Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals
Little was known about the life of Thomas Brown and the following events have been pieced together in attempt to illustrate some of his achievements. It is now known that in the 1790s and into the early 1800s that his career was inextricably linked, initially with the construction of the Ashton Canal and its several branches, and then with the construction of the Peak Forest Canal and Tramway. He acted as the surveyor for both the Ashton and Peak Forest Canal Companies and then as the resident engineer for the latter company working under Benjamin Outram who was the engineer. The Minute Books of the Peak Forest Canal Company makes many references to him.
Thomas Brown is unique in the history of the Peak Forest Canal as he was present at its inception, he cut the first clod, and he was present at the takeover of the Canal Company by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway Company on the 25 March 1846. He was an experienced mine engineer, land surveyor and general engineer. He became a shareholder of the Peak Forest Canal Company, a member of the Committee and Sub-committee as well as engineer for the construction of Marple locks sometime after the resignation of Benjamin Outram in c.1801. His long association with the Peak Forest Canal Company came to an end on the 1 January 1847, when the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway Company amalgamated with other companies to form the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company.
It was his work as a surveyor and engineer that brought his name to prominence and it is for these two roles that he is best remembered. In the 1830s, more than thirty years after his appointment as the surveyor for the Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne & Oldham Canal Company (Ashton Canal Company), the newly incorporated Macclesfield Canal Company appointed him as their resident engineer. In the intervening years Thomas Brown accomplished a great deal and there are many references to him in the Peak Forest Canal Company's records, such as the Proceedings of the sub-Committee, Committee and General Committee. Primarily, Thomas Brown was a businessman who was engaged in the everyday business of working coalmines, quarries and lime works. He also had interests in trading in stone, various minerals, clay, sand and earth. On the financial side he dealt in real estate and the stock of corporations (i.e. local authorities) and companies, such as railways, canals and docks. For instance, besides being the resident engineer for the Macclesfield Canal Company he was also a subscriber. He also possessed considerable personal estate as well.
On the 30 August 1791, the Manchester Mercury carried a notice about a Bill for the proposed Rochdale Canal that included a branch to or near Oldham from Manchester by way of Newton (Newton Heath), Moston, Failsworth and Chadderton. As a consequence of this, a fortnight later on the 13 September 1791, another notice was carried announcing a parliamentary petition for an independent Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham Canal and that there was to be a meeting as soon as particulars were prepared. On the 18 October and again on the 1 November 1791 the Manchester Mercury referred to this meeting and affirmed that the idea was well received and that £21,000 was subscribed on the spot. On the 22 November the Manchester Mercury reported that the amount required was raised and that plans and estimates were being prepared. Although there is no corroborative evidence, it is possible that Thomas Brown was involved with this work.
The Peak Forest Canal Company appointed Thomas Brown as their surveyor superintendent, bookkeeper and manager under their engineer's directions (that is, Benjamin Outram) for four days a week, to devote his whole time to Peak Forest Canal Company business. His remuneration was £315 per annum for himself and a Clerk from the 7 July 1794. Initially, he was on an 11-year contact but after 4 December 1805 he was retained as the engineer on a year-by-year contract until Marple locks, reservoirs and other works were completed. Thomas Brown was appointed resident engineer by Benjamin Outram who then gave him instructions about what was needed. In the case of the Peak Forest Canal Company, the management gave directions and instructions to their appointed engineer, Benjamin Outram.
He surveyed the route for the proposed Peak Forest Canal and in 1793 a complete set of plans, estimates and list of subscribers were deposited with the Clerk of the Peace for Cheshire and Derbyshire on behalf of the Peak Forest Canal Company by the Law Clerks, Worthingtons of Altrincham. The plans included 'a Railway or Stone Road to Loads Knowle', where the nearest limestone deposits were situated (Note 1It is uncertain as to whether one Clerk of the Peace served both counties or each county had its own clerk. Either way, there is now only one copy and this is at Derbyshire County Record Office. Its title is, 'Deposited Plan of the intended Derbyshire Canal, 1793'. The name Peak Forest Canal seems to have been adopted either in late 1793 or early 1794.).
The canal was to commence at Dukinfield, from the Tame Aqueduct of the Ashton Canal, and its line was through Dukinfield, Newton, Hyde, Werneth, Bredbury, Romiley, Marple, Disley and Whaley to terminate at Chapel Milton. From there a tramway was to complete the line to Loads Knowle. There was also to be a short branch canal to Whaley Bridge. At this time, the Whaley Bridge area was known as the township of Yeardsley-cum-Whaley in the county of Cheshire. His plan showed that the proposed canal and tramway cut through 183 plots of land that would require compulsory purchase. It also identified the location of minerals such as building stone, flag, slate and coal. Stone and flag, in particular, could be used during the construction stage and all the minerals could be exploited afterwards as sources of revenue in addition to the primary revenue source of transporting limestone and lime.
From the outset there was always a good working relationship between the Ashton and Peak Forest Canal Companies and this was exemplified in January 1803 when it was announced that,
'---- Proprietors of the Ashton and the Peak Forest Canal agree and approve the principle of association together for the common good.'
However, the Ashton Canal Company was not prepared to extend this friendship too far when, on the 3 October 1803, it was determined that boats belonging to the Peak Forest Canal Company were to pay the Ashton Canal Company ¼d for every lock passed through when assistance was given by a lock keeper. More critical than this friendship between the two companies, was the failure of the Ashton Canal Company to appoint an engineer. The exact reason for this will probably never be known.
On the 31 July 1792 the Ashton Canal Company placed an advertisement in the Manchester Mercury.
'The Company of proprietors want an engineer to superintend the cutting of a canal, and contractors to execute the work. The cutting is to be let in several lengths. Applications are invited.'
While the company did not appear to have any difficulty in attracting contractors to cut the canal, it was unable to find an engineer and the hard-pressed, James Meadows Senior, acted as the engineer. James Meadows' first appointment with the Ashton Canal Company was as a bookkeeper and afterwards he was appointed as the principal agent and engineer. He held these two posts until his death in the 2 May 1831. However, how his position as engineer was affected when Benjamin Outram was appointed as engineer is unknown. After his death, the posts of principal agent and engineer were separated. On the 4 November 1805, James Meadows Senior became the joint principal agent for the Ashton and Peak Forest Canal Companies. His salary was £630 per annum paid equally by the two companies (i.e. £315 each).
In 1793 progress on cutting the Ashton Canal was progressing but key appointments were still needed. On the 27 August 1793 the Ashton Canal Company placed yet another advertisement in the Manchester Mercury.
'The Company are in want of an engineer to superintend the cutting of the Canal and several branches. The cutting of the Canal from Clayton to Heaton Norris (Stockport Branch) and from Taylors Barn, Reddish, to Beat Bank, Denton (Beat Bank Branch), is to be let in several different lengths.'
This advertisement seemed to be a request for a resident engineer but the company was still without an engineer. As far as the latter was concerned, it was not until 1798 that this particular problem was finally resolved when the Ashton Canal Company appointed Benjamin Outram as their engineer who, in turn, appointed Thomas Brown as his resident engineer to oversee day-to-day construction work. Outram's appointment took effect around the middle of 1798 and on the 21 June 1798 their Minute Book states,
'The works of the canal have been in many instances improperly managed for want of the assistance of a proper engineer.'
Prior to his appointment as engineer, Outram's relationship with the Ashton Canal Company was as a contractor. The first known reference to Benjamin Outram in their Minute Book appears in September 1798 but there is no mention of Thomas Brown.
Around this time, the Ashton Canal Company was also actively promoting good relations with rival canal companies and they were looking forward to collaboration with the Peak Forest, Rochdale and Huddersfield Canal Companies.
Marple Lime Works and Hyde & Haughton Colliery
Concurrently with his canal building activities, Thomas Brown was collaborating in private business ventures and a reference to this was the partnership of Messrs Wright and Brown. The 'Wright' in this partnership was Nathaniel Wright who lived at Brabyns Hall, Marple.
Meanwhile, Samuel Oldknow was a promoter and proprietor of the Peak Forest Canal Company and he established a lime works at Marple, close to the top lock, where he could receive supplies of limestone and coal by way of the Peak Forest Canal. Some of the coal to fire these kilns was supplied from the nearby Hagbank (or Hag Bank) Pit at Disley, which was situated on the offside of the canal. Coal was also supplied by canal from a pit on the offside of the canal at Bankend Bridge. Coal was mined in Marple as well and birth, marriage and death registrations record coal miners living in Marple. Oldknow's interest in his lime works was, however, to wane and by 1805 it was reported that his lime-burning business was in decline. By 1808 the situation had worsened and Oldknow blamed the poor trading conditions on the Napoleonic war.
'---- the war as it were swept away the means of effecting great designs.'
By 1811, Oldknow's interest in the lime works had ended and he leased it to Messrs Wright & Brown and this included kilns, lime sheds, the basin by top lock and other appurtenances. However, he did not sell the lime works, so he would have still received a rent from it. Oldknow died in 1828 and, as he was deeply in debt to the Arkwright family of Cromford, the whole of his estate around Marple and Mellor became their property.
Adjoining the lime works, to the south, a mineral mill was built and, under the direction of Thomas Brown, a warehouse was built next to this by the canal. It is understood that this warehouse opened on the 1 August 1800 and its purpose was in connection with the upper terminus of the Marple Tramway that was built to by-pass the unfinished Marple locks. Afterwards, it became a corn mill for a while and then it was sold to the mineral mill. The mineral mill was subsequently operated by Messrs J & M Tymm.
For how long Messrs Wright and Brown operated Marple Lime Works is uncertain but in 1834 a John Clayton & Company was operating it. John Clayton was the half-brother and successor of Samuel Oldknow.
The land surrounding the Peak Forest Canal in Hyde was rich in coal deposits, particularly between the canal and the river Tame and up the other side of the valley in the township of Haughton. Initially there were many shallow pits and drift mines in the locality, which exploited natural outcrops of coal but when these became exhausted deeper pits were sunk to exploit even richer coal seams. Prominent among these were Hyde & Haughton Colliery (adjoining the Peak Forest Canal at Hyde Change Bridge), Peacock Pit, Kingston Colliery, Broomstair Colliery and Haughton Colliery at Glass House Fold. Both Broomstair and Haughton Collieries were on the Lancashire side of the river Tame. It is known that Thomas Brown and William Clayton worked Hyde & Haughton Colliery (better known as Hyde Lane Pit). At this time a Joseph Holford was the manager and a Charles Ogden was the collector. Brown and Clayton leased it from the Clarke family who were the landowners. They also leased Peacock Pit, which was situated alongside the canal a short distance to the south of Hyde Lane Pit as well as Haughton Colliery in Glass House Fold which included Dans Wood Drift Mine. George Hyde Clarke presented Thomas Brown with a silver cup in appreciation of his management of these pits.
An examination of the 1816/17 Commercial Directory of 'Merchants, Manufacturers, Tradesmen, &c', for the Manchester area makes a connection between Wright, Brown and Clayton. Under the heading of 'Coal Dealers', Messrs Wright, Brown, and Clayton had premises at Aytoun Street (then Ayton Street). As we have seen, Thomas Brown and William Clayton were the lessees of Hyde Lane Pit, Peacock Pit and the mines at Glass House Fold and a good outlet for some of the coal they mined would be from their Aytoun Street premises. The Wright referred to is Nathaniel Wright who was Thomas Brown's business partner at Marple Lime Works.
His Good Relations with the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canal Companies
It has been possible to explore the kind of relationship that Thomas had with the Proprietors of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. It is clear that they held him in high regard and this is reflected in presentations that the two companies made to him. The Peak Forest Canal Company presented him with two silver tureens, complete with ladles, and the Macclesfield Canal Company presented him with four silver side dishes, complete with covers.
His Terms of Employment with the Peak Forest Canal Company
He was under contract to the company from the 8 September 1794 until the expiry of his contract on the 27 March 1805. After this date he was the Consulting Engineer on a yearly contract until the 4 June 1812. From the 4 June 1812 until 1846 he was a member of the canal company's General Committee, Committee and Sub-Committee in his own right as a company shareholder. He was also the Company Consulting Engineer.
His Personal and Real Estate and similar matters
With regard to Thomas Brown's holding of personal and real estate, this consisted of a variety of land and buildings either owned individually or jointly with William Clayton.
In the late 1820s Thomas resided at Sidney Street, Chorlton Row (off Oxford Road), and by 1841 he had moved to 16 Ardwick Green, Chorlton on Medlock, which was in Allerton Place. No. 16 was one of a row of three large houses called Allerton Place on the south side of Ardwick Green close to Kay Street and Rusholme Road and backing onto Barlow Street. He also owned 'Mow Hole' at Higher Disley, Cheshire. This was originally his late father's property and it is where Thomas was born and raised.
In Manchester his property and land included:
Land at a place called 'the Horrocks' (whereabouts unknown).
Land situated near London Road (close to the canal basins at Ducie Street).
Land at Granby Row (off London Road).
A dwelling at Canal Street (by the side of the Rochdale Canal between Minshull Street and Princess Street).
Three dwellings in Acton Street (this was near Granby Row and it no longer extant but Back Acton Street survives).
Three dwellings at Back Pump Street (this was near Granby Row and is no longer extant but Pump Street survives).
Two dwellings in the court behind Back Pump Street.
Two shops situate in and adjoining London Road.
He also lived in Aytoun Street for a while before moving to Ardwick Green.
In Heaton Norris, Lancashire:
Land and buildings that had been converted into a Boiler Yard. The location of this is unknown, other than it being at the side of the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal. The Ashton Canal Company (and its successors) paid Thomas an annual rent of £2 0s 10½d for this.
In Hyde, leased jointly with William Clayton:
Hyde Lane and Peacock Pits.
In Haughton and in Manchester, owned jointly with William Clayton:
Lands, tenements, rents, monies and real estate. (the nature, extent and whereabouts of these are unknown).
Mines, quarries, minerals, stone, clay, sand or earth previously opened or worked or not (the nature, extent and whereabouts of these are unknown but it is possible that some of them were along the line of the Peak Forest Canal).
He owned 63 shares in the Peak Forest Canal Company. These had a face value of £6,300, as evidenced by the General Committee Proceedings of 1834, 1835 and 1836. Act 34 George III cap 26, dated 28 March 1794, gives a list of subscribers in the Preamble. It seems that the share books are lost, so there is no actual information available about who owned how many shares or when.
He was a subscriber to the Macclesfield Canal Company
He was an investor in corporations, railways, canals and docks.
His appointments as a canal surveyor and engineer:
The links between five neighbouring (and nominally rival) canal companies in the Manchester area were inseparable. These were the Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Rochdale and Huddersfield Canals. Even prior to their construction, they were linked because of a limited number of surveyors and engineers who were capable of doing the work. With this in mind, it is possible to examine their relationship with each other.
|Ashton||Thomas Brown. James Meadows Senior was involved as well and it is thought that he prepared the plans and estimates||James Meadows Senior and then Benjamin Outram in 1798||Possibly James Meadows Senior|
|Peak Forest||Thomas Brown as well has his duties as bookkeeper and manager||Benjamin Outram. From 4 Dec 1805 it was Thomas Brown on a year-by-year contract until Marple locks, reservoirs and other works were completed||Thomas Brown|
|Macclesfield||Thomas Telford, Samuel Taylor of Manchester, S Cawley of Macclesfield||William Crosley Junior||Thomas Brown as consulting engineer|
|Rochdale||John Rennie then William Jessop/William Crosley Senior||William Jessop||William Crosley Senior then Thomas Bradley and Thomas Townsend then William Crosley Junior after his father's death in 1796|
|Huddersfield||Nicholas Brown (No relation to Thomas Brown)||Benjamin Outram then Thomas Telford who advised on the completion of Standege Tunnel. It seems that Benjamin Outram employed Thomas Brown in some capacity on the Huddersfield Canal.||Nicholas Brown|
Thomas Brown and Benjamin Outram worked together on the Peak Forest Canal and it is reputed that they jointly designed Marple Aqueduct (or 'Grand Aqueduct'). Benjamin Outram and William Jessop were partners in Benjamin Outram & Company, which changed its name to the better-known Butterley Company in 1806. William Jessop was undoubtedly one of the most experienced engineers of his generation.
William Crosley Senior was unable to persuade William Jessop to be the surveyor for the Rochdale Canal Company and subsequently John Rennie, a London surveyor and engineer, was appointed to the post. Rennie oversaw two unsuccessful attempts to get Bills for the construction of the Rochdale Canal through Parliament in 1792 and 1793. William Crosley Senior actually carried out the survey for the deposited plans under the direction of Rennie but after that Rennie seems to have faded away from the scene. Afterwards, Jessop went over the line of the canal with Crosley and it appears almost as though his subsequent appointment as engineer was by default; so much did the Rochdale Canal need his services.
From the foregoing it will be seen that these men all knew each other and they frequently worked together but it also becomes clear that Thomas Brown never gained the eminence of his contemporaries in canal construction. It may be that he had no wish to do so because of his other business interests and commitments. Taking the era of 'Canal Mania' to lie between 1789 and 1805, a good measure of an engineer's eminence was the number of times that appearances were made before Parliamentary Committees. In this respect, relative appearances were William Jessop (27 times), John Rennie (16 times), Robert Whitworth (7 times), Samuel Bull (6 times), Robert Mylne (6 times), Benjamin Outram (4 times), Thomas Brown (once) and Thomas Telford (once).
The career of Thomas Brown with regard to Canal Construction - a Timeline
|1791||Thomas Brown surveys the route of the intended Ashton Canal and its several branches and from this he prepared plans and estimates.|
|1793||Thomas Brown surveys the route of the intended Peak Forest Canal, the Whaley Bridge Branch and the Peak Forest Tramway. The Peak Forest Canal Company's Law Clerks, Worthingtons of Altrincham, deposit the plans and estimates with the Clerk of the Peace for Cheshire and Derbyshire. The canal is to terminate at Chapel Milton and from there a '---- Railway or Stone Road ----' is to be built to Loads Knowle, near Dove Holes. The plans foresee two flights of locks, one at Marple and the other at Whitehough, beyond Bugsworth. There are to be three canal tunnels, namely at Butterhouse Green, Hyde Bank and Rose Hill, and a tramway tunnel at Stodhart. There are to be a number of aqueducts, including Apethorne Aqueduct, Hyde, Marple Aqueduct and Goyt Aqueduct near Bugsworth.|
|20 May 1794||The Act becomes effective for cutting and building the canal and tramway and Thomas Brown cuts the first clod. The whereabouts of this is unknown.|
|5 Feb 1795||The contract for the intended Marple Aqueduct is signed with William Broadhead, Bethell Furness and William Anderson. Construction starts some three months later while materials and scaffolding are obtained.
It is believed that Benjamin Outram and Thomas Brown jointly designed this aqueduct. It will have pierced spandrels, to reduce its weight, and the Welsh bridge builder, William Edwards, influences its design (Note 2The three arches of the aqueduct were keyed-in during 1799 and it opened on the 1 May 1800.).
|07 Jul 1794||Thomas Brown is formally appointed as the surveyor superintendent, bookkeeper and manager for the canal and tramway. His job specification combines the roles of surveyor and superintendent of works.|
|Jul 1795||On the advice of Benjamin Outram and Thomas Brown, the Peak Forest Canal Company agrees to reduce the length of the canal and increase the length of the tramway. This resolution is taken to avert the problem of an adequate water supply to the summit pound at Chapel Milton and to avoid the construction of Whitehough locks. The company agrees '---- to make the canal as far forward towards Chapel Milton as possible ----.' (This happened to be at the village of Bugsworth, that is, at the same level of the canal as at Marple top lock).|
|16 Jan 1798||Notice in the Manchester Mercury. 'Wanted on the Peak Forest Canal. A person completely qualified to act as a toll collector at Bugsworth, Nr. Whaley Bridge.
Apply by letter or personally to Mr. Thomas Brown, the Surveyor, at the Canal Office Marple.
Isaac, Hugo and George Worthington, Clerks to the Company, Altrincham.'
|Aug 1803||Richard Arkwright Junior loans the Peak Forest Canal Company £24,000 to complete Marple locks.
Samuel Oldknow acts as the go-between with Richard Arkwright and the Peak Forest Canal Company. Thomas Brown is the engineer for the construction of the locks.
The contract for the completion of Marple locks was awarded to Messrs James & Fox but the date of their completion is the subject of considerable debate. It is known that locks 13, 14, 15 and 16 were the first to open in order to improve the facilities at Samuel Oldknow's lime kilns. The opening of these four locks is taken to be on the 13 October 1804, this being the date carved in Posset Bridge below lock 13. The kiln heads were then connected to the canal from adjacent to lock 16 and the foot of the kilns was connected via the Lime Works Branch Canal, which commenced at Posset Bridge under a second archway in the bridge.
An examination of available evidence suggests that all 16 locks first opened between the first day and twelfth day of November 1805, although it must be emphazised that their construction was still incomplete and problems were experienced with the operation of the lock paddle gear, which subsequently had to be replaced.
It is reputed that when the locks opened they had been fitted with some kind of compressed-air equipment to work the paddles. The design of this is unknown but, apparently, it failed almost immediately and had to be quickly replaced by standard mechanical paddle gear. This was an innovative idea, well ahead of its time, and it bears the hallmark of the American engineer, Robert Fulton, who in partnership with Charles McNiven was awarded the contract to cut part of the Lower Peak Forest Canal, subsequently known as 'Keen's Cutting'.
Marple locks have a rise of 209 feet, which means that on average each lock is 13 feet 0¾ inch deep, which makes them among the deepest locks on the narrow canal system in England.
Fulton also suggested that Marple Aqueduct should have been constructed with cast-iron arches and that Marple locks should not have been constructed but substituted with an inclined plane to enable tub boats to be hauled up and down in cradles.
|08 Nov 1803||Notice in the Manchester Mercury. 'Lock Building. To Stone Masons. To be let at the navigation Inn, Marple, the building of 16 locks, between the upper and lower levels of the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.
The locks are to be chiefly of ashlar stone, which is to be provided at the expense of the contractors from quarries now open for inspection. Plans and specifications may be seen and all particulars will be given on
application to Mr. Brown on the premises on the 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd of the present month. Marple, Nr. Stockport, Nov. 7th 1803.'
It should be noted that by this time some locks had already been built or partly built with the positions of the remaining lock sites laid out.
|1826||An Act of Parliament for the Macclesfield Canal becomes effective and cutting and building commences. Thomas Telford takes no further interest and William Crosley Junior and Thomas Brown are appointed as engineer and resident engineers respectively. The line of this 26-mile long canal is from Marple Junction on the Peak Forest Canal to Hall Green, north of Kidsgrove, where it joins the short Hall Green Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal. Among the many proprietors (shareholders) are Richard Arkwright Junior, Thomas Brown, James Meadows Junior, Samuel Oldknow and Martha Oldknow.|
Thomas Brown - the Man
Although no details of his education are known, the foregoing shows that Thomas Brown was a naturally gifted man whose abilities ranged from mathematical and surveying skills, through civil engineering and supervising to that of a businessman. However, some aspects of life are beyond human control and so it was with Thomas Brown whose long life was tinged with some sadness and misfortune. It is practically impossible for us to look back from the 21st century and think in the way that people did in those days. One thing that is certain though is that people in those days were more stoic about adversity and they derived comfort from a strong religious belief.
Thomas born in 1772 and he had at least one brother who predeceased him. He was born at Higher Disley, Cheshire, and his place of birth was a cottage called Mow Hole and this where he was raised. It is known that the Brown family were landowners at Disley. Following the death of his father, Mow Hole became his property but it seems that he only visited it occasionally. During construction of the Peak Forest Canal he was living at Norbury Farm but later he moved to Hyde and then to Manchester. The tithe map of 1850 records that Norbury Farm was in the township of Norbury in the Parish of Stockport. At this time the landowner was Thomas Legh (of Adlington Hall) and the occupier was Joseph Knowles. Norbury Farm is still extant and its modern address is Jacksons Lane, Hazel Grove, Stockport. The inscription on Thomas's tomb at St Mary's Church, Disley, commences, 'Thomas Brown of Manchester' where 'Manchester' refers to his place of death. Both Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth, died in Manchester.
He married his wife, Elizabeth Hancock, on the 28 October 1800, but little is known about her. She died in 1830, aged 55 years, leaving Thomas a widower for the next 20 years until his death in 1850. She had two brothers, John Hancock (1778/79 - 1 May 1821) and Richard Hancock (1779/80 - 29 October 1826). The former was described as a merchant of Liverpool and the latter as a merchant of Manchester.
Four of his children, Thomas, John Hancock, Frances and Francis, died in infancy but a daughter, Elizabeth, and two sons, William and Richard Hancock, survived him.
His son, William, was of concern to him. By the standards of the time William was classed as an imbecile and as such he was committed to Manchester Lunatic Asylum, which stood on the corner of Piccadilly and Portland Street. This was close to Thomas Brown when he resided in Aytoun Street. Thomas was concerned about William's welfare, so he left a substantial amount of money for his care.
'---- for the maintenance, clothing, board, medicine, attendance and general comfort of and upon my son William Brown for and during the term of his natural life ----'
William was evidently released from the asylum because he died in Denton (6 miles east of Manchester city centre) on the 6 September 1862, aged 56 years.
Thomas was also anxious about his son Richard Hancock. The 1841 census shows that Richard, who was then in his thirties, was occupied as a clerk. He evidently had few of his father's abilities and was unmarried. By 1848 the situation appears to have deteriorated somewhat and,
'---- after the decease of my same Son (Richard Hancock) upon trust for such person and persons (other than and except Harriett Williams now of Chorlton-upon-Medlock aforesaid Public House Keeper) and for such estates ----'
Thomas then goes on to say,
'Provided nevertheless that in case my said Son (Richard Hancock) shall at any time before or after my decease intermarry with the said Harriett Williams then the trusts lastly before touching the said sum of ----'
These words leave readers in no doubt about Thomas's opinion of Harriett Williams and how he was going to deal with the situation if Richard ever married her.
Thomas held his daughter, Elizabeth, in high regard and she married Joseph Scott Moore who obtained a law degree in Dublin but practised in Manchester. They met in Manchester and their son became a solicitor who also obtained his law degree in Dublin. Thomas trusted and respected his son-in-law sufficiently to appoint him as a Trustee and Executor of his Will. The other Trustees and Executors were James Meadows Junior and Alan Royle. James Meadows Junior was the agent for the Ashton and Peak Forest Canal Companies and, in 1846, when the canals were taken over by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company he was appointed secretary and clerk of the railway company to become their general manager in 1848. Later, he was appointed as manager of the Rochdale Canal Company, so he resigned from the railway company.
Thomas was also concerned that his grandnephew (and Godson), Thomas Brown, should have as good an education as possible and he made a bequest for this specific purpose. The young Thomas was the son of a John Brown. It is likely that John Brown had other children besides Thomas and their education was also taken care of. Thomas Brown also had another nephew, James Brown, but is not known whether John and James were brothers or cousins.
Thomas was a man of good taste with a liking for the arts and books. His favourite was a large painting '---- commonly called 'Tom Jones' which was heretofore the property of the Father of my late Wife ----.' In addition to this he had other paintings as well as silver, china and glass. He referred to his surveying equipment as '---- my mathematical instruments ----' and he directed that these were to be sold. Obviously no one in the family was following in his footsteps. Among his books were the Repertory of Arts, Beauties of England and Wales, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volumes of Mechanics Magazines and Volumes of Blackwoods Magazines.
His household staff was not forgotten either and he left his servant, Catherine Newton, and cook, Dinah, the sum of £10 each.
Thomas Brown and his Family - a Summary
|Born 1772, died 24 Jan 1850, aged 78 years.|
|He was born at Mow Hole, Higher Disley, Cheshire, and died at 16 Ardwick Green, Chorlton on Medlock. He died of Chronic Bronchitis and the informant was Thomas Heaton,of the same address, who was present at the death. He was buried at St Mary's Church, Disley (Note 3Grave Reference: A A 103. The first 'A' is the Plot, the second 'A' the Row and '103' is the Grave Number. It is easy to find, being close to the church entrance.), on the 30 Jan 1850, Entry No. 248 on Page 31 of the Burial Register.|
|Born 1774/75, married Thomas on the 28 October 1800, died 7 August 1830, aged 55 years.|
|Place of birth unknown. Died at Manchester, buried at St Mary's Church, Disley, on the 11 August 1830. Entry No. 814 on Page 102 of the Burial Register.|
|Thomas Brown, their son|
|Born October 1801, died 12 Sep 1802, aged 11 months.|
|Places of birth and death unknown but probably Disley. Buried at St Mary's Church, Disley.|
|Frances Brown, their daughter|
|Born 1802/03, died 11 Mar 1808, aged 5 years.|
|Places of birth and death unknown, buried at St Mary's Church, Disley.|
|John Hancock Brown, their son|
|Born May 1804, died 4 Aug 1805, aged 1 year and 3 months.|
|Places of birth and death unknown, buried at St Mary's Church, Disley.|
|William Brown, their son|
|Born 1805/06, died 6 Sep 1862, aged 56 years.|
|Places of birth and death unknown, buried at St Mary's Church, Disley.|
|Francis Brown, their son|
|Born Dec 1808, died 2 Jan 1809, aged 1 month.|
|Places of birth and death unknown, buried at St Mary's Church, Disley.|
|Elizabeth Brown, their daughter|
|She was born at either Disley or Norbury Farm, with Disley being more likely as she was baptised there. Date of birth unknown. She married Joseph Scott Moore at Manchester Cathedral on the 28 July1832.|
|Richard Hancock Brown, their son|
|Died at Altrincham, Cheshire, in 1858, aged 48 years.|
|Unknown Brown, brother of Thomas Brown|
|John Brown, son of the unknown Brown, and nephew of Thomas Brown|
|Thomas Brown, son of John Brown and grandnephew (and Godson) of Thomas Brown|
|James Brown, grandnephew of Thomas Brown|
Manchester and Salford Directories, 1828 to 1830
These directories list Thomas Brown as a surveyor with premises in Essex Street (St George's, Hulme) and residing at Sidney Street, Chorlton Row (off Oxford Road). He variously referred to himself as either a surveyor or as being of independent means. There are earlier references to him in 1817 and in 1819/20 but in both cases no occupation is given. In the former the address is 51 Quay Street and the latter is 18 Velvet Street.
1841 Census, 6/7 June
Piece HO 107/580/7, Folio 8.
Enumeration Districts 13 and 15 covered Ardwick Green (South).
16 Ardwick Green (South), Chorlton on Medlock
|Name||Age||Occupation||Born in Lancs|
|Richard (Hancock) Brown||30||Clerk||No|
|Sarah Billingham||50||Female Servant||No|
|Ann Jones||65||Female Servant||No|
|Sarah Hadfield||20||Female Servant||No|
Thomas Brown was not listed, so it is reasonable to suppose that he was working away at the time.
Piece HO 107/580/19, Folio 7. Enumeration District 34
Green Hill, Chorlton on Medlock
|Name||Age||Occupation||Born in Lancs|
|James Meadows (Junior)||33||Canal Agent||Yes|
|Sarah Ellen Meadows||7||Yes|
|Esther Kinder||31||Female Servant||No|
|Mary Hitchins||18||Female Servant||No|
The census return for James Meadows Junior has been included because he was a colleague and friend of Thomas Brown and also one of his Executors.
Manchester and Salford Directories, 1851 and 1861
Even though Thomas died in 1850, he was still listed in the 1851 directory. This confirms his address of 16 Ardwick Green, Chorlton on Medlock. James Meadows Junior had moved to 13 York Place, Oxford Street and had become the manager of the Rochdale Canal Company.
The 1861 directory lists two Browns living in the same area of Chorlton on Medlock. One was a Mr Thomas Brown residing at 16 Monton Street, Green Heys, and the other was Thomas Brown, agent, residing at 14 Green Hill Street, Green Heys. It is tempting to speculate that one of these was the grandnephew and Godson of Thomas.
The Surname 'Hancock'
Two of Thomas' children, John and Richard, were given the second name of 'Hancock'. It was common practice to adopt the mother's maiden name as a second name for children. Their first names of John and Richard were those of his brothers-in-law, John and Richard Hancock. John Hancock was a Liverpool merchant and Richard Hancock was a Manchester merchant. When John Hancock died he left Thomas a large silver cup.
The Will of Thomas Brown
The Will of Thomas Brown, late of Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester, in the County of Lancaster, Gentleman deceased, was proved at London with three Codicils on 8 February 1850.
It was necessary to prove Thomas's Will at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London because he held property in more than one diocese in which case it had to be proved by an archbishop, rather than by a diocesan bishop. Even so, following its proving, it went before the Diocese of Chester to prove the value of his property at Disley. Only then, on the 25 February 1850, was Probate finally granted to the Executors, James Meadows Junior, Joseph Scott Moore and Alan Royle.
His Will is deposited at Lancashire Record Office.
The Township of Disley in the County of Chester
An early occurrence of Disley as an English place name was in 1285, in the form Distislegh. By 1288 it was Distelee and in 1308 it was Disteslegh. By the beginning of the 19th century it was known in its present form of Disley. Other variations are Distley, Dysley Dene and Dystelegh-Stanlegh. For administrative purposes the village was in the Hundred of Macclesfield and for church purposes it was a Chapelry of the Parish of Stockport.
Sir Piers Legh of Lyme founded the Church of St Mary the Virgin. Building work commenced in 1510 and it was completed in 1524. A 'Humble Pettition' presented by the inhabitants of Disley Dene and Sir Peter Legh resulted in the consecration of St Mary's as the parish church on the 23 July 1558.
Disley is on the A6 trunk road about 2½ miles south of Marple and close by is the famous Lyme Hall at Lyme Handley, which was formerly owned by the Legh family. The river Goyt and the Peak Forest Canal both lie to the east of the village while the Macclesfield Canal is to the west.
|The chest tomb of Thomas Brown and his family outside the entrance to St Mary's Church, Disley, 2002.
The memorial inscription in the top reads:
IN MEMORY OF
THOMAS BROWN OF MANCHESTER
who died January 24th 1850, Aged 78 years.
ELIZABETH HIS WIFE, who died
August 7th 1830, Aged 55 years.
THOMAS their Son, who died
September 12th 1802, Aged 11 Months.
JOHN HANCOCK their Son, who died
August 4th 1805, Aged 1 year and 3 Months.
FRANCES their daughter, who died
March 11th 1808, Aged 5 years.
FRANCIS their Son, who died
January 2nd 1809, Aged 1 Month.
WILLIAM their Son, who died
September 6th 1862, Aged 56 years.
|Brabyns Change Bridge, Marple locks, early 20th century.
A boat, loaded with limestone, has just passed through lock 8 on its way down the flight. Above the bridge stands Oldknow's warehouse and a lock-keeper's house is on the right.
|A painting of Marple Aqueduct, c.1809.
The piers are built of red sandstone; rough hewn from the nearby Hyde Bank Quarry and the upper part is of white-hewn masonry. The abutments widen in well-proportioned curves and batter or diminish upwards in the same manner. The skillful use of architectural features such as pierced spandrels and stringcourses, arch rings and pilasters of ashlar stone, oval piers and stone of different type and colour have created a graceful structure, which is superlative in its class.
Its position amidst the wooded valley of the Goyt give it a bold and romantic character and it is deservedly scheduled as an ancient monument.
|Marple Lime Works, early 20th century.
The lime kilns actually included dwellings and the 1881 census shows that there were nine of these. It is not known whether or not Samuel Oldknow incorporated these into the original design or if they were a later addition.
The 1901 census shows that some of these dwellings were still occupied at the beginning of the 20th century. Gravestones in All Saints' churchyard bear the names of people whose addresses were given as The Lime Kilns.
Acknowledgements and thanks are due to the following for sources of information:
Lancashire Record Office.
Greater Manchester County Record Office.
Cheshire Archives & Local Studies.
Macclesfield Local History Library.
Stockport Local Heritage Library.
Manchester Central Library, Local Studies Unit.
The Genealogical Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Manchester Register Office.
The Family History Society of Cheshire, for assistance with the interpretation of Thomas Brown's Will.
Manchester District Probate Registry.
The late Jack Brady, former Chairman of the Peak Forest Canal Society Ltd, for extracts from the Manchester Mercury and photographs.