‘Our House’: Warren Bulkeley Arms Hotel, Stockport

This week’s postcard has the Warren Bulkeley Arms Hotel in Stockport on the front of it. The Warren Bulkeley was named in honour of Viscount Warren Bulkeley (1752-1822), who was the son-in-law of Stockport landowner Sir George Warren. Warren had built the first water-powered cotton mill in Stockport.

Viscount Warren Bulkeley (1752-1822)

The picture you see on the front of this week’s postcard is not actually the original building. The original building was situated on Warren Street and was built sometime at the end of the eighteenth century.

An 1897 map of Stockport showing the location of the pub

At the latter end of the nineteenth century, the original Warren Bulkeley Inn was demolished and a new one was built on the corner of George Street and Warren Street.

Just a small point, the Warren Bulkeley Arms is called an inn in the early/mid-nineteenth century and then by the end of the nineteenth century it is called a hotel. I will use the same terminology as per the source material, however, I just wanted to make it clear in case it gets a little confusing.

Like the White Lion, which was the subject of last week’s blog, the Warren Bulkeley was more than just a place that sold beer. It was also a place where bankruptcies were heard, it was an auction house, a meeting room and even a magistrates court.

A 1813 newspaper advertisement for a ball at the Inn

The first keeper of the Warren Bulkeley Arms that I can find in the nineteenth century is William Higginson, he takes over the Inn four years before the above ball. Previously to running the Inn, William had been the keeper of the Crown and Anchor, Stockport.

William remained the proprietor of the establishment until his death in 1823. Following his death, his wife Frances took over the running of the Inn. She remained the proprietor until her son, Joseph Morton Higginson, took over in the early 1840s. Frances died in 1842. She left a sizeable sum of £1000 to her son.

Joseph was born in 1807. He was baptised on 11 October of that year at St Mary’s Church, Stockport. In 1843, he married a Manchester girl named Sarah Young Marsh.

Joseph died in 1854 and is buried at St Mary’s Church, Stockport. The next proprietors of the Inn were Charles and Mary Leah. Charles had some experience of managing inns. Before moving to the Warren Bulkeley, he had kept the Old Admiral Inn on Hillgate, Stockport.

In 1847, Charles was brought up at the Borough Court for failing to provide a soldier on military duty with a bed and room of his own. The Bench found that he should have found the man a bed to himself but not a room. He was fined 40s., which was the lowest fine he could have received.

The Old Admiral is now demolished, however, it used to stand on the corner of Middle Hillgate. This photograph was taken in 1960 by H. Lees. The only visible sign that it was a pub is the grand door
© Stockport Archives

Charles Leah appears at the address on both the 1851 and 1861 censuses. The latter census revealed that Charles employed two waiters, a barmaid, a cook and a chambermaid. Two years after the 1861 census, Charles died. He is also buried at St Mary’s Church.

A late Victorian / early Edwardian image of St Mary’s Church, Stockport.

The next keeper of the Warren Bulkeley was Phillip Mason. Phillip, his wife Jane and their eight children were from Manchester. They appear at the address on the 1871 census. A year after the census was taken the Mason family left the pub and moved to Manchester. Sadly, Jane Mason died in 1878. Two years after her death, Phillip married Rachel Syers at St Peter’s Church in Manchester. The 1881 census reveals that the couple, alongside three of Phillip’s children, are living at Broughton Bowling Club, Salford, where Phillip was a steward. By the next census, the family have left Salford and are living in North Wales, which is where they remained until Phillip’s death in 1909.

Following Phillip Mason’s departure, the next proprietor of the Warren Bulkeley was William Frederick Mitchell, who took over in 1872 and left sometime before 1877.

Now, it does appear that 1877 was not a good year for the Bulkeley, as it features several times in both the local and national press. The first time it appears in the national press is when it’s mentioned as part of a high profile divorce. Ellen Firth (nee Holdsworth) looked to divorce her husband William Frederick Mitchell (the landlord of the pub) on the grounds of adultery. Divorce in the 1870s was usually limited to the wealthy, and therefore it’s most unusual to have someone of Mitchell’s class seeking a divorce. The couple had been married since 1862. Their wedding took place at the Old Church, Halifax. Following the marriage, the couple managed the White Bull Hotel, Blackburn, where they had one son called Henry Holdsworth Mitchell. As mentioned above, in 1872, William left his wife and son to run the Warren Bulkeley. It was alleged by his wife and servants that worked at the establishment, that William was having an affair with a woman named Annie Stott. It transpired that the servants in the pub actually thought that Annie was his wife.

A copy of William Frederick Mitchell’s and Ellen Holdsworth’s marriage certificate

Ellen was granted her separation from William and she also got custody of the couple’s son. Following the divorce, Ellen remained in Blackburn running the Old Bull Hotel – I think that this is a different pub from the White Bull that she had managed previously. What William did after the separation is not as clear. I know that he left Stockport in 1877. I could not find him on the next (1881) census, however, a person with the same name, same year of birth and same place of birth, appears on the 1891 census living in Liverpool. I therefore think that William left Stockport, moved to Liverpool and took up a new occupation as an undertaker. He also went on to remarry; his new wife was called Emily and she was 20 years his junior. He also became a father again, as the couple went on to have four children. Sadly, (maybe not so much if you were his ex-wife), William died a year after the 1891 census was taken.

One thing that all the landlords mentioned in this blog have in common is that they were all Freemasons. Charles Leah joined in 1852 and it seems that William joined in 1872. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the pub was a regular meeting place for the secretive group. James Henry Firth, who was the next keeper of the hotel, was also a Mason. He joined in 1876. They were also all members of the Peace Lodge and it is likely that knew each other.

James, his wife Elizabeth Jane Firth (nee Goodale), and his children; Nellie, Sarah, Annie, Tom and Atkinson, had moved to Stockport from Salford, where James had his own shop on Regent Road.

On 27 July 1877, the local newspaper reported that James had helped catch a conman who was travelling around pubs in Stockport and was taking money from landlords under false pretences. By the time he arrived at the Warren Bulkeley, he had stolen money from four other landlords. When the conman got to the door of the pub, clearing knowing that it was a meeting place for Freemasons, he gave James the Freemason’s sign for ‘help’. However, something did not sit right with the landlord so he asked the conman a Freemason’s question, which he got wrong. Convinced he was an imposter, the conman was reported and then taken into custody, where it was revealed that his name is John Dunn. At his trial, it came out that he had visited 14 other pubs, where his request for money had been denied. Also at his trial, he gave his address as a place in Manchester, which turned out to be a warehouse. Dunn did eventually plead guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to six months and two days in Knutsford gaol.

Knutsford Prison

Also in 1877, the Warren Bulkeley appeared in the newspaper again because of a drunken customer. Michael Heaneghan had been drinking in the pub and had got himself into a bit of state. James asked him to leave but Heaneghan refused. The police were called and the drunken man ended up in front of a judge at Stockport Borough Court, where he was found guilty of the charges put before him and was fined 5s and costs.

James Firth continued to run the pub until his death in 1887. He was only 47 years old. He left an estate of £464 3s 4d. to his wife Elizabeth. Following his death, Elizabeth took over as proprietor of the public house. She remained there until her retirement, which was sometime in the late 1890s. By the 1901 census, Elizabeth had left the pub and she is living with two of her sons on Kennerley Road, Cale Green. Elizabeth died in 1929. She left a sizeable fortune of £3455 17s. to her widowed daughter Nellie Walker Bennett.

Someone between 1908 and 1909, the Warren Bulkeley was taken over by John William Habgood and his wife Florence Habgood (nee Roby). The Habgoods were from Farnworth, Lancashire. John was the son of George Habgood who was a draper from Essex. The draper business must have been a success because by the time John’s father was in his 50s, he had made enough money to live off his own means.

John William Habgood married Florence Roby on 23rd October 1897 in Radcliffe

John Habgood had several jobs throughout his working life. He was employed as a warehouseman, a milliner and ladies outfitter, and a commercial traveller dealing in tea. In 1901, John appears on the Irish census living in Dublin. It appears he is in Ireland for work. His wife Florence and father are living at the family home in Radcliffe.

In 1905, John Habgood joined the Freemasons in Rochdale. He was a member of St Chad’s Lodge. Shortly after 1908, the Habgoods left Rochdale and moved into the Warren Bulkeley. Before the Habgoods agreed to purchase the pub, a traveller named Thomas Merrell, was negotiating to buy the premises for £1000. However, Merrell turned out to be a conman and the deal fell through…

The Manchester Guardian, 1908

Shortly after taking up occupancy, John Habgood applied for planning permission to change the vault of the pub into a parlour room and a separate room where luncheons could be made. The magistrates granted the application on the condition that both the luncheon bar and the parlour would be closed on a Sunday.

The 1911 Census reveals that John and Florence didn’t have any children. It further reveals that the Habgoods were employing four servants to help with the daily tasks of running a 13 roomed hotel. It is not clear if the Habgoods were living at the Warren Bulkeley during WWI, however, by 1921, the Hopwoods have left the Warren Bulkeley and are living in Blackpool. They remained in Blackpool until John’s death in 1941.

John Habgood’s probate record

During the interwar years, the hotel is regularly used as an auction house, selling properties from around Stockport. The properties varied from small terraces to imposing Victorian villas. A large semi-detached house on the prestigious Bramhall Lane in Davenport, would set you back £430. Whereas two houses on Small Street, Hilgate cost £120.

At the start of WWII, Frederick and Rhoda Smith (nee Turner) were running the hotel. Also working at the hotel were head barman Bartholomew Heyes and domestic servant Susan Stopford. Midway through the war, Tom Grantham, his wife Gladys and two daughters, Margaret and Valerie, move into the address.

The postwar years are somewhat obscure, however, by the 1980s the Warren Bulkeley had become derelict and was demolished. The frontage was saved and is now part of a shop that is situated further up the road.

© Michala Hulme 2020

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