Bishop Hugh Oldham

Hugh Oldham was Bishop of Exeter, and founder of the renowned Manchester Grammar School. Having spent his youth in medieval Manchester, he retained a long affection for it. Facts about his birth are sketchy, though it seems probable that he was born at Goldbourne Lane in Oldham sometime around 1452. Another tradition has him born in Crumpsall, Manchester – this on the basis of his coat of arms having been found on a house in 1864, though this may be unreliable.

He was educated in the home of Thomas Stanley, first Earl of Derby, whose wife, Countess Margaret Beaufort, (to become mother of the future king Henry VII), took a keen interest in the education of young boys. (Curiously, girls were not considered as needing academic education). Later, Hugh Oldham studied at Exeter College in Oxford and at Queen’s College, Cambridge.

Hugh Oldham's Coat of Arms
Arms of Oldham

Under the patronage of the influential Countess, Oldham prospered as one of her proteges, and was appointed Bishop of Exeter in 1504, after her son Henry’s accession to the throne. Oldham was described as “being a man of more zeal than knowledge, and more devotion than learning”. Always keenly interested in education, he was a benefactor of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and founder of the Manchester Grammar School, (originally the Manchester Free Grammar School for Lancashire Boys).

The Manchester Grammar School was set up by Oldham with the expressed purpose of making good education available to all those who could benefit from it, and the poor especially – all that was required of potential students was that they have an aptitude for learning, and Oldham would take care of the funding. Most of his endowment came from revenues he eared from his fulling mills on the River Irk, where the school was built nearby. Oldham’s mills retained the monopoly in grinding of all of Manchester’s corn and malt until 1758. His school was built on Long Millgate (near Victoria Station, and adjoining Chetham’s School of Music), where a building of that name survives today, though the Grammar School moved to its new, larger purpose-built premises in Rusholme in the 1930s.

The building now forms part of Chetham’s School, though a stone lintel over its entrance still reads “Manchester School” in Latin. The school still incorporates Oldham’s own arms within its badge – a literal pun, whereby an Owl is seen with a speech bubble emerging from its beak bearing the word “DOM”. (“Owl-dom” is probably the way his name would be pronounced in the 15th century). See Oldham Town Coat of Arms. Hugh Oldham died in 1519 and his body lies in Exeter Cathedral in Devon.

The Manchester Grammar School is still a registered charity, and admits young boys on the basis of academic merit, offering free places to those who cannot afford it. Many celebrities have been educated at the school, and it still regularly figures in the top 5 schools in Great Britain.

Sir Humphrey Chetham

Humphrey Chetham

The fifth son of a su ccessful Manchester merchant living in Crumpsall Hall, Harpurhey in Manchester, Humphrey Chetham and his brothers were educated at the Manchester Grammar School, under the headmaster Doctor Thomas Cogan. After an apprenticeship with a local liner-draper, Chetham joined his brother George in setting up their own profitable business, buying fabric goods at wholesale markets in London, and selling them at retail cloth outlets in Manchester. George handled the London business and Humphrey remained in Manchester.

Through this trade and careful money-lending, they amassed personal fortunes, and bought large properties around the region, including Clayton Hall (in 1620), and Turton Tower near Bolton ( in 1628). His conspicuous wealth brought him to the attention of the crown, and in 1631, King Charles I granted him a knighthood, and several years later, in 1635, he was appointed High Sheriff of Lancashire. Later he was nominated High Collector of Subsidies (Taxes) Within the County of Lancashire, and by 1643 his responsibilities were considerably increased when Parliament made him General Treasurer for the County.

Ill health prompted him to decline the office, but his refusal was not accepted, and at the age of 65 he had little choice but to accept this hard and demanding office, which was to lose him personally a great deal of money due to bad debts. Increasingly, he began to consider ways of dispersing his personal fortune, fearing its sequestration by Parliament in the event of his death, and to this end, he disposed of a large sum to found a Blue Coat School in Manchester, to educate and maintain some 40-odd local boys. Before his death he secured the purchase of the Old Warden’s College building to house the school and a proposed free public library – at the time a most revolutionary concept. He also left considerable amounts of money for the purchase of books to stock the library, and for the establishment of other libraries in Manchester, Bolton, Turton, Gorton and Walmesley (in Bury).
Shortly after his death in 1653, the Chetham’s Hospital School and Chetham’s Library were founded, and they survive intact on that site today. The School is now one of the nation’s finest music schools (Chetham’s School of Music), and the Library is one of nation’s most valuable antiquarian libraries – still open to the public.

Lady Ann Bland

Lady Ann Bland was the only daughter of Sir Oswald Mosley, and on the death of her father she inherited all the estates and manorial rights which he had bequeathed to her. She married Sir John Bland, a Yorkshireman, though it was an unhappy marriage as he proved an inveterate gambler, as were the 2 sons which she bore him. Despite all this she managed to hold on to considerable personal fortune. The Mosley family had been backers of William of Orange, and Lady Ann supported the Hanoverian succession to the English throne, at a time when Manchester was more or less equally divided between Hanoverian and Jacobite sympathies.

Jacobites worshipped in the Collegiate Church (now Manchester Cathedral), which was very High Church, and many dissenters such as she objected to the near “papist” services and ceremonies practised there. It came as relief therefore, when in 1694, the Cross Street Chapel was built, and many Low Church Anglicans preferred to worship there. But she had decided that a better and bigger church was needed in central Manchester where Low Church dissenters could feel more comfortable in their worship.

She backed a plan for building a new church in Acres Field, owned by William Baguely, the site of a famous Manchester fair. Baguely donated the land, and Lady Ann subscribed generously to its erection. The new St Ann’s Church was completed and duly consecrated by the Bishop of Chester on the 17th July 1712. Lady Ann’s initials were put on the altar cloth in gratitude for her making the project possible. She also laid out the adjoining square (St Ann’s Square) and built the new Assembly Rooms on King Street.

This building stood on pillars above a passageway which led to the church from King Street. It is still called St Ann’s Passage. It was rumoured that, outraged by women Jacobites wearing Stuart tartan to the Collegiate Church, she and other ladies who supported the Protestant Succession danced through the streets of Manchester by moonlight wearing orange dresses. Domestically, she was a woman of great taste and culture, and she decorated her home at Hulme Hall with Roman antiquities.

She died in 1734 and is buried in Didsbury churchyard. Later, one of her dissolute sons sold the Hulme Hall estate.

William Hulme

William Hulme was founder of the William Hulme Charity, and lived at Hulme Hall (later Broadstone Hall) in Reddish, Stockport. Very little is known about his life except that he owned two other large properties in the region: one at Withingreave Hall in Withy Grove, Manchester, and another at Outwood near Prestwich. Probably educated at the Manchester Grammar School, he was brought up by an uncle, since his father had died when William was 7 years old. Opinions vary as to his adult life – some maintain that he followed a career at Law after attending Brasenose College in Oxford, and others believe that he lived the life of a country gentleman. We do know that he held the position of Justice of the Peace for Kearsley near Bolton, where his wife Elizabeth had grown up.

The premature and tragic death of their only beloved son, was to affect Hulme well into later life, and he seemed determined to make some charitable provision for young boys. In his will he left provision for the foundation of exhibitions for 4 students to study for Bachelor of Arts degrees at Brasenose College. The income for this charity was originally 64 pounds, which came from rents and dues on his many outlying properties : at Heaton Norris, Denton, Ashton-under-Lyne, Reddish, Harwood in Bolton, and in Manchester. Over the years, this sum has so grown that it has been necessary on several occasions to change the scope of his bequest by Act of Parliament. In 1881, the Trustees of his charity were empowered to build schools in Manchester, Oldham and Bury – they were known as the William Hulme Grammar Schools.

They also founded a Hall of Residence for students at Manchester University, granted annual grants to the University itself and to the Manchester High School for Girls. The exhibitions at Brasenose College were increased from 4 to 20.
He died in 1691, having left an enormous philanthropic bequest, and was buried in the Hulme Chapel of the Collegiate Church in Manchester, which had been largely built by his ancestors. Later he was moved elsewhere.