The Creation of the New Strangeways, 1816-1823.
The planning of the new estate and itsexecution.
The year 1816 was especially marked by the appointment of a newagent for the Manchester estates of Lord Ducie. William Johnson wasone of a new race of men bred by the tremendous building activity ofthe nineteenth century, for he waa something more than a rentcollector, he was a land surveyor, and his was the task to transformthe hills and fields of Strangeways into a regular gridironattractive to potential lessees. In the year of his appointment tothe post Strangeways had just created new arteries to connect itselfto Manchester that were quickly to bring the bare streets to lifewith the bustle of building. These were the two new bridges, the one,Strangeways Bridge, crossing the Irwell to Salford, and the other,Duoie Bridge, crosing the Irk and forming a connexion for the newroute of the main road to the north, for York Street was a welcomealternative to the old steep and dangerous route up Red Bank.Connecting the two brldges was New Bridge Street, passing between theWork House and the Jubilee Charity School. This new arrangement wassuccessful in it aims and advances were immediately made as the firstoffers for land were accepted.
Map 2 dates from about this period, and shows clearly how the newlayout was superimposed on the old fields. The decision had beentaken to do away with several of the industrial premises on the westside of Great Ducie Street, together with the Bowling Green Inn.Provision was made for a market, which in fact never materialized,and all commercial premises were in fact rigorously excluded by thecovenants in the leases.
Johnson's workbook survives for a few years after 1819, andprovides a detailed calendar of the changes that were rapidly takingplace. (34) The process was one of removing earth, rubble and rubbishin order to build up street levels, and, more importantly, theconstruction in each of the new streets of what are described as"soughs" or sewage drains, reflecting not only improved sanitaryprovision in towns but also the susceptibility of Strangeways toflooding in winter, to which it had fallen victim frequently in itshistory. Johnson appears to have provided permanent employment forabout half a dozen labourers and a handful of carriers who shiftedsoil, and these appear to have been quite well treated. Holidays withpay were quite frequently given, at Christmas, the new year, GoodFriday and Whitsun (then an important holiday period, the "LancashireWakes", when the races were held at Kersall Moor) and were also givenfor the funeral of George III and the coronation of George IV. Thepay itself appears to have been reasonable for the period: threeshillings per day; and there is one very interesting example of sickpay being paid: "To allowance to William Clegg, one of the labourers,who is sick of the scarlet fever and has not been able to attend tohis work during the week." Clegg received eleven shillings, just oversixty per cent of full pay, which must have been quite generous forthe time. (35)
One other perquisite was provided for the workmen from time totime, namely the eight shillings disbursed "To John Walker for liquorgiven to Farmers when carting limestone on the road." (36) This musthave been in consideration of the thirsty nature of the work and musthave been the duty job of carting rubblsh for which liquor was alsoallowed. (37)
Reference to page 20, and comparison between maps 2 and 3, showsclearly the concentration of early building along the east side ofGreat Ducie Street with, by 1823, piecemeal building spreadingtowards the Irwell . There is only one letter written by Johnson thatsurvives, written in May, 1817 but it is important and revealing inthat it deals with the earliest sales made while he was agent. (38)He writes:
"I hope you would receive a letter from me written two or threedays ago on the subject of Millington's offer etc. I have nowenclosed a sketch which will explain some other offers recently made... a plot proposed to be taken by Thomas Coates ... I apprehend hisnotice for taking it is to enable him to carry on some part of hisbusiness as a calico printer ... If thls becomes a bargain it will benecesary to be careful to prevent his bringing a nuisance here. Imust confess I am not without doubt about the propriety of lettinghim have this land on any condition ... If this lease be granted atall it must be with very strict covenants against nuisance oroffensive trades - but if it be for the purpo6e of a Dyehouse therewill be a decided objection against it."
And, almost ominously, Johnson adds, "The houses are certainly farfrom being so pleasant as they used to be."
Sales by William Johnson, 1816-1823 (38)
1817 June 24th Hole and Potter Brewery Street
July 25th Samuel Boden Great Ducie Street
December 25th Robert Pritchard ditto
ditto William Nightingale ditto
1818 May 1st William Briddon ditto
June 1st - Edwards York Street
September 29th David Law Great Ducie Street
December 25th Joseph Gleave York Street
1819 June 24th John Wakefield Great Ducie Street
December 2nd James Walton ditto
December 31st James Grimshaw ditto
1820 June 24th William Ludlow Nightingale Street
December 25th Joseph Smith Strangeways Hall
ditto James Hodkinson Francis Street
1821 ditto James Wood Mary Street
ditto Matthew Swindells New Bridge Street
1823 May 16th Joseph Fletcher ditto
September 23rd ditto ditto
ditto James Whitworth Moreton Street
ditto James Wheeler
December 25th Caleb Lea Broughton Lane
Some work had obviously been done before 1819, when Johnson'sworkbook begins, in laying out the street pattern of Strangeways,above all the creation of Great Ducie Street, York Street (laterCheetham Hill Road) and New Bridge treet. In January 1819 Mary Streetwas being formed by cartloads of dirt, rock, stone and bricks, and inthe latter part of the year Francis Street and Brewery Street werebeing formed or altered, together with Charlotte, Jubilee andNightingale Streets. Work started in the new year on Moreton Street,and Nightlngale Street was levelled. At the end of the year LittleBridge Street was formed, but then work was halted by the harshweather of January 1821.
"It came with a white robe and a frost-bitten countenance, whichgrew sharper and more pinched as weeks and months went by. It lookeddown on the currents of rivers and canals, on the secluded stillwaters of Strangeeways Park ..." (40)
Over the next two years only two sales were made, at Christmas1821, and work progressed slowly. In June, 1821 a sewer was formed inJulia Street, and in the December Johnson Street was formed and theOctagon cottage in the park was thatched. At this time too abutcher's shop was built, to have a monopoly of the trade inStrangeways. In the summer of 1822 the pace of work increased withthe formation of Carnarvon Street and John Streets. (41)
The names Johnson chose for the streets are nearly all quitestraightforward, and typical of the period. Lord, Ducie, Moreton,Tortworth and Reynolds all refer, of course, to Lord Ducie's titlesand family names, whilst Francis, Carnarvon and Denbigh arereferences to Lord Ducie's spouse and her family. Frances togetherwith Mary, Charlotte, Catherine, Julia, John, Percy and Augustus arenearly all traceable to members of the family and formed for over acentury a very striking local group. Nightingale Briddon and Verdonrecall and honour some of the very first people to purchase buildingleases after Johnson became agent, while Johnson himself soughtimmortality in Agent Street and of course, Johnson Street.
Johnson fell from favour with the young Lord Ducie at the end of1823. He had acted, partly from necessity, with a great degree ofindependence, and it was his failure to maintain communications withLord Ducie and to gain his approval for all decisions and actionsthat led to his eventual replacement. The plan that was his work, andwas printed in his last year as agent, survived however with onlyminor amendments till its completion more than half a century later.Johnson was a most successful land surveyor, but was less successfulas an estate agent, in the original sense of that profession, and hiseventual replacement was hardly surprising. (42)