I lived in Alderley Edge from 1950 to 1964, with my sister Ann, parents, and grandparents, after spending my very early years at Clockhouse Farm in Mottram St Andrew. We came to live in a house called Croston, previously the coachman's house for Croston Towers, a large castellated residence torn down at the end of WW2, probably due to damage by troops billeted there. Croston Towers had been the home of the wealthy Schill Family but Melland Schill, a Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, had died on the Somme in 1916, when 'K' battalion of the Manchester Regiment was wiped out. His name is engraved on the village War Memorial.
Croston Towers' plot comprised the land bounded by Tempest Road, Woodbrook Road, and Macclesfield Road; about 5 to 6 acres. In 1950, the only buildings on the site were Croston with its stables, coach-house, and workshops, at the top of Tempest Road, and Croston Lodge at the junction of Tempest Road and Macclesfield Road. The drive to Croston Towers is now the private road into Croston Close, with houses costing up to £4million. The difference between the standard of living of the 'owners' in residences like Croston Towers, and the 'workers' in the slums of the north-western mill towns is difficult to describe, even now. The book 'Manchester Made Them' shows one end of the scale. The book portrays life at the Ferns and several of the great Edge Villas up to the start of WW1.
Vehicle access to Croston Towers was either through the main house drive or through a rear access at the corner of Tempest Road and Woodbrook Road. My parents turned this rear access into the entrance for Croston, broke-up the glazed yellow tiles that comprised the floors for the stables, and constructed a fascinating multi-level garden. Recent details from Estate Agents show some of the changes to Croston. A large reception room has been constructed from the double garage that was under my old bedroom, and the almost derelict out-buildings and the coach-house have been changed into a most attractive residential property.
As a small boy I had free run of the Croston Towers site. The main house had been completely demolished and the site cleared by 1950, and the garden had become completely overgrown, with many hidden pathways and wild rhododendrons. It made for exciting and adventurous times, especially when playing Cowboys and Indians.
In about 1954 the first new houses were built on the Croston Towers' plot, with the Porter's large family home being constructed right in the centre of the old garden. The Dick family built a new house on the foundations of the great house, and a third house was built between the Dick's house and Macclesfield Road. These were all large detached houses, and well away from the roads encircling the plot. Three more houses were built later, with access from Woodbrook Road. A gate at the top of the Croston Towers' plot connected with a footpath from Woodbrook Road that wound around the back of Penn House and passed by the Wizard's Well, well known for its legend "Drink of this and take thy fill, for the water falls by the Wizard's will"; and went on through the woods to Castle Rock and Stormy Point.
Bollin Towers, the last remaining castellated house on the Edge, was occupied by the Sellars family. Mariel Sellars and I were able to communicate at night by flashing our bedroom lights on and off. Bollin Towers was later divided into two, with the Sellars family retaining the "tower" portion of the house. The division deprived Mariel and me of a long polished hall, where we could ride on a small wooden train. I remember going up some greasy wooden steps to the very top of the tower, and having one of the very best views in Cheshire.
As a paper boy for the Edge houses, I not only had a lot of papers to deliver but a lot of miles to pedal along house drives. Houses like Franklyn (which replaced the Ferns) had every Sunday paper available and at least three daily papers. Its plot was almost as big as Croston Towers, stretching from Franklyn Lodge on Macclesfield Road to a back entrance on the corner of Woodbrook Road and Underwood Road. It was only after 1956 that more houses were built on this plot. The old Franklyn house has been recently torn down and a grand new house for the Pooler family is being built on the plot. In addition to the paper round I delivered groceries at week-ends and Christmas time for Fitchett's greengrocers in the village. Pedalling a fully laden delivery bike up Macclesfied and Congleton roads was no joke, especially when it was raining heavily or even snowing. Zooming back down to the village was much more fun.
My sister Ann and I attended the Methodist Chapel and I remember the annual parades on Whit Sundays, marching through the village behind the band and the Chapel banner. I still have a photograph of my sister with the Whit Sunday parade in 1959. The annual Sunday School garden parties took place at the Moxon's family house off Macclesfield Road. Adrian Moxon was afflicted with a hare lip, a condition corrected by routine surgery these days, but a permanent disfigurement some 50 years ago. Their garden was so large they even had a small train in it; very popular for the Sunday school parties.
One of my few regrets is that I never saw Croston Towers; so if any reader knows any of its details or even has a photograph or sketch of the house I would be very grateful to see it. The book 'Villas of Alderley Edge' by Matthew Hyde contains much fascinating detail about the large properties on the Edge and the lives of their owners and servants, but sadly has no photographs of Croston Towers.
A memory shared byon Apr 12th, 2007.
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