William Henry was born to Samuel II and Sarah Heath on 5 August 1862 in Weaverham, where his father was (at that time) a brick and tile merchant. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Crewe, and lived at Laburnum Cottage and Spring Grove Villa before moving into West View, the house built by Samuel I.
William Henry grew up in Crewe, but when he was about 14 the family moved to Cheswardine (Salop), before going on to Stretford on the western side of Manchester. The family then consisted of Samuel and Sarah, Evaline, Martha Eunice, William Henry, Elizabeth, Lily Dagmar, Minnie Gertrude and Samuel Martin. Another son, John, was born in Stretford in 1877. The last child, Thomas, was born in Rusholme (south-east of the city) in 1878. The family lived in several houses in that neighbourhood during the next 30 years. When William Henry was twenty, scarlet fever killed Lily, Samuel Martin and Thomas. Before he was twenty-two, his mother was dead as well.
William Henry followed his father into the coal trade, acting as a coal agent at Longsight railway station. After being the ‘& Co’ in his father’s business, in 1895 1 he became the agent for Haydock Collieries, whose offices were in Market Street, Manchester, according to the local trades directory for 1898. He was a member of the Manchester Coal Exchange, being its President in 1923/4 2. A preserved newspaper cutting (probably from the Manchester Guardian, 1923, exact date unknown) is of particular interest because of its reference to William Henry’s father, Samuel Heath II:
Mr. Freeman proposed the election of Mr. W. H. Heath as the president for the coming year. Some of them, he added, knew Mr. Heath’s father some forty to fifty years ago, and in their new president they had a worthy son of the “grand old man”. . . . Mr. Heath, in accepting office, remarked that he considered the Manchester Coal Exchange second to none in England. Although his father was not one of the founders, he was present at the first meeting, when it was deemed advisable to own a building of their own rather than meet in one of the neighbouring hotels.
Like his father, William Henry was a member of Ivy Congregational Church. There is no record of other members of the family being church members, and even William Henry’s membership is deduced from an isolated entry in a précis of the church minutes:
Nov 30th, 1904 Mr W H Heath resigned [from being a deacon].
It was doubtless through his connection with the Ivy church that he met the two young ladies who were to be his future wives. The Ainsworth family were regular attenders at Ivy, and in July 1884 Mrs Ainsworth and her eldest daughter Ada Louisa were received into membership. Ada would then be 18, almost four years younger than William Henry.
William Henry and Ada Louisa were married at the Independent Chapel, Longsight 3 on 27 April 1892, William Henry giving his address as ‘8 The Grove, Victoria Park’ (later called ‘Pine Grove’) and his occupation as ‘coal agent’. Ada Louisa gave her address as ‘68 Albert Grove’ 4 which, as we have already seen in Chapter 3, was the family home in 1881. Ada Louisa’s sister Lilian signed the register as a witness; no doubt she was a bridesmaid. Ada’s father was noted as ‘Manager, Slater’s Directories’ publications which have helped considerably in the preparation of this history. William and Ada went to live at 8 South View 5, Levenshulme, and on 3 June 1893 their son Samuel Percy was born there.
But tragedy struck a couple of years later, for Ada died on 2 July 1895 from a combination of influenza, phlebitis and cardiac debility. She was only 29 years old. The place of her death was recorded as 68 Albert Grove, so she had obviously returned to her family home so that she could be nursed by her mother and sisters. Samuel Percy would doubtless accompany her, and after her death he remained in the care of his grandmother, Mary Ainsworth, whilst William Henry (according to the local directories) returned to his father’s home in Pine Grove.
A few years after the death of his first wife, William Henry married again this time to Lilian Ainsworth. William Henry was 37; his bride was 31. They married on 27 July 1899 at St John’s (C of E) church in Longsight, only a short distance from William Henry’s home in Pine Grove. This discovery was doubly surprising: firstly because both parties were presumably Congregationalists, and secondly because until 1907 the Church of England did not approve of the marriage of a man to his deceased wife’s sister. The marriage certificate shows that they were married ‘By Licence’, so the rector may have made some special dispensation in their case (or perhaps he was unaware of the circumstances). Since the marriage may have taken place during the period when William Henry’s father Samuel had fallen out with the Ivy church, it could be that the Ainsworths had also left Ivy and transferred their allegiance to St John’s.
The witnesses to the marriage were John Heath (William Henry’s brother), Samuel (their father), Elizabeth Wetton Ainsworth (Lilian’s youngest sister) and their father William Henry Ainsworth, who was called a ‘Traveller’ rather than the ‘Publisher’s Manager’ which he had been in the census of 1881.
According to the local directory, the newly-weds went to live at 33 Albert Grove, only a few houses from her parents. They can be seen at this address in the 1901 census. Samuel Percy was then able to rejoin his father with his step-mother, who he already knew well as his aunt.
The local directories show that William Henry and his family moved to 2 Ash Grove 6, Victoria Park, in 1905/6. Here they stayed for a few years, but around 1912 they moved out to Mellor on the border of Derbyshire and Cheshire, taking a house called ‘Fairhope’ on Cataract Brow (now 121 Longhurst Lane). This move may well have coincided with the move to Mellor of Lilian's parents (see 'The Ainsworths' in Chapter 4) and with the removal of Samuel II with John and his wife to Castleton. Probably about the same time, Lilian’s youngest sister Elizabeth married Lewis Thompson, described in the local directory as a ‘clerk’, living at 5 Albert Grove. They, too, came to live in Mellor, taking a house called ‘Thornbury’ (now 197 Longhurst Lane). Lewis eventually became financial director of Richard Johnson & Nephew, the wire manufacturers.
Unlike the Thompsons, who remained Congregationalists, William Henry and his family joined the United Methodist Church in Mellor. Once World War I was over, and Samuel Percy was married, William Henry and Lilian (who had no other children) moved to a house called ‘Brightside’ (now 533 Warrington Road) in Rainhill, Lancashire, to be near the headquarters of Richard Evans & Co, the proprietors of Haydock Collieries.
Here they lived in some style, William Henry perhaps remembering the heady days of his youth at West View. His grandson William Geoffrey has fond memories of visiting Brightside as a child; the house and garden seemed enormous to a little boy. William Henry and Lilian employed two servants: Mrs Fogg was the cook-housekeeper, whilst her husband acted as gardener and odd-job man.
Hanging at the turn of the stairs at Brightside was a portrait now understood to be the one of Samuel I left to William Henry in Samuel II’s will. The eyes seemed to follow one up and down the staircase. Samuel was a household god of whom William Geoffrey, at least, went in great fear, even though, in his childhood, he did not realise who the subject of the painting was.
In Rainhill the Heaths belonged to the Wesleyan Methodist Church yet another change. William Henry had started life (like his father and grandfather) as a Primitive Methodist, had switched to the Congregational Church in Manchester, become a United Methodist in Mellor, and now he had joined the Wesleyans! He was obviously very active in the Rainhill church, for when he left in 1932 he was presented with a testimonial 7 paying tribute to his years as a Sunday School teacher.
On his retirement, William Henry and Lilian moved back to Mellor to be near Samuel Percy and his family. They took a house called ‘Highmoor’ (now 9, Gibb Lane), only a stone’s throw from the Methodist Church 8, which they re-joined. Ivy Cottage, the one-time home of William Henry’s sister Martha Eunice was also nearby. One wonders if William Henry visited Martha in Mellor, and was sufficiently attracted to the locality to move there himself in later years.
At ‘Highmoor’, William Henry and Lilian lived a quiet life for the next eight years, attending the church services and, in William Henry’s case, the Sunday School, which in those days catered for adults as much as for children. Samuel Percy, his wife and children (Florence May and William Geoffrey) had tea at Highmoor every Sunday between Sunday School and evening worship for many years.
One of William Henry’s retirement presents was a so-called ‘portable wireless’ a cumbersome affair with external batteries, but with a self-contained aerial and loud-speaker in the days when other ‘wireless sets’ needed yards of aerial wire strung outside the house, and had separate speakers, also needing lengths of wire. Wire-less it was not!
Sunday 3 September 1939 was an ominous day. The Prime Minister was to broadcast to the nation at 11.15 in the morning, and most people guessed what he would have to say. In order to hear this important statement, yet not miss the morning service, William Henry’s portable radio was taken into the Methodist chapel, and after Big Ben had boomed out the quarter, the congregation heard Neville Chamberlain’s words: ‘ . . . this country is now in a state of war with Germany.’
From 1937 onwards, William Geoffrey cycled to his secondary school, passing Highmoor on his way. As his grandfather was becoming less able to do strenuous tasks, Geoffrey was asked to call every morning to ‘get the coal in’ a chore which he undertook until his grandmother died on 16 February 1940, after which William Henry moved in with his son and daughter-in-law. This entailed some serious re-arrangement of bedrooms, but Florence May went away to university in October 1940, which eased the situation except during vacations.
William Geoffrey remembers noticing, as the move from Highmoor took place, that the portrait of Samuel I (which had been brought from Rainhill) was missing. When asked what had happened to it, William Henry said that he had ‘smashed it up’ along with several other pictures. What was probably the only picture of Samuel I as an adult 9 had been destroyed. Yet in his will, William Henry had left this portrait and ‘the pictures of my mother and grandmother’ to Samuel Percy. These two pictures probably suffered a similar fate. What a loss! Not only Samuel I, but Sarah and Martha were consigned to the dustbin.
William Geoffrey also went up to university in 1942, and whilst he and his sister were away from home William Henry died on 4 February 1943. Both William Henry and Lilian were buried in Samuel II’s grave at Chinley.
3 This is the church quoted on their marriage certificate. The officiating minister was a Congregational parson, Rev W M Westerby. This must be the Mr Westerby who resigned from Ivy Congregational Church in 1893, and the ‘Independent Chapel’ is obviously another name for the Ivy Church. Back
4 The local directory shows Nos 68 & 70 forming ‘Ada Villas’; they were later re-numbered as 88 & 90. At the time of writing, both houses were still standing; indeed, No 88 was being renovated in 1996, and the author and his daughter were able to explore it from cellars to attics. The Ainsworths lived at No 68 (88), and Mrs Elizabeth Perkins at No 70 (90). In her will, Lilian Heath (née Ainsworth) referred to a ring given to her by ‘great-aunt Perkins’. This is no doubt the lady in question. The builders carrying out the renovations said that there had been communicating doors between the two houses on every landing, thus confirming the belief that the Ainsworths and Mrs Perkins were closely related. The Ainsworths’ large family may even have ‘spilled over’ into the villa next door. Back
6 Ash Grove ran parallel to Pine Grove; both were cul-de-sacs leading off Longford Place. Early in the 20th century there were members of the family in all three of these streets: Samuel at 8 Pine Grove; William Henry at 2 Ash Grove; John at 24 Longford Place and Evaline at 29 Longford Place. In 1996, all four houses were still standing and in reasonable condition. Back
7 This testimonial, dated May 1932, tells of ‘services devotedly rendered for twelve years’. William Henry must therefore have moved to Rainhill immediately after Samuel Percy’s wedding in April 1920. Rev Dr William Simpson was of the opinion that after John’s emigration that year, Samuel II went to live with William Henry. Back
9 Richard Powell Heath a great-grandson of Samuel I has a portrait of Samuel as a boy. This may have been painted after the death of his older brother William in 1823, when his parents knew that Samuel was their sole remaining male heir. Back