From Heap to Heath

If you ask people to name a Newton Heath brew, they would probably say Wilson’s, but there was another, perhaps less well-known local brewery, close to the Failsworth boundary.William Thomas Rothwell was born at the curiously named Spout Bank in Heap, near Bury, in 1844, the son of farmer John and his wife Martha. It seems William did not wish to follow his father into farming, because by 1870 he is listed as secretary of the Bury Brewery Company, founded in 1861 on George Street. The 1871 Census gives his occupation as ‘innkeeper and brewer’ living at 96 Georgiana Street, round the corner from the brewery.

A couple of years later, he had moved to Heath House, 800 Oldham Road, Newton Heath, at the corner of Droylsden Road, and had opened the adjacent Heath Brewery, first listed in 1873. The access road into the yard was later named Rothwell Street, as the brewery expanded.William’s brother Frederick joined him in the business, living across the road on Dob Lane, Failsworth, but suffered a fatal accident on 10 July 1886, when a wort pan boiled over, badly scalding him from the neck down. He was taken to William’s house but despite being attended by doctors, died 3 days later; he was only 33.

William became a Conservative councillor and alderman for Newton Ward (even years after his death the brewery and its products were known by locals as Alderman Rothwell’s). He was on the committee of the ‘Bimetallic League’ and published a booklet on the subject in 1890. This was an organisation whose aim was to create a fixed international ratio between gold and silver for currency stability.

Long a campaigner for free education and trustee of the Mechanics’ Institute, in 1891 he attended the official opening of Newton Heath library next to the town hall on Oldham Road (roughly where the Gateway is now), having contributed to its creation.

He raised funds for a scholarship in Economics at the university, and to an archaeological dig (in 1907) in Reifi, where Sir William Flinders had excavated the tombs of two Egyptian brothers, dating from around 1900-1700 B.C. They were said to be the finest non-royal burials ever found in the area and the mummies were brought to Manchester Museum in 1908.

William died in Harrogate in 1921. The brewery continued under his son, Herbert, who in the 1890s and early 1900s had also been an amateur footballer. He played full-back for Newton Heath Athletic, was captain of the Glossop North End team and later played both for Lincoln and (after 1902), Manchester United. Herbert retired from the brewery in the 1930’s and died in 1955.Rival brewers Wilson’s had far more tied houses than Rothwells, who had only 40 or 50; mostly around Newton Heath and Failsworth with a handful in places such as Ashton, Oldham or Stalybridge. A few of these disappeared early in the 20th century, such as the Farmyard Tavern (which it was, literally) on Ten Acres Lane, which closed in 1917. However, quite a few former Rothwells pubs have survived, although you would be forgiven for not recognising them as such.

In 1961, the Heath Brewery was bought by Marston, Thompson and Evershed, who continued brewing Rothwell’s beers but began re-signing the pubs as Marston houses: this gave the Burton brewery its first ‘foot in the door’ in the Manchester area. Brewing ceased in 1968 and the main buildings were demolished soon afterwards, although part of the site was used as a depot for Marston’s, until the mid-1970s. Rothwell Street still exists, with a scrapyard (opened in the 1980s) now on the brewery site, but retaining a wall of one of the buildings.Despite the takeover, many of the pubs still sported Rothwell signage, in tilework, over doorways, or in etched glass windows, for many years. Although refurbishment has removed all traces of their previous ownership nowadays, surviving pubs include the New Crown (Newton Heath), Fox Inn (Stalybridge) and the Wheatsheaf, Pack Horse, Bay Horse, Mare & Foal, Cotton Tree and Dutch Birds (all in Failsworth).The Black Horse in 2009

Most of these are now Marston’s or free houses and most have been extended or rebuilt – etched glass windows have long gone, replaced by double glazing. The last pub to retain the Rothwell signage, as far as I can ascertain, was the Black Horse on Oldham Road, Failsworth, which sadly was demolished in 2009. Though painted over in black, the ‘Rothwell’s Ales & Stout’, in tiled relief above the windows, could just be made out.

Pint of the Alderman’s Ale, anyone?

When I’m Sixty-four…commercial TV, that is.

Television is almost as old as radio, experiments beginning in the early 1900s. From September 1929, the BBC issued test transmissions “by the Baird process” daily at 11am and on 14 July 1930 sent out the first trial of a scripted play.Regular TV broadcasts in the London area began in 1936, only ceasing when war broke out, as it was feared the signal might act as a beacon for enemy aircraft. Normal service, to quote a common phrase, was resumed in 1946 with broadcasts now relayed across the nation. Of course, news and entertainment could always be had from the well-established wireless (radio) programmes.Before telly – Dad tunes in the trusty wireless in December 1939, wondering if the war will be over soon

The real boost to domestic TV came in 1953 when the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II became the first such occasion to be televised live. My parents were among those who rented a 12-inch set, mounted in a nice walnut-veneer cabinet. This would typically cost around 13s (65p) a week to rent, or about £65 to buy (over 2 months pay for many people). Most chose to rent, being cautious about the reliability of these early sets, not to mention their relatively high cost. By 1960, the same £65 would buy you a 21-inch set, complete with a set of legs.

Independent Television (ITV) made its debut in November 1955 in London and the Midlands, giving viewers two novel experiences – a choice of channels (wow) and TV advertising. The existing BBC programmes used a pair of frequencies, one for the video signal and one for audio, together known as Channel 2. Now, with a new set or by plugging in a ‘channel adaptor’, we had Channel 9 as well.

The new network consisted of four regional franchises, co-ordinated by Associated Rediffusion, who oversaw the relaying of programmes from one area to another. All the broadcasts, of either channel, were in monochrome only, using a 405-line screen scanning resolution (low definition by modern standards but actually quite good quality).

Manchester had to wait until Thursday, 3 May 1956 when Granada TV put out its first broadcast from the brand-new studios on Quay Street, via a regional transmitter at Winter Hill. This prompted another rush to acquire TV sets. My family had recently moved to New Moston from Salford so it gave them the excuse to upgrade to a 17-inch set, with a channel knob!Lying face down in front of the fire, chin on hands, I goggled up at the new set. To be honest, I can’t personally remember what was on, but newspaper reports said it was an introductory live show hosted by American presenter, Quentin Reynolds, who (it turned out) was blind drunk; only some timely ad-libbing by guest Arthur Askey saved the show. Fifteen minutes in brought the first advert (for chocolate) and a quip from Arthur, “don’t worry – it’s not all as bad as this!”

The new channel soon settled into a routine and, as well as a crop of H-shaped VHF aerials, spawned another magazine, the TV Times, launched in 1956 and quite separate from the Radio Times (founded in 1923). They cost 4d and 3d respectively.Covers of Radio Times and TV Times, both from 1956

Programmes on either channel were still very sparse, as a typical listing for Monday, 6 May 1956, shows:-


3:00pm Countrywise; 3:45pm Watch With Mother; 4:00pm Close Down; 5:00pm Childrens Programmes; 7:00pm News & Weather, with Newsreel and Highlight; 7:30pm Adventures of the Big Man; 8:00pm What’s My Line?; 8:30pm Panorama; 9:15pm Festival of British Popular Songs; 10:00pm News & Weather; 10:15pm Soviet Visit; 10:30pm Close Down


4:00pm Travelling Eye; 5:00pm Monday Club (Roy Rogers, Space Club and Sportspot); 5:55pm News; 6:00pm Close Down; 7:00pm News, then Count of Monte Cristo; 7:30pm I’ve Got a Secret; 8:00pm Seagulls Over Sorrento (play); 9:30pm Cross Current; 10:00pm Weather, then Liberace; 10:30pm Pub Corner; 10:45pm News; 11:00pm Close Down

“Watch With Mother” was my personal pre-school favourite. This 15-minute afternoon slot had a different theme each weekday. Monday was Picture Book, Tuesday Andy Pandy, Wednesday Bill and Ben, Thursday Rag, Tag and Bobtail, with The Woodentops on Friday. Who remembers Looby Loo, Little Weed and Spotty Dog? Ah, such innocence…Living room TV, 1960s style (photo by Steve Wilson)

In the mornings just a test card would be shown. After the last evening programme, the screen would gradually shrink to a small white dot, followed by blackness and an irritating whine, to remind viewers who may have nodded off to turn off their sets!

Now, we have 24-hour, high-definition colour and over 480 channels. Back on Christmas Day 1953, the first of the Queen’s afternoon speeches went on air. It is perhaps pertinent to reflect on this continued tradition and the huge changes in media technology that have come about during the reign of one monarch.

Hough Hall – a patchy history

Patchy, because some epochs of this building’s past are lost in obscurity, and because in its present state it is in dire need of patching up.

If you are unfamiliar with its name, you are probably not alone; many Moston residents pass by Hough Hall Road, next to Moston Lane Primary School, and barely glance at the rather ramshackle building just behind it.

Yet this is a real piece of history, right on our doorstep. Given its age and sometimes unsympathetic usage, it is a remarkable survival.

Sketch of Hough Hall as it appeared in the 1850s

Almost certainly from the late Elizabethan period or earlier, the first documented reference to this hall is in an inventory of Robert Halgh (variously spelt Halghe or Hough) dated 1591, although the estate was considerably older. Though it is not certain that the building then was the same as the present one, it seems likely, given its general style and fittings.

The last of the line was another Robert, whose will was proven in 1685. Later owners included the Lightbownes, Minshulls, ‘Spanking’ Roger Aytoun and the Taylors, of Crofter’s Estate fame. Perhaps less well known is its subsequent history.

By 1838 it was held by farmer Thomas Thorp, a tenant of Samuel Taylor’s, and (typical of the period) was home both to Thorp’s family and his farm labourers. One of these, John Brundrett, had taken over the tenancy by 1850 and in 1851 it was stated to have 39 acres of land attached and “one house building” (possibly Hough House, on the opposite side of the road). Brundrett became the Poor Law Guardian for Moston the following year.Rear view of the hall from a newspaper clip in 1949

In 1863, the tenancy passed to Mary Mills, whose sister Ann took over the following year and farmed there until 1876, the land by then having been reduced to 30 acres.

The hall was purchased outright in 1877 by Robert Ward of Manchester, tanner and manufacturer of moleskins, cords and velvets, who used it for his workshop. By 1881 he was living there himself, with his wife Sarah and children, while his brother (and business partner) James lived at Hough House.

Robert evidently dabbled in property, since in 1884 he was renting out a butcher’s shop on Ashley Lane. At some stage during his occupation, the house was enlarged by adding a third gable at the western end. It seems he also sold off the parcel of land on which Moston Lane County Primary School was built, opening in 1899.Photograph of the hall around 1900. Note the added side door and right-hand gable

Robert died in February 1904, leaving the estate to his son John and daughters Elizabeth and Ann, but his widow Sarah and another daughter, Amy, continued living at the hall up to 1919.

In July 1921, the hall was sold to Dr. William Struthers Moore of Glasgow, who passed it on to Gerald Green, another medical practitioner, listed as resident from 1933 to 1939, and possibly longer. By 1944 it had been acquired by Eleanor Nesfield, a cosmetics manufacturer and distributor for Del Vost foundation cream. The hall seems to have served as house, office, works and warehouse. This company was advertised up to 1949, at least.Advertisement in the ‘Chemist and Druggist Supplement’  of 22 March 1947

The 1950s is another ‘patchy’ period, but the building changed hands again in March 1963, possibly to Peter Gobbi and John Leslie Clough, who were certainly there by 1968. These were brothers-in-law who ran a coal business from the premises and, in 1972, added further outbuildings behind the hall.

The rental from these offset the mortgage payments and gave space to other small businesses, such as CGC Services Ltd, car repairers. Later, Gobbi and Clough Ltd responded to changing fuel markets by selling bottled gas.

When the partners retired in 2003, it was sold to the present owner, who was resident until about 2016, but whose present circumstances are somewhat mysterious. Suffice to say the hall is currently lying semi-derelict, prey to urban explorers and vandals alike, and sadly becoming increasingly dilapidated.The hall today (2019)

Since the 1940s, notably in 2005, there have been repeated attempts to find interested parties who could help preserve and restore Moston’s own ‘hidden gem’, but so far to no avail, despite a Grade II listing by English Heritage in 1974.

Having survived over 400 years of weather, wars and woodworm, what a crying shame it would be if it were lost now, through neglect.

— further reading —

The early history of the hall is well documented in A History of the Ancient Chapel of Blackley (Rev. John Booker, 1854) and in Fr. Brian Seale’s excellent book The Moston Story (1983).