Scott Family

of Peel St, Denton, Lancashire,
and of Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel

The Scott family was one of Denton’s greatest benefactors.

The Revd Lawrence Scott was born at Brighton, Sussex, on the 21 Jun 1844 to Russell Scott (3 Feb 1801-18 Apr 1880) and Isabella Civil Prestwich (7 Jul 1813-23 Aug 1894) who were married at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, on the 12 Sep 1832. He married Mary Banks at Hampstead on the 29 Jan 1889. He was the Minister at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel, Denton, from 1879 until his death in 1930. In 1881 he was resident with his widowed mother on Manchester Rd, Denton. Following his marriage he moved to Peel House, 41 Peel St, Denton, and his mother moved to Broomfield, Reddish, Stockport, where she died on the 23 Aug 1894, aged 81 years. Lawrence Scott died at Denton on the 25 Nov 1930, aged 86 years, and his wife died at Denton on the 4 Mar 1931, aged 76 years.

Lawrence’s brother, Charles Prestwich Scott MA Oxon (Nov 1846-1 Jan 1932), who was born at Bath, Somerset, and he was the editor of the Manchester Guardian from 1872 until 1929 and its proprietor from 1907. He was the MP for Leigh, Lancashire, from 1895 until 1906.

Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel opened on the 24 May 1879 and the Revd Lawrence Scott was the Minister there for 51 years. Shortly after her husband's death, Isabella Civil Scott was attending a service at the chapel, being given by her son, when she realised that there was a need for Day Schools as well as a Sunday School. Consequently, she built the Russell Scott Memorial Schools in memory of her husband. The foundation stone was laid on the 3 September 1881 by Miss Isabella Scott (17 Nov 1834-21 Jun 1932), Lawrence's sister, of Norcliffe Hall, Styal, Cheshire, and its building was funded by Isabella Civil Scott, Lawrence Scott and certain of his friends. A time capsule was placed in a special cavity in the foundation stone, which contained copies of local newspapers, the Manchester Guardian of the preceding Saturday's date, a number of current coins, a programme and poster of the day's proceedings, a list of teachers, scholars and officers of the Sunday School, a list of Congregation members, officers and Minister of the Chapel and a history of the Unitarian Movement in Denton. The schools were opened on the 22 Jul 1882 by Richard Peacock JP of Gorton Hall and partner in Beyer Peacock, steam locomotive manufacturers of Gorton, and it was stipulated that it was to be strictly undenominational, in spite of its close connection with the adjoining Unitarian Chapel. In 1883 Isabella Civil Scott provided new playgrounds by the school and over the next 20 years the Scott family augmented the school's annual income. Besides taking a great interest in the welfare of the pupils, she also provided a cottage at Woodford for the rest and recreation of teachers and later another one at the seaside.

The first headmaster was William Willis, who held this post until 1924. He was known to generations of pupils as 'Bangy' Willis because he was a stern disciplinarian enforced by his prowess with the cane. When Mr Willis was appointed as headmaster in the latter part of 1881, classes were held in the chapel and there were 44 children and one teacher and when he retired in 1924 the schools had grown to 515 children and eight teachers. Qualified assistants supplemented the certificated teachers.

William Willis was born at Liverpool in 1861 and he married Anne Maria Lightfoot at Bakewell in 1888. The couple had three children all born at Denton, Frederick William (b.1890), Florence Mary (b.1892) and Russell (b.1894) who was named after Russell Scott.

His sister, Ada Mary Willis, became a pupil teacher at the new schools at the age of 14 years and by 1901 she was an assistant teacher there. His son, Second Lieutenant Russell Willis of the 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment was killed in action in France on the 25 October 1914, aged 19 years. He is buried at the Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, France (X.G.3.). Although Russell was born at Denton his home address at the time was given as Dawlish Rd, Wallasey, Cheshire. He is commemorated on Denton War Memorial and on the Roll of Honour at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel.

The second longest serving headmaster at the schools is Sidney Pitt who was appointed when William Willis retired in 1924. Sidney (aka Sydney) Pitt was born at Mottram in Longdendale on the 4 May 1893 to William Pitt and Jane Garnett who were married at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1885. He married Alice Turner (b.23 Aug 1895) at St Lawrence’s Church, Denton, in 1923.

On the 17 Jul 1886, the Scott family opened a hall opposite to the memorial schools, known as the People's Hall. They had recognised that there was a need in Denton for a public meeting place and decided to do something about it. There were rooms behind the platform that were equipped for the teaching of cookery and the schools used the hall as a gymnasium and for drill. Because of this, it was sometimes known as the Drill Hall but more affectionately it was referred to as 'Th' Owd Barn'. Besides the new hall, recreation facilities and lawn tennis courts were also provided on adjacent ground.

Richard Peacock of Gorton Hall performed the opening ceremony in the presence of the Scott family and other dignitaries. Sir Henry Roscoe, the Manchester MP and eminent scientist was to attend but he was called away to London on urgent business. He sent his congratulations and offered to give one or more science lectures should they be needed.

The schools and hall were actually built on Dudley St which continued on the opposite side of Wilton St where houses had been built. However, in c.1920 the part of the street that contained the schools and hall was renamed Prestwich St in honour of Isabella Civil Scott née Prestwich.

Russell Scott Memorial Schools closed in 1981 and were demolished shortly afterward. The original school bell was saved and it is now at the replacement Russell Scott Primary School on Clare St.

The Scott family also had a home at Criccieth in North Wales and Maggie Anne Edwards of nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog moved to Denton to become the companion of Lawrence Scott's wife, Mary Banks. Maggie subsequently married Fred Kenworthy and she ran the shop, a general store, at 60 Wilton St, which was on the corner of Queen St. Fred was a lay preacher at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel for many years as well as being its treasurer.

Russell Scott. Isabella Civil Scott née Prestwich, wife of Russell Scott.
The Revd Lawrence Scott, son of Russell Scott and Isabella Civil Prestwich. The last known photograph of the Revd Lawrence Scott taken shortly before his death.
Russell Scott Memorial Schools, Prestwich St, Denton, May 1978.

The foundation stone for Russell Scott Memorial Schools, May 1978.

The stone was located to the right of the school entrance on Prestwich St. It shows that it was laid on the 3 September 1881 and 'IS' is the monogram of Isabella Scott.

Memorial stone to Russell Scott over the school entrance on Prestwich St, May 1978.
It reads:


Norcliffe Hall, Styal, Cheshire, where Isabella Scott was living at the time that she laid the foundation stone of Russell Scott Memorial Schools.

Norcliffe Hall was built by the Greg family and it was the home of Robert Hyde Greg.

Peel House, Peel St, Denton, the former home of the Revd Lawrence Scott and his family, May 1978.

The house is seen here shortly before it was demolished to make way for the M67 motorway.

The rear of Peel House, May, 1978.

William 'Bangy' Willis, the first headmaster at Russell Scott Memorial Schools.

He was assisted by Mr 'Greeny' Greenhalgh and other known teachers at the time were Mrs Fidler, Miss Humphries, Miss Mary Mathieson, Miss Wharton and Miss Winterburn.

Sidney Pitt, the second headmaster at Russell Scott Memorial Schools.

Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel, on the corner of Wilton St and Prestwich St, May 1999.

The building to the right of the chapel is the Scott Memorial Hall.