Stretford and the Rylands Legacy

John Rylands was the first native Lancastrian to become a self made textile millionaire and reigned supreme in Manchester as ’Cotton King’. He moved to Longford Hall in 1857 and used his wealth to provide the people of his adopted home town of Stretford with a town hall, a public baths, a church, homes for elderly women and a coffee house. Some of these buildings still stand today.

Stretford Public Hall was built in 1878 by  John Rylands. It was designed by N. Lofthouse and is located on the western side of the A56 Chester Road.  Stretford’s first public lending library was established in the building in 1883. At John Ryland’s death in 1888, his widow placed the building at the disposal of the local authority for a nominal rent, and on her own death in 1908, the building was bought by Stretford Council for £5,000.

The building found a later role as Stretford Civic Theatre, with a well equipped stage for the use of local groups. Over time  the building fell into disrepair, despite being designated a Grade II listed structure in 1987.  Trafford Council later refurbished and converted the hall to serve as council offices in the mid-1990s. It was re-opened in 1997, once again named Stretford Public Hall.

John Rylands took a leading role in the erection of the Union Church for Congregregationalists and in 1867 laid the foundation stone of the Union Church on Edge lane in Stretford. The first service took place the following year.The Union Church has now been converted for use by St Vincent’s Housing Association(SVHA) and has been renamed Rylands Hall.

Within Longford Park can be found several properties built as part of the original Longford Hall Estate. They are now all privately owned.

The facade of the original Longford Hall also remains along with the original coach house and stable buildings.

Find out more about Longford Hall and Park


Longford Hall and Park, The Rylands, The Queen and Stretford Pageant

Images of old Longford Park

Longford Park’s current layout dates back to 1857 when Longford Hall and its associated grounds were constructed and laid out by John Rylands, the famous cotton merchant and benefactor of many of Stretford’s civic buildings. The landscape was laid out in the style of Chatsworth House and Pevsner in 1969 described Longford Hall ‘ as the only surviving example of the Italianate style of architecture in the Manchester district’ (Source: The Buildings of England South Lancashire).

John Rylands was a shy and humble man but his business acumen created a company that was considered the ‘monarchs of the cotton industry in England’. From modest beginnings he created a company that was worth 0.19 per cent of GNP by 1888, employing 15,000 people in his 17 mills and factories and producing 35 tons of cloth a day. On his death he was crowned the ‘cotton king’ . The fact that his fame subsequently faded somewhat can perhaps be attributed to John Ryland’s strong christian ideals which meant that he had lived modestly out of the public eye and much of his philanthrophy was kept secret.

John Rylands married Enriqueta Tennant in 1875 and they spent 13 years together before John died at Longford Hall in 1888. John Rylands left an estate of £2,574,922 and Enriqueta followed John’s philanthropic disposition by devoting much of her time and money to good causes. As a tribute to her husband Enriqueta Rylands founded the John Rylands Library in 1899. Through the purchase of many remarkable private collections, Enriqueta created a library of international distinction.

Enriqueta died in 1908. Following her funeral, she was cremated and the ashes interred with her husband’s in the nearby Southern Cemetery. Longford Estate was sold to Stretford Urban District Council in 1911 for the nominal amount of £14,500 and books from its extensive library joined the collection at John Rylands Library.

1933 Incorporation of Stretford
Borough Council and

The Rylands estate became a public park. The estate which originally comprised 63 acres including the Hall, outbuildings, greenhouses, five villas and eighteen cottages, was enlarged in 1925 by the addition of a further eighteen acres.

The North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University have permitted the Friends of Longford Park to display a rare film of Longford Park celebrations on Stretford becoming a Borough Council in 1933.

1937 Longford Park and Stretford Pageant
(1 minute 40 seconds, No Sound)

After the the incorporation of Stretford Borough Council, Longford Hall was subsequently extended to improve the accommodation for civic and private functions and Longford Park became a focal point for civic events and activity.

One such activity was the Stretford pageant, which has been continuously hosted in Longford Park every year since 1919. The pageant festivities form an important strand of the history of the park and large crowds came to the May and Rose queen festivities, a source of civic pride and celebrations.

1971 Visit to Longford Park
by the Women’s Insitute

Extensive gardens and conservatories were a feature of the Longford Hall estate under John Rylands:- ‘19 gardeners [were] employed [with] special houses to the rear of the hall. The kitchen garden was doubled from 2 acres in 1862 to 4 in 1867. 14 conservatories with ¾ of an acre under glass in 1862 were doubled to 31 by 1875, with 2 miles of steampipes, served by 6 boilers, a steam engine and a gas-works. Exotic fruit ..were cultivated on a large scale, regularly carrying off prizes. (Farnie 1993: 19-20)’.

After the Longford Hall Estate became a public park, impressive art-deco ornamental gardens and glass houses were made available to the public. The colour flim clip of a visit to Longford Park by the Women’s institute was made available courtesy of the The North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Longford Hall became the home of the council’s permanent art collection. It was utilised as an art gallery and exhibition space as well as being used for civic occasions and social functions.

New stairs were added in front of Longford Hall in preparation for the 1977 Royal Garden Party at Longford Park.

In June 1977 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, escorted by the Mayor of Trafford and Sir William Downward attended the Royal Garden Party at Longford Park.

More than 4,000 guests attended the Royal Garden party at Longford Park. Many thousands more attended the royal procession that passed through the Stretford town centre.

Longford Hall was demolished in 1995 but the facade of the old hall still stands in the centre of the park, and its foundations are now a walk-through area. The park still contains the historic coach house and stable buildings dating back to when the hall was built.

On Sunday 29th February 2004, over 100 people attended the unveiling of a blue plaque in honour of John Rylands. The year 2008 represented the centenary of the death of Enriqueta Rylands and the blue plaque within Longford Park was updated to reflect more accurately her important contribution.

The Friends of Longford Park seek the preservation of the remaining heritage features within the park as well as the creation of new facilities that will ensure Longford Park remains a valued and popular asset for the community into the future.

Memories of Longford Park

Do you remember the Queen’s visit to Longford Park? Have you attended pageants, festivals and events in the park? Did you grow up in the area and have a story to tell?

Terry Christian, the well known Manchester music presenter, recalls when he was a kid, kicking a ball around in Longford Park and meeting Sir Matt Busby and Joe Mercer. Enthralled, Terry wanted to get their autographs and the two football legends were still there waiting for him after he had raced home to fetch his autograph book!

A slightly less cheery recollection was provided by Morrissey, the famous Manchester singer. When asked in January 2006 what he most remembered about growing up in Stretford:-
Of Stressford….mostly Longford Park, where I more or less lived every day - every corner a dark memory.”
Source: http://true-to-you.net/morrissey_news_060104_01

The BBC recently published an account by John Parkinson, who grew up in Old Trafford during the second world war:-

Back in Old Trafford life was back to normal for a while and I remember seeing from Longford Park Stretford all the vapour trails in the sky as some of the Battle of Britain spilled over into the North. Barrage balloons were the norm, one being based in Hullard Park nearby.
Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/

If you have any interesting stories, pictures, facts or reflections that you would like to share with us then please add your comments below or email us at:- info@folp.org.uk

15 Responses to “Memories of Longford Park”

  1. XRumerTest Says::

    Hello. And Bye.

  2. Susan Lythgoe Says::

    I used to live on Washbrook Drive, Stretford. I attended Stretford Grammar School for Girls from 63-69. I have very fond memories of Stretford and Longford Park. I remember Sunday walks in the park, with my parents, little sister, and baby brother. I remember his big Silver Cross pram with its huge sun canopy, and watching its tasselled fringe bouncing to the rocking of the pram in the sunshine. I also remember the long walk back home, at the end of the stroll in the park… I remember the fair at Longford Park, too, and losing my purse (I’d just got paid, so it was full - lucky finder!) on the Speedway ride… I remember school lunchtimes, walking across Longford Park to the Bowling Alley for lunch, and the quick dash back so we wouldn’t be late for afternoon registration… happy days… I left Stretford in 1971, but hope to never forget those idyllic childhood days…

  3. Debbie Lee nee Aldcroft Says::

    I grew up in Chorlton, just off Longford rd. My memories of the park when I was about 4/5 there was a band stand in the middle if the park and also a lovely hot house for quite egsotic plants. I do remember the fair coming and it was so exiting it stayed a week but it was always noted that it rain and it was all muddy. As the years went on they built the stadium for school athletic s I feel I must visit again haven’t been for years, I live near Chester now.I think I will bring the Grandchildren. Ho and the dog hope he is allowed.

    FOLP Admin: Debbie, Although, things have changed over the years, we’d love to see you, the Grandchildren and the dog visit again

  4. Vivian Says::

    I was born in a house in Taylor’s Road, late 1940’s. Although I didn’t live there for long it was my grandparents and I visited virtually every school holiday, having moved to Doncaster. My mother attended the Openair School for a time in her early teens. Visiting both sets of grandparents was never complete with out a trip to Longford Park. I have a couple of photos I think were taken in the park.

  5. Yvonne Riley (nee Swallow) Says::

    I grew up in Stretford too. I lived the first 23 years of my life in the 60’s and 70’s almost adjacent to the entrance of Longford Park on Cromwell Road and played daily on the “first field” :)
    I was also a petal thrower in the 60’s and in my teenage years played in Urmston & Davyhulme Silver Band & took part in the pageant. The fair in the evenings was great fun!
    Fun aside, my Mum spent her early and poorly childhood years at the Open Air School in the park as did my older Brother when he contracted Polio in the mid 50’s. Thankfully my Brother survived Polio unscathed. My family has a lot to be thankful for the great care that was given by the Open Air School in Longford Park.
    I now live in Australia (for 33 years) and am thankful for the happy memories of Longford Park. The rose gardens and ice creams from the kiosk on a hot day, yum. :)

  6. Sue Rogers Says::

    I grew up in Stretford, (Longford Avenue then Norwood Rd ) and Longford Park was a huge part of my childhood. I took our dog there most days, was in the pageant (train bearer, petal thrower and garland girl) in the mid 50’s up to the early 60’s. The fair was something we looked forward to all year, and weren’t the motorbike grasstrack races held at the same time? My Dad was the loudspeaker commentator for the races. I have lived in Notts since 1972, but have very fond memories of ‘my’ park.

  7. Sue Rogers Says::

    I grew up in Stretford, (Longford Avenue then Norwood Rd ) and Longford Park was a huge part of my childhood. I took our dog there most days, was in the pageant (train bearer, petal thrower and garland girl) in the mid 50’s up to the early 60’s. The fair was something we looked forward to all year, and weren’t the motorbike grasstrack races held at the same time? My Dad was the loudspeaker commentator for the races. I have lived in Notts since 1972, but have very fond memories of ‘my’ park.

  8. Irene Rawlinson Says::

    I use to take part in the Pageants and went to the fair afterwards. The Open Air School use to be in the park as I remember. My best memoires are of the dances on Boxing Day in Longford Hall - used to love them Have not lived in Stretford for a very long time now, went to live in York and now live in Burgundy.

  9. Roger Russell Says::

    I lived in Welney Rd(off Seymour Grove) as a boy from 1956 til 1964, Longford Park was a significant part of life then. My twin brother and I would play 2 man cricket test matches..I was usually Jim Laker (remember Old Trafford 1956). School cross country was in the park but I don’t recall the swings. Spent hours in the library.Usually went to the fair but without much money.Nothing magical ,just a kid’s life never quite forgotten. .

  10. Larry Wilson Says::

    Great to see Chris Barnett’s photo’s. He will remember me by my first name John. I left St Mary’s Secondary Modern in 1977 and started as an apprentice in the nursery in Longford park. These were happy days indeed. Chris always helped me in my apprenticeship and I went on to work in Longford, Victoria and Hullard Park until I went into teaching.
    Some of my memories that show just how much has changed were Christmas’s. With 8 working in the greenhouses, 12 in the park gardens, 4 mechanics, 2 playground mechanics, a tree gang and landscape team based in the park –we would all meet in the pavilion on the stadium where Chris had a spell of being the grounds man and have our Christmas do. Can you imagine over 30 people working in one park! It was full of pride and enjoyment. Names already mentioned do stand out- Geoff Whitehead was the gardener who looked after the bowling green, the golf course and the beds just around the bowling green area- he was a legend and the quality of his work was something to witness.
    Working in the greenhouses- Brian, Chris, Doug, Cath myself are names that stand out from my apprenticeship. Tony Dey started later and is still working for Trafford. I am sure he can add lots to the story of the past.
    It all went into free fall in the 80s- Privatisation and a set of values that told us all that people in public service like this were no longer of value saw an end to a golden era of people who went to work loving every minute and without necessarily saying it had masses of civic pride. I could go on about the floral decorations we did, the shows we put on but I wont.

  11. dave cowans Says::

    I had the pleasure of working at Longford Park in the early seventies with Chris Barnet and I lived in 2 Sunnyside cottages, colleagues I recall were Brian and Neil, two brothers, Ed Snelson, Peter Tunnah and the boss Bill Cannon who was a good friend of my father, Tom. Both he and his wife Lena were members of the Bowls Club, which as I recall was looked after by Geoff Whitehead. the park at that time demonstrated the highest level of maintenance and the rock garden and flower beds were features of the renowned for their quality. It was during my time there that the all weather track was installed, the first ij the north of England.
    I shall be attending the anniversary celebrations, if anyone form that period would like to meet, please e- mail

  12. Jason Jawando Says::

    I grew up in Partington, but went to Stetford Grammar School. The boys’ school was in Greatstone Road at the time. We used to have a monthly ‘cross-country’ run in Longford Park, as well as holding the annual sports day in the athletics stadium - a venue that proved to be slightly less impressive than it sounded when we saw it.

    I live in the Midlands now, but have been back in Manchester a couple of times recently. I didn’t get chance to go into the park, but did walk past the entrance at the Quadrant and also caught a glimpse of it on Edge Lane. I don’t really remember enough to know if it’s changed much, but it seems smaller than I remember.

  13. Ian Johnson Says::

    I was born in Stretford, but now live in Rhyl, North Wales. But I am still proud to call myself a Stretfordian. I lived on Cromwell Road, alongside Longford Park for 21 years. I spent many a happy time in the Park. That is the one thing we miss in Rhyl, a big park to visit. I used to use the golf course in the Park at least twice a week, weather permitting of course. And me and my friends were forever playing football there.

    I moved to Rhyl in 1980, and sadly have not been back to Stretford since 1985, due to health problems that prevent me from travelling. If there is anyone in Stretford who would like an email pal in Rhyl, please write to me. My email address is ianisarhylfan86.gmail.com

    Thank you

  14. Barbara Frost Says::

    Longford Park is part of my history, as a child I enjoyed the swings, then a little later was part of the Pageant a, event I looked forward to each year - followed by the Fair which I save my pocket money for. I remember the brass band concerts and my first ‘grownup’ dance was in the hall and somewhere I have photograph of me in a long dress

    I was a member of Firswood LIbrary so was often in the area. When I was a teenager it was popular to meet for a kiss and cuddle in sitting arrea near to the cafe, but I had a problem as my Grandfather was park keeper!

    Now I am a Tourist Guide and as part of general tour of Trafford, finish in the Park and tell people how Sir Matt Busby used to give his post match pep talk to players in the cafe — players arrived on bikes!!

    Barbara Frost

  15. Marion Farr nee Slack Says::

    I was brought up in Chorlton, and most days during the school summer holidays, a friend and myself would go to Longford Park at about 8am to have the swings and roundabouts to ourselves for a time. We took sandwiches and a bottle of pop and spent most of the day in the park, looking at Pet’s corner and the fish in the brook. When the fair came, it was a magical time, especially when accompanied by my mother on the Saturday night, as she had her purse with her!! I now live in Cambridgeshire and unlikely to see Longford Park again as I’m housebound.

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