St James Gatley
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HIGH GROVE HOUSE. Photo. c. 1890. This Georgian mansion was formally located at the junction of the present Buttermere Road and Grasmere Road. Jeremiah Bower, a wealthy hatter of Yorkshire and Manchester, bought the beautiful High Grove estates for his son Samuel for £4,400 in 1756. The vendor was John Ryle of Torkington, Stockport, whose family had been in the High Grove area for generations. He was a direct descendant of the John Ryle of High Grove referred to on p.25. Jeremiah died in 1756, and it was either he or his son Samuel who built the mansion, adopting a style similar to that of the Bower’s town houses in Manchester. (1) The estate remained with the Bower family for several generations, and the wills of Samuel dated 1793, Benjamin dated 1811, and Mary dated 1836 in the Lancashire and Cheshire C.R.O.s will be useful to historians.
In 1840 the estate passed from Mary Bower to a distant kinsman, who is listed in the 1841 Census returns as living at High Grove. His name was Jeremiah Bowers and his age was given as 65. We also know that a Benjamin Bower owned it in 1880, because it is on record that he donated all the oak for the doors, altar rail, screen, and floor of St James Church, built 1880 -1, from his High Grove estate. From 1877 to 1884, the mansion was occupied by Hugh Arthur Birley who was a warden of St James, and who with John Baker was largely instrumental in the building of St James. A Mrs Ann Mann, who lived at the old coachman’s cottage just below the house from 1934 to 1937, has written us to say that she was once informed that during the 1914-18 war the estate was purchased by the Darrah family, one of whose sons occupied the mansion. They converted the Lower House farm buildings into three labourers’ cottages, and went in for extensive pig rearing, -so extensive that the area became known as ‘The Piggery’, a name we still hear used in the High Grove area occasionally, without, we hasten to assure the reader, any justification other than historical.
In 1936 the artist L. S. Lowry came along the rough country track to the High Grove, and must have been impressed by the old mansion, because he paused at about the spot now occupied by the row of shops to the left of the High Grove Hotel, and made a pencil drawing of it which he entitled, ’The Old House, Gatley’. This was later published in a book of his collected drawings which will be found in many public libraries. (2) Mr Leslie Worthington and his wife Mabel farmed this estate towards the end of its life, and Mr Walter Grange was the last farmer before the estate was sold and the house demolished around 1960.
The scanned images above are of the prospectus when the estate was put up for sale in 1912
This article is taken from ‘A Pictorial History of the Parish of St James the Apostle’ written in1979 by Teretta and Frank Mitchell and published by the Vicar and Church Wardens of St James, Church in 1981 to celebrate the centenary of its consecration.