family is linked to the Stansfields
going back five generations and with very little to show
for it so far. An odd name here and there and great gaps
in knowledge, whether it be in church or census records.
Ordinarily the link back on the family page would be to
the earliest known family member, but the Stansfields deserve
their own as it is my first example of a 'Merry Widow',
at least one that is verifiable.
The story begins, as it often does, with a wedding. Richard
on 12 June 1823 at Manchester Cathedral, nothing
especially grand in this as all
marriages in Manchester
at the time took place there. No definite date of birth
for him as yet for reasons that will become obvious, but
had been born about
1804 in Miles
, Manchester, according to later census
The couple had five children — Elizabeth
(more on her later), Thomas,
and Thomas. Elizabeth
Heath as her place of birth, while her siblings were
born in Hulme.
There is not much of a trace of the two eldest boys other
than baptism records and the assumption is that both died
young. As did their father who didn't make it to the 1841
census, presumably having passed away around 1838 in Manchester.
Why Esther and remaining
children should have moved to Haughton is debatable. There
were certainly Stansfields in the area, mostly coal miners,
but then you would have expected Riley family members
if she was looking for support. Whatever the reason, the
census shows that she,
and Thomas were there in
1841, Esther in her 30s
and recorded as widowed in the 1851 census.
Which is where the 'Merry Widow' observation comes from.
In 1845 she gave illegitimate birth to Edward
Stansfield as recorded at his christening at Denton
St Lawrence. I'm not sure whether he died but I have found
no trace of him other than at that census. In 1860 Esther
married Henry Fletcher, both
then in their mid-50s. They died in the 1870s and you
wonder what daughter, Elizabeth
would have made of it all....
Thomas married Mary
Wrigley in 1859 and lived at various address in Godley
and Newton, Hyde, with their children Louisa,
and William Thomas. They
did have another son called Herbert
in 1865, but he died the same same year.
Their homes were on the High
Street and Commercial Street suggesting that Thomas,
had a retail business, especially as he had two apprentices
at the 1871 census. This is supported by Wilbraham
who in 1891 was
a 'hatter and dealer in millinery', while his wife, Emma,
was a 'dress and mantle maker'. They were still on Market
Street in 1891 when
who was a felt hatter with two apprentices in1871, was
a draper and shopkeeper.
Wilbraham had trained
as a hatter at Oldham and Fogg's and he married Emma Wilde
in 1884 at St Paul's, Portwood, Stockport. He was a little
hard to trace as his surname sometimes omitted the second
“s”, while his first name could be spelt Wilbram.
He was even called Warden in at least two newspaper reports.
He first appears in print in 1903, appearing in court
to protect his 14 year old apprentice, Benjamin Cook,
from bullying. (See Yesterdays)
The second week's ad for the
Hippodrome in the North Cheshire Herald on 26 September
1914 — click for larger image
On reaching middle-age, Wilbraham
had a dramatic career change, quite literally. In the
early 1900s, he went into the entertainment business using
a building that was part of the old Long Meadow Mill (see
to show a mix of variety and music hall acts and moving
pictures. He also had become the proprietor of a billiard
hall by 1911.
By 1914 he had commissioned the building of the Hyde
Hippodrome and Opera House on Clarendon Street which opened
in September that year, a month after the outbreak of
World War One. It was designed by the architect, John
H Fletcher, who had also designed the town hall, swimming
baths, the court and other public buildings in Hyde. He
was commissioned in 1911 to design it to be as much as
possible like the Tivoli Theatre in Manchester. The building
was delayed and there was a legal dispute over the architect's
fees which Wilbraham won.
(See report in North Cheshire Herald)
Although intended primarily for theatre and variety,
Wilbraham had problems
securing the acts because of the hostilities and so relied
increasingly on showing films. By 1918, he had turned
it over completely to pictures and in doing so became
a cinema pioneer in the area.
The theatre was twice extended to accommodate the growing
audience as it was the only cinema in the area when it
turned itself exclusively to showing films (bar a rowdy
political meeting or two) in 1918 and it was the first
to feature a 'talkie' when it showed the 1929 version
eventually sold the business in 1937
to the J F Emery* Circuit, as well
as the Lyceum in Hulme, which he had also owned for many
years. In both cases he retained ownership of the properties.
The Hippodrome closed its doors
May 1960, its last showing the 1958 x-rated Frankenstein's
Wilbraham also traveled
and in 1932 he visited Russia, staying in Leningrad, Moscow,
and Stalingrad. He wrote about his
experiences in the North Cheshire Herald, describing
Russia as “the filthiest place I have ever put my
boot in”. In 1931, he had spent a month in North
America as part of the Manchester Evening Chronicle Tour,
arriving on 3 July on the SS
Duchess of Richmond and returning on the SS
Melita from Montreal to Liverpool on 1 August. On
both journeys, he was accompanied by his daughter, Beatrice.
In addition to the cinema business, Wilbraham
also built and owned the shopping
arcade that sat along side the theatre as well as
the billiard hall above which he continued to run. He
was a Liberal councillor for the Newton and Godley Ward
for 14 years until 1936 and was a member of the Hyde Fortitude
Lodge of the Freemasons. A report
on his 80th birthday stated that he was still a keen
cyclist. He died in 1955
aged 93 at his home, The Lawn, Pudding
His eldest daughter, Beatrice,
married late in life to Richard
Frederick Hadon Wilkinson at St John the Baptist,
Godley, in 1935. She was then in her mid-forties, while
he was ten years her junior. Richard
(known as Fred) had been born in Westhaughton and had
been stationed in Denton with the Lancashire Constabulary.
He was then stationed in Morecambe where the couple were
to live before returning to Hyde.
Mabel Stansfield married
John Leigh in 1924, also at
St John's. He had studied at Manchester University and
was the cashier at William Kenyon's in Dukinfield. The
couple had two daughters, Antonette in 1926 soon after
they married and Pauline in 1930. It isn't clear what
became of the family beyond that time.
Wilbraham's only son was his namesake, Wilbraham
Grenville Stansfield, although he was known as Grenville
throughout his life. He followed his father into the cinema
business and from 1941 was the proprietor of the Savoy
Theatre in Mottram as this extract confirms:
THEATRE (AWH) 1937 prop. C. Seymour. 450 seats.
1941 – Lessee/Prop., Wilbraham G. Stansfield. 500
seats. Booked at Hall. Once nightly. Twice Sat. Prices
4d. to 1s. Phone Mottram 356. Station, Broadbottom.
Grenville also tried
his hand at film production at least once with a silent
black and white short in 1925 showing the final of the
Stansfield Cup between Godley Hill and Ashton Brothers.
The four minute film shows shots of the teams, and of
the match being played. Also a match between Hyde United
versus Denton Brotherhood played at National Park, Denton.
The film is held by the North West Film Archive.
He married Annie Rutherford
in 1926 and the couple had a daughter, Jane,
in 1930. Again I am uncertain about what became of Grenville
beyond the report of his sister's marriage in 1935.
William Thomas Stansfield
In 1891, Lily Marshall was
living with Mary Stansfield,
described as her adopted daughter, as was Joshua Marshall,
although he was a boarder. Mary
had died by 1901 and Lily
was living as the adopted sister of William
and Esther Stansfield. Lily
and William married soon
afterwards at Werneth St Paul.
The couple had one daughter, Elsie,
born in 1907, but she died in 1912 aged five. William
himself died in 1918 and was buried with Elsie
at Hyde Cemetery. His middle name is recorded there as
Thompson, rather than Thomas, but the North Cheshire Herald
dated 16 November 1918 confirms that it was indeed Wilbraham's
brother. Lily remarried
to Abraham Kenning in
Louisa was the eldest of
Thomas Stanfield's children, born in 1860. She married
William Alexander Bancroft
in 1883 at St John the Baptist, Godley, in 1883 and the
couple apparently lived their lives on Dukinfield Road,
Newton, where William was
an overlooker in a cotton mill. They had two daughters,
Annie who married
Frank Dunkerley at
St Stephen's in 1910 and Bertha
who died at the age of 14 just before the 1901 census.
The Crabtree Connection
Stansfield in 1844 at All
Saints, Glossop, both of them living in Dinting. Why
they were there isn't at all clear as they were back in
Denton a few years later when the eldest son, Samuel,
was born. The marriage certificate doesn't provide many
clues, other than correct names and occupations for the
couple and the groom's father, Joseph.
They were described as being of full age, which they were,
but a more precise age would have been helpful. Also Elizabeth
just described her father as 'dead' rather than his name
and deceased in brackets as was usually the case.
* Sir James Frederick Emery, proprietor
of the Manchester-based cinema circuit founded 1919, Mayor
of Salford 1932-33 and Conservative MP for Salford West
1935-45. Back to text.