"Heaton" from an Old English word meaning "high farmstead", is found in several English place names: the earliest form of the name locally was recorded as "Hetton" in 1196. The manor of Heton was assessed as two plough-lands in 1212 and lay within the barony of Manchester. The de Norreys family who gave their name to the township were the first known to have held the land, but it reverted to the lords of Manchester in about 1280. In the 15th century it was granted to Sir James Strangeways and subsequently passed through various hands before being acquired by William Egerton in 1750. Wilbraham Egerton of Tatton still owned more than half the land in 1844.
Reddish means "reedy ditch" and probably refers to the Nico Ditch, an earthwork running between Ashton-under-Lyne and Stretford which was constructed either as a defensive fortification or as a boundary marker. The family who took their name from the manor was a branch of the Hulton family of Ordsall and they were major local landowners until the 17th century along with the Hulme family. Unlike most of the Heaton Norris landowners, the Reddish and Hulme families lived locally and each had its own manor house: Reddish Hall stood on the current site of Reddish Vale School until it was demolished in 1780, while Hulme Hall (later known as Broadstone Hall) was demolished in 1945.
Four Heatons or five?
The whole of the historical township was known as Heaton Norris until the construction of St Thomas' Church in 1765 gave the surrounding district the name of Heaton Chapel. The main mossland (peat bog) of the township would become Heaton Moor, while the two hamlets at Grundy Hill and Parrs Fold grew into Heaton Mersey, which obviously takes its name from the river. The parish of St Mary lay within Heaton Norris township and was originally known as Heaton Reddish, but although this remains the official designation of the church, the name was rarely used for the district.
From agriculture to industry
Although Manchester and Stockport experienced enormous changes following the industrial revolution, Heaton Norris and Reddish townships remained largely agricultural until well into the 19th century. Heaton Mersey started to grow slowly with the construction of bleachworks powered by the Mersey in 1784, followed by brickworks to house the expanding population, while a calico printworks powered by the River Tame was built in Reddish Vale around the same time. However, as late as 1857 there was still no post office, doctor, lawyer or schoolmaster in Reddish.
By 1836 there were 20 mills in Heaton Norris, employing about 5,000 people, but the major transformation to the area came with the arrival of the railway. The Manchester to Stockport line opened on 4 June 1840, although Stockport's iconic viaduct was not completed until the end of the year and trains initially ran from Manchester to a temporary station in Heaton Norris. Heaton Chapel station opened in 1850, transforming Heaton Moor into a desirable and accessible residential area for Manchester's upper middle class. Large houses with gardens were constructed along Heaton Moor Road and new residential streets with similar properties were built, including Parsonage Road, Broomfield Road and Peel Moat Road.
By the eve of the First World War, the townships had essentially lost their original rural character. A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, published in 1911, describes the area as largely urban with the exception of the “hamlet” of Heaton Mersey: the principal local industries consisted of cotton mills, bleach works, thread-making, hat manufacture, corn-milling, brick, tile, and earthenware making, saw mills, calico printing work, and rope works.
The area was largely working-class with the exception of the new upper middle-class minority who had made their home in Heaton Moor and (to a lesser extent) Heaton Chapel. When war broke out, the sons of these families were automatically considered as officer material in line with the class prejudices of the day, and their professional links to Manchester led many of them to enlist either in one of Manchester's Territorial battalions or in a "Pals" battalion. These battalions experienced particularly heavy casualties on the Somme and the high death rate among junior officers generally is well-documented, so it is hardly surprising that Heaton Moor and Heaton Chapel suffered the highest proportion of deaths in the townships.
Church and state
The Heatons and Reddish were historically in Lancashire, but the southern part of Heaton Norris was attached to Stockport in 1835 and a second portion became part of Stockport county borough under the Local Government Act of 1894. At the same time Reddish became an urban district, before being absorbed by Stockport in 1901 along with another small part of Heaton Norris. The remainder of the township was added to Stockport county borough in 1913 and the old county boundary was moved so the Heatons and Reddish now lay within Cheshire.
From the middle of the 18th century St Thomas’ church was the parish church for the whole of the Heaton Norris township, but the district's rapidly-growing population led to the construction of six further Anglican churches by the beginning of the First World War.
St Thomas, Heaton Chapel (1765)
Christ Church, Heaton Norris (1846)
St John the Baptist, Heaton Mersey (1850)
St Mary, Reddish (1864)
St Paul, Heaton Moor (1877)
All Saints, Heaton Norris (1888)
St Martin, Norris Bank (1901)
The smaller Reddish township consisted of two relatively recent parishes:
St Elisabeth, Reddish (1883)
St Agnes, Reddish (1902)
Within the district there were also two Catholic churches and several nonconformist churches, most of which had their own war memorials or rolls of honour.