I have written in other features about Cassidy's major
patrons Enriqueta Rylands and James Gresham, but there is
another family name which crops up more than once in John
Cassidy's life story, albeit in in a less spectacular way:
that of George Harry Walker, his wife and children.
Information about them is not easy to find, but in this
feature I do my best to uncover their lives and careers.
Elizabeth Mary Walker
Mrs Walker, born Elizabeth Mary Collins in Salford in 1858,
married George Harry Walker in 1879. They had two children,
James Alan and Ottoline Mary.
She achieved some fame in the world of Persian cat breeding,
as the following, from The Book of the Cat
by Francis Simpson (1903) indicates:
Mrs. G. H. Walker, of Woodheys Park, is the chief supporter
of the Northern Counties Cat Club, and is a member of the
National Cat Club Committee. For several years she has been
a well-known breeder and exhibitor of silver Persians, and
has a most excellently planned cattery, which I had the
pleasure of seeing when on a visit to Woodheys Grange.
The floors of the outside catteries, which face south, are
cemented, so that they can be washed over every day. The
roofs are boarded, and then covered with galvanized iron, so
that all the rain runs away easily. The spacious apartments
are fitted with benches and ledges, and trunks of trees and
leafy shrubs are planted in the ground for the cats' special
amusement and exercise... There is a maid in attendance on
these fortunate cats, and the man who looks after the
kennels of dogs also gives a helping hand....
At the Northern Counties Cat Show at Manchester in 1902 Mrs.
Walker exhibited a really wonderful silver kitten. I say
wonderful, for this youngster, bred from the owner's
'Woodheys Fitzroy' and 'Countess', was the most unshaded and
unmarked specimen of a silver I have ever seen.
The average number of inmates of this cattery is about
thirty, but at one period of Mrs. G. H. Walker's catty
career the silver fever ran high, and there were sixty-three
cats and kits within the precincts of the spacious and
luxurious catteries of Woodheys Grange.
Elizabeth died at Woodheys Grange on 6 February 1926,
leaving effects worth £3963.14.3 to her husband.
James Alan Walker
Born in 1883 in Urmston, son of George and Elizabeth, he
lists himself in 1911 as Shipping Merchant and 'employer'
suggesting that he became a partner in his father's firm. He
lived with his parents at Woodheys Grange until 1910
when he married Glasgow-born Marion Cowan Walker and they
moved into 'The Croft', on Harboro Road, not far away.
Around 1914, they moved again, to 'The Manor House',
pictured above, a large Victorian mansion in
Ashton-upon-Mersey, which perhaps offered more space for his
pigeons. It was located close to Woodheys
Grange, on the edge of what was then countryside. It is to
be hoped that his pigeons never encountered the Woodheys
He served as President of the British Nun Club from 1928
until his death in 1944. Our picture of him, from Pigeons and Pigeon World,
November 10, 1931, shows him judging Nuns at the prestigious
Crystal Palace show on 17
They had a daughter, Alane Mary Walker, born in 1914. She is
listed at the Manor House with her parents in the 1921
The 1939 register shows Alan, now retired, and Marion living
in 'The Old House', Faringdon, Berkshire.
Alane was still with them, working as as elecution teacher;
she never married, and lived until 1972, latterly at 47
Derbyshire Lane, Stretford.
At the time of his death he was living at 2 Chubb Hill
in the resort of Whitby (seen above, via Google Streetview,
in 2010) on the North Yorkshire coast. His death is on
record as occurring at the Bowling Green, it seems he
retained his interest in sport to the last.
His widow Marion returned to Cheshire, and was living at 30
Ashton Lane, Sale when she died in 1953.
The Manor House also known as 'The Manor' had some
interesting earlier residents. William Abercrombie, an early
tenant, was a stockbroker, a noted patron and collector of
William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and an enthusiast
for Arts and Crafts wood engraving. Of his sons born in
Ashton-upon-Mersey, Patrick (1879 - 1957) became a famous
architect an town planner, and Lascelles (1881 - 1938) a
According to the Trafford Lifetimes archive, the house was
compulsorily purchased in 1963 by the local authority who
were creating a housing estate. It is commemorated by
the street name Manor Avenue (formerly Carrington lane) and
its public house, The Manor House.
Ottoline Mary Walker
Ottoline was born in Urmston in 1889, shortly before the
family moved to Sale Bank.
Like her brother, she was able to indulge in hobbies, and
learned to play the violin. She must have been of a good
standard, as she played in recitals in various public halls
In 1913 she obtained, from London dealer J & A Beare, a
violin made in 1736 by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù of
Cremona, considered to be a maker of equal status to the
more famous Stradivarius. In 2012 the same instrument is
owned by the Dutch National Instruments Fund and played by
Henk Rubingh, Principal Second Violin of the Royal
The bookplate reproduced above was found in a second-hand
copy of Gilbert Cannan's translation of the first two
volumes of Jean
Christophe by Romain Rolland, a ten-volume novel
tracing the life of a musician, for which Rolland won the
Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915.
By 1921 Ottoline had moved to London, where she
continued playing the violin, and made appearances on BBC
radio. She lived at 7 Craven Hill Gardens, Paddington.
In 1924 she married James Forshaw, and they stayed at
Craven Hill Gardens, but he disappears from the
available records after 1927. Ottoline is listed
as 'married' in the 1939 register but James cannot be found.
By 1930 Ottoline was living alone on a ground floor flat
in 3 Pembridge Place, Kensington; later she
moved to Sussex, and a house called 'Grey Thatch' in
Bersted, near Bognor Regis, which she shared with a fellow
musician, Harry Waldo-Warner, and his wife Rosie.
Harry was a viola player and composer, one of the
founding members of the London String Quartet and a several
times Cobbett Award winner for his chamber music. Rosie had
been a artist's model, sitting for Whistler, Millais, Singer
Sargent and many others.
Ottoline Forshaw died in Sussex on 31 August 1950.
When writing of these large houses, it would be wrong to
ignore the other residents, the servants, without whom the
lives of the family would have been very different. The 1911
census reveals that the Walkers had five live-in servants:
Rose Bailey, age 46, Cook. Born in Yorkshire. The
only one of the five who had been with the family in the
Jane Pierson, 38, Waitress, born in Goathland,
Ruth Baker, 28, Housemaid, born in Minsterley,
Emily Scott, 25, Housemaid, born in Marston, Cheshire
Florence Cooper, 17, Kitchenmaid, born in Winnington,
Research of this sort can tell us little about the thoughts
and feelings of the people we describe. Were they happy with
their pigeons, dogs and 63 cats? What was life like as a
Shipping Merchant? How did Ottoline like living alone? Did
she really read that dreary tome? The solitary last
few years of George Harry Walker's life, in the great
rambling house, cannot have been cheerful, although his son
did live nearby and he had friend on The Avenue.
Cassidy lived as a guest in the house on occasions, and in
1928, when his studio closed, he seemed to have moved
in with his modelling tools. In 1930 when Mr Walker
died, Cassidy resigned from the Royal Society of
British Sculptors. Where his later works were
created is a mystery.
During our research we stumbled on this amusing 1896
newspaper snippet about some previous residents of Woodheys
At Sale, on Monday,
Miss Ethel Hardwick and Miss May Hardwick, of Woodheys
Grange, Ashton-on-Mersey, were summoned for riding
bicycles on the footpath. The police officer said when he
stopped them they admitted they were doing wrong, but
thought the police would not summon ladies. (Laughter).
They were sorry the
officer had to speak to them, as they were the daughters
of a Magistrate. The defence was that they were not aware
Moss Lane was a public footpath, but the bench imposed a
fine of 5s [shillings] in each case.
It appears that the rural
policeman of 1896 didn't have a busy life... The ladies'
father was Richard Hardwick J.P., textile merchant, of
Sparrow, Hardwick & Co, a company which survived until
the 1970s, and whose ornate building at 107 Piccadilly,
Manchester still exists as a hotel called 'ABode
Virtual Library: Cuba for the reference to Frank
stringed instrument database for Ottoline's violin
for Mrs Walker's Cats
Directories for the street directories
Lifetimes for the house pictures
The Mapping Sculpture
project for exhibition information
all sorts of facts
also The Times
Digital Archive, The
Guardian Online, The British
Newspaper Archive, and the Land Registry.
Manchester Academy of Fine
Arts for the photographs from their archives
Manchester and Trafford Local Studies Libraries
Dr. Minne, Archivist & Historian, Royal British Society
of Sculptors (formerly the Royal Society of British
Ann Compton for discovering the mis-spelled 1921
And especially: Richard
Henderson of the British Nun Club.
The Walker Family of Woodheys Grange
The picture above, from the archives of the Manchester
Academy of Fine Arts, shows The British Nun Club Heroes
Trophy, created by John Cassidy. While browsing our
collection of research material, the idea came to mind to
'Google' the British Nun Club to see if anything could be
found about this interesting object. Not only is the the
Club still flourishing, it has a comprehensive website,
including a historical section, and the Secretary, Richard Henderson, sent
helpful email replies to our enquiries, including the fact
that the trophy still exists, and is still presented
It measures 49cm to the top of the Nun pigeon,
and the alabaster base is 16cm square, and the plaques are
13.5cm by 8.5cm. It also has copper plates on the base to
engrave the winners names. The figure is bronze, and the
little nun pigeon is ivory. The bottom of the base of the
bronze is signed by John Cassidy.
The following extracts are reproduced by permission from Mr
Henderson's History of the British Nun Club:
The Nun, a type of tumbler,
is a very old breed of pigeon sharing a common ancestry
with the Helmet and is mentioned in books like Treatise, and those
by Moore and Aldrovandi dating back to the 1600s. During
the mid-1800s the Nun became very popular in the UK and
shows were well supported. This culminated in the first
'Nun Club' being established in 1888, with a Mr
L.Millar of Eaton, Norwich as secretary, and the first
written Nun standard being drawn up, although it is
mentioned in the Feathered World Year Book in 1911
that 'Kirton' laid down the first Nun standard more than
100 years ago.
However by the early 1900s this club had ceased to
function, although Nuns were still very popular with birds
being shown at most shows. Because of this popularity and
his enthusiasm for the breed, several leading Nun breeders
were contacted by James Y. Baldwin from Bath, in early
1906, with the intention of forming a new club, The
British Nun Club. A meeting was held in late 1906, with
the first club show held the following year.
At the 1920 club AGM held at
the Birmingham show, it was decided to have a trophy
commissioned to commemorate those club members who died
and served during the war. With £7.12s.6d (old money) in
club funds, member J. Alan Walker stated that if this was
made up to £10.00 he would match the same. The members
present generously donated a further £14.00, therefore the
sum of £31.12s.6d was available to fund what was to be a
unique trophy. Called 'The British Nun Club Heroes Trophy
1914-1919' it is a bronze figure of a WW1 soldier mounted
on a solid marble base. The soldier has his arm
outstretched and on his fist is mounted a carved ivory
painted black Nun.
Around the time of the commission, Cassidy had created the
model for a life-size
memorial which included the figure of a soldier,
later commissioned by a number of towns for their
memorial. He therefore had the research material already
available, although the man on the trophy features a
contented facial expression in contrast to that found on the
large memorial figures. Pigeons were used to carry messages
during the war, but the trophy does not represent such a
scene, as the Nun is principally a 'show' breed and would
not have been used for this purpose.
The money collected was sufficient to also commission six
copies of a small bronze plaque for the winners to keep, and
two of these are in the care of the Club secretary today,
including the first one, presented at the December 1921
British Nun Club show which was awarded to J. Alan Walker,
the major contributor to its purchase. Clearly these are
also by Cassidy; they are certainly in his style.
Mr Henderson mentioned that J. Alan Walker's address in Club
records is 'The Manor, Ashton-upon-Mersey', a fact which
threw light on a dark avenue of research into Cassidy's life
and work. Census entries show that James Alan Walker was the
son of George Harry Walker,
a Manchester shipping merchant. We already knew that G.H.
Walker commissioned and purchased other works by Cassidy,
and appeared to have offered him space at his home, Woodheys
Grange, on The Avenue in Ashton-upon-Mersey when the Lincoln
Grove studio had to be demolished; now we can try to fill
out the story.
G.H. Walker owned one of Cassidy's very first works,
'Commerce' which had won a national award from the Plaisterers'
Company. The plaster model was shown at the South
Kensington Museum exhibition in July 1886 while Cassidy was
a student. It was praised in The Times:
The peculiar treatment of
plaster in very low relief has been capitally attended to
by the successful student, John Cassidy of Manchester. His
design shows effective in the space it decorates. Upon a
raft sits Commerce. She is surrounded by produce and
attended by the Arts, three damsels in light draperies,
who stand behind her. The descriptive label tells of the
"genius of Enterprise", a seated youth who holds the
mainsheet at the prow. "Favouring winds" are indicated by
the playful little cupids who float and hover about the
sail. At the stern of the raft is a a youth steering with
a rudder; emblematical of Capital, he keeps a steady "
look out for the market."
Reportedly in the form of a bronze casting, it was exhibited
at the Manchester Academy in 1910, as 'lent by G.H. Walker'
and again at Cassidy's studio exhibition in 1914, described
as a 'panel for a merchant's counting house' when the
catalogue included the picture above.
James Alan Walker was clearly something of a sportsman, as
another known Cassidy work is Golfing, Mr Alan Walker, a bronze (possibly
a statuette) exhibited at the Manchester Academy in 1903.
G.H Walker was also connected with John and Sebastian Cabot, a model shown at
the New Gallery, London, in 1896, and the Manchester
Academy, in 1898. At the exhibition of the Royal
Hibernian Academy in 1899, it appeared again described as a
'model for colossal sculpture' priced at £36 15s.
Its final exhibition appearances were at the Manchester
Academy Jubilee Exhibition, 1909 ('lent by G.H. Walker') and
the Manchester Academy exhibition of 1910. The
photograph of the model appeared in various publications
connected with the 'Cabot Quadri-Centenary' celebrations on
1897, 400 years after Cabot's landing in Newfoundland, but
despite critical approval it seems that the 'colossal
sculpture' was never made, although statues and memorials by
other sculptors can be found in Canada and in Bristol, the
port from which he made his transatlantic voyages.
According to the records of the Royal Society of British
Sculptors, the work was made for a series of the Pioneers of
British Maritime Enterprise. The photograph was published in
to an official record of some of the works by members of the
RBS, entitled Modern
British Sculpture, published in 1922, p. 87.
G.H. Walker also commissioned from Cassidy portraits of his
wife and daughter. 'Mrs George H. Walker', a
bronze statuette was exhibited at the Manchester Academy in
1901 and at Manchester City Art Gallery's Autumn Exhibition
in 1904, and his daughter Ottoline Mary Walker appeared
as a bronze equestrian statuette. The photograph
above, apparently taken in the Lincoln Grove studio,
appeared in the May 1903 issue of the magazine Faces and Places, as
part of an article about Cassidy, and the work itself was
exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery's Twenty-Sixth Autumn
Exhibition, 1908 as 'On the Moorland - Ottoline Mary,
Daughter of George H. Walker, Esq.'
Of all the works described above, the Nun Club trophy and
plaques are the only ones, as far as we have yet determined,
which still exist. If any relations of the Walkers , or
indeed anyone else, know the location of the others, we'd be
very pleased to hear from them. George and Marion's
direct line ended with the death of Alane in 1972, which
makes the survival of the Cassidy works unlikely.
George Harry Walker - his life and work
(Note: he appears as 'George Henry Walker' in some documents, but it
appears that he preferred 'Harry' - it appears thus in his
own writing on the 1911 census form.)
The nineteenth century saw the development in Manchester
city centre of shipping warehouses, which specialised in the
packing and distribution of the cotton products manufactured
in the outskirts of the city and its surrounding
towns. George Harry Walker was born in 1856 in
Manchester. His father has been a 'packer' in one of these
warehouses, and his son followed in his father's trade
became a 'buyer' and then an employer in his own
right. A 'Directory of Shipping Merchants in
Manchester and Salford from 1886 lists over 500 such
companies. Not yet on that list at that time was Steinhardt,
Walker & Co.
However an 1895 directory (above) lists Steinhardt, Walker
& Co. at 66 Faulkner Street, today in the heart of
In 1909, the firm moved into 'Canada House' at 3 Chepstow
Street, a large new block which was built for shared
occupation by many merchants, and featured technical
advances including hydraulic presses in the basement to
compress the products into bales - these were powered by the
network of hydraulic pipes around the city centre supplied
from Manchester Corporation's pumping stations. The building
survives, in use as offices, and traces of its former use
can be seen.
The connections of the shipping merchants with remote
countries sometimes led to their assuming an additional
roles as Consul - representatives of a foreign government -
in Manchester, and directories of the time list Mr Walker as
Consul for Cuba.
The identity of 'Steinhardt'
is not confirmed but I believe it was Frank Maximilian
Steinhardt (1864 – 1938), born to a Jewish family in
Munich, who emigrated to the United States, enlisted in
the army, and was a sergeant during the war in which the
U.S. occupied Cuba. He became a successful businessman,
served as U.S. consul general in Havana (1902–07), and the
owner of the Electric Railway Company in Havana.
Another Cassidy patron, Enriqueta Rylands, was born in
Havana, Cuba where her father was a sugar merchant, but this
may well be coincidence, as may be the fact that James
Gresham, engineer, art lover and Cassidy supporter, was a
neighbour of the Walkers on The Avenue.
Above is a directory entry for 1909 recording Mr Walker as
Consul, and his home address at 'Woodheys Grange',
Ashton-on-Mersey, which was later to figure in Cassidy's
career. This was their second home in the area: in 1891 they
lived at 'Sale Bank', in the town of Sale, having moved from
Urmston. Their two children were born in Urmston while
George was still an employed 'buyer.' Mr Walker was a very
early adopter of the telephone, appearing in the 1896
directory. He appears to have lived a quiet life, with no
ambition to public office or great philanthropy.
In 1928, Cassidy's studio in Lincoln Grove, Manchester was
requisitioned for the building of a sliced-bread bakery, and
he had to move out. It appears that George Harry Walker came
to his rescue with the offer of work space at his mansion,
Woodheys Grange, on 'The Avenue' in
Ashton-upon-Mersey, Cheshire, a few miles away from
Manchester. Cassidy was already a friend of the
family: the 1921 Census shows Cassidy (classed as a
'visitor') living alone in the house except for the Walkers'
cook Rose Bailey. George and Elizabeth were
staying with Ottoline in her London house; who was
looking after the cats is not recorded.
Above, Woodheys Grange seen from the garden. 'The Avenue',
known earlier as Brooks's Avenue, was created for William
Cunliffe Brooks, a lawyer and banker who had inherited large
tracts of farmland in the area which had been bought by his
father Samuel Brooks. It would seem that this, and the
nearby Manor House, which were built c. 1870 for William
Brooks, for rental to encourage people to live on The
Avenue, their newly-opened road. William Cunliffe
Brooks, who served as Member of Parliament for
constituencies in the area for many years, died in 1900; in
July 1919, Woodheys Grange was included in an auction of
land and buildings in the Avenue area held in Manchester,
and G.H. Walker bought it and its grounds for £2000; a
similar figure was paid for The Manor House.
John Cassidy gave Woodheys Grange as his business address
after 1928, and carried out a few small commissions there,
but his tenure was short-lived. G.H. Walker, whose
wife had died a few years earlier, died on 28 July 1930,
while staying at 'The Beacon', Goathland, North
Yorkshire. Woodheys Grange and its adjoining land were
sold, and by 1932 the house had been demolished. Smaller
houses and new streets appeared on the adjoining land, but
for some reason (legal complications of some kind?) the site
of the house, its gardens and its little piece of woodland
was left empty for many years. Finally, it was bought by the
Methodist Church which was planning to close two other
churches in Sale - Wesley and Barkers Lane - and
combine their congregations in a modern building. The new
Avenue Methodist Church, was officially opened
by Dr Marjorie Lonsdale on 28 September 1963. In more recent
times a Living Well Centre has been added.
The Avenue, Ashton-upon-Mersey, circa 1910. For a
fuller story of this curious street and its inhabitants, see
our earlier feature Woodheys Grange
and The Avenue.
As for Steinhardt, Walker & Co., by 1920 the name
Steinhardt had vanished, and the firm had become G.
& A. Walker, George's son James Alan Walker preferring
his second name. They remained in business at Canada House
though the hard trading times of the 20s and early
30s. Alan Walker carried on after his father's
death in 1930, the firm appearing in the Telephone Directory
for 1935. In 1937 Alan Walker registered a Deed of
Arrangement, assigning his property to a trustee for the
benefit of his creditors.
As the twentieth century progressed, many countries had
developed cotton industries of their own, Japanese industry
offered competition in the export trade, and Manchester's
merchants were dependent on the Lancashire manufacturing
firms which, according to some historians, suffered from
poor management. By the 1950s, the once-flourishing trade of
Shipping Merchant was more or less extinct, but many of the
warehouses, architect-designed to impress, found new lives
as offices, apartments and hotels, and are still a feature
of the city centre today.
Is it Becoming to Ride Astride?
While compiling this piece I stumbled on a feature from the
magazine The Sketch of November 21 1906 with the
above title. The etiquette of the Victorian era
required ladies to ride a horse 'side-saddle' with both legs
on the same site of the horse, but the authors soggest that
it was becoming common for ladies to ride with their legs
astride the horse in the 'old Elizabethan style' as men has
always done. Apparently, 'Doctors differ as to the wisdom of
the fashion, but there are many that recommend it.'
evidence, pictures are provided of seven 'well-known' ladies
happily astride. The Duchess of Westminster, Lady
Castlereagh, Lady Constance Stewart-Richardson, Lady
Rosemary Leveson-Gower daughter of the Duchess of
Sutherland, Miss Child, Miss Gresham of Oak Bank, Old
Trafford, and Miss Ottoline Walker of Ashton-on- the-Mersey.
'Miss Gresham' was Millie, daughter of James Gresham,
another Cassidy supporter. How did she and her
friend Ottoline come to be mixing with the
aristocracy? The picture of Ottoline is reproduced here.
Interestingly, Cassidy's sculpture (shown above) shows
her riding side-saddle, but that was made in 1901.
Charlie Hulme, October 2012. Updated May 2023.