GUIDES AND RESOURCES
- Interactive map: Trafford Blue Plaques
- Guide: Research your British Ancestors using Ancestry
- Guide: Research your Caribbean Ancestors using Ancestry
- Guide: Research your Irish Ancestors using Ancestry
- Guide: Research the History of your House
- Guide: Organising your Family History Research
- Guide: Understanding census records
- Trafford History Trails
- 1920s Children's Activity booklet
- The First World War in Trafford - Research Database
- 'Get to Know Your Grandparent(s)!' Children's Interview Activity Sheet
- Queen's Platinum Jubilee Activity Booklet
Lord Nelson Hotel at Urmston
The Lord Nelson is a grand, three-storey building, located on Stretford Road, Urmston (Figure 1). It was originally built by George Royle in 1805, to honour the death of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) and was rebuilt in 1877 by George Royle's grandson, Thomas. The Royle family were one of a number of prominent families in the Urmston area.
The Lord Nelson consisted of fifteen acres of land and farm buildings. It was utilised as a courthouse, and an auction house for the selling of land, farms, and cattle (Figure 2).
The Lord Nelson stands on the site of the old court baron, where the Lord of the Manor, who resided at nearby Urmston Hall (Figure 3) would sit in judgement and enforce the law of the land. The building that housed the court on Stretford Road, was removed to accommodate the Lord Nelson.
Hotels across the district, including the Lord Nelson, became the venues for future courthouses. In later years, Colonel Ridehalgh held a twice yearly manorial court at the Lord Nelson to settle local matters relating to the residents of the manor – such as those involving land boundaries or agrarian pursuits. The court baron continued to be held until around the time of Colonel Ridehalgh's death in 1892, but by then, it had degenerated into an annual dinner.
Across the road from the Lord Nelson stands a red bricked building, which is believed to have originally been a prisoner’s holding house, linked by underground tunnel ( through the cellars) to the court at the Lord Nelson Hotel. It is thought the building then became Urmston Post Office, and later, Trafalgar House, when it was once again linked to the Lord Nelson, as the hotel's servant quarters were located there.
The Lord Nelson, along with other ale houses in the area, staged the ‘sport’ of bull and bear baiting. This was held on the cobbled courtyard at the front of the hotel, and was particuarly popular during the Flixton and Urmston Wakes. However, in 1816, the alehouse keepers, despite benefiting the most from its existence, decided to put a stop to the cruelty, and banned such blood sports from their premises. Handbills were distributed to inform the locals that they would no longer support the savage and brutal practices ( Figure 4).
Such practices were abolished throughout the United Kingdom when the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed by Parliament in 1835.
A bowling green was later added to the Lord Nelson, and offered more respectable forms of entertainment.
Rebuilt in 1877, the Lord Nelson was described in the Eccles Advertiser in 1887 as:
Having all the modern notions of capacity, elevation, variety and luxury. There are suites of rooms, billiard and general rooms, all approached by a staircase large and open enough for a bazaar. Adjoining the hotel is a large bowling green, like the hotel itself, enlarged, remodelled and modernised, and every preparation is being made for carriages and horses’. It has been entirely rebuilt at a cost of over £4,000 and the architects are Messrs. Horton & Bridgeford, 19 Cooper Street, Manchester and the contractors, Messrs. Kewley, Jones & Robertson. Bridgewater Street, Manchester. The Court Leet of the manor of Urmston meet and dine here twice a year. There are also at present, one or two sick and burial societies holding their meetings here; cricket and football club meetings and several Manchester societies have taken latterly to coming out to hold their annual dinners.
The hotel was a popular stopping place for travellers, and was well-known for selling hot cross buns at Easter time. Several local groups met there, including ‘The Friendly Men’s Society’ – an organisation which provided financial and social services for the working class. The Urmston and District Wheelers (later known as the Urmston Social Cycle Club), also held meetings at the Lord Nelson, as did the local Freemasons. In the early 1900s, the hotel was used as a terminus for local tram and bus companies ( Figure 5).
Oliver Gaggs was landlord of the Lord Nelson between 1898 and 1900. Born in 1840 in Newton Heath, he was a highly respected flautist, composer and conductor. He was associated with the Manchester Comedy Theatre and played in the Halle orchestra, before heading to the Isle of Man where he was conductor at the Palace and Derby Castle ballrooms. Oliver wrote many musical scores including the popular vocal polka, Hi Kelly. In 1894 he was confirmed as the first musical director of the new Tower Orchestra, Blackpool. He wrote The Tower Waltz to celebrate the occasion of the opening of the Tower and Ballroom in May of that year (Figure 6). Oliver Gaggs later moved to Urmston, eventually taking over the running of the Lord Nelson Hotel, before building and retiring to The Roost at 229 Stretford Road.
Other licensees over the years included Stephen Shawcross, Catherine Fielden, Mary Holiday, Herbert Roland Bannister, John Duggan, Alice Featherstone and James Seal.
In 1905, the landlady of the Lord Nelson, Alice Featherstone, devised a cunning plan to discover who was stealing whisky from the shelves. A report in the Leeds Mercury, dated 16 December 1905, explained the events:
Cold Tea for whisky. Landlady turns detective
Recently a bottle of whisky was missed off one of the shelves in the bar snug of the hotel and the lady set herself up to discover who was the thief. Taking several bottles labelled whisky she filled them with cold tea and put them back on the shelf. This clever trap succeeded ... and a commercial traveller was charged with stealing a whisky bottle, valued at 1 penny. When charged with the offence, prisoner replied “I bought that bottle of whisky in Manchester for a medicine”. The officer then asked the prisoner if he would test the whisky and he replied “Yes”. The cork was then drawn, and the bottle was found to be filled with tea. When told that it was tea, the prisoner made no reply. A fine of 20s was imposed.
An article in the Urmston County Express (12 April 1962) described the hotel as having six stained glass windows depicting the victories of Lord Nelson in the French wars.
The names read like a history textbook: Trafalgar, Porto Ferrajo, Leghorn, Bay of Aboukir, Bastia, Genoa, St Vincent, Cadiz, Santa Cruz and Toulon. The windows which grace the stairways on two floors of the three storey building, are beautifully made of Czechoslovakian glass.
The Lord Nelson was originally finished in natural brick, but this was later covered with a white concrete effect. The frontage has a central arched doorway set in between a pair of columns. The face above the entrance is that of Lord Nelson, and is believed to date from 1805 (Figure 7).
David Smith: The Urmston Urban District
Karen Cliff and Vicki Masterson: Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme.
Michael Billington: The Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme
Alan Crossland: Looking back at Urmston
Steven Dickens: Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme
Steven Dickens: Trafford The Postcard Collection
David Herbert Langton: A History of the Parish of Flixton comprising the Townships of Flixton and Urmston
Urmston: a sketch reprinted from Eccles Advertiser 1877
Leeds Mercury dated 16 December 1905
Urmston County Express dated 12 April 1962