Springside House and Goose Ford, Burrs: Part 2

Plan drawn of Springside estate, dated 1812

Following the incarceration of Bury’s Rector, Sir William Henry Clerke, in the Fleet Prison, William Yates moved into Clerke’s former home, Springside, to live out his remaining days, in mourning for his daughter Ellen, the mother of the future Prime Minister. His business partner and son-in-law, the elder Sir Robert Peel, had by then moved to Drayton Manor, to live the life of a landed gentleman.

Yates outlived his daughter by ten years, dying in 1813, aged 74; and in the previous year, he had commissioned the Bolton surveyor John Albinson to make a plan of his land and buildings at Springside. This plan has survived, and shows the site in some detail. To the north of the house was a courtyard, which included a stable block and coach house. A further north again was a walled garden, with a glasshouse across the north end. To the south of the house were a pair of ornamental ponds, formed by damming the stream here, one of these still survives.

In 1806, the Grant brothers had bought the old Peel printworks at Ramsbottom, this was followed by Nuttall Mill in 1812, then Springside in 1818. William and Daniel had previously resided in Manchester town houses, but now both moved to live at Springside, living together like an old married couple (the Barclay brothers of Sark, proprietors of The Telegraph newspaper, spring to mind).

Much has been written about the Grant brothers, but it is difficult to see beyond the blatant hagiography presented by both Charles Dickens and William Hulme Elliot; it is as if a convenient smokescreen had been drawn across the means by which they generated their vast wealth. 

William Grant, who moved from Manchester to Springside, in 1818.

William died at Springside in 1842, and by the time Daniel followed him, in 1855, the East Lancs Railway had driven their new line up the valley, and by erecting an embankment to the west of the house, very effectively ruined the rural tranquillity which had originally made the location so desirable.  

Next in residence at Springside was the highly ambitious Richard Olive. Before 1851, Richard’s father John had set up a railway wagon building business at Woolfold, and before 1850 John had established the adjacent Woolfold Paper Mills, on the Kirklees Brook. This was subsequently run by John’s younger sons, William and Thomas (later known as Olive’s Paper Mill, demolished in 2007).

After John Olive died in 1867, Richard took over the Woolfold wagon works, where he employed my own great-grandfather, Franklin, then 14 years old, as a labourer. Not to be outdone by his brothers, Richard acquired a lease to Burrs Mill in about 1880, and converted this to paper manufacture. He added a three-storey warehouse, and the existing 40-yard octagonal brick chimneystack.

As if that wasn’t enough, Richard also constructed a new wagon-building works at Springside, on a narrow slip of land between the East Lancs Railway and the river Irwell. A branch line was constructed through the works, and a large new reservoir to the east probably provided steam-engine condenser water. By 1881, Richard was employing 500 men and boys, at his three businesses.    

Richard was one of four main promoters behind construction of the Tottington Branch Line, constructed wholly by hand between 1878 and 1882; this was linked to the Woolfold Works by a spur line which passed beneath Tottington Road, but the works may never have benefitted from this link to the railway system, as it closed down in about 1881, possibly as a consequence of the ‘Great Depression’ of 1873-96. The paper-making business at Burrs was also closed before 1884.

However, the Springside Wagon Works continued to run; and to house some of his workers, Richard erected a row of 18 terraced houses above the Irwell valley to the west, named ‘Springside View’. He also constructed a new footbridge (‘Olive Bridge’) on the site of the old Goose Ford, to enable his workers to cross the Irwell to get to work.

Springside House stood on the site of the shed, far right. Beneath the copper beech can be seen the remains of the ha-ha, which prevented livestock from entering the gardens.

Richard Olive died in 1917, and Springside was demolished before 1920. But the cellars survived intact, and for some years now, a new country house has been under construction here, which will be the third house to be erected on this site. But the bridge and the ford have long disappeared, and no evidence survives to indicate this historic river crossing.