Shawbrook Villa was built in 1860 by Charles Lings. Charles was a cotton merchant, working in Reddish. There were a number of mills in Reddish, some of which still stand today. At the time of building the house, it’s said that Charles Lings and his family were able to see right the way across to Reddish where the Mills rose up into the sky! Charles built his house here to escape the noise and smog of the city and mills – something that lower paid workers would not have had the option to do. His family could live free from the smog, surrounded by fields, but could still see where Charles was off to every morning!
It wasn’t only wealthy people who lived in this area though. Looking in the census for 1861, it’s clear that there were many low paid jobs in the area – ‘Farm labourer, Packer, Butler, Domestic Servant’. And these jobs increased as more wealthy industrialists moved into the area. The Lings family had a servant named Mary Davies, who would have done cleaning, cooking and most probably looked after the children.
Charles Lings was involved in the local community. He was a school governor, attended church on Sunday, and took part in the Literary and Mutual Improvement Society, where he gave a speech on ‘French and the French People’, drawing on his experiences of working with business connections in France. The society did readings of plays, talks and lectures in art, travel, science, the very first one was given by Helen Lings.
Later on in 1911, a shipping merchant – Max Cohen is listed as living in ‘Shawbrook’. He came across from Germany – specifically Hamburg. He lived here with his wife, six children, governess and five servants – all female!