Denton Local History Society

The Dentonian Issue 7o Autumn 2009


by F. Brown

As most of our members know, our local band has recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. It is a wonderful achievement and their members have every right to feel proud, but I cannot help but see another side to this. I hope they will not take offence if I tell this little anecdote.

One day, when I was a boy, I was watching my father working and he said, "Do you see this hammer son? It has now been in the family for three generations." I said, "Gosh! It must be very old." He said, "Yes, and in all that time it has only ever had three new shafts and two new heads, but it's the same hammer." Well I know it's not very funny but it's a similar situation with the band. They have changed the instruments, the music and the uniforms several times. The band name and the venues where they rehearse have also changed and, of course, they are not the same people who started it all, but they are 'the same band'. I hope they see the funny side of this and realize that I admire the band, and as I said, no offence is intended.

In June this year they asked the D.L.H.S. to prepare an exhibition for them to be used in their 150 year celebration. This took the form of a big Band Concert which was held at Hyde Town Hall on Sat. 4th July. (Denton didn't have a venue that was big enough). Frank Rhodes, myself, Jean and Jill assembled the exhibitions we had prepared, accompanied by several other members of our society who were also invited. The band played well, the hall was packed and everyone had a wonderful evening.

The same display boards were set up again in the alcove in the library for the month of September and were also used in the September Show on 19th and 20th at the Festival Hall. The theme this year (2009) was a display of all our recently acquired artifacts under the title of 'Look What's Turned up'. A detailed account of this, together with a photograph of us, appears in the current Tameside Reporter.

The event also coincided with the re-opening of our meeting place Room 10 after Tameside Council had kindly renovated it in answer to our requests for a new layout. Thanks to all those members who worked so hard over the months emptying the room, bringing things from the Nurse's Home and finally reinstating everything back into room 10.

The opening ceremony was preceded by an excellent performance from the junior section of The Denton Brass in their meeting room. Councillor Brenda Warrington congratulated them and then, followed by our local MP Andrew Gwynne, other guests and our members, she walked to the door of room 10 and made another short speech. She then cut the ribbon across the doorway and declared our room open. We all went inside and were pleased to hear our guests admiring the interior. This was followed by drinks of wine and a buffet lunch.

Later, we went down to the Pennine Lounge where, once again, our guests gave praise on our displays including the band story. We could sum up by saying it was a very successful day and thanks to all who took part.

For the benefit of members who didn't have the opportunity to see the Band Exhibition or the September Show, here is a repeat of The Band Story.

The band was first formed in 1859 by Thomas Baxendale who later founded the Alpha Mill. This was the large cotton mill off Manchester Road near the railway. At first, the band was known as `Baxendale's Band' and their headquarters was his original small factory at the top of Taylor Lane. Since early days they met up with stiff competition from other bands in neighbouring towns and even one in Denton. This was the 'Denton & Haughton Band' which had formed in 1818 and until then had been the only local band we had; though, of course, Denton and Haughton were two separate townships at the time.

Baxendale's Band went from strength to strength and soon had to move its H.Q., first to the Bowling Green Inn, then to their own Band Institute on Ashton Road. They needed a new name, so they called themselves the 'Denton Original Band'. This distinguished it from the 'Denton & Haughton Band' and indicated that it was the original all Denton Band. As its popularity grew, it eventually eclipsed its old rival. Its greatest achievement came in 1900 when it won £75 and the 'One Thousand Guinea Challenge Cup' at Crystal Palace, having competed against entrants from all over Britain and the colonies. There was much rejoicing in Denton at the time. The cup was kept safely at Denton Town Hall and a security of £1000 had to be given for its custody. It was at this point that they changed their name to 'Denton Original Prize Band'. They then ranked with the highest class bands in the country.

`send-off'. He was marched from his home to Denton Station by the entire band and a procession of well-wishers. The band played patriotic marches and hundreds of people turned out to watch.
In 1906 Mr. Albert Parke, a Denton Hat Manufacturer, presented the band with a beautifully crafted ebony mace which was proudly carried by the drum major when marching. The head of the mace featured a solid silver bowler hat to symbolize what Denton was famous for, and over the years the mace led many processions. By 1919, when they celebrated their Diamond Jubilee, they were meeting in a dining room at the Market Place but moved later to the King's Head, and then in 1973 to Denton Cricket Club on Egerton Street. In 1976 they formed a second band known as the `B' band. Initially this was for training young members to reach the required standard for transfer to the 'A' band; but it eventually became recognized for its own merits. Following a fire in their band room in 1979, which destroyed their music and some of their instruments, they temporarily disbanded. A short time later they obtained a new venue at Oldham Batteries' Sports & Social Club along Hyde Road. The bands were then re-formed; the 'Denton B Band' kept its name and the 'A' band became 'Oldham Batteries Band' but not for long. Because some members came from the former band, they soon changed their name back to 'Denton Original Band' but didn't include the word 'Prize'. The mace was then re-presented to Mr. Ted Harrison, musical director of the band, by Mr. Dennis Holden, managing director of Oldham Batteries Ltd. to mark their new sponsorship.

Due to an industrial recession in the 1980s, Oldhams were forced to withdraw their sponsorship of the bands and moved them into the foyer at their Edward Street entrance. It seems that this was not satisfactory for soon afterwards the 'A' Band moved into the building of the Co-op Bank in Amelia Street off Ashton Road and the `IV Band moved to Egerton Park School.

In 1991 the Denton Original Band came second (out of 25) in the 'North West Area Finals' held at Blackpool. This was considered to be a wonderful achievement as it qualified them to enter the 'National Finals' held at Wembley where they came 10th out of 32. Following this success they were approached by many other bands who tried to poach the members for their own bands.

In 1993 vandals broke into the premises in Amelia Street and set the building on fire causing the loss of music, instruments and uniforms. Being also without a venue, the old 'A' Band folded once again but did not re-form. Sonic time later, the `B' Band, which had once been the junior section of the old band, moved their venue to the Denton West End Working Men's Club in Grosvenor Street and were then known as the 'Crown Point Brass'. Fortunately, some items of the original band, including the precious mace, still survived and led by their popular conductor, the late Jack Hansford, they continued to be one of the leading bands of the Manchester district. They moved again in 1999, this time to the Silver Springs Hotel on Ashton Road and they also changed their name to 'Denton Brass'.

In time, the band became a victim of its own success, because it eventually outgrew the size of the band room. Thus in 2005 they moved to a large room at Denton Library in Peel Street where they now share the first floor with the Denton Local History Society who have written this story and assembled this exhibition. Pi Brown.

Jimmy Armfield

— the soccer legend comes home to Denton

One of England's football legends came back to Denton to be honoured by the District Assembly.

Jimmy (73), was reunited with his babysitter, Vera Hampson (86) at Denton Town Hall prior to the presentation to him of a public service award.

Also at the presentation was ex-Manchester United goalkeeper, Jack Crompton (87) who is now the President of Curzon Ashton FC. Jean, Fred and myself had put together a display for Jimmy and Jack in the Town Hall, showing their football careers and local football teams of yesteryear and today.

Jimmy moved to Blackpool at the age of 5, when his family was evacuated there, and where he spent his whole career playing for Blackpool and captaining England. He was a member of the World Cup winning squad in 1966.

He received an OBE for his services to sport and comments on matches on BBC Radio Five. His father worked at the Co-op in Haughton Green and was born on the last house on Marina Avenue.

Part of the presentation was to meet younger members of Denton Girls FC in Victoria Park.

Jack Crompton came across to look at the display and asked where the information had come from. Jean replied "from the internet" to which he replied "Well some of its wrong." He then drew out his pen, lifted the plastic sheeting and started crossing items out.

I said to him, "While you have got your pen out, could you autograph the display?". He willingly did so. On Jimmy's return from the Victoria Park photo-shoot, we asked him to autograph his display (with no corrections I am glad to say)!

On his way out, Jimmy commented that it was good that there were people like us to preserve the local history and not let people forget the past, which made all the effort worthwhile. A good day was had by all.


Hat manufacturer of Denton and Stockport by Sara Green

When most people in the north of England rarely set foot outside their county, James travelled three continents in search of wealth and adventure.

James Bevan's story is one of a man fit for his times — a nineteenth century adventurer, explorer of new colonies and businessman — a grandfather that any young boy would be proud to own. His was a life lived among the new frontiers and opportunities presented by Britain's colonial policies and an Industrial Revolution in full swing in the 1800s. But would any of this have happened if his own father had not rashly invested in a railway scheme which lost him the family fortune?

I have been told his story by my now ninety-six year old Uncle Gerald, who researched and wrote down everything he remembered of the grandfather he revered, and who died when Gerald was five. His researches come from James' obituary (Stockport Advertiser 9th November 1917, which dubbed his 'a life associated with romance in a manner that is almost unique'), an article in the Hatter's Gazette in 1946, family papers and stories told and re-told by Dorinda, Gertie and Affie (Ethel) (James' three daughters from his first marriage, known collectively to Gerald's generation as 'The Aunts'). In particular, the long suffering, and fortunately long-lived, Gertie and Affie, who brought up not only Gerald's mother and her sister (daughters from James' second marriage) but Gerald and his siblings and cousins as well.

James' forebears came to Lancashire from Cornwall around the early 1700s, supposedly escaping a king's wrath for their misjudgment in supporting the wrong side. This could have been during the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion in the south west or the 1715 rebellion in northern England and Scotland.

James was born on 28th March 1828 at Vale Hall, Rivington, near Horwich, where his family had an estate and mill which made printed velvet. He had at least two brothers, Richard and Thomas, and a sister, Charlotte. James' early schooling may have been under the clergyman, Isaac Temple, who headed a school in the hamlet of Plemonstall or Plemstall, Cheshire, where I found a thirteen year old James Bevan in the 1841 Census. James wanted to be a physician and was indentured to a local doctor. His father, also James, all eldest sons in the family being so named, invested heavily in an 1845 railway scheme, which failed, and James' dream of becoming a medical man stalled. He went to work for Romney & Company, manufacturing chemists.

But, in1848 or '49, when he was twenty-one, America beckoned. Initially, James went to Texas, with a doctor friend, whom he may have met through Romneys. We believe he was employed in a chemical factory there but when gold was found, he departed for Cripple Creek, Colorado. With modest success in the goldfields, he returned to England, at his father's request. Around this time he married Boadecia Rowland, to whose doctor father he may have been indentured in his physician's training. Boadecia was said to have been a beauty and mercurial by nature. Her mother was half French and had lost her parents to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

However, America seems to have given young James a taste for adventure and, not long after this, he sailed for Australia on what became a perilous journey. His passage was dogged by a drunken fellow passenger, who took a dislike to him and tried to kill him, the crew mutinied and, finally, a fire in a hold threatened the ship. He earned the long term friendship of the captain by assisting him against these odds. We have an account of this journey, written by James himself, on the inside cover of one of his books.

Australia was a rugged place in 1850. The First Fleet, bringing white settlement, had only arrived some sixty years before. British colonists were still pushing out their boundaries to find grazing land; the main labour force was transported convicts, some willing, some not; distances were huge; communications next to non-existent and the white intruders were fighting for every furlong of territory with the Aborigines.

James had brought goods and textiles from Manchester to sell and, with the profits, he bought or leased land and farmed sheep in Australia. At some point, he sent for Boadecia to join him so it seems she did not go with him on that first passage. But his farming endeavours were beaten by drought and James looked for other ways to replenish his purse. Like many, he read of the gold discoveries in the state of Victoria. Here was something with which he was familiar and he set off for the gold fields. But, rather than mining, he set up a provision store, and, as his enterprise grew, more stores, a horse certification and auctioneering business and a theatre. As Victorian gold was discovered at the end of 1851, this places him there soon after that time. Despite this relative success, he was not in the goldfields for long. Was this because of the unfair licensing conditions and police brutality which led in November and December 1854 to the miners' uprising, known as the Eureka Stockade?

Next, he and Boadecia took a ship to Western Australia, en route to Southern Africa. Their ship would have stopped at the port city of Fremantle to re-provision for the long journey to the tip of Africa and, in the short time that he was there, James, still on the prowl for opportunity, went into partnership in a liquor venture — but his partners were already in financial trouble and went off with his money. And there was yet another mutiny on board the ship which carried them to Cape Town. So he and Boadecia must have been glad of a new start in a new country.

Africa must have looked a better prospect to James than 1850s Australia. This is where he settled for some time and his family and wealth grew. His belt must have been capacious, because under it, he already had experiences that had raised the hairs on his head many times, threatened his life, caused him to win and lose his fortune more than once. But each time he turned misadventure to his advantage. His challenges so far were good training for what was to come!

To make up his losses from his unfortunate liquor partnership, and hearing that wood was in shortage in the Cape Colony, James arrived in Cape Town with a cargo of hardwood from Western Australia. This was probably jarrah, known then as Swan River mahogany, and for which Western Australia is still well known. But he found that local timber merchants would not buy it - so he bought a joinery business and hired carpenters who planed and turned and dovetailed until he had furniture which did sell. But James had not intended to go into the furniture trade. He looked around for higher profit opportunities and began to import Lancashire textiles and other British goods. While this proved a sound choice, perhaps he found haberdashery a little tame for one of his temperament: he saw that traders were bringing back exotic goods from the interior of the continent — ivory, ostrich feathers, skins, tribal goods and diamonds. So he left the import business in the hands of a trusted partner, put Boadecia into a house in Cape Town and filled his wagons with his imported goods to set off on his first expedition to trade with the local tribes. This must have been in late 1855 as James is supposed to have met the explorer, Dr David Livingstone, soon after the doctor had 'discovered' Victoria Falls.

The discovery is documented by Livingstone himself as early November 1855, although there is no mention of a meeting with another European. One of James' stories was his frustration that he was only one of the first white men to see the Falls! It seems the Africans thought the mist from the falling water was smoke, therefore it was a massive fire which sounded like thunder, and they stayed away.

It seems extraordinary that James could have covered such distances — Victoria Falls is on the Zambezi River which, at that point, forms a natural border between modern day Zimbabwe and Zambia and is many thousands of miles inland from Cape Town. Yet those early colonial pioneers did! Even more extraordinary that he survived when his enemies were so many — not least hostile tribes and other white traders, but the Boer, malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness, which afflicted horses and oxen as well, but there is no doubt that James Bevan was not one to fall at the first, nor even the fourth, hurdle.

During his early years in Africa, James set up trading links with some of the tribal kings and became close to one in particular, Mzilikazi, first king of the Matebele. Each trip was fraught with danger: aside from the human and insect kind, there were also the challenges of the terrain, not becoming a big cat's next meal or charged by elephants, and the customs of the tribes themselves. James earned Mzilikazi's trust in a precarious manner. Because of his medical background, James cartied a full medical kit to treat the needs and injuries of his own men. (Uncle Gerald described a fearsome tool, about two inches in diameter, forming two concentric circles of steel spikes, which James is supposed to have used for vaccinations. This was kept in a glass case in The Aunts' house along with a pair of percussion pistols, a pin-fire revolver, a silver boson's call and other items which sadly have been lost to the family. But I digress...) On his first meeting with Mzilikazi, the king was seriously ill. James diagnosed a stoppage of the bowel and administered heroic doses of castor oil. Fortunately for James, this was successful because it was the tribe's custom that whoever treated the king would live, if he lived, or follow the king into death if he died. So James was rewarded for his white man's magic with a favoured relationship with Mzilikazi and one of his sons, Lobengula. He was told of the great river to the north west, "the Smoke that Thunders" and set out to see it for himself. So this may be when his path crossed with Livingstone's expedition.

While James was undoubtedly one of the first white men to reach Matabeleland, missionaries, such as Robert Moffat, and Livingstone had preceded him. The Matabele held territory between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers, and centred themselves around Bulowayo, now in south western Zimbabwe. They were formidable warriors and one of the few tribes that held the Boer at bay. James went to the king's kraal to trade several times a year and sat on the King's Council. He was a favoured trader with Matabeleland for some time and became extremely wealthy.

Still trading with other tribes between Cape Town and Bulowayo, James joined forces with another prominent trader, Duncan, and they set up a collection centre for their goods and a warehouse for re-stocking their wagons. This enabled them to shorten their return trips and cover areas, new and old, more frequently, using the centre as their base. Then, in 1866, diamond mining began in the area of what is now the city of Kimberley and drew a huge migration of blacks and whites from all over the Cape and Europe, and in September 1868, Mzilikazi died. Both events must have affected James' activities. It is likely that diamond mining at Kimberley provided many new openings for trade but Mzilikazi's death brought on fighting among his people over the succession, until 1870, when Lobengula established himself as king.

At some point, James went into copper mining in Namaqualand with a partner, Mason, a mining engineer. Much of the chronology of this part of James' life is guesswork. Had Mason found the copper deposits and approached James for finance? We assume that James knew Mason before the birth of his eldest daughter, Dorinda, in 1862, because her second name was Mason. So Mason was possibly her godfather. We know that James had a mine site along the Buffels River by 1866 — we have a handwritten note from his wife, Boadecia, that her fourth child, Ethel, known as 'Mlle', was 'the first white child to be born on the Buffels River'. In addition to trading, James took a close interest in the mine and moved his family there before the birth of Affie. (Although the move may also have resulted from gossip attaching itself to Boadecia, when an erstwhile English suitor arrived in Cape Town and, with James out of town, renewed his attentions to her in 1865 or 1866.) James built a house at the mine, but it cannot have been as comfortable as Cape Town. He employed a white manager and a couple of other white employees to oversee operations. But he was often absent on trading trips, leaving Boadecia and the children at the mine site. During one absence, a fight broke out among the mine workers and the manager felt it too dangerous to confront them. But Boadecia thought otherwise - she is supposed to have ridden down on a grey horse, armed with a gun, to quell the fighting. In the moonlight, wearing a white riding habit and on a pale horse, luckily for her, the rioters thought she was a spirit come to punish them and ran away. She was clearly well matched with James and a woman of considerable courage, more especially as she was probably pregnant with her fifth child, Walter, at the time.

By now, James' family had grown. He had eight children with Boadecia, two of whom died at or close to birth. His six surviving children were Dorinda Mason (born 1862), James Alfred (1863), Gertrude Ann (1864), all born in Cape Town; Ethel Frances Henrietta (1866, `Affie,' the first white child to be born on the Buffels River), Walter (1867, born in Namaqualand, but not at the Buffels River mine, so James must have had more than one mine) and, finally, Ormerod (1868), who was born in Cape Town. Boadecia died giving birth to Ormerod. She was only thirty eight. She had been pregnant almost continuously since at least 1861, and more, and, for much of the time, under primitive conditions. She left her husband with six children under the age of seven.

James' empire had grown and his wealth with it - but disaster was never far away. The copper mine did not flourish. There is a story of a Christmas celebration at the mine, where the miners were issued with a supply of liquor and celebrations became a drunken brawl. James was there with another white man and, during the fracas, the white companion was killed. This may have been Mason, on whose mining expertise James depended. James continued mining until at least 1867, when Walter was born in Little Namaqualand, but he may have subsidized mining operations from his trading profits. In addition, sometime after Mzilikazi's death, James suffered a major set back in trading operations when one of his wagon trains was attacked, looted and burnt out. He eventually found his partner, Duncan, in the bush, half-starved, about three weeks after the attack. But the destruction had not stopped there — the natives, who had ambushed Duncan, went on to overwhelm and kill many of James' people at the collection station. They ransacked and burnt the buildings to the ground. James and Duncan lost goods worth tens of thousands of pounds. We do not know who was responsible but it may have been Matabele rebels opposed to Lobengula, to whom James would have given open support - years before, they had gone through a ceremony to proclaim themselves blood brothers. Shortly after this attack, James closed the mine but his trading activities went from strength to strength. As often as he could, he visited Lobengula, his confidant and blood brother, and sat with him under the Council Tree. The tree was still standing in 1928. While she was living in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Dorice, Gerald's mother and James' youngest daughter (from his second marriage), went to Bulowayo to see the great tree under which her father had deliberated with the Matabele kings.

Never satisfied with the status quo, James began looking for an alternative port from which to ship his goods back to Britain. Perhaps he was having difficulties with the Cape Town authorities or this may be a clue to the location of the collection centre. Gerald believed that the centre was somewhere near the town of Serowe, now in eastern Botswana, which must have been close to James' trading route to Bulowayo. If this were correct, then it would make sense to have a port on the west coast, rather than haul goods back to Cape Town, only to then ship them back up the west coast to England. And here James claimed another first — that he was the first white man to cross the Kalahari from east to west, presumably while prospecting a route to the west coast, and which brought him out close to Walvis Bay. Walvis Bay is now the main port of Namibia. It is a deep water port and protected by a sand spit, the only natural harbour along that coast. The Portuguese had anchored there in the 1480s, the Dutch East India Company had interests there but it seems there was little commercial activity before 1840. James set up a station at Walvis Bay, and gained the support of others, before returning to England in 1872 or `73 to float a company in the City to finance its development and to persuade the British Government to annex Walvis Bay. As a rival port to Cape Town, the Cape Town authorities must have objected and the British Government refused support so James abandoned the idea. Eventually, Britain did annex Walvis Bay in 1878. However, it was during this trip to England that James, with an eye on the future, set up a hat manufacturing business, Norbury, Morgan & Co, in Denton. Thomas Middleton, in his History of Denton and Haughton, published in 1936, says that James financed Messrs. Norbury and Morgan, who wanted a start in the hat business and he puts the year as 1873. (courtesy of the Denton Historical Society).

Why James left South Africa we do not know but we can guess. His business interests were considerable and his house in Cape Town was sufficiently grand that it was later used as the residence of the Governor General, yet he was not infected by the fever for diamonds. His daughters told Gerald that he was opposed to Cecil Rhodes and Rhodes' treatment of the tribes. If he got on the wrong side of Cecil Rhodes, this may have been an obstacle too far for James. Cecil Rhodes came out to Natal in 1870 and, with his older brother, Herbert, staked a claim in the diamond fields. He formed the De Beers Mining Company in 1880. Rhodes grew in influence and power in the 1870s and `80s, and pursued the larger picture of British dominion "from Cape to Cairo," which made him very popular with the British Government. Rhodes became interested in the lands north of the Limpopo, the same territory in which James traded, and negotiated treaties with Lobengula which gave him mineral rights and British exclusivity to dealings with the Matabele. He set up the British South Africa Company and obtained a series of concessions with the Matabele, the first two taking place in 1880 and 1881. It was around this time that we believe James returned to England. It may have been Rhodes' grab for the franchise of diamond mining, his favoured status with the British government and aggressive push into the same territories as James, and Rhodes' negotiations with Lobengula, that signaled the end for James in Africa.

To establish when James returned to England, I dug around in the UK Census records. Initially, I found no mention of James in the 1881 Census. And I found no record of his daughters either but I found his teenage sons, Alfred, Walter and Ormerod, in the care of a housekeeper, Maria Gibbes, also from Cape Town, at 6 Saxon Street, Denton. The fact that Maria was from Cape Town persuaded me that they might only recently have arrived back. Perhaps James had sent the boys ahead while he tied up loose ends. But then I found him and the girls. It was when I was researching the whereabouts of the woman who became his second wife, my great-grandmother, Annie Daniel. James returned himself and his family to England and settled in Denton. His daughters, Dorinda, Gertie and Affie, were sent to a boarding school in Stone, Staffordshire, run by two sisters, Emily and Annie Daniel. On Census night 1881, James' daughters were listed as Scholars at their school - and who stayed overnight as a Visitor? None other than James! Uncle Gerald believed that James married Annie in 1885 but there he is four years earlier. Had he only recently met her or was the idea of courtship forming? I have yet to find their marriage record but if they did wed in 1885, James was fifty-seven and Annie was thirty-nine. Marriage in 1885 fits in with the birth of their daughters, Hilda in 1887 and Dorice in 1889. But why did James wait so long? Annie was already an older mother for those times so it is unlikely that she would have delayed having children and put her health at risk. She is reported to have been a very determined character, who enforced her authority over her stepchildren and was not well loved by them. They called her 'The Mater' rather than anything more familiar. At some point, James acquired Denton Lodge, a grand mansion in Denton, and the family settled into English life. The Lodge was set in grassy lawns edging a large lake. The carriage drive leading to it was lined with lime trees. Sadly, it was demolished in 1989. It stood at the junction of Annan Street and Lime Grove — nothing had yet been done with the land when I visited in June 2009. Lake Road now covers where its lake and grounds were (details courtesy of the Denton Historical Society).

But James continued his roller coaster business life. Now re-settled in England, he took control of the hat business. Mr Morgan had quickly departed the business in 1874, and, in 1886, Mr Norbury also left to set up in competition —and took most of the existing customer base with him. It is likely that the loss of business caused James to sell his beloved Denton Lodge, to keep the business afloat. His daughter, Hilda, was born at Denton Lodge in October 1887 but, by July 1889, the birth certificate of his youngest daughter, Dorice, says that the family was living at St Lawrence Rectory, off Vaudry Lane, Haughton (sadly, also knocked down to make way for new housing). James was a church warden at St Lawrence Church (also known as Denton Old Church) so perhaps the rector rented them the house when times were tight. So James and his eldest son, James Alfred, had to be quick about establishing new markets, which they did on the Continent and in Canada. James changed the business name to James Bevan & Co. and it was one of the first hat firms to be floated as a public company — possibly to raise further funds. Initially, their hat works was in Bond Street, Denton, but the Bevan business was to suffer yet another blow - this factory caught fire and burnt down. The buildings and plant were not insured — so James and his family were plunged into a much less opulent lifestyle. The fire took the factory in 1896 and James transferred to premises in Pit Street, off the Stockport Road, which have also recently been demolished. It seems the family were still in straightened circumstances by 1905 however, as I have a yellowing letter which James wrote to Affie for her birthday that year, apologizing for not enclosing the customary gift of ten shillings 'as I am sorry to say it would be a convenience to me', although by 1901 the family were living in Parsonage Road, Heaton Moor and no longer at the rectory.

James, by his own description, was only "five foot six inches" in height "but muscular and strong and active" when young. He was always a physically active man and still able to jump a five-barred gate on his eightieth birthday. To have lived the life he did and repeatedly overcome the many business obstacles and dangers he faced, he must have been resilient of mind, with cast iron determination, astute in business and extremely optimistic! He clearly had a strong need to wander, was not afraid to try anything as well as having the nose of a natural entrepreneur. As a personality, he seems to have been a fair and decent man, who gained the respect of business partners and African tribal chiefs, although he did not always judge his partners well. Under his management, James Bevan & Co. earned a healthy reputation and prospered. His eldest son, Alfred, who joined the firm at sixteen, became a director of the company and took control when James handed over.

Two further stories illuminate James for us. On one occasion, after a day's hunting, he called into a number of inns along the way and arrived home the worse for wear, complaining of a terrible pain in his hip. On inspection, it turned out that he had put his pipe, still alight, into his breeches' pocket and ridden home, causing a large burn on his thigh. The second story, with disastrous results, was that as he was arriving at the Stockport Road factory one morning, when he saw a horse bolt, drawing a milk float behind it. It was galloping towards a group of children playing in the street. James placed himself in the path of the horse and grabbed its bridle and hung on in an attempt to stop it. He lost his grip and fell under the float which went over his lower back and resulted in partial paralysis of his legs. This must have happened about five years before his death: he was in a debilitated state in Hilda's wedding photograph of 1913. Thereafter, he could only shuffle along with the aid of a stick or support of another person and spent his days in a wheelchair. He lived his last years with his wife, Annie, close to his youngest daughter, Dorice and her husband, Broc (Joseph) Halden. His daughter, Affie, was present at his death at Dorice's house in Whitefields, Stockport. He died on 3rd November 1917 before the tragic events of Hilda's murder and Dorice's farewell to her family. But that, as they say, is another story. And who am I? I am James' great-granddaughter, descended from Dorice, his youngest daughter. Gerald is Dorice's eldest child and my mother, also Dorice but known as Dorette, is her youngest.

In Loving Memory of my Uncle Jelly Gerald Halden (Joseph Gerald Halden) 20 July 1912 to 2 May 2009 on whose memory, research and work this piece is based Copyright Sara Green 2009