I personally can only remember it has being owned by the Insurance people - The Refuge Assurance Co of Manchester, I know this because I did at one time have a office in Wesley Villa which is the annexe to the rear of the main building which is currently occupied by the Taxi firm, and all rents had to be paid to the Refuge.
With regards the sculptured faces may it be suggested that they could be Charles Wesley, John Wesley and George Whitfield? - (thanks Snighole)
Here is some information kindly supplied by Duncan Adams about Wesley Villa (20th January 2009):-
Yes, EMS is Ebenezer Missionary Sugden. A friend (elderly) of mine is related to him and visited Wesley House as a young child. He (my friend) is still living in Rawtenstall, no more than a quarter of a mile from Wesley House. He may know who the three heads are.
Yes, it was owned by the Refuge when I bought it, circa 1976 (having been a tenant for a few years prior to that) – I think you, Bryan, were there before me; certainly we were both there at the same time and I recall, we quaffed a few merry pints together. The purchase was a cock-up on the part of the Refuge, for which I have always been grateful. Bryan, you will recall that the rent payable for the two rooms you had, and the two I first rented upstairs, was piddling small. But who were we to complain!? One of the chaps who worked for me had a lunch-time liaison with a girl in one of Rawtenstall’s estate agents. He came back from his assignation and asked me if I knew that the building had just been put on the market and the asking price was an astonishing six grand. I grabbed a grand out of the safe and went round and put it down as a deposit ‘subject to contract’. No sooner was I back in the office than the agents rang to say there had been a mistake about the price (understatement of the century) and the price was actually seven grand. I managed to sound ‘put out’ and ‘reluctantly’ agreed. It turned out later that the reason the Refuge was selling it was that it was out of the way and they couldn’t manage it properly (hence the silly low rents). The valuer (?Estate agents) had valued it on the basis of rents receivable, rather than bricks and mortar! I know this because I later employed a couple of people who worked for the Refuge at the time and they told me heads rolled.
Anyone researching the history of the building should know that what I bought was the Leasehold (999 year) rather than the Freehold . The Leaseholder was The Oddfellows and they were very probably the original owners/builders of the property, or they owned the land on which it was built.Anyway, I was a tenant first, from about 1973/74.
At that time, the occupants were: Ground Floor: Yourself, I think.Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.Burnley Evening Star.An accountants office that I never saw open.First FloorMyself.The ‘Works Study’ department of the local council.Top Floor.Was locked up and unoccupied (So no piddling rent at all).I don’t think I remember ever charging you rent, Bryan, so I guess you moved out before I bought the place - please correct me, if I’m wrong. I think the Refuge had already let it to a taxi firm. However, after I bought it, my own business expanded almost exponentially and as offices became vacant, I took them myself. There were two exceptions to this. The first was a prime ground-floor suite that I let to a vet (Mainly because I wanted prime tenants who were unlikely to moonlight). However, he didn’t stay very long.The other was the suite that you used to occupy (I bet you didn’t pay much more than £2-£3/week for it). It wasn’t really part of the main building – rather a single-story annexe at the rear. When the (first) taxi firm went, there was immediately some other taxi firm knocking on my door wanting it. The walls had been replastered with second-hand curry and it was in a generally unhappy state. However, it was a much-valued site for a taxi booking office, being centrally located, adjacent a car park, opposite from public toilets, the cinema and the bus station. So, I let it at a much-increased rent and an internal full-repairing and decorating lease to include scraping the curry from the walls and recycling it back to the restaurant from which it originated. After that, taxi firms came and went under similar circumstances right up to the present day.
Other posters are correct when they say it was also home to various side-endeavours my wife and I had running in tandem with Rossendale Holdings Ltd. The principal ones being the recording studio (Vortex) and the Royal Doulton Shop (My Fair Lady). The recording studio proved to be a stunningly successful exercise in losing money really fast. I have no happy memories of it. The Royal Doulton shop was surprisingly successful in that Rawtenstall could never really be described as ‘show-off posh’ and we didn’t expect much local trade. We were wrong in this and local trade was quite brisk, so as well as attracting true collectors on a national and even international basis, there was a local backbone trade. This was a factor in the later decision to open the art gallery.
I retired at the back end of 1985 handing over control to my brother, but I retained ownership of the building, receiving rent from my old company and the inevitable, ever-present, taxi firm.
In 1990 we left Rawtenstall and moved to rural North Wales, where we had bought a forest and an interesting cottage in the nearby village. Almost simultaneously, Margaret Thatcher introduced the Poll Tax and my old company’s workload increased massively, resulting in them moving to Hardman Mill and leaving me with an empty building apart from the taxi firm. So, I was faced with either finding new tenants or selling. In the event, I did neither; with my two sons I opened a very substantial art gallery on the basis that if the Royal Doulton Shop could succeed, so should an art gallery. My sons were living in Rawtenstall, so the fact I was 100 miles away was unimportant. There were around 1500 paintings on display: around 500 of our own, being Chinese imports, around 500 being local artist’s work sold on commission and the other 500 being international artists, again sold on commission. We had a bespoke framing shop in the basement. Sadly, it didn’t follow the Royal Doulton pattern and we closed it down again pretty quickly.
I then decided to sell the property and I put it with agents. No buyer was forthcoming, but I got an offer from the Bury NHS Trust to let it to them as consulting rooms. This I was glad to do as they were clearly quality tenants. However, I insisted on a full-repairing lease due to the distance between myself and the property. All went well. Then the Bury Trust was taken over by the Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust and the lease transferred to them. Again all seemed to go well until around four years ago when they told me the trust was reorganising and the premises were no longer required. A buyer (Hurstwoods) was soon found, but the sale was delayed by solicitor incompetence and cockups about which one day I will write a book. Eventually, the sale went through and Hurstwoods erected scaffolding soon afterwards and they re-roofed it (which should have been done by my tenants, but that’s another story).
You, Bryan, will be interested to hear that I didn’t sell all the building to Hustwoods. I excluded that little annexe you occupied which was then let to a taxi firm for the (in my opinion extortionate) rent of £120/week. This decision was based partly on the fact that I rather liked this income, and partly on the fact that a sitting tenant in a tiny part of the building would hardly increase the sale price to Hurstwoods. However, as soon as the ‘for sale’ notice went on the building I was approached by the taxi firm proprietor to sell the annexe to him. I told him I would not. He persevered and eventually, not expecting him to bite, I said he could have it for twelve years rent. Talk about snatch my hand off! We shook hands on it and I went away shaking my head in disbelief. Then a couple of days later, I was approached by his competitor who had heard about the agreement and offered me an extra ten grand. Naturally, being a man of my word I declined this, and the sale went through to the sitting tenant. But I bet if I’d played my cards right, I could have got a six figure price for those two, tiny rooms.
So, the main building is now owned by Hurstwoods, but the taxi firm bit isn’t. Celia, my wife, is an avid amateur genealogist and she has now got her teeth into Wesley House. Already, I can confirm that Ebenezer Missionary Sugden appears on the census in 1871. I’ll post more info when I have it.Hope this is helpful.
I’ve got Census information now. It’s terribly confusing.First, I’ll tell you what my wife heard (local knowledge). That Wesley House used to be the Manse to Longholme Methodist Church, but the upkeep was too much, so they built another property on Bacup Road to the rear of the Queen’s Hotel, and that became the manse.This is completely logical. John Wesley was a Methodism founder. Also, there is a property in the position described that looks as though it was built after 1867. Problem! Is Wesley House actually entitled to be called Wesley House? If it is, then it corroborates the manse theory, otherwise, it doesn’t. To be honest, it’s looking to me to be more likely that it was ‘EMS House’. If it’s engraven in stone, then that has to carry some weight. And it does say ‘EMS’ over the entrance. When I bought the place the deeds (no longer in my possession, of course) variously described it as ‘Wesley House’, Wesley Villa’ and ‘4/6 Bacup Road’. However, I recall that my deeds didn’t go back very far, probably only as far as the acquisition by the Refuge.I could never get my head round ‘4/6 Bacup Road’ because there was no possible way I could see of dividing it into two logical properties.
Neither the Words ‘Wesley House’ or ‘Wesley Villa’ appear on the 1871, 1881, 1891 or 1901 censuses. Nor is Ebenezer Missionary Sugden ever described as any sort of a cleric, but always as a ‘Draper’. Now let’s look at the census information:1851 This is before the date 1867 accompanying EMS in the stonework.Property: LongholmeHead of house: Ebenezer Sugden, aged 31, General Draper. His wife: Ann, aged 30 His daughter: Martha, aged 1A visiting Widow, Elizabeth ?, aged 52An apprentice, John Harland, aged 19A widowed General Servant, Ellen Wildgoose, aged 20A Nurse, Charlotte Parker, aged 11 (young to be nurse to a 1-year-old)An Apprentice, John Newton, aged 13.This is quite a large household, suggestive of a draper with a fairly substantial business. 1861Property: LongholmeHead: Ebenezer Missionary Sugden, Linen and Woollen Draper, Aged 41.His wife: Anne Peatfield Sugden, aged 41His daughter, Martha Bradbury Sugden, aged 11His son, Frances Allen Sugden, aged 10An Apprentice, Edwin Vickers, aged 18An Apprentice, Francis Stephenson, aged 20An Apprentice, Samuel Sugden Smallwood, aged 16A Servant, Charlotte Parker, aged 21 (was a nurse on previous).A Servant, Ann Prince, aged 19.More apprentices and more servants, suggest a growing, thriving business.1871Now after the date 1867 accompanying EMS in the stonework.Property: 1 Bacup Road.Head: Ebenezer Missionary Sugden, Draper, aged 51.His wife: Ann P Sugden, aged 53 (she seems to lie about her age)His daughter Martha B Sugden, aged 21His son, Frances A Sugden, aged 19A Draper’s Assistant, William Wrigley, aged 23A Draper’s Assistant, Thomas Eastwood, aged 21An Apprentice, John Swann, aged 19An Apprentice, Steven Sugden, aged 16His Niece, Mary Margaret Bradbury, aged 21His Niece, Sarah H Bradbury, aged 12A Servant, Maggie Hughes, aged 23A Servant, Susannah Davies, aged 23.On this census, there is no mention of Longholme at all. It is logical to assume that 1 Bacup Road is the first property on Bacup Road, which it would have been if it were what we call Wesley House and the new ‘manse’ hadn’t yet been built. It is compelling to say that this is the property I bought and to which this thread refers. It could be that Longholme had been demolished to make way for it. More research needed!But what is certain is that if Wesley House was built in 1867, it isn’t the same property as Longholme.1881.Now it all goes pear-shaped.1 Bacup Road appears with a new family, most of which is illegible, but it’s just a young husband and wife and two children. I can make out the wife’s occupation as confectioner.4 Bacup Roadappears with a small Tattersall family including a Professor of Music and a Schoolmistress.6 Bacup Road appears as a John Heywood, a hatter, and his wife.No trace at all of the Sugdens.The 1891 and 1901 censuses are largely illegible, but shed no light. No legible evidence of Wesley anything, or anyone with a clerical occupation.My guess is that Ebenezer was a successful business man who lived in a property called Longholme, from which he moved (or demolished and rebuilt upon) to what is now called Wesley House, and that he had no connection with the Church whatsoever, and therefore the stone heads have nothing to do with the church either and are probably ‘vanities’. It is perfectly possible that in the early 1900s the church acquired it and named it as Wesley House, used it as a manse, then it followed the fate my wife remembers as being local knowledge, after which the Refuge acquired it.This does not, however, explain my friend who I mentioned was a relative of EMS and who had been at Wesley House as a child. I shall ring him tonight and attempt to clarify.Curiouser and Curiouser!DA