|This site celebrates
the life and work of sculptor John Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
We have written 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, admittedly 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 we do
about 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
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
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 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 Grange cats.
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
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 poet.
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 Manchester.
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.
In 1924 Ottoline married James Forshaw, and moved to London, where she
continued playing the violin, and made appearances on BBC radio. She
lived with her husband in Craven Hill Gardens, Paddington, but by 1930
she was living alone on the ground floor of 3 Pembridge Place,
Kensington. She died in Sussex on 31 August 1950.
When writing of these large houses, it would be wring 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 1901 census.
Jane Pierson, 38, Waitress, born in Goathland, Yorkshire.
Ruth Baker, 28, Housemaid, born in Minsterley, Shropshire.
Emily Scott, 25, Housemaid, born in Marston, Cheshire
Florence Cooper, 17, Kitchenmaid, born in Winnington, Cheshire.
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? The last few years of George Harry Walker's
life, on his own (apart from servants) in the great rambling house,
cannot have been cheerful, although his son did live nearby.
On reflection, it seems quite possible that Cassidy lived as a guest in
the house between 1928, when his studio closed, and 1930, when Mr
Walker died and Cassidy resigned from the Royal Society of British
Sculptors. There was plenty of room, and he would have been
company for Mr Walker. It would be interesting to know.
During our research we stumbled on this amusing 1896 newspaper snippet
about some previous residents of Woodheys Grange:
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.
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
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
Library: Cuba for the reference to Frank Steinhardt.
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
Ancestry.co.uk for all
sorts of facts
also The Times Digital
Archive, The Guardian Online,
Archive, and the Land
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. And 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,
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
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
£7.12.6 (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 £31.12.6 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 full-size
war 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
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 vmajor 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
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 or 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
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
According to the records of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, the
work was made for the 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 members of Mr Walker's family, or indeed anyone else, can show
otherwise, we'd be very pleased to hear from them.
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 Manchester's Chinatown.
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
In 1928, Cassidy's studio in Lincoln Grove, Manchester was
requisitioned for the building of a 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.
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 his home, Woodheys Grange and its grounds for £2000; a
similar figure was paid for The Manor House.
Cassidy gave Woodheys Grange as his business address, 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 of two other churches in Sale -
Wesley and Barkers Lane - and combine their congregations in a
modern building. The new church, The 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
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
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 Sculptors)
And especially: Richard Henderson
of the British
Written by Charlie
Hulme, October 2012. Updated December 2012.