This much-travelled postcard was
1905 by Alexander
Wisely Bragg and his wide Ellen Sarah (Elsie) Bragg, apparently to send
as a Christmas Card to the friends and relations from their new home,
'Belthorn', 43 Davenport Park Road. Sent to Alexander's brother Harry
in Canada, it somehow found its way to England to be traded a century
No stamp has survived: perhaps the card was enclosed with a
letter. Alexander Wisely Bragg was born in Blackburn, Lancashire,
in 1848, the son of John Bragg, textile manufacturer and his wife Anne
Wisely Bragg (née Unwin). Anne was born in 1847 in
village of Belthorn, Lancashire where her father the Reverend John
Harding Unwin was Minister of the Congregational Church. It was
common practice in those days for the wife to choose the name of a new
house, as she
clearly did in in this case. Indeed she was the legal owner of the
house; this was often arranged to ensure that the widow would not
lose the house on the death of the husband under old-fashioned rules
Mr Bragg had qualified as a Chartered Accountant, and practised in
Blackburn, before re-locating to Stockport by the time of the
1891 census which records the couple at 120 Northgate Road,
Edgeley. They had no children, but living with them at that time
was a 75-year-old Welsh-born blind lady, Mary Davies. Northgate
Road is lined with small Victorian houses, suggesting they were not
especially prosperous at that time. In 1901 the couple, now on their
own, were at 61 Bloom Street, Edgeley. The
business must have eventually been successful (or perhaps they
inherited some money) as a few years later in 1905 they were able to
purchase this large (12 rooms plus bathroom and scullery) newly-built
house in the Davenport Park private estate.
The 1911 census shows that they could afford a live-in general servant.
33-year-old Emily Lewis, born near Wellington, Shropshire. In 1913
Alexander would have been 65 years old, and it appears he decided to
retire. The 1912-13 electoral register, the last one before World War
I, lists him at 'Belthorn' but then the couple vanish from British
records. Fortunately we know what happened next, thanks to the on-line
Protestant Cemetery in Rome
, which include a photograph
of their grave. Ellen Sarah Bragg died in Rome on 12 January 1916; her
husband also died in Rome, in May 1928, at the Calvary British Hospital
in Via San Stefano Rotondo, Rome, an institution founded by a British
Nun to care for British visitors.
The Daniell family
The next householder of
No. 43 was Richard John Daniell, born in
Cornwall in 1858. In 1891 he was a schoolmaster, living in in
Truro, Cornwall with his wife Marion (née Smith) and son Percy
Smith Daniell. The 1911 census records him as a widower, living in
Truro, Cornwall, and a Sub-inspector of Schools; later that
year he married Alice Mary Michell in Truro. By 1914 they
were living at 'Belthorn': presumably he was transferred to
Stockport by his Civil Service employers, perhaps
as a promotion to the higher grade of Inspector. By 1920 his son
Percy Smith Daniell, who had served as a officer in the Royal
Engineers during World War I, had joined them at 'Belthorn'. By
1925 the family had moved south to Surrey, where Percy married in 1926.
Richard and Alice lived at 'Uplands', Rosebery Road, Cheam,
Surrey; he died there in 1936 and his second wife Alice Mary Daniell
died in January 1940.
The Grundy family
The next family to enjoy life at 'Belthorn' was the Grundys, Charles
Stanley and Florence Eliza, whom
the 1911 census shows were previously living two doors down from
'Belthorn' in a smaller house named 'Ellerslie', 39 Davenport Park
Road, with their baby son John Stanley Grundy. Telephone directory
records suggest that they may have then renamed No. 43 from 'Belthorn'
to' Ellerslie'. as sometimes happened. (Incidentally, the first
owner of No.39 when built was Stella Smith, the wife of Stockport
solicitor James Smith; by 1911 they had moved to a detached house,
'Strathmore Lodge' on Buxton Road, a short distance from the entrance
to Davenport Park.)
Charles Stanley Grundy, Mus. B.
(Dunelm), L.R.A.M. was born in Manchester in 1881 and married Florence
Eliza Rogers in 1908. He was a 'musician, teacher of piano and singing'
and organist at Albion Congregational Church, Ashton-under-Lyne.
They stayed in Davenport for many years, at least until the onset of
World War II. In the 1930s the electoral registers include
other residents, Margaret Bearpark and Helena Dorothy Baugh,
which we assume were boarders rather than servants.
The Sykes family
Dr. Rupert Sykes, the next head of the household at No.43, was born in
1907 in Lockwood, Huddersfield, a son of a wealthy Woollen
manufacturer. He obtained a B.Sc in Chemistry, then trained in
medicine in Manchester and held junior appointments at Manchester Royal
Infirmary and Ancoats Hospital. In the 1930s, he had a
surgery in Albert Square, Manchester and his name appears as medical
expert for the Police in newspaper reports of a number of murder cases
in the Manchester area. He lived in, and served as Warden of,
Lister House, at that time a hostel for medical students in Nelson
Street, near the Infirmary.
In 1940 he married a nurse, Joan Leigh Bennett, daughter of Mr and Mrs
T. Bennett of 'Moorgarth', Mile End Lane, Stockport, at
Trinity Church, and soon afterwards they moved in to No.43. He
was a Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1942 to 1946, serving
in England, North-West Europe, and Africa, where he gained experience
of tropical diseases. The 1945 electoral register, the first after the
War, shows Joan living in No.43. After demobilisation, he
returned to Manchester and was honorary physician to Manchester
Northern Hospital and Oldham Royal Infirmary. He was later
appointed consultant physician to Stockport Infirmary and Stepping Hill
Hospital. In the 1950s his surgery was at 11 John Street,
Manchester. His spare-time activities included climbing in the Peak
District, and playing piano and bassoon with the Stockport Symphony
Dr Sykes gave up the post at Stepping Hill in 1974, and about
that time the couple moved to a bungalow in Bramhall. He
continued to work with patients at the artificial limb fitting
centre, Withington Hospital until 1987 when - aged 80,- he
retired to spend more time with his family, in his garden and on the
golf course. Joan Sykes died in 1997.
In 2007 Dr Sykes became something of a local
when he celebrated his 100th birthday with 50 members of
his family, including four sons, seven grandchildren and seven
great-grandchildren - some of whom flew from Tasmania for the occasion.
The house still thrives in 2015, secluded behind hedges within the
Davenport Park Conservation Area. The aerial view - from Bing Maps
- explains how
its unusual shape relates to the street layout and a covenant which
required all houses in the Park to be set back 12 yards from the road.
No 43 is in fact a semi-detached property with No. 41, although
this is not immediately evident from the postcard view. The reason for
the high hedges is clear: the house does not enjoy the usual privacy
offered by a rear garden.
The Davenport Park Story
The map extracts above show Davenport Park in maps dated 1898 and 1910
with 'Belthorn' maked in organge on the latter.
The area was, until 1877, owned by the Davenports of Bramhall
had for many years been part of Mile End Farm, the farmhouse being near
what became the junction of Davenport Park Road and the
Manchester - Buxton road in the top corner of the extracts. The
Davenports had been selling parcels of land in the area since the
railway had cut across it in 1857, and John William Handley
Davenport, the last of the family to live at Bramall Hall, determined
to sell off all the remainder and leave away from the area.
Early in 1877, in advance of the sale of the remainder of the estate to
the Freeholders' Company of Manchester later that year, Mile End
farmhouse, and the area which became Davenport Park was sold, for
£5,500 by John William Handley Davenport to to a John Simpson of
who is listed in an 1878 directory at Mile End, although he is not
listed in the 1881 census. The Land Registry
documents, and a plan which accompanied the indenture, reveal that the
land came complete with a layout of the streets, and an obligation to
maintain the streets and build only houses approved by the Davenport
although there is no evidence that any houses has been built at that
time. The plan, which can be viewed on the Davenport Park
includes some streets which were never completed. 'Stanley Road' would
have run across from Kennerley Grove Lane (now Kennerley Road) to
Clifton Road, and turned back to meet the far end of Clifton
Road. Station Road was to connect Devonshire Road direct the
station, and a short street called Egerton Road from part-way along
Devonshire Road (later Devonshire Park Road) towards the railway.
Perhaps there was an intention to make a railway crossing and meet the
Egerton Road at The Crescent on the other side; if so, this ambition
was never achieved. There did exist an underpass originally provided by
the railway to allow the movement of stock between the two parts of
Mile End Farm, but this vanished in the course of housing developments
on both sides.