Thursday, 27 October 2016

Pear Tree Cottage and the Middleton Family

Me and Mrs Middleton: A sidelight on my Family History

Written by Charlie Hulme

This fascinating history tells a story of the Middleton Family of Furness Vale and Whaley Bridge, Pear Tree Cottage and Joshua Rhodes Mineral Water Works.

The full story may be read on Charlie Hulme's web site:

Here are just a few extracts:

Not a member of my family, but someone who played a large part in my early life and deserves to be remembered, was Mrs Rachel Middleton of Whaley Bridge, our neighbour and long-time landlord. 

Behind our houses was a yard, formerly part of the mineral water factory  which was my personal playground, a place to hang washing, and in our early days a place where the 'dolly tub' and mangle were brought into use on washing day. The yard had, I believe, been roofed over at some time, and part of the roofed area remained with its wooden doors.

After Mrs Middleton died, Pear Tree Cottage was for a while the home of Fred Branson, retired landlord of the nearby Goyt Inn, and his wife Jessie, before eventually becoming a cafĂ© as it remains in 2016. The shop front on the Canal Street side of the building, has had various uses; I believe that before my time it was run as a haberdashery by a former resident of No.11.  All I recall from the 50s and 60s is a 'showroom' for Drinkwater's builders whose yard was nearby, with an uninspiring window display of plumbing fittings. 

Canal Street, c.1950, Pear Tree Cottage is the white building, with No.11 to the left, then nos. 12, 13 and the canal house. The Navigation Inn on the right. Picture by Agnes Hulme.

Street numbering in Canal Street is confusing for historians. Houses were numbered in the traditional way with 'evens' on one side and 'odds' on the other, but in both cases it was only physically possible to build on the 'odd' side, and at some time (1920s?) this was recognised and the houses were renumbered in a consecutive series. The situation in Canal Street is further complicated because the present No. 11 was at some time part of the adjacent white house, Pear Tree Cottage. 

John Goodwin Downs described his house in 1911 as no. 16 Canal Street, but oddly the Enumerator on his 1911 summary sheet called it no.21. It was a small house with just four rooms, possibly the one now know as No.13.

In 1915 Rachel Downs married Henry Fawcett Middleton, who in 1911 was working as a printworks labourer living with his father William Middleton in Grove House, Furness Vale, a village between Whaley Bridge and  New Mills. William Middleton was described as 'Gentleman living on own means' - in earlier years he had been the farmer at Diglee Farm, and before that a grocer. 

Pear Tree Cottage, the large white house - now no. 10 Canal Street - was for many years the home of Joshua Rhodes, whose mineral water manufactory occupied buildings behind the house, and obtained its water from a well in the cellar of the house. 

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