a mile from the station at St.Helens Junction.
Green End House with Sherdley Colliery in the background - Contributed by Frank Jones
In 1849, a Mrs. Musgrove advertised her school at Green End in the Liverpool Mercury, describing it as being in a 'pleasant and salubrious situation'. Before long the noise and smoke of the new glassworks and colliery would make it a less attractive location for her gentile young boarders.
Ironically, a previous occupier of Green End House was a St.Helens glassmaking pioneer, also connected with mining. James Bromilow was the second son of William, a founder of Bromilow, Foster & Co. Ltd., which owned several colleries in the St. Helens district. James established the St. Helens Crown Glass Company in 1826, along with Peter Greenall of the brewery family and the latter's brother-in-law, William Pilkington. At that time Pilkington was simply an investor in the window-making firm, pre-occupied with managing the family wine and spirit business in Church Street.
After manager John Bell left the glass company in 1828, Pilkington was forced to take over the reins and soon made it clear to Bromilow that he wasn't impressed with his bookkeeping. This led to his exit in January 1829 and within 12 months the Pilkingtons owned all the shares in the company and were on their way to riches. Not so for James Bromilow, however, as he then ran another glass factory with William West that went bankrupt.
e) Middlehurst House FarmThe historic buildings of the Sutton district have been erased from the landscape through the insidious effects of subsidence and a lack of attention to preservation by many twentieth century local authority administrations. Frank Bamber in 'Clog Clatters in Old Sutton' referred to it as "the borough council’s vandalism - there is no other name for it". However, some properties were demolished in the name of progress for the community's overall benefit and one such was Middlehurst House Farm.
Build around 1650, the black and white cottage in Marshalls Cross Road was located in between the hospital and the Conservative Club in Peasley Cross. It became a St.Helens landmark for some 300 years and was used as a point of reference by both pigeon fanciers and airmen. Over the years, the house bore three different types of roof. Originally it was thatched but in the course of time it was replaced by a flag roof. However, a fire broke out because of a beam that was penetrating the chimney and when the fire brigade arrived they were forced to break the flags, which were afterwards replaced by slates.
The house had ten rooms, however, each were only seven feet high with thick old beams in their roofs. There was a large cellar and under it ran natural springs, which were used to keep the dairy cool when it was a working farm.
Farming ceased early in the twentieth century because of chemicals in the soil and the farm was taken over by the Sutton Oak Brick Company for brick making. The Hayes family were the last to farm the land and Thomas Hayes returned as tenant in 1912 to live in the house. During WWII he was forbidden from repainting the cottage, as its distinctive black and white panelling showed up too clearly from the air.
The Hughes family were the owners of the house and land and in the early 1950s, Michael Hughes-Young sold it to St. Helens Hospital nearby. They demolished the cottage in 1954 to pave the way for a hospital expansion that included two new wards, an operating theatre, physiotherapy department and an out-patients clinic. Half a century later the old hospital has gone to make way for a new £100 million state-of-the-art complex, which was given the royal seal of approval in June 2010 when the Duke of York made a visit and unveiled a plaque. Progress, like time, marches on.
This article has been mainly sourced from a report in the St.Helens Reporter of July 16th 1954
f) Ellam's House or 'Tripe Shaws'
Ellam’s House was one of the oldest houses in Sutton, built in the early 1700s in what became Ellamsbridge Road. It was probably the home of 18th century landowner Henry Ellam and from the late 1890s to the late 1920s, it was known to Suttoners as 'Tripe Shaws'. There was a simple explanation for this as Ellam’s House was occupied by George and Mary Shaw who sold tripe and pigs' trotters!
Ellam's House in Ellamsbridge Road near Edgeworth Street in Sutton was nicknamed Tripe Shaws
It was a farmhouse-type building with greyish-green outside walls that had been rendered in cement. It was quite a substantial-sized property, with a seven-foot fence at its front. Ellam’s House had a large porch over its front door with a stone flagged floor and an apex roof. Along each inside wall were wooden form seats that were built in, with each capable of seating a dozen people. Perhaps their original purpose had been to seat farm workers at meal times?
On Saturday nights, powerfully-built George Shaw would climb into his tripe trap that was pulled by his horse Charlie. He then travelled round Sutton visiting all the pubs and selling his tripe to the customers. Probably bartering one or two pints for himself with the landlords too! Shaw didn't have to travel far to get to the Victoria pub, however. This bore the nickname of 'The Little Pig' and was only across the road from Ellams House. Fletcher's abattoir had given rise to the pub's nickname and Shaw would have sourced his pigs' trotters from his neighbour.
At one time the Shaws had a young dog who drove the neighbours mad with its barking. So one Sutton wag wrote a poem called 'Tripe Shaws Pup':
It’s only small and black and white, but jumps up and down like a frog.
You can see it there from first daylight, until it’s nearly dark,
If you can’t see it, you can certainly hear it, 'cause this bugger can’t half bark.
It’s tied up on some kind of rope, just behind 'owd Tripe Shaw’s shed,
And the only time the bugger shuts up is when the bugger’s being fed.
It has a pretty little face with a long and fluffy tail,
And it jumps for joy when 'owd George comes home after being on the ale.
Many years ago we had a man called "The Knocker Up",
We don’t need one now, this present day, we can rely on this bloody pup.
It might be better, after rabbits or rounding up some sheep,
I wish he’d take the bugger there, so then we’d get some sleep.
g) Ravenhead HouseThe grade 2 listed Ravenhead House is the oldest property in the former Sutton township, dating back to around 1773. That was the year the British Cast Plate Glass Company began operating in Ravenhead. The mansion was built by industrialist John Mackay, who was a proprietor of the glassworks and influenced by the new Gothic style. However after his death in 1793, the new owner of Ravenhead House, Col. James Fraser who was Mackay's son-in-law, altered the building into the classical style.
Fellow industrialist William Keates lived in the mansion for a few years during the 1830s. An advert in the Liverpool Mercury of January 23rd 1835 offered Ravenhead House to let, describing it as the 'capital and commodious MANSION, called RAVENHEAD HOUSE, with the Stables, Coach-houses, and other Outbuildings, and the Hot-houses, Green-house, Gardens, Lawns, Pleasure-grounds, and other Appurtenances thereunto adjoining and belonging, situate and being at Ravenhead, within Sutton. In the county of Lancaster, and now in the occupation of Mr. Keats, as Tenant thereof. The Dining-room is 27 feet long, and 18 feet wide; the Drawing-room is of the same dimensions, and the other apartments are equally good. The House is in complete repair, and the Gardens are in a high state of cultivation. These Premises are pleasantly situated, within one mile of St. Helen's, and three of Prescot, and form a most desirable Residence for a family of respectability'.
Ravenhead House in Factory Row, Ravenhead which became offices for Pilkington's
The Ravenhead House estate and lands within Sutton were considerable. In the Liverpool Mercury of March 15th 1839, an estate auction was advertised with the timber from 300 oak, ash, elm, alder, sycamore, willow, poplar, fir and chestnut trees available. Not as much timber as the Bold estate regularly auctioned, but still considerable. James Lawrenson was then the tenant. By the turn of the 20th century, it was Robert G. Ridgeway who was the Ravenhead House tenant. He appeared in many newspapers nationwide providing testimony to a form of cod-liver oil called Scott's Emulsion which had cured his catarrh. Glassmaker's Pilkington later took over Ravenhead House, using it as a works office for many years.
h) Mill House in Mill BrowAs one of Sutton’s historic houses, Mill House is unusual in that the Mill Brow property still exists, although radically changed. When its modernisation began in 1937/38, builder Wilf Twist of Thomas & Twist told his daughter Lily "Don't be fooled by its present appearance. It's a very old house that goes well back into the 1800s".
Although Mill House has been (and still is) a highly attractive property, its main claim for inclusion in this page concerns its historic associations. It was almost certainly the miller's house and originally inhabited by the Lamb family, who ran the nearby Sutton water and steam mills. It was said that Mill House was connected to the mill by a tunnel, but that is unproven. Romantic rumours of hidden chambers in Sherdley Park are also part of Sutton folklore but similarly unsubstantiated.
Mill House and the Cope Workshop pictured around 1910 with the remnants of the water mill in the foreground
The Rose family briefly succeeded the Lambs as millers but by the 1890s their enterprise had closed. Mill House’s connection with corn milling was also severed, but not with industry. For many years the house was owned by craftsman William J. Cope, who was a renowned tent and marquee maker with his own workshop adjacent to his home. The remarkable photograph above (with larger version here with names) was taken in the gardens of Mill House in September 1929 during the Cope's diamond wedding celebrations and features four generations of the family.
The Cope family at Mill House during 1929 diamond wedding celebrations - Contributed by Geoff Chisnall
William Cope was born in 1844 in Newnham in Gloucestershire, the product of an old West of England family who for generations had obtained a tough livelihood from the sea. Cope's eldest brother, Robert Cope, spent fifty years afloat and captained one of the first steamers ever built. Young William inherited the family's adventurous streak and ran away from home at the age of eight. Three years later he sailed as ship's boy on a brig that was taking out wooden huts to English soldiers fighting in the Crimea.
Charlotte Cope in front of Mill House at Mill Brow during the mid-1930s - Contributed by Geoff Chisnall
When back on shore, William began work at Worcester in the sheeting and tarpaulin department of the Gloucester, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway Co. In 1860 at the age of 16 he moved to London and became articled to tent makers Unsts of Edgeware Road. While working with the company, he helped to set up the International Flower Show at Kensington. William found himself delegated to hold an umbrella over the head of the future King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) to shelter him from the rain.
After relocating to Birmingham where he married his wife Charlotte in 1869, William moved to Sutton in 1872 charged with managing the sheeting sheds at St.Helens Junction. He was then living in Bold Road and he left the sheds in 1882, to begin his own business of tent and marquee makers. Cope was a keen sportsman and both promoted and played for the London and North Western Cricket Club of Sutton. In his youth he had been involved in bare-knuckle fighting and had even sparred with the legendary Tom Sayers, whose funeral in 1865 was said to have attracted 100,000 people.
Just when William and Charlotte Cope moved into Mill House is unclear. It was probably in the mid-1890s, although his family were resident elsewhere in 1901. For reasons unknown, Cope became the licensee of the Mill House Inn for a period during the late 1890s. William’s tent-making business was a family affair, which included his sons and brother Jesse. The latter lived at Mill House until his death in 1912 aged 62. Three years earlier when King Edward VII visited Knowsley Hall to inspect detachments of the Territorial Army, Lord Derby had ordered a tent from the Copes to accommodate a shooting party. Another celebrated customer was Lord Gerard who hired their marquees at Garswood Hall.
William Cope died at Mill House in 1933 aged 88, and his wife Charlotte died six years later aged 89. The family enterprise was continued by their sons until its closure in 1967. By the time of Charlotte’s death in 1939, work had at least begun on remodelling Mill House. Its orientation was reversed and bay windows and parquetry floors were added and a large sandstone cellar filled in.
William and Charlotte’s daughter Clara Cope took over Mill House. She married Frank J. Houghton, the headmaster at Parr Mount School, and the couple lived in the property until the 1950s. During this period further refinement of the frontage of the old house took place. Now looking smaller and minus a defining chimney stack, it takes some studying of old photographs to discern it as the historic Mill House - the miller’s house of Sutton Leach.