In 1898 Holford Estate went up for auction and was later bought by the chairman of Manchester united Football club, John Henry Davies, a brewery magnet from Manchester and previous owner of Manchester United football club. The then ‘Newton Heath’, was struggling with a debt of £2,670 at the time that Henry Davis took over.
There is a popular story attached to how Henry Davis came to take over Newton Heath. The story says club captain Harry Stafford’s dog (a St. Bernard called Major) wandered away from the player at the club fund-raising bazaar at St James’s Hall, Manchester in February 1901. Major was found by Davies, who returned him to Stafford. Davies asked if he could buy the dog, but instead ended up donating to the club,… not quite the same! However as a gesture of thanks, Stafford allowed him to keep the dog! In March 1902, at a meeting in the New Islington Hall, Stafford announced to Newton Heath supporters that he, Davies and three other local businessmen had agreed to invest £200 each in the club in order to save it after a winding-up order had been issued two months earlier. So Henry Davis had the best of both worlds! The dog and the football club… jammy devil!
Before his involvement in football, he had become independently rich and had also married into another wealthy family. His wife Amy Caterall was the niece and ward of sugar merchant Sir Henry Tate.
Henry Davies and his wife became known as philanthropists and were noted for their support of other sports in the Manchester area. As an Antiquarian and lover of old buildings especially the Tudor style, Henry Davis bought Bramhall hall in 1925, two years before his death in 1927.
In true T.H.E style there was great drama regarding the extraction of brine at Holford by the Ammonia Soda Company limited .
In 1909 a court case between John Henry Davies, and a German chemist Ivan Levenstein alongside his partner Arthur Chamberlin in dispute over share and stock payments from his company called ASCOL which was sited just behind Holford Hall. Alongside the brine extraction was the discovery of Rock salt.
A new shaft invention using steam for the extraction of the Rocksalt was invented and pioneered here but this period would turn Holford and its old Hall into an industrial wasteland.
In 1913 the Manchester guardian quoted that Holford Hall had become unrecognisable due to the covering of chemical waste billowing from the factory, known locally alongside other sites as ‘The Snow Factories’.
Briton was now in very short of munitions when the First World War started in 1914, realising that using aspects of ammonia soda this factory could produce much needed fire power immediately was turned over to making explosives, including the production of TNT. It was put on public record by parliament the great service done by the ASCOL Company in helping win the first world War!
German chemist, Ivan Levenstein died in 1916 and Brunnermond took over the Holford Estate. Brunnermond immediately closed the ASCOL factory due to major difficulties within the management of the site and the factory was dismantled and moved to a more suitable location called Holford Moss that is still extracting today.
During the Second World War Holford Hall gardens turned over to agriculture and food production but in 1939 a factory was cited on Holford Moss land to produce aviation fuel, ICI thought this perfect location and chose it for its remoteness and proximity to a large wood which was seen as essential camouflage. It was fondly called the Jam Factory to divert suspicion and its operators worked a 68 hours a week, 7 days a week with one day off every third week!.. they we the days, hey?!
I can safely say now at T.H.E we are looked after very well and only do 67 hour weeks!!…. joke!!