Located on the River Mersey about 7 miles South-east of Manchester city centre, Stockport is an attractive old town with a long history. Oddly, two alternative explanations seem to exist for the origin of the name of Stockport. One has it that, as a Saxon village, it was given the name “Stockport”, which means ” the market place at the hamlet ” In fact, it has had a market there since well before it was officially granted in 1260 AD.
Underbank Hall, Stockport Town Hall and Stockport town centre as seen from Heaton Mersey.
Strangely, though both Cheadle and Bramhall (which now exist within the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport) were referenced in the Domesday Book of 1086, Stockport itself received no mention. Alternative authorities have it that here is sufficient evidence to support the argument that there had existed a fortified stronghold in the vicinity since ancient British times, and that even Agricola had recognised its strategical advantages and fortified Stockport to guard the passage of the Mersey. The town’s name, then, could have been derived from two alternative Saxon words: “stoc” – a stockaded place or castle; and “port” – a wood. Literally, a castle in a wood. Either explanation is plausible and possible.
The Normans also fortified the site and the castle they built was rebuilt and adapted over the centuries until it was finally demolished in the year 1775. Well authenticated tradition carries the history of Stockport back to early Norman times, and it was the second Sir Robert de Stokeport, a successor of one of the barons created by Hugh Lupus d’Avranche, nephew of King William the Conqueror, who obtained the Charter of Freedom for the town around the middle of the thirteenth century, whilst the third Sir Robert de Stokeport obtained a grant of a weekly market and a yearly fair. This Charter was one of the first granted in the district and was so exceedingly comprehensive that it remained in force for more than six hundred years.
By 1172 a castle stood in Castle Yard, where the present market place now is and it withstood a siege by Henry II. In 1220 the town was granted a Charter of Freedom – a 1530 Latin copy of the Charter can be seen in the Town Hall. This provided for a code of local government, as well as the market and an annual fair. By 1327 it was held by the de Spencer family. After more than 2 centuries, accounts describe the castle as in a decayed and disused state, and it remained so until some rebuilding during the Civil Wars in the 17th century, when some defensive restorations were carried out. However, by the end of this war the castle lay once again in ruins.
The Municipal Corporation of Stockport
The Manorial system of local government came to an end with the establishment of Municipal Local Government by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1825. Under this Act, Stockport was included in the list of towns to be divided into seven wards, with a Council consisting of 14 Aldermen and 42 Councillors. In 1888, the town was raised to the status of a County Borough. Since its early incorporation Stockport had considered building for itself a town hall to reflect its new dignity and civic pride, and permissions were obtained to erect a town hall and proper public offices within the borough. I t was not until 1893, however, that a definite proposal was made to erect the town hall on the site of the old National School in Wellington Road South. The design of this magnificent edifice was placed in the hands of Sir Brumwell Thomas (renowned contemporary architect of Belfast City Hall) .