The History of The Ascott Hotel Manchester

History of the Hirondelle Villa (Ascott Hotel)

Although the name of Eccles did not appear in the Domesday Book, the manor of Barton has had a long history, the lords of this manor having the right of nomination to the benefice of Eccles. The Lordship of Barton passed to the Booth family by marriage and then, again through the female line, to the de Traffords who were lords of the neighbouring manor of Trafford which they held in unbroken succession from Norman times until 1896. Other notable local families were the Worsleys and the Breretons, both of whom figured in the Eccles story. The affiuent residential area of Ellesmere Park grew up around the turn of the 20th century, and contemporary views showed pleasant, tree-lined roads, protected from the outside world by gates at the main entrances which
still can be seen today.

The house was built in 1850 for a cloth manufacturer who had a factory in Manchester, this was documented in Manchester Kelly's Directory. (This area would have then been a leafy suburb similar to today's Hampstead.)
ii Where the professional classes lived, commuting into Manchester at short thirty minute horse driven cab ride or alternatively using the world's first railway link of the Manchester to Liverpool line (1830), which Eccles was one of the first stations.
Over the years the building has served as a preparatory school in the early twentieth century and a music school run by a Professor Rodgers and his daughters until the early 1930s.

In 1892 Eccles was granted a Charter by Queen Victoria to form a Municipal Town Council. And the Mayor of Eccles lived here for some years.
In 1922 the house's ownership transferred to a John Staton Speakman who was a District Superintendent of the Royal Mutual Insurance Society. In 1928 he was elected to Eccles Town Council for the Monton and Park
Ward being returned unopposed at a by-election. He was returned unopposed at each subsequent election in 1931 and 1934. In 1935 he was invited to become the next Mayor of Eccles. He was a member of the Citizen's Association and the Eccles Parliamentary Division Conservative Association. On the council, Mr Speakman was a member of several committees, chairman of the Financial Sub-Committee of the Education Committee, and a Governor of the Eccles Secondary School. He was a church officer for many years and a former churchwarden and ex-member of the Church of England Assembly. In 1937, in the first list of honours conferred by His Majesty King George VI, Councillor John Staton Speakman was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the Most Excellent. Order of the British Empire) for distinction for his
public service. 

The house after the Second World War was used for domestic and business purposes, and became a hotel during the 1970s. Its current owners took over the property in 2000 and have since restored the house to its original glory. A short history of Eccles and the Municipal Council can be seen in the connecting passage to the rear of the

Eccles Cakes

Forget black puddings of dubious origin, or Yorkshire puddings that fail to rise Eccles cakes are the dessert for the discerning palate. In 1793 James Birch s shop on the comer of Vicarage Road in Eccles began selling small, flat, raisin-filled cakes. They sold, quite literally, like hot cakes!

Earlier in 1769, Mrs Elizabeth Raffald the housekeeper and owner of a confectioner s shop in Arley Hall, Cheshire, wrote and influential cookery book The Experienced English Housekeeper which became a best-seller. The book contained a recipe for sweet patties with ingredients identifiably similar to the Eccles cake fo today. Could this have been the recipe seized upon by a cookery-maidservant who took a copy of the book with her when she went to live in Eccles?

Whatever the murky origins of the cakes, James Birch was certainly the first person credited with selling them on a commercial basis. They were sold from a shop at the comer of Vicarage Road and St Mary s Road (now known as Church Street) in Eccles. However, the story becomes lost in the mists of time. Although the shop s letterhead in the 1870s showed that the firm was established in 1796, the land tax returns show that a James
Birch first appeared as a shopkeeper in Eccles in 1785. Whether James Birch made a name for his cakes in the 1780s, in 1796, or indeed some time later, is impossible to say. It is equally impossible to construct a link between James Birch and Elizabeth Raffald (who died four years before the opening of Birch s shop).
More recently the question of origin of Eccles Cakes has been raised in Parliament. A question was tabled regarding the future of cakes made outside Eccles to the same ingredients. Could non-Eccles cakes still be referred to (and sold) as Eccles cakes?
Worldwide Fame
Although traditionally made in the town from where they get their name, Eccles cakes are now famous throughout the world. As early as 1818 they were said to be sold at all the markets and fairs around and are even
exported to America and the West Indies. Eccles Cakes are sometimes, though always with affection, referred to as dead fly pies.