Local History

Higher Hurdsfield Parish (click here to see parish map) has won a place in the affections of a large number of people, past and present.  But unlike many other parishes we have few written records and source material to rely on.  At this stage, therefore, it would be helpful if you could see this very much as ‘work in progress’ and we would invite you to join with us in helping to develop ‘the story of Higher Hurdsfield’.  You can do this by reviving and sharing your memories, or by guiding us to other sources of information.  If you have any information you’d like to share please contact the parish clerk (click on link for contact details).

Rose Cottage and Coal Mining in the Parish

In our last article on the history of the Parish, we told the interesting story of Shrigley Fold Farm and the changes it had seen over the years from the preaching of Wesley to a much loved local golf club.

We are further indebted to the current owners for some further information on nearby Rose Cottage (Grade II Listed by English Heritage as a Weaver’s Cottage), which we understand shares some of the same history as Shrigley Fold. Also to Mr David Kitching who has studied the coal industry in north-east Cheshire for many years and who first identified the true history and purpose of Rose Cottage.

Mr Kitching’s historical research shows that in September 1782 a Thomas Ward and a Thomas Wardle, who were partners in the manufacture of buttons and twist, bought the whole of the Higher and Lower Swanscoe estates. In November of 1788 they leased both to a gentleman by the name of James Bloore of Ipstones for the sum of £88. However, they retained the coal rights to themselves.

It was not until 1791 that they agreed a lease for the colliery with a William Clayton. The lease was for a term of 42 years and Mr Clayton was allowed free coal for the ‘fire engine’ that was to be placed on the premises. Conditions of the lease included that the fire engine (atmospheric pumping engine) had to be left on site, and that the ‘engine house’ (later known as Rose Cottage) was left in good repair.

Gervase Ward inherited his father’s half share of the Swanscoe colliery in 1810, and soon Wardle agreed to sell him the other half share of the mine.

The nearby Endon Estate was purchased by William Clayton (son, or grandson, of the one who took the lease in 1791) from John Vaughan; the sale was finally completed on March 5th 1833.  It was on this estate that Clayton developed his own colliery around what is now Swanscoe Farm.  This colliery incorporated theLower Swanscoe estate that was offered for sale by Ward in 1837 and acquired by Clayton. This included the 12hp engine that was used for winding and pumping that was situated atLower Swanscoe.

In August 1834 the Manchester Guardian newspaper offered an engine for sale described as an ‘atmospheric steam engine’  having a cylinder of 44 inches diameter, new oak beam, with cast iron arch heads and worked to a seven feet stroke’. It was to be sold by private contract at ‘Swanscoe near Macclesfield, half a mile from the Macclesfield canal’.

The offer for sale of the atmospheric steam engine (fire engine) was by Thomas Ward who also offered the Swanscoe estate and the mines to the south-west for sale in 1837 and again in 1840. It is unlikely that the mines were worked after the expiry of the lease in 1833.

Mr Kitching could find no evidence that Mr Ward found a buyer for the estate, or mines at this time. Indeed the building and adjacent cottages are shown on the 1849 tithe map as three cottages and gardens in the ownership of Thomas Ward.

The properties did however change hands over the following years.  The 1901 and 1911 Census records show the cottages as occupied by an Arthur Leary and family. In 1933 the cottages came up for sale again, this time by the Brocklehurst family, when they were all sold to Arthur Leary for £350 along with some surrounding woods. On the Deeds, Rose Cottage is shown as being occupied by Mrs E. Mitchell as tenant; the other two adjoining cottages were occupied by the purchaser.   In 1949 Rose Cottage was sold again to a Frederick Norman Atkinson.

Time moved on, probably without its numerous inhabitants really knowing anything of the true history of the building, until in 2011 Mr David Kitching who was out walking in the area identified the property as an old mining pump house which was likely to have housed a Newcomen pumping engine, whose purpose would have been to pump water out of a local mine.

This was complete news to the owners.  However, finding out the true history of Rose Cottage and what it had been used for explained what had happened to the property in early 2008. The then owners were undertaking a kitchen extension and unknowingly exposed what turned out to be an uncovered mine shaft 80m deep.  Understandably shocked, the owners had to move out of the house while the coal authorities filled in and made safe the old shaft.

From the historical information researched by Mr. Kitching, it would seem that Rose Cottage was erected to house the atmospheric pumping engine under the terms of the 1791 lease, as in order to work the mine this engine would have to have been in place.

The location of the engine was critical to it being effective in draining the coal. It might at first seem odd that the pumping engine was situated at a higher level than the main working shaft which is to the north-west, beyond Shrigley Fold. The reason for this is that the pumping shaft had to be down the dip of the coal so that the water drained from the workings to the pumps. With the dip being to the south and west it meant that a location had to be sought further south and west: there is only one location for this engine and this is at the south-western edge of the estate, i.e. Rose Cottage.

In Mr. Kitching’s opinion, erection of a steam pumping engine was a significant investment for any colliery, certainly for such a small one as Swanscoe. It is difficult to find any reason why a second engine would have been erected as the cost could not have been justified, nor would it have been required.  It seems therefore certain that the engine detailed for sale in 1834 is that which would have been located at Rose Cottage.

What is also apparent from the building is that it is typical of the layout
of atmospheric pumping engine houses with the boiler stack attached to the
corner of the building. It is also noted that the opening for the
pumping beam has been largely filled-in apart from the 4-light multipane
window that has been inserted. The jointing and differences in the stonework
shows this infill clearly.

Surviving Newcomen engine houses are rare and it is hoped that English Heritage will relist the building accordingly.

Do you live in, or know of the interesting history of any of the buildings/locations in the Parish? If you do, we would love to hear from you.

Thanks again to the owners of Rose Cottage and Mr David Kitching for all their assistance in pulling together this article.

Shrigley Fold Farm – Hurdsfield Golf Club

We are pleased to produce the second article on the history of our Parish. Again our  focus is on another significant building in the area, Shrigley Fold Farm, and the important role it has played in the history of the area.Shrigley Fold Farm is an elegant three story Grade 2 listed building with a rich history. John Wesley preached from the farm house on 8th November 1745 when the property was owned by the Aldersley family. What a great day that must have been in the history of Shrigley Fold. Among the congregation was George Pearson, at the time a poor and uneducated man, who later became a wealthy silk manufacturer with premises on Waters Green. He was successful in 1747 in persuading Wesley to visit Macclesfield while Charles Roe was mayor. This is often seen as the beginning of the Methodist movement in the Town.

Towards the end of the first half of the 18th Century, at the time when the Jacobites were rising in the north and the young pretender and his followers were preparing to march southward, a small group of people continued to meet at Shrigley Fold for their own religious services.

The property has been the home of various families during its long history, and then between the wars it was the club house for the Hurdsfield Golf Club, one of the most picturesque nine hole courses in thenorth west. We are indebted to  the current owners of Shrigley Fold for their help with this article, as we are to Mr Bill Milligan for all his information on the Golf Club.

There has been golf in Macclesfield for over a century. The hillside course at Macclesfield Golf Club on The Hollins has been welcoming guests for over 100 years, and in the very early years of the C20 the first golf course in our Parish was on Cliff Lane.

Interest in the game was growing in the early 1900’s and it is probable that locals practised on any available land in the hills in the town.  The land on Cliff Farm was upland turf, which if grazed by sheep would probably have been suitable for golf as played at that time, without too much extra care.

While some of the above is speculative, we believe that this course stayed in use until 1925, when it moved to a more suitable location on the land at Shrigley Fold Farm, leased from Mr. William Brocklehurst, a Director (and President) of the Club and owner of the Farm. The formal foundation of the Hurdsfield Club is recorded at a meeting at the Angel Hotel Macclesfield on 31st March 1910. The meeting was presided over by a Mr Sayers, and it was agreed to form Hurdsfield Golf Club on the land at Shrigley Fold. It is understood that for some time the Cliff Lane Course was still being played.

On May 23rd 1925 the ‘Courier’ reported on a men’s golf competition held at Hurdsfield Golf Club on the Cliff Lane course, where the result of the competition was a tie between a Mr Shackley and a Mr Barber. An article in the ‘Times and Observer’ around the same time reported that a limited company had been formed and £1 shares would be issued. It also explained that the new course at Shrigley Fold would be over 9 holes and would cover approximately 3000 yards. The club house was to comprise a lounge, a ladies room and tea room. and that persons interested in joining should apply to a Mr G Turner of Rainow Road, Higher Hurdsfield.

The original plans for establishing the course were rather optimistic which is probably understandable as the land at Shrigley Fold consisted of meadows, pasture and ploughed fields. It was decided to recruit a greenkeeper, and in September 1926 a Mr James Taylor was employed.  The 24 year old James probably learnt his trade with his father who worked at Stockport Golf Club.

The opening of the new Hurdsfield Course was on Saturday 6th November 1926. Members commenced play between the President’s team and the Captain’s team although it was somewhat marred by heavy rain. It is recorded that in the evening the members partook of a hot pot supper following which the President (Mr William Brocklehurst) presented the winners replicas of the Brocklehurst Rose Bowl.

By 1929 the edition of the ‘Golfers Handbook’ shows  Hurdsfield Golf Club as having 110 members, visitor’s fees were 2s per day and 2s 6d on Sundays.  The Secretary is given as J Naden, 30 The Crescent, Macclesfield and the Professional and Greenkeeper as J Taylor.

By 1930 the new course was well established and the club was playing a growing part in the golfing life of the Macclesfield area. Jimmy Taylor’s daughter, Mrs Dorothy Dossett, gave an insight of her life speaking of her childhood at the Hurdsfield Clubhouse.

She described her father working very hard keeping the greens in good condition, making or altering golf clubs, which were hickory shafts in those days. He also gave lessons, entered and ran competitions and kept a well stocked bar where he served members.

Her mother Mary was stewardess and also did all the catering, making all the pastries, puddings and pies.

Mrs Dossett clearly had a wonderful childhood: she described her memories of the Golf Club riding on the tractor with her father while he cut the grass on the fairways, the preparations they made for special events like Guy Fawkes where she could remember the large bonfire, but no fireworks.

There is evidence that throughout the 1930’s Hurdsfield was an active, friendly and successful club.  By the mid 30’s an annual home and away match was being played against Macclesfield and these matches were known for the ‘enjoyable 19th’.

From a card of the course from July 1933 we know that the course was 5,520 yards long, both nines being the same.  James Taylor set the course record in July of that year with a 72. He also set the last known course record in 1938 when he scored 70 on a newly lengthened course.

Early in the 2nd World War the club was requisitioned for farming, although we understand that golf continued to be played and about 6 holes were kept playable by a Mr Norman Little with a few other members.

When the land was released after the war some discussion took place with members of Macclesfield Golf Club about joining the two clubs together and playing on the flatter land at Shrigley Fold.  Unfortunately Macclesfield had recently purchased new land and was planning to extend their course at the Hollins.

During the war many of the Hurdsfield club members had joined Macclesfield or other local clubs, others moved away or ceased to play the game. Sadly in the austere post war times the club was no longer viable, and the land and clubhouse were returned to private use when the lease ended.

The last year in which Hurdsfield has an entry is in the ‘Golfers Handbook’ of 1947, where the membership was shown as 140, the Secretary was a Mr W S Woodman of 42 Beech Lane, and Mr J Taylor was still shown as the professional; clearly the entries had not been updated since the start of the war.

Do you have any memories of our Parish Golf Club, or photographs that you would be willing to share?  If so please contact the parish clerk (click on link for contact details).

Higher Hurdsfield History and Personal Memories

We have decided that a reasonable place to start our historical journey is by:

  • identifying old and interesting listed buildings and researching into their history;
  • by reviewing the limited written materials about the area (our thanks to the Sunday School for use of their ‘A Centenary History of the Hurdsfield Sunday School – 1908’); and
  • through personal memories (we are already grateful to Ken Torr, Eileen Wilson and Jean Bickerton for helping in this way).
Early History of the Parish

Higher Hurdsfield today is clearly a very different place to what it was two hundred years ago.  Very few of the houses that we see today were in existence.  Instead we would have seen a highway leading to Rainow, Chapel-en-le-Frith and beyond, with an old toll bar near the end of Higher Fence Road.

There were a few cottages, small farmsteads, and near Lower Fold Farm, just below the Sunday School, there was a small local workhouse.  Up the road was Hurdsfield Cottage, the residence of a local cotton manufacturer, whose views at the time would have been over a wide expanse of country in every direction – the mountains of Flint, the hills of Lancashire with the smoke from manufacturing and the lowlands of Cheshire.

Some of the local population would have been working in the coal pits on Swanscoe Estate, where the coal lay some twenty to thirty feet from the surface in open shafts.

It is reported that cock fighting and dog fighting were also sports indulged in by certain local inhabitants.

It is difficult to imagine a world without electric light or even oil, but in those early days anyone wishing to go into town on a dark night would have had to make their way through streets, or alleys with the aid of lanterns or candles.

The Sunday School

Educational facilities were very poor, with only the middle and upper classes being able to obtain anything like a decent education.  Through the efforts of some very enlightened men, work began on the first Sunday School in the Parish.  From November 1808 to 1811, local farms or other buildings were used.  The first sermon was preached in support of the Sunday School on 4th June 1809 at Higher Fold Farm.

By 1811 there were 140 children being taught to read and write in what were increasingly unsuitable premises, and a successful appeal was made for funds.  A plot of ground called the House Croft was acquired from a Thomas Mather, and on this site in 1811, the first Sunday School was erected for the education of ‘children of the labouring poor’. The original building was shorter and narrower than we see today, with rough stone being laid as a pathway off what was often a very slushy road.

The Sunday School continued to play an important part in the life of the Parish until it’s closure in 2015.  Many of our neighbours remember the Sunday School parades that used to take place, with participants walking to Sunderland Street Chapel for a service.  It was clearly a very special day in the calendar of the parish where best clothes were worn, and where folk took great pride in their houses which lined the route of the parade, taking care to clean windows, tidy gardens and scrub steps in preparation.

For those who are interested, a Roll of Honour was on display in the Sunday School showing the names of scholars who served in the first World War, this has now been transferred to Christ Church.  The names seem to have been added as the war progressed and more men enlisted.  The final total was 113 scholars who served, of whom 10 died.

The Ebenezer Methodist Chapel, originally known in the area as the Railway Chapel, was also a focus of religious and social life in the Parish.  Many special birthdays were celebrated, and romances started at dances that were held in the Community Hall that was once situated behind the Chapel.  We understand that when the Hall was closed it was sold to Gawsworth and became their Village Hall.

Do you have any memories of events at the Sunday School, or Ebenezer Chapel? We would also be delighted to receive copies of any old photographs of the parish.

Please contact the parish clerk (click on link for contact details).