History of the Inns
The Inns at Rowarth are comprised of the Children’s Inn, a holiday house for Brownies and Guides and the Ranger inn, designed specifically with the Senior Section in mind.
Originally a 17th Century Coaching Inn known as the Hare and Hounds, the Children’s Inn, named in 1926, served the village of Rowarth in the days when the population was larger, and when 2 mills and home weaving made it a busy little community. The coach between Manchester and Derby passed along the road on which the Inn stands; it was the first stage on the outward journey. Old stories are handed down that Dick Turpin, the highwayman, was known to have held up a coach at the fork beyond the Little Mill Inn.
In the past the dining room and playroom were the public bar, the guiders room was called the ‘snug’ or private bar, and the kitchen was in the same place as today. The rear building contained the dairy and washhouse, with the cellar for beer casks underneath. The far end of the present cottage was the shippen for cows, the garage was the coach house and the stable was situated next to it, in which is now the ‘Ranger Inn’. The whole structure was surrounded by 13 acres of fields, which are still the property of the Inns. Some of it is let off for grazing and some forms the grounds and gardens of the Inns.
By 1926 the Inn had become redundant, as the population of Rowarth village dwindled, the inhabitants going to New Mills or elsewhere to find work. It was then that three nursery school head teachers from Manchester, discovered the empty building and thought it would convert into a holiday home for their children. Their enthusiasm was so infectious that in less than a year a committee was formed, influential Manchester men gave their support and the house and ground was purchased. A Trust was drawn up, and the name changed to ‘The Children’s Inn’.
There followed six exciting and worthwhile years during which the parties of children under 5 years of age spent holidays at the Inn during the summer. Unfortunately this regime broke down owing to a change in the City’s Education policy, and to the grief of many people the Inn was abandoned.
It was then that Guiding came to the Inn. Miss Ashton, who was a Manchester Commissioner, had a country bungalow in Marple Bridge, which she used for guide holidays. In 1933 the Inn committee approached her with the suggestion that she should rent the Inn so she could increase the number of children who could have holidays. This she was glad to do, making herself responsible for the interior decoration and the household expenses. In this way the original Trust, the committee, and the name continued.
Until 1939 it was chiefly Manchester Guides and Brownies who visited the Inn but when war broke out and transport became difficult. So Rowarth, being more accessible to Stockport, it was natural that Cheshire Guiding should use the Inns during the years when outdoor camping was not possible. Cheadle Hulme guiders were booked in during the weekend when Dunkirk fell, and they spent their time preparing the Inn for the reception of evacuees from a convent in Southend.
The Inn had been under the jurisdiction of the Derbyshire County Camp Adviser; in 1952 it was transferred to Cheshire and the programme fell into the familiar pattern of Brownies visiting from May to September and Guides, Rangers and Guiders’ trainings in April and October. Miss Ashton continues as Hon Warden and occupied the cottage, and the Inn was always ‘put to sleep for the winter’.
Miss Ashton had just celebrated her 25 years as warden when the end came early in 1959; thankfully she was spared the sorrow of relinquishing the reins of her beloved Inn. The avenues of trees on either side of the Inns commemorate the two coronations of 1937 and 1953, and were planted at her invitation by those who had helped the Inn at different times. She often said ‘These trees will be here when I am gone’ and so her enthusiasm and love of the Inn has been passed onto others
Miss Brock, whose connections went back to the nursery school days, had worked as Assistant Warden since 1945, and she now took over the duties of Hon. Warden with Miss Butler as her assistant. The Trustees at that time were from the Cheshire Guiding County and interested people were joined into a committee to manage the Inn. The house committee was formed and voluntary work and fundraising continued.
During the sixties the Inn had a great deal of money spent on improvements and modernisation, the safety of the fabric of such an old building being of great concern. Woodworm had to be eradicated, and this meant new floors, bunk beds and lockers .The weather had made inroads into the building and that meant new window frames, ceilings and eventually a new roof. Electricity supplanted the more primitive form of lighting and heating, gone were the oil lamps and candles, boiler fire and primus stoves. Calor gas was introduced for cooking and in 1981 central heating was installed in the cottage and background heating in the Inn, benefiting comfort and preservation. The old washroom with iron stands for the wash basins and a stone sink for washing up was replaced by a new extension with set-in wash basins with running hot and cold water, showers and a separate washing up pantry with stainless steel sinks. Much regret was felt at the passing of the old pump which many remember turning by hand, but as much more water was now required an electrically driven pump was installed .The old pump has been preserved and stands in its place over the well at the rear of the Inn. In 1975 mains water was laid up the road, and the Inn ceased to use the well. Some of the rural charm, which took us back to the earlier days of the Inns, had been lost, but much had been gained and the Inns no longer depend on one person who understood the vagaries of the lamps and stoves, and the risk of fire had been reduced to a minimum.
The discovery of a stone spiral staircase behind panelling which used to line the entrance to the kitchen helped the Inn to comply with fire regulations by providing an additional escape route from the bedrooms. Fire doors on the landing and in the hall/passage were added.
At the end of 1967, Miss Brock resigned as warden, together with her assistant Miss Butler, and a fresh regime was instituted. A resident warden was appointed to live in the cottage and her duties were to generally oversee the property and to welcome visitors to the Inn. Thanks to the modernisation and the improved heating the Inn could now be used during the early Spring and late Autumn by Guides, Rangers and Guiders. While Brownies continued to visit from April to October their Guiders being completely in charge of catering and cooking, and caring for the Inn during their stay.
Until 1977, the Inn was still administered under the same trust as in 1926, but now it was felt the time had come to make new arrangements for the continuity of the work of the Inn. To ensure this, the Trustees decided to hand the Inn over to the Girl Guides Association. Over the years the great increase in the membership of the association has enabled Stockport to become a Guiding County. And now administration of the Inn was handed over to them. A new management committee and House committee were formed and these became part of the organisation of the ‘County’.
‘Friends of the Inn’, launched by Miss Brock, enables those who have supported and worked for the Inn in the past, and those who would like to take an interest in its continued well being to play a part both socially and financially. The Inn has always been financed by voluntary subscriptions and donations from fundraising efforts, while the fees paid by residents are used for current expenses. Major repairs or improvements to the buildings are usually the subject of special fund-raising projects.
In 1986 fundraising began to convert the coach house/ stable building into an Outdoor Activities centre for the 14+ age group. Within 2 years the building, costing a total of £40,000 was complete and the ‘Ranger inn’ was officially opened on the 11th July 1988.
Whilst work was going on in the Ranger Inn, the opportunity was taken to convert the solid fuel central heating in the children’s Inn to calor gas, thus eliminating the need for stand in wardens at times of holidays etc. Modernisation continues each year on the property. The Children’s Inn and warden’s cottage have had double glazed windows installed, extra power points and floor coverings to the bedrooms. Prior to building work on the Ranger Inn commencing in 1987 a large car park was constructed enabling our visitors to park off the busy road. In 1993 a large playroom was added to the Children’s Inn and more recently the ‘Guiders’ room, prone to flooding throughout much of the year, has been re-floored and fitted out with storage space and workspaces galore!
It has been the tradition at the Inn to plant trees to celebrate special occasions, and so in December 1988 trees were planted around the car park area to celebrate the centenary year of Lady Baden Powell in 1989.
The purpose of the original trust was simply worded ‘To serve children’ and it is the fervent hope of all those who know and love the Children’s Inn that this ideal will be carried far into the future.