The history of Denzell House

Denzell House was built by Robert Scott in 1874 for his son Henry. Scott paid £7,075 to the seventh Earl of Stamford for 10 acres of land and hired Manchester architects Clegg and Knowles to design a house in keeping with the affluent neighbourhood. The house is believed to have cost £18,000 to build and a further £12,000 for all the fittings.

Robert Scott was a businessman who was said to be connected to the firm of Tootal, Broadhurst Lee. The house never went to his son, Henry, as tragically he was killed, possibly in the Zulu Wars and he never returned to the house. Robert Scott is said to have died in 1904 when Samuel Lamb, a wealthy shipper bought the house.

During Samuel Lamb's lifetime, the gardens of Denzell flourished under the employ of a team of gardeners. Glasshouses were situated behind the house where peaches, orchids and vines were grown. The greenhouses were in use until the mid 1970s and supplied plants for the parks in the area. Flowers were also grown and were used to decorate Altrincham Town Hall and the Assembly Rooms on official occasions.

What is now the car park behind the new Denzell Lodge, was once home to the kitchen garden, managed by William Ellis, the head gardener who maintained and produced fruit and vegetables for the house.

Above left: Samuel Lamb seated in the old Conservatory. Right: A gargoyle on the house.

Much of the house and grounds were allowed to fall into disarray and photographs of it in its full glory have, so far, been hard to locate. The tennis court, croquet lawn, entrance gates, lodge, clock tower and archway to the stable yard are therefore left to the imagination.

Lamb died in 1936 and the house was passed to the local authority, Bowdon UDC, by his children, in memory of their parents. Samuel Lamb's legacy to the people of The house has been many things to many people over the years. In 1938 it was a Whitsuntide weekend school and during the Second World War it opened as an annexe to Altrincham General Hospital when it became a maternity home for expectant mothers.

Its use by the health authority continued for some years until it was sold on a long lease in 1989 and turned into offices.

The history of The Devisdale

According to local history, it appears The Devisdale got its name sometime between 1702 and 1740. The 'Devis' part of Devisdale possibly comes from the name of a local family who lived in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries. Prior to that, it was known as Bowdon Downs.

However, there is another opinion as to how The Devisdale acquired its name. It is believed to be a corruption of 'Davis Dole'. The term 'dole' referred to land (usually common land) 'doled out' to the poorest for grazing, collecting firewood and similar ancient common rights. The slopes which descend from Denzell to Altrincham would have been heath land and used by the lord of the manor as a rabbit warren to provide food.

From the eighteenth century the 'Bowdon Wakes' were held on The Devisdale. Events such as horse, pony and donkey racing, climbing the greased pole, juggling, hen racing and foot races would run across three days and often involved heavy drinking by both men and women alike.

Before the Second World War, it was used as a nursery and afterwards it was sown as a hay crop which required a mixture of species. In 1985 The Devisdale contained thirteen different types of grasses as well as a few plants such as the Common Marsh Orchid and the more uncommon broadleaf plants such as Lesser Stitchwort whose numbers have increased over the years - particularly the Orchid.

The Altrincham Agricultural Show was said to have been held on The Devisdale from 1896 to 1966 and was believed to be the largest one-day show in the country. Farmers came to show cattle from all over Britain, including Norfolk, the West Country and Scotland. Machinery and animals came by train to Altrincham and Hale stations as well as by road. For locals it was a day out and an opportunity to buy cheap bacon and prize vegetables at the end of the show.