Thursday, 15 February 2007


Producing and rearing large families was a major nineteenth century domestic industry. My grandmother’s grandfather, Captain Thomas Gartside, and his wife had twelve children between 1804 and 1828, of whom nine reached adulthood. The youngest of these, my great-grandfather Horatio Nelson Gartside, and his wife Mary Taylor Holden (the daughter of John Holden of Royton, a prosperous velvet manufacturer), also had twelve children. Strangely, I know less about my great-grandfather than I do about his father, Captain Gartside, and some of his brothers and sisters. He was born at Woodbrow in 1828, and died there of cancer sixty years later. He was friendly with his contemporary, Morgan Brierley, who is said to have accidentally shot my great-grandfather through the jaw once when they were out shooting together on the moors above Ashway Gap. When he was hungry in the middle of the night, he would sometimes go downstairs and cook himself a steak in the Woodbrow kitchen. He once had a bad accident when his horses bolted and he was thrown from his gig into a stone wall (a mishap which was said to have shortened his life).

He had two colourful older siblings. The eldest of Captain Gartside's children was Elizabeth Sarah, born in 1804, who survived until 1892. In 1839 she married her cousin, Henry Gartside (1815-1880), the second son of Captain Gartside's first cousin John Gartside, the builder of Denshaw House [and grandfather of Susan Gartside who married Morgan Brierley]. The story goes that Henry was courting one of Miss Gartside's younger sisters and Elizabeth Sarah, who had just come home after a long stay away from Woodbrow, saw him coming up the drive and said: "THAT’S the man I am going to marry!" - and she did. Henry Gartside was a solicitor in Ashton-under-Lyne, of which he became Town Clerk; he prospered, and in 1861 purchased the newly built house of Wharmton Tower at Greenfield from its original owner, J.D. Whitehead. He and his wife - who was known in the Woodbrow family as "Aunt Gartside" and said by them to have an imperious temper - were long resident at Wharmton Tower, and their initials, together with the Gartside crest (a greyhound) and coat of arms, embellished the dining room ceiling and fireplace there when my grandmother's sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs A.E.G. Chorlton, occupied the house in the 1930s. There were no children of the marriage, but Henry Gartside is said to have become a father elsewhere after his wife ceased being compliant.

The Henry Gartsides built and endowed Christ Church, Denshaw, and its parsonage in 1862-63. The story is that the Gartside lands at Friar Mere, which had come into the family following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, and had previously belonged to Roche Abbey, were the subject of a curse (presumably laid by the dispossessed monks); and that "Aunt Gartside's" lifelong dream was to lift this curse by building a church upon the Woodbrow estate. However, when the Butterworths of Junction generously offered a central site for the new church to be built in Denshaw, Mr and Mrs Gartside accepted: whether this adversely affected the curse-lifting is not known! Denshaw Church contains Gartside family memorials including those to Mr and Mrs Henry Gartside, to Mrs Gartside's parents, Captain and Mrs Gartside of Woodbrow (who are buried at Heights), and to the actor Henry Gartside Neville who died in 1910.


"Monday, June 11th 1894: Mr Thomas Gartside, Woodbrow, died, he was a Church man, Conservative, bachelor and a representative of the old Friarmere Gartside family" (noted J. Brierley). This was "Old Uncle Tom", Captain Gartside's second son (born in 1812), and head of the Woodbrow household and woollen printing business from his father's death in 1859 until his own.

He was an eccentric character. My grandmother grew up at Woodbrow in his lifetime, and told me some amusing stories about her uncle. He wore an old-fashioned flannel nightcap, with a flap to keep his prominent nose warm in cold weather. He lived in his own side of Woodbrow, separated from his brother's growing family by a green baize door, behind which Uncle Tom spent most of his time studying the Bible. He rarely issued forth - usually to upbraid some erring workman or farmhand in a stream of colourful invective which poured out for ten or fifteen minutes without Uncle Tom having to repeat himself once - for he had an extensive vocabulary of curses - after which he returned to his Bible-reading.

He had strong views on religion, and greatly disapproved of King David's treatment of Uriah the Hittite - so much so that he refused to arrive at church for the beginning of morning service, but delayed his entry until after the psalms had been said. Such scruples, however, did not extend to his own amorous exploits; he had several “natural” children by local women, to whom he left legacies in his will (also leaving bequests to the “natural” children of his eldest brother, William Reed Gartside). My grandmother used to recall that when she visited her eldest sister, Mary Elizabeth ("Auntie Pollie Roberts"), who lived at Linfitts with her doctor husband, she often had some of her unofficial cousins pointed out to her as they passed by the window!

Uncle Tom was reputed only to have spent one night out of Saddleworth in his life, when he had to go to Leeds to defend a breach of promise action. He loathed being away from his beloved home so much that he got up in the middle of the night and ruggedly trudged the weary miles back to Woodbrow.

One of my unofficial distant cousins descended from Uncle Tom still lives in Saddleworth. He tells me that when his grandfather – who was Uncle Tom’s great-grandson – used to play as a small boy in the Woodbrow drive and garden, a grumpy old gentleman waving a stick used to chase him away, without realising that the child was his own descendant!

Two more of Captain Gartside’s children were twin daughters – Caroline (1822-1908) and Emma (1822-1903). Caroline was briefly married in her 20’s, but her husband, Benjamin Broadbent, sadly died after only 4½ years, leaving her with three small children. After his death she returned to live with her parents at Woodbrow, and she and Emma were never again separated during the rest of their lives. They remained at Woodbrow until Uncle Tom’s death, when Caroline’s surviving son, John Reed Broadbent, took them to live with him at Liverpool.

The photograph shows Aunt Gartside and her twin sisters (in white crinolines, Aunt Gartside on the right), with Caroline’s children, outside Wharmton Tower, presumably in the 1860s soon after its purchase. The unknown lady in the doorway may be a housekeeper.


anticant said...

I've not succeeded in uploading the photograph yet. You'll have to be patient!

lavenderblue said...

These are the stories I would like to lie back and listen to....wonderful, thank you !

anticant said...

Lie back and think of England?

lavenderblue said...

Naughty Anticant!
I do love listening to stories though, all time favourite being 'Under Milk Wood'.

Mal said...

I suspect that we are related! I am the grandson of John Reed Broadbent who lived in Maghull Liverpool until his death in Sep 1977. My father was his only son (Arthur Stanley Broadbent) who died in Dec 1960. He is survived by one of his 2 daughters, Dorothy who is still living in Colchester. JRB had 3 children and 4 grandchildren - of which Dorothy had Ian and Arthur had Graeme and twins Malcolm (Me!) and Andrew (born Dec 1959. Would love top find out more about the family tree. You can contact me (Mal Broadbent) at