The Bednall Archive
water powered corn mill, thought to have been built by the canal
engineer James Brindley, is one of Leek's best
known tourist attractions and a familiar sight to all who travel between
Leek and Macclesfield via Mill Street. However, few people will have
heard of 'Brindley's House', despite its connections with the early
silk industry and the development of mohair and silk dyeing in
Leek. Until recently its location and origins were a mystery.
House' had no direct connection with James
Brindley, and had already passed out of Brindley family hands when the man who
was to achieve fame as an engineer is thought to have
arrived in Leek, sometime prior to 1742. James Brindley may have
been related, of course, to the family of masons and blacksmiths which had been
established in Leek since at least the 16th century, and who gave their name to
deeds of the 1730s the house was described as a "tenement (into three
dwellings divided) standing near unto the Well (or pump) in Mill Street".
It was thatched, probably made of stone, and had two barns, two stables and a
garden. At the back was a croft of about half an acre. Together with
various fields in the vicinity, such as the "Leys" lying
against the kiln; two meadows near Mill Street known as the Moorish Leys; and
the "Big Nab " and the "Little Nab" crofts, it
formed a small farm of about sixteen acres. Pew number 35 in the south aisle of
St Edward's church belonged to Brindley's House. Documents concerning the
sale, in 1828, of property belonging to Richard Badnall
of Highfield, identify the site of Brindley's House as that now
occupied by numbers 160 to 168 Mill Street. It is now occupied by a group
of shops which include Mill Street sub-post office, and this is where Mill
Street well (or pump) was - possibly forming the central feature of the
group of buildings known as 'Mill Square'.
house presumably acquired its name from a man or family who either owned or
lived in the house at some time, but who were
these Brindleys, and when and how did the family connection with the
house end ?
Brindleys have lived in Leek for many centuries and were living there
sometime before August 1587 when Lawrence
Brindley, blacksmith, purchased the house he lived in on Mill Street, and an
adjacent property called Brounte's House, from Joseph Brounte, a farmer.
In 1597 the same Lawrence Brindley bought the tithes of his
property from Sir Henry Bagnall,
"Marshall of Her Majesties army in Ireland", and sometime later
obtained five acres of land "inclosed or taken out of Leekfield" for
genealogy of the Brindleys is unclear, but part of the line can be established.
The parish registers of Leek, and other documents, indicate that in the 17th
century there were at least two branches of
the family, one of which descended from Lawrence
Brindley, the blacksmith, who married Mary Heath
in 1619, or thereabouts. The other
sprang from Thomas Brindley, a mason, who lived in Mill Street
in the 1630s. Lawrence Brindley was the younger son of the man
who bought Brounte's House and on his marriage to Mary Heath the cottage "formerly
John Brounts" was the subject of a trust set up as part of a marriage
settlement for his benefit.
1658 the Brindleys still owned Brounte's cottage with its outhouse, barns,
buildings and hemp butts; a field called Scarraway, the two
Whitefields at Abbey Green, the Rough Close, the
Meadows, Broadbridge Meadow and John Sherrat's house on Foker Moor.
However, both Lawrence Brindley (described as a
yeoman) and his blacksmith son, were then living in a
house which belonged to William
Hearth Tax list for 1666 shows Lawrence Brindley of Mill Street paid tax on a
house of two hearths. Two other entries refer to houses belonging to, or
occupied by, "Lawrence Brindley", but there
is no indication as to where these were
located. In view of the popularity of the name Lawrence in the Brindley family
it is unlikely that they all refer to the same man [ ]. If the number of hearths
on which a man paid tax is a good indication
of his wealth, then Lawrence Brindley of Mill Street was not
the wealthiest of the Brindleys for Thomas Brindley of Leek
paid tax on three hearths. The tax returns also show that
there were at least five, possibly as many as seven, Brindley households
in Leek and Leekfrith at this time.
In 1686, the Brindleys of Mill Street were living on the farm that was "the inheritance of John Wedgwood", and, as will be seen later, it is this reference to the Wedgwoods which provides the clue to the identity of the Brindleys of Brindley's House. Sometime prior to 1687 Lawrence Brindley of Mill Street and 'Lidia', his wife, had mortgaged their property to raise £120, and in 1687 Lawrence and other members of the Brindley family sold Brounte's cottage and property associated with it to William Mills of Leek for £462. What happened to this branch of the family subsequently is unclear. John, brother of Lidia's husband, and a shoeing smith, died intestate in 1718 leaving goods and chattels valued at only £13. 10. 0. He was poor in comparison to Leek farmers and tradesman who died in this period, many of whom left inventories valued in hundreds of pounds. Indeed, he was no better off than Jane Low, "a servant girl", who died in 1722 [ ][ ].
of Thomas Brindley's descendents was also called Lawrence. He, however, was a
freemason of Leek and died in 1664 leaving his house to his son Thomas, and his
tools to his sons John and Joseph. To his son Lawrence he bequeathed only 12d,
possibly because he had already been well provided for or was
less in need of what his father could give. This Lawrence 'Brinley',
a mason like his father and grandfather, died in 1705 leaving most of his
property to his daughter Lydia, wife of Silas Coates, glover of Leek. His
will only mentions one son, James, a potter living in London who was in debt to
his father for what his father called "the maintenance of my Granddaughter
Deborah Brindley or for any other children of my said son".
Lawrence was a poor man with goods and chattels estimated by John Brinley (who
may have been his brother) and John Goodwin at no more than £10. 10. 0.
Exactly where this branch of the family lived is uncertain, but there was a
stonemason's business on Mill Street until well into the l9th century.
the beginning of 1723, the parish registers record the death of Lawrence
Brindley of Mill Street, and in 1728 William and Mary Brindley were
evidently living on Mill Street.
The story of Brindley's House can be picked up again when it came into the possession of William Badnall, a mohair dyer of Mill Street, Leek. In 1734, Badnall married the daughter of John Bostock, alderman of Congleton, and sometime between 1736 and 1740, used her dowry to buy the house from John Wedgwood in which the he and his wife then lived. This house was the Brindley's House which was later inherited by Richard Badnall and was sold in 1828 when the Badnalls and their firm were declared bankrupt.
These references to a house, or farm, which was "the inheritance of William (and later John) Wedgwood", identify the house as that which had been the home of Lawrence Brindley "blacksmith" of Mill Street, and his descendents. Its later conversion into three dwellings indicates that it was (or had been ) a substantial yeoman's house probably of more than six rooms. Prior to 1736 Brindley's House, although still owned by John Wedgwood, had been in the possession of Edmund Brough who, with Edward Sikes, a button merchant, had also been a tenant of the Leys and the Big and Little Nab Crofts.
House, therefore, appears to have got its name from its
association with the descendents of
Lawrence Brindley, blacksmith of Mill Street
who lived there as tenants, but not owners, until at least the
1690s. The Brindleys continued to live in Leek through the 18th and
19th centuries, and in 1800, for example, a James Brindley was living in
Mill Street. Whether or not their connection with
Brindley's House was maintained into the l8th century, perhaps as
sub-tenants of Edmund Brough and later the
Badnalls, is not known.
House survived as part of the
Badnall inheritance until the early years of the 19th century, and for much of
its life was tenanted. However, except for 1803, when it was occupied by William
Lovatt, Isaac Pickford and Ralph Hunt ( and Joseph Bowcock, who lived in the
small house at the rear) little is known of the many Leek people for whom it
must have been home. By the time the firm of Badnall and Laugharn, silk
handkerchief, sewing silk, twist, ribbon and button manufacturers
was established in 1806/1809 the croft at
the rear had become an orchard and the buildings were dilapidated.
Badnall and Laugharn demolished Brindley's House and
built a block of five houses with shades over them on the site, at a cost of £1,500.
Each of the new houses had four rooms and there were three silk twisting shades for four gates each on the top floor. At the rear was a small, two. roomed house and a singeing house "for the use of the shades". In 1828, the tenants were of the new "Brindley's House" were Hannah Lowe; Samuel Broster; George Spilsbury; and three others called Worthington, Preston and Hill. Widow Elizabeth Hammond lived in the house at the rear.
In 1826/27 the Badnalls went bankrupt, and in 1828 the property of Richard Badnall the elder, of Highfield, was put up for sale. Brindley's House ( Lot 31 ) and the four storey silk mill near the corn mill ( Lot 23 ) were purchased by Samuel Bower Whittles, a grocer, and Benjamin Woolfe, an ironmonger, of Leek at the bargain price of £1,202.
silk mill was sold again to Nathan Davenport for £650, and in April 1830 a
trust was formed with Samuel Bower Whittles and Benjamin Woolfe as
trustees of the property for the benefit of their heirs and those of William
Challinor. When Samuel died Benjamin Woolfe purchased the
Challinor share for £360, and
subsequently bequeathed his two shares to his
godchildren John Gibson Whittles, a grocer,
and Thomas Whittles, a traveller. In 1858 the two
Whittles acquired the remaining share when John Brunt conveyed the residue of
the trust to them. The property Samuel Whittles and Benjamin Woolfe
bought was used to provide a rent income and the twisting shades do not appear
to have been used directly by them. In 1872, for example, William Goddard,
sewing silk manufacturer was operating from 166 Mill Street, and in 1919
these shades were being used by Messrs Davenport, Adams & Co., sewing
silk manufacturers. The Whittles family held the property until 1919
when it was sold to Frederick Hassall,
a shopkeeper of Portland Street, and
his wife, Hannah, for £1,100.
over two hundred years after the dyer William Badnall bought Brindley's House, a
master dyer of Leek became its last
private owner, when, in 1941, William Wardle Sale bought it from Hannah Hassall.
Finally, in 1956, the Leek Urban District Council purchased the "five
houses with twisting shades over together with a
house, formerly two houses, in No. 1 Court at the rear - a total of 0.424
acres" for £300, and a new and final chapter in the history of the Brindley
House site began with the demolition of the property and the building of the
houses that stand there today.
County Record Office (SRO): D/3359/Box 23/4 Abstract Title Brindley's House.
Joint Record Office (LJRO): Probate William Badnall 1761;
Lawrence Brindley 1705;
James Brindley 1718.
Moorlands Legal Dept: Deeds to 160-68 Mill Street
DLeek Parish Registers
for History of Staffordshire.
Badnall (1), although born in Uttoxeter, was working as a mohair
dyer in Leek from sometime before 1720, living (probably) where he was
recorded in 1736, in a house near a "little croft upon the
River Churnet called the Water Croft ". His to his dyehouse, a
workhouse, stables, outhouses and other buildings adjoined the house . The
site is described as "at the bottom of Mill Street between a place where
the ducking stool lately was and the mills called Leek Mills"
[ ]. This was Badnall's principal and only dyeworks until
1758, when William Badnall (1) purchased the bankrupt Richard Ferne's
linen thread factory and dyehouse. Although
the old dyeworks continued to be used by the Badnalls throughout the 18th
and early 19th centuries It was the site of Ferne's "new thread factory and dyehouse"
which, in the 19th century, became Hammersley's dyeworks. The site
is now (1984) occupied by the firm of Anthony Ward.
singeing house was a workshop where loose ends, or nap, of silk fibre were
burned off, and the lustre of the thread restored by passing the thrown
fibre rapidly through a flame, or close to
a hot surface. Originally a hot plate or singeing iron might
have been used, but with the advent of gas a flame
from a jet was used.
It is interesting to note that singeing is applied chiefly to yarn spun from waste silk, a process which may have been in use in Leek prior to 1760. In that year one of Leek's richest tradesmen, Richard Lancelot, bequeathed "all the silk called wast silk" and "working tools, utensils and machines" belonging to his business to his daughter Mary Maddock, with instructions that they be kept and used in Leek.
© awbednall, macclesfield 1984