Our House: Warren-De-Tabley Arms (Bells of Peover)

Warren-De-Tabley Arms

This week’s blog post is on the Warren-De-Tabley Arms, now known as the Bells of Peover. The pub was named after the local Lord of the Manor, most likely George Fleming Warren, 2nd Baron de Tabley (1811-1887). When the picture on the above postcard was taken, the pub was the home of the Bell family, who would reside at the address for over 65 years!

The pub opened in 1839, and the first occupants appear to be Peter Toft and his wife. Following Peter’s death in 1846, his wife took over the pub for a couple of years before a local sawyer named George Bell took over the occupancy in 1849 – a year after his marriage to Phoebe Whittaker.

George Bell married Phoebe Whittaker in 1848 at the church in Nether Peover

It is not clear if George Bell had any experience of running pubs. However, the venture proved so successful that by the 1860s, his brothers had joined the business, and they had a dozen pubs, each serving their own ‘Bell’ brew.

The 1871 Census reveals that George and his wife Phoebe had three children; William, Elizabeth and George, who all helped in the family business. Alongside brewing and selling beer, George was also Sexton of St Oswald’s Church, which he held for 50 years.

George remained at the pub until his death on 16th May 1898. The local newspaper reported that he died in his 80th year after a short illness.

Alderley & Wilmslow Advertiser

Only a week after his death, Phoebe sadly died. She was buried in the same plot as her husband in St Oswald’s Church.

The grave of George and Phoebe Bell in St Oswald’s Church

Following George’s death, his son William took over the pub and the brewery. William was born in 1848. In 1878, he married Alma Percival in Runcorn, and the couple went on to have ten children. William had a passion for cycling and motorcars. During his time at the Warren-De-Tabley Arms, he transformed the pub into a premier destination venue for cyclists and motor enthusiasts.

William was also part of the Tabley Troop of the Earl of Chester’s Yeomanry; he served with them for 21 years. He was also an excellent swordsman and won numerous awards in the sport – including two cups from the Duke of Westminster.

The 1901 census reveals that two of the Bell children (Arthur and William) are employed in the business. Two of their other children (Gilbert and George) are employed in a solicitors and a bank. The rest of the children are still at school.

Fanny Percival Bell & Walter Ormerod

In 1908, the couple’s oldest daughter, Fanny Percival, marries Walter Ormerod and the pair settle in Bowden, Altrincham. Only a year after the wedding, Fanny tragically committed suicide by shooting herself. She was only 20 years old. She is buried in the family church of St Oswald’s. Tragically, her husband Walter could not get over his wife’s death. On 28th December 1909, while in Southport, he used his gun license to purchase a gun. He then took a seat on the pier and shot himself, dying instantly.

London Evening Standard (29 December 1909)

By the 1911 census, William Bell had also died. The pub and brewery was now being run by William’s wife Alma and their son Victor.

Alma Bell continued to run the business for another four years when another tragic event shook the family. On 25th March 1915, Victor Bell took his own life. The day before his death, he kept asking his mother to go away with him, saying he couldn’t stay at the pub. Later that evening, Alma stayed with him while he went asleep. However, in the night, he started asking his mother to go away with him again. She stayed with him until 5.30am when he got up and washed. He left the house at just past 7.30am, telling his mother he was going for a walk. Alma saw him leave the house and head over towards the church. At about 7.45am, he called at a friends house and borrowed a bicycle. Sometime later, a porter named Samuel Hatton was riding to work, when he spotted an overcoat, cap and jacket in a field. He entered the field and saw a man standing in an upright position in a pit with water was passing over the crown of his head. Hatton went and got help, and they managed to pull the body from the pit. The body was later identified as Victor Bell. He was buried with his father and sister in St Oswald’s Church.

The death hit Alma hard. It was reported that she was too ill to attend the inquest. The day after Victor’s death, she announced she was retiring, and the pub was passed back to the owner, Captain Leicester Warren. 

St Oswald’s Church, Lower Peover

Over the next few years, the Warren-De-Tabley Arms had several different proprietors, including Sydney Frank Cake, who was an acting Sergeant Major during WWI. In the late 1920s, the pub was in the hands of the Blackshaw family and from the mid-1930s, the pub had a new licensee; George Savage and his wife, Victoria. George dies not long after taking over the pub, however, his wife Victoria carries on managing the hotel during WWII. The 1939 Register reveals that Victoria is living at the address with her two daughters Joan and Phoebe. It was during this period that the Warren-De-Tabley Arms changes its name to the Bells of Peover Hotel.

Surprisingly, in 1941, Joan sued her mother and sister over a car accident. Phoebe was driving her mother’s car when she crashed into a lorry, killing a passenger named Viola Edwards and injuring her sister, who was also present in the vehicle. According to Phoebe, she was driving at 30 mph, when the lorry appeared in front of her. She braked sharply and turned the car, but they failed to miss the lorry. She stated that it had no rear light – this was disputed in court. Joan argued that she sustained a permanent scar that would seriously prejudice her opportunities in the theatrical and film profession. The judge ruled that Phoebe Savage was negligent in failing to keep a ‘proper look out’, and her mother was also negligent as she owned the car. The family of Viola Edwards was awarded £4000, and Joan was awarded £1100.

Joan Savage on the stage

Joan was not the only actor to spend a night at the Bells of Peover. By the 1960s, visitors to the pub included General Eisenhower; General Patten; Vivien Leigh and comedian Leslie Henson. 

Viven Leigh

‘Our House’: White Hart Hotel, Cheadle, Stockport

For my last week in Stockport before we move onto pastures new, I have decided to stick with the pub theme. Therefore, this week’s Our House blog is a postcard of the White Hart in Cheadle. Sadly, the postcard was never sent, so I don’t have a date for the image.

The pub is situated in Cheadle, formally called Cheadle Buckley. Cheadle is now part of Stockport, however, it used to be part of the Macclesfield Hundred. In the thirteenth century, the Lord of Cheadle was Geoffrey De Dutton who acquired it by marriage to an heiress of the ‘Cheadle’ family. The whole of the manor was eventually obtained by the Bulkeley family – think back to last week’s blog on the Warren Bulkeley. After the death of James Viscount Bulkeley, the manor was sold to Rev. Thomas Egerton in 1756. In 1806, it was sold again to John Worthington.

Some of the earliest sources that I find that mention the hotel are adverts from the mid-eighteenth century. The adverts are promoting auction lots that were coming up at the pub.

Manchester Mercury (1789)

The first proprietor that I find at the hotel is John Downes and his wife Elizabeth. They are running the White Hart in the second half of the eighteenth century. By the start of the nineteenth century a man named John Davies was the proprietor. Davies was born in 1756 and died in 1816. Following his death, his wife Mary took over the pub.

Sometime in the early 1830s, the Parkinson family moved into the White Hart. During their time at the pub, it appeared in the local press as part of a daring highways robbery trial. The events began on 20th January 1843, when an organ grinder named George Coppock visited a pub in Salford. Coppock was asked by the landlord John Brough, if he would provide the pub with an organ at a reasonable price. Coppock agreed, and told the landlord that he one in Stockport. Brough and another man in the pub called Joseph Cantrill, decided to go with Coppock to Stockport to look at the organ. When the men reached Levenshulme, it was just after nine o’clock at night. They decided to stop in Levenshulme and visited the Pack Horse pub.

The Pack Horse pub, Levenshulme (1970s) © Manchester Libraries M50196

As soon as they left the pub, one of the men knocked Coppock to the ground and covered his eyes. Cantrill then cut Coppocks pocket from his coat which contained five sovereigns, eight half-crowns and some silver. Once the men had left, Coppock managed to get back to the Pack Horse and raise the alarm. The following day, the houses of both men were raided and it was found that they had new clothes and a sovereign. Mr Parkinson, manager of the White Hart, testified that the night of the robbery the two men stayed at the hotel. They asked him to keep safe five sovereigns and eight half-crowns, which he did and returned the money to them the following day. At a subsequent trial, both men were found guilty and sentenced to ten years transportation.

Seven years after the trial, William Leigh takes over the hotel. He lives at the address with his wife Ellen and five children.

1851 Census of England

In 1860, the pub is featured in the Cheshire Directory. The Directory states that Cheadle Buckley, was a ‘populous and well-built village’. In 1851, there were 1,147 houses occupied by 5,489 inhabitants. The proprietor of the pub at this time was Ann Hargreaves.

By 1861, the pub had changed hands again. The census that year revealed that Edward Anderson, his wife Sarah Annie and their two children, alongside three servants and a cook, are all living at the address. This is the only census that the Anderson family appear at the White Hart. Three years after the census was taken Edward Anderson died. He was only 34 years old.

The next proprietor was James Evans. Before taking over the White Hart, he had been the borough surveyor for Salford. Evan’s was born in 1804 in Somerset. By 1851, he was a widower living in Salford.

The grave of James Evans who died in 1869

James was only the proprietor for a few years. Sadly in 1869, he passed away. On the day of his funeral, his coffin was carried from the White Hart and into the church next door. Present at the funeral was Evan’s old Newfoundland dog, who stayed inside the church for the service and then was at the graveside for the committal. A local newspaper reported that the dog regularly visited Evan’s grave.

The next proprietor was William Atkinson Thornton, who was born in Manchester in 1840. In 1865, he married Elizabeth Wagstaff at St John’s Church in Manchester. It appears that Thornton was the proprietor of the hotel twice; first in the early 1870s and then again in the 1880s.

Midway through the 1870s, William Thornton had moved back to Manchester and was running the Alton House Hotel.

Manchester Evening News (1875)

Also during the 1870s, Thornton became a Freemason. He was 29 years old. He was a member of the Devonshire Lodge from 1871 to 1887.

By 1881, William Thornton and his family had left Manchester and were back at the White Hart. They are now employing three servants; Sarah Chesters, a general servant; George Stoodley, a groom and Mary Weaver who was a barmaid.

Mary Weaver was born in Manchester in 1857. In 1881, Weaver appeared in the local press when a butcher from Gatley named Charles Mallison was charged with assaulting her. It appears that Mallison was already drunk when he arrived at the White Hart. While he was in the bar, he approached Mary and put his arm around her waist. He then ‘used expressions which Miss Weaver thought very unbecoming’. Mary told him that she would not stand for that kind of behaviour and threw him out of the pub. Mallison left, but returned again a short time later and refused to leave. He was then apprehended and charged with assault, being drunk and refusing to ‘quit the house’. Mallison was subsequently found guilty and was ordered to pay 20s plus costs for the assault, and 10s plus costs for refusing to leave the hotel.

During the 1880s, the hotel was heavily associated with Manchester’s theatre scene. This is because Thornton was also a theatrical animal trainer. It is likely that he trained the famous ‘Monsieur Paulo’s performing dog troop’ and that is why he stayed at the White Hart.

Manchester Evening News (1882)
The Stage (1884)

In the autumn of 1884, Thornton was given a gift by a Captain Harrington. The gift was none other than a ‘gorilla monkey’. Thornton had trained the monkey to do tricks and become somewhat ‘domesticated’. However, in March 1885, the ‘gorilla’ escaped from its cage. One of the hotel waiters was sent to catch him, however, the monkey (apparently) didn’t recognise the waiter and attacked him. His screams, attracted the attention of Thornton who came rushing to his aid. The monkey then turned on Thornton, inflicting a deep wound on his face. Thornton put his hand up to protect himself. Seeing his hand, the monkey lunged and bit off the top of one of his fingers. The monkey was eventually caught and was put to sleep.

Thornton also exported show dogs aboard. In 1889, a fox terrier that he had purchased from the dog loving Sir Humphrey de Trafford, which was due to be sent to Brussels, was stolen from the White Hart. Thornton offered a sizeable reward of £5 for its return.

Sadly, in 1885, William Thornton’s wife Elizabeth died. Every year, on the anniversary of her death, her husband took out a memorandum in the local newspaper.

Manchester Evening News 1904

Two years after her death, an inquest was held at the White Hart. The deceased was a man named Edward Laycock, who was a department manager at A. & S, Henry & co. He lived in Cheadle with his with his sister and niece. Apparently, the day before his death, he had gone to work as normal, returning home at 2pm. He then remained at home and to bed at 10pm. When Laycock’s niece went to give him cup of tea the following morning, she found blood splattered around the room and her uncle was dead in his bed. After hearing all the evidence, the jury at the inquest ruled that Laycock had died from a burst blood vessel.

In 1898, the hotel appeared in the press when a local man named Henry Nadin stole a bicycle from one of the sheds. Two other bikes were also stolen in Cheadle at the same time. It appears that Nadin swopped some of the parts of the bicycles in a bid to make them unrecognisable. He then tried to sell the altered bikes in Didsbury.

An early image of the White Hart

By 1890, William’s son, also called William Atkinson Thornton, had moved out of the pub and was living in Manchester. In 1895, he married Olivia Armstrong. At the time of the marriage, the couple were living at same address on Long Millgate.

The 1901 Census reveals that William Atkinson Thornton (Jnr) and his family had moved to Cheadle. They had their own house on Hall Street. William (Jnr) was helping his father manage the pub and his wife Olivia was raising their children. Olivia appears to have constantly been pregnant during her child bearing years. The 1911 Census reveals that she had given birth to nine children, with one child sadly dying before adulthood. The age gap between her two youngest children, appears to have been just short of a year. She must have been knackered!! The census also reveals that the house William (Jnr) and his family were living in was a two-up two-down terrace. The family of eleven lived and slept in only four rooms.

On the same 1901 census, William Thornton (Snr) is still at the White Hart. Also at the address is his daughter, Lillian Maud, and three general servants. The 1911 Census reveals that the Hotel had approximately 14 rooms. It also shows that William (Snr) is still managing the pub at the age of 69. His daughter Lilian is now 22 years old and is unmarried. Sadly, it further shows that William actually had three children, with one sadly dying before 1911.

Eight years after the 1911 census, William Atkinson Thornton (Snr) died. He was 77 years old. In his Will he left a large estate worth £5,479 8s 11d.

In 1919, Joseph Adamson took over the pub. Adamson was from Bolton and for the previous two-and-a-half years had managed the St James Hotel in Bolton. Adamson was still at the White Hart at the start of WWII. He died in 1943 at his home on Hall Grove. He was 68 years old. He left behind his wife Sarah Ann Adamson.

An early postcard of the White Hart verses what it looks like in 2020. © Michala Hulme

‘Our House’: Mrs Dixon’s, 58 Charnley Road, Blackpool

I decided to research another Blackpool postcard for this week’s ‘Our House’ blog. I seem to have developed quite a thing for Blackpool’s boarding houses. The picture displayed on the front of the postcard is Mrs Dixon’s boarding house, which was situated at 58 Charnley Road.

The Dixons took over the house in 1900, by then Blackpool had already established itself as a seaside resort attracting mill workers from across the North West. From the 1870s onwards, several aligning factors made resorts such as Blackpool accessible for working-class holidaymakers. A rise in real wages meant that workers could spend extra resources on leisure activities such as holidays. This was helped by local savings clubs, which enabled workers to put a bit aside each week for a day trip or excursion to the seaside. As historian John Walton suggests, these cheap excursions were usually organised by Sunday schools, temperance societies, employers or commercial promotors such as Thomas Cook. Also during this period, people were permitted by their employer to take more time off work without facing the sack. Workers were not paid when they were off; therefore, many could only afford a long weekend, however, those better-off workers could take a whole week off.

Alongside tourists, the growing resort also attracted those that came to seek new employment opportunities like Thomas Dixon and his wife Jane. The family had moved to Blackpool from Burnley and first appear at the address on the 1901 census. With the house only being built a few years before, it is likely that they were first occupants of 58 Charnley Road.

Thomas was not employed in the boarding house business. He worked as a road labourer and later a lamplighter for Blackpool Corporation. It was Jane Dixon that managed the house whilst also caring for their young baby. At the time the 1901 census was recorded, 58 Charnley Road was a ‘company house’, it would later be called a boarding house. A Blackpool guidebook offers some definition of the different types of accommodation available to visitors in 1897…

  1. Hotels, Hydros and Boarding Houses: Offer inclusive rates for meals and room
  2. Private Apartments: Where the rate quoted was for a room, with meals cooked by a landlord or landlady using ingredients provided by the guests
  3. Company Houses and Lodging houses: Guests rented a room or bed and could either buy their own food to be cooked and served in their rooms or in a dining room, or they could dine out.

To attract visitors to the boarding house, Jane advertised the ‘homely features’ of the accommodation in newspapers across the country, stating that “The best place for comfort in Blackpool is Mrs Dixon’s”. In the adverts she highlighted the competitive prices, charging 2s (approx £10.84 in today’s money) per night for a bed or 4s (approx £21.67 in today’s money) for a bed and board. For those staying for the week, there was a separate price for men (25 shillings) and women (21 shillings).

Jane’s hard work in making the boarding house a success seems to have paid off, with 58 Charnley Road gaining a reputation of one of the best boarding houses to stay at in Blackpool.

By 1915, 58 Charnley Road would be known as “Dixon’s Famous Boarding House”. It attracted families coming to Blackpool for a holiday, as well as those who needed a short-term place to stay while they were employed in the resort.

The Census of 1911 reveals that the boarding house had a staggering 22 rooms. It also states that four members of the Dixon family are living at the address – Thomas, Jane, and children Martha Jane and Florence. One of the Dickson children (Martha Jane) is also assisting in the business – previously she was employed as a baker’s assistant. Sadly, only a few months after the census was taken, Martha Jane passed away at the age of 26 due to acute appendicitis.

The Dixon family remained at 58 Charnley Road throughout WWI. However, not long after the war had ended, they sold the business to Jane and Charles Pyle.

Like the Dixon household, it would be the female of the Pyle family that would manage the boarding house. Although there may have been cosmetic changes inside the house, Jane Pyle decided to still trade under the name of ‘Dixon’s Famous Boarding House’. She remained at the boarding house for the next ten years, leaving in 1930 to take up a new position as the manager of a boarding house on Albert Road.

The next proprietor of 58 Charnley Road was Ellen ‘Nellie’ Challinor and her husband John Thomas Challinor, who went by his middle name of Tom. The couple had moved from Chelford Street in Manchester. One of the first significant decisions Ellen made, was to ditch the ‘Dixon’ brand and come up with a new name, which was ‘Progress House’. She also changed the tone of her newspaper adverts, gone are the ‘homely comforts’ that Jane Dixon promoted, Ellen thought the main selling point of the boarding house was its location, being only ‘two minutes from the station, promenade and Winter Gardens’. To attract custom, she kept her prices competitive, charging 7s 6d (approx £26.22 in today’s money) for men and 7s (approx £24.48 in today’s money) per night for women – the price included good food and ‘no extras’. 

In 1939, Ellen’s husband, Thomas, sadly passed away. Every year on the anniversary of his death, Ellen took out a memorandum notice in the local paper, stating how much she loved and missed him.

The exact date when Ellen left 58 Charnley Road is not clear. She was still there in 1949, however, in 1960 a newspaper advert reveals the boarding house had new owners. The new owners had changed the name to the Bali-Hi Hotel. For the first time in its history, the hotel offered the guests such luxuries as a wardrobe in every room and a TV in the lounge.

From the 1960s onwards, visitor numbers began to slowly decline. This was in part due to the arrival of package holidays abroad to places such as the Mediterranean, where hot weather and sandy beaches were guaranteed. The demographic of those still visiting Blackpool also began to change. According to Brodie and Whitfield, in 1972, it was estimated that the majority of visitors to the resort were over 45 and were from lower social groups.

Today, the hotel is part of the Wilkinson Hotels group, who purchased 58-68 Charnley Road, combining them to form one hotel. Although the brickwork above the ground floor largely remains the same, the lime green paint and the alterations to the entrance makes the former boarding house almost unrecognisable.

58 Charnley Road in 2020 © Michala Hulme


Allan Brodie, Matthew Whitfield, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage, (Swindon: Historic England, 2014)

John K. Walton, The British Seaside: Holidays and resorts in the twentieth century, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)

Susan Barton, Working-class organisations and popular tourism, 1840-1970, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005)