A History of Hale

The Beginning
Although the area of Hale is likely to have been settled in Saxon and possibly Roman times, no evidence appears before the entry in the Domesday survey of 1086. It is one of the few places in the country that has the same form of the name i.e. Hale, both then and now. The word itself comes from a Saxon word meaning nook or shelter. It is thought that this refers to the Queen's Road/Hermitage Road area. The Domesday Book says that Hale belonged to a Saxon Lord named Aelfward about whom nothing is known, but was taken over by Hamon de Massey of Dunham.

Records of the middle ages are scarce, but it appears that two almost separate settlements existed, the one mentioned in the Domesday survey and one further east around Davenport Green, stretching southwards to Ross Mill. By the beginning of the fifteenth century the population of Hale was probably about two hundred, and by the middle of the century it was felt necessary to build a tithe barn, which denoted a certain amount of prosperity. This was in Hale Barns and was pulled down in 1848.

The ownership of land had, by this time, passed from the Massey family to a divided ownership between the Booth's, the Stanley's and the Chauntrell's. However, by the beginning of the nineteenth century it was reunited through the Booth family, and hence to the Earls of Stamford. It should be noted that until 1900 Hale included Ringway.


Early Hale
There are quite a few buildings remaining in the area from the seventeenth century. For example Davenport Green Hall Farm, the Old House in Ashley and one from an earlier date - Hope Cottage, which has been dated as possibly early sixteenth century. The eighteenth century can still be seen in the buildings of Ollerbarrow Farm (on the corner of Leigh Road and Hale Road) and Bank Hall, though both these buildings are replacements for earlier structures.

It can be seen from Burdett's map of 1777 that the basic road system of Hale was already in existence, including among others, Long Lane (now Hale Road), Dob Lane (now Park Road), Yestow Lane (now Wilmslow Road, east of Hale Barns) and Ollerbarrow Lane (now Ashley Road). These roads were the responsibility of two overseers. The Vestry system of government had replaced the old manorial system and the various overseers and constables were appointed from citizens of the town. Although the Vestry was responsible for a certain amount of work in the town, some of which was contracted out, there was also something called statute labour. In the case of the maintenance of the roads, the two overseers chose six days a year when all the farmers had to send a cart and two men; all other householders had to present themselves or a substitute for repairing the roads.

As in most of the surrounding areas, the majority of people were engaged in farming of some kind. Both cattle and arable farming existed in the area, and this remained so until the mid-nineteenth century. The first newcomers to the area were retired gentlemen, among them businessmen, doctors and writers. One of the most famous was Samuel Hibbert Ware who was also a local historian. These men started the building of large houses in Hale, such as Halecroft, built by John Richardson.


Hale develops as a Suburb
Improved communication through the railway caused the start of Hale as a Manchester suburb. Accommodation was needed for the labourers on the railway. In twenty eight years the area of Peel Causeway grew from six households in 1838 to fifty in 1861. This was not totally due to the railway, because building had already commenced making a continuation between Bowdon and Hale. To start with this was mainly large villas for the merchant population. Also, labour was needed for the building and hence the mixture of villa and cottage type houses in Hale, often very close together, as along the south side of Ashley Road. Some of these cottages have been turned into shops, but the larger villas still remain.

The Cheshire Midland Railway, with its station at Bowdon (Peel Causeway as it was first called), was opened on May 22nd 1862. The curious name of the station stems from the fact that it was the residents of the eastern side of Bowdon who had wanted the station, not the residents of Hale. From that time building increased, and the area around the station does not look substantially different from what it was at the turn of the century. The only missing factor now is the Brewery built by John Siddeley which was demolished in 1907 when the road was widened.

From 1870 the area of Hale extending towards the Bleeding Wolf pub was rapidly built up for the residences of business and professional men. By 1911 the population had risen to 8531, a vast increase. This change from a completely rural area to a primarily suburban one was not without its problems, the most pressing of which was the need for a more efficient means of local government. Lighting and sanitation were woefully lacking and it was not until 1869 that the first public drain was built, and not until 1889 that gas lighting reached the area west of Park Road. Obviously Hale was only one of many areas with the same problems, and the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 had gone some way to alleviate them by creating Rural District Councils. In Hale this meant that seven parish councillors were elected annually and two representatives, or 'guardians' to the new Bucklow Rural District Council. It was soon realized that this was not going to work, for as the parish council had no authority over the guardians, who were elected by ratepayers, and also because the guardians from Hale had very little sway over a basically rural district council made up of farmers and landowners. Other methods had to be tried. By parliamentary acts of the time it was possible for rural civil parishes, which were being built up, to apply to the County for recognition as Urban Districts with councils in their own right. This is what Hale decided to do. An enquiry was held into the matter by Cheshire County Council, and eventually decided in their favour despite opposition from the Altrincham Council, who wanted to see Hale amalgamated with Altrincham. This was strongly contested by Hale, especially Alfred Tarbolton who was rewarded by being elected chairman of the new Urban District Council that first met on April 9th, 1900. It was at the insistence of this new council that the name Hale began to be used again, for example, on the post office and the station, to replace Peel Causeway. Amalgamation was not forgotten, however, and for the next few years was led by a Hale man, John MacNamara. However, the Amalgamation League was eventually defeated by the Hale Council and the formation of the Anti-Amalgamation League (which later became the Ratepayers Association) was led by Tarbolton. By this time, land for recreational purposes was becoming scarce in Hale. A number of schemes were suggested for the layout of playing fields but all were thrown out, the landowners refusing to sell, and it was not until 1921 that Hale obtained tennis courts and a bowling green.

Despite criticism from outside, especially Altrincham, much work was done before World War 1. Roads were widened, sewage was improved, houses had to conform to byelaws on spacing and drainage and many trees were planted.

It must not be forgotten, however, that the farms still did exist even though houses surrounded them. Even into the 20th century farming played an important part in the economic life of Hale and Hale Barns, and was virtually its sole supporter. Although there were fairly frequent trains to Manchester, there were very few buses and people walked everywhere. Even if there had been buses the country people could not afford them, and the wealthier people were beginning to acquire their own transport anyway.


Places of Worship
With the influx of so many people, many churches and chapels were built. In 1840 there was only the Anglican chapel at Ringway and the Unitarian chapel near Hale Barns. It was shortly after this that a drastic revision of the parishes began to take place, decreasing the large Bowdon parish. In 1852 the Timperley parish was constituted, in 1863 Ringway, in 1866 St. John's Altrincham, which included a large part of Hale. In 1881 the parish of Ashley was created, also including some of Hale. This was only sufficient for a short time, and 1893 saw the building of St. Peter's Church which became a parish church in 1906, the first one entirely in Hale.

The Methodist chapel was built in 1899 after smaller premises had become inadequate, and the Congregational school church appeared in the same year (now the United Reformed Church).


Education
At first the only state-aided school in the area was the Church of England school in Hale Barns, which was only for children from Hale Barns and the neighbouring farms. However, when Cheshire County Council took over, more schools were planned and built. Children were mostly educated if at all, by travelling school masters, though there had been a school at Bowdon since the mid-sixteenth century. Records of early schools are scarce, but it is known that the curate at Ringway Chapel kept a school in the eighteenth century. Also in 1740, a day school was founded in Hale Barns by Silas Sidebottom, the Unitarian minister of Hale Chapel. This school survived until it was closed on the retirement of its schoolmaster John Clarke.


The 20th Century and Onwards
Although there is a war memorial commemorating the names of men who died as a result of the World Wars, the wars had very little effect on Hale. Bulding ceased during the years of the First World War, but by the 1920's expansion was continuing as before. Bus services were introduced which made areas more easily reached, and therefore Hale again began to spread in all directions, especially towards Hale Barns. It was not until after the Second World War that the council itself began to build houses. Estates were built in Hale Barns, The Grove Lane/Delahays Road area and at Wellfield Lane.

Since this time Hale has continued to grow, along with its accompanying amenities. There has been a library since 1907. Another library was built in 1966, which has since been demolished and replaced with one next to the bowling green in 2023. Many organizations, both local and national have sprung up and in 1968 and Arts Council was formed to promote interest in a wide range of cultural activities.

In 1974, Hale became part of Trafford, though not without a lot of resistance, and in fact still retains the independent spirit developed by the Anti-Amalgamation League formed at the beginning of the 20th century.