Court and Chapel : Welcome To Chamber Hall

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By Richard Fletcher

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First Published 14/5/2021
Last Updated 14/1/2022

 

Older residents may remember traffic stopping each day, to allow cows across Simonsway to graze in the opposite field - but
what's the history behind Chamber Hall Farm?  Richard and Colin cross over Styal Road near Brown Lane to find out.

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Fig. 1 Chamber Hall in 1972, from Gatley: a Pictorial History of the Parish of St James the Apostle.
© Frank Mitchell / St. James Church
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Fig. 2 Chamber Hall in 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Chamber Hall OS Maps 1888-1913 v 2020 Ov

Fig. 3 OS Map, 1888-1913 (with 2020 overlay)
© ARCHI Information Sytems Ltd 2020
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Chamber Hall has a long history. In the 16th century it served as the courthouse for the manor of Etchells, from which function it took its name. In 1557 the courthouse was moved to Gatley, and Chamber Hall became the residence of a branch of the Shelmerdine family. Another possibility for the name derivation says it was the first house in the area to have bedrooms or “chambers” upstairs (Ed. Derek Males is convinced it's the latter explanation!)
 
Francis Shelmerdine, who was born at the house in 1615 became curate to the Protestant Dr Nicholls of St Mary’s Cheadle. When Nicholls was removed from office in 1643, Shelmerdine became the acting Rector, although this being the period of the Civil War, he also served as chaplain in the regiments of Colonel Robert Dukinfield and Colonel Henry Bradshawe. By 1651 he had become vicar of Mottram-in-Longdendale, and he stayed there until 1662 when he was ejected for refusing to accept the conditions of the Act of Uniformity. He returned to Chamber Hall and set himself up as a weaver, although he continued to do some surreptitious preaching. After the Declaration of Indulgence in 1673, Presbyterian services were openly held at the Hall and a Chapel bell was installed on one of the walls. After Shelmerdine’s death in 1674, his children and grandchildren continued the religious services. 


In 1703, Francis’s grandson Matthew had the building encased in brick and a datestone was erected to record the event, but the original medieval roof beam and 16th century front door were retained and have survived up to the present day. After Matthew’s death in 1732, the Hall was sold to the Reverend Robert Twyford of St James’s in Didsbury, who rented it out to tenants as a means of raising money for his church.
 
In 1783, the occupant of the Hall was Henry Mayer, whose brother Matthew was a Wesleyan preacher. Matthew, a close colleague of John Wesley and one of the founders of the non-denominational Stockport Sunday School, came to preach at Chamber Hall once a fortnight to a congregation of about 16. Later, preachers were supplied from Stockport.

For much of the 19th century the Hall was occupied by several generations of the Simpson family who farmed the surrounding land. Just after the start of the First World War, the last of the line, James Simpson, auctioned off all the contents. The notice from the Nantwich Guardian of 4 December 1914 is shown opposite.

 

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Fig. 4 Notice of Sale of Chamber Hall, Styal Road by Simpson family, 4/12/1914
© Nantwich Guardian
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Behind The Hedge : The Last 30 Years

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Recent History by Colin Barnsley

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First Published 18/5/2021
Last Updated 14/1/2022

 
It is around 30 years since the property ceased to operate as a dairy farm.  Back in those days, the traffic was held whilst between 70 and 100 cows crossed Simonsway in the morning and back at night, to graze in fields on the opposite side of the road.  

Jack Males purchased the property from Manchester Council at that time. On the night of the auction, which was held at the Heald Green Hotel, he had visited on a whim to watch proceedings. When he realised the price for the hall and its twenty acres of land, was similar to that which you could pay for a house alone in Heald Green, he made a successful bid.

 
On a short tour in 2021, Derek (Jack's brother) explained how a number of buildings in the area had "gate" in their title ; for example, "Roaring Gate" in Wythenshawe and Pym Gate Lodge in Heald Green, further along Styal Road.  This referred to a gated or enclosed area of land where numerous families lived, grazing their animals on the common land within.  Chamber Hall was similar.  Over the years, the Males' family have permitted sheep and ponies to graze on the farm, but whilst maintaining the house, Derek explained that the farm buildings themselves have become rather delapidated.

A (reproduced) plaque set in the front the wall shows the date 1557, when the original building first became the court house.  In common with many Cheshire houses of the period, it has a pond to the rear.  This is where the clay was excavated to make the bricks to build the original house.

 

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Fig. 5 The View behind the hedge ; looking East towards Daisy Bank Lane / Styal Road 
© Colin Barnsley
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Unfortunately, the aforementioned chapel bell is no more.  Whether or not they should have,  the previous tenant farmer removed it (the upper right bricked up window on the third story of the house).  

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Fig. 6 Chamber Hall Pond 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Fig. 7 The bricked-up location of the chapel bell 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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The Males family ran Males Garage and Car Storage on Ringway Road from 1954 for many years, after Jack returned to Wythenshawe from serving in Egypt as a paratrooper.  The business maintained agricultural machinery, offered plant hire and carried out civil engineering works; alongside car storage for those using the airport   .  
 
In 2007, at considerable cost, the family diverted a footpath that formerly ran through the property past one of their barns, when it was burned to the ground, they believe by a carelessly disposed cigarette from a passerby  .
 
When Jack and Beryl his sister decided to retire in 2008, a member of staff bought the business and it relocated to Styal Road.  It is now known as Manchester Airport Valet Parking   .

 

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Bibliography

  1. Groves, J (1992). The Impact of Civil War on a Community: Northenden and Etchells in Cheshire 1642-1660. : Northern Writers Advisory Services.

  2. British History Online : surnames beginning with s

  3. Mitchell, F & Mitchell, T (1980). Gatley: a Pictorial History of the Parish of St James the Apostle. : St James Church.

  4. In conversation with Mr. Derek Males, 2021

  5. Footpath Row Takes New Turn. Manchester Evening News. (2007)

  6. Airport Garage Closes Its Doors. Manchester Evening News. (2008)

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