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Horse Carrs Manor: A grand Victorian building that nestles in the heart of Shawclough was originally the family home of Thomas Watson, one of Rochdale’s unsung heroes.  Built of polished Astley Stone, Horse Carrs was completed in 1866 for the grand sum of £3,500, and according to an entry within Watson’s Journal, the build of Horse Carrs was given to W.A. Peters and Sons of Rochdale, the accredited builders of the Rochdale Town Hall. The Journal also records that John Ashworth was commissioned to paint the new house at the princely rate of seven old pence (7d) per square yard, (equating to just a smidgen more than 2.5 pence in today’s money). On entering the Manor through the main entrance, it would have been difficult not to be impressed by the stained glass door panel that depicts the Watson’s coat of arms, and the grand entrance hall, decorated by elaborate floor tiles, a large wall mirror and a sweeping staircase, all of which is surmounted by a skylight which, weather allowing floods the hall.

Thomas Watson 1821 - 1887

in natural light. Records also suggest that the hallway was embellished by a life-size marble statue of Moses in the Basket, an artefact that sadly is no-longer resident in Horse Carrs.


However, there is a preserved collection of Plush Fabric (a type of brushed velvet) which was invented and manufactured by Watson within his Silk Mill (Horse Carrs Silk Mill, Shawclough), and would have undoubtedly been used to add a splash of colour throughout the family home as curtains and soft furnishings.  Clearly in its day, Horse Carrs was a house that befitted the social standing of a man that was not only a philanthropist, but also a Godly man who used his wealth to serve the local community.  In addition to serving as a Justice of the Peace and Chairman of the Rochdale School Board, Watson also gifted the original Rochdale Infirmary, as well as financing a number of local church and education enterprises. 

Throughout its 150 years of existence Horse Carrs has established itself as something of a lighthouse of refuge within the community.  Beyond being the Watson’s home, the Manor has opened its doors to accommodate; a Men’s refuge during WW1, a safe haven for WW2 Evacuees from occupied Channel Islands, an annex to the Municipal Girls High School, and a Council Home for the Elderly before becoming the Emanuel Christian School.  Then in more recent years Horse Carrs become the new spiritual home for what is historically Rochdale’s First Baptist Church - now known as the Open Door Baptist Church. In fact the relationship between the church and Horse Carrs is also worth a mention, for though Thomas Watson was a lifelong Methodist, his wife Emily and many of their children were committed members of the fore mentioned Baptist Church – then known as the West Street Baptist Church. 

There is an exhibition that portrays the collective stories of the Watson Family, Horse Carrs Manor and West Street Baptist Church.  The exhibition is open to the public to view free of charge open every Thursday and Friday 10.30am - 1.30pm.

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