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British Industrial History

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Shooter's Brook

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One of Manchester's minor rivers, now fully culverted.

It was seem too small to support much industry, but it was convenient for disposal of effluent. However mention was made in 1856 of nine weirs on the river, which caused obstruction to flow, and eight of these were to be removed to reduce the incidence of flooding[1]. Presumably the weir was built for mills or other factories.

Green's map of Manchester & Salford, surveyed in 1787 - 1794, shows several buildings which may have drawn power from the stream. The most notable was Messrs. Salvin's Factory in Ancoats, which straddled the stream. A larger building is shown alongside, and a smaller one straddling the stream a short distance north.

Salvin's factory was used by McConnel and Kennedy (in partnership with Benjamin and William Sandford) to produce textile machinery. Slightly further downstream are shown an iron works and a pottery.

Shooter's Brook was also important for another early cotton mill - New Islington Mill. The brook provided water for the steam engines and for a 'semi closed cycle' waterwheel. A simple type of steam engine pumped water from a small reservoir to a header tank which served a waterwheel[2]. The engine was of the type invented by Thomas Savery, using a vacuum created by the condensation of steam to raise water. Water was also needed for condensing the steam. Such engines had no moving parts other than valves.

By the mid 19thC Shooter's Brook was almost entirely culverted. It gave its name to Fairbairn's Shooter's Brook Iron Works on Canal Street in Ancoats, but was not visible there on the 1849 OS map, but it did make an appearance as a pond 60 ft long and 30 ft wide on a patch of open land at the junction of Store Street and Berry Street[3]. It briefly saw the light of day again in the yard of J. Whitworth & Co's works yard, and finally joined the River Medlock at Old Garratt Dye Works.

'Salvin's Factory'

'Salvin's Factory' was extensively remodelled and expanded over the years, and was ultimately subsumed into Ancoat's burgeoning concentration of industry and housing. The area was subsequently cleared, leaving nothing of interest, with no sign of Shooter's Brook. However, the site's importance was recognised, and it underwent archaeological investigation. An excellent book, published in 2007, reveals the findings relating to Salvin's factory, to the slightly later New Islington Mill, and traces the history of the area and its industries [4]

Bancks's 1831 map reveals a marked change in the character of the area, transforming from a few small factories alongside a stream which meandered through fields, to an ugly urban and industrial area. The former 'Salvin's Factory' is marked as Sandford and Green's Cotton Mill (see Benjamin and William Sandford). The mill had developed a complex shape, but seems to have been aligned to the original building which straddled Shooter's Brook, suggesting that the mill had expanded in stages from the original building. The brook had been largely culverted, with just a short exposed stretch entering the narrow northern leg of the mill. Along the south west flank of the mill was a dog-legged road called Sandford Street.

The 1849 O.S. map shows little change in the shape of the mill.

The mill was being advertised for sale from 1838 to 1845, but perhaps it failed to sell, for Adshead's 1851 Maps of Manchester show the 'Old Cotton Mill' being used as a 'Fever Hospital (Temporary)'.

The 1891 O.S. map suggests that extensive remodelling had taken place. Just one wall of the premises seems to have retained its original alignment. This, and the crookedness of Sandford Street, stand out amidst the generally linear pattern of the surrounding buildings and streets, and this jaunty angularity provided the only link with the natural landscape of the past.

Wadstrom's Factory

1793 Advertisement: 'To be SOLD by AUCTION, By Order of the Assignees, at the house of Mr. John Fryer, known by the Sign of the Coach and Horses, Manchester, …. ALL that Messuage or Dwelling House, situate near the New Bridge, in New Bridge-street, in Manchester aforesaid, late in the tenure and occupation of Charles Barnard Wadstrom, Bankrupt, with the liberties and appurtenances. ….. Also will sold, at ten o’clock in the forenoon of the same day, at the Manufactory belonging to the said bankrupt, situate at Shooter’s Brook, in Manchester aforesaid, eighteen spinning jennies, from 74 to 100 spindles each, two carding engines, three slubbing billies, with a quantity of rollers, skips, and other utensils. Further particulars may had applying to Mr. William Hardman, Attorney at Law, in Bolton ; or Mr. Richard Walker, St. Mary’s-gate, Manchester.' [5]

'Charles Barnard Wadstrom' was Carl Bernhard Wadström, originally from Sweden, who was to achieve fame for his anti-slavery activities.

1794 Advert

'To be SOLD by AUCTION, On Monday, December 22, 1794, at a Factory in Ancoats Lane, near Shooter’s Brook, Manchester, if not disposed of in the mean Time by private Contract,
A QUANTITY of MACHINERY, nearly as good as New, consisting of a Horse Wheel, Tumbling Shafts, &c. which have been used for the Preparation of Cotton. Likewise two good Horses, which have worked the same, together with a Quantity of Smiths, Filers, and Turner’s Tools, used in making Machinery. The Sale to begin at twelve o’clock.
The above Factory to Let. For Particulars, or a View of the Premises, Enquire at No. 3, near the aforefaid Premises.'[6]

Notes from the Past

1828 'NUISANCE IN STORE-STREET. Mr. Jackson, the inspector of nuisances, presented an opening made in the arched covering of Shooter's Brook, which runs beneath Store-street. The opening in question is near the Ashton Canal Company's aqueduct, and as the property adjoining belongs to Mr. Charles Ryder, the presentment was laid against that gentleman, who appeared in court, accompanied by Mr. Brackenbury, as his solicitor. It appeared that the Ashton Canal Company, at the time they erected their aqueduct, enclosed Shooter's Brook, by throwing an archway over it. The proprietors of the land however through which the brook runs, made an opening in the archway, with the view of preserving by this means their right of property in that part of the soil. This took place upwards of fourteen years ago, and the gap has continued open ever since. Mr. Grundy, as one of the surveyors of the highways, appeared in court, and expressed the willingness of the surveyors to do whatever the court might require of them, as they were aware that the opening was extremely dangerous. After a good deal of discussion Mr. Ryder consented to permit the surveyors to construct a fence round the aperture, which should kept open for the purpose of preserving his right in the property. This arrangement seemed acceptable to all parties, and the court then amerced the surveyors in the sum of £40., under the condition that a fence should be erected within two months.'[7]

1838 Report: 'NUISANCE FROM SHOOTER'S BROOK. Charles Simpson and Thomas Yates, inspectors appointed by the nuisance committee of the Manchester police commissioners, presented Messrs. Joseph Whitworth and Co., machine-makers, of Chorlton street, and Messrs. Samuel and Sarah Isherwood, of Bloom-street, for a nuisance arising from the insufficiency of a culvert in Granby-row fields, Lower Brook Street. Mr Shorland, surveyor to the commissioners, having been sworn, stated that on the 22d of January 1835, he drew the attention of the paving and soughing commissioners to this culvert, which was then in the course of formation, and notice of its insufficiency was then given to the parties engaged in its construction. Mr. Hadfield and Mr. Isherwood had purchased the land through which Shooter's brook ran, from Aytoun's estate, and to make the whole of the land available, made the culvert, which was however very unsuitable for the conveyance of the water, and backing it up at flood times, occasioned the inundation of all the property between London-road and Granby-row fields. The tunnel in Store-street was of twenty-two feet passage, and that was very inadequate; whilst that put in by Mr. Hadfield, and which was near the Catholic chapel, contained only sixteen feet, and that put down by Mr. Isherwood but thirteen feet and a half. The flood in the poor people's houses in that neighbourhood last December, by the backing of the water, was as high as four feet one inch. The confined part was eighty yards in length, and extended from the Bridgewater Canal to Isherwood's spindle manufactory. By getting the consent of Lord Francis Egerton, the water might be turned into the tunnel by Mr. Knowles's coal-yard. Store-street was often flooded, even with a large tunnel, to the depth of two feet six inches. To make the alterations either in London-road, or to re-tunnel the land, would cost about £200, and it might be done within three months. Messrs. Whitworth and Co. had purchased the part belonging to Mr. Hadfield. The tunnel complained of lay between Chorlton-street and a branch of the canal lately cut by Mr. Green—The jury amerced the parties in £5, to be increased to £250 if the nuisance were not abated within four months.' [8]

1876 ' To the Editor of the Manchester Courier.
Sir - As there seems to be some uncertainty as to the relative position of Garratt Hall with the two streams, Shooter's Brook and the River Medlock, perhaps I may be permitted to say that I have a vivid recollection of the district, as it stood about 50 years ago. Approaching Garratt Hall from David-street, then known as "Old Garratt," we crossed the Rochdale Canal, and descended by steep declivity to Shooter's Brook, which was then open from its confluence with the Medlock, a little lower down the stream, to London-road. Crossing this brook by a narrow bridge we entered Old Garratt-lane, now Brook-street, to the left of which, on a rising ground, stood the hall, with the Medlock to the right, nearer 20 or 30 yards to the hall than Shooters' Brook is. A stunted thorn hedge marked the boundary of the hall gardens on the north, while the brook washed the foot of them, and on the opposite side of the brook stood a long row of one-storey cottages — probably a dozen or more — which a tew years later were simply unroofed and then buried, the locality having become a "tip" for the town rubbish. The hall must originally have commanded very picturesque views, both of the Medlock and Shooter's Brook valleys, the former winding round it on three sides, i.e., north-east and south. The whole of this circle, with the exception of a dyeworks, was then a rural district, afterwards known Granby-row Fields. About the year 1826-27 Old Garratt-lane was raised to its present level. While speaking of this district, I may name that seventy years ago Shooter's Brook was famed for its profusion of hazel trees, growing on the banks, and was known " Nut Valley." This I had from elderly lady, who in her youth had often traversed the valley as far as Ancoats in search of nuts. Another almost forgotten feature the locality is Granby Hall, which I believe still stands the midst of Sir Joseph Whitworth's iron works, and not many years ago were used by him as offices. Its polished oak floors, great bay windows, ornamental ceilings, and other insignia of a first-class residence are doubtless still to seen. In front of the hall extensive gardens, well stocked with fruit trees, sloped down to Shooter's Brook.
—Yours, &c,
R. B. BIBBY, Haughton, January, 1876.'[9]

'VIEWS OF OLD MANCHESTER. To the Editor the Manchester Courier,
Sir,- I suspect the writer of the introduction is able to take care of himself, and the statement of Mr. R. E. Bibby, as to the relative positions of Garratt Hall, and the River Medlock, and Shooter's Brook almost exactly agrees with my recollection of the locality in 1825, so that the only addition I wish to make to the correspondence is to state precisely where Shooter's Brook crosses what used be called Old Garratt Lane. Some years ago — not many — when Sir William Denison was on commission with regard to the rivers of these parts, he was told that the Shooter's Brook crossed the street at the end of what is now called Leamington Place. As he was a man who took very few things for granted, navvies were employed to dig up the street till the brook was reached. The information given proved to be correct. It is, therefore, not difficult to decide the relative positions of Shooter's Brook, Garratt Hall, and the Medlock.— Yours &c., SCIO. Manchester, January 12, 1876.'[10]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 6 September 1856
  2. 'Manchester - The Hidden History' by Michael Nevell, The History Press, 2008
  3. The Godfrey Edition Old Ordnance Survey Maps - Manchester (Piccadilly) 1849. Manchester Sheet 29
  4. 'A & G Murray and the Cotton Mills of Ancoats': I Miller & C Wild and S Little, R McNeil, K Moth: Lancaster Imprints: ISBN 978-0-904220-46-9
  5. Manchester Mercury, 3 September 1793
  6. Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 9 December 1794
  7. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 19 April 1828
  8. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 5th May 1838
  9. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 11 January 1876
  10. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 14 January 1876