Ten Things you Didn’t Know About Stockport – or perhaps you do…

In no particular order…

Stockport Viaduct. The River Mersey’s banks are to the right where the trees are

1. Stockport per se is not in the 1086 Domesday Book compiled after the 1066 Norman invasion. However, nearby Bramhall (Bramale), held as two manors owned by freemen Brun and Hakun, was described as ‘a waste’ which is pretty ironic when Bramhall today is one of the most sought after residential areas in the borough. Bredbury (Bretberie in 1086) was owned by Richard de Vernon, a common name in Stockport including Vernon Park, Vernon Building Society, Vernon Primary School and Vernon Mill. Originally a cotton spinning mill, Vernon Mill is now under multi-business occupaption. Werneth (Warnet), Romiley (Rumelie), Cheadle (Cedde) and Norbury (Nordberie) also get brief mentions in the Domesday Book.

2. The River Mersey formed the ancient boundary between the Anglo Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. It starts in Stockport town centre with the confluence of the Rivers Goyt and Tame and flows from here to Liverpool and the sea. Its name, first recorded in 1002 during King Ethelred’s reign as Mærse, literally means ‘river border’ and became the county border between Lancashire and Cheshire. Lancashire Hill was thus named because it’s on the Lancashire side of the river. Today, the Mersey runs beneath the 1960s-built shopping precinct, Mersey Way, revealed at one end of the pedestrianised section and at the ‘Bullring’ by Stockport Plaza cinema/theatre at the other. An anomaly today is that the part of Stockport to the Manchester border, even though it’s the ‘wrong’ ie Lancashire side of the river, is in Cheshire.

The River Mersey emerging at ‘the bullring’ from the tunnel under Mersey Way
Lancashire Bridge blue plaque on Stockport’s town centre bridge over the River Mersey

3. Although primarily remembered as a former hat (from the 1650s) and cotton town, Stockport was the site of England’s third silk spinning mill.  Built in 1732 on ‘the park’ on the bank of the River Goyt just before it merged with the Tame (point 2), Logwood Mill (later Park Mill) was set up by Italian-born John Guardivaglio aka Nathaniel Gartrevalli (imagine living in 1730s Stockport when no-one went abroad and never met anyone from Italy and repeat ‘Giovanni Guardivaglio‘ and ‘Nathaniel Gartrevalli‘ with an Italian/Manchester accent) who was given the dosh by six entrepreneurs. A noticeboard and map on Warren Street shows where Park Mill stood. John Gardivaglio arrived in England with industrial spy John Lombe (1793-1822) who, circa 1716, stole an extremely secret Italian process of spinning warp thread (organzine) from silk cocoons and the two fled Italy for their lives. John Guardivaglio remained in Stockport, marrying here at the old St Mary’s Parish Church, and was buried here (as a pauper) in 1788.  When silk spinning became economically unviable, Stockport span cotton. Its last hat factory closed in 1997.

Stockport Grammar School from 1832-1915 site plaque. on the wall beneath Stockport’s War Memorial
The former site of Stockport Grammar School on the corner of Greek St and the A6 from 1832 until its demolition during WW1. Stockport’s Art Gallery War Memorial stands there now

4. The second oldest school in the north of England, Stockport Grammar now sited in Davenport, was founded in 1487 by goldsmith and merchant Edmund Shaa. His legacy paid the wages of a priest to teach Latin and Greek grammar to local boys for free. In 1496, its teacher, John Randall, was paid £10.  The first lessons are believed to have been taught in St Mary’s Parish Church and from 1608, the school stood in Chestergate on land which is now the 1960s precinct. It remained here for over 200 years until relocating to Greek Street. In 1915, during World War I, it moved to its current location in Buston Road. Stockport’s Art Gallery War Memorial now stands on the site.   In 1482, Edmund Shaa was Lord Mayor of London and appears as such (although not named) in Shakespeare’s  Richard III.  Why? Because Edmund Shaa was involved in Richard of Gloucester’s usurpation of the throne when he became Richard III. There’s also a Shaa Road built in the 1880s on land owned by the Goldsmith’s Company in Acton, West London. A history of Stockport Grammar School can be found via this link.

5. The iconic viaduct built for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway Company (London & North Western Railway from 1846) was completed 40 December 1840 and the world’s largest viaduct at that time. Today, it’s still one of the world’s largest brick built edifices. Containing 22 arches 63 feet high (19.2m) built from about 11 million bricks, it took more than 600 men 21 months to build and was widened in 1887-1889 with a further 11 million bricks. The entrepreneurs behind the construction insisted all trains from Manchester, a mere ten or so minutes down the line, must stop at Stockport station hence why most still do today. The viaduct features in several L S Lowry paintings. The view of distant hills and Stockport below from the train crossing the viaduct is magnificent. 

6. If Trip Advisor existed when Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) was researching and writing his 1845 seminal work The Condition of the Working Class in England, Stockport would have received an appalling review. The above viaduct is also included in his commentary. Engels described Stockport as ‘one of the duskiest, smokiest holes, and looks, indeed, especially when viewed from the viaduct, excessively repellent. But far more repulsive are the cottages and cellar dwellings of the working-class, which stretch in long rows through all parts of the town from the valley bottom to the crest of the hill. I do not remember to have seen so many cellars used as dwellings in any other town of this district.’ 

Friedrich Engels’ statue in First Street, Manchester. Engels wrote ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ whilst living in Manchester. He didn’t like Stockport

Thankfully, Stockport is more pleasant today and has some wonderful places to visit!

Stockport Grammar plaque on wall below Stockport’s Art Gallery War Memorial

One thought on “Ten Things you Didn’t Know About Stockport – or perhaps you do…

  1. Ólafur Haakon says:

    I was born in Norway and my parents came to England when I was three. We first lived in Woodley and after I had left school we moved to Romiley. I have a great love for my native Norway but I’ve always described myself as a “Stockport lad…”. I have really enjoyed this article some of whose facts I already knew but have definitely had my knowledge of Stockport added to (it’s a pity no traces of a castle or stockade are available for us to see, but the sandstone tunnels more than make up for that IMHO). Ólafur Haakon (25)


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