Samuel Percy Heath was always known by his second name. As there are already a confusing number of Samuels in the family history, it will be preferable to continue the practice, and refer to him simply as ‘Percy’.
Percy was born to William Henry and Ada Louisa Heath at 8 South View, Levenshulme, on 3 June 1893. Two years after his birth, his mother died, and he was placed in the care of Ada’s mother, Mary Ainsworth. The Ainsworths were a large family, the father (William) being a publisher’s manager. Ada had been the eldest child, and she was followed by Lilian, Eliza Annie, Minnie, John William, Elizabeth Wetton, Edwin Perkins, Alfred Slater, Herbert Latham and Harry Crankshaw. They lived at Ada Villas, Albert Grove, on the other side of Stockport Road to the Heaths. Percy thus spent his early years surrounded by his aunts and uncles. Latham was the one nearest to his own age, and the two of them grew up more like brothers than uncle and nephew, a close relationship which lasted all their lives.
Four years after Ada’s death, William Henry was married again, this time to Lilian Ainsworth. They settled at 33 Albert Grove, a few doors from the Ainsworths. Percy was now able to rejoin his father; his step-mother was already an aunt whom he knew well. The family later moved to Ash Grove, near to the home of William Henry’s father, who had a coal agency in the next street (Pine Grove).
William Henry and Lilian had no further children, so Percy grew up as an only child an unusual circumstance in those days. There was one boyhood memory he was fond of recounting: on his football team was a boy called Lawrence Lowry, who grew up to be better known as an artist than a goalkeeper! The 1901 census reveals that Lawrence (aged 13) was then living at 14 Pine Grove a few doors from Percy’s grandfather Samuel Heath.
After his schooldays were over, his parents moved to Mellor, taking a house called ‘Fairhope’ on Cataract Brow (now 121 Longhurst Lane), and Percy was articled to a firm of accountants in Manchester. In his final accountancy examinations, he was placed first in the world.
Percy’s parents joined the United Methodist Church at New House Hill in Mellor, and he took a full part in the activities of the church. Among the church members were Annie Eleanor and Alfred Eli Chapman, who had moved out from Manchester towards the end of the nineteenth century with their infant daughter Florence Eleanor (‘Florrie’), who was born on 23 February 1895. Like Edward Armitt, Alfred Chapman was a Manchester warehouseman. Two other children: John Hill (‘Jack’, born 1 May 1897) and Annie (‘Nan’, born 30 October 1906) completed the family, who lived at ‘Spring Bank’ (now 24 Moor End Road), Mellor. The Chapmans and their first two children can be seen in the 1901 census for Mellor, Alfred being listed as a ‘Drapery Salesman’.
Percy and Florrie became close friends, and shared many interests in the church 1. They were both teachers in the Sunday School, officials of the Young People’s Guild, and members of the Rechabites (a society for the promotion of total abstinence). But World War I began, and Percy joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in which he reached the rank of sergeant. He was fortunate not to see any action, spending most of the war in Ireland in an administrative post. Percy played the church organ whenever he came home a post he was to hold for almost the rest of his life 2.
The Chapmans moved lower down the village to ‘Slackwood’ (now 185 Longhurst Lane), only a few minutes walk from ‘Fairhope’. Florrie and Percy saw a great deal of each other whenever Percy was home on leave, and eventually became engaged, but Alfred Chapman forbade a marriage while the hostilities continued. Too many young men never returned from the war, leaving desolate widows, often with young children.
But the war ended at last, and Percy came home to take up accountancy again, this time with Joseph W Shepherd in Manchester. Florrie was employed as a secretary with the Anglo-African Supply Company 3, also in Manchester. They were married on 28 April 1920 at the Methodist Church. The marriage was witnessed by Edgar (‘Teddy’) Howarth (Percy’s best man, the son of Minnie, his mother’s sister), Hilda Pearson (Florrie’s cousin, her bridesmaid), Alfred Eli Chapman and William Henry Heath, as well as Samuel II.
Returning from their honeymoon, they took up residence in ‘Dene Cottage’, School Row, (now 192 Longhurst Lane). Here on 10 May 1922 their daughter Florence May (always known simply as ‘May’) was born, followed on 3 March 1924 by their son William Geoffrey (‘Geoffrey’ to his parents; ‘Geoff’ to his wife and friends).
In 1926, Percy commissioned a local builder, William Chadwick, to build a house on Longhurst Lane. The landowner, Mrs Jowett, was a close friend of the Chapmans and also of Florrie and Percy, and she allowed Percy to build on a choice plot almost opposite her own residence the so-called ‘Manor House’. The new house (now 275 Longhurst Lane) was called ‘Beaumont’ after one of Florrie’s ancestors. Here Florrie and Percy lived quietly and happily for the next half-century.
Percy continued to be active in the Methodist Church. Besides being the organist, a church trustee and treasurer, he was a teacher, pianist and eventually Superintendent in the Sunday School. He became a local preacher like his grandfather and great-grandfather, and served for a term as a circuit steward.
In his early married years, Percy played cricket for the Mellor XI, Florrie often being on ‘tea duty’ for the home games. Since his two young children were members of the Brownies and Cubs, he took an interest in their activities, becoming a trustee of the ‘clubroom’ a building converted from the old Primitive Methodist Chapel in Moor End, and bought by public subscription for the exclusive use of Scouts and Guides, Cubs and Brownies.
Percy later took an interest in politics, but despite pressure from his family, he declined to stand for the local council. He served for a spell on the governing body of the New Mills (Derbyshire) Adult Education (evening classes) authority, being its chairman at one time.
Jack Chapman married and settled in Mellor, and his sister Nan married and settled nearby in Marple. Jack had a daughter and a son; Nan a daughter. With so many of her own family (and Percy’s parents) living close by, Florrie took great pleasure in entertaining them all on special occasions. New Year’s Day was one of these family highlights, and the ‘Sermons’ (the Sunday School anniversary on the first Sunday in July) was another.
Before their marriage, both Percy and Florrie had enjoyed holidays at Kents Bank on the edge of the Lake District at the Christian Endeavour (CE) Holiday Home there. When their children were old enough, they renewed their acquaintance with the CE Holiday Home movement, taking the family to Penmaenmawr, Kents Bank, Saltburn, Cromer or Ventnor for two weeks every summer. In a Christian atmosphere, the week’s programme of excursions by charabanc (the forerunner of the motor coach), short walks, days on the beach and an impromptu concert was enjoyed by both the children and their parents, to the extent (as will be seen later) that Geoff continued the practice of going on CE holidays later in life, and met the young lady who was to become his wife through the Holiday Home movement.
In the 1930’s Percy had strong pacifist leanings, but the machinations of Adolf Hitler soon put an end to those. In fact, it was while the family were on holiday at Saltburn that Hitler invaded Poland, two days before the declaration of war. The holiday was curtailed, and a rapid return home was made on overcrowded trains. When the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) was formed, Percy was one of the first to join its ranks. The LDV soon became the Home Guard, nicknamed ‘Dad’s Army’. Starting with his old rank of sergeant, he quickly became a captain and acted as the company adjutant.
Florrie became a voluntary helper at the British Restaurant in Marple a source of cheap, wholesome food during the days of strict rationing. She was also active in the church sewing circle, making ‘comforts’ for soldiers, especially the young men associated with the church who were in the armed forces.
Prior to the war, May and Geoff had finished primary school, both attending the village school in Mellor. Both had passed the ‘County Minor Scholarship’ examination, entitling them to go on the secondary school in New Mills. By the time the war started (September 1939), May was in the sixth form, becoming Head Girl in her final year, and Geoff had just passed his School Certificate examination.
From New Mills, May won a scholarship to University College, Hull, to study chemistry. After university, she worked as an industrial chemist with Ferodo Brake Linings at Chapel-en-le-Frith and with the Calico Printers Association in Manchester and Strines.
A Brownie, Guide and Ranger as a girl, May became a Guide Captain and a Divisional Commissioner. Always active in Mellor Methodist Church, she became a trustee, a Sunday School teacher and Superintendent, Church Secretary and a local preacher, thus following in the steps of both Samuel I and Samuel II and her own father Samuel Percy. She had a good singing voice, and as a child often sang solos at Sunday School anniversaries and concerts. In later life, she was a member of the Mellor Ladies’ Choir and the choir of Jubilee Methodist Church.
In 1951, May married John Grange Parker, and they built a house called ‘Almora’ (now 274 Longhurst Lane) in Mellor. They had three children: Michael John (born 22 October 1952), Janet Christine (born 15 June 1954) and David Martin (born 24 June 1956). Michael, having read mathematics at Durham University, married Nina Beverley Wallwork, and became a teacher like his wife. Living in Lincolnshire, they had a son Timothy Simon (born 3 August 1978) and a daughter Julie Helen (born 17 July 1981).
Janet became a nursery nurse, and had a daughter Sara Lisa (born 29 February 1976). Janet married Peter Dixon, a postman, and they had twin daughters: Michelle Karen and Christine Amanda (born 21 July 1979).
David joined the Royal Navy, and married Katherine Mary Starmer. They had two sons: Nathan Dean (born 20 June 1980) and Daniel John (born 17 December 1983).
John Grange Parker died suddenly at home on 9 September 1999, whilst this website was still in preparation. Several of the photographs of houses in Mellor which appear in the website were taken by him.
In 2009 after a series of falls, May was admitted to a care home, where she died in September 2012.
Geoff followed his sister to Hull, where he studied Aeronautics. After university, he obtained employment with the aeronautical engineers A V Roe & Co Ltd at Chadderton, North Manchester a firm with which he was to remain (despite several changes of company name) throughout his working life. He married Joan Melvin on 1 July 1950, and they had a house built in Townscliffe Lane, Mellor.
They had two children: Sally Anne (born 30 July 1952) and Christopher Melvin (born 31 January 1957). Further details of the lives of this branch of the family are given in Chapter 9.
Quite late in life, and once Europe had recovered from the War, Percy and Florrie developed a taste for foreign travel. They visited Switzerland on several occasions, but always travelled by train and boat because of Percy’s fear of flying. Then they decided to visit the Channel Islands, and Florrie persuaded her husband to take the risk of the short flight. After that, he thought flying was the only way to travel!
Percy had once been told by a gypsy that he would live to be a hundred, but after he had retired from business he had no other interests with which to occupy his time, and he slowly declined. He died at May’s home on 9 January 1977 after a short illness.
Florrie stayed on for a while at ‘Beaumont’, but when she found living there alone too difficult she moved into sheltered accommodation in Marple. There she suffered a stroke, and was taken into a Stockport nursing home where she died on 1 May 1979, having lived long enough to see her first two great-grandchildren Sara and Timothy.
Both Percy and Florrie were cremated; their ashes are interred in the graveyard of Mellor parish church.
2 On the closure of Mellor Methodist Church in 1991, the organ was transferred to Jubilee Methodist Church in Marple Bridge. A plaque on the organ case records the fact that Percy was the organist for 60 years. Back